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VVA Committee Reports, November/December 2023 -   -  

Economic Opportunities Report

Greetings to all.

This is the first update from a committee that has been inactive for a while. Our top priority right now is to recruit more committee members. We welcome members from VVA, AVVA, and the National staff who are keen on creating a useful resource to facilitate gainful employment for America’s veterans. Feel free to email me for more information.

We also need help in gathering information about employment opportunities available to veterans of all service branches throughout the country. Our goal is to create a web-based directory that will serve as a lasting legacy. If you are interested in contributing, please email me at swilliams@vva.org

Veterans Benefits Committee Report


The Veterans Benefits Committee convened on October 19th. Although the gathering was informal, as the committee hadn’t yet received official endorsement from the National Board of Directors, it was productive. Thirteen members were in attendance, including Randy Schriver representing Arizona SC. Alec Ghezzi presented his quarterly report during the session.

Official approval for the committee’s formation was granted on October 20th.

During the meeting, two essential motions were brought forward and received unanimous approval:

At John Margowski’s request, the committee agreed to his removal, introducing Joe Jennings and Larry Googins as his replacements.

The committee resolved that the National Board of Directors and the VVA President urge the Secretary of the VA to offer equitable relief to veterans affected by the bilateral factor prior to April 2023, ensuring they procure their rightful service-connected benefits. This action stems from the VA’s recurring errors in denying veterans their due benefits. Both motions were subsequently ratified by the Board.

Additional updates shared during the October 20th meeting include:

New York State Council’s VSO program is transitioning from the VIMS system to VETPRO for claim filing.

Both Nebraska and Connecticut have ceased operations of their VSO programs. Consequently, all VVA powers of attorney and claims are transitioning to the National VSOs.

Puerto Rico is training a VSO, who will aid their veterans. Marc McCabe oversees her training, which includes the VVA accreditation course.

Indiana presently employs six VSOs and intends to onboard another.

The committee remains committed to working proactively to enhance the welfare of veterans.

VINJUS Committee Report


The committee convened on October 20, during the quarterly VVA BOD meeting in Silver Spring. Although some members couldn’t attend, our advisers ensured we progressed through our agenda. I highlighted the crucial nature of our mandate in my report to the committee.

The Veterans Incarcerated and in the Justice System Committee stands as a leading national model, addressing the unique challenges faced by returning servicemembers grappling with PTSD and TBI. Key topics on the committee’s agenda included:

  • Pushing to reinstate disability benefits for veterans incarcerated
  • Securing clearance from the Carson City, Nevada jail and the Nevada State Correctional Facility for a VINJUS Committee visit next August
  • Planning the future direction of the VINJUS Committee
  • Integrating AVVA into our decision-making
  • Welcoming Justin Latini, Region 1 Director, to the committee
  • Delving into the complex issues of PTSD and TBI, medical conditions sometimes leading to offenses that may result in arrest and punishment

We are also assessing our three-tier program strategy, which encompasses dedicated care for incarcerated veterans; proactive entrance into correctional facilities to mentor veteran inmates and help them transition back into their communities; and the championing of Veteran Treatment Courts by collaborating with judges, district attorneys, wardens, veteran mentors, and VA coordinators to facilitate personal and court-based counseling.

Agent Orange & Toxic Exposures Committee Report


The time has come to act upon the wishes expressed by our members through their delegates at the National Convention in August. The committee received a clear message of approval of our goals and methods. Many of us have waited more than 50 years, hoping to live better through advancements in medical science. How wonderful it would be to wake up to news that researchers and physicians have found a way to reverse the effects of toxic substances in the human body.

Changes have been made in how the committee interacts with the National staff. While we look to the Department of Veterans Affairs for solutions, we recognize that they are limited without authorization from Congress and the White House.

The committee continues to explore different avenues to help veterans and affected families, including working with the Veterans Benefits Department to expand compensation and explore legal alternatives.

We advocate for accessible and appropriate healthcare and support initiatives that improve veterans’ lives. To do so, we communicate with all branches of our government. VVA special adviser Marc McCabe and members of the national staff traveled to Denver to meet with the staff at the regional office and discussed the filing of claims and the care and treatment of veterans’ children and grandchildren. They were able to confirm that the childrens’ claims are being filed in conjunction with the veterans’ claims.

The VA has acknowledged having received fewer applications than our records indicate, highlighting that your help is needed to fix that problem. We must provide records to substantiate our concerns about the health impacts on our offspring. Data outside the VA suggest that about 200 health problems may result from toxic exposure or changes in DNA.

Some of our children are now 50 years old, and many have remained silent about their problems. This silence needs to end. It is crucial for families and future generations that we urge the government to acknowledge and address these issues. Numbers matter. Please encourage your veteran friends to file claims for their affected offspring.

By generating demand through numbers, we can persuade authorities to conduct proper research and provide care. There is a significant difference between treating four individuals for a toxic disease and having 10,000 people questioning why this happened to them.

Since 1994, every birth certificate in every state must list birth defects detected by the initial physical exam. While this exam can indicate structural defects, it may not reveal functional defects diagnosed later.

Thank you for your continued support and advocacy.

Minority Affairs Committee Report


I am honored to have been reappointed by VVA President Jack McManus to once again chair the Minority Affairs Committee. When the committee convened on October 20, I nominated committee members. The Board approved the nominations, and our team includes Assistant Chair Francisco Ivarra; Secretary Chuck Odom; and members Joe Jennings, Jorge Pedroza, Kee Kim, Fred Gasior, Pete Peterson, Bill Garcia, John McGinty, and Danny Garcia.

Around 9:30 a.m. that day, I received a message that left me momentarily frozen. The Korean American VALOR Act, H.R. 366 and S. 2648, had passed the Senate. After six years of relentless advocacy, Convention resolutions, virtual meetings with legislative staff, phone calls, and appeals to anyone who could help, our dream had finally come true. With the signing of the bill by the President on November 10, Korean American Vietnam War veterans will be able to receive medical services from the VA.

I extend my heartfelt thanks to the VVA leadership and membership for approving resolutions at three Conventions. Special thanks to Barbara St. Martin Cho, Fred Gasior, and Kee Kim for their unwavering support in achieving this milestone.

The committee also discussed issues concerning veterans in Puerto Rico. Regrettably, the VA system has once again fallen short in its promises there. Despite assurances of hot meals being served in the cafeteria in the new Central Northern Region clinic in Arecibo, veterans are being offered only cold sandwiches and drinks. This is a significant concern for those traveling from the central part of the island, especially those with diabetes who require a healthy breakfast.

Furthermore, the VA hospital continues to fall short of providing adequate treatment due to staffing shortages, including doctors. The one improvement is that communication from the VA is now being provided in the appropriate language, Spanish, thanks to the direct involvement of this committee and VVA National.

Lastly, we discussed an issue that requires cooperation from all VVA members. This pertains to unclaimed veterans’ cremains in cold storage across the nation. We aim to compile a pamphlet outlining the procedures each state should follow regarding cremains and distribute it to every VVA chapter for implementation.

Thank you for your continued support and dedication.

Women Veterans Committee Report


By the time this reaches you, Veterans Day activities will have concluded. I trust you found meaningful ways to commemorate, either in your local community or by joining us in D.C. for the 30th anniversary commemorations of the dedication of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.

You can explore a range of resources and items related to women veterans on the Vietnam Women’s Memorial website, including the original celebration booklet. This booklet is an invaluable resource, shedding light on the experiences of the 250,000 women who served in uniform during the Vietnam War.

For recent video updates on all VVA events, please visit our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/vietnamvetsamerica. I also encourage collaboration with libraries and museums to curate programs honoring women veterans; they are typically eager to help.

In October, we held our Women Veterans Committee meeting in Silver Spring. Thanks to Zoom, even those unable to attend in person could participate. If you’re considering joining our committee as an adviser, please reach out to receive invitations to future meetings. A prominent objective of the committee is to have a female veteran representative in every state. State councils will be mobilizing to realize this goal, ensuring seamless dissemination of crucial information pertaining to women veterans.

A troubling revelation is that Ft. McClellan, where WACs underwent basic training until 1999, exposed countless women to Agent Orange and other toxic agents. Regrettably, it was omitted from the PACT Act. As it stands, cases related to Ft. McClellan are evaluated individually. The Fort McClellan Health Registry Act, introduced by Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) has yet to make it out of committee. The sluggish progress demands swift action.

Our newly appointed VVA Veterans Healthcare and Policy Specialist, Harold Hanson, has written a White Paper, “Why do Vietnam War Nurses Have So Much Asthma?” He found that, alarmingly, the prevalence of asthma in female veterans aged 65 and older is three times more than it is among their male counterparts and non-veteran peers. Asthma and COPD, primarily attributed to airborne toxins from burn pits, feature prominently among the causes.

Another pressing concern is that, of the 4.4 million veterans living in rural areas, only 2.7 million are enrolled in the VA. Although the VA has broadened its Veterans Transportation Services to include more than 80 rural communities, the EMS system still experiences delays. VVA also has issues with the VA’s new payment scheme for air ambulance services, especially given the protracted reimbursement process for standard ambulance bills. The potential complications of an air ambulance bill are daunting.

Women veteran honor coins and pins are available. Order forms can be obtained from the national office. The coins and pins are a poignant way to establish connections with other women veterans and convey gratitude for their service. I’m honored to continue serving as the Women Veterans Committee chair. Your input is invaluable, so please let us know any topics you’d like the committee to explore.

Veterans Health Care Committee


The Health Care Committee convened on October 20, in Silver Spring. We are pleased to welcome a new co-chair, Allan Perkal from North Carolina.

We have been diligently focusing on initiatives related to empowering Aging Veterans Programs. Supporting our endeavors is Special Adviser Dr. Molly McGaughey, a geriatrician at the VA Medical Center in Asheville, N.C.

Our committee is in the process of considering a supplementary publication that would focus on topics pertinent to aging veterans, which would provide crucial information on planning for the future. We firmly believe that caring for aging veterans is a significant part of our legacy.

To further our commitment, we plan to provide educational seminars and content from subject matter experts at the 2024 National Leadership & Education Conference. Our goal is to help VVA chapters and state councils plan and produce Town Hall meetings on aging veteran-related topics.

We recognize the unique challenges that caregivers of veterans face, including a high degree of burnout. Hence, we consider training for caregivers to be critical. To that end, we plan to develop a Town Hall that focuses on caregiving, as well as palliative and hospice care. Our intent is to work with the VA and AVVA to ensure the best health care for veterans.

Stay tuned as we continue our efforts. We are determined to finish strong and make a lasting impact.

VA Voluntary Service


The Center of Development and Civic Engagement is the name the VA has adopted to create a more welcoming atmosphere for new non-veteran partners' volunteers, including corporate donors and nonprofits. However, I will continue to use Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service as it is less confusing.

VVA volunteering was slowly growing before the pandemic severely affected our volunteers. Obtaining records from the VA Central Office has been a challenge, but this report aims to bring us up-to-date on our nationwide standing.

From October 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, VVA was represented in 22 VA Medical Centers with representatives on VAVS committees. In these VAMCs, 32 VVA volunteers served as Representatives and Deputies; 227 regular scheduled volunteers logged 26,364 hours at 87 VAMCs.

Occasional volunteers, who attend parties and special events, contributed an additional 858 hours. In total, VVA volunteers amassed 27,222 hours. This represents a significant decrease in hours.

Our volunteers faced restrictions due to the pandemic, with some wards and clinics closed to visitors. Some volunteers fell ill, some died, and many were concerned about returning due to age and health issues. I, too, have had medical issues affecting my ability to volunteer.

Tracking down some Representatives and Deputies has been challenging, but I will continue to follow up with your help. If you can no longer attend VAVS meetings as a Representative or Deputy, please inform me so replacements can be found.

Recruiting new Representatives and Deputies has become increasingly difficult. New volunteers may find the VA’s requirements to become a Regular Scheduled volunteer daunting. So, it’s essential to understand that these volunteers will be working as non-compensated VA employees and for the federal government, necessitating background checks, badging, and updated vaccinations. If these rules pose a problem, potential volunteers can opt to be Occasional Volunteers or consider volunteering elsewhere.

During the National Board of Directors meeting in October, a state council president mentioned experiencing long delays in receiving background checks, especially in the San Francisco area. I plan to address this issue with the VA Central Office. If you’re aware of similar delays, please let me know.

For any issues or concerns, please call 215-527-3494 or email krose@vva.org

Thank you for your dedicated volunteering.

Public Affairs Committee


The October meeting covered a wide range of topics. I want to express my appreciation to the many state council presidents, advisers, and associate members who returned to the Public Affairs Committee. It was also great to welcome new members and advisers who brought fresh ideas and energy.

During the Board of Directors Meeting, we discussed Canadian veterans who served in the Vietnam War but can’t participate in Honor Flights because they aren’t U.S. citizens. On behalf of the Public Affairs Committee, I proposed that President Jack McManus write a letter to the Honor Flight organizers supporting a change to allow these veterans to be part of their program.

In the July/August issue of The VVA Veteran, Jack McManus suggested a survey to find out if VVA members supported mandatory National Service. This discussion continued in our meeting, touching on mandatory registration for military service, community service, and other volunteer and governmental organizations, such as the Peace Corps. Veteran Editor Sean Venables, Communications Director Mokie Porter, and I are preparing a proposal for a survey to gauge VVA members’ opinions. The proposal will be presented to the Board of Directors at the January meeting.

McManus’ column inspired VVA member Bill Graham to submit a “Speak Out” in this issue (Page 12). It makes for good reading and may spark a debate. We look forward to your input as we explore this initiative.

The committee decided to recommend that VVA chapters coordinate with their local Daughters of the American Revolution chapters to receive a 50th Anniversary Commemorative Flag and Vietnam War Veterans lapel pins for their members. We took note of a special Air Force commemorative program that will be held at the National Cathedral on January 13. If you’re in the Nation’s Capital, don’t miss it. We also discussed the VVA JROTC and Eagle Scout Medal programs and the criteria for nominating members to receive the VVA Achievement and Commendation medals.

The VVA website offers information about our organization, including legislative priorities, award forms, and more. If you have difficulty navigating, please let us know. Suggestions for improvement are welcome.

The Board approved the following members of the Public Affairs Committee for 2023-25: Dennis Howland, Dave Simmons, Charles Stapleton, Chuck Renevier, Ernie Boisvert, Allan Perkal, Richard Arthur, Justin Latini, Roland Mayhew, Tom Brown, Dan Stenvold, Grant Coates, Kelly Frederickson and Betty Pike (AVVA), as well as staff advisers Marc Leepson, Sean Venables, and Mokie Porter. Dan Stenvold was reappointed chair of the Awards Committee, with Grant Coates and Charlie Hobbs as members.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and a blessed New Year. Thank you for your support.

Membership Affairs Committee


Our organization continues to flourish, boasting approximately 600 chapters and welcoming an average of over 200 new members each month. A life membership in VVA is a bargain and the most cost-effective way to join any veterans service organization in the world. Please continue your commendable recruiting efforts.

By the time you read this message, we will have concluded Veterans Day commemorations. VVA hosted a membership tent on the National Mall, and we hope many of you were able to stop by to say hello. Membership Affairs organizes the tent on the Mall in D.C. every Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

The committee remains committed to helping chapters develop recruiting strategies. We are a membership organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families lead better lives. We strive to pass legislation ensuring benefits for military service and we engage in community service work, volunteering our time In Service to America.

Should you have any questions or concerns, or if you require assistance regarding membership matters, please do not hesitate to contact me at dsouthern@vva.org

POW/MIA Committee


As of October 27, 1,578 Americans remain unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War: Vietnam, 1,238; Laos, 285; Cambodia, 48; and in territorial waters of the People’s Republic of China, 7. These numbers can change due to ongoing investigations and revisions in the locations of loss.

Congress passed a temporary funding measure, a Continuing Resolution, on October 1, just before the new fiscal year began. However, this measure only guarantees federal funding up to November 17. The $46-million increase for FY 2024, compared to the 2023 budget, awaits the approval of the Defense Appropriations Bill by Congress and the President.

During President Biden’s visit to Vietnam in September, there was an exchange of personal effects and archival documents between the U.S. and Vietnam. This involved 14 artifacts related to three MIA cases involving five U.S. servicemembers. A senior Vietnamese representative praised the POW/MIA mission as a bright spot in U.S.-Vietnamese relations and pledged continued support for the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency’s efforts, especially with the expected increase in operations in the next fiscal year.

September also saw DPAA officials traveling to Laos and Cambodia for important talks about the POW/MIA issue. Back in Washington, D.C., the first-ever Technical Talks with Vietnamese counterparts took place. Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia have shown strong support for DPAA’s upcoming plans.

The U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs is another front being closely monitored. Due to Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, the commission’s efforts are somewhat restricted. Nevertheless, discussions continue about potential future collaborations.

October saw the conclusion of a Joint Field Activity in Laos, led by Stony Beach. This mission was made up of two Recovery Teams and one Investigative Team-Light.

For the first time ever, DPAA employed aerial drone technology for surveys in Vietnam. The drones used advanced photography, videography, and light-detection sensors. This breakthrough comes after years of negotiations, and its success promises enhanced efficiency for future missions.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day on September 15 included a moving ceremony at the Pentagon’s River Parade Field. Air Force Col. Michael Brazelton, a former Vietnam War POW, delivered the keynote address. Attendees included families of the missing, veterans, military personnel, and international representatives. The event culminated with an F-16 missing man formation flyover.

Fifty-four years after his plane crashed while serving in Vietnam, U.S. Air Force Capt. Fredrick M. Hall’s remains arrived at Greenville-Spartanburg (S.C.) International Airport and then were escorted by a motorcade to his hometown of Waynesville, N.C., where he was honored by his community and laid to rest on October 10 with his family.

President Jack McManus and South Carolina State Council President Sam Brick were among the VVA members in attendance at the repatriation ceremonies.

VVA’s 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 military items may have a story that could result in finding the location of missing war dead.

Contact the Veterans Initiative at:
Veterans Initiative Program
Vietnam Veterans of America
8719 Colesville Rd., Suite 100
Silver Spring, MS 20910




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