|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|VVA Committee Reports, January/February 2023|
2023 Elections Committee Report
VVA will elect all its National Officers and Board members during its 21st National Convention. The Elections Committee welcomes those who would like to join the organization’s national leadership.
Sending in a Letter of Intent allows you, as a candidate, to start campaigning and become known to VVA members. This year, rather than appear only in the print edition of The VVA Veteran, statements and photos will also be uploaded to a candidate’s section on the VVA Convention web page. The Candidate’s Packet contains new instructions on how to complete the process, including The VVA Veteran deadline.
POSITIONS OPEN FOR ELECTION
LETTER OF INTENT
The Elections Committee would like to go as paperless as possible. We will send the Candidate’s Packet by email (if desired) and we encourage you to do so. Please state your preference in your Letter of Intent. Letters of Intent must be signed.
If, at a later date, you decide against running for office, you can easily withdraw, following the instructions in the Candidate’s Packet. The Elections Committee is accepting Letters of Intent at: VVA Elections Committee, c/o Adolph Gardner, 7 Crum Road, Walkersville, MD 21793-8018.
Three other important documents are due on March 31, 2023: the Declaration of Candidacy, a copy of your DD-214, and a signed SF-180. Exceptions are noted in the Packet.
RUNNING FROM THE FLOOR
After the March 31 deadline, potential candidates intending to run from the floor cannot announce their intent to run for office either publicly or privately; cannot campaign in any way or distribute any campaign materials, including on the Internet; and cannot accept any contributions prior to being approved as a candidate by the Elections Committee at the Convention. Any violation of this rule will result in disqualification from the election process.
INCUMBENT OFFICERS AND BOARD MEMBERS
THE CANDIDATE'S PACKETS
Emailed Candidate’s Packets come in a fillable and printable PDF format. Fill in and print each form individually, and then sign the necessary forms and mail them to the committee. The committee encourages you to send us the documents with a tracking number or certified return receipt requested. Adolph Gardner is the contact person for information about Candidate’s Packets. His phone number is 301-845-4296.
These packets contain detailed information, instructions, and rules regarding the conduct of the election process. Included in these packets are all forms that candidates are required to complete and return to the Elections Committee.
The Candidate’s Packet includes a Deadline Date Calendar that lists events and dates that are very important to each candidate’s campaign. Failure to meet any of the deadlines will be grounds for disqualification. The deadline dates this year have changed, so please pay special attention to them.
CONDUCT OF CAMPAIGNS
Candidates may not solicit or accept campaign contributions in any form from VVA or any VVA state council or chapter. Campaign contributions are considered to be (but are not limited to) money, paper, envelopes, postage, free printing, free phone calls, use of websites, and email.
Candidates may not solicit or accept any campaign endorsement from VVA, any state council or chapter, or VVA newsletters, newspapers, or websites.
Candidates may solicit and accept campaign contributions and endorsements from any VVA member, provided that the contributions and endorsements are not in violation of the rules and that written endorsements are on the individual’s personal stationery. It is strictly prohibited for any person to use VVA national, state council, or chapter letterhead, websites, or email for the purposes of writing letters of endorsement.
A candidate’s own website or email may be used to campaign. Do not create a campaign website until you have read the detailed instructions in the Candidate’s Packet
It is neither the wish nor intention of the VVA Elections Committee to embroil prospective candidates in unnecessary red tape in order for them to have their names on the 2023 VVA National Election Ballot.
The rules, instructions, and requirements in this announcement — as well as those in the Candidate’s Packet — are simple and easy to read, understand, and follow. Therefore, the failure of a candidate to play by the rules or to meet the requirements of the VVA Constitution and Elections Committees will cause that candidate to be disqualified and his or her name removed from the ballot.
The Elections Committee wishes all the candidates the very best during the campaign process.
The 2023 Elections Committee: Scott DeArman, Chair; Jill Mishkel, Adolph Gardner, Terry Nolan and Ben Humphries.
Resolutions Committee Report
The purpose of the Resolutions Committee is to fulfill Article I, National Provisions, Section 7, Committees, Paragraph A.4. of the VVA National Constitution:“The Resolutions Committee shall report the resolutions to be addressed by the delegates assembled from among those submitted by the chapters, state councils, standing committees, membership, or other sources. Provided, however, that any such resolution shall be filed with the Resolution Committee at least one-hundred twenty (120) days prior to the commencement of the National Convention, at which resolutions are to be addressed. “The Resolutions Committee shall review proposed resolutions received, and shall, not less than sixty (60) days prior to the commencement of the National Convention, forward to the chapters and state councils copies of all proposed resolutions submitted to the Committee pursuant to this section along with the Committee’s recommended action regarding each proposed resolution. Resolutions not reported by the Resolutions Committee may be brought to the floor for debate and action upon the motion of any delegate and concurrence by a majority of the delegates.”
Agent Orange Committee Report
The PACT Act has been a long time coming, but it is not the final goal. Vietnam veterans started raising concerns about the possibility that serving in Vietnam was unfavorable to their health and the health of their children in the early 1970s.
The PACT Act is an opportunity for veterans and their families to use agreed-upon resources to achieve relief from the effects of toxic exposure. Maybe the government system of “deny and delay” has changed. Only by using the new system will we find out.
This bill was the result of all the veterans service organizations letting the government know that toxic exposure is a primary concern for Vietnam War veterans and for veterans of later wars who were exposed to at least 31 toxic substances in combat zones.
Several committees and departments in VVA are working on the PACT Act. The job of our committee is to investigate, educate, encourage, and communicate with veterans and their families.
We have a subgroup dealing with the Air Force and the VA to revisit the evaluation of the Ranch Hand specimen study. For years, we have felt that the data of this lengthy study were altered.
Other subgroups are working on the implementation of the Children of Veterans Toxic Exposure Research Act. Our last response from the VA was that it could not be done because the science is not sufficiently advanced and there is no national birth defects registry.
The CDC currently finances statewide birth defect registries in 10 states. That’s down from 40 states that participated in the 1990s. The cheapest and quickest type of research would be to compare the data submitted in the past from registries. At its November meeting, the VVA Board of Directors approved a motion to use legal action to force the VA to comply with the law.
Another project is encouraging the VA staff to locate all the claims VVA has filed for children’s disabilities.
We are reshaping the VVA Agent Orange Town Hall meetings into educational seminars. That’s because we consider these local meetings the best way to communicate on the local level.
Because the PACT Act and the Children’s Toxic Research Act include veterans of more conflicts, we are changing our literature and including information for the new areas of concern.
The new guide for holding a local meeting is available on the VVA website at https://vva.org/what-we-do/outreach-programs/agent-orange. Chapters can schedule a meeting by calling me at 734-216-4862.
Membership Affairs Committee Report
I want to wish you and your family a happy and prosperous New Year. I am looking forward to the next Membership Affairs Committee meeting in Silver Spring.
The last nine months of 2022 have seen a steady rise in membership numbers. This has happened while a new database was installed mid-year that reflected the true number of VVA members in VVA. The membership numbers are going up, and we are going to keep those numbers climbing.
We nearly reached the 88,000-member milestone in 2022. I know we can reach 90,000 members before the fiscal year ends on February 28. It is a goal to reach for. So please renew your efforts on the chapter level and personal level to recruit new members. Membership in VVA remains a bargain at just $50 for a Life Membership.
The Membership Affairs Department at the national office in Silver Spring welcomed a new manager in 2022, Nicole Kennedy. By the time you read this, she will have been with VVA for a year. She continues to improve policies and reports and has set up a new drop box for membership applications. Day-to-day operations in the department have been streamlined, and questions are answered quickly and accurately. She organized and was a presence at the membership tent on the National Mall for Memorial Day.
The Membership Affairs Committee issues a monthly report with the statistics on VVA membership numbers: Regional membership totals, the top 25 chapters in membership, and the number of members in each state. The report also highlights new chapters when they receive their VVA charters. Do you receive the report?
I suggest we all reach out to potential VVA members by email and telephone, as well as by postal mail and through personal contact. We also should be checking on our fellow members to make sure they are staying safe and well. Just a little outreach to your members can go a long way.
There are still many Vietnam War veterans who have not heard of Vietnam Veterans of America. We need to reach out to those veterans and invite them to join us.
To start, please try to find just one new member for your chapter.
If I can help you in anything that deals with membership, just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.orgWelcome Home!
Veterans Incarcerated & In the Justice System
BY DOMINICK YEZZO, CHAIR
On December 8, I visited the Veterans Ward at the Douglas County Correctional Facility and the Veterans Treatment Court at the Douglas County District Court in Omaha, Nebraska. VVA Finance Committee Chair Dottie Barrickman arranged an introduction for me with Joe Mangiamelli, a former president of Nebraska Chapter 279.
Mangiamelli, who is retired from Omaha City government, knows the structure of city and state agencies, and serves as vice president of Chapter 279, as well as a mentor in the Douglas County Veteran Treatment Court. He was a most gracious host.
The VINJUS Committee brings a three-part model to towns and cities throughout the country. It is a national program designed to let judges, wardens, district attorneys, public defenders, and community leaders know that military personnel sometimes come home from war silently suffering. They can struggle with post-traumatic stress and Traumatic Brain Injury. Sometimes PTSD and TBI are the root cause of why a veteran commits a crime.
At VVA we are committed to never leaving anyone behind. As such, we visit veterans who are incarcerated and encourage wardens to put all veteran inmates in a separate ward. We advocate for and mentor Veteran Treatment Courts, and we train community leaders to join with veteran inmates several months prior to release to prepare them to return to the community. It is not a model that is soft on crime; it is a model of commitment, service member to service member, to never leave anyone behind.
In the Douglas County Correctional Facility, there is a Veterans Ward housing about thirty-five inmates. There are no discipline issues here, as in the case with all prisons that house veterans in separate wards.
The ward exists because of the strong administration of Justine A. Wall, the Rehabilitative Services Officer, and Christopher Busenbark, the officer in charge of the ward. They both have deep-rooted respect for veterans and apply their authority mindful of the fact that many of these men served their nation with honor. Perhaps the greatest asset is the presence of Eddie Nelson, a Vietnam veteran who understands the complexities of active duty in war and is an active Chapter 279 member who goes to the jail regularly to mentor the men each time the court is in session.
The Omaha World-Herald recently published an article about the graduation ceremony of five veterans granted dismissal of charges, and who re-entered the community with clean records. These veterans are the pride of our work. All of them committed crimes, then needed strong, supportive help and counseling, and served their country with honor. They were legally forgiven in a formal proceeding. They were not left behind.
The VINJUS Committee abides by VVA’s Founding Principle: “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.” Our work must continue to the next generation of American military men and women.
VA Voluntary Service
BY KEN ROSE, CHAIR
With the beginning of this New Year, we are hearing warnings about new COVID-19 variants. We can expect the VAMCs to react with some restrictions based on local testing and federal guidance. Continued restrictions at some wards may change again. Wearing masks will probably remain in place for some time.
We have yet to see our volunteers in VAMCs and clinics at the levels we saw before the pandemic, whether due to age, medical problems, or concerns about new virus variants.
There are still opportunities to volunteer at the hospitals. In the Red Coat Ambassadors Program, for example, volunteers and VA staff help patients and guests with navigation, information, and non-medical care at VA medical centers. That includes helping vets with smart phone appointment sign-ins.
The VA’s Compassionate Contact Corps is made up of trained volunteers who make periodic phone or video calls to home-bound veterans who request the service.
Drivers for the DAV vans are always in need. Retired VVA members who live close to a VA facility should consider volunteering. Some VAMCs offer golf carts to shuttle veterans to appointments. Ask your local VA Volunteer Office for more information.
If you have any questions, please email email@example.com or call 215-527-3494.
Public Affairs Committee Report
BY DENNIS HOWLAND, CHAIR
As we begin the New Year, it is my hope that all of us have gotten past the bad weather and holiday chaos and are ready to hit the ground running in 2023. I wish you each a happy, prosperous, and blessed New Year. I hope your plans are to have VVA and our members in the spotlight in our communities and that 2023 is a strong recruiting year.
With the risk of repeating myself, I believe active, well organized, and well-planned Public Affairs events have a positive impact on our recruiting efforts, which has an impact on every VVA program.
This year has hints of being extremely active for VVA members, locally and nationally. There are several important dates and activities that should bring VVA to a position of high visibility:
A new partnership has been developed between the Daughters of the American Revolution and the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration. The Commemoration envisions that on March 29, National Vietnam War Veterans Day, DAR chapters will host ceremonies during which each VVA state council and chapter will receive a new Commemorative Flag and Honorary Partner certificate, and all Vietnam War veterans will receive the Vietnam War Veteran Lapel Pin. Widows and widowers of Vietnam War veterans will be presented a Surviving Spouse Lapel Pin. If there’s a DAR Chapter near you, please reach out to them to arrange a presentation.
It’s time to begin preparing and submitting your nominations for the VVA national awards to be presented at the National Convention in Orlando. These include Member of the Year, State Council of the Year, Incarcerated Member of the Year, Chapter of the Year, and State Council and Chapter Newsletters, E-newsletters, and Websites of the Year.
You may make more than one nomination. However, each must be on a separate form. Print the form and mail it to: Vietnam Veterans of America, Attn: Awards Committee, 8719 Colesville Road, Suite 100, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
Failure to include required signatures will result in disqualification. Nominations must be postmarked no later than March 31, 2023.
Finance Committee Report
BY DOTTIE BARICKMAN, CHAIR
Taking a look back at how the Finance Committee members worked together last year was astounding. We set up subcommittees for Investments, Policies, and for Monthly Budget to Actual. The committees worked hard to keep up with the corporation’s revenue, expenses, and budget oversight.
A Budget Process Training program was designed by the Finance Department and the Finance Committee and was presented in November to the VVA cost center managers. Annual Budget Process Training was approved at the November Board meeting. The training will be a guide for cost center managers on how to prepare a clear budget proposal for the Finance Department and the Finance Committee to approve.
The Finance Committee meets the evening before the VVA Board of Directors meetings. In addition, the committee is on call whenever necessary and communicates regularly. The annual, two-day budget meeting is by far the longest, and most important, meeting of the committee.
The Finance Committee consists of dedicated, talented, and clear-thinking individuals who understand the roles and responsibilities of the committee. They have accepted the task to work together to balance the budget and to be fair and equitable to all cost centers and their programs. It is an honor to lead the committee.
To approve the FY2024 Budget in a timely manner, the Finance Department and the Finance Committee agreed to start the process earlier for the third year in a row so that the proposed budget could be presented to the BOD at the January 2023 meeting. The new fiscal year begins March 1.Thank you for your support. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or 712-314-1808.
POW/MIA Affairs Committee Report
I am pleased to share the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency November announcement that U.S. Army Reserve CWO Larry A. Zich, 24, who lost his life during the Vietnam War, was accounted for on Oct. 25, 2022.
Zich, of Lincoln, Nebraska, was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of the 37th Signal Battalion in the1st Signal Brigade. On April 3, 1972, a UH-1H Iroquois helicopter with a crew of four, including Zich as the co-pilot, departed on a combat support mission to Quang Tri City in South Vietnam. During the flight, the pilot told a Hue/Phu Bai Ground Control Approach controller that he was lost, and believed he was nearing Quang Tri.
Following the transmission, the ground controller could not locate the helicopter on radar and reported the team missing. After the helicopter failed to appear at any air bases in South Vietnam, an aerial search found no sign of the missing aircraft or crew.
On April 11, 1988, the Defense Intelligence Agency received human remains that a Vietnamese refugee recovered from a burial site in Quang Nam Province. They belonged to men who died in an aircraft crash. The remains were sent to the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii for further study.
The laboratory analysis and circumstantial evidence established an association between one set of these remains and CW3 Zich. Unaccounted and still missing are crewmembers Spec.5 Allen D. Christensen from Flandreau, South Dakota, the crew chief; CW 3 Douglas L. O’Neill, from Bayonne, New Jersey, the pilot; and Spec.4 Edward W. Williams from Clearwater, Florida, the door gunner.
On January 6, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that U.S. Army Pfc. Thomas F. Green, 19, of Ramona, California, who was killed during the Vietnam War, was accounted for on Aug. 23, 2022.
Green was assigned to the 68th Aviation Company, 52nd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group. On Oct. 26, 1971, Green was serving as the door gunner on a CH-47B Chinook helicopter when it went down over water in bad weather while flying from Tuy Hoa to Cam Ranh Bay. Remains of four of the 10 soldiers on board were recovered during search-and-rescue operations following the crash, but Green was not accounted for.
An unsuccessful recovery attempt was made in 1974 when divers from the Joint Casualty Resolution Center searched what was believed to be the crash site. Several investigation and recovery efforts took place between 1994 and 2021. A June 2021 recovery mission found possible human remains and material evidence.
To identify Green’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis, as well as material and circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA analysis.
Green’s name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, along with others who are unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
As of January 2, the number of Americans Missing and Unaccounted for from the Vietnam War was 1,581. The countries are: Vietnam - 1,241; Laos - 285; Cambodia - 48; and the Peoples Republic of China territorial waters - 7.
Two DPAA recovery teams recently excavated three sites in Laos, with one yielding bone material, another material evidence, and the third unfinished due to weather.
In November, DIA-Stony Beach analysts held the first in-person Last Known Alive meeting in three years in Hanoi, discussing the next steps for 28 such incidents. In January, a follow-up investigation team was scheduled to conduct a trilateral investigation in Cambodia of one Last Known Alive incident, and another team was to conduct an operation in Thailand.
Throughout January and February, five Recovery teams and one investigation team were scheduled to deploy to Laos on two joint field activities, excavating five sites and investigating about a dozen incidents.
DPAA planned to deploy three teams to Vietnam in February, excavating two sites and investigating twelve incidents.
Contact the Veterans Initiative at:
Veterans Initiative Program
Minority Affairs Committee Report
BY GUMERSINDO GOMEZ, CHAIR
I am hopeful that my VVA brothers and sisters and their families will have a prosperous year full of health and achievements.
This year is going to be a busy one for VVA, as it is a National Convention year. The Convention will take place August 8-12 in Orlando, Florida, a great location to make it a family event.
It’s not too late to start planning Minority Veterans Affairs resolutions. If you have an issue that the committee needs to work on, please let us know in time for us to consider recommending it for the delegates’ approval at the Convention.
We had our November committee meeting in Silver Spring. It was a great week to have our meeting as it came during Veterans Day, giving us the opportunity to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the dedication of The Wall. Hundreds of Vietnam veterans from all over the country came together to observe Veterans Day and remember those whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It was a rainy day, but the rain stopped just before the ceremonies. It was not until we got on the bus to go back to the hotel that the rain started coming down again.
The committee is still struggling with the Korean American VALOR Act. At present, we are working to get an amendment into the National Defense Authorization Act. If we are able to achieve this goal, we will win the battle for our Korean American Vietnam War veteran brothers.
There was an issue in Puerto Rico that we discussed at the committee meeting regarding the Mutual Assistance Hospital (Hospital Auxcilio Mutuo), which asked the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico to stop construction of the VA Clinic and Domiciliary Program and Psychosocial Outpatient Center in Hato Rey. The Supreme Court overturned the hospital’s petition in December. The clinic should be open by May.
PTSD/SA Committee Report
By TOM HALL, CHAIR
VVA has long supported the VA’s Vet Center program. This committee has pushed for expanding the Vet Centers and ensuring an appropriate ratio of providers to veterans. Recent changes made by leadership undermined the quality of the services and led to high counselor burnout rates.
Advocacy efforts led by former VET Center counselor Ted Blickwedel resulted in the introduction of the VET Center Improvement Act in 2021.
The committee is pleased to announce that the new National Defense Authorization Act includes the Vet Center Improvement Act language.
This Act directs the VA Secretary “to make every effort to ensure that all readjustment counselors of Vet Centers are given the opportunity to fully provide feedback, positive or negative.” The Secretary is also required to report its findings within 90 days after the cutoff date for receiving its results.
This change provides a way for Vet Center counselors and directors to anonymously offer annual feedback about the impact of clinical performance measures on the care of veterans and counselors. Blickwedel, a retired USMC Lieutenant Colonel, had informed his members of Congress how the VA’s excessive productivity expectations were burning out counselors and compromising mental health care for veterans.
You can learn more about Blickwedel’s advocacy in his book, Broken Promises (www.vabreakingpromises.com). In it, he writes about the toxic retaliation tactics used against him by the VA and the devastating impact it had on him and his colleagues. Our job now is to ensure that the VA complies with this legislation. The committee would like to learn about the quality of VVA members’ care and the welfare of clinicians at their Vet Centers. Please let us know if you experience any change of service, for better or for worse, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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