TREA: The ENLISTED ASSN
NEWS FOR THE ENLISTED
FOR JUNE 1,2012
Unofficial summer came to Washington DC during this shortened week. The political campaigns continued throughout the country. Europe lurched to who knows what economically and they are all rushing to buy U.S. 10 Year Treasury bills with an interest rate of 1.67%!!!! For yet another reason we are a very fortunate people.
1) Washington Stops to Remember the Fallen and Those Who Served
On a blinding hot Monday, Washington DC stopped to commemorate both Memorial Day and the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of the War in Vietnam. President Obama spoke at both the Memorial Day Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam Commemoration at The Wall. The President was joined at both events by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Martin Dempsey. At The Wall Vice President Biden also spoke. TREA: The Enlisted Association was represented at Arlington by President Arthur Cooper, members of TREA Chapters 9 and 24, and TREA Washington Executive Director Deirdre Parke Holleman. Many other members of TREA including TSCL Chairman Larry Hyland and his wife represented TREA at the Wall. The Vietnam War commemoration is just the start of 13 years of remembering and honoring those who served during the War in Vietnam. There will be event across the country. To keep informed of plans of the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration go to: http://www.vietnamwar50th.com/
Below you can find a fact sheet issued by The White House.
The White House
FACT SHEET: Memorial Day and Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War
This Memorial Day, we honor the men and women who have defended our nation, and mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. On Memorial Day, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will participate in an event at Arlington National Cemetery. The President, Vice President, First Lady and Dr. Biden will also attend an event at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Prior to these events, the President and First Lady Michelle Obama will meet with Gold Star Families. On Friday, the Vice President and Dr. Biden attended an event to honor the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp.
Marking the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War
“This month, we’ll begin to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, a time when, to our shame, our veterans did not always receive the respect and the thanks they deserved -- a mistake that must never be repeated.” -- President Obama, May 16, 2012
The Memorial Day gathering at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall marks the beginning of the national commemoration of the Vietnam War’s 50th anniversary program and is a joint effort between the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the National Park Service and the Department of Defense.
The Federal Government will partner with State and local governments, private organizations, and communities across America to launch the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War—a 13-year program to honor and give thanks to a generation of proud Americans who saw our country through one of the most challenging missions we have ever faced and pay tribute to the more than 3 million men and women who answered the call of duty with courage and valor. The events and activities that are a part of this commemoration will:
• Thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war or listed as missing in action, for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans.
• Highlight the service of the armed forces during the Vietnam War and the contributions of federal agencies and governmental and non-governmental organizations that served with, or in support of, the armed forces.
• Pay tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the Vietnam War.
• Highlight the advances in technology, science, and medicine related to the military research conducted during the Vietnam War.
• Recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by the allies of the United States during the Vietnam War.
On May 23 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report about processing times for VA disability claims. The GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. Often called the "congressional watchdog," GAO investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.
According to the report, case processing times under the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) process have increased over time. “Each year, average processing time for IDES cases has climbed, reaching 394 and 420 days for active and reserve component members in fiscal year 2011—well over established goals of 295 and 305 days, respectively. Also in fiscal year 2011, just 19 percent of active duty servicemembers and 18 percent of guard or reserve members completed the IDES process and received benefits within established goals, down from 32 and 37 percent one year prior. Of the four phases comprising IDES, the medical evaluation board phase increasingly fell short of timeliness goals and, within that phase, the time required for the military’s determination of fitness was especially troubling.”
The report also says, “DoD and Veterans Affairs (VA) have taken steps to improve IDES performance, and have other improvement initiatives in process, but progress is uneven and it is too early to assess their overall impact. VA increased resources for conducting disability ratings and related workloads. The Army is hiring additional staff for its medical evaluation boards, but it is too early to see the impact of these additional resources. DoD and VA are pursuing system upgrades so that staff and managers at IDES facilities can better track the progress of servicemembers’ cases and respond to delays more quickly; however, multiple upgrades may be causing redundant work efforts. DoD officials also told us they have been working with the military services to correct case data that were inaccurately entered into VA’s IDES tracking system, but have not yet achieved a permanent solution.”
TREA has testified before Congress annually about the need to improve claims processing and we will continue to fight for additional funding and other improvements until the VA and DoD finally reach the goals they have established for themselves with regard to completing the claims process and getting the benefits to the veterans who need them.
On Thursday, May 31, the House Veterans Affairs Committee, chaired by Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL), held a hearing to receive and update from officials from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) and the Department of Labor (DOL) on the implementation of the VOW To Hire a Hero Act, which was passed late last year. TREA: The Enlisted Association was represented at the hearing by Deputy Legislative Director Mike Saunders.
Some of the good news was that since May 15 there had been over 12,000 applicants for the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), which would education benefits to unemployed veterans aged 35-60 who had already used up all of their GI Bill benefits. Qualifying veterans would receive up to 12 months of education assistance. Maximum payments are equal to the full-time rate for the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty, currently $1,473 monthly.
Under VRAP, Veterans apply on a first-come, first-served basis for programs that begin on or after July 1. VA began accepting applications on May 15. Forty-five thousand Veterans can participate during the current fiscal year, and up to 54,000 may participate during the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2012.
The goal of the program is to train 99,000 Veterans for high-demand jobs over the next two years.
To qualify Veterans must:
* Be 35 to 60 years old, unemployed on the day of application, and have been issued discharges under conditions other than dishonorable;
* Be enrolled in education or training after July 1, 2012, in a VA-approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school leading to an associate degree, non-college degree or a certificate for a high-demand occupation as defined by the Department of Labor;
* Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit, such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill, or Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment;
* Not have participated in a federal or state job training program within the last 180 days; and
* Not receive VA compensation at the 100 percent rate due to individual unemployability.
While the initial response has been encouraging, VA officials stressed the need for a sustained effort to reach potential VRAP applicants. Curiously, VA officials said that they had not created a budget to pay for the advertising that would presumably be needed to get the word out. It seemed that they were relying on cheaper methods, such as word of mouth and email, and articles like this to get the word out to enough veterans to fill all 99,000 slots.
During 2012, VA representatives will also provide VRAP information and assistance at hiring fairs sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce through the Hiring Our Heroes campaign.
For more information on the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) program, the Hire Heroes Act of 2011, VRAP, high demand occupations, and application procedures, visit the website at www.benefits.va.gov/VOW, or call VA National Call Center toll free at 1-800-827-1000.
Veterans may also access the VRAP application online at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov through eBenefits, a joint project between VA and the Department of Defense.
Veterans are also encouraged to visit the nearly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers across the nation for assistance from staff, Local Veterans’ Employment Representatives (LVERS), and Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) specialists. Center locations are listed at www.servicelocator.org.
Last week Senators Burr (R-NC) and Brown (R-MA) joined the next day by Senator Heller (R-NV) introduced S3210. This bill would amend the Veterans’ Benefits Code under the Department of Veterans Affairs to allow for a 3-year transfer period of contracting benefits under the VA’s service disabled veteran owned small business (SDVOSB) program to a surviving spouse if a veteran dies of causes not related to service. This change would allow the surviving spouse to have the time to either transfer the business to another qualified veteran or to make other plans to let the business survive and continue. Presently, unless the veteran owner dies of a service connected cause the business immediately loses all the veteran benefits.
Senator Burr (R-NC) explained the need for the bill by saying: “Our nation’s disabled veterans and their families have sacrificed much for our country, and we will forever be in their debt. Military families are the backbone of our armed forces, and many of them have faced grave difficulties as their loved ones suffer from physical and emotional wounds of military service. Giving the surviving spouse of a deceased disabled veteran sufficient time to plan for the future of their family-owned business is one small way to express our gratitude.” Senator Brown (R-MA) added:” “We honor our veterans by the way we take care of their families. Our veterans’ spouses have sacrificed so much, and a family business shouldn’t be punished when a veteran unexpectedly passes away. Their spouse should have some time to get the business on solid ground. My bill provides a three year transition period where spouses and families will have the opportunity to keep a veteran-owned business stable as they prepare for the future.”
TREA: The Enlisted Association supports this legislation and will keep you informed of its progress.
Late last month Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) introduced HR5044, the Andrew P. Carpenter Tax Act. The bill forgives the income taxes due that are added when a deceased servicemember’s student loans are forgiven by the loan holder. Ordinarily, student loans are categorized as gross taxable income for families of veterans who have lost their life while serving on active duty in the United States Armed Forces.
The drive to correct this injustice came from the story of Lance Corporal Andrew P. Carpenter of Columbia, Tennessee, who lost his life on February 19, 2011, while serving his country in Afghanistan. Three years prior, Andrew had taken out a private educational loan. After learning that he had been killed in action, the company administering the loan agreed to completely forgive the debt. Upon forgiveness of the debt, the family received a 1099-C form from the Department of Education informing them that the debt discharged would be factored into their gross taxable income for that year.
“I am humbled to have the honor of working with the Carpenter family to introduce this legislation,” said Representative DesJarlais. “It is a fitting way to fix a glaring problem in our tax code, while paying tribute to the memory of Lance Corporal Carpenter. His family has experienced the pain of losing their son, husband and father. Hopefully, if passed this measure will in some way ease this burden.”
It is important to note that this bill would not make it mandatory for private lenders to forgive education loans. Private loan companies would still have the option of whether or not to forgive a loan, and federally backed loans are already forgiven for deceased veterans under the Higher Education Act. This legislation would simply prevent the IRS from collecting taxes on any amount of loan forgiveness.
The Andrew P. Carpenter Tax Act would have a retroactive effective date of October 7, 2001, the start of Operation Enduring Freedom. The bill already has 20 cosponsors, including LTC Allen West (R-FL, USA-Ret.) and Sgt. Major Tim Walz (D-MN, USA-Ret), and TREA is proud to support this effort.
Last week we told you about two female members of the Army Reserve who have filed a lawsuit in federal court to remove the ban on women serving in combat. We also told you about a bill in the Senate authored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York that would do the same thing. Then we asked you for your opinions about whether women should be allowed to serve in combat.
According to those who responded, 50% say they should not be allowed in combat roles, and 50% say they should. However, nearly all who said they should also said any female who serves in combat must be able to meet all of the physical requirements that men currently must meet. No standards should be lowered.
It was interesting to us that that was the same breakdown in responses to our previous question about whether to change the rules for who is eligible to receive the Purple Heart.
We thank all of you who responded and we will keep you posted as further events on this issue occur.
On Wednesday May 30, the House passed Representative Tim Walz’s (D-MN) HR3670. This bill requires the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to comply with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), and protect deployed members of the National Guard and Reserves’ civilian jobs when they return from military service.
When the TSA was created after the attack of 9/11 it was exempt from following the USERRA requirements. Although TSA employs thousands of veterans including members of the Guard and Reserve this rare exemption still exists. Representative Walz, a retired Command Sergeant Major of the National Guard explained the need for the bill and the end of the exemption: “The unemployment rate among our servicemembers is already far too high. Protecting the jobs they already have should be a top priority and I’m pleased the House took action on this common sense bill today. We have USERRA protections in place for a reason and this bill simply ensures that the thousands of veterans, Reservists, and members of the National Guard working for TSA are protected as they would be in any other position.”
The House also passed the Servicemember Family Protection Act, HR4201. This bill originally sponsored by Representative Mike Turner amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to ensure that a servicemember’s deployment, or possible deployment, cannot be used as a factor in child custody determinations. “With every deployment, our men and women in uniform live with the constant fear that their custody rights as parents could be in jeopardy due to their service,” said Rep. Turner. “This legislation would ensure that being deployed, or the possibility of deployment is not used against them when child custody decisions are made by the courts.”
There are now 12 pieces of veteran legislation passed by the House of Representatives waiting action by the Senate. TREA urges the Senate to act on these worthy bills as soon as possible.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|TREA Flag Pin - $2|
Go to www.trea.org -
Click on "TREA STORE"
or call 800-338-9337
If you need to change the email address that receives the Legislative Update, go to: http://www.capwiz.com/trea/mlm/verify/
At the bottom of the page, enter the email address that currently receives the update, verify who you are, and change your email address. If you have any problems email firstname.lastname@example.org
Continue to send emails to your Senators and Representatives about the bills that are of interest to you. Remember we have prepared emails available for you.
If you do not receive the Legislative Update delivered to your email box, click the above link, and sign up!
Don’t forget to "Tell A Friend” about our Legislative Updates, GoodSearch & GoodShop.