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Newsletter for Veterans and active military

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Senate stalls on a bill to help student vets, even as GI Bill processing delays spike:

Many student veterans have been waiting longer than normal for their GI Bill benefits this semester, as the Veterans Affairs Department works through a backlog of claims affecting thousands of students.

Meanwhile, legislation that could have helped these students is stalled in the Senate, and veteran education advocates, along with some members of Congress, are calling for action. “There is significant concern about the delayed Forever GI Bill benefit payments,” said Ashlynne Haycock, deputy director of policy and legislation for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, one of the organizations that helped push the legislation through the House of Representatives last spring. “We all knew there would be a wait, but clearly this extended delay points to the fact that we must get the Senate to move on the SIT-REP Bill … to protect students and veterans.”

DAV 5k - Tulsa, OK:

At the DAV 5k on Nov. 3, 2018 in Tulsa there will be an Honor Bridge with the photos of 200 KIA military personnel, two veterans from New York City will accompany the Spartan Sword for participants to take an oath of asking for help if needed and for anything they feel may help them.

Dave Riley, past national commander of the DAV and a quadruple amputee will again participate in the event and will be riding his bicycle which he is having shipped to Tulsa. Staging will begin at 7 a.m. and kick stands up for motorcycles will be at 8:30 a.m.

What deployed troops really would like to receive in their care packages:

With the holidays fast approaching, many organizations are preparing to send “care” packages to our deployed troops and they are asking for ideas. Following are some ideas for your consideration:

Personal items - things like high-quality body wash, Vicks Vapo Rub, lip balm, and pain-relieving topical cream like Icy Hot aren’t a necessity, but they can be a real luxury!

Things are sandy in the Middle East, and our goggles often get clouded by dirt in the air. Instead of relying on a T- shirt to clean them, lens cleaning cloths and small bottles of glass cleaner come in handy. Baby wipes and sunscreen were plentiful for us on our base, but your service member might need these.

While emails are convenient, they don’t have the same poignancy and convey the same emotion as a hand- written letter.

President Trump approves appointment of four additional judges to VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals:

In an effort to reduce the wait time, which is currently five to six years, for an appeals hearing, President Donald J. Trump recently approved the appointment of four new Veterans Law Judges to VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

“Bringing on additional judges means the Board will be better staffed to conduct hearings and decide appeals properly in a timely manner,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Combined with procedural changes under the Appeals Modernization and Improvement Act of 2017 [AMA] and the hiring of more than 200 additional Board attorneys, this translates into better and faster service for Veterans.”

FAIR Leave Act would double the time allowed off for married couples with the same employer who have a child:

1993’s Family and Medical Leave Act required most employers to provide employees with time off — albeit unpaid — in the event of a family emergency. Some employers had previously offered this as a perk, but it wasn’t required for business with 50+ employees until this, one of the first laws ever signed by President Bill Clinton.

However, the bill limited the amount of leave offered to married couples who work for the same employer, relative to a couple that isn’t legally married.

For the year following the birth or adoption of a child, or during the care of an ailing parent, both spouses are allowed a combined total of 12 weeks off. So if one parent takes all 12 weeks, then the other parent could not also have time off. Similarly, during a service member’s family leave, both spouses are allowed a combined total of 26 weeks off.

The Fair Access for Individuals to Receive (FAIR) Leave Act would essentially double the time frames of these provisions. Spouses who work for the same employer would each be allowed 12 weeks off during the year following the birth or adoption of a child, or the care of an ailing parent. Plus each would be allowed 26 weeks off during a service member family leave.

The bill was introduced on October as S. 3593, sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA).

There are many couples in the military today who should be aware of this law in the event it may need to be used.

Chairman Roe : ‘A lot of people are struggling right now’

Representative Dr. Phil Roe, (R-Tenn.) is the chairman of the House Committee on Veteran Affairs recently appeared on television to discuss the processing issues with the Forever GI Bill and his efforts to ensure that veterans receive the housing allowances they deserve.

“In August [ VA ] said ‘there may be a hiccup, it may be in two weeks.’ One, probably all of you are being paid the wrong amount, the one increase nobody is getting.” He went on to note that VA assured the committee that once the problem is fixed student veterans will receive the correct funds. He went on to note that VA assured the committee that once the problem is fixed student veterans will receive the correct funds.

“The good news is, eventually, if you’ve been overpaid they are not going to claw back their money – you keep what you got. If you’ve been underpaid you will get your money.” Chairman Roe then shared the number that impacted student veterans can call, 1-888-442-4551 and concluded that he is committed to ensuring VA resolves the problem and that impacted student veterans receive the benefits they deserve.

“A lot of people are out there struggling right now and we are leaning on [VA] as hard as we can. And, it is not the money. The money is there, appropriated, and this bill is fully paid.

Special audit of the Oklahoma Department of Veteran Affairs:

From the audit report issued by the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector -

“Of the 138 survey respondents with an opinion, 43.5percent noted that they believe central office management “Seldom” of “Never” strives to comply with laws, rules or regulations affecting the organization.” “Another section of the audit report states, “It was also brought to our attention by several individuals that the standardized nursing policies may been unlicensed, resulting in legal threats from the owner of those policies and subsequent payment to that owner”.

I continue to ask what is the stance of the veteran service organizations who referred their members for the Veterans Commission and why has not the Veterans Commission terminated the Director and various senior management personnel.”

Military and Veterans affairs state bill tracking database:

There are currently 1.2 million people serving in the armed forces, more than 20 million veterans and hundreds of military installations in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico. The military operations of the United States touch every state in some way, and state legislatures are playing an important role in military issues. Database Notes - You can search legislation for each year from 2010-2018 by state, topic, keyword, year, status and primary sponsor. To access information regarding initiatives and other ballot measures referred to voters on military and veterans issues, please review the Ballot Measures Database. Bill information for the current year is updated each Tuesday. New measures are added as they are introduced or identified by NCSL staff. Bills may appear twice in carry over states. In these states, please check the last date of action to ensure the status of the bill reflects the appropriate year.

Some legislative priorities of the Veterans of Foreign War:

One part of their 2018 priority goals is the Military Quality of Life, specifically to:

• Preserve the integrity of TRICARE;

• Protect and improve on-base quality of life programs;

• Pass full concurrent receipt of military retirement pay and VA disability compensation; and

• Eliminate the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset for surviving military retiree spouses.

I just thought that many of our veterans and activity military would be interested in the legislative priorities of our veteran service organizations. I will attempt to provide the goals of a different veteran service organization each week.

Ron Pandos
https://www.altustimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_RonPandosmug-RGB-1.jpgRon Pandos Courtesy photo

By Ronald S. Pandos

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