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

April 2002/May 2002

Vietnam Veterans of America
SEMIANNUAL COMMITTEE REPORTS

 
Resolution P-8-99 States:

"Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc., at National Convention in Anaheim, California, August 10-15, 1999, requires that all national committees report semiannually in The VVA Veteran on actions taken which further the implementation of currently active committee resolutions."
Agent Orange/Dioxin
Finance Committee
Membership Affairs
Minority Affairs
POW/MIA Affairs
PTSD/Substance Abuse
Public Affairs
Veterans Affairs
Veterans Benefits
Veterans Incarcerated
Women Veterans
Veterans Against Drugs
Veterans Initiative

 


Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee
BY PAUL SUTTON, CHAIR

AGENT ORANGE CLASS ACTION SUIT 

In Stephenson v. Dow Chemical, Vietnam veterans alleged they were injured by exposure to Agent Orange while in Vietnam. In the late 1990s, they filed lawsuits against manufacturers of Agent Orange. The chemical companies moved to dismiss on the grounds that the claims were barred by the 1984 class-action settlement. The veterans argued that their claims were not barred because their injuries did not manifest themselves until after all the AO settlement funds were depleted in 1994 and that there had been inadequate representation of individuals whose claims arose after the settlement funds were depleted. 

Judge Weinstein rejected the veterans' arguments and granted the chemical companies' motion to dismiss. The veterans appealed Judge Weinstein's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. On November 30, 2001, a three-judge panel vacated Judge Weinstein's dismissal of the cases and remanded for further proceedings. The veterans have won the right to go forward with their case. 

RANCH HAND DATA REVIEW 

In November, I attended a briefing on the retrospective review of the birth defects data sets the committee purchased from the USAF Ranch Hand Study. 

A vital part of our committee's work is the administration of a $10,000 grant awarded by VVAF for an analysis of the birth-defect data in the Ranch Hand Study. None of this data was ever released by the Air Force and references to it by the Air Force obscured and misrepresented the data. 

There are some striking data hidden within the studies--data that should have been available to Vietnam veterans at the time of the class-action suit. Even though we may be precluded from additional litigation against the chemical companies and the government, we will be able to tell our membership, "What we suspected was there is there, and this is what we now know." 

U.S.-VIETNAM SCIENTIFIC CONFERENCE ON HUMAN HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS OF AGENT ORANGE/DIOXIN 

At the invitation and expense of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), VVA National President Thomas H. Corey, Linda Schwartz, and I attended the U.S.-Vietnam Conference on Human Health and Environmental Effects of Agent Orange/Dioxin, held in Hanoi. Linda Schwartz and I made presentations.

On March 3, we attended opening sessions and heard several guest speakers, including U.S. Ambassador Raymond F. Burghardt. Later, we participated in a formal poolside dinner for 400 guests--280 of them Vietnamese scientists, government employees, and representatives from non-governmental organizations. 

NIEHS= Dr. Christopher Portier had made it very clear at meetings prior to the conference that he had little regard for the work done by the Vietnamese scientific community. He said that its methods are "not similar" to Western scientific practices and that very little of it had been peer-reviewed or published in scientific publications. The Vietnamese have little in the way of equipment and that it has been difficult for them to get their science done. 

On March 4, Corey and I were interviewed by Reuters News TV before the conference sessions. Later, Schwartz and I presented our papers, which were well received. During lunch, our group met with a Lao delegation.

I was struck by the reaction of several of the scientists to my presentation and the questions they generated. Three of the scientists were NVA veterans and one had served as a chemical warfare officer during the war. The questions centered on the CDC studies and the diseases for which American veterans were currently receiving compensation. I also told them about spina bifida compensation paid to children.

Later in the day, Dr. Larry Needham claimed, "CDC found no reason to believe that any U.S. troops, other than U.S. Air Force Ranch veterans, experienced exposure to Agent Orange and that there was no reason to suspect exposure to ground troops." When challenged on this statement, he said that he did not intend to convey that impression. 

On Tuesday, we attended conference sessions. One of the presentations was by Dr. Han Kang of the VA, who presented data from several VA studies conducted in the 1980s and early 1990s that have been widely disparaged by VVA and others.  His presentation was immediately attacked by the Vietnamese scientific community. 

During closing sessions, Vietnamese scientists used the 2000 NAS/IOM reports to point out the diseases and disabilities for which U.S. veterans currently receive service-connected compensation based upon the NAS/IOM recommendations by DVA in 1993, 1996, 1998, and 2000. They indicated that these same illnesses and disabilities are experienced by Vietnamese citizens in the south. 

At the Vietnamese Organizing Committee press conference, Dr. Portier publicly acknowledged VVA=s participation in and work towards insuring that this conference happened. 

On March 7, Round Table workshop discussions took place between Vietnamese and American scientists to suggest research in Vietnam that would strengthen the understanding of health and environmental effects of Agent Orange and dioxin. Discussions were separated into two tracks, health-effects research and environmental-effects research.

There will also be a second conference, Long-term Ecological and Health Consequences of the Vietnam War, at Yale University School of Nursing, September 13-15, also funded  by NIEHS. 

Chair: Paul Sutton. Vice Chair: Linda Schwartz. Members: Lois Beck, Thomas Berger, James Branum, David Carter, John "JD" Davis, Ken Deal, William Dumsick, Alan Gibson, Michael Lay, Darrel Martin, and Robert Stocker. Special Advisers: George Claxton, Fran Davis, Catherine Greene, and Gerald Ney. Staff Coordinator: Jennifer Oliver.

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Finance Committee
BY ALAN COOK, CHAIR 

There are no resolutions to report from the Finance Committee, but we have been busy on several fronts. The first order of business was to establish a budget for the current fiscal year. The committee met in December to balance the VVA budget. We were not sure what impact the September 11th event would have on the revenue of the organization, so we projected a decrease in revenue. As we started the budget process, we faced the largest deficit since the committee has been involved in the budget process, which has been over ten years. 

The committee worked the budget deficit down from $941,000 to $2,300 and was still able to increase the Veterans Benefits staff. We also finished before 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, which was a first for the committee. The budget was presented to the Board of Directors at the January meeting.  It was approved by the officers and Board. The budget meets the obligations of the organization.

In accordance with VVA's financial policies and procedures, the Finance Committee began reviewing contracts. This procedure has not been done for many years. The Finance committee has several subcommittees: Scholarship, Investment, and Budget Oversight. The Budget Oversight Subcommittee is responsible for monitoring each cost center budget; this insures all individuals and departments stay within their yearly budgets.  

I would like to thank the Finance Committee members. I also want to thank Joe Sternburg, Dana Crosse, Sutonta Thumprasert, and the rest of the Finance Department staff.  

Chair: Alan Cook. Vice Chair: Wayne Reynolds. Members: Marv Freedman, Floyd Greenwell, John Miner, Steve Mulcahy, Walter Orton, John Rowan, and Sandie Wilson. Special Advisers: Nancy Montgomery and Ed Chow. Staff Coordinator: Joseph Sternburg.

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Membership Affairs Committee
BY BILL MEEKS, JR., CHAIR

With the coming of spring, it=s branding time out on the range, and that means it=s membership renewal time here at VVA. Each year, most of our membership rosters shrink at renewal time.  Without a valiant effort to contact non-renewing members, they will be lost. This is not a new problem, but have you ever wondered what causes members not to renew their membership in VVA? What steps has your chapter taken to resolve this problem? You could reevaluate your chapter operation, seek out the issues that could contribute to this problem, and make the changes that are necessary to insure that these members remain part of the team. 

Every even-numbered year VVA holds the National Leadership Conference. We do so to help members understand the operation of VVA and to provide a starting point for those members who are interested in becoming leaders in VVA. This year the Membership Affairs Committee has requested time slots for three jam-packed seminars in Tucson. The “Chapter Development” seminar will address such topics as what makes a successful chapter, how to hold an effective meeting, and parliamentary law and procedure. The “Membership Administration and Internet” seminar will provide information on membership processing, database use, and the Internet as an effective tool. Finally, the “Membership Recruitment and Retention” seminar will provide ideas for recruiting and retaining members. I hope to see lots of new faces at the Leadership Conference. Why wait? Make your plans now to attend. 

Chair: Bill Meeks, Jr. Vice Chair: Lupe Alviar, Jr. Members: Tom Berger, Fred Elliott, Hank Evans, Ned Foote, Rocky Gothard, Floyd Greenwell, Charlie Montgomery, Charlie Richardson, Fara Sanchez, and Dick Southern. Special Adviser: Marcia Hicks. Staff Coordinator: Ernestine Horton.

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Minority Affairs Committee
BY FRANCISCO F. IVARRA, CHAIR

The National Minority Affairs Committee met during the October 2001, January 2002, and March 2002 VVA National Board of Directors meetings in Silver Spring, Maryland.

We have outstanding and impressive members who are strongly committed to guiding the success of the Minority Affairs Committee. Fara Sanchez has been appointed Vice Chair, and Ed Chow will serve as the Special Adviser to the committee. Subcommittees have been established to research the history of the committee, to define the current role of the committee, to develop the meaningful goals and objectives of the committee, and to implement the ways and means to remain a visible and viable committee.

At the January meeting, the committee decided to focus on the August 2002 VVA Leadership Conference in Tucson. Our work will include:

          1.   Organizing a Minority Veterans Historical Display

          2.   Conducting a seminar, panel discussion, or town hall meeting with the mission and message of outreach to the veterans community

          3.   Inviting prominent national leaders to be part of this event

Committee members decided that an informational pamphlet is needed to explain the purpose and mission of the Minority Affairs Committee. Our goal is to develop a pamphlet prior to the National Leadership Conference. We also will be providing The VVA Veteran with periodic historical notes about the many significant contributions that minority veterans have made to the military during times of war and peace.

At the January meeting, the committee unanimously endorsed a resolution in support of the American Veterans Committee for Puerto Rico Self‑Determination, a resolution that supports Puerto Rico's veterans in their efforts for self‑determination, equality, and democracy.

Finally, a name change for the committee is under consideration. The word “minority” may be replaced with a more suitable and appropriate term.

We have a considerable amount of work ahead of us, but this committee is prepared to meet the challenge. We will accept our responsibilities, and we will not fail.

Chair: Francisco F. Ivarra. Vice Chair: Fara Sanchez. Members: Lee Fisher, Patricia Fisher, Virgie Hibbler, Joe Jennings, Richard LaBarre, Mark Lumpkin, Arnold Pinckney, Carlton Rhodes, Simon Sierra, and Connie Steers. Special Adviser: Ed Chow. Staff Coordinator: Deborah Johnson.

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POW/MIA Affairs Committee
BY BRUCE LINNELL, CHAIR
 

As stated in the VVA Constitution, “The POW/MIA Committee shall seek and promote the fullest accounting of those still listed as POW/MIAs in Southeast Asia and any other areas of the world, regardless of the conflict that initiated their disappearance. The committee shall disseminate information received on the POW/MIA issue to the National Board of Directors, State Councils, Chapters, POW/MIA families and friends, and VVA membership as called upon.” 

Over the past six months, the committee has executed its responsibilities as defined by the Constitution in the following ways: 

To help achieve the fullest possible accounting of our POW/MIAs, we have invited other members of the POW/MIA advocates community to join our committee as special advisers. By more effectively communicating with other concerned organizations, we are able to strengthen our collective efforts towards the fullest possible accounting through communication and collaboration.  

We have been honored by the addition to our committee of representatives from the National League of Families, the National Alliance of Families, Sons and Daughters in Touch, and AVVA. The committee also has made a commitment to participate in the activities of those organizations. Invitations for other organizations to join with us are being discussed.  

To improve the dissemination of information on POW/MIA issues, we have created an Internet talklist for POW/MIA Committee members at the national, state, and chapter levels. We also have developed an Internet distribution list to share information with advocates in the POW/MIA community, organizations, and individuals who wish to be kept informed. Anyone who would like to receive these postings should send a request to blinnell@vva.org  

We also are in the process of developing a POW/MIA web page to be included on the VVA web site. To further improve the quality of information available to the public, we have begun an inventory of POW/MIA-related websites and will link those sites that offer responsible and accurate information to our web page. 

The committee is preparing to mail to members of the U.S. Congress a complete set of the 13 VVA Convention Resolutions relating to the POW/MIA Committee. Also included in the mailing will be the POW/MIA Committee=s Policy Statement, the Committee=s legislative action agenda, and President Tom Corey=s March 20 statement to the House and Senate Veterans= Affairs Committees. 

We have begun a review of committee correspondence over the past two years to determine if there are any unresolved issues or questions that may have been posed to individuals, organizations, or government entities that would require a follow-up from us. In short, we are trying to find out if any committee initiatives have been dropped, and if so, we will do our best to pick them up again. 

There has been much to keep us busy over the past six months, and we look forward to the next six with a great deal of enthusiasm. 

Chair: Bruce Linnell. Members: Dan Carr, Hank Evans, Buster Holmberg, Ben Humphries, Bob Johnson, Larry Klein, Doug Perkins, John Rowan, Frank Stacey, and Jack Thomas. Special Advisers: Mike Benge, Bill Duker, Susie Ragan, Kay Gardner, and Michelle Baugh. Staff Coordinator: Sharon Hodge.

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PTSD/Substance Abuse Committee
BY STEVE MASON, CHAIR

John Steinbeck wrote, “There are those among us who live in rooms of experience we can never enter.” The mentally ill and those who suffer the varied symptoms of PTSD live in such rooms.  This committee and, indeed, our entire membership and their families understand too well what life in such rooms really is.

Consistent with that understanding, this committee is working to satisfy the resolutions adopted at our National Convention of 2001.  The tragedy of September 11th did not deter the committee from developing its agenda to deliver the best results possible.  It did, however, dramatically point out the weaknesses that exist within the VHA to satisfy the increased needs of families and veterans. Yes, it is about money. There is always that. But it is also about complacency, inefficiency, and indifference.

The VISN as a system is simply not equal to the task because it is inconsistent in the delivery of its services among the 21 VISNs. A veteran presenting his symptoms in New York may not receive the same care and treatment as he or she might in California or Georgia. Certainly, this is true for the severally mentally ill, as distinguished from those with PTSD or substance abuse. It is the opinion of this committee chair that so far as forming coalitions with other organizations is concerned, the need for Mental Health Courts in each of the 50 states should be lobbied. Our prisons, park benches, and cemeteries offer abundant proof that it should be aggressively addressed.

There are 204 Vet Centers. However well-staffed and well-intentioned the center, the need for its services is incalculably greater than the Department of Veterans Affairs Readjustment Counseling Service can provide. We must look to the private sector.

This committee is committed to what it considers to be its dual role, Advocacy and Education. Toward that end, it is working to develop through pamphlet, web site, and the dialogue with newly forming coalitions to satisfy its mission.  It assigns no priority to the issue or the symptom.  Rape victim, combat veteran, wife, significant other, child, or schizophrenic: No “room of experience” is of greater or lesser value to this committee.

According to an Associated Press article, nearly two thousand of the 14,000 firefighters in New York who performed with such magnificence following the attack on the World Trade Center have seen counselors for nightmares, anger, and stress. The counseling unit that saw 600 people in 2000 had 11 counselors and clinicians. It now has five times that number. The counseling service director, Malachy Corrigan, said “Their coping skills are breaking down.”

I love New York and honor all its heroes and victims. I love America. My only question is how can our federal government do less for its heroes and victims?

Chair: Steve Mason. Vice Chair: Father Phil Salois. Members: Lupe Alviar, Sandy Miller, Wayne Reynolds. Special Advisers: Nancy Switzer, Dee Hagge, Susan Rozalski, and Mary Yeomans. Staff Coordinator: Mokie Porter.

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Public Affairs Committee
BY JIM DOYLE, CHAIR
 

What follows is an update on the Public Affairs Committee's progress in fulfilling the Convention Resolutions that guide our work. 

P-1-01 Community Service. VVA chapters and state councils are involved in every aspect of community life. The “Membership Notes” section of The VVA Veteran is a report on the various community-service projects VVA members are involved in across the country.  

P-2-01 Children's Welfare. VVA members are engaged in efforts to protect children and promote their positive development through programs such as Foster Parents, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and other youth-oriented projects. 

P-3-01 Chapter Involvement with Educational Institutions on Teaching the Vietnam War. The VVA Educational Guidebook, distributed at the 2001 Convention in Greensboro, is a blueprint for successful educational outreach and is being used by chapters and state councils in their education programs. 

P-4-01 Regulation of Certain Activities at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. VVA continues to be active in working with the U.S. Park Service to insure the sanctity of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and enforcement of regulations pertaining to appropriate activities at The Wall.  

P-5-01 Endorsement for Participation in Local Environmental Efforts. Through the various communication channels of VVA, our members are able to share information on activities and efforts to protect our environment from hazardous toxic waste.  

P-6-01 Biennial Publication of the VVA Constitution, Convention Resolutions, Code of Conduct in The VVA Veteran. The VVA Constitution and Resolutions are published in The VVA Veteran following biennial national conventions.  

P-7-01 Requirement to Report Semiannual Progress on All Currently Approved Resolutions. These reports have become a regular part of The VVA Veteran and provide valuable information to our members.  

P-8-01 The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. VVA and AVVA members regularly fulfill our commitment to conserve the legacy, respect, and honor of The Wall. Vietnam veterans and their families engage in activities such as washing The Wall and maintaining the lighting at The Wall.  

P-9-01 Vietnam War In Memory Memorial Plaque Project. VVA is a full partner with the Vietnam War In Memory Memorial Plaque Project. VVA has testified on behalf of the project, and chapters and state councils participate in public awareness and fund-raising activities. 

P-10-01 Recognition of the Veterans Against Drugs Task Force. VVA recognizes and supports the commitment of members of the Veterans Against Drugs Task Force to be drug-free as an example of the values of VVA.  

P-11-01 Support for Chapel Recognition Program. Paul Sutton, National Liaison to the Chapel of the Four Chaplains, regularly reports activities recognizing VVA members who are selected to receive one of the three honors bestowed by the Chapel.   

Chair: Jim Doyle. Members: Alan Cook, Tom Hall, Larry Klein, Bruce Linnell, James Maddox, Steve Mason, John Miner, Charlie Mitchem, Will Schwartz, Jack Thomas, Avery Taylor, Ray Truelove. Special Advisers: Herb Hankerson, Mary Miller, Joyce Miner, Charlotte Rebillard, John Rowan, Nancy Switzer, Margaret Wojciechowicz, Ginny Richards, George Duggins, Bob Piaro, Joanne Harkins, and Dick Southern. Staff Coordinator: Mokie Porter.

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Veteran Affairs Committee
BY ROBERT MARAS, CHAIR

It's no surprise: The VA budget is on the desk of the President, and the veteran once again comes up short to the tune of $1.6 billion. This shortfall will affect all the VISNs. I don't know which areas will take a hit. But rest assured, as I get information I will keep you informed. 

Hepatitis C is the hot-button issue right now. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) reports that 6.6 percent of veterans who use VHA services are infected with hepatitis C--more than three times the national average of 1.8 percent. VHA missed the opportunity to screen as many as three million veterans, potentially leaving as many as 200,000 veterans unaware that they are infected with hepatitis C. 

There is also another potential problem with hepatitis C. It concerns minorities with hepatitis C. Genotyping generally is not done, and minorities are not told of the low success rate due to this problem. Minority veterans go into the program and--no surprise--find no real change in their condition.  

As you may know, the VA's Fourth Mission is to lend support in the case of national disasters. On September 11, the local VISN answered that call. I want to thank the doctors and staff who went the extra mile to assist at the World Trade Center. The VA once again had to dip into an empty pot of money to do what it had to do to help out, and it managed to do so.  

Chair: Robert W. Maras. Vice Chair: Jerry Klein. Members: Jim Blair, Donald Cannon, Marsha Four, Leverett Hobbs, Ken Holybee, Ray Hutchison, Jerry Klein, Ernie “Dogwolf” Lovato, Albert Lewis, Steve Mason, and Bruce Whitaker. Special Adviser: Dee Hagge. Staff Coordinator: Rick Weidman.

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Veterans Benefits Committee
BY STEVE MULCAHY, CHAIR

I appreciate the confidence our National President, Tom Corey, has in me by appointing me to this position. As a member of this committee for several years, I have seen what needs to be done, and I hope we can accomplish it in the next two years. I am a firm believer in the committee process and hope everyone on the committee, with the help of the national staff, will make this the best benefits program in this country.  

I also would like to commend the national staff for continually having the best win rate at the Board of Veterans' Appeals. This shows the quality and dedication of our people. It is one thing just to do the job, but quite another to be the best at it month after month. When our Service Representatives tell people who come to them for help that we have the best win rate at BVA, that says a lot about how dedicated we are to the cause of veterans helping veterans. It also tells them that we know what we are doing when it comes to handling their VA claims.  

We went to extended meeting times each quarter to try and get through the load of information that the committee must act on each time we meet. We believe we have refined the Benefits Program policies to meet the ever-changing responsibility of our committee. We want to stress the importance of filing quarterly reports so the national staff will be kept abreast of the kinds of problems we are having in the field and what we need to schedule in future training sessions.  

I am pleased to announce that the Basic Training this year will be held in Nashville. It will be Sunday, June 9, to Thursday, June 13. We did this to get in a Saturday-night stay to reduce plane fares and to get the training out of the Washington, D.C., area. We are going to see if this increases attendance. We believe some people will drive and save money.  

Advanced Training will take place the Wednesday before the start of the Leadership Conference in Tucson. It will be an all-day class for accredited Service Representatives who require this type of training every other year. If possible, all accredited Service Reps should attend because there is always more to learn. Our national staff will talk about the recent changes at this class.  

We are going to make every effort to bring you the department's quarterly report in The VVA Veteran. I would like to thank all those who have come to my aid in the form of helpful input and constructive criticism since I have taken on this job. I could not have done it without your help. I want every member of VVA to know that we, in the Benefits Committee, welcome comments and suggestions. So keep them coming.  

Chair: Steve Mulcahy. Members: Ron Adams, Randy Barnes, Judi Greig, Jim Grissom, Al “Butch” Huber, Jerry Klein, Bob Maras, Pat Pudetti, and Charlie Richardson. Special Advisers: Paul Angrisano, Rocky Gothard, and Bill Williams. Staff Coordinator: Leonard Selfon.

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Veterans Incarcerated Committee
BY JOHN KOPROWSKI, CHAIR

Since our convention last August, the Veterans Incarcerated Committee has been working on several tasks and goals as mandated by the VVA Constitution, Resolutions, and the Strategic Plan.

In October, at our first meeting, the committee members met, and goals for the coming year were adopted. Of concern is adequate health care for veterans incarcerated, elderly veterans being released from prison, hepatitis C, and diabetes testing. We also are working on a Veterans Incarcerated page on VVA's web site and revising the mission statement.

The part‑time position of a Veterans Incarcerated Coordinator at the national office is of great concern to the committee. During the past six months, more than five hundred requests for assistance through letters, e‑mails, and telephone calls have been received. It is a daily task to respond to these inquires in a timely manner.

The committee has restored its membership with the American Correctional Association, which will keep us informed of current correctional topics and related news. The Mission Statement has been updated and will soon be sent out with the revised “White Paper,” which was first published April 1998. These two documents should answer the majority of inquiries requesting services.

The VVA From Felon to Freedom booklet, which is often requested, is only to be used as a planning guide for the veteran who is within 90 days from being released from prison. It offers a list of resources to assist the veteran's transition back to society. It presently is being revised to include new and current information. The availability date has not been determined.

The committee has taken on the project of developing a Liaison's Manual for sponsors and volunteers to assist them in becoming effective liaisons. It will have ground rules, rules of the road, do's and don'ts, and guidelines for working with incarcerated chapters or groups and Department of Correction officials.

The committee has requested that State Council Presidents appoint liaisons from each state to assist the Veteran Incarcerated Coordinator and the committee with contacts on the state level. This will give us a tool to work back and forth on ideas, programs, and suggestions

I would like to thank all the members of the committee for their commitment in serving and for the knowledge and experience they bring to the committee. With their enthusiasm, we can make a difference.

Chair: John Koprowski. Vice Chair: Adolph Gardner. Members: Ron Adams, Bruce Hestley, Allen Manuel, Jim Saunsaucie, and Rocky Snow. Special Advisers: Marcia Hicks, Steve Mason, Wayne Miller, Jeani Wells, and Jeff White. Staff Coordinator: Gnat Slayton.

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Women Veterans Committee
BY MARSHA FOUR, CHAIR

Resolution WV-1-01  Support for Women Veterans. Women veterans have held positions at the chapter, state, and national levels, including committee chairs, board directors, and officer positions. At the national level, each member of the Women Veterans Committee is a member or liaison to another committee, actively taking part and attending to the issues of that committee with respect to women veterans. We are working with the Veterans Benefits Committee on a presentation for the Leadership Conference related to sexual and personal trauma. The committee is in the process of obtaining copies of a 78-page booklet, “Women Veterans Employment,” which will be shared with the ETABO Committee. It was produced by W.R.E.I. (Women’s Research & Educational Institute).

Additionally, the Women Veterans brochure continues to be distributed. It is included in the semiannual packet distributed to the State Council Presidents for distribution to their state Women Veterans Committee chairs. Members of the committee have assisted the Membership Committee on the Mall during Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

As a member of the VA Women Veterans Advisory Committee, I regularly receive information from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: VHA, VBA, National Cemetery, and Vet Centers. 

Resolution WV-2-01 Women Veterans Study. Although information in the VA Women Vietnam Veterans Reproductive Outcomes Health Study (October 1998) contributed to the recent legislation providing benefits to children with birth defects born to women who served in Vietnam, this study did not address the issue of women exposed to Agent Orange. Linda Schwartz, a member of the committee, is working on a new study to address this issue.

Other committee members are lending assistance to this study and to Schwartz. A symposium is planned at Yale University in September. The VA regulations for benefits to children with birth defects born to women who served in Vietnam have been put forth and have been finalized after a 30-day comment period. 

Resolution WV-3-01 Medical Treatment of Women Veterans by  DVA. The newly appointed director of the VA Center for Women Veterans, Irene Trowell-Harris, presented information at our last committee meeting in January. (See interview in this issue.) Carole Turner, the director of the VA Women Veterans Health Programs Office, has been attentive to our issues and questions. One concern is meeting the needs of women veterans in the expanding Community-based Out-patient Clinic system.             

We are reviewing HR 536 and the inclusion of the VA Medical Centers in it.  The bill, briefly, deals with minimum hospitalization after mastectomy surgery.  We have spoken to majority and minority staff members of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees about this bill. VVA has contacted the Office of Rep. Rosa DeLauro (one of the bill’s sponsors) in an effort to gather information.            

Discussion also has begun on the elimination of the sunset clause on eligibility to gain access to treatment and care for military sexual trauma. This is due for renewal in 2004.

Resolution WV-4-01 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Women Veteran Coordinator Program. The committee has been keeping a close watch on this item.  The VA has had an internal panel reviewing and evaluating the program. Recommendations are being carried forward with the hope that Coordinators in the VA Medical Centers will have no less than a .5 FTEE, understanding that those coordinator positions with an existing FTEE greater than .5 will not be diminished. This committee stresses the importance of a full-time Women Veteran Coordinator in each VISN office to provide coordinated programs, oversight, outreach, linkage with state agencies, and assistance with the needs of CBOCs. 

Chair: Marsha Four. Vice Chair: Sandy Miller. Members: Lois Beck, Judi Greig, Bob Maras, Judy McCombs, Fara Sanchez, Ann Marie Rutallie, Linda Schwartz, Mary Ellen White, and Sandie Wilson. Special Advisers: Bill Duker, Joan Furey, Martha Green, Sara McVicker, Beverly Stewart, Nancy Switzer, and Sandra Spatz-Wiszneaucka.

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Veterans Against Drugs Task Force
BY HERB WORTHINGTON, CHAIR

Letters have been sent out to all the other veterans service organizations inviting them to join us in our battle against drugs and violence. Thus far, the Legion of Valor, the National County Service Officers Association, and Incarcerated Veterans have endorsed the program. We are also talking to other groups that expressed interest in joining us as we speak to our youth and portray the positive image that we need to have in our communities. As in any war, there is strength in numbers. We plan to make a presentation at the Leadership Conference in August.

West Virginia is on board and has done wonderful things in a short period of time. Bakersfield, California, is continuing to impress the local population with all they do. Philadelphia has had a major loss with the recent passing of one of its founders, Rich Montgomery. Rich's program, called Lost Dreams on Canvas, has achieved national acclaim. Seeing the pictures of kids who have been killed due to violent crime and reading their biographies pulls at the toughest soldiers' heart strings. One of the last things that Rich requested was that the program continue. We have spoken to the dedicated men and women of the Philadelphia program, and they have assured us that the program will go on.

Long Island, New York, and New Jersey are doing great. San Antonio, Texas, has a group of hard‑working people led by Louis R. Rocco, a Medal of Honor recipient. Louis has had some health problems but still fights the fight.

With warriors such as Medal of Honor recipients, you might ask who else is needed. The answer is simple: We need you. If we are to stop our young people from killing themselves and keep them from doing terrible harm to their friends and families, we have to get involved.

A large percentage of the drugs flooding into our country are coming from the poppy fields in Afghanistan. For those who need a little extra push to join Veterans Against Drugs, that should be the best incentive yet. If you stop one kid from doing drugs, that means less money goes to terrorism.

We are in the process of putting three additional lesson plans together. We also have a VAD web site up and running. The web page will change as time goes on. We hope to show photos of the programs at different sites around the country. Each site is different. The participants range from young people to young adults, from inner city to outer suburbia. Choose a color or nationality, and there is someone involved who meets the description.

The only thing needed to make the program even more successful is you. So stop the excuses. The kids have heard them all. Join us.

Chair: Herb Worthington. Vice Chair: Doug Perkins. Members: James Branum, Larry Coan, Hank Evans, Herb Hankerson, Jerry Klein, Larry Klein, Bob Maras, Carlton Rhodes, and Dave Simmons. Special Advisers: Elaine Simmons and Margaret Wojciechowicz. Staff Coordinator: Deborah Williams.

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Veterans Initiative Task Force
BY WILLIAM C. DUKER, CHAIR

The resolution to require all national committees and task forces to report semiannually was created to provide our membership with current information on how each national committee and task force is complying with its respective resolutions.  The Veterans Initiative Task Force operates under the mandates of two resolutions, VITF-1-01 and VITF-2-01.  The success that the Veterans Initiative Task Force has achieved is a direct result of the simplicity and clarity of those resolutions.  This also has allowed the Veterans Initiative Task Force to remain consistent in its message.

VITF-1-01. This resolution urges anyone, Vietnam veterans in particular, to provide any information that may be available on Vietnamese war dead to the VVA national office.  The VVA national office continues to collect, research, and collate all the information submitted. This information consists of artifacts and souvenirs taken from the war and unmarked Vietnamese grave sites.  The next step is to prepare this information to be presented by the Veterans Initiative Task Force team when it travels to Southeast Asia. The amount of information the national office has received in the last few months has increased significantly.

VITF-2-01. This resolution reaffirms that the primary mission of the Veterans Initiative is to achieve the fullest possible accounting of all American Prisoners of War and Missing in Action in Southeast Asia.  The Veterans Initiative Task Force receives information and requests from veterans, individual family members, family organizations, and the VVA National POW/MIA Committee. These requests and this information are then presented to the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting and the appropriate government officials in the countries that the Veterans Initiative Task Force visits in Southeast Asia. 

The Veterans Initiative continues to meet the mandates of these two resolutions.  The success of the Veterans Initiative is directly related to the amount and accuracy of the information we receive. The Veterans Initiative Task Force is in the process of updating and improving our literature and expanding the opportunities to present this program.     

Chair: William C. Duker. Vice Chair: Richard DeLong. Members: Jim Doyle, Lee Fisher, Tom Hall, Dan Johnson, Bob Maras, Jack Thomas, and Ray Truelove. Special Advisers: Janet Alheit, Michelle Baugh, Alan Cook, Patty Fisher, Bruce Linnell, Susan Ragan, and Jeff White. Staff Coordinator: Mokie Porter.

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