 White House/VA hotline now operational:

According to a June 1 Military Times article by Leo Shane III, the President’s long-promised hotline for veteran complaints was officially launched on June 1. The phone line—live now at 855-948-2311—is designed to “collect, process, and respond to the complaints of individual veterans in a responsive, timely, and accountable manner,” according to Department of Veterans Affairs officials. VA Secretary David Shulkin on Wednesday described the initial rollout of the line as a soft launch, with “live-answer agents” receiving and processing some of the calls. He promised that by Aug. 15, the hotline will have continuous coverage from a live operator 24 hours a day, every day of the week

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FY 2018 Proposed Budget with regards to IU

Over the past several weeks, DAV has received hundreds of inquiries from DAV members and other concerned parties regarding the proposal to eliminate the total disability rating based on Individual Unemployability (IU) benefits for veterans over the age of 62 contained in the President’s fiscal year 2018 budget. Specifically, the proposal would terminate existing IU total disability ratings for veterans when they reach the minimum retirement age for Social Security purposes (age 62), or upon enactment of the proposal if the veteran is already in receipt of Social Security retirement benefits. In the May 24 House Veterans’ Affairs Committee budget hearing, DAV expressed its strong opposition to this proposal. We are aware that the elimination of these benefits would affect not only the veteran’s family income, but other critical ancillary benefits, such as dental coverage, Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance, the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the VA (CHAMPVA), commissary and exchange privileges, and the value of Social Security benefits. Additionally, this will impact access to some state benefits such as property tax exemptions for veteran homeowners, free vehicle registration and free access to state parks.

Please be assured this is a key priority for DAV and we are trying to respond to your phone calls and email messages as quickly as possible. DAV is actively working to educate Capitol Hill lawmakers and the public about the devastating impact this proposal would have upon service-disabled veterans and their families.

Steps DAV has already taken:
Action alert for members: DAV members and their supporters have sent almost 24,000 emails to Members of Congress through the DAV Commander’s Action Network, advising them of our strong opposition to the proposal.
Testimony: On May 24, 2017, DAV, along with our Independent Budget (IB) partners, Paralyzed Veterans of American and Veterans of Foreign Wars, testified on the Administration’s budget to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and expressed our opposition to the IU proposal. DAV and its IB parnters will again condemn the IU proposal at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on June 14th at 2:30 PM. There will be a live feed of the hearing on that day.
Press Release: The IB veterans service organizations issued a press release concerning our opposition to the President’s budget and IU proposal on May 25, 2017.
Planned actions:
OP/ED from DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine to be distributed to major media outlets nationwide.
Meetings with Members of Congress to educate them about the negative impact of the IU proposal on veterans and their families.
Letter to House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees and Congressional leadership to highlight the impact of the IU proposal and express our strong opposition to it.
Developing an information sheet for DAV members to use in their own meetings and conversations with elected officials

Please keep in mind this is ONLY a proposal and the start of the budget process. But it is critical we protect our benefits by educating our elected officials about the negative impact this proposal would have on service-disabled veterans and their families. Please send a message to your elected officials to express your views on this important issue. We appreciate your support in our efforts to assure that America’s veterans with wartime injuries and illnesses continue to receive all the benefits they are due from a grateful nation.

Click the link below to log in and send your message:

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OKDAV Veterans Seminar

OKLAHOMA DAV KEEPS THE PROMISE TO OKLAHOMA SERVICE MEN & WOMEN Helping Veterans Obtain the Benefits and Services Earned Through Military Service

• Did you know? More than 337,000 Oklahoma men and women have served in the armed forces, but less than 24% of these veterans are taking advantage of the promise for life-long benefits and services.

• The Oklahoma DAV is hosting a FREE Information and Benefit Seminar to educate veterans and their family members about benefits and services available to men and women who have served in the armed forces.

• Oklahoma DAV Service Officers will be providing FREE on-site claims filing following the seminar to help Oklahoma veterans obtain the benefits and services they have earned for their service to our country.

When: Information & Benefits Seminar for Veterans and Family Members Tuesday, June 20 | 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Service Officer Support for Veterans – On-site Claims Filing Tuesday, June 20 | 4:30 – 6 p.m.

Where: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino | 777 West Cherokee Street, Catoosa, OK Contact: Danny Oliver: Oklahoma DAV State Adjutant, danny@okdav.org

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Voice Your Concerns

The President’s budget proposal fiscal year (FY) 2018 and FY 2019 advance appropriation was released on May 23, 2017. The following day, DAV and its Independent Budget (IB) partners provided testimony and recommendations to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, on the medical care, benefits, cemetery and construction sections of the budget.

We also joined with our IB partners in expressing concern over two specific proposals in the President’s budget related to individual unemployability (IU) ratings and rounding down of cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for veterans’ disability compensation benefits.

While we appreciate the increases provided in the FY 2018 budget proposal for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), we have concerns the overall budget falls short of what is needed to ensure service-disabled veterans have timely access to quality health care, benefits, and the ability for VA to modernize its health care and benefits systems, infrastructure, replacement of its IT systems and other priorities of the Administration.

You can read the Independent Budget press release here.

You can read the testimony of the IB veterans service organizations (including DAV) on the FY 2018 budget here.

You can read DAV’s alert on the proposals and IU and COLA contained in the President’s budget and send a message to your Representative and Senators by clicking here.

This is the first step in the long budget process. We will keep you updated with new information and calls to action as necessary.

As always, thank you for your support of DAV’s legislative efforts.

Click the link below to log in and send your message:

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PLEASE HELP…If this is you or someone you know.

In order to better understand and advocate for caregivers of all disabled veterans, DAV is conducting a survey about the role, benefits, challenges and inequities facing family caregivers of disabled veterans. This survey builds on earlier research DAV undertook in 2014 to document how family caregivers allow disabled veterans to continue living in their own homes, rather than in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

If you are a family member, relative or friend who provides care or assistance to a disabled veteran, or you are a disabled veteran who has a family member, relative or friend who provides care and assistance to you, please participate in DAV’s 2017 Family Caregiver Survey.

DAV will use this survey research as part of our continuing campaign to educate the public and policymakers about the important contributions and sacrifices made by family caregivers of disabled veterans. It will also help us advocate for legislation and federal policies that strengthen and expand programs supporting family caregivers of disabled veterans from all eras and finally eliminate inequities that currently exist in federal caregiver assistance programs.

Please click here to participate in DAV’s 2017 Family Caregiver Survey:

Thank you for continuing to support the men and women who served

Click the link below to participate in the survey:

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Governor Mary Fallin announces Outreach for Veterans Pilot Program:

Like many of you, I have heard of the Governor’s veterans pilot program but I have heard very little as to what it entails. Governor Mary Fallin announced efforts to inform Oklahoma veterans about the Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program, a private/public initiative to develop a comprehensive health care access and delivery system for the state’s veterans. According to Governor Fallin, “The Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program is an important effort to identify best practices in healthcare delivery to ensure we offer the highest quality of care to our veterans,” said Fallin. “Our veterans have made incredible sacrifices for our freedoms, and the least we owe them is superior healthcare that is easily accessible for all. I applaud the formation of the Force 50 Brigade and its subgroups, Victor Company and the County Chairperson Leadership Team, to spread the word about this critical initiative.”
The Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program, which was launched in September, is a private/public effort to develop a comprehensive transitional system of care designed to deliver accessible quality healthcare to veterans statewide. The system will cover healthcare services in mental health, home health, nursing care, rehabilitative services, and coordinated access to physician services, laboratory services, pharmacy services and tele-health capability. The Force 50 Brigade, which is the primary public awareness organization of the Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program, will consist of 50 well-known Oklahoma entertainers, sports figures and professionals from the film and music industries, as well as two critical subgroups, the County Chairperson Leadership Team and Victor Company. Victor Company is the Veterans Leadership Team and will consist of veterans organizations and leaders within the veterans community. As the most integral part of this effort, it has been mobilized first, and will be led by Pete Peterson and Scott Ellis, leaders of the Oklahoma Veterans Council. “It is our hope that the outreach program being implemented under the Force 50 Brigade and led by the Oklahoma Veterans Leadership Team will encourage our Oklahoma veterans population to get involved with our efforts to improve healthcare opportunities to all veterans,” said Myles Deering, director of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs “The role of the Oklahoma veterans service organizations will be to assist in gathering comments, survey data and assist in publicizing the program efforts to all Oklahoma veterans.”

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Proposal in Congress would require service members to pay into GI Bill for benefits

Congress is in the early stages of considering a mandate for service members to pay into the GI Bill –
The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs gave veterans groups a draft last week of legislation that would deduct $100 from service members’ basic pay each month for two years, for a total of $2,400, in order for them to receive education benefits. The Post-9/11 GI Bill created in 2009 doesn’t require service members to pay into it, but an earlier version of the benefit – the Montgomery GI Bill – mandated recipients to pay $100 per month for one year, not the 2 years that is proposed.
The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs postponed on Friday a hearing planned for April 26 to discuss proposed changes to the GI Bill, including the idea of troops paying to receive the education benefit. Committee staff did not say when the hearing would be rescheduled.

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VA suicide prevention:

While drug and alcohol problems are associated with a higher risk of suicide among veterans, the increased danger is particularly high with opioid abuse, a U.S. study suggests. Overall, male veterans with drug or alcohol problems are more than twice as likely to die by suicide as other ex-service members, researchers report in the journal Addiction. For female veterans with substance use disorders, the odds of death from suicide are almost six times higher. The suicide risk is particularly high when veterans misuse prescription sedatives, with more than quadrupled
odds of suicide for men and more than 11 times the risk for women, the study also found. Among female veterans, opioids were also tied to a nearly eight-times-higher risk of suicide, while amphetamines and stimulants were tied to almost six times the risk.
Personally, I think that when you send our men and women into combat situations several times in succession you are asking for trouble. Many of our men and women who have been in combat situations will never be the same because of the invisible wounds or, as some say, “wounds that don’t bleed”/

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VA mental health care – Senators ask for more OTH details:

Eight Democrats in the Senate are seeking more details from the Department of Veterans Affairs about an announcement last week that the VA would provide urgent mental health care to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges. In a letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin, the senators wrote the announcement had sparked interest from some veterans with other-than-honorable (OTH) discharges who are now scrambling to find more information about what services the VA will provide. Other-than-honorable discharges, also known as “bad paper,” prevent veterans from receiving federal benefits, such as health care, disability payments, education and housing assistance. “Many of the veterans who could be eligible under this expansion are now seeking information and treatment after hearing your statements,” the senators’ letter reads. “These are veterans with elevated risks for substance use issues,
homelessness, criminal court involvement and suicide, and time is always crucial in connecting them to treatment options.”

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USFSPA & divorce – dividing retired pay:

A case involving the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA), a controversial 1982 law, is being heard before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The case will determine the extent of a state court’s legal authority to divide military retired pay in a divorce where the former service member waives a portion of military retired pay in favor of VA disability compensation. Lt. Col. Aniela Szymanski, USMCR, MOAA director of government relations for veterans benefits, attended the Supreme Court oral argument March 20 in the case of Howell v. Howell and reported on the proceedings. In the current case, a family court granted the former spouse 50 percent of the service member’s retirement pay Years later, the retiree received a VA disability rating and waived a portion of military retired pay to receive the tax free VA disability compensation instead. As a result, the service member’s military retirement pay was reduced; the former spouse took the retiree to court to get her portion of that – in this case, $152 a month – back. USFSPA is a controversial law in the military community because it allows courts to treat military retired pay as property in the case of a divorce. Adam Unikowsky, the attorney for the veteran, says the letter and spirit of USFSPA were followed in this case. Disability pay, he argued, is paid to the veteran for injuries suffered in service and to compensate for lost earning potential

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