|Vietnam Veterans of America|
The committee conducted meetings to discuss issues that affect veterans and P.L.114-315, The Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016, which contains provisions for veterans’ offspring. Please file for the recently added presumptives: bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinson’s-like symptoms.
We are working to get the VA on track on P.L.114-315. The committee continues its efforts to press the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to comply with the requirements of the law. In particular, we want the Secretary to appoint an Advisory Committee. VVA President John Rowan has written a strongly worded letter to the Secretary asking him to take the steps required by the law. In addition, members of the committee have been working with Sharon Hodge, VVA’s Executive Director for Government Affairs, to get the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to conduct oversight hearings on the matter.
The committee presented a petition to the VA Secretary at VVA’s National Convention. I thank everyone who’s helping accomplish our mission with this important issue.
When was the last time you were in a library? If it’s been a while, you might be surprised to learn that libraries are not just for checking out books. In fact, libraries can be great resources for veterans.
Some libraries, including my local one in Huntington Beach, Calif., have a Veterans Resource Center that offers services such as the California Veterans Resource Book; CalVet Education, Employment, and Housing; and Consumer Financial Information.
The Anaheim Public Library just received a state library grant to offer 14 Chromebook/Hotspot Kits and 16 Hotspots to veteran patrons. Any veteran with an Anaheim Public Library card may use these resources. Patrons have the option of using the devices at the library or checking them out for several weeks to use at home. The program will begin in January.
Anaheim also offers free online resources and Anaheim Central Library’s Career Cove where the Anaheim Workforce Connection staff can provide walk-in jobseeker services. Career, resume, interview, and job-search services are offered both online and in person.
Next time you’re near a library, go in and check out the veterans services that are available.
On October 1 Retired U.S. Navy Adm. Jon Kreitz, the former DPAA Deputy Director for Operations, joined the National League of POW/MIA Families as Chief Executive Officer, replacing Ann Mills-Griffiths. She had stepped down from that position after the League’s 2019-21 Board of Directors voted overwhelmingly to approve hiring Adm. Kreitz. As DPAA Deputy Director, Adm. Kreitz helped lead a record increase in the return of Americans missing from past conflicts. He retired from the U.S. Navy in December 2019 after 37-plus years of service.
The League’s Board of Directors re-elected Mills-Griffiths Chair of the Board. In that capacity, she will continue to work at the League office and participate in, and chair, its quarterly Board meetings.
VVA’s POW/MIA Affairs Committee and Veterans Initiative Program have maintained a very positive relationship with the League and support its efforts to continue awareness of the POW/MIA issue. We have met with both Kreitz and Mills-Griffiths and share the same goal: the ongoing mission of obtaining the fullest possible accounting of all missing U.S. service personnel from all conflicts.
According to DPAA, as of August 10 there are 1,584 still missing from the Vietnam War. There have been no U.S. personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War since September 21, 2020.
The countries and number of missing are Vietnam-1,244 (North Vietnam-442, South Vietnam-802), Laos-285, Cambodia-48, and the Peoples Republic of China-7.
The total accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 998 Americans. Since the April 30, 1975, end of the Vietnam War, recoveries were made in the following countries: Vietnam, 673; Laos, 280; Cambodia, 42; and the PRC, 3. In addition, 63 U.S. personnel were accounted for between 1973 and 1975, and recovered in the following countries: 9 were from Laos, 53 from Vietnam, and 1 from Cambodia, equating to a grand total of 1,061.
As of October 13 DPAA has identified 358 of the 394 Sailors and Marines missing from the U.S.S. Oklahoma, sunk in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. There remain 36 unidentified.
The Veterans Initiative program needs your help. Objects taken from the battlefields of Vietnam are more than souvenirs or war trophies. Maps, stories, after-action reports, pictures, and other military items may have a story that could result in finding the location of missing war dead. Contact the Veterans Initiative at:
PTSD & Substance Abuse
The PTSD/SA Committee continues to grapple with how to help new veterans manage the symptoms of PTSD. Americans, and especially veterans, may be feeling anguish over recent events in Afghanistan, in our own country, and in their circles of family and friends. In many ways we are in a position to support our fellow brother and sister veterans.
When we returned from Vietnam, we may have felt lost or as though our service and sacrifices were for nothing. Current veterans also may feel that way.
Lashing out at what we saw as a waste of lives and bad military leadership was not unheard of, even while we were still in the military. Many expected that those in charge would be held accountable for putting career before mission. And then we came home.
Vietnam veterans were challenged to consider the ways in which our service made a difference, as well as the impact it had on others’ lives and on our own lives. We learned that what we are experiencing now is only one moment in time and that things will continue to change. Politics and public opinion aside, we learned to take pride in having served our country.
VVA members can help other veterans by working to understand them and to participate in activities that are meaningful and helpful. We can have a conversation as a veteran, as an individual, a family member, a parent, or a community member.
We can help other veterans by asking questions such as: Is there something meaningful about your work or your spirituality in which you can focus additional energy? Is there something you can do today that is important to you? Is there a way you can use your current situation to improve the lives of others? Is there something more you can do to take time for yourself? These activities will not change the past nor the things that can’t be controlled, but they can help life feel meaningful and reduce distress, despite the things we cannot change.
We must ask other veterans if their thoughts are helpful right now. Are there ways they can change their thinking to be more accurate and less distressing? For example, we can ask if they are using extreme thinking in which they see a situation as all bad or all good. If so, suggest they consider trying to think in less extreme terms. Rather than thinking “my service was useless,” consider instead, “I helped keep many people safe.”
GENERAL COPING STRATEGIES
Finally, consider sharing theses general coping strategies recommended by the VA’s National Center for PTSD:
If the veteran you are talking to continues experiencing distress or is unable to function well, Vet Centers are easy to find and are welcoming. VA Behavioral Health and PTSD clinics are also available. You can also encourage the veteran to use the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line, 800-273-8255.
Vietnam War veterans have the experience and understanding to know the importance of helping newer veterans find experienced and caring professionals who can help them deal with common responses to current events such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, moral injury, and complicated grief.
As veterans, we understand how hard it is to break the inertia and reach out. We can now be the ones who reach out and help others. We can be part of bringing our brothers and sisters all the way home.
VA Voluntary Service
Unfortunately, very little has changed since my last report. The VAMCs and Clinics have not gone back to normal. The arrival of the Delta and Omicron variants and the spread of virus, mostly among the unvaccinated, have made it necessary to continue restrictions. Care is still being provided, temperatures are being taken, and masks are required on VA and Clinic campuses.
Appointments can be arranged virtually or through My HealtheVet, which is very easy to set up and helps keep you in touch with your primary-care doctor. It’s very important that you keep up with your appointments, medications, and vaccinations, including those for COVID, shingles, and the flu.
The patient population at most VAMCs and Community Living Centers (nursing homes) has been reduced where feasible. New admissions are being limited and controlled to keep resident-patients safe during the pandemic. Overall, the VAMCs have had few problems with COVID outbreaks.
Some things are slowly coming back, and volunteers will be needed. Ambassador escorts, drivers, and emergency departments are looking for volunteers. You must be fully vaccinated to do face-to-face volunteering with patients.
Another new area is the Compassionate Contact program in which Voluntary Service pairs volunteers with homebound veterans. The volunteers call the veterans, perhaps once a week, to see how they are doing and if there are any needs to address. It’s a good program that takes very little time yet is rewarding for both volunteers and veterans.
This is an important time for our Representatives and Deputies. I have just received the quarterly report from VA Central Office with our hours and volunteers. The count for our Reps and Deps is way down. Some of this may be due to poor reporting or problems at VAVS, but it’s your job to review the accuracy of volunteer hours with your Chief of Voluntary Service.
If your VVA state council has a VAVS chair, that person should contact Reps or Deps who have not attended meetings, either in person or virtually. Some may have died or just disappeared without updating us. I will reach out to as many of our Representatives as I can in the next few months to confirm their status. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Members of VVA have and must continue to support fellow veterans as long as we can to show those who follow us what we did and how to advocate for future veterans. There will be many events coming up, such as holiday parties and the National Salute in February.
So get vaccinated, get a booster when it’s time, and get your flu shot. They’re all available at your local VA Clinic.
At its October 7 online meeting, committee members discussed the Veterans Voices of America FAQs flyer. Each Q&A was discussed and reviewed. Suggestions for improvements and clarifications of the eight items in the flyer were noted.
Next, we discussed the flyer titled “VVA Benefits Program Successes to Protect with VetsVOA.” It includes a map, chart, statistics, dollar amounts, and success stories to present a positive view of the Benefits Program. Suggestions for improvement and clarification were noted for Director Felicia Mullaney.
The third item discussed was Pete Peterson’s open letter to the membership, which he wrote last summer. In it, he urged chapter and state council presidents to understand the reality of the future of VVA’s Veterans Benefits Program and to support VetsVOA as it carries on this important work.
Mullaney and Alec Ghezzi discussed the issue of periodic service officer recertification. The Office of the General Counsel maintains a list of all accredited service officers. VVA had received the list of VVA VSOs to ensure the status of our personnel and the personnel in Iowa and Ohio. The previously drafted Iowa MOU has been updated.
The committee voted to provide the documents to the delegates at the National Convention.
Our Zoom committee meeting in September was attended by a small group. We discussed plans for the National Convention. Committee member Frank Arminio forwarded Senate Resolution 267, which designated June 12, 2021, as Women Veterans Appreciation Day. Sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), the resolution passed on October 19. While many states have designated this in the past few years, it now will be a national commemoration.
H.R.2385, the Justice for Women Veterans Act, sponsored by Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), was introduced in April. In July, it was referred to the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. It was also referred to the Committee on Armed Services and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. This bill requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on women who were involuntarily discharged from the armed forces due to pregnancy or parenthood from 1951-76.
H.R.5212, Improving Oversight of Women Veterans Care Act of 2021, sponsored by Rep. J. Luis Correa (D-Calif.), would amend Title 38 to require annual reporting on veteran access to gender-specific services under Community Care contracts and for other purposes. On September 21 it was referred to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Health.
Many veterans are asked to help another veteran. With the constraints on mobility due to the pandemic, this may be difficult. The VA has created a webpage, that contains information about VA benefits and services. Through it, you can manage your health care, disability, education, records, housing assistance, pension, family member benefits, and VA national cemetery information.
The mobile.va.gov/Appstore/ page includes many apps that can be downloaded on your phone. COVID Coach, for example, helps support self-care and overall mental health during the pandemic. There also is a good app about insomnia, which contains tips on sleep hygiene.
In September the Military Women’s Memorial (formerly WIMSA, Women in Military Service to America) held a Virtual 9/11 Relay Race in honor of women who died in service during the last twenty years. I participated with a group from my local unit 77 of Military Women Across the Nation. It was a great team effort and got us all out walking, bike riding, and running for this cause. Please go to the MWM website to see what else they are doing. Many of you haven’t registered yet with the “We Also Served” member registration. If you do, you will have your service years and a short biography online for your family to see.
We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Gen. Wilma Vaught for her foresight and tenacity in getting this memorial built at Arlington National Cemetery, and its continued mission of honoring women veterans.
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