A publication of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

February 2001/March 2001

Semiannual Committee Reports

February 2001

Agent Orange/dioxin Committee Semiannual Report

By George Claxton, Chair

The Agent Orange issue is at a critical juncture. On one side we have the U.S. government and its Office of Management and Budget (OMB), who are interested in saving money. On the other side, we have the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Toxicology Program (NTP), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all of whom have said that dioxin causes cancer in humans.

The committee understands the relationship between Agent Orange and billions of dollars of taxpayer money. It’s not that taxpayers would not fight for veterans, but that OMB might make compensation decisions regardless of the scientific evidence. Let nobody be confused about who the final arbitrator is.

The practical answer to the political dilemma concerns the issue of priorities. Are veterans important enough to deserve Agent Orange benefits? In every war veterans have suffered in one way or another when it comes to benefits. There is a strange irony in how veterans are perceived during a war and the benefits they receive after the war.

The Agent Orange Committee has tried to find out the truth concerning the Louisville dioxin birth defects study. This is why we are a separate standing committee. Now, more than ever, we are fighting for the rights of Agent Orange victims. This task can only be accomplished by experts. The Agent Orange Committee deals with many aspects of the issue. The committee members are experts on Agent Orange and its related poisons. VVA would suffer greatly if this committee were consolidated into another committee.

The Agent Orange resolutions speak for themselves. Some of them are highly technical and take experts to implement. They were written with the intent of defining and combating problems that are difficult to understand.

The committee has made a lot of progress, including the beginnings of research in Vietnam. We hope this can be accomplished, but it has to be implemented and monitored by experts. Without these experts, the research will fail. This is because big industry wants to stop the dioxin issue at any cost. Everyone on the Agent Orange Committee understands these facts.

Paul Sutton and I attended the motion hearing of an Agent Orange case before Judge Jack Weinstein in New York in December 1999. All of the chemical company lawyers were there, and they won the motion to dismiss. This is because Judge Weinstein--chief judge of the Wall Street court--does not believe that there is any evidence linking dioxin with human disease, except for chloracne. This despite the fact that WHO, NTP, and EPA have decided that dioxin is a human carcinogen. Judge Weinstein’s decision is the epitome of ignorance. However, this case is not over.

Vietnam veterans are dying every day from dioxin poisoning. VVA needs an expert committee that will fight for the rights of dioxin victims with the knowledge to win the battle.

Chair: George Claxton. Vice Chair: Paul Sutton. Members: Lois Beck, David Carter, Jack Devine, Michael Eckstein, Alan Gibson, Michael Lay, Darrell Martin, and Robert Stocker. Special Advisers: Catherine Greene and Gerry Ney. Staff Coordinator: Tonya Lowery.

 

Employment Training And Business Opportunities Committee Semiannual Report

By Calvin P. Gross, Chair

The committee has accepted a new task and focus for the next year: "Military to Work."

Issue:

1. Current military personnel have received the same training from the same instructors as their civilian counterparts. The difference is that the military documentation of this training does not make this clear in service members’ 201 files.

2. States do not always accept military licenses and often collect high fees by making former service personnel retrain for the same jobs they performed in the military.

Example:

1. Microsoft program training and Cisco Systems equipment training is universal.

2. Truck drivers in the military have CDL licenses and drive the same equipment that their civilian counterparts drive.

Problem:

Employers do not always recognize the military certificates because they are not specific enough.

The ETABO Committee wants to interface with government agencies to work on these problems that affect military personnel separating from the service. Department of Labor, Small Business Administration, and the Department of Commerce will be the government agencies we will focus on.

There are other issues we will ask the Government Affairs Committee to help us with, such as the Montgomery GI Bill being used for fees for states that do not recognize military licenses. We, as a committee, are open to input from our membership.n

Chair: Calvin Gross; Vice Chair: Alan Gibson. Members: Darrel Brown, Barry Hagge, Darrel Martin, Wayne Reynolds, Carlton Rhodes, Richard Ritz, Mike Schott, Beverly Stewart, Jeff White.

 

Government Affairs Committee Semiannual Report

Phil Litteer, Chair

Here is a rundown of the committee’s work on the 1999 Committee Convention Resolutions.

G-1-99, The "Veterans Vote!" campaign. Last year’s vote packets were a tremendous success. Packets were distributed to state councils and chapters. Many of their newsletters contained clip art and messages encouraging veterans to get out and vote.

G-2-99, The Legislative Coordinators Network. Sharon Hodge at the national office has done a magnificent job organizing and communicating with the network. If you would like to be part of this Legislative Coordinator Network, please e-mail Sharon at Shodge@vva.org

G-3-99, Support for the National Gulf War Resource Center. VVA continues to support the veterans of the Gulf War and will continue to support NGWRC and its new executive director.

G-4-99, Extension of Vietnam Conflict Ending Date & Eligibility for Vietnam Service Medal. We recently learned that a bill expected from Rep. Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.) that will finally identify all-inclusive Vietnam War dates has been put on hold. Our national office staff will remain on top of this important legislation.

G-5-99, Vet Center Eligibility for Vietnam-era Veterans. Public Law 106-117 extended Vet Center eligibility to September 31, 2003. However, the Vet Center readjustment counseling resources services must be expanded to meet the needs of all veterans who receive services from the Vet Centers. VVA will continue to support this resolution.

G-6-99, Establishment by the DVA of More Convenient Sites for Veterans Hearings. This resolution has been fully satisfied, due in large part to VVA's efforts.

G-7-99, Service Connection for Hepatitis C. This item is addressed in the 2001 Legislative Agenda. H.R. 1020 (a sweeping hep C service connection bill), H.R. 4791 (hep C limited service connections related only to certain blood transfusions and hemodialysis), and H.R. 5132 (hep C testing and treatment) are expected to be reintroduced this year in the House of Representatives. VVA will support all these bills.

G-8-99, Re-establishment of Service-connected Disability in Certain Tobacco-related Illnesses. No activity.

G-9-99, Commemoration of 50th Anniversary of the End of the Korean War. The national office keeps a calendar pursuant to this resolution so that VVA is represented on the dates and memorial occasions specified in the resolution.

G-10-99, Commemorative Stamp Honoring the United States Coast Guard. This resolution was retired by the Government Affairs Committee on January 26.

The process of compiling VVA’s 2001 Legislation Agenda and Policy Initiatives has been completed. It was adopted by the National Board of Directors on January 27. This 2001 agenda is the product of several months of work involving virtually all of the VVA committee and task force chairs. This agenda serves as a road map for addressing legislation and administrative policy advocated by Vietnam Veterans of America.

Chair: Phil Litteer. Vice Chair: Fred Elliott. Members: George Corbett, Jerry Klein, Wayne Miller, John Miner, Jeff White, Calvin Gross, Bob Maras, Marsha Four, Joe Saxman, Fred Urban, Allen Manuel, Bob Piaro, Carl Jensen, Ray Aldao, and George Claxton. Special Adviser: Nancy Switzer. Staff Coordinator: Sharon Hodge.

 

Membership Committee Semiannual Report

By Charlie Montgomery, Chair

One of the top priorities of VVA’s Membership Affairs Committee has been to improve communications at all levels throughout the organization. We encourage our membership to communicate with the national Membership Department and the Membership Committee. We are all here to serve our members whenever and wherever possible.

The Membership Committee is working alongside the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America (AVVA) to help them in the development and growth of their organization. The committee submitted a resolution at the National Convention in Anaheim that states that VVA strongly supports AVVA to work with our families and others to improve the conditions of Vietnam-era veterans, their families, and others.

Resolution M-10-99, which was passed at the Anaheim Convention, deals with Verification and Security of the DD Form 214 and is important in the verification of eligibility dates for VVA membership. In order to comply with the IRS’s position on VSOs, we must be careful to check DD Form 214s for dates for new members. It is our responsibility at all levels of VVA to make sure that all applicants meet the requirements for eligibility and have the proper documentation to substantiate it. DD Form 214s should be kept in secure and confidential locations.

All the Committee members are looking forward to meeting members at the National Convention in Greensboro in August. I would like to thank all the members of the committee and the national staff who have helped put us on the right track to achieve our goals. It has been a collective effort. Remember: membership is a team effort. We all need to work together.

Chair: Charles Montgomery. Members: Lupe Alviar, Richard Bergling, Fred Elliott, Ned Foote, Rocky Gothard, Larry Klein, Marshall Mudge, Wayne Miller, and Fara Sanchez. Special Advisers: Nancy Montgomery and Nancy Switzer. Staff Coordinator: Allen Green.

 

POW/MIA Affairs Committee Semiannual Report

By Gary N. Varnell, Sr., Chair

As of the end of January, 1,991 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. There are 636 Army missing; 406 Navy missing; 252 Marine Corps missing; 657 Air Force missing; and one missing from the Coast Guard. Additionally, 39 civilians remain unaccounted for. A total of 592 Americans have been accounted for since 1973. Of the remaining cases, 1,144 have been tagged for further pursuit, 201 cases have been deferred, and 646 cases have been classified for no further pursuit.

Limited joint field operations were conducted in Cambodia over the two-week period that concluded November 21. These investigations were preparations for a full-scale joint field activity in January 2001 that was scheduled to include a trilateral operation in Laos. On December 5-6, U.S.-Lao POW/MIA consultations, led by JTF-FA Commander Brig. Gen. Harry Axson, took place in Vientiane. These important talks, following the ten-year assessment conducted in Hawaii in early September, responded to concerns raised by Laos and focused on the program for FY 2001. JTF-FA urged Laos to permit more U.S. personnel to participate in joint field operations. The number was raised from 40 to 45 in September; an additional five people would enable the United States to field a fifth ten-person team.

On December 17, the United States and North Korea reached an agreement to expand the search for the remains of Americans killed in the Korean War. A battlefield where many dead were left in shallow graves amid retreat was added to the search area.

There will be ten joint search operations in 2001, twice as many as in 2000. The Pentagon’s POW/MIA Office reported that the 2001 agreement significantly expands the size of the U.S. teams, increases the length of U.S. activities, and adds areas of operations.

The search teams have recovered what are believed to be the remains of 107 servicemen, including 65 found this year during five missions by 20-person squads. Five sets of remains have been positively identified.

In 2001, there will be ten operations by 28-man teams. Each will last 32 days--up from 26 days last year. The searches will be conducted between April and November because the ground is frozen during winter.

The negotiators agreed for the first time to search areas around the Chosin Reservoir, 50 miles north of Pyongyang, where U.S. officials hope to recover the remains of some thousand servicemen. There are still 8,100 Americans who remain unaccounted for from the Korean War.

President George W. Bush’s secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, served in four Republican administrations, dating back to Richard Nixon. The POW/MIA Affairs Committee looks forward to working with Secy. Rumsfeld and the Bush administration for the speediest full accounting of those Americans still unaccounted for. Robert Jones, the DPMO chief, has been asked to stay on for an indefinite time.

On January 11, Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig changed the classification of Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher, an F-18 pilot who was shot down during the first night of the Gulf War in 1991. Lt. Cmdr. Speicher’s classification changed from KIA/BNR (Killed In Action/Body Not Recovered) to MIA because U.S. government officials believe there is a good possibility that Cmdr. Speicher survived the crash of his plane in the Iraqi desert.

This is the first time that any serviceman has been reclassified from KIA/BNR to MIA. We now have one MIA from the Gulf War.

Chair: Gary Varnell. Members: Tom Corey, Agnes Feak, Dan Johnson, Larry Klein, Joe Kristek, Ken Mabe, Doug Perkins, John Rowan, Frank Stacy, Jack Thomas, Bob Reiser, and Jim Weir. Special Advisers: Sara Bernasconi and Bill Duker. Staff Coordinator: Sharon Hodge.

A discussion of the Convention Resolutions resulted in the decision to continue all resolutions to two of them: To include the family and advocate for the creation of a family liaison position at both the VA and in the 210 Vet Centers focusing on family therapy issues as well as the physiological effects on the children of veterans.

The in-country effect will be taken into consideration when the resolutions are revised.

The woman Veterans Committee is looking at P-66-99 to review and expand the scope of the Woman’s Trauma Resolution.

The chair spoke of the necessity to increase the funding of the Vet Center program by 10 percent over three years to bring it back to par and compensate for inflation as well as to compensate for the 20-25% loss of overall organizational capacity as it relates to chronically mentally ill, substance treatment and PTSD was addressed with discussion bout the long-term physiological effects of untreated stress, anxiety, and depression.

The committee recommended the introduction of a resolution addressing the issue of confidentiality of health records, particularly as it relates to mental-health records, and the need to reverse the MOU between The VA and the Department of Justice.

The chair reported on the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies Conference held in San Antonio. He noted the finding of the conference that managed care (HMOs) has had a negative impact on the quality and quantity of mental health services. The Vietnam Veterans of Australian reported the following co-morbidity symptoms of mental health illnesses within their veteran population: 51% of veterans diagnosed with PTSD had substance-abuse issues and within that group 31% had chronic Level 2 depression and 18% suffered from high and acute anxiety.

The committee recognized the need to assemble/update the self-help guide and creates a symptom-identification fact sheet. (Some PTSD characteristics: Unresolved grief reaction; selblaming survival guilt; rexperiencing the trauma rumination, intrusive thoughts, and nightmares; isolationism; anger; rage; a lack of ability to experience intimacy in relationships; loss of control during trauma resulting in control issues becoming an obsession; avoidance and self-numbing, etc.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the November board meeting the PTSD and Substance Abuse Committee heard a presentation by Dr. Al Batres, Director of the VAMC Vet Center Program. He gave an overview of the readjustment counseling service. Mr. Richard T. Suchinsky gave a history of the substance abuse program at the VAMC, tracking the history of funding and treatment from 1989 to present.

Dr. Batres shared a number of interesting statistics relating to the Vet Center program including a profile of the number of veterans diagnosed with PTSD at the Vet Centers from various wars and conflicts. His statistics were that veterans served from the Vietnam War numbered 92,526; WarII, 15,822; from Korea; 5,555; from the Gulf war, 5,844; and peacetime veterans,4,601. Dr. Batres was understandably very proud of the number of Veterans served by the program. Of those served 90% indicated satisfaction and would refer a friend to the program. He went on to the state that 70% of the staff are Veterans themselves and that 25% of the services are provided outside of the Centers in homeless shelters, on the streets, veterans homos, and eight that are located on Native American reservations.

A discussion ensured regarding Dr. Batres vision for improving the Vet Center program. He started that if he had the resources he would augment the three to five person teams before recommending adding new locations. Dr. Batres encouraged any efforts from the Vet Centers to bring the clients into the VVA fold so they could continue to heal in a supportive environment. He spoke of the importance of sharing information and of keeping an open dialog.

Next Mr. Richard Suchinsky spoke to committee members stating that the V.A. has been a pioneer in research and treatment of addictive disorders. He noted that by 1995, because of better testing methods, the number of veterans diagnosed with PTSD were also identified with dual diagnosis was upward of 65% to 70%. 30% of those treated for PTSD also suffer from acute and serious anxiety disorder. He went on to CBOC (community based outpatient clinics), another funding shift away from inpatient residential treatment of PTSD treatment at walk in clinics. The progressive erosion of programs as the funding for PTSD treatment has been diverted into other areas has effectively decreased the V.A.’s ability to provide quality PTSD service.

Rick Weidman, Director of Government Relations, spoke the VVA National office distributed the GAO report released on April 21, 200. It concluded that the V.A. is in non-compliance with the law regarding the maintenance capacity for specialized programs at a rate equal to services provided in 1996. He recommended advocating for a 10% sustained funding increase over the next three years.

The committee concluded the meeting with a brief discussion of a PTSD study by Ms. Marlene Huff Ph.D. of the University of Kentucky. The study in entitled "Does the Timing of Life Course Really Matter? The perceptions of Vietnam Veterans were also addressed.

The committee voted to add two new members to the committee. We welcome Pete Duerr, Arizona State Council President and Joseph Friend. A motion was made and passed to appoint Father Phil Salios as Vice-Chair to the committee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The chair reviewed the legislative priorities for 2001:

1. PTSD/Mental Health treatment must be available in all geographic areas (22 vsns). The amount of care available should be related to the veteran population.

2. Expansion of existing alcohol and substance abuse detox services in all VAMCs/CBOCs.

3. Treatment and care of severely chronically mental ill patients.

4. Legislation to create a "veterans families service office" within the VA system to provide service families of veterans regarding a range of issues from birth defects to secondary PTSD.

5. End discrimination in allocation of resource against neuro-psychiatric disciplines.

6. Holistic care approach for PTSD, mental health, and sexual trauma. Allocate for permanent sexual trauma treatment.

7. Extend mental health to the VA’s services to rural and suburban communities based on outpatient clinics.

8. Extend residential PTSD treatment.

9. Extend VA mental-health services to more fully treat veterans with dual diagnoses (co morbidity) such as PTSD and chronic depression, PTSD, and extreme anxiety.

10. Expand PTSD treatment after care and support system of follow up counseling for an extended period of time.

11. Advocate for the funding/ reinstatement of funding for fee-based services.

Public Affairs Committee Report

Resolving to Do The Job

By Jim Doyle, Chair

 

The Public Affairs Committee will submit two new resolutions to delegates at the National Convention in Greensboro. We also will recommend that one resolution should be retired and that several others should be designated "continuing resolutions."

The committee will propose a resolution that addresses our relationship with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. VVA and our members have an obligation to dedicate ourselves to a lifelong commitment to The Wall.

VVA members occasionally assist in washing The Wall. Various veterans and active military organizations take responsibility for the weekly washing during spring, summer, and fall. Montgomery County, Maryland, Chapter 641 is responsible for washing The Wall on the first Saturday of each month.

During VVA's observance of the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War last April, both VVA and AVVA national boards, the Conference of State Council Presidents, and VVA staff took part in the cleansing as guests of Chapter 641. Again in June, VVA members joined Sons and Daughters In Touch to wash The Wall during SDIT’s Father's Day 2000 reunion.

Recently, Will Schwartz of Maryland gathered 13 volunteer electricians--seven of whom are Vietnam veterans--from two different International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) locals. One January Saturday morning, they changed the lamps in all the footlights at The Wall. This action prompted the committee to recognize that, in addition to our emotional attachment to The Wall, we have a responsibility to be actively involved in its care and preservation. This resolution will speak to the need for our VVA family to become more directly involved with activities and programs at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The second resolution reaffirms our support for the In Memory Plaque project. Ruth Coder Fitzgerald spearheaded this project and came to VVA several years ago requesting our support for the effort to place a plaque that would honor those service members who returned home from Vietnam, only to die later as a direct result of their service. The plaque will be located somewhere on the 13-acre Vietnam Veterans Memorial site.

VVA twice testified before Congress in support of this effort and believes that our membership should endorse and support this project with public awareness and other activities.

The committee also will submit a Constitutional Amendment that more clearly defines the role and activities of the Public Affairs Committee.

 

 

The year 2000 was very successful for VVA, especially in our dealings with Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many of VVA’s initiatives that addressed our concerns with benefit issues were resolved in favor of the positions taken by VVA when it presented its legislative priorities to Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Morton v. West Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims decision was reversed by congressional action. This battle was won because VVA was persistent in its efforts to create a veterans benefits system that is fair to veterans and brings the Department of Veterans Affairs back into the position of assisting veterans with their applications for benefits.

VVA was successful in its efforts to make diabetes mellitus adult-onset Type II a presumptive service-connected disability. The proposed regulations will be published by the spring. We are awaiting the regulation for hepatitis C to be published by the VA, but we will continue our efforts to pass legislation through Congress to make hepatitis C a presumptive service-connected disability.

VVA was instrumental in the re-establishment of the Veterans Health Administration Directive 00-029 that allows VA physicians to provide medical opinions. The Veterans Benefits Committee is interested in monitoring the implementation of this directive. If problems arise, I am asking VVA members to contact Len Selfon, the director of VVA’s Veterans Benefits Program.

VVA was successful in convincing Congress to establish benefits in two other areas. Public Law 106-419, Section 302--Special Monthly Compensation (SMC for Mastectomy) became law on November 1. The credit for this important legislative victory goes to Marsha Four, the chair of VVA’s Women Veterans Committee, Rick Weidman, Phil Litteer, Len Selfon, and the Government Affairs Committee and staff, and all VVA members who fought for women veterans. The provision that covers this legislation can be found in 38 CFR 3.114, Part 25.18.

Another legislative victory was Public Law 106-419, Section 40--Children of Women Vietnam Veterans Born with Certain Birth Defects, effective December 1. VVA’s Veterans Benefits Committee will monitor the implementation of both sections of law.

VVA achieved success in the 106th Congress, but we have much more to accomplish in the future. I am looking forward to a productive year as the 107th Congress begins its work.

Veterans Affairs Semiannual Committee Report

By Bob Maras, Chair

At our recent National Board meeting, the Veterans Affairs Committee began the process of reviewing convention resolutions. We will continue working on them to meet the deadline for necessary changes or deletions. Committee members put a lot of good ideas on the table, and we will act on them. Please remember that the ideas of all members are welcome and important to the committee.

We have had several meetings on Capitol Hill and with the new Veterans Administration Secretary, Anthony Principi. He is one of us, a Vietnam veteran, so let’s give him a chance to do his job. Rest assured that we will keep an eye on him and will hold additional meetings with him to make sure our veterans are not forgotten.

As the 107th Congress begins its work, there are a number of bills of importance to veterans. The most pressing are those dealing with hep C. We are hopeful that we will get the necessary legislation passed for testing and compensation for this terrible disease.

 

On a final note, once again this year we are holding our "Take the Hill" rally in Washington. The date is June 14 at 11:00 a.m. on the steps of the Capitol. This year we have the support of the A.F.G.E. and several veterans groups. If you are able to attend, please do so.

Women Veterans Committee Semiannual Report

By Marsha Four, Chair

Our committee tries to accomplish many things for veterans on the fronts of membership, advocacy, outreach, health care, benefits, and legislation. But the committee is a very small component contributing to the overall accomplishments of VVA. Success can only be measured when the efforts of all contributors are taken into account. The effort of those working in the field at the state council and chapter levels, with veterans, other Veterans Service Organizations, agencies, organizations, legislators, friends, and families serving as advocates and activists and keeping abreast of local situations--this is where the true progress is made and felt.

The committee recognizes that achievement has been realized through your efforts. We thank you for all you have done on behalf of women veterans and all veterans.

In early February, I was part of a group that met at the VVA national office with the newly appointed secretary of Veterans Affairs, Anthony Principi. It was an opportunity for Vietnam Veterans of America to discuss a host of issues in a relaxed setting. Several woman veterans' issues were discussed, including the rating schedule for service-connected mastectomies and the Woman Veteran Coordinator Program. We were given to believe that this initial dialogue will continue, both in our offices and in Mr. Principi's. I look forward to more conversations with the secretary.

The women veterans display in the Harbison Room of the national office is taking shape. It includes historic items and photographs related to women veterans and their work in VVA. It will remain a work in progress. If you have anything you feel would be appropriate for this display, please contact me through the national office.

 

The committee has been reviewing convention resolutions. We are working in concert with other VVA committees on resolutions that involve collaboration. No new resolutions have been forwarded to the committee at this time.

 

The planning of the Women Veterans Breakfast at the National Convention is under way. We also intend to have an informal get-together of women veterans at the convention. Information on these two events will be forthcoming.

Lt. Sharon Lane of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps served in Vietnam with the 312th Evac Hospital in Chu Lai. She was killed during a mortar attack on June 8, 1969. Sharon was a resident of Canton, Ohio, and is among those women whose names are etched on The Wall. A clinic in Chu Lai has been built in her honor. It will be dedicated in March. VietAid, a humanitarian organization that has worked in Hue for many years, is the sponsor of the clinic. The cost of the project is estimated at $25,000. If you are interested in information about this project, contact: Larson Ross, President, VietAid, P.O. Box 820, Arizona City, AZ 85223; 520-466-6644; larson@casagrande.com

 

I would like to thank those state councils that include me on the mailing lists for their state newspapers. The papers have their own unique flavors. I really enjoy reading them.

Chair: Marsha Four. Vice Chair: Sandy Miller. Members: Agnes Feak, Ernie Dogwolf Lovato, Bob Maras, Judy McCombs, Linda Schwartz, Beverly Stewart, and Sandie Wilson. Special Advisers: Cindy Falzone, Kay Gardner, Martha Green, Donna Keffer, Charlotte Rebillard, Jacqueline Rector, Fara Sanchez, and Mary Ellen White. Staff Coordinator: Tavashia Edwards.

 

Veterans Against Drugs Committee Semiannual Report

By Herb Worthington, Chair

 

Veterans Against Drugs is having growing pains. One year ago, this task force was in three locations. Today, we are in Pennsylvania, California, New Jersey, Texas, New York, and Vermont. We will be opening more locations in many of these states. We hope to begin programs in Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, and Oregon by the end of the year.

But we need your help.

As veterans, we have been called on to do many things in our lifetimes. Some have been for country, some for family, and some have contributed to our personal growth.

We are asking all VVA and AVVA members to take the initiative and step forward again. Please help fight the drugs that are killing our children. Get involved in your community. As Vietnam veterans, we have been called dope heads and may other names. Now we have the opportunity to answer those critics. This program also takes on another enemy of our youth: violence. Violence goes hand in hand with the drugs.

It’s a good bet that everyone reading this column has a family member or friend who has been harmed as a result of using drugs or by the violence surrounding drug use. Drugs don’t care how old you are, what you do for a living, how much of an education you have, or what color you are.

There is personal growth with this program. It does take time, but you get back what you give out. Just ask the people who are working in Vets Against Drugs programs.

A friend asked: "Who really makes a difference in a person’s life?" He asked if I could name the five wealthiest people in the world, the last five Heiseman Trophy winners, the last five winners of the Miss America contest, ten people who have won the Nobel Prize, or six Academy Award winners. I couldn’t get past more than a couple in most categories. None of us remembers the headliners of yesterday, even though they were tops in their fields.

Then he asked me to list some teachers who have helped me in school, some other people who had taught me something worthwhile, and people who had made me feel appreciated and special. This was easy: I went on and on.

"The people who make a difference in another person’s life are not the ones with the most awards, the most money, or the most credentials," he said. "They are the ones who care." He said he wanted to thank the Veterans Against Drugs program because we are making a difference because we care. Join us. Call me at 908-486-2087 or Debra Williams at the national office. You will be glad you did.

Chair: Herb Worthington. Members: Gerald Corrento, Richard Bergling, Jim Blair, Tom Corey, Calvin Gross, Chuck Hall, Herb Hankerson, Jerry Klein, Douglass Perkins, and Carlton Rhodes. Special Adviser: Margaret Wojciechowicz. Staff Coordinator: Deborah Williams.

 

Task Force on Homeless Veterans Semiannual Report

By Bob Piaro, Chair

The Task Force on Homeless Veterans has had several accomplishments that have changed the conditions affecting homeless veterans.

Vietnam Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization that has a homeless task force or committee with a budget and with members who are direct providers of homeless-veterans programs around the country. These members work their programs 365 days a year and are nationally recognized for their efforts. VVA, by establishing the Task Force on Homeless Veterans, has insured that homeless veterans will have a true advocate.

The VVA Task Force on Homeless Veterans has been working with VVA Chapter 536, Kern County (California) Veterans Service Department, Vietnam Veterans Assistance Fund, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to develop a homeless veterans program in Kern County. On February 1, 2001, the first home opened. It will house up to six veterans with supportive services. Vietnam Veterans of America once again is leading the way in the fight for homeless veterans by providing them with direct services.

LEGISLATION ALERT

The most comprehensive homeless veterans legislation was introduced in the 106th Congress by Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.). The Heather French Homeless Veterans Assistance Act of 2000 will be reintroduced this year. Please try to get your legislators to support this bill. Like so many issues that we advocate for on behalf of veterans, this is not a political issue.

The homeless veterans problem in America is a national disgrace. To leave our wounded brother and sisters on the field is truly unacceptable. This must be addressed. We cannot forget our veterans. Together, we can make a difference in their lives.

Chair: Robert R. Piaro. Vice Chairs: Marsha Four and Paul Sutton. Members: Ernie Dogwolf Lovato, John Margowski (CSCP liaison), Sandy Miller, Rocky Snow. Special Advisers: Linda Boone, Lynda Greene, Charlotte Rebillard, Jeanni Wells (AVVA liaison). Staff Coordinator: Sharon Hodge.

Veterans Initiative Task Force Semiannual Report

By Tom Corey

The Veterans Initiative Task Force meets quarterly during National Board of Directors meetings. The VITF coordinates with the POW/MIA Committee on the matter of which American POW/MIA cases to return to Vietnam and Laos for further investigation or inquiries. VITF resolutions were reviewed and changes were recommended. Letters of support for the Veterans Initiative from Joint Task Force-Full Accounting (JTF-FA) officials and other key personnel received over the years were distributed to VITF and to the Board of Directors.

The VITF will produce a six-year review of the VI program. The review will be distributed to the membership. We will have a table at the VVA National Convention to provide information and display the work of the VI. Task force members discussed those who continue to criticize the VITF. It was the consensus of the group to continue the mission of the VI and to allow the few who have constant complaints or who are not satisfied with any answer that we provide to bring their concerns to the Convention. The resolutions adopted by the delegates speak to the role of this task force, and it should remain that way until the delegates see fit to make any changes.

 

The budget was reviewed, and everyone agreed to not ask for an increase. The time frame for the next VI delegation to Vietnam was discussed. As in the past, the date will be selected when appropriate individuals are available for meetings in Vietnam and Laos. Those meetings will be with key individuals from JTF-FA, the Viet Nam Office of Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP), and the Veterans Association of Vietnam (VAV). As of this writing, the next delegation will likely travel in the late April/early May time frame.

There was discussion about American veterans with knowledge of Vietnamese burial sites who have volunteered to return to Vietnam to help the Vietnamese locate their missing. VITF members have worked with these veterans in hopes that Vietnamese witnesses will come forward with information on missing Americans. The Veterans Initiative is a proven approach for those who still believe that we have a responsibility to unaccounted-for American service members.

Members: Charlie Brown, Tom Corey, George Claxton, Ken Deal, Jim Doyle, Bob Maras, Dan Johnson, Bob Reiser, Jack Thomas, Jeff White, Alan Cook, and Richard Delong. Special Advisers: Janet Alheit, Sarah Bernasconi, and Bill Duker. Staff Coordinator: Mokie Porter.

   

E-mail us at TheVeteran@vva.org

 

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