Thursday, December 30, 2010

DAV Stand Up For Veterans Update, December 30, 2010

Stand Up For Veterans Update

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December 30, 2010

Advance Appropriations Protects VA Health Care From CR Problems

Dozens of federal programs are in "budgetary limbo" according to a report in yesterday's Los Angeles Times, due to "Congress' passage of temporary funding in lieu of a budget for the year..." The federal government has been operating under continuing resolutions since October 1, the start of fiscal year 2011, creating severe financial difficulties for many agencies and programs facing flat and uncertain budgets. However, thanks to Congress' approval of advance appropriations last year, the VA health care system was unaffected by Congress' failure to enact the FY 2011 budget on time or reliance on short term funding measures.

Brings Spotlight on Newest Homeless Veterans

The growing number and plight of homeless Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans was featured in a segment of the ABC News This Week show on Sunday. Citing an estimate that there are 9,000 homeless veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, ABC reported that, "...the Department of Veterans Affairs believes the number of homeless could be higher as a result of combat stress, brain injuries from IEDs, repeated deployments, and rising use of drugs and alcohol." The report also cited the tight economy and high unemployment as contributing to the challenges facing the newest generation of returning war veterans.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

VA: Christmas Message to Veterans

A Christmas Message

From Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki

WASHINGTON (Dec. 22, 2010)-- The second year of our declared
independence found General George Washington's Continental Army encamped
at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.  In the week before Christmas of 1777,
more than 12,000 poorly-clothed, hungry and near-frozen American
soldiers were huddled against a brutal winter, enduring the numbing cold
as disease ravaged their ranks.  As many as 2,000 of them did not
survive Valley Forge.

General Washington wrote that, "unless some great and capital change
suddenly takes place. . . this Army must inevitably. . . starve,
dissolve, or disperse, in order to obtain subsistence in the best manner
they can."

Despite these bleak conditions, the fighting men of the Continental Army
lifted their own spirits, located much needed supplies and took to
training with determined vigor. They honed their basic fighting skills,
learned new tactics, preserved their dwindling strength and disciplined
themselves for the difficult campaign that would follow.  It was an act
of sublime courage and determination.  Six months later, the Continental
Army marched out of Valley Forge fit and ready, stronger and more
cohesive as a fighting force, and went on to seize American

Since that winter, American patriots in an unbroken line have found
themselves on duty during the holiday season each year.  Our freedom and
security as a nation has required it.  So as Americans and their
families gather to celebrate these holidays, let us remember the men and
women, who sacrifice so much for our privileges, comforts and
well-being.  They are away from their own families, standing watch for
us on freedom's distant frontiers.  We salute their valor, past and
present, and we pray for them and our Veterans, who have so selflessly
given us the gifts we enjoy this holiday season, as we have every season
since 1775.

I offer my warmest best wishes for a blessed and joyous holiday to all
our serving military, our Veterans, all of their families, the survivors
of the fallen, and the members of our Veterans Affairs family, who are
privileged to serve them.  May God bless each and every one of you, and
may God continue to bless this wonderful country of ours.  Merry

Saturday, December 18, 2010

FY11 VA, DoD Funding Remains Unclear

Written by Anthony Hardie, DAV-Wis. Special Assistant

(davwi.blogspot.com)The U.S. House of Representatives today voted to fund the federal government into next week, buying time for the current lame duck Congress to seek a compromise effort to decide FY11 funding for the entire federal government.

At stake are all twelve FY11 appropriations bills – including the Defense (DoD), and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MILCON-VA) bills -- which both houses of Congress have been seeking to roll into a single bill. 

The House has already passed a Continuing Resolution (CR), which, if passed by the U.S. Senate would fund the federal government at current FY10 levels.

Meanwhile, the Senate has been working on a separate, omnibus appropriations bill.   However, Senate Republicans have been successful in using a variety of delaying tactics that to date have prevented the Senate from passing even a single FY11 spending bill.

At particular stake for veterans are the VA spending bill and key measures, including Congressionally directed military medical health research, in the DoD spending bill. 

The current Congress ends on January 3, 2011, when the House majority will shift to Republican control.  The Democrats’ control of the Senate will be retained, albeit with a smaller majority than is currently held.

According to The Hill, one of two leading Capitol Hill daily newspapers, House Republicans want to roll federal spending back to FY08 levels. 

The New York Times used even stronger language, calling the current impasse a “collapse” into “partisan chaos.” 

According to the Times, “Aides said that behind closed doors, White House officials and some Democratic lawmakers were still trying to strike a deal to finance the government through September. But the officials said it was much more likely that government financing would be extended only into February or March.”

With all the twists and turns in Congress over the last week, the ultimate outcome is anyone’s guess.



THE HILL: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to Become History

Senate votes 65-31 to repeal ban on gays serving openly in the military

Written by Alexander Bolton and Roxana Tiron, The Hill

(Washington, DC – The Hill) - The Clinton-era policy banning gays from serving openly in the military will soon be history after the Senate voted Saturday afternoon to repeal it.
Eight Republican senators joined almost the entire Senate Democratic conference to approve by a vote of 65 to 31 a measure repealing the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

GOP Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) were expected to vote yes. Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.), John Ensign (Nev.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and George Voinovich (Ohio) were late surprises.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) was absent.

The vote hands President Obama his second major victory of the lame-duck session of Congress after lawmakers approved an $858 billion package of tax relief and unemployment benefits.

“Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend,” Obama said in a statement.

“By ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay,” Obama said. “And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.”

The Senate voted 63 to 33 earlier in the day to end a Republican filibuster of the bill. Burr and Ensign supported the filibuster but later defected to vote yes for final passage.

Obama pledged to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell” during the 2008 campaign and came under heavy pressure from gay-rights advocacy groups to end discrimination against gays in the military.

Obama held off on pushing Congress to approve a repeal until recent months as he focused on passing healthcare reform and improving the economy.

The president told reporters at a press conference shortly after the mid-term election he hoped lawmakers would approve the repeal during the lame-duck session.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Obama’s opponent in the 2008 presidential election, blasted the president for pushing a major policy between the midterm election and the Republican takeover of the House next year.

“Here we are about six weeks after an election that repudiated the agenda of the other side, we are jamming — or trying to jam major issues through the Senate of the United States because they know they can’t get it done beginning next Jan. 5,” McCain said.

Repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” appeared in doubt earlier this fall when Senate Republicans twice voted to block defense authorization legislation that included the measure.

Collins was the only Republican to vote to advance the defense bill with a repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” when it came to the floor Dec. 9.
The repeal gained new life, however, after Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) announced he would separate the repeal from the broader defense bill and advance it as a free-standing measure.

The effort to allow gays to serve openly in the military is not over, however.

The repeal measure requires the president and the secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to send a certification to Congress declaring they have considered the recommendations contained in the Pentagon Working Group report on repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell."

They must also certify that the Department of Defense has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to implement the repeal and that those policies are consistent with military standards for readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention.
Supporters estimate it affects more than 60,000 military personnel.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy established under former President Bill Clinton, will not be repealed until 60 days after Obama submits the certification to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, endorsed the study and pressed Congress to pass the repeal to avoid having courts resolve the issue.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, called on Gates to suspend all investigations and disciplinary action against gay service members while the implementation of the new policy is pending.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) endorsed Savis’s request at a press conference Tuesday.

Democratic leaders have clinched a big victory for gay-rights activists with only a few days to spare. If Congress had not passed the repeal before the end of the year, it would have had little chance of success next year when Republicans will control the House.

Reid applauded the accomplishment.

“Repealing ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is the right thing to do and if that were the only argument that would be enough but there’s more than that,” Reid told reporters. “Repealing this policy will make our military stronger. Someone said this is not the time to repeal this policy and they’re right. It should have been done yesterday.”

SOURCE:  The Hill, http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/134373-senate-votes-65-31-to-repeal-ban-on-gays-serving-openly-in-the-military

New Wis. Senator, Congressmen Name Key Staff

Editor’s Note:  Below are short articles on key staff hires for Wisconsin’s newest U.S. Senator and two Congressman.

Republican Ron Johnson defeated U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.).  Sean Duffy succeeds Rep. Dave Obey (D-WI-07), who is retiring at the end of the current 111th Congress that ends on January 3, 2011.  Reid Ribble defeated Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI-08) in the November 2nd general election.

-A. H.


Wisconsin Sen.-elect Ron Johnson chief of staff will be Don Kent

U.S. Sen.-elect Ron Johnson has chosen an experienced Washington employee as his chief of staff.

Don Kent worked for five years in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. His responsibilities included helping department officials prepare for Senate confirmations. He also served as the principal legislative adviser to then-Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Johnson says Kent's experience will be valuable in helping him establish his office.

Johnson, a Republican, defeated three-term incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold last month.

— The Associated Press

SOURCE:  http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20101206/GPG0101/12060494/Wisconsin-Sen-elect-Ron-Johnson-chief-of-staff-will-be-Don-Kent



Congressman-elect Sean Duffy has announced two key staff hires for his 7th Congressional District office.

Matt Seaholm will serve as Duffy's chief of staff. Seaholm most recently served as Duffy's campaign manager and transition director. Previously, he worked in Madison as a policy adviser for Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau.

Duffy also announced the hire of Dave Anderson as his district director. Anderson currently serves in the same capacity for Congressman Tom Petri, R-Fond Du Lac, of the 6th District. Anderson previously was deputy state director for Sen. Bob Kasten, as well as the northern representative for former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

SOURCE:   http://www.marshfieldnewsherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/201012180357/SPJ0101/12180489




Representative-Elect Reid Ribble Announces Committee Assignments and New Staff Hires

-Assigned to Budget and Agriculture Committees; Chief of Staff, District Chief of Staff And Communications Positions Filled -

Green Bay - The transition office for Wisconsin-8 Representative-Elect Reid Ribble today released three staff hires for the official office as well as the incoming member's committee assignments for the next legislative session.

Representative-elect Ribble will serve on the Budget Committee and the Agriculture Committee when he takes office on January 5th 2011.
"Given the needs of our district and nation at this moment, I can't think of two better committees on which to serve," said Ribble. "The Agriculture Committee allows me to assist our diverse farming, timber and dairy base here in the district. And, of course, the Budget Committee provides the unique opportunity and challenge to get our massive spending under control at this critical time in our nation's history."

Representative-elect Ribble also announced the hiring of three senior staff members for his official office.

McKay Daniels will serve as the Washington, DC Chief of Staff, Rick Sense as the District Chief of Staff and Brandon Moody will serve as Communications Director.

"I'm excited about each of these three hires. Each brings a unique perspective and wealth of talent to our team," Ribble said. "We're ready to get to work for the people of Wisconsin."

Short bios of each hire can be found below.

Additional Information on the Budget Committee can be found here: http://budget.house.gov/singlepages.aspx?NewsID=1797

Additional Information on the Agriculture Committee can be found here: http://agriculture.house.gov/singlepages.aspx?NewsID=25&LSBID=23|64|65

Chief of Staff, McKay Daniels - With nearly fifteen years of managerial, political, and public policy experience McKay Daniels brings a diverse background to the position of Chief of Staff.  Currently a partner with Ryan Erwin and Associates -- a political and government affairs firm -- McKay oversaw the 2010 Ribble election campaign. Prior to joining Ryan Erwin and Associates, McKay served as Executive Director of both the Nevada and California Republican Parties where he supervised all aspects of the organizations' activities. Previously he also served as Director of Operations for the California Republican Party where he was responsible for the twenty-five-person organization's day-to-day operations and management of the annual budget exceeding $30 million. Throughout his career McKay has also been engaged in public policy efforts. In 2007 McKay served as Senior Policy Advisor to Nevada Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki where he focused on economic development, renewable energy, and business issues.

District Chief of Staff, Rick Sense.  Rick Sense brings to the District Chief of Staff position local knowledge and wide experience. Sense has spent the last three years at Community First Credit Union, headquartered in Appleton as Senior Vice President of Planning, Government and Community Relations.  During his nearly 20 years with Community First he served in many capacities from communications to public policy.  A native of Wisconsin's Eighth Congressional District, Sense has also served as the Director of Development at Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin.

Brandon Moody, Communications Director.Brandon served as Campaign Manager for Ribble for Congress, 2010. He is formerly a Vice President in the domestic division of Marsh Copsey + Associates, a political media and communications firm based in Washington, DC. Moody has worked directly as a staff member, manager and consultant on dozens of campaigns at the legislative, congressional, and statewide level for a decade. He brings a wide-array of communications-related experience to the job. In addition to his domestic work, he spent several months in the Middle East in 2008, working on communications and democracy-building projects for clients.

SOURCE:  Campaign Email

DAV National: Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act Passes Congress, Sent to President

S. 3447 Passed House and Sent to President

Thank You for Your Action and Support!

S. 3447, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, passed the House and was sent to the President on December 16, 2010. We have been working with both chambers of Congress to improve the Post 9/11 GI Bill, particularly in making a housing stipend available to Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) participants. It is largely due to your efforts that this bill was passed during this Congress.

This bill will expand and improve upon the Post 9/11 GI Bill that went into effect last year and it will simplify and improve benefits in a fiscally responsible way. Specifically, the Act will enable veterans to now use their benefit for vocational and on-the-job training, expand eligibility for the benefit to National Guardsmen who are activated for domestic assistance, provide Active Duty troops with additional assistance to purchase books, and provide severely injured veterans and their caregivers with additional time to use their benefits. Section 205 of S. 3447 would allow veterans with service-connected disabilities that participate in a program of vocational rehabilitation under chapter 31 of title 38, United States Code, who are also entitled to Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits, to choose whether to receive the monthly housing stipend payable under the Post-9/11 GI Bill or a monthly subsistence allowance. This bill is in accordance with DAV Resolution No. 099, passed at our most recent National Convention.

As always, DAV thanks you for your advocacy on behalf of sick and disabled veterans.

--Lisa Bogle, Legislative Staff, DAV, Washington, DC

Friday, December 17, 2010

Help for veterans in criminal justice system

Written by:  STEPHANIE JONES stephanie.jones@journaltimes.com, Racine JournalTimes.com

Posted: Friday, November 19, 2010 6:18 am | (5) Comments

RACINE - In misdemeanor court, Judge John Jude has seen Iraq and Afghanistan veterans stand before him for sentencing.

Some were there for drinking and driving. Others were there for domestic abuse, said Jude, a Racine County Circuit Court judge.

With more and more soldiers returning from active combat, Jude said he is worried the number of soldiers in the criminal justice system will increase and he wants to make sure the courts are on the front end to help the soldiers, he said.

Especially if they are dealing with substance abuse issues, he wants to make sure they are getting the resources they need to prevent them from returning to the courtroom, he said. First, that requires identifying people who are veterans, he said. He said sometimes a person's veteran status comes up at sentencing, but not all the time.

There are resources out there for veterans that are not available for others, he said.

To help start working on the issue, Jude said he is meeting with other judges and attorneys in early December to talk about their experiences with veterans in the system.

"It is an issue we want to talk about," Jude said.

He said the substance abuse he has heard about with others is more than marijuana. It's cocaine and heroin, he said.

Besides meeting with judges and attorneys, Jude has put out a call for assistance to the county's volunteer center to find mentors who may be able to help soldiers who are struggling with substance abuse.

At this point Jude said he is not sure of how extensive the issue is. But he is working to learn more to provide assistance where it can be provided.



SOURCE:  http://www.journaltimes.com/news/local/article_2f48103a-f3d7-11df-9f59-001cc4c002e0.html

Surgeries halted at Milwaukee VA Medical Center

Procedures moved from Zablocki following complaint by employee about sterilization

Written by Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Dec. 14, 2010 | (45) Comments

The Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center [in Milwaukee] stopped doing medical procedures more than a week ago after an employee raised concerns about the sterilization of medical equipment.

VA officials would not provide details on the concerns that prompted the decision. But they stressed that the move on Dec. 6 was precautionary.

"There was not gross deviation from the procedures that we've identified," said Michael Erdmann, the chief of staff at the medical center and a professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "But because we wanted to err on the side of patient safety, we made the very difficult decision to stand down everything."

About 20 patients have had surgeries or procedures done at Froedtert Hospital or other hospitals since Dec. 6.

The surgeons and other doctors at the VA generally also work at Froedtert Hospital. Carolyn Bellin, a spokeswoman for Froedtert, said the referrals have not caused any problems.

"We're glad to help out," she said.

The Zablocki VA and its clinics treat about 55,000 veterans a year, and the medical center generally has about 140 patients in its acute care unit.

The medical center is beginning to perform some procedures but doesn't expect its operating rooms to reopen until next week.

The medical center is sterilizing and processing thousands of pieces of equipment, a task that takes a minimum of three to four hours for the simplest device or tool. Each piece of equipment has to be inspected, cleaned and repackaged.

More than 400 types of equipment are reprocessed at the medical center, ranging from tools used for dental procedures to endoscopy scopes to a device for placing an artificial heart valve. Each has a specific procedure, and some run for pages.

"Every indication right now is we were following the procedures," said Gary Kunich, a VA spokesman.

The VA department that sterilizes and reprocesses medical equipment has gone through 16 inspections, some for just specific equipment, by hospital staff and the national VA system since July, Kunich said.

Kunich and Erdmann would not disclose the question raised about the hospital's procedures. But Erdmann acknowledged it was a drastic step.

"It took courage," he said. "But when you believe in patient safety and quality of care, it was the only decision to make."


SOURCE:  http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/111852444.html

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Increase Approved for Disabled Vets’ Mobility Grants

by Lauren Sanders on December 15, 2010

Veteran Mobility Grant(VABenefitBlog.com) - In December of 2011, the VA will increase the one-time vehicle grant from $11,000 to $18,000 allowing disabled veterans in need of a handicap accessible van, mobility van, or wheelchair van greater purchasing power.

Any disabled veteran who has been given a power or manual wheelchair by the VA and require a vehicle for their mobility equipment may apply for Disabled Veterans grants. Disabled Veteran grants and programs available to qualified veterans include:

One-time Vehicle Grant

The one-time vehicle grant may be used towards the purchase of a vehicle needed to transport a veteran’s mobility equipment. Vehicles may also be converted to house a wheelchair lift and/or a lowered floor handicap accessible ramp with the help of the vehicle mobility equipment grants.

Automobile Adaptive Equipment Program

The program teaches disabled veterans with service-related injuries to enter, exit, and operate a motor vehicle by providing the necessary equipment and training. Disabled veterans may enter the program after receiving an automobile grant, and after the completion of Driver’s Training with an approved driver’s evaluator. Even veterans who do not meet the criteria needed to operate a vehicle, due to the loss of or loss of the use of a limb or alkalosis of a hip or knee, may still receive the equipment needed to enter and exit a vehicle.

Home Modification Grants

The VA provides home modification grants up to $60,000 to eligible disabled veterans to help with the costs of making a home more accessible. Home Improvement & Structural Alterations grants are also available in the amounts of $1,200 for veterans with non-service related disabilities, and $4,100 for veterans with service related disabilities.  HISA grants may be used to make improvements or alterations to a home to provide greater accessibility, and are generally used for wheelchair ramps, railings, lowered countertops, widened doorways, and handicap accessible bathrooms.

In addition to vehicle and home modification grants, disabled veterans may also be eligible to receive manual and powered wheelchairs, durable medical equipment, and patient lifts. Disabled veterans should contact their local VA office for more information about the benefits they may be eligible for which may make life more accessible.

Photo thanks to Karl Johnson under creative common license on Flickr.

Improvement of Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Allowances Needed Take Action!

DAV National:  Please Contact Your Representative Today!

We have been working with both chambers of Congress to improve the Post 9/11 GI Bill, particularly in making a housing stipend available to Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) participants. As a result of our efforts, the U.S. Senate passed S. 3447, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010.

Disabled veterans need your help to get this legislation passed into law this year. DAV has testified in support of certain provisions of this bill. Resolutions adopted by our membership emphasize the need to provide veterans greater assistance under the VR&E program in Chapter 31 as contrasted to those participating in the post-9/11 educational assistance program under chapter 33. Section 205 of S. 3447 would allow veterans with service-connected disabilities that participate in a program of vocational rehabilitation under chapter 31 of title 38, United States Code, who are also entitled to Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits, to choose whether to receive the monthly housing stipend payable under the Post-9/11 GI Bill or a monthly subsistence allowance.

DAV urges you to call on your Representative and request they take up the provisions of S. 3447 before Congress adjourns later this week, most likely on December 18. Please call your Representative or send a prepared e-mail today. Please emphasize the urgency of these provisions for disabled veterans.

As always, DAV thanks you for your advocacy on behalf of sick and disabled veterans.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


An organization called Veterans Affairs Services (VAS) is providing
benefit and general information on VA and gathering personal information
on veterans.

This organization is not affiliated with VA in any way.

VAS may be gaining access to military personnel through their close
resemblance to the VA name and seal.  Our Legal Counsel has requested
that we coordinate with DoD to inform military installations,
particularly mobilization sites, of this group and their lack of
affiliation or endorsement by VA to provide any services.

Michael G. Daugherty
Staff Attorney
Department of Veterans Affairs
Office of General Counsel (022G2)