Monday, May 30, 2011

Remarks by President Barack Obama at the National Memorial Day Service at Arlington National Cemetery

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

May 30, 2011

Remarks by the President at the National Memorial Day Service at Arlington National Cemetery

11:25 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you so much. Please be seated.

Thank you, Secretary Gates, and thank you for your extraordinary service to our nation. I think that Bob Gates will go down as one of our finest Secretaries of Defense in our history, and it’s been an honor to serve with him. (Applause.)

I also want to say a word about Admiral Mullen. On a day when we are announcing his successor as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as he looks forward to a well-deserved retirement later this year, Admiral Mullen, on behalf of all Americans, we want to say thank you for your four decades of service to this great country. (Applause.) We want to thank Deborah Mullen as well for her extraordinary service. To Major General Karl Horst, the commanding general of our Military District of Washington; Mrs. Nancy Horst; Mr. Patrick Hallinan, the superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery, as well as his lovely wife Doreen. And to Chaplain Steve Berry, thank you for your extraordinary service. (Applause.)

It is a great privilege to return here to our national sanctuary, this most hallowed ground, to commemorate Memorial Day with all of you. With Americans who’ve come to pay their respects. With members of our military and their families. With veterans whose service we will never forget and always honor. And with Gold Star families whose loved ones rest all around us in eternal peace.

To those of you who mourn the loss of a loved one today, my heart goes out to you. I love my daughters more than anything in the world, and I cannot imagine losing them. I can’t imagine losing a sister or brother or parent at war. The grief so many of you carry in your hearts is a grief I cannot fully know.

This day is about you, and the fallen heroes that you loved. And it’s a day that has meaning for all Americans, including me. It’s one of my highest honors, it is my most solemn responsibility as President, to serve as Commander-in-Chief of one of the finest fighting forces the world has ever known. (Applause.) And it’s a responsibility that carries a special weight on this day; that carries a special weight each time I meet with our Gold Star families and I see the pride in their eyes, but also the tears of pain that will never fully go away; each time I sit down at my desk and sign a condolence letter to the family of the fallen.

Sometimes a family will write me back and tell me about their daughter or son that they’ve lost, or a friend will write me a letter about what their battle buddy meant to them. I received one such letter from an Army veteran named Paul Tarbox after I visited Arlington a couple of years ago. Paul saw a photograph of me walking through Section 60, where the heroes who fell in Iraq and Afghanistan lay, by a headstone marking the final resting place of Staff Sergeant Joe Phaneuf.

Joe, he told me, was a friend of his, one of the best men he’d ever known, the kind of guy who could have the entire barracks in laughter, who was always there to lend a hand, from being a volunteer coach to helping build a playground. It was a moving letter, and Paul closed it with a few words about the hallowed cemetery where we are gathered here today.

He wrote, “The venerable warriors that slumber there knew full well the risks that are associated with military service, and felt pride in defending our democracy. The true lesson of Arlington,” he continued, “is that each headstone is that of a patriot. Each headstone shares a story. Thank you for letting me share with you [the story] about my friend Joe.”

Staff Sergeant Joe Phaneuf was a patriot, like all the venerable warriors who lay here, and across this country, and around the globe. Each of them adds honor to what it means to be a soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, and Coast Guardsman. Each is a link in an unbroken chain that stretches back to the earliest days of our Republic -- and on this day, we memorialize them all.

We memorialize our first patriots -- blacksmiths and farmers, slaves and freedmen -- who never knew the independence they won with their lives. We memorialize the armies of men, and women disguised as men, black and white, who fell in apple orchards and cornfields in a war that saved our union. We memorialize those who gave their lives on the battlefields of our times -- from Normandy to Manila, Inchon to Khe Sanh, Baghdad to Helmand, and in jungles, deserts, and city streets around the world.

What bonds this chain together across the generations, this chain of honor and sacrifice, is not only a common cause -- our country’s cause -- but also a spirit captured in a Book of Isaiah, a familiar verse, mailed to me by the Gold Star parents of 2nd Lieutenant Mike McGahan. “When I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here I am. Send me!”

That’s what we memorialize today. That spirit that says, send me, no matter the mission. Send me, no matter the risk. Send me, no matter how great the sacrifice I am called to make. The patriots we memorialize today sacrificed not only all they had but all they would ever know. They gave of themselves until they had nothing more to give. It’s natural, when we lose someone we care about, to ask why it had to be them. Why my son, why my sister, why my friend, why not me?

These are questions that cannot be answered by us. But on this day we remember that it is on our behalf that they gave our lives -- they gave their lives. We remember that it is their courage, their unselfishness, their devotion to duty that has sustained this country through all its trials and will sustain us through all the trials to come. We remember that the blessings we enjoy as Americans came at a dear cost; that our very presence here today, as free people in a free society, bears testimony to their enduring legacy.

Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that we can never fully repay. But we can honor their sacrifice, and we must. We must honor it in our own lives by holding their memories close to our hearts, and heeding the example they set. And we must honor it as a nation by keeping our sacred trust with all who wear America’s uniform, and the families who love them; by never giving up the search for those who’ve gone missing under our country’s flag or are held as prisoners of war; by serving our patriots as well as they serve us -- from the moment they enter the military, to the moment they leave it, to the moment they are laid to rest.

That is how we can honor the sacrifice of those we’ve lost. That is our obligation to America’s guardians -- guardians like Travis Manion. The son of a Marine, Travis aspired to follow in his father’s footsteps and was accepted by the USS [sic] Naval Academy. His roommate at the Academy was Brendan Looney, a star athlete and born leader from a military family, just like Travis. The two quickly became best friends -- like brothers, Brendan said.

After graduation, they deployed -- Travis to Iraq, and Brendan to Korea. On April 29, 2007, while fighting to rescue his fellow Marines from danger, Travis was killed by a sniper. Brendan did what he had to do -- he kept going. He poured himself into his SEAL training, and dedicated it to the friend that he missed. He married the woman he loved. And, his tour in Korea behind him, he deployed to Afghanistan. On September 21st of last year, Brendan gave his own life, along with eight others, in a helicopter crash.

Heartbroken, yet filled with pride, the Manions and the Looneys knew only one way to honor their sons’ friendship -- they moved Travis from his cemetery in Pennsylvania and buried them side by side here at Arlington. “Warriors for freedom,” reads the epitaph written by Travis’s father, “brothers forever.”

The friendship between 1st Lieutenant Travis Manion and Lieutenant Brendan Looney reflects the meaning of Memorial Day. Brotherhood. Sacrifice. Love of country. And it is my fervent prayer that we may honor the memory of the fallen by living out those ideals every day of our lives, in the military and beyond. May God bless the souls of the venerable warriors we’ve lost, and the country for which they died. (Applause.)

END 11:37 A.M. EDT

Defense Secretary Gates’ Memorial Day Speech at Arlington National Cemetery

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)

Speech:  Memorial Day Observance

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA, Monday, May 30, 2011

Mr. President, veterans, active service members, families, welcome. For many Americans, Memorial Day is a welcome respite from work: an extra day to spend at the beach or finish errands. But we must never forget that it is foremost an occasion to reflect, remember, and to honor the brave men and women who have fought and died for us. Each year we set aside a single day to reflect on the service of our armed forces in generations past and present – a day where me must also honor the sacrifices of military family members, who in recent years have borne the brunt of repeated deployments, long partings, and the fear of receiving the knock on the door with the worst of all possible news.

But I urge all Americans to remember that, just as each and every day the troops now serving faithfully pursue their mission to protect us, so each and every day they deserve our recognition, our respect, and our conscious gratitude. Every soldier, sailor, airman, marine and coastguardsmen wearing the uniform today enlisted or reenlisted knowing they would serve in time of war. As Thucydides put it, “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”

As I come to the end of my time in this post, I know this will be my final opportunity to stand and speak in this hallowed place and pay tribute to the fallen. It is up to us to be worthy of their sacrifice – in the decisions we make, the priorities we set, the support we provide to troops, veterans, and their families.

For the rest of my life, I will keep these brave patriots and their loved ones in my heart and in my prayers – as I know does their Commander-in-Chief, who has so steadfastly supported those bearing the brunt of the fight. I have been honored to work with President Obama for the past two and half years and to see the deep seriousness and thoughtfulness with which he weighs the security of nation and the safety of the men and women who serve. Throughout, he has never shrunk from the tough decisions, the heavy burdens, and the true responsibilities of command.

It is my privilege and my honor to introduce the President of the United States.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Admiral Mullen’s Memorial Day Speech at Arlington National Cemetery

JCS Speech

 Memorial Day Observance

As Delivered by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff , The Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery Monday, May 30, 2011

Mr. President, Secretary Gates, Secretary Shinseki, members of Congress, distinguished guests, Veterans, fellow Americans and most especially, families of our fallen warriors … welcome.

If it is true that a nation defines itself by those it honors … then on this day and in this place, let it be known that America still defines itself as the most noble of nations.

For we have been represented and we have been defended – we have been made free– not solely by the mere strength of our ideals, but by the courage of young men and women who have been willing to die to preserve those ideals.

Soldiers in battle will tell you, and they will mean it, that they fight primarily for each other; that they are driven forward under fire by an earnest desire not to let each other down.

But they would not have been placed in that horror and they would not have been so ready to sacrifice themselves were it not for a deeper love of country, a fondness for home, and a heart beating with ardor for the lives and the livelihoods of their loved ones.

And that is, I believe, how they would most like to be remembered – those who have fallen and are missing -- not for the lives they lost but for the ones they lived, the ones they protected, the ones they saved.

Their legacy is not in their death. It is, ultimately, NOT in their sacrifice.

It is in the sunrises and sunsets, the birthdays and the holidays, the first dates and the first borns; all the cherished moments they have made possible for the families they left behind and for the thousands of their brothers and sisters in arms still out there on point and on patrol.

Their legacy is in the hopes we yet harbor, the dreams we yet share, the laughter and the tears, the fear, the joy and the love. All the things that make us human; all the things that make us alive.

These are their gifts to us. Life is their legacy.

Let us live it to the top.

Let us mourn, yes, their passing, but let us also promise ourselves to do that which we can – every day, starting today – to prove worthy of what our fallen have given us at so great a cost.

Let us look after their children. Let us bind up the wounds of their comrades.

Let us remember that the best of what America represents to the world lies here in these and other hallowed places, but that the best of who we are as Americans lies in our own hearts and in our own actions in what we so to honor those who have rendered this last full measure of devotion.

Today, we must solemnly remember. Tomorrow, we must stridently and generously live.

Those brave who sleep here ask for nothing more and we who survive them can demand of ourselves nothing less.

Thank you.

God bless our fallen, the missing and their families, and God bless America.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

State Leaders and Memorial Day


Gov. Walker. Orders flags to be flown at half-staff on Monday. Executive Order.

DMA. Memorial Day message from Adjutant General of Wisconsin.

WHEDA. Gov. Walker, WHEDA to honor veterans during grand opening for Veterans Manor.

AB 96: Facts and Falsehoods


With a bill to restructure the appointment of the WDVA Secretary’s appointment process currently in the legislative process, there have been as many falsehoods flying around as there have been facts.


The Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs has been appointing the WDVA Secretary “since WWII” – FALSE

The Board of Veterans Affairs has been appointing the WDVA Secretary only since 1977, when 1977 Senate Bill 63 was signed into law by then Governor Patrick Lucey, a Democrat – TRUE

The stated purpose for the creation of the current system of the Secretary being appointed by the Board and serving at its pleasure was to “remove politics” from the agency – FALSE

The bipartisan 1977 legislation to authorize the Board of Veterans Affairs to appoint the Secretary, who would serve at the pleasure of the Board, was seen at the time as a move to make the WDVA Secretary subject to the Governor’s control.  The Board at the time of enactment of the 1977 legislation was entirely controlled by the Governor at the time, who almost immediately after the bill’s enactment sought to replace the WDVA Secretary appointed by a Governor and confirmed by the Senate 15 years earlier – TRUE

A major component of the 1977 legislation creating the current system of a Board appointed WDVA Secretary was to eliminate “indefinite” Secretary appointments – TRUE

The 1977 legislation putting the WDVA Secretary’s appointment under the Board of Veterans Affairs was seen at the time by the WDVA Secretary and the veterans community as a “power grab” by then Governor Lucey, a Democrat – TRUE

Amendments to the current bill, AB 96, were “obscure” or were included at a veterans committee meeting without minority party Democrats present or invited – FALSE

Only one amendment to AB 96 has been made, Assembly Substitute Amendment 1, and it was made in open session of the full committee of the Assembly Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs with all members present and voting – TRUE

Several Assembly Democrats voted for the Petersen Substitute to AB 96 before they voted against it – TRUE

Amendments to the current bill, AB 96, were made “at the last minute” and on the Assembly Floor – FALSE

The sole amendment to AB 96, a substitute amendment, was made in committee prior to coming to the Assembly floor -- TRUE

None of the Veterans groups except the American Legion took a poll of their organizations elected leaders before taking positions on AB 96 – FALSE

The American Legion worked directly with Rep. Kevin Petersen to help draft much of AB 96 – TRUE

AB 96 will reduce Board members’ terms to 3 years – FALSE

AB 96 will reduce Board members’ terms to 4 years – TRUE

AB 96 will end current Board members’ tenures on the Board – FALSE

AB 96 retains current Board members and specifically allows for them to complete their full, current 6-year terms – TRUE

There is no cost associated with AB 96 – FALSE

WDVA estimates the additional cost of adding two Board members, the geographic dispersion of the Board by Congressional district and therefore travel, and the frequency of new Board member orientations to cost an additional $13,000 per year, which WDVA says may be able to be absorbed by the agency – TRUE


Finally, to debunk the biggest myth of all?

Veterans groups fought “for” the ability of the Board of Veterans Affairs to appoint the WDVA Secretary, and AB 96 is giving up something veterans fought “for” in the past – FALSE

In actuality, in 1977 veterans groups and CVSOs fought tooth and nail, side by side “against” the legislation directing the Board of Veterans Affairs to appoint the WDVA Secretary, who would serve at the Board’s pleasure.  Instead, they preferred the system current at the time whereby the Governor appointed the Secretary with Senate confirmation for an “indefinite” period.  This indefinite period was interpreted by many at the time as a “lifetime” appointment.   – TRUE

The WDVA Secretary at the time of the 1977 legislation fought hard against the appointment of the WDVA Secretary by the Board, preferring instead for the appointment to continue to be by the Governor with Senate confirmation for an “indefinite” appointment – TRUE


And finally, a personal observation – the current Doyle-appointed Board members did not act without the tacit approval of Governor Doyle.  While I was at WDVA and after, they met on many occasions with the Governor and/or the Governor’s staff.  WDVA’s leadership was rarely if ever directly informed of these meetings or what they were about. 

This adds to my personal argument, based on my years of inside experience, that the Governor does indeed control WDVA when he or she controls the WDVA Board (but just doesn’t look like it).  And, that argument is an echo of the arguments made publicly in 1977 at the time of the enactment of the legislation creating the current system, somewhat ironically, to provide greater accountability than the previous “indefinite” appointment of the WDVA Secretary. 

--Anthony Hardie



Wednesday, May 25, 2011

DAV Working with Legislature, Administration to Make New Disabled Veteran Business Certification Veteran Friendly


Since mid-April, DAV has taken a leading role in working with Governor Walker’s Administration, Assembly veterans affairs committee chairman Rep. Dick Spanbauer and committee staff, and Legislative Council attorneys in helping to revise the the long awaited implementing rules for the new State of Wisconsin Service-Disabled Veteran Business (SDVB) certification program.

2009 Wisconsin Act 299 created preferences in awarding state contracts or orders to businesses owned by service-disabled veterans with at least a 30% VA disability rating. The Act permits acceptance of a qualified responsible bid from a disabled veteran owned business that is no more than 5% higher than the apparent low bid or other most advantageous proposal.

The preferences are similar to those currently available to minority-owned businesses, but the Act does not create any goals for total amounts or percentages of state contracts or orders to be awarded to the disabled veteran-owned businesses. If a business is both disabled veteran-owned and minority owned, the preferences cannot be “stacked” and only a single 5% preference applies.

Act 299 directed the Department of Commerce to promulgate rules to implement provisions of the Act.  The creation of s. 560.033, Stats., which established the preference for SDVB’s, took effect on May 27, 2010. The remaining provisions took effect on November 1, 2010.

Despite those requirements for implementation written into law, the program, authored by former Assemblyman Gary Sherman and unanimously passed into law with full DAV and bipartisan support, is now finally being implemented after it languished in the state Department of Commerce last year after the bill’s enactment.

Sadly, despite DAV urging, neither WDVA under the recently resigned Secretary nor the Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs took any action in support of this legislation during the most recent legislative session. This was yet one more example of the dysfunction that has been plaguing the agency that has been part of the basis of DAV’s support for a complete overhaul of the department.

Upon notification of the draft implementing rule language by the Governor’s office, DAV took immediate action to express strong concerns about the agency’s proposed rules being unnecessarily burdensome and so veteran unfriendly that it would likely turn off potential applicants from ever applying. 

As a result, the proposed, veteran-unfriendly rules were prevented from automatic implementation.

Today, DAV staff met with Chairman Spanbauer’s office and legislative drafting attorneys for a second extended meeting, this time for a line-by-line scrub of the 22-page proposed rule to make the rule much more veteran friendly.

After the next draft is produced, a legislative hearing on the final proposed implementing rules is possible.  As always, DAV would seek bipartisan support for these make-sense improvements from the original proposal.

DAV has requested to be part of a possible ad hoc advisory committee to help ensure the final SDVB application is as simple, easy to follow, and veteran friendly as possible.

In the past, DAV has expressed concern that fees for the SDVB business certification should be equal to those for the two other state business certification programs. DAV has also express concern that a one-year requirement for being in business is a potential barrier to newly returning veteran entrepreneurs. DAV has also expressed concern over an arbitrary requirement that an SDVB would also have to have other business contracts outside of state government contracts.

It is expected that at least some of these issues will be resolved during the current rulemaking process.

In addition the the entire legislature that passed this bill last year, we owe a huge thank you to Governor Walker’s office and to Assembly Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs Chairman Dick Spanbauer and staff, without whom the very veteran unfriendly rules would have simply been enacted into law.

--Anthony Hardie

WDVA Benefits Booklets Available Once Again

Despite public and DAV outcry, the former WDVA Secretary discontinued the popular WDVA Benefits booklets.  However, since his welcomed departure in March, WDVA has restored their production and has now released an updated edition.

According to WDVA Senior Communications Specialist Kathleen Scholl:

WDVA has received in and has available an updated new version of the WDVA B0-100 booklet, called “Wisconsin Veterans Benefits –A Guide.”  An ample supply of the hard-copy booklets is available at the WDVA headquarters in Madison. An electronic version of the B0-100 will be posted to the department website.

The Division of Veterans Benefits outreach staff will have a certain amount of booklets on hand for veterans at the Supermarkets of Veterans Benefits in Green Bay next month and Milwaukee in July upon request

Otherwise, the boxes can be picked up from department headquarters in Madison.  We cannot mail the boxes.

The point of contact for distribution questions is Executive Staff Assistant Nora Meissner, at (608) 264-6096 or nora.meissner@dva.state.wi.us.

Any other questions regarding the publication itself may be directed to me.

Thank you.


Kathleen Scholl

Communications Specialist-Senior

Office of Public Affairs

WI Dept. of Veterans Affairs

(608) 267-3582 phone

(608) 264-7616 fax


Monday, May 23, 2011

DAV Testimony: Today’s Hearing on SB 97

Testimony of the Disabled American Veterans Department of Wisconsin

Presented to the Wisconsin State Senate Committee on

Economic Development and Veterans and Military Affairs

By Anthony Hardie, DAV State Special Assistant

May 23, 2011

Chairman Hopper, Ranking Member Lassa, and members of the Senate Committee on Economic Development and Veterans and Military Affairs:

On behalf of Disabled American Veterans state commander John Hoeft, DAV’s governing Executive Committee, and DAV’s entire state leadership team, thank you for this opportunity to testify in support of SB 97 [and AB 96 as amended by ASA1], which now includes nearly all of the amendments requested by DAV to strengthen the bill. And a special thank you to Senator Joe Leibham, Representative Kevin Petersen, his staff, and all those involved in drafting and co-authoring this important legislation whose time has truly come.

For the record, DAV is the largest organization of service-disabled veterans in the world. Made up of well over one million men and women disabled in our nation’s defense, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is dedicated to a single purpose: building better lives for all of our nation’s disabled veterans and their families. Fully non-partisan, DAV extends its mission of hope into communities where these veterans and their families live through a network of direct assistance-providing national service offices, an extensive DAV van program to get veterans to their often distant VA medical appointments, state-level departments, and 2,400 local chapters, including 55 here in Wisconsin.

For those who don’t already know me, I’m Anthony Hardie, a service-disabled veteran of the Gulf War, Somalia, and more than seven years active duty service. I’m a DAV life member since 1997 and an unpaid, unreimbursed volunteer honored to serve in national and state roles in support of DAV’s mission of helping other disabled veterans. And, most recently, I’m formerly the number three top official at WDVA, from 2003 to 2009 under two Secretaries, a number of Acting Secretaries, and Boards of Veterans Affairs dominated by Governors’ political appointees of both parties.

I’m pleased to be accompanied today by service-disabled Vietnam War veteran Al Labelle of Marshfield and all other DAV leaders and members present.

Like most other large organizations, DAV-Wisconsin’s positions are not determined at the whim of one individual. Instead, DAV’s positions are determined by a leadership team of elected and appointed DAV officers and staff and then reviewed and accepted, rejected or modified by DAV’s governing executive committee elected by the body of DAV. My testimony before you today is no exception, with the core set of these issues having been considered not just once, but twice by DAV’s governing Executive Committee, the first time long before AB 96 was ever even drafted or circulated for co-sponsorship.

Points of Agreement. First, we want to point out where the veterans organizations agree. It’s unlikely you’ll hear any arguments from anyone here today, from supporters or from opponents of this bill, that anyone wants to further politicize WDVA. That simply isn’t true, not for DAV, and not for anyone that we’ve heard speak about this bill.

And it’s unlikely you’ll hear arguments about anyone wanting less accountability for WDVA. Everyone who even picks up a newspaper now and then knows there have been and still are very serious challenges facing our state veterans agency. Newspapers like to sell stories, and so a headline that the veterans community is divided is exciting for them. And some partisans like to try and sharpen distinctions into divides as well.

But the veterans community is not nearly so divided as they try to portray. After hearing the nearly four hours of testimony at the Assembly hearing on this bill, it’s clear that everyone wants the veterans agency to be governed in a manner that’s best for our veterans and not by partisan politics, everyone wants the agency to be run in a way that is reputable.

The disagreement comes down to a relatively small point – whether the best way to achieve these shared goals can happen under the current system of indirectly appointing and overseeing WDVA’s Secretary by the Governors’ political appointees on a board, or whether those goals can be better achieved under an updated system like under this bill where the WDVA Secretary is appointed by the Governor with a full Senate confirmation process in which the public can and should participate.

It’s also important to point out that this bill is not the “be all, end all” for WDVA. Once there’s a new Secretary, with or without this bill, all of us – legislators, veterans service organizations, and other interested parties must all come together to work hard to restructure, reshape and remake our state veterans agency and its programs and services to ensure they is doing what we all agree they should be doing – providing needed assistance to our state’s veterans that effectively and efficiently and appropriately supplement and complement and not duplicate what the federal government and other agencies are already doing.

Our testimony today is in support of SB 97 [AB 96 with ASA1] as a better way to begin that task. The Board has had years to fix what’s wrong at WDVA but has not succeeded. Now it’s time to try a different and very promising approach.

Head of Agency/Role of Board. First, DAV is in support of the most important aspect of this bill – restructuring the leadership of the agency so that the WDVA Secretary is appointed by the Governor to serve as the head of the agency, with the role of the Governors’ appointees on the Board of Veterans Affairs modified to serve in a purely advisory role.

It has become clear over the last many years that insulating WDVA and other agencies from politics, the principle goal of the Progressive movement with regards to citizen boards as agency heads, has been a failure. In fact, as stated in DAV’s press release last month, at least in the case of WDVA, these Boards have not only not kept partisan politics from affecting the agency, but they have simply prolonged the politics of the last Governor, often for several years. As an example, in the case of the most recent Board power transition, Governor Doyle’s political appointees to the Board of Veterans Affairs were not in the majority until several years into his term, and only really were able to exercise that majority power in his second term.

Dick Marbes is a past DAV National Commander and continuing key leader in DAV’s national and state organizations, who served on the WDVA Board for ten years, from 1991 to 2001, says he served with many other Board members who he respects. However, as a former Board member himself, he says it’s clear to him that accountability over a Secretary and an agency by very part-time, non-expert Board of Veterans Affairs political appointees is simply not possible and can easily lead to the disjointed results we all have seen in recent years.

As DAV’s national commander, Marbes met on behalf of DAV with then President Clinton and leaders in the Clinton Administration. “To me, elevating the role of the WDVA Secretary to the cabinet level, just like at the national level, is good for the state veterans’ agency and good for veterans,” he says. And he says he respects the views of those who believe that a Board overseeing WDVA prevents politics from entering into WDVA’s operations. However, Marbes says that noble goal has simply not ever been the reality.

From my own insider experience at WDVA, I fully concur with Mr. Marbes. My close firsthand experience with Boards of Veterans Affairs political appointees appointed by both Republican and Democratic governors has shown me that contrary to popular belief, a Board does not insulate WDVA from politics, and in fact only prolongs the politics of each former governor for several years into the first or even second term of each successive new governor.

Despite mistaken public perceptions, this created a relationship between the Governor’s office and WDVA that was not only frequently problematic, but often hostile. It should go without saying that an executive branch agency that does not have the support of the governor will have a very difficult time doing the people’s business it is charged with doing.

VSO Involvement. Now, some have said that this bill is about a power grab by Governor Walker. That’s just simply not true.

DAV and several other veterans service organizations have been working on these issues since last year, well before last November’s election. DAV’s support for this legislation has absolutely nothing to do with Governor Walker or either political party, it’s about what we believe is best for our state veterans agency in best serving our state’s veterans.

What this bill would do, through the public confirmation of future WDVA Secretaries, is it would ensure a much greater role for the veterans’ service organizations, county veterans service officers, the people’s elected representatives in the Senate, and members of the public.

Transparency. Currently, WDVA Secretaries are selected in secret, behind closed doors, by Governors’ political appointees with no public participation, involvement or knowledge; this is the complete opposite of open, transparent government. In fact, only a pro forma vote to appoint the Secretary is required to take place in open session, with all the discussion and debate in closed session. There has been no opportunity for public involvement or even knowledge of the proceedings. In the most recent case, there wasn’t even any public knowledge of who were the choices to replace the former Secretary. Everything was conducted in secret.

It’s long past time to get rid of these secret backroom deals and eliminate this embarrassing relic of the past that goes entirely against Wisconsin’s tradition of open government.

Veterans Appointing. Some have expressed concerns about this bill allowing for the appointment of a WDVA Secretary by a Governor who is not a veteran. Well, in Washington, DC, the same process that this bill would create gave us our current, highly respected Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, appointed by a President who, like many in the past, is himself not a veteran. And by contrast, our current political appointees – veterans – failed our state’s veterans in their appointment and retention of the former WDVA Secretary who earlier this year resigned under of cloud of mismanagement and controversy.

Turnover. Some have also expressed concern about this bill leading to greater turnover in the Secretary’s position.

First, under the current system, during the tenure of the last Governor, we saw not one but three WDVA Secretaries and a plethora of acting secretaries. Retaining the current system has no relationship whatsoever to duration of tenure.

While this bill does not prevent a popular WDVA Secretary from being reappointed by an incoming new Governor, it will explicitly prevent the kinds of adversarial relationships like the one that existed between Governor Doyle’s administration and the former WDVA Secretary that was prolonged for years under the current, politically charged Board system that dragged those politics out for years. And of course, it was the programs and services and the veterans they serve who suffered.

As another case in point, it also took two-and-a-half years for the current Board to get to know the most recent WDVA Secretary well enough to know that he wasn’t up to the job and to force him out. That kind of decision could have been made in an instant by a Governor and resolved with a phone call calling for resignation, as happens from time to time in other agencies under every Governor, including the last one on at least a few memorable occasions.

And, those with political science backgrounds might find ample examples to argue that incoming appointees with fixed term tenures, like the four-year term of his or her appointing Governor, may well have greater motivation to quickly develop tangible achievements important to the veterans the agency serves than one appointed under the current system with an open and indefinite appointment.

We look forward to each successive Governor being able to choose a new WDVA Secretary on inauguration day rather than getting stuck with one for years with no redress for removal except to an unaccountable political Board made up of appointees often known only to the Governor and his or her friends and allies but not to the veterans community.

And if the previous Secretary has been a good one and has operated in a non-partisan manner, then he or she might be kept by the next Governor, just like the case in the state of Georgia where revered veterans Secretary Pete Wheeler has been an icon in the veterans community, reappointed by successive Governor’s since he was first appointed shortly after WWII!

While in theory some hold that there is concern about turnover, these real life examples should bring light to help alleviate that concern.

Elevate to Cabinet Status. It is the position of DAV that the WDVA Secretary should be a member of the Governor’s cabinet, just like at the federal level. That level of interaction with other agency heads is absolutely critical because issues affecting our veterans are much more than just the handful of viable programs still administered by WDVA.

The unemployment rate in the current economy that affects veterans at even greater rates than their civilian counterparts in some areas is but one example that will take an interagency team effort. As a placeholder, you can expect to be hearing more from DAV on these important issues shortly after the budget process is complete.

From personal experience, I can assure you that these kinds of interagency efforts are incredibly difficult when WDVA is perceived in some parts of state government as almost its own branch of government, responsible and responsive to no one, not even the veterans and their representative organizations. DAV and other veterans service organizations that have been actually advocating for veterans on actual, real live issues affecting veterans can provide many examples of the insurmountable hurdles under the current Board system.

Amendments. During our advocacy in the Assembly, DAV recommended several amendments necessary to accomplish the most important core function of the bill that would shift power away from the Board and to the WDVA Secretary. I’m pleased to report that nearly all of these were incorporated into the bill that is before you today [SB 97].

Veteran, Active Duty Requirements. Among these are requiring the Governor’s Board political appointees and the WDVA Secretary to be a veteran with active duty military service, and accordance with the definitions of these terms provided in the chapter of state law that governs veterans affairs.

We have all heard concerns from all quarters that the veterans secretary be an advocate for veterans, and I’m sure we all agree on that point. While this might be difficult to legislate, the minimal requirement that the WDVA Secretary, at a minimum, shall be a veteran is a key part of DAV’s support for this bill.

The twin requirements of veteran status with active duty service will help ensure that those overseeing WDVA will meet the same eligibility requirements as veterans applying for the programs they oversee.

Consulting Veterans Organizations. AB 96 requires personal consultation by the Governor with the presiding officers of at least 6 Wisconsin veterans’ organizations prior to recommending a WDVA Secretary nominee to the Senate for consideration and confirmation. DAV is in support of this general concept. As the nation’s and state’s largest voice for service-disabled veterans, DAV would have preferred an assurance that DAV would be included among those six.

However, preferences over this provision are simply not worth falling on our sword. Like all other engaged and interested organizations, individual veterans, and members of the public, the Senate confirmation process is the key to this legislation in ensuring open, transparent public involvement in determining each successive WDVA Secretary.

Conclusion. Finally, it is DAV’s position that there should be strong consideration for service-disabled veterans in every appointment to the Board, the Secretary’s position, and any WDVA position.

Arguably, it is combat wounded and other service-disabled veterans who have born the heaviest weight of military service and the lives of these men and women is often changed forever in just an instant. We owe it to our disabled veterans to ensure that if they are able, that we as a nation and a state provide all possible assistance to help them secure gainful employment commensurate with their knowledge, skills and abilities and work to accommodate their disabilities however possible.

Again, on behalf of DAV State Commander John Hoeft, DAV’s executive committee and entire leadership team, I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Update on AB 96: Senate Hearing Next Week


Representing DAV at this hearing will be Anthony Hardie, State Special Assistant, and Al Labelle, State Judge Advocate.

DAV-Wis. has taken the position to support this legislation.


The Wisconsin State Senate Committee on Economic Development and Veterans & Military Affairs will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 97 at the time specified below. 

SB 97 is the Senate companion bill to the amended, current version of Assembly Bill 96 (ASA1), which relates to the appointment of the WDVA Secretary and the composition and powers of the WDVA Board.

    • Senate Committee on Economic Development and Veterans & Military Affairs – Public Hearing
    • Monday, May 23, 2011, 10:00 A.M. (or upon adjournment of the Executive Session, whichever is later)
    • Room 201 Southeast, State Capitol, Madison, Wis.

SB 97 and the current version of AB 96, relating to
the composition of the Board of Veterans Affairs, the appointment of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and direction and supervision of the State of Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA).

Under current law, the WDVA Secretary is appointed by the Governor’s appointees on the Board of Veterans Affairs to serve at the pleasure of the  board. The Board of Veterans Affairs is composed of seven members appointed by the Governor for six-year terms. All of the members must be veterans, and at least two of the members must be Vietnam War veterans. Under current law, the WDVA Secretary promulgates, with the approval of the board, the administrative rules for administering WDVA and for performing WDVA's duties.

SB 97/AB 96 require selection of the WDVA Secretary through nomination by the Governor and confirmation, including a public confirmation hearing, by a majority of the state Senate.

Prior to appointment, the Governor must personally consult with the presiding officer of at least six Wisconsin veterans organizations.

Board of Veterans Affairs membership is expanded to 9 members (currently 7) appointed to staggered four-year terms (currently 6), with a requirement that at least one member of the board is a resident of each of the 8 Congressional districts in the state.

The secretary and all board members must be veterans and have served on active duty, both as defined in Chapter 45 (“Veterans Affairs”) of Wisconsin law.

SB 97/AB 96 vest authority to promulgate rules in the secretary, and requires the secretary to provide a copy of any proposed rule to the Board of Veterans Affairs. The board may make written comments to the rule, which are required to be included in the rule analysis submitted by WDVA under s. 227.14 (2), St

Thursday, May 19, 2011

DWD: Veterans, Employers Take Advantage of State’s Improving Business Climate

Thursday, May 19, 2011

On the Web: http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/dwd/news.htm

Veterans, Employers Take Advantage of State’s Improving Business Climate
Madison Veterans Job Fair connects those who served our nation with job opportunities

in manufacturing, health care, high-tech and biotech employment sectors
MADISON – Department of Workforce Development Interim Secretary Scott Baumbach said today that employer participation in a Madison Job Fair for Veterans and similar events around the state is reflective of the growing optimism in the state’s improving economy under Governor Walker’s leadership.

“Our state’s economy has been expanding and adding jobs ever since Governor Walker declared Wisconsin open for business,” Interim Secretary Baumbach said. “At DWD, we are doing all that we can to get Wisconsin working again, especially troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and all the other brave men and women who have served in the military.”

More than 40 employers representing all sectors took part in the Madison Job Fair for Veterans, held at the Edgewood College Deming Way Campus on the city’s far west side. They included Marinette Shipbuilding, Stoughton Trailers, TomoTherapy, Promega, St. Marys Hospital, TDS, Kwik Trip and Schneider Trucking.

Interim Secretary Baumbach said the April employment numbers, released today, also show Wisconsin is moving in the right direction. He said increasing employment opportunities are evident in the more than 28,000 job openings posted on www.JobCenterOfWisconsin.com, the free DWD online employment site.

The Job Fair for Veterans at the Edgewood Deming Way Campus is one of 14 DWD has scheduled this year. The next job fair for veterans will be held June 8th in Green Bay at the Army National Guard Armory. Veterans can also learn about benefits from federal, state and community agencies serving veterans.

Veterans attending the job fairs are asked to complete surveys. Approximately half of those completing the surveys say they have received job offers or requests for follow-up job interviews.

In addition to Edgewood College, DWD was joined in sponsoring the Madison job fair by the Departments of Military Affairs and Veterans Affairs, the Wisconsin American Legion, and the Wisconsin Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Program.

For more information about services for veterans: http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/veterans/

For a list of all Job Fairs, including those for veterans: http://www.wisconsinjobcenter.org/jobfairs/

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

WDVA: Supermarket of Veterans Benefits to be held in Green Bay on June 3rd, 4th

May 18, 2011 -- For Immediate Release

Supermarket of Veterans Benefits to be held in Green Bay

Outreach event planned for June 3-4, 2011

(MADISON) – An outreach event for veterans and their families from northeastern Wisconsin will be held in Green Bay during the first weekend in June.

Veterans can apply for an array of state and federal benefits at one convenient location at a two-day Supermarket of Veterans Benefits hosted by the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) on Friday, June 3 from noon to 7:00 p.m. and on Saturday, June 4 from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the National Guard Armory in Green Bay, located at 800 N. Military Ave.

All veterans, from the newest returning service members to seasoned veterans, are invited to stop by and learn about benefits. Veterans who may have never applied for benefits before are encouraged to attend, as well as those interested in updates and changes to veterans’ benefits and services.

“This outreach event is one of four Supermarkets planned for this year,” said WDVA Acting Secretary Donna Williams. “These events are a great opportunity for veterans of all ages to access the combined programs and services available from the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, the federal VA, as well as the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.”

The Supermarket of Veterans Benefits being held in Green Bay will have over 30 service providers on hand, including the federal VA, state agencies, County and Tribal Veterans Service Officers, veterans service organizations, education centers and more. Veterans and families from other states can also come to the Supermarket to learn about federal VA health care, employment, and other information.

At this “one-stop shop” for benefits, veterans, military service members and family members can:

· Apply for benefits, such as VA health care and prescription drug benefits, disability compensation and pension, home loans and education or job training grants.

· Find out about employment information.

· Learn about education benefits including the Wisconsin GI Bill benefit of tuition remission for eligible veterans and dependents.

· Receive assistance in obtaining military medals and records.

· Learn what the Wisconsin Veterans Homes in Union Grove and King offer: affordable assisted living, quality long-term care, activities, and a friendly environment.

· Obtain information about nursing care and aging services.

· Find out about the Veterans Assistance Program (VAP) to help homeless veterans and those at risk of becoming homeless.

· Learn about the Military Funeral Honors program as well as pre-register for burial in state veterans cemeteries.

Parking and admission are free.

Learn more about the Supermarket of Veterans Benefits program, including other upcoming outreach events around Wisconsin, on the WDVA website at www.WisVets.com/Supermarkets or by calling 1-800-WIS-VETS (947-8387).


WDVA CVSO Bulletin No.959 re: Military Funeral Honors (MFH) Stipend Outage

From: WDVA Media Relations
Sent: Wednesday, May 18, 201110:38 AM
Subject: WDVA CVSO Bulletin No.959 re: Military Funeral Honors (MFH) Stipend Outage

Please see below a link to Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs CVSO Bulletin No. 959 re: Military Funeral Honors (MFH) Stipend Outage. 

A copy of the bulletin can be found at www.WisVets.com/Bulletins/Bulletin_CVSO_959.pdf

CVSO Bulletins can be found at www.WisVets.com/PA_cvsobulletins.asp.

Thank you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

AB 96 Slowed in Assembly, Still Expected to be Enacted into Law in June


The progress of 2011 Assembly Bill 96, which would change the appointment of the WDVA Secretary to a governor’s appointment with Senate confirmation and restructure the Board of Veterans Affairs as an advisory body, was slowed in the state Assembly today on a procedural vote split along party lines (Vote #344).

AB 96, introduced earlier this year by Rep. Kevin Petersen (R-Waupaca) at the request of several veterans service organizations including DAV Department of Wisconsin, was among several measures today slowed by the Assembly prior to the third reading of the bill using a procedural delay being used by the minority party on a host of other bills this year.

The original AB 96 was replaced last week by a substitute amendment in committee that was adopted by a vote of 9-1.  The substitute was also authored by Petersen and contained nearly all of DAV’s requested amendments, including requiring the WDVA Secretary to be a veteran as defined in Chapter 45.01 (12). 

Today’s vote was to suspend the rules and allow for a third reading of the bill and passage by the Assembly.  The motion requires a two-thirds vote, and failed along party lines, 56-37, with five members not voting.  Several amendments were offered by the minority party during today’s floor session. All were tabled (and thus defeated) on party-line votes.

Three amendments not approved in today’s floor session were introduced by Rep. Nick Milroy (R-Superior).  One would have delayed the bill from taking effect until 2015, after the next gubernatorial election (AA5).  Another would have required a supermajority two-thirds Senate vote for confirmation of the Governor’s nominee (AA6) .  A third would have included the CVSO Association of Wisconsin in addition to the six veterans groups required to be consulted by the Governor prior to the nomination of a WDVA Secretary (AA7) . 

Milroy, the Ranking Member of the Assembly veterans affairs committee, had also introduced all three amendments in committee (AA1, AA2, AA3); all were voted down in committee along party lines. 

Another amendment, authored by Representatives Mark Pocan (D-Madison), Amy Sue Vruwink (D-xxxx), and Penny Bernard Schaber (D-Appleton) would have dramatically expanded the bill’s definition of veteran, a requirement for the WDVA Secretary under AB 96, to include anyone who had served in the active or reserve forces or national guard for as short as one day and with any type of military discharge including bad conduct and dishonorable (AA8).

An amendment by Rep. Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville) and Assembly Minority Leader Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha). would have retained AB 96’s Board size increase to nine members and the requirement for the Secretary to be a “veteran,” but would have left “veteran” undefined (AA9).

The final amendment offered was a substitute bill by Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) that would have removed provisions related to the WDVA Secretary being appointed by the Governor while retaining provisions increasing the Board to nine members (currently seven), reducing Board term length to four years, and making Board seats representative based on Congressional districts (ASA2). Like the current version of AB 96, the Sinicki substitute would also have removed the current law requirement that two Board members be Vietnam War veterans.

Sincicki, who serves on the Assembly Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs, did not introduce this amendment during the committee’s proceedings on the bill.

An amendment by Rep. Mark Radcliffe (D-Black River Falls) defeated in committee was not reintroduced on the Assembly floor today (AA4).  Radcliffe’s proposal would have created a new statewide election system for Board members run by CVSO’s and WDVA. 

According to the bill summary memo for the current version of AB 96 by the non-partisan Wisconsin Legislative Council:

Under current law, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs is appointed by the Board of Veterans Affairs to serve at the pleasure of the board. The Board of Veterans Affairs is composed of seven members appointed by the Governor for six-year terms. All of the members must be veterans, and at least two of the members must be Vietnam War veterans. Under current law, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs promulgates, with the approval of the board, the rules for administering DVA and for performing DVA's duties.

Assembly Substitute Amendment 1 requires selection of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs through nomination by the Governor and confirmation by a majority of the state Senate.

Prior to appointment, the Governor must personally consult with the presiding officer of at least six Wisconsin veterans organizations.

Board of Veterans Affairs membership is expanded to nine members appointed to staggered four-year terms, with a requirement that at least one member of the board is a resident of each congressional district in the state.

The secretary and all board members must be veterans [Editor’s note: with active duty military service, and in accordance with the Chapter 45 definition of veteran] with no requirement that any represent a particular war or conflict.

Assembly Substitute Amendment 1 vests authority to promulgate rules in the secretary, and requires the secretary to provide a copy of any proposed rule to the Board of Veterans Affairs. The board may make written comments to the rule, which are required to be included in the rule analysis submitted by WDVA under s. 227.14 (2), Stats.

DAV’s support for this legislation was approved twice – and requested amendments also approved -- by the DAV Department of Wisconsin’s Executive Committee in accordance with DAV’s constitution and bylaws.  Support for the bill is based on restoring accountability to the troubled department and reducing politicization through a public, open confirmation process for the WDVA Secretary.

Currently, the WDVA Secretary is appointed through secret, closed door decisions by unaccountable, unelected Board members that typically have close partisan ties with the Governor who appoints them but who are often unknown to the veterans community.  Only the Board’s vote, a purely procedural measure that in each of the most recent appointments has been made without open discussion or any public input, is made in open session. 

DAV had sought a further amendment to the bill that would have required the six veterans organizations consulted by the Governor to include the six largest by Wisconsin membership, which would have guaranteed DAV be included among those consulted. However, all of DAV’s other requested amendments have been included in the current version of AB 96.

The bill now awaits a final vote, which will likely be during the Assembly’s next floor session on June 8, 2011.  The minority party is expected to use another procedural stalling technique that has been used frequently this year and would delay the bill by another week, or until June 15, from being messaged to the Senate for a vote.

The final bill is still expected to be completed and sent to the Governor for signature and enactment right on target before the end of June and with the continued support of DAV Department of Wisconsin.

--Anthony Hardie



Thursday, May 12, 2011

Joint Finance Votes for $5m GPR Infusion to Veterans Trust Fund


In a bipartisan move led by Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) and Representative Dan Lemahieu (R-Osstburg), the state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted to provide new support for the state’s Veterans Trust Fund and several veterans programs.

In one of the votes led by Hopper, the committee voted 16-0 to provide $5 million in new GPR funding for the ailing Veterans Trust Fund, which is projected to have a negative cash flow in just two years.

The $5 million is the first GPR influx since 1988, and the largest since 1972 according to several press releases issued today.

“When creating a budget, we always talk about priorities.  I am proud of all members of the Joint Finance Committee for unanimously prioritizing those who have risked their lives for freedom,” said Hopper, the author of the motion to add $5 million to the VTF

“We owe a huge debt to our veterans,” said Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), the co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance. “We need to ensure that they are taken care of when they return to the homefront.”

“Our veterans stood up and protected us,” Darling said. “This is an opportunity to stand up for them and shore up the trust fund.”

For a number of years, the Veterans Trust Fund has faced financial difficulties. The committee required that WDVA and the Board of Veterans Affairs create a viable plan for long term funding that ensures the solvency of the trust fund, which has never had a permanent source of funding. Their deadline is June 30, 2011.

Veterans can’t keep wondering if the trust fund will remain viable,” said Darling. “They need to know that the State of Wisconsin is committed to their wellbeing. Today, we put the fund on a sustainable fiscal path.”

In addition, JFC provided $68,900 GPR to ensure the availability of military funeral honors stipends for veterans service organizations for the remainder of the fiscal year.

“I look forward to working with veterans service organizations, lawmakers, and members of the Board to build on the commitment made today, and I’m hopeful that the full Legislature will support the committee’s decision when they act on the budget proposal in the coming weeks,” said WDVA Acting Secretary Donna Williams.

--Anthony Hardie



Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New bill would boost job-finding help for vets


With an unemployment rate of as high as 27 percent for Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans ages 20 to 24, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairwoman and a member of the Senate Democratic Party leadership Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. has concerns that government isn’t doing enough for unemployed and underemployed veterans.

At an April hearing on veterans’ employment, Murray said the government is letting veterans down.

To help, she has introduced the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011.  DAV and other veterans service organizations have endorsed the bill.

Read more about the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 here:


Here in Wisconsin, DAV remains highly active in promoting job opportunities for disabled and other veterans including in state government.  To date, the Board of Veterans Affairs has taken no policy action on DAV’s list of recommendations to improve that agency’s employment and hiring of disabled and other veterans, currently seen as abysmal.

--Anthony Hardie

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Legislature Continues Work on Budget, Veterans Issues


The Joint Committee on Finance (JCF) continues its work this week on the 2011-13 biennial budget, using Governor Scott Walker’s budget recommendations as a starting point.

Budget items relating to veterans issues are peppered throughout the process, which usually is spread across several grueling weeks.

Of concern to many within DAV has been the annual $100,000 Veterans Trust Fund grant to DAV-Wis. to help offset the high costs associated with providing medical appointment transportation services to Wisconsin veterans.  There have been no proposals at any stage thus far that would impact this grant program, meaning it remains safe at its current funding level thus far.  And, it appears highly unlikely that there will be any further proposals regarding this program from this point forward.

Other issues of concern are veterans homes issues and funding for various programs. 

For those interested in reading the details, up this week Thursday in JCF are the following:

Veterans Affairs -- General Agency Provisions

765 Overview of the Veterans Trust Fund

766 Assistance to Needy Veterans, Veterans Assistance Program, Personal Loan Program, Museum Funding, Payments to Veterans Organizations, and Transfers to the Veterans Trust Fund

767 Transfer State Approving Agency Functions

End Sheet


Last week, the following were considered.  Important to DAV was the elimination of the bed tax that would have significantly raised rates at the Wisconsin Veterans Homes at King and Union Grove had it been implemented.  The vote to eliminate the bed tax was a unanimous, bipartisan vote of JCF.

Veterans Affairs -- Veterans Home

775 Veterans Home at Chippewa Falls

776 Licensed Bed Assessment

777 Restore One-Time Financing for King Master Lease Payments

778 Veterans Home Transfers to the Veterans Trust Fund

779 Transfer Geriatric Program Budget and Position Authority

End Sheet


--Anthony Hardie

Special Elections, Recalls, Recounts Update from the Non-Partisan Legislative Reference Bureau

Special election results

Voters in three Assembly districts went to the polls on May 3 to fill seats made vacant by Governor Walker's appointment of three former Republican legislators to executive branch positions. Republican candidates won in two of the districts, and a Democratic candidate won the third seat.

60th Assembly District (Formerly represented by Mark Gottlieb)

  • Duey Stroebel (R) of Saukville defeated Rick Aaron (D) of Bayside

83rd Assembly District (Formerly represented by Scott Gunderson)

  • Dave Craig (R) of Big Bend defeated James Brownlow (D) of Muskego

94th Assembly District (Formerly represented by Mike Huebsch)

  • Steve Doyle (D) of Onalaska defeated John Lautz (R) of West Salem

For more information on the special legislative elections, see the Government Accountability Board.

Supreme Court Recount

As of 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 5, the Government Accountability Board reports that approximately 75% of the ballots for Supreme Court Justice have been recounted. See the GAB Web site for recount information.

Legislator Recalls

Nine of the 18 recall committees registered with the Government Accountability Board (GAB) have filed petitions, and claimed to have the required number of signatures required for a recall election.

The senators subject to these potential recalls include six Republicans (Robert Cowles, Alberta Darling, Sheila Harsdorf, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke, and Luther Olsen) and three Democrats (Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin, and Robert Wirch ). The petitions are currently being reviewed for sufficiency by GAB. The GAB site also shows the recall committees that did not file the necessary signatures by their respective deadlines.

On May 5, GAB alerted local officials of its plan to schedule recall elections on July 12, 2011.


SOURCE:  State of Wisconsin, Legislative Reference Bureau:  http://legis.wisconsin.gov/spotlight/index.htm

VA Office of Survivors Assistance

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Survivors Assistance

“Helping Our Survivors Through Their Time of Transition”


For everyone, the death of a loved one is a life changing event – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Survivors Assistance (OSA) is here to assist survivors in making the necessary transition with benefits assistance.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said “Taking care of survivors is as essential as taking care of our Veterans and military personnel.” He added, “By taking care of survivors, we are honoring a commitment made to our Veterans and military members.”

The Office of Survivor Assistance (OSA) was established in October 2008 by Public Law 110-389, Title II, Section 222, and is the primary advisor to the Secretary on all matters related to policies, programs, legislative issues, and other initiatives affecting Veterans’ survivors and dependents of survivors.

OSA monitors VA’s delivery of benefits to survivors, makes appropriate referrals to VA offices for survivors seeking benefits and explores innovative ways of reaching survivors who are not receiving VA benefits for which they are eligible to receive. Some of these benefits include, but are not limited to, education assistance, home loan guaranties, health care insurance and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).

“We are your advocate to ensure fairness, equity and appropriateness of all survivor benefits and to serve as the liaison for inter- and intra-agency collaboration and coordination on survivor issues,” said OSA Director Debra A. Walker. “We are also fully committed to staying in step with the needs of survivors to advocate for the survivor community.”

To fulfill its mission, the Office of Survivors Assistance has been working closely with senior VA leadership to provide up-to-date information on the issues faced by the survivor community. Always at the forefront, OSA gleans much of its information through direct interaction with the survivor themselves.

On many occasions, OSA is called upon for assistance with an individual’s claim. While the thrust of OSA operations calls upon it to serve in a policy capacity, OSA staff knows that every VA employee has the responsibility and privilege to provide the excellent customer service that our clients so deserve. On any given day, OSA staff may be found rolling up their sleeves, and working the issues of individual survivors who have contacted OSA directly.

As a rule, OSA sees these service opportunities as mutually beneficial; the survivor obtains the necessary assistance with their particular issue, and OSA benefits by reviewing the trends in requests for assistance, which helps identify possible gaps in programmatic services. Strategy-wise, by working on the micro level, OSA is better able to advise VA leadership at the macro level.

OSA has also established multiple partnerships with the Department of Defense agencies, Veterans Service Organizations and other non-government organizations to explore ways to ease the transition of survivors into the VA system, and to make a difference in survivors’ lives.

OSA was a key driver in the addition of the term “survivors” to the title of the informational 2009 Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors Book, which was symbolic of VA’s commitment in advocating for survivors both inside and outside of VA. It spearheaded updates to the benefits book by clarifying the language regarding bereavement counseling for survivors, which will ultimately make counseling more accessible for all survivors. OSA maintains a Web site to help survivors navigate through resources that may be available to them, and will continue to monitor policy and legislative issues as well as pursue outreach to survivors to ensure that survivor issues are fully understood and addressed at the appropriate level.

“It is our mission to make sure Veterans’ survivors do not fall through the cracks as VA’s mission to serve those who have borne the battle is not over when Taps is played. More information can be received by calling 202-461-1077 or visiting our Web site at www.va.gov/survivors. If you would like to write us, contact us at officeofsurvivors@va.gov.

WDVA Monthly Legislative Update–May 2011


See the WDVA Monthly Legislative Update for May 2011 from Max Dulberger at:




Wednesday, May 4, 2011

VA Publishes New Family Caregiver Regulations

May 4, 2011 ShareThis

Caregiver Image
Caregivers like Rosie Babin, seen here with her son Alan Babin, a seriously disabled veteran of the Iraq War, may be eligible for a stipend, mental health services and access to health care.

The VA has published the interim final rule for implementing the Family Caregiver Program that was authorized by Congress last year and will begin taking applications from eligible veterans effective May 9.

The new rule was published May 3 and has a 60-day comment period. It provides additional support for eligible post-9/11 veterans who elect to receive their care in a home setting from a primary caregiver. The VA’s Office of Care Management and Social Work will begin taking applications next week from eligible veterans and servicemembers so they may designate their family caregivers. VA expects the first benefits to be delivered in July.

Veterans eligible for this program include those who sustained a serious physical injury, including traumatic brain injury, psychological trauma or other mental disorder incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, on or after Sept. 11, 2001. They must be in need of personal care services because of an inability to perform one or more activities of daily living or need supervision or protection based on symptoms or residuals of neurological impairment or injury.

The additional services for primary family caregivers of eligible post-9/11 veterans and servicemembers include a stipend, mental health services and access to health care insurance, if they are not already entitled to care or services under a health care plan. Comprehensive caregiver training and medical support are key components of the program.

Effective May 9, veterans may download a copy of the Family Caregiver program application at www.caregiver.va.gov. Caregiver support coordinators are available at every VA medical center and via phone at 1-877-222-VETS (8387) to assist veterans and family caregivers with the application process.
Caregivers for veterans of all eras are eligible for respite care, education and training, meeting the veteran’s care needs and the importance of self-care when in a caregiving role. The full range of VA services already provided to caregivers will continue, and local caregiver support coordinators at each VA medical center are available to assist in identifying benefits and services they may be eligible to receive.

SOURCE: DAV National:  http://www.dav.org/news/NewsArticle.aspx?ID=395

DAV Offers Disaster Relief in Tornado Torn States

The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is establishing sites in storm-ravaged parts of Alabama, Missouri, North Carolina and Oklahoma to assist disabled veterans and their families recover from an outbreak of tornadoes that cut a swath across southern states in late April.

“It appears that hundreds or thousands of disabled veterans and their families have suffered losses because of these storms,” said DAV National Service Director Garry J. Augustine. “Disabled veterans already face challenges of their own. We’re doing our utmost to provide disaster relief to help them in these harrowing times.”

Teams of National Service Officers (NSOs) are deployed to serve disabled veterans by providing more than 200 disaster relief vouchers to offset some of the hardship the storms wreaked on those in their path. The vouchers help pay for food, clothing and shelter for disabled veterans and their families who may have lost all their belongings when their homes were destroyed.

“The DAV is committed to offering disaster assistance to provide a lifeline for disabled veterans who suffer losses from the tornadoes,” Augustine said. “Even though thousands of disabled veterans may have been devastated by these storms, our resources are limited and we are doing all we can to help as many as possible.”

The DAV NSOs usually set up offices near the federal or state emergency management agency offices in the hardest hit areas. For additional information, please visit our website at http://www.dav.org/ to contact the DAV National Service Office in your state.




Monday, May 2, 2011

DAV National Adjutant’s Message on the Death of Osama bin Laden

By Arthur H. Wilson

May 2, 2011 ShareThis

Art Wilson Photo

Today we thank the courage and tenacity of America’s fighting men and women who at last succeeded in killing an enemy of our country and the world.

The death of Osama bin Laden, now nearly a decade after 9/11, is a victory we as a nation will gratefully appreciate. It is a boost to our national security and to the morale of those who’ve fought in the current and past wars to protect their countrymen and uphold our way of life.

While we pause to celebrate this remarkable action, it is a fitting reminder of the courage and sacrifice exhibited by our fighting men and women as they are acting on intelligence gathered at bin Laden’s previous refuge.

As our servicemembers have given us this historic moment of freedom, they are undoubtedly preparing the next step in eliminating additional threats to our countrymen and our national interests at home and abroad.

It is fitting to remember the tremendous sacrifices that hundreds of thousands of men and women have made as a result of and in response to attacks predating 9/11. In no small way, this victory is a testament to their service and recognition of their honor, courage and tenacity.

As we mark this occasion, we must vow to keep our disabled heroes in our thoughts and in our hearts. They continue to put their lives on the line to defend our country. In doing so, we show the true breadth of patriotism that makes ours the greatest nation on this earth.

SOURCE:  http://www.dav.org/news/NewsArticle.aspx?ID=394