Veterans associations, such as the Student Veterans of America (SVA), American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), are working to amend Title 38 of the U.S. Code, specifically regarding the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
The associations want to revise the Post-9/11 GI Bill so that it benefits a wider range of veterans who are transitioning into higher education or future careers.
Some draft bills for the GI Bill were introduced to Congress in late April, including measures such as the Veterans Education Equity Act, which eliminates the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) so veterans can make their education decisions based on factors other than housing benefits, such as where they attend their classes. Those proposed bills passed the House of Representatives, but stalled in the Senate. Some were not even brought to the House floor for a vote.
The SVA and American Legion held a Post-9/11 GI Bill Roundtable Discussion on May 18 to discuss improving the GI Bill, inviting more than 60 veterans and military service organizations, stakeholders and media to the American Legion office in Washington, D.C.
“The top four [proposals] that the group came up with, I think, represent a collective interest of a broad audience of student veterans between Purple Heart recipients, survivors and those who experience school closures,” said Will Hubbard, vice president of Government Affairs for the SVA. “Student veterans are not just one type of individual, they’re highly diverse and they come from different walks of life. I think the full proposal that we’re pushing forward … is a stronger representation of that.”
Hubbard said the SVA will be hosting a follow-up discussion on June 6 in hopes of figuring out how to get to the next step in the amendment process.
Two weeks ago, the American Legion released a report along with the Department of Defense, Veterans Association and other stakeholders, called The State of Credentialing of Service Members and Veterans, which lays out blueprints as to what’s currently successful for vets and what they want to see improved.
The consensus from the report stated that they would like to “amend the legislation pertaining to the Post 9/11 GI Bill payment of licensure and certification exam fees so that rather than charging an entire month’s worth of a beneficiary’s entitlement for the cost of a credential exam (which typically is about $250), the amount of benefit charged would be pro-rated to the cost of the exam.”
The SVA has also recently published findings from its long-term research project, NVEST, or National Veterans Education Success Tracker, which was completed in partnership with the National Student Clearinghouse and VA. They studied the modern student veteran’s academic progress and completion rate to help distinguish how well the GI Bill’s Return on Investment (ROI) benefits all types of veterans.
The SVA, American Legion, and other veteran’s associations and stakeholders are continually lobbying Congress to empower the VA to conduct its own research on the GI Bill. “As a result, VA is now nine years into its 20-year longitudinal study on vocational rehabilitation benefits, which we lobbied Congress in 2008,” said John Kamin, assistant director for the American Legion.
By: Leo Shane III, Military Times
WASHINGTON | Military Times — Officials from the American Legion on Friday slammed the White House’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal as “a stealth privatization attempt” of veterans services and an “unacceptable” attack on veterans benefits.
“The administration’s budget for (Veterans Affairs) would effectively lower the earnings of our most vulnerable veterans by reducing or eliminating disability payments from veterans who are the most in need,” Legion National Commander Charles Schmidt said in a statement.
“This plan breaks faith with veterans.”
The comments are the latest shot from veterans groups at what President Trump has billed as a veteran-friendly budget, one that includes a nearly 6 percent increase in discretionary spending and a $54 billion boost in defense funding above congressionally mandated budget caps.
But outside advocates have been critical of the details, saying many provisions in the budget could undermine the promised goals of fixing VA and Defense Department operations.
Earlier in the week, officials from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Vietnam Veterans of America all voiced opposition to plans to “round down” cost-of-living increases for veterans benefits and end Individual Unemployability payments for retirement-age beneficiaries.
The two proposals combined are designed to save more than $3 billion, money that administration officials have said will be used to offset the cost of an expansion of the VA’s Choice Card program, which allows veterans to seek medical appointments with private-sector physicians at taxpayers’ expense.
But officials from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America questioned that plan, saying VA officials have focused too much attention and funding on the embattled Choice program.
Legion officials took their criticism even further.
“We are alarmed by the cannibalization of services needed for the Choice program,” Schmidt said in his statement. “It is a ‘stealth’ privatization attempt which The American Legion fully opposes.
“Choice should not be advanced to the detriment of cost-of-living increases for veterans.”
VA officials have been wary of the “privatization” term since Trump’s election. During his campaign, candidate Trump repeatedly promised to make it easier for veterans to seek outside care if they so choose. Critics called that a step toward dismantling VA, a charge Trump supporters denied.
VA Secretary David Shulkin has repeatedly promised not to privatize VA services, but also said the department must find a balance between providing specialized care to veterans and using community resources for routine medical needs.
Earlier in the week, he defended the benefits trims as tough but necessary moves for his department to provide fiscally responsible services to a growing number of veterans.
“There are always hard decisions that have to be made,” he said following a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee budget hearing. “Sometimes that means you have to adjust current programs to support the growth of other benefits. That’s what we’re seeing here.”
Legion officials — along with other veterans groups — are promising a fight.
“We hope all veterans, families and supporters of veterans call their elected officials and demand a well-functioning, properly-funded, transparent, and accountable Department of Veterans Affairs, and a presidential budget that fully supports veterans’ needs,” Schmidt said.
Lawmakers have already distanced themselves from many parts of the $1.1 trillion White House budget proposal, calling it at best a guideline for spending and policy priorities. They’ll spend the next several months offering their own suggestions for fiscal 2018 spending, likely including multiple changes to the VA budget plan.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The nation's largest veterans service organization
wants barriers to scientific researched removed
WASHINGTON D.C. | The Washington Post – The nation’s largest veterans’ group has requested a meeting at the White House to discuss rescheduling marijuana’s status as a federally controlled substance so medical researchers may legally study its potential to help vets suffering from conditions including traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
America Legion is looking for face time with the Trump administration “as we seek support from the president to clear the way for clinical research in the cutting edge areas of cannabinoid receptor research,” the organization wrote in a letter sent to the White House last month and recently shared with the media.
“It’s time the federal government took action to remove barriers to scientific research on this very important subject,” Joe Plenzler, American Legion director of media relations, told The Denver Post’s Cannabist Monday.
While 29 states and counting have passed laws letting doctors recommend weed to patients diagnosed with certain conditions, marijuana remains federally listed as a Schedule 1 substance defined as having no “currently accepted medical use” on par with heroin, LSD and ecstasy.
Rescheduling cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act would remove restrictions limiting federally-funded researchers from studying its possible benefits and potentially reverse the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ existing anti-pot stance, according to the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans’ group at about 2.4 million members.
“We are not asking for it to be legalized,” Louis Celli, its national director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation, told Politico. “There is overwhelming evidence that it has been beneficial for some vets. The difference is that it is not founded in federal research because it has been illegal.”
Charles Schmidt, National Commander of the American Legion, speaks to the media while flanked by Verna Jones, Executive Director of the American Legion in the District, during a news conference at the National Press Club on February 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. Schmidt spoke about critical veteran's issues facing the new Trump administration and Congress. The Legion has now called on Trump to reschedule cannabis for medical research to assist veterans. (Mark Wilson, Getty Images)
BROWNSBURG | Hendricks County Flyer — Continuing with its annual tradition, the Brownsburg American Legion Post 331 is inviting the public to its Memorial Day service event.
This year’s event will be at 10 a.m. May 27 at the Brownsburg Cemetery, 190 East 56th St.
Details of the day include a prayer by Danny Nelson, chaplain of the Legion, guest speaker, patriotic music including taps and a 21 gun salute.
“It’s a memorial to our men and women who served this country and didn’t come home,” Dick Holmes, past commander of the 331 post, said. “That’s what it’s about.”
The Brownsburg High School band will be performing during the service.
Holmes said the whole ceremony will be over around 10:45 a.m.
This year’s guest speaker is Charles (Gene) E. Hostetter, Brownsburg town court judge for 22 years.
He’s also a Vietnam veteran and served in the U.S. Army.
He has been a resident of Brownsburg 39 years with an established law practice since 1976. Hostetter is married with four grown children.
The event is free and open to the public.
For more information on the Brownsburg American Legion Post 331, visit www.brownsburgpost331.org/.
Follow Hendricks County Flyer reporter Sara Nahrwold on Twitter at @saranahrwold.
“We are pleased to see this resolved and can now maintain a focus on our core mission of honoring veterans at this new central Indiana location in the future,” said Cmdr. Jim May, The American Legion, Department of Indiana.
The nearest location from Indianapolis to a national cemetery is in Marion, Ind., 85 miles northeast. The next closest veteran dedicated space is the state operated Indiana Veterans Memorial Cemetery located in Madison, Ind., 100 miles southeast of Indianapolis.
”If one of us gets in trouble, everyone else gets together to help.”
By John Crosby
Photos by USAF
FAIRMOUNT, Ind., – American Legion Post 313 is scheduled to host a 50-year-to-the-day commemoration of a local heroes’ aerial combat actions over Vietnam and a “Salute to Vietnam Veterans” on Saturday, May 20 at 1 p.m.
Major Robert Pardo and 1st Lt. Stephen Wayne, a 50-year-member of Post 313, had their limits and resolve tested under pressure in a historic action popularly known as “Pardo’s Push.” Their actions changed history and the way the military operates today.
Pardo and Wayne were one of two F-4C Phantom jets on a mission to destroy a steel mill north of Hanoi, North Vietnam March 10, 1967. They were hit by anti-aircraft fire resulting in leaking fuel and heavy damage to both aircraft. Their wingman was forced to shut down his engines and was losing altitude at a rate of 3,000 feet per second.
Pardo and Wayne refused to abandon their comrades behind and chose to stay with the critically damaged aircraft. They reacted making an unprecedented decision to maneuver their nose under and make contact beneath their wingman’s aircraft, pushing and guiding it out of Vietnam airspace into neighboring Laos where all four could eject into safer territory.
The maneuver had never been attempted before and both aircraft were ultimately destroyed. But Pardo’s and Wayne’s quick decision saved the lives of all four pilots as they were rescued on the ground. Pardo’s Push has been featured on a number of documentaries including War Stories with Oliver North on the History Channel, and the Air and Space Smithsonian Magazine.
Later, on May 20, 1967, eight F-4C Phantoms faced between 16 – 22 enemy MiGs in air-to-air combat in two different battle areas. Four MiGs were downed that day. Pardo and Wayne were credited with one.
That same F-4C Phantom, two-seater-aircraft that Pardo and Wayne once flew in combat operations over Vietnam now sits proudly on display in front of Post 313. The paint scheme shows Tail Number 63-7623 and a red battle star on the engine intake signifying their confirmed kill of an enemy MiG, 50 years ago.
Pilot Stephen Wayne will speak at the ceremony which will also include a “Salute to Vietnam Veterans” in coordination with President Donald Trump’s announcement of National Vietnam Veterans Day via executive order on March 29, 2017.
The American Legion, Department of Indiana Cmdr. James B. May and former Department Cmdr. Ed Trice are also scheduled to speak.
For more information and for the full story of “Pardo’s Push” visit the Indiana Legion website at www.indianalegion.org/news/fairmount-legion-to-recognize-local-hero-pilot-in-vietnam-commemoration, or contact Post 331 Adjutant Steve Herniak at 765-661-5100 or by email at email@example.com.
If you have any questions, please contact the Indiana Legion Communications Director John Crosby at 317-416-5956 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pardo’s Push: An Incredible Story of Bravery and Extraordinary Airman-ship
By Tactical Air Network
The 10th of March, 1967 saw bright and clear skies over Vietnam. A steelworks facility at Thai Nguyen, thirty miles north of Hanoi, was brimming with activity while men with AK-47 rifles stood around, some smoking casually, while idly scanning the workers and occasionally glancing up at the sky. Scattered near the steel mill were more soldiers, some of whom stayed in close range to large hulking Soviet-built anti-aircraft guns pointed up, ready to fire at a moment’s notice.
Less than a hundred miles and closing fast was a formation of several US Air Force F-4 Phantom IIs and F-105 Thunderchiefs, loaded for bear. Their target- the mill, north of Hanoi, which served as the primary manufacturing plant for munitions and weaponry used by North Vietnamese forces in their fight against South Vietnam and the United States. Under the leadership of Air Force legend Colonel Robin Olds, this strike flight would unload their bombs on the mill, thus destroying a vital asset to the North’s war machine.
Flying in one of the strike flight’s Phantoms was Captain J.R. “Bob” Pardo, and his backseater, 1st Lieutenant Steve Wayne. It was Pardo’s birthday that day and he ordinarily didn’t fly on his birthday, but in the hustle and bustle of combat ops, he had forgotten. Flying nearby was his wingman, Captain Earl Aman, and Aman’s backseater, 1st Lieutenant Robert Houghton. These two Phantoms were slated to protect the jets of the main strike force from any enemy MiG fighter interceptors that would potentially show up and throw a wrench into the gears of the attack plan. If no MiGs were encountered, Pardo and Aman were given follow-up orders to drop their own sets of bombs on the mill as well.
Diane Donald, sponsor of the Virginia-class submarine Indiana (SSN 789) and wife of Adm. Kirk Donald (U.S. Navy, Ret.), smashes a bottle of wine across the Indiana's hull to christen the sub, while Vice President Mike Pence looks on.
Story and photos by John Crosby
The American Legion, Department of Indiana
NEWPORT NEWS, Va., – The USS Indiana, a Virginia-class fast attack nuclear powered submarine was christened during a ceremony held with Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Joe Donnelly, and the Honorable Sean Stackley, acting secretary of the Navy, in attendance at the shipyard of Huntington Ingalls Newport News, Va.
The American Legion, Department of Indiana was represented by Cmdr. James B. May, attending the weekend’s events and learning how the Hoosier state can support the USS Indiana and her crew in the future.
“Our Legion Family in Indiana have an opportunity to adopt the USS Indiana, and her the men and women who serve aboard her,” said May.
The time-honored tradition of becoming an honorary plank owner gives Hoosiers the opportunity to contribute to the U.S. Navy’s newest submarine, named after the great State of Indiana, as she represents all Hoosiers all over the world.
“I encourage you all to visit USSIndiana.org to learn more about how you can support,” said May. “Let’s show the United States Navy and the sailors aboard the USS Indiana some Hoosier veteran hospitality.”
Construction on the USS Indiana began in 2012, with 4,000 shipbuilders participating. The U.S. Navy's 16th Virginia-class, fast attack submarine is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy later this year.
The Virginia-class submarines’ nuclear reactor fuels the 7,800-ton and nearly 380-foot-long boat throughout its planned life so it will never require refueling. It will be capable of attacking targets ashore with Tomahawk cruise missiles and can conduct covert, long-term surveillance of land, said the Navy.
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