• Congress presses VA to identify high-risk colleges:

According to a June 22 Stars and Stripes story by Travis J. Tritten thirteen House and Senate lawmakers wrote a letter to VA Secretary Bob McDonald urging him to add a list of high-risk institutions to its online GI Bill education benefit tool as a way to arm veterans against what they say can be unscrupulous and predatory institutions.
“Veterans using the GI Bill comparison tool should be made aware that a school is under investigation by or has settled with federal or state enforcement agencies for misleading students or predatory practices,” the lawmakers wrote. “While an investigation does not amount to a finding of guilt, it does indicate that there are serious concerns with a school that warrant law enforcement action.”
The VA said it will review the congressional proposal

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• Congress presses VA to identify high-risk colleges:

According to a June 22 Stars and Stripes story by Travis J. Tritten thirteen House and Senate lawmakers wrote a letter to VA Secretary Bob McDonald urging him to add a list of high-risk institutions to its online GI Bill education benefit tool as a way to arm veterans against what they say can be unscrupulous and predatory institutions.
“Veterans using the GI Bill comparison tool should be made aware that a school is under investigation by or has settled with federal or state enforcement agencies for misleading students or predatory practices,” the lawmakers wrote. “While an investigation does not amount to a finding of guilt, it does indicate that there are serious concerns with a school that warrant law enforcement action.”
The VA said it will review the congressional proposal

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• Number of Veterans Waiting for Care Is Up 50 Percent:

According to a June 24 Washington Post article the number of veterans on wait lists to be treated for everything from Hepatitis C to post-traumatic stress is 50 percent higher than at the same time last year, according to VA data.
VA’s leadership attributed the growing wait times to soaring demand from veterans for medical services, brought on by the opening of new centers and a combination of aging Vietnam veterans seeking care, the return of younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and the exploding demand for new and costly treatments for Hepatitis C.
We need to let our elected officials in the House and Senate know our thoughts on this subject and any subject that is verifiable rather than standing around complaining

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Vietnam Vets with PTSD Win 40-Year Fight to Fix Bad Discharge

After decades of fighting, five Vietnam veterans who brought a class-action lawsuit in federal court have finally won: the Pentagon has agreed to upgrade each man’s “other-than-honorable” discharge status. These men are among the estimated 80,000 Vietnam veterans who developed Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during their military service and subsequently received an “other than honorable” discharge. Because PTSD was not a medical diagnosis until 1980, many Vietnam-era service members who suffered from PTSD struggled to perform their assigned duties and ultimately received “bad paper” discharges instead of the medical discharges they would likely receive today. In March 2014 these five veterans sought relief by filing Monk v. Mabus, a proposed nationwide class action lawsuit, together with Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress (NVCLR).

“We were glad to see former Secretary Hagel direct the boards to take the plight of these veterans seriously,” said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America. “And we’re thrilled that Mr. Monk and other veterans have received long-overdue relief. We will continue to watch whether the boards are fairly applying then Secretary Hagel’s guidance to all the applications that come before them.”

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 Isakson, Blumenthal Introduce Legislation to Increase Veterans’ Benefits:

U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced bipartisan legislation to increase veterans’ disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2015 (S.1493) would increase the rates of VA disability compensation, dependency compensation for surviving children and spouses, and the clothing allowance for veterans based on rising costs of living.
“In a world of rising living costs, our veterans should be compensated accordingly,” said Isakson. “Our men and women in uniform have sacrificed greatly, and we must ensure that veterans with service-related injuries and their families receive the necessary benefits they have fought for and so rightly deserve.”
“Our nation’s disabled heroes deserve better– compensation that keeps pace with rising costs. Escalating living expenses are painfully squeezing veterans who rely on disability payments– requiring fair raises,” said Blumenthal. “Our nation must keep faith with men and women whose service injuries merit compensation, providing what we promise for decent living and dignity.”
This cost-of-living adjustment, which is equal to the amount of the adjustment given to Social Security recipients, is determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index on a yearly basis. The cost-of-living adjustment for veterans would go into effect on December 1, 2015.

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 New military retirement system gets Pentagon OK:

After months of official silence, the Defense Department on Wednesday sent to Capitol Hill its formal recommendation for transforming military retirement benefits, a move that is likely to clear the way for major changes to become law.
The Pentagon is officially backing a “blended” system that would shrink the size of the current pension by about 20 percent yet supplement that benefit by offering government contributions to individual retirement investment accounts.
The proposed system would provide for the first time a modest retirement benefit for the vast majority of service members who leave the military before reaching 20 years of service to qualify for the traditional pension.
The Defense Department’s recommendations are mostly similar to the legislation that is gaining steam on Capitol Hill and comes at a time when lawmakers are hammering out the details of their annual defense policy bill.

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 Commissary funding restored in Senate plan:

Excerpts from an articke by Leo Shane III and Karen Jowers
The Senate Appropriations Committee added $322 million in commissary funding back into its fiscal 2016 defense budget plan Thursday, with the panel’s top Democrat describing the initial lowball funding total as a White House “cheap shot” at military families.
The decision puts both House and Senate appropriators on record as backing $1.4 billion in funding for commissary operations next year, a total that would avoid forced store closings, reduced operating hours and potential layoffs of staff.

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 Flag Day – Do You Know the Date?

June 14th is the day when people across the country celebrate “Flag Day” and it is the same day that the United States Army celebrates its birthday.
It is a time when people should reflect on the foundations of this nation’s freedom since our flag represents freedom and has been an enduring symbol of our country’s ideals.
This is a day when we should display our flag and personally, I believe we should flag our flag every day at our home.
Our flag consists of 13 equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white with a blue rectangle in the canton bearing 50 small five=pointed stars. Each of the 50 stars represents one of the 50 states and the 13 stripes represent the original 143 colonies that became the first states in the Union
Did you know that the U.S. Flag Code has ten sections and remains in effect today after being amended in 1942. However, even though the Flag Code is a national public law, it does not provide for penalties for violations of its provisions. It serves, rather, as a set of guidelines for the proper use of the flag. For the complete office code, go to the U.S. Government Printing Office’s website:www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title4/html/USCODE-2011-title4-chap1.htm

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 Will I Lose My Guns, Hunting License and/or Carry Permit if I Receive VA Mental Health Care?

Several veterans have asked the above question of service officers so let me attempt to explain. Veterans are not required to give up their guns (Second Amendright Rights) in order to receive VA mental health care. Only veterans rated incompetent by the VA (which means that the VA has determined the veteran unable to manage their VA funds) are subject to the Brady Bill provisions. When the VA makes the above determination they are required to report their determination to the FBI.
The determination that you are unable to manage your VA benefits does not affect your non VA finances or your right to vote. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act prohibits you from purchasing, receiving or transporting a firearm or ammunition if you have been adjudicated as a mental defective or been committed to a mental institution.

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 Congress Looking at Changes to Military Retirement

Congress is considering changing, for the first time in decades, the way service members get retirement pay.
Military retirement now carries an all-or-nothing pension plan that requires a minimum of 20 years of service. The new plan would cut those pensions to 40 percent of pay from 50 percent, and create a matched 401(k)-style plan open to all service members.
The new retirement rules would affect all troops enlisting after the new plan is put in place in October 2017, Military Times reported. Troops already in the ranks could opt into the new plan or stick with the current “cliff vesting” system, it said
The plan is still at the subcommittee level in both the U.S. House and Senate.

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