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VVA Committee Reports, March/April 2024 -   -  

VINJUS Committee Report


The VINJUS Committee is dedicated to a national mission: organizing individuals committed to serving Veterans Incarcerated. Our primary goal is to raise awareness and educate those interested in our cause. We seek leaders from across the country to champion our programs locally, embodying the principle that while the initiative is national, its execution is local.

VVA is excited to hold the National Leadership & Education Conference in Reno from August 20-24. We extend a warm invitation to the Reno community to join us.

The Conference will feature seminars led by Nevada State Veterans Administration officers and legal experts to advise veterans on filing service-connected disability claims. Other seminars will be put on by hard-working VVA committees such as Government Affairs, Women Veterans, Veterans Benefits, Homeless Veterans, Minority Affairs, Agent Orange, and PTSD. This is a unique opportunity to meet state council presidents, committee and chapter members, National BOD members, and other veteran leaders from all 50 states.

The VINJUS Committee is proud to announce that we will be providing a 90-minute Leadership Conference seminar focusing on critical issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, Veteran Treatment Courts, service to incarcerated veterans, and “Getting Ahead While Getting Out,” a guide on community support for veterans approaching release.

We invite judges, district attorneys, prison administrators, veterans of all eras, journalists, university professors, students, public officials, and any family members with loved ones who have served to be there for this presentation. Join us in making a difference for veterans and ensuring their sacrifices are honored and supported.

The Veterans Incarcerated and in the Justice System Committee: Dominick Yezzo, Chair; Members: Gary Newman, Richard Arthur, John McGinty, Justin Latini and Robert Rangel. AVVA Special Advisors: Teresa Rangel, Sharon Hobbs, and Linda Dickerson; Special Allen Manuel, and Larry Frazee.

Agent Orange & Toxic Exposures Committee Report


The committee is tackling resolutions that, given the nature of our capitalistic society, may never see full resolution. A case in point is the longstanding knowledge, spanning over more than four decades, possessed by chemical manufacturers about the adverse effects their herbicides have on human health. Despite this, the Environmental Protection Agency recently granted Dow Chemical permission to produce and sell a mix of 2-4D and glyphosate, a decision we scrutinized closely.

The pathway to mitigating toxic exposure’s ramifications extends beyond our committee’s reach; it necessitates the collaboration of the Veterans Health, Women Veterans, Government Affairs, and Veterans Benefits committees, and, crucially, every VVA member.

Engagements with Congress to advocate for the health and well-being of military families often hit the barrier of, “Show me the Research.” Despite laws mandating research into toxic exposure impacts on veterans’ descendants, full implementation lags. However, VVA’s persistent dialogue with the Air Force and the VA has led to an upcoming summer seminar. This event aims to dissect the shortcomings of the Ranch Hand Study and explore new research made possible by technological advances.

A foundational step in birth-defect research is establishing a robust registry. Birthdefects.org is a comprehensive, nationwide registry with entries from military and non-military families. Amplifying this database with more entries is paramount. To facilitate this, birthdefects.org offers a business card template for widespread distribution—a cost-effective approach I’ve personally used.

Moreover, dispelling the myth at discharge that veterans are not entitled to any benefits remains a priority. With VA regulations evolving and personal circumstances changing, many veterans from our era now qualify for benefits. It’s imperative we broadcast this message, including explaining the revised VA form for filing on behalf of disabled children and grandchildren, along with recommending that a Veteran Service Officer helps navigate the process.

Education forms another pillar of our committee’s work. The majority of veterans, those not affiliated with a veterans service organization, likely lack crucial information on veterans issues and solutions. Guiding these veterans to VA hospitals is a simple yet effective way to bridge this knowledge gap.

Lastly, VVA has updated and published a wealth of educational materials for seminars, town halls, and other informational events. All are on our website. To facilitate your event planning, email me at swilson@vva.org or call me at 734-216-4862.

The Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee: Sandie Wilson, Chair; Mike Demske, Vice Chair; Members: William Patton, Ernest Poigvent, Ken Holybee, Roland Mayhew, John Weiss, Dr. Linda Schwartz, Marc McCabe, Nancy Switzer, Kathy Andres, John McGinty and Dennis Howland. Staff Support: Mokie Porter, Logan Lecates and John Stovall.

Women Veterans Committee Report


We are happy to report that the Offices of Special Trial Counsel recently have updated their status and goals to include efforts to enhance support for sexual assault survivors. Committed to hiring more than 2,000 specialists for global installations, this initiative promises improved care for survivors; details can be found at defense.gov/News/Transcripts.

The committee is advancing efforts on Ft. McClellan’s toxic exposures by working to establish the Ft. McClellan Registry with VA Secretary McDonough. The aim of this work is to prompt Congress to acknowledge exposure for veterans who served at Ft. McClellan, alleviating the burden of proof for claims related to toxins which have been identified by the 2005 National Academy of Medicine report, and acknowledged by the VA.

This acknowledgement could significantly reduce the waiting time for establishing direct service connections. The Women Veterans Committee plans to collaborate with the AO Committee at the VVA Leadership Conference in August to discuss toxic exposures.

We should also remember that February marks Black History Month, which is followed by Women’s History Month in March. During these months, many women veterans will reminisce about the great women and women of color in service we have been proud to know or learn about.

Dr. Doris “Lucki” Allen, who served 30 years (1950-80) in the WACs in the U.S., Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, stands out. A 1944 Tuskegee University graduate, Allen briefly worked as a teacher before joining the Women’s Army Corps in 1950. From 1951-53, she served in Japan as a newspaper editor, a role she was assigned because she was the sole office member with a college degree.

In 1967, she joined the 519th Military Intelligence Unit MACV in Vietnam, where she wrote a report predicting the 1968 Tet Offensive, which was dismissed by supervisors who doubted a WAC’s analysis.

Returning from Vietnam, she was an instructor at the POW interrogation course at Fort Holabird, and Fort Huachuca before retiring in 1980, and subsequently earning her PhD in Psychology and Organizational Development. She gave the Keynote Speech at the Opening Ceremonies of VVA’s 1999 National Convention.

For more info on Lucki Allen, go to westpointcoh.org/interviews/too-blessed-to-be-stressed.

Women Veterans Committee Resolutions

Three of our committee resolutions were presented at the Convention in August, with updates and changes that resulted in amended resolutions passed by the delegates.

WV-2 Medical Treatment of Women Veterans by DVA (Amended 2023)

Background: DVA-eligible women veterans are entitled to complete healthcare, including care for gender-specific illnesses, injuries, and diseases. Women veterans are the fastest growing group of the veteran population, tripling in numbers since 2001. Women make up 30 percent of all new VHA patients. Yet only 44 percent of female veterans are enrolled in VA healthcare. There were also changes in the request to “shorten current 72-month billing liability.”

WV-5 Women Veteran Research (Amended 2023)

Background: There were some changes, again, in showing increases in the projections of women veterans in future, demonstrating the need for more women-focused research in regard to VHA, VBA, and general research in women’s needs. We also requested that the quality of VBA training and accuracy of staff review of claims, and the equality in Compensation and Pension ratings, meet the needs of women veterans.

WV-8 Military Sexual Trauma (MST) (Amended 2023)

Issue: Consistent and repeated instances of sexual assault in the military have been a longstanding problem that in the past few years has increased. The reporting process has been improved to include implementing two reporting options: Restricted and Unrestricted. The major difference between these reporting options is that an unrestricted report will trigger an official investigation, whereas a restricted report will not. However, research indicates that toxic command climates continue to be a breeding ground for harassment and assault, and inhibit victims from reporting either way.

Resolved, That: VVA will pursue legislation that reassigns complaints of military sexual trauma and harassment by servicemembers and all perpetrators outside of their immediate chain of command.

1. VVA requests a review of the results of DOD’s Retaliation Prevention and Response Strategy FY 2021 be reported to the Congressional Veterans Committees, as well as the President.

2. There is evidence that further attention is needed for those in leadership positions in regard to sexual assault and harassment training and evaluation, prior to consideration for promotion.

President Biden implemented sweeping changes to how military handles sexual assault cases on July 28, 2023 (following General Austin’s special report from his appointed MST counsel). Cases of sexual assault, and some other serious crimes in the military, will now officially be handled by independent prosecutors, instead of commanders.

The so-called Special Trial Counsel offices for each of the military services became fully operational in late December 2023, complying with a congressional mandate to remove prosecutorial decisions for 13 serious offenses from the chain of command. “This shift should assure sexual assault victims that if they choose to make an unrestricted report, the case will be handled professionally and consistently with the best practices and procedures of civilian prosecution offices,” according to a senior defense official.

Women Veteran Committee: Kate O’Hare-Palmer, Chair; Sandy Miller, Vice Chair; Members: Chuck Byers, Sandie Wilson, Liz Cannon, Lee Jackson, Dr. Tom Hall, John McGinty, Dottie Barickman. Special Advisors: Marsha Four, Dr. Linda Schwartz, Linda Dickinson, Linda Blankenship. AVVA: Julie Hayes. VVA Advisor: Kathleen Grathwol

Economic Opportunities


As chair of the Economic Opportunities Committee, I’ve been encouraged to hear about the robust attendance VVA meetings have received from fellow national board members and special advisors. However, despite this positive engagement, the Economic Opportunities Committee is facing a serious challenge: We only have one active committee member besides myself. As a result, we have been spinning our wheels and struggling to achieve meaningful progress.

I’ve likened our situation to dealing with a rusty gear that struggles to turn. Failure is not an option for me, so I remain committed to “oiling” this gear until we are able to more fully fill our role helping younger veterans.

To this end, I am reaching out to state council presidents for help. We are seeking detailed information on economic opportunities available in your states, specifically targeting veteran employment. Ideally, each state could provide the website addresses for its Employment Commission, along with businesses known for hiring veterans.

Our committee plans to compile this information and create a dedicated section on our website, allowing veterans to explore employment opportunities by state. Please email the information to vvaeoc@gmail.com.

As an example, here are some veteran employment opportunities in Hampton Roads, Virginia: Jobs VA: http://jobs.virginia.gov



While we understand that making a database that captures potential employers and employment opportunities is an ambitious goal, all contributions are invaluable. We aim to build upon the information you provide.

Once again, I appeal to your sense of solidarity and ask for your support. Please also consider joining our committee to further enrich our efforts to provide economic opportunities for our veterans. Your participation could make a significant difference in the lives of those we aim to serve.

The Economic Opportunities Committee: Steven Williams, Chair. Member: Charles Montgomery. Special Advisors: Barb Coan, Jenniffer Ellis, William Paton.

Public Affairs Committee


As we move through the school year, I hope every chapter with a JROTC unit in their area will focus on these programs as part of their Vets In Classrooms initiatives. Such involvement presents an outstanding opportunity to share your story and VVA’s story, and to contribute to Vietnam War veterans’ legacy.

This year, the national essay theme is: “Importance of Accounting for Our POW/MIAs.” Collaborating with the JROTC units in your area offers a chance to discuss the 1,577 still missing from the Vietnam War—a great educational tool.

For complete details about the JROTC and Eagle Medal programs, go to www.vva.org, click on “Info for Members,” and then “Awards and Nomination Forms.”

I have been asked whether JROTC cadets are authorized to wear our medals and ribbons. After extensive research, it appears most branches are leaving this decision to individual units. I know of no JROTC unit that has refused the wearing of our medal but will continue to work to clarify this situation.

Many activities are scheduled for March 29, National Vietnam War Veterans Day. I sincerely hope all VVA chapters and state councils participate or lead programs and ceremonies in their communities. As we have learned over the years, it often falls to us to remember and honor our own.

The discussion in one of my columns about “Vietnam-Era Veterans” and a state legislator introducing a bill to no longer recognize the term has elicited a mix of responses. Some of our members who did not serve in-country during the war asked if they could identify themselves simply as “Vietnam veterans,” omitting “era.” Just remember: No one fights a war alone, and no fight occurs without support from outside the war zone.

I stand my ground and welcome home all those who served on active duty during the Vietnam War. To those who adhere to the “era” designation, thank you for your role in the Vietnam War and for helping many of us return home. Without you, the journey of war veterans might have ended differently.

Public Affairs Committee Members: Dennis Howland, Chair; Members: Dave Simmons, Charlie Stapleton, Chuck Renevier, Ernie Boisvert, Justin Latini, Roland Mayhew, Tom Brown, Dan Stenvold and Grant Coates. Advisors: Mokie Porter, Kelly Frederickson, Betty Pike, Sean Venables, and Marc Leepson.

Finance Committee


At the April Finance Committee Meeting, a pivotal motion was presented: approval of the FY2025 budget. I am pleased to report that this motion was passed unanimously.

The Finance Committee, now comprising all board members, is set to embark on its routine tasks. These include reviewing our investments, auditing processes, evaluationing policy, and examining motions to retire. Additionally, we will continue with b2a reviews for the board and address any other matters directed to the committee.

We are excited to announce that the VVA Finance Department, under the guidance of Managing Director Phil Waite, will soon introduce the FY 2025 b2a in a new format. This enhancement aims to streamline our processes and improve accessibility. As a reminder, we are committed to posting the b2a documents on the VVA website promptly, ensuring that all Board members have immediate access to critical materials.

Our mission statement remains unwavering: “My highest priority and commitment is to ensure that the veterans who served for us will be served by us.” This guiding principle shapes all our efforts and decisions in the Finance Committee.

Thank you for your continued support. Should you have any comments, questions, or concerns, do not hesitate to reach out to me at drbarickman@hotmail.com, dottieb@vva.org, or call or text me at 712-314-1808. Your feedback is invaluable as we strive to fulfill our commitment to serving our veterans with the utmost dedication and respect.

The Finance Committee: Dottie Barickman, Chair; Members: Terry Courville, Dennis Howland, Francisco Ivarra, John Margowski, Rossie Nance, Daniel Stenvold, Sandy Miller, Barry Rice. Special Advisors: Alan Cook.

Membership Affairs Committee


In accordance with Vietnam Veterans of America Convention Resolution P-7, amended at the 19th National Convention, July 18, 2019, the following is the annual report of the Membership Affairs Committee.

M-2 Communication Between VVA’s Organizational Levels: We advocate for the continuation of this resolution to assure effective communication throughout the organization.

M-3 Korean War Veterans Membership: After much discussion, we recommend the removal of this resolution at the next Convention, as its objectives appear unattainable.

As we step into the new VVA fiscal year, we’re presented with an ambitious yet achievable goal: to increase membership numbers to 92,000. With your continued dedication, I am confident that we can reach this milestone.

Our potential for growth is significant. There are some 6.6 million Vietnam War veterans living in the United States and abroad, men and women who served on active duty between November 1, 1955, and May 7, 1975. With veterans comprising 16 percent of the U.S. population aged 65 and above and 44 percent being male, we have a vast pool of prospective members. Remarkably, one in three males aged 65 and over is a Vietnam War veteran based on 2020 Census data.

The Membership Affairs Committee looks forward to recognizing chapters that have demonstrated significant growth. At the Leadership & Education Conference in August in Reno, we will present the Growth in Membership Awards. The competition covers July 2023 to June 2024, with categories based on chapter size.

Our committee is committed to supporting your recruitment efforts. VVA’s mission extends beyond membership; we strive to enhance the lives of veterans and their families through advocacy for beneficial legislation and community service. The value of a VVA membership cannot be overstated, offering unparalleled opportunities for engagement and support.

Our chapters now exceed 600, with an average of 200 new members joining monthly. Life membership in VVA remains the most cost-effective among veterans service organizations globally.

For any questions or assistance with membership matters, feel free to contact me at dick.southern@gmail.com

The Membership Affairs Committee: Dick Southern, Chair; Richard Lindbeck, Secretary. Members: Perry Melvin, Bob Pace, Sam Brick, James Fleming, John Riling, Jerry Corrigan, Charlie Montgomery, John Margowski, Carlton Rhodes, John Weiss, Ted Wilkinson, Andy LeDuc, Wayne Reynolds, Ken Rogge, and Randy Schriever. VVA Advisor: Terry Rangel. Staff Support: Nicole Kennedy, Priscilla Wiley, Brenae Jones, and Alphie Williams. Special Advisor: Bill Meeks.

POW/MIA Committee


As of February 12, the number of Americans missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War was 1,577. The countries are Vietnam-1,237; Laos–285; Cambodia-48; Peoples Republic of China territorial waters–7.

Public Affairs Resolution P-7: In accordance with Vietnam Veterans of America Convention Resolution P-7, amended at the 19th National Convention, July 18, 2019, the following is the annual report of the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) Affairs Committee.

PM-3 Declassification Of Information And Diligent Effort: The POW/MIA Committee monitors the actions of the National Declassification Center (NDC), created on December 29, 2009, by Executive Order 13526. The NDC includes military commands and secret correspondences that have completed declassification processing.

PM-4 Americans Missing In Laos And Cambodia: Efforts continue being made for better relations between Laos and Cambodia to further recovery missions in those countries.

PM-7 Possibility Of Live POW/MIAs, And Facilitating The Return Of Those Who Remain In Southeast Asia: VVA has formally acknowledged the possibility of live Americans being left in Southeast Asia at the end of the Vietnam War, and elsewhere worldwide, as a result of later military operations and war. Until all known missing in action from the Vietnam War are accounted for and returned, no change to the resolution is foreseen.

PM-8 Fullest Possible Accounting Of POW/MIAs In Vietnam: The committee continues to receive timely information from Defense Prisoner of War-Missing in Action Accounting Agency and other organizations regarding accountability of the missing in action from the Vietnam War. The names of all identified MIAs are immediately announced through organizational media. For various reasons, including wishes of the families, Department of Defense announcements are often delayed beyond identification dates.

PM-11 Honoring All Returned Pows, And Giving Recognition Of American Civilians Held As POW/Interned During WWII: VVA urges all chapters and state councils to seek opportunities to honor local former POWs and their families. VVA desires that Congress enact legislation to formally recognize the sacrifices of these individuals.

VVA commends the extraordinary service rendered by public servants, military personnel, and citizens who have devoted their time and personal resources to resolving the issue of prisoners and missing from the Vietnam War and other conflicts.

PM-13 Public Awareness And Education On The POW/MIA Flag: Vietnam Veterans of America encourages and supports compliance of U.S. Public Law 116-67, the National POW/MIA Flag Act, enacted on 7 November 7, 2019 as Public Law 116-67. The law changes the days on which the POW/MIA flag is required to be displayed at specified locations to all days on which the U.S. flag is displayed.

VVA further resolves to continue efforts to educate public officials and others on the history and meaning of the POW/MIA flag and its proper display.

VVA recognizes that any official organizational function in which the national colors are displayed should include the POW/MIA flag; the POW/MIA flag shall be posted or flown to the immediate left of the national colors. All other flags used in the display shall be flown to the left of the POW/MIA flag following published guidelines for positioning protocol.

PM-14 Forever POW/MIA Stamp: As of February 4, no member of Congress has introduced the Perpetual POW/MIA Stamp Act. A bill must be passed by both the House and Senate in identical form and then be signed by the President to become law.

VI-1 The Veterans Initiative, A National VVA Effort On Vietnam’s Missing In Action: In an effort to receive more information regarding the Vietnamese missing in action from the Vietnam War, the Veterans Initiative Program launched a new informational request advertisement in 2016 titled “Were You There” which was displayed in The Veteran. In 2015, the headline, “The Veterans Initiative Needs Your Help,” was placed on the POW/MIA page on VVA’s website. Several eyewitness reports have been submitted to the committee for investigation. We believe that the end result of the veteran-to-veteran collaboration between VVA and Vietnamese veterans organizations will be the return of American Vietnam War MIAs.

VI-2 Scope Of The Veterans Initiative: Vietnam Veterans of America reaffirms that the primary mission of the Veterans Initiative is to achieve the fullest possible accounting of all unrepatriated POW/MIAs in Vietnam and supports expanding the mission to include other parts of Southeast Asia.

The POW-MIA Affairs Committee: Grant T. Coates, Chair. Members: Terry Courville, Leslie DeLong, Dennis Howland, Chuck Renevier, Jaycee Newman, and Ted Wilkinson. AVVA Liaison Kay Gardner; VVA Staff Advisor Mokie Pratt-Porter, Special Advisor: Gary Jones, Susie Stephens-Harvey.

Homeless Veterans


HVC-1 – Homeless Veterans as a Special Needs Population: Though the VA has taken many steps, the committee continues to feel that all agencies providing funding for housing of any kind should focus on homeless veterans. We continue to urge the VA and the Interagency Council on Homelessness to require that all nonprofit organizations provide a veteran-specific accounting of all homeless people receiving veteran-specific services. This includes a review of all funding for applicable organizations and agencies.

HVC-10–Continued Funding for Special Needs Grants Under the Department of Veterans Affairs Homeless Grants & Per Diem Funding Program: We recommend that VA special needs grants not have a sunset date, but instead, receive funding on a continual basis, the same as the grant and per diem programs. As these special needs grants must currently be renewed every year, the organizations that receive them are put under undue stress that may take away from their missions. Giving these special needs grants the ability to operate on the same level as per diem grants ensures that more time, effort, and energy is available to agencies operating under these grants.

HVC-13-Support for the Missing in America Project: The committee would like to acknowledge chapters and state councils that support this project, as it ensures that all veterans whose remains and cremains are unclaimed are provided with dignified burials.

HVC-15-VA Homeless Grant and Per Diem Funding: The committee continues to urge the VA to provide funding on an equal and time-sensitive payment schedule for the services provided to all eligible homeless veterans. Continued monitoring of these payments must be practiced. The additional need for Per Diem Service Center grants is imperative in achieving the overall goal of eliminating veteran homelessness throughout the country.

The Homeless Veterans Committee: Sandy Miller, Chair; Dr. Tom Hall, Vice Chair. Members: Kate O’Hare Palmer, Fred Gasior, William Patton, Liz Cannon, Jerry Blume, and John McGinty; AVVA Members: Sharon Hobbs, Joanne Blume, Lori Patton, and Tony Gigli.

Minority Affairs Committee


I hope that you and your family had a blessed holiday season, and that the New Year brings health to you and yours.

As we enter 2024, new challenges face us at the Minority Affairs Committee. The committee met on January 19, and celebrated a significant accomplishment with our Korean-American Vietnam War veteran brothers, whose efforts led to the signing of HR 366 by the President. We are now waiting for an agreement to be reached between the Korean and American governments on the bill, which would allow Korean Vietnam War veterans to begin to receive care from the VA. This process could take some time, but we are thrilled with the success we have seen so far.

With this achievement, we have awakened another group of allies who supported us in the Vietnam War, the Hmong fighters in Laos known as the Lao/Hmong Special Guerrilla Unit Military Forces. They were recruited by the CIA to prevent North Vietnamese forces from entering South Vietnam.

Some 350,000 Hmong fighters served during the Vietnam War. Tens of thousands lost their lives in the fighting and there are between 2,500 to 3,000 MIAs.

Similar to the Korean-American Vietnam War veterans, the Hmong fighters want to receive health benefits from the VA. At our committee meeting on January 19, we had Dryden, New York, Chapter member Paul Moore and chapter President Gary Napieracz in attendance, along with Phoxay Rattanasengchanh, a former Hmong fighter.

As a result, the committee decided to explore this project further, to evaluate and educate ourselves about it, and determine if it is something we would like to tackle. This task will not be easy to accomplish, as it lacks documentation. To our knowledge, the CIA kept no records of these fighters due to the covert nature of the operations. We will continue to advise them on how to navigate the system, as we did with the Korean Vietnam War veterans. If you, your chapter, or your state council have any Minority Affairs issues, do not hesitate to contact me at SgtGomez@aol.com, or to call 413-883-4508. It would be an honor to help you.

The Minority Affairs Committee: Gumersindo Gomez, Chair; Francisco Ivarra, Co-Chair; Chuck Odom, Secretary; Members: Jorge Pedroza, Joe Jennings, Kee Kim, Fred Gasior, Pete Peterson, William Bill Garcia, John McGinty.

Veterans Benefits


In the brisk days of January, the Veterans Benefits Committee gathered in Silver Spring to deliberate on pressing issues that affect veterans. I led the sessions, supported by committee Secretary Gary Estermyer and a dedicated team, including Interim VVA Veterans Benefits Department Director Patricia Harris and Appellate Attorney Alec Ghezzi. Our meetings were charged with purpose and commitment.

The committee embarked on a robust agenda. A key focus was the persistent backlog in the Legacy IHP. Concerns were raised about the accuracy of the VA’s numbers, prompting a unanimous call for more rigorous tracking and accountability. This discussion, ignited by insights from Alec Ghezzi and committee member Marc McCabe, underscored our dedication to ensuring that veterans receive the support they deserve in a timely manner.

Amid our extensive discussions, the issue of claim sharks took center stage. These unaccredited individuals, who charge veterans exorbitant fees for benefits claims, are a dire threat to the uninformed. Our resolve to combat their predatory practices was bolstered by a collaborative effort to educate veterans about the situation, including an informative 35-minute slideshow designed for town hall presentations.

The plight of veterans affected by the Camp Lejeune water contamination was another critical topic. McCabe’s collaboration with legal teams highlights our ongoing efforts to ensure that veterans can join the class action lawsuit without jeopardizing their existing benefits.

Harris shared her vision for the Veterans Benefits Program, emphasizing the importance of enhancing service to veterans. Her goals include reviewing VSO program policies and increasing IHP completions.

Our discussion also illuminated the struggles of aging veterans, particularly regarding the VA Caregiver program. The distressingly high rate of benefit denials has prompted us to advocate for stricter adherence to the program’s rules so that veterans in need receive the support they are entitled to.

The committee is also mindful of the challenges faced by veterans in Puerto Rico. The commitment to addressing their unique needs was echoed, with an emphasis on ensuring their health issues and claims receive the necessary attention.

As we forge ahead, the Veterans Benefits Committee remains steadfast in its mission to serve veterans with the honor and respect they deserve. All resolutions will continue as written.

The Veterans Benefits Committee: John H. Riling II, Chair; Ned Foote, Vice Chair; Gary Estermyer, Secretary. Members: Richard Arthur, Bill Beecher, Gerald Corrigan, Mike Dolan, Gary Estermyer, Gumersindo Gomez, Larry Goggins, Joe Jennings, Marc McCabe, Greg Paulline, Pete Peterson, Vern Peterson, Dick Southern, John Weiss. Staff Support: Patricia Harris.

Veterans Health Care


As Vietnam War veterans navigate the latter stages of our lives, potentially venturing into overtime, we’re confronted with many challenges associated with aging. In keeping with the tradition of the Agent Orange Town Hall meetings, we’ve leveraged these gatherings to educate veterans and their families on a variety of critical issues.

Since 2014, Western North Carolina has embraced the Town Hall format to discuss subjects such as PTSD, aging, and toxic exposure. These events are collaborative efforts involving local veterans service organizations, the Charles George VA Medical Center, and community partners, including the local community college as the venue sponsor, all committed to supporting veterans and their families.

Our experience has shown that when we create informative sessions, attendees will come. It’s part of VVA’s legacy to ensure that our generation concludes its journey with strength and dignity. Educating veterans and their family members about their needs and entitlements is crucial. Now is the time to plan for our health and well-being.

In North Carolina, our ambition is to take the Town Hall meeting format across the state. For instance, we held an Aging Town Hall meeting in Kinston, N.C., in a region with a high density of veterans and military bases. Collaborating with community leaders, we discussed topics such as the health effects of aging, survivor benefits, burials at state and national cemeteries, elder law related to healthcare, long-term health care planning, estate planning, end-of-life planning, and toxic exposure. Attendees received handouts, including AVVA’s Paper Safe, VVA’s Agent Orange Self-Help Guide, and VA pamphlets.

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, helping veterans and their family members address concerns regarding their health care and benefits and equipping them with the necessary tools to navigate the VA system.

The Health Care Committee is dedicated to helping VVA members organize Aging Veteran Town Hall meetings in their communities. We encourage members to reach out to us for support in this endeavor.

For assistance or more information, please contact us at perkman@mac.com.

The Veterans Health Care Committee: Chuck Byers, Co-Chair; Allan Perkal, Co-Chair. Members: Sandie Wilson, Mike Dolan, Dr. Linda Schwartz, Roland Mayhew, Chuck Renevier and Kate O’Hare-Palmer. VA Special Advisors: Dr. Molly McLaughey, Charles George. AVVA Special Advisors: Jennifer Ellis, and Bobbie Morris.




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