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

March/April 2004

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
ETaBO Committee
Government Affairs
Membership Affairs
POW/MIA Affairs
PTSD/Substance Abuse
Public Affairs
Veterans Affairs
Veterans Benefits
Veterans Incarcerated
Women Veterans
Veterans Initiative
Homeless Veterans
  Project 112/ SHAD
 
 


Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee
BY PAUL SUTTON, CHAIR

Over the past year, this committee has been active in several areas. First, we asked the membership to participate in a renal cancer data-gathering exercise. If you are, or know, a Vietnam veteran with renal (kidney) cancer, please contact Lewis Totten, P.O. Box 831, Belle, WV 25015. He is compiling information on veterans diagnosed with renal cancer in an effort to seek legislation that would add renal cancer to the list of presumptive diseases.

The Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee's 15 Resolutions, proposed at the 11th National
Convention, were unanimously approved without debate. This was gratifying to the committee, which spent countless hours devising policies that would represent VVA's positions on the myriad of healthcare issues facing us and our children.

The committee continues VVA’s affiliation with the National Alliance of Vietnamese-American Service Agencies. There is a great interest on their part in maintaining communications between VVA and NAVASA to continue to provide assistance to the people they represent with information about Agent Orange and the other chemicals used during the war. In November 2003, I was invited to become a non-voting member of the NAVASA national board of directors.

In its November report, the committee proposed a motion, which the Board approved
unanimously, that requested VVA go on record as opposed to a continuation of funding for the Air Force Ranch Hand Study's flawed research. The 2004 Legislative Agenda notes this organizational opposition, and we hope that every VVA member understands and supports the reasons for the opposition.

The committee submitted its final report to VVAF concerning its $10,000 grant for an analysis of the birth defect data, the "USAF Ranch Hand Study Birth Defects Data Retrospective Review." The study reviewed birth defects data in the Ranch Hand Study. None of this data had been released by the Air Force, and references to the data often obscured and misrepresented the outcomes. In October 2001, the committee contracted Yale University School of Nursing to perform the analysis.

We found some striking data hidden within the studies conducted by the Air Force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 U.S. government, we will be able to tell our membershipand all Vietnam veterans"we were right; what we suspected was there is there, and this is what we now know."

While this will not resolve the issues confronting those of us who have spent years and many thousands of dollars studying the childhood illnesses and disabilities that we and our children face, we can take comfort in the fact that we canat lastexpose the truth. Our study validates many of our beliefs about birth defects and Agent Orange exposure 20 years ago. Linda Schwartz and George Knafl, the primary investigators, deserve our deepest gratitude for their work.

The committee's work with the American Friends Service Committee on the identification of dioxin hot spots in Vietnam continues. The VVA Veteran continues publishing the Agent Orange Initiative notice, which seeks information from our members and others willing to share what they know about herbicides left in Vietnam. As of August 31, 76 responses had been received and shared with the committee and the Vietnamese scientific community. Copies are available to any member who requests them. The research in Vietnam, agreed to by the two governments in March 2002, has not progressed because of new demands and obstacles raised by the government of Vietnam.

The committee also has been deeply involved in following a process called the Exposure Reconstruction Contractor Committee on the Assessment of Wartime Exposure to Herbicides in Vietnam. Jeanne and Steven Stellman of Columbia University oversaw this five-year effort that was recently concluded. The Stellmans developed an exposure model that will help researchers design an epidemiological study to look at the diseases and disabilities suffered by Vietnam veterans as a result of their exposure to a variety of chemicals during their service in Vietnam.

They developed software that enables researchers to enter and assess data more rapidly and can compare a defoliated (sprayed) area with U.S. troop movements through and around that area. One of the interesting pieces of information involves the discovery of a previously unaccounted-for 2.4 million gallons of various herbicides, which raises the total chemicals used in Vietnam to approximately 19.4 million gallons. It also has come to light that far more Agent Purple was used than previously thought. Agent Purple contains 50 times more TCDD than Agent Orange.

The Stellman model has two parts. One is the proximity to spray or "hit," which calculates how close a location (or person) was to spraying. Another part of the same calculation takes into account all spraying that had ever taken place in an area and calculates a scorewhich is rarely zeroin any area that was sprayed.

The third and essential part of the model is the series of questions that we have developed and tested in which veterans are asked questions about other ways in which they may have been exposed to spray.

Every study we have carried out has included these questions. They are part of the final report and the model we have developed. No epidemiological study can be done without an accepted and acceptable model for exposure. Every model can be distorted by people who want to misrepresent and misuse it.

"It is my belief," Jeanne Stellman said last July, "that epidemiology studies are going to find that some truly horrific things have happened to Vietnam vets. Veterans groups will have to see to it that those who wish to cut benefits don't misuse the models and also that they put up the resources and set the priorities so that scientists across the country can at last begin to work on this subject."

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a split decision in early June in Agent Orange Case No. 02-271. The ruling permits Vietnam veterans to move ahead with individual or class-action suits against the chemical companies. We don't expect any new developments until this spring.

One of the more worrisome subjects the committee has been dealing with for the past ten years is the matter of dioxin reassessment. Proposed rules, defining dioxin as a carcinogen, have been languishing at EPA since the early days of the Clinton administration. When we thought the rule was about to be made final, yet another hurdle was placed in our path. We continue to lobby the EPA and the White House for release of the report.

We want to share the effective dates of benefits resulting from the Nehmer v. United
State
s decision handed down in August 2003. The Nehmer decision applies to Agent
Orange Presumptive Diseases only and only to service in Vietnam after August 4, 1964.

COMPENSATION: If VA denied or had pending a presumptive claim between September 25, 1985, and May 3, 1989, the effective date will be the date of that claim or onset of disability, whichever is later. For claims received after May 3, 1989, but before legislation establishing presumptive condition, the effective date will be the date of the claim or the onset of disability, whichever is later. This includes informal claims.

ACCRUED BENEFITS: No two-year limitation. The entire amount will be paid. Pending claims do not die with the death of the veteran.

The National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine released its latest biennial report on the health effects of herbicide exposure, Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2002, on January 23, 2003. Based on this report, VA secretary Principi determined that a positive association exists between exposure to herbicides and the subsequent development of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). A regulation has been prepared by VA adding CLL as a presumptive disease associated with exposure to herbicides. Service officers are advised to file appropriate claims. Claims for service connection for leukemias other than CLL may be adjudicated under existing regulations. An updated listing of all service-connected diseases associated with exposure to herbicides can be obtained by e-mailing me at ssgtusmc6169@hotmail.com

Vietnam veterans and their families must realize that Agent Orange by itself did not cause all of our health problems. Instead, what we've learned is that a toxic cocktail of chemicals was used in Vietnam. Some, used by themselves, posed little or no health risk to humans. However, when a herbicide used in combination with other chemicals is as widespread as we now know it was, human health risks are astronomical and of great concern. Over the year just ended, the committee has developed a strategy and helped in negotiations with the agencies that have the power to proceed with getting answers for all of us and our families, 33 years after the last Air Force Ranch Hand mission was flown over Vietnam.

Chair: Paul Sutton. Vice Chair: Linda Schwartz. Members: Darrell Parrott, James Branum, Billie Cullin, John "JD" Davis, William Dumsick, Alan Gibson, Darrel Martin, Gerald Ney, William Sawyer, and Jack Thomas. Special Advisers: Thomas Berger, George Claxton, Fran Davis, Cathy Green, Michael Lay, Robert Stocker, and Stephen Lester. Staff Coordinator: Jennifer Chaney

 

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ETaBO Committee
BY ALAN GIBSON, CHAIR 

It's hard to believe it has been seven months since the National Convention, but after just two meetings the ETaBO Committee has come together very nicely. We have completed revised editions of VVA's Guide to Veterans Employment and VVA's Guide to Veterans Preference, which were initially distributed in 1999. We also are well along with two new guides, VVA's Guide to Vocational Rehabilitation and VVA's Guide to Small Business, for distribution during the Leadership Conference.

At the Leadership Conference, the committee will be presenting a workshop called "What ETaBO Is And What It Can Do For You.'' Many of our brothers and sisters believe that Vietnam veterans are too old to work or that those who are working don't need any help. For those of you who are employed by government agencies, we have been working on violations to Veterans Preference, including Veterans Preference with companies that have federal contracts.

For those nearing retirement age who have more obligations than money at the end of the month, we have been working on getting veterans into small businesses to supplement retirement income. This includes VA Vocational Rehabilitation, loans under $50,000, and veteran-owned businesses that give discounts to fellow veterans. For a list of veteran-owned businesses, check www.Veteransbusinessnetwork.com or www.VetFriends.com Remember, veterans buying from veterans makes winners of us all.

Along with the Government Relations Department, we have been working with the U.S.
Department of Labor to change laws that could keep veterans from being paid overtime. We try to work the system without fanfare. When we need help, we contact members via the VVA Talk List. That's one reason you should be in touch through the Talk List. Contact Dick Southern at southern@lodelink.com and ask to be added to the list.

Chair: Alan Gibson. Members: Darrol Brown, Bob Casell, Robert Corsa, Calvin Gross, Joseph Jennings, Keith King, William Messer, Fara Sanchez, Mike Schott, and Connie Steers. Special Advisers: Judy Bolio, Jerry Kahn, Charlie Richardson, and Jeffrey White. Staff Coordinator: Eddie Gleason.

 

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Government Affairs Committee
BY AVERY TAYLOR, CHAIR

The Government Affairs Committee identified seven key initiatives to address during 2004 and has named a committee member to be responsible for each one. In conjunction with the Public Affairs Committee, George Duggins and Mary Stout are leading the 2004 Vote America campaign. Kim Bredenbeck is in charge of the review and recommendations for all combat awards. Alan Gibson has taken the lead researching the status of the Montagnard people in the United States. Darrell Parrott is working toward defining and proposing a VVA position on the USS Liberty disaster and other similar issues. Jerry Klein is working to re-establish the
Legislative Coordinator network. Tom Berger is developing plans for expanding the Advocacy Training workshops. And lastly, Kim Bredenbeck is using his military experience as an educator to design the Government Affairs session for the Leadership Conference.

What follows describes where we stand on the Government Affairs Resolutions.

G-1-03 The "Veterans Vote!'' Campaign. Public Service Announcements and press releases have been distributed to promote the veteran vote. Campaign buttons and other promotional materials will be produced and delivered to all members. Additional programs and initiatives are being rolled out regularly during this presidential election year.

G-2-95 The Legislative Coordinators Network. The committee has introduced a new initiative to revitalize and make this program more effective.

G-3-95 Support for the National Gulf War Resource Center. VVA provides financial support to the resource center and is currently collaborating with the department regarding SHAD and DoD.

G-4-97 Extension of Vietnam Conflict Ending Date and Eligibility for the Vietnam Service Medal. There has been no legislative activity on this issue during the 108th Congress. The committee will keep this issue on the legislative agenda and continue to press for action.

G-5-03 Vet Center Eligibility for Vietnam-era Veterans. Public Law 106-117 extended Vet Center eligibility to December 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 continues to support this resolution.

G-6-99 Establishment by the VA of More Convenient Sites for Veterans Hearings. The VA has eliminated hearings at the central office and now contacts veterans by telephone and uses video conferences for hearings. This resolution had been recommended for retirement but the Convention chose to keep it on the books since there are still instances in which the hearing sites and methods are not satisfactory.

 G-7-99 Service Connection for Hepatitis C. VVA supports H.R. 639, introduced by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and companion S.457 introduced by Sen. Olympia Snow (R-Maine). If these do not pass in the current Congress, they will be reintroduced next year and VVA will support them.

G-8-99 Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the End of the Korean War. The national office keeps a calendar pursuant to this resolution so that VVA is represented at the memorial occasions specified in the resolution. This resolution was satisfied November 11, 2003, and will be retired at the next convention.

G-9-03 Awarding of the Combat Medevac Badge (CMB). Legislation has been
introduced to provide for this award. In accordance with other provisions of the resolution, research has begun on defining other combat awards and the criteria for each. This will be a prelude to defining additional combat awards that need to be created.

Chair: Avery Taylor. Vice Chair: Alan Gibson. Members: Tom Berger, Kim Bredenbeck, Jack Devine, George Duggins, Marsha Four, Francisco Ivarra, Jerry Klein, Larry Klein, John Koprowski, Darrel Martin, Sandy Miller, Darrell Parrott, Linda Schwartz, Mary Stout, Paul Sutton, Bruce Whitaker. Staff Coordinator: Bernie Edelman.

 

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Membership Affairs Committee
BY BILL MEEKS, JR., CHAIR

New Years greetings to all. It's time to announce the make-up of the new VVA Membership Affairs Committee and update the membership about the actions taken by the committee to implement the Convention resolutions.



VERIFICATION AND SECURITY OF DD FORM 214 (M-1-03): requires that every applicant for individual membership in VVA must provide a copy of his or her DD Form 214 or other acceptable documentation establishing eligibility for membership. These documents are to be kept at the local level in a confidential and secure manner in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. Verification to the national organization shall be done by the local chapter secretary or, in the absence of the secretary, a designated chapter official. Every new membership application received in the national office is checked to be sure that a DD Form 214 is submitted and that the nature and dates of service conform to the membership eligibility criteria. The same is done for all new life membership applications, even those from current individual members. In cases of missing DD Form 214s or those that do not meet the eligibility
criteria, the member is contacted. If the issue cannot be resolved, the applicant is offered membership in AVVA.

COMMUNICATION BETWEEN VVA'S ORGANIZATIONAL LEVELS (M-2-03): recognizes that the national office must reply to all communications from state councils and chapters within five working days and state councils and chapters must reply to all communications from the national office within ten working days. The Membership Director/Staff and the Membership Chair/Committee respond on a daily basis to all communications pertaining to membership. The Membership Affairs Committee is continuing to provide a direct avenue for the membership to express concerns, problems, and ideas to the committee by the Membership Affairs Committee and State Council Membership Chair (MACSCMC) contact list. Also, periodical updates pertaining to membership are sent to the MACSCMC contact list, and the State Council Membership chair then provides the distribution to the chapters.

MEMBERSHIP GROWTH AND RETENTION (M-3-03): requires, at all levels in VVA, the development of a master plan to recruit and retain members, using all available resources on a priority basis. The 2003 VVA Membership Survey was conducted to provide information pertaining to attitudes, opinions, and demographics of the VVA members. The survey data was used to facilitate VVA's current strategic planning to develop the "Membership Development Plan.'' The 2003 National Membership Retention and Recruitment Plan includes short- and long-term goals (one to three years), incorporating maximum effort coupled with minimum cost to VVA.

WAIVER OF MEMBERSHIP FEES FOR PERMANENTLY HOSPITALIZED VETS (M-4-03): requires the waiver of membership fees for all otherwise qualified Vietnam-era veterans who are permanently hospitalized and wish to join the organization. Chapters and state councils enrolling such veterans waive all rights to membership fees at their respective levels. The VVA National Board of Directors approved designating a new class of membership, ``Permanently Hospitalized Veterans'' and waiving the membership dues for these veterans during the November 2003 Board of Directors meeting.

Chair: Bill Meeks, Jr.  Vice Chair: Lupe Alviar, Jr. Members: Carol Baker, Tom Berger, Fred Elliott, Hank Evans, Ned Foote, John Miterko, Charlie Montgomery, Johnny Pancrazio, Charlie Richardson, Fara Sanchez-Schafer, and Dick Southern,  Special Advisers: Marcia Hicks, Nancy Montgomery, and Nancy Switzer.

 

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POW/MIA Affairs Committee
BY LARRY KLEIN, CHAIR
 

It seems like the National Convention was just last week, and here we are four months away from the Leadership Conference. Since the Convention, the POW/MIA Committee has been hard at work. The new Convention Resolution to fly the POW/MIA flag at all federally owned national cemeteries has been added to the VVA Legislative Agenda. Committee members are seeking congressional supporters to get it enacted into law.

The POW/MIA Committee link to the VVA website is growing stronger than ever thanks to the dedication of Carol Engle of the VVA Communications Department. Carol makes sure that all POW/MIA information sent to her is immediately posted to the link so it is readily available for members and others to read online.

The POW/MIA distribution list, which is the committee's second source of up-to-date
information, is run by the committee chair and is now over 500 strong. For information on how you can get added on the distribution list, e-mail me at lklein@vva.org  or lklein1946@aol.com I cannot say enough about the link. If it's about POW/MIAs, it's there. If you have not visited the link, I recommend you do.

For those who have asked about the Orange County Choppers POW/MIA motorcycle, we asked that it be loaned to VVA for display at the Leadership Conference. Unfortunately, it won't be available during that time.

There are many sets of unidentified remains of MIAs in Hawaii. There are remains from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War. There are no mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) or Family Reference Samples (FRSs) on file that can supply the remains' identification. We will soon have documentation that will be sent to each state POW/MIA chair indicating who has not provided FRSs. I hope that we will be able to help the Department of Defense locate family members, get them tested, and perhaps help them find the final piece of the puzzle to bring some closure.

Recently I was asked if I would be willing to help find family members of more than 1,200 MIAs from the Korean War. Many sets of remains have been returned from the Chosin Reservoir, and several have been identified. Some 1,400 letters have been sent to family members asking for FRSs. Only 200 people responded. I hope to have the names and last-known addresses of the 1,200 family members who have not responded. VVA could be instrumental in finding these families. For information on DNA and FRSs, go to the committee web link and click on the Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii (CILHI) link. If you know a family member who is from the maternal bloodline of an unaccounted-for serviceperson, please ask that person to contact the military services to provide a blood sample: Army: 800-892-2490; Air Force: 800-531-5501; Navy: 800-443-9298; Marine Corps: 800-847-1597.

The committee would like each state council and chapter to adopt POW/MIAs from their states. This can be done in several ways. One that seems to be most common is presenting a plaque with the servicemember's name to the family. State councils and chapters can do the same on behalf of VVA.

Our presenter for the Leadership Conference is Tom McKay from the Defense Intelligence Agency, Stony Beach, Hawaii. He also presented at the last Tucson Leadership Conference. He is the Chief Investigator of Last Known Alive cases and Live Sighting reports. His presentation was very enlightening. If you are going to be in Nashville, set aside Friday, August 6, at 9:00 a.m.

The committee, along with the Communications Department, is working on putting together a POW/MIA Educational Guide Book. I'll follow up in my next report.

Chair: Larry Klein. Vice Chairs: Bob Johnston and Al Cummings. Members: James Baughn, Dan Carr, Buster Holmberg, Robert Jones, Patrick Mahoney, Alta Millings, Douglas Perkins, Dave Schofield, Frank Stacey, and Ken Sundberg. Special Advisers: Jim Doyle, Bill Duker, Kay Gardner, Roger Hall, Bob Maras, Susan Regan, and Barbara Sundberg. Staff Coordinator: Sharon Hodge.

 

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PTSD/Substance Abuse Committee
BY TOM BERGER, CHAIR

The PTSD/SA Committee has been working hard to accomplish the goals set forth in the 2003 PTSD/SA National Convention Resolutions and to develop new initiatives for the good of the membership.

The committee carefully reviewed the Convention Resolutions and placed the five issues (noted below) on the VVA 2004 Legislative Agenda & Policy Initiatives calendar. VVA will be advocating for legislation that would:

  • end any prejudice in the allocation of resources for neuropsychiatric treatment and centers in the VA health care system and redress the current imbalance of resources to restore the VA's organizational capacity for mental health services (PTSD-3-95 and PTSD-5-95).

  • seek to make permanent the eligibility criteria to gain access to VA care and treatment for sexual trauma that originated during a veteran's military service (PTSD-6-03).

  • mandate that inpatient and outpatient PTSD and mental health treatment be available at all VISNs, with resources related to the specific needs of the veteran population in the VISNs (PTSD-3-95 and PTSD-5-95).

  • provide funding to enhance the readjustment counseling programs at the 206 Vet Centers, including PTSD counseling for families of veterans (PTSD-2-95 and PTSD-4-99).

In addition, the chair has met with representatives from the National Association for the Mentally Ill Veterans Council to discuss strategies for building a coalition between NAMI and VVA, as well as to identify top policy priorities for veterans with mental illness (PTSD-7-01). The chair participated in a panel discussion at the NAMI Winter Leadership Conference in Arlington, Virginia, in January. The chair also serves as the VVA consumer liaison representative to the VA's Severely Mentally Ill Committee, which holds monthly teleconferences and meets in person twice a year. This committee provides input on VA PTSD and mental health programs directly to Secretary Principi and his deputies.

The PTSD/Substance Abuse Committee received formal designation as a VVA "Special Committee'' from the VVA Board of Directors at its January meeting. The committee also presented its "Policy and Procedures'' document at the January meeting, but BOD consideration of the proposed document has been postponed until the Board members have had an opportunity to review it in detail. A room is now available in the evening during BOD meetings for 12-step meetings, and coffee is provided.

A small committee work group has been formed to gather information on suicide among Vietnam veterans and their immediate families in order that the whole committee can better decide how to address suicide prevention and intervention.

The committee invited Al Batres, director of the VA Readjustment Counseling Service (Vet Centers), to its January meeting to provide an update on the Vet Centers' PTSD programs. He shared a video from a PBS television documentary which focused on the Vet Centers' PTSD programs. The video featured testimonials and experiences from participating Vietnam veterans.  Batres presented demographic data on RCS staff, budgetary information, and noted the increasing use of Vet Center programs by Iraq War veterans and their families. He also answered questions from committee members. The committee will continue to press for increased Vet Center funding to be used for additional qualified staff and quality PTSD and substance-abuse programs.

A revised PTSD/Substance Abuse tri-fold brochure is now in production; 50,000 copies will be printed and made available for distribution later this spring.

The committee approved a seminar program proposal for the Nashville Leadership Conference and forwarded the proposal to the VVA Conference Planning Group. Joseph Boscarino has accepted the committee's invitation to present a seminar at the conference. Boscarino is a distinguished PTSD researcher from the New York Academy of Medicine. His studies of Vietnam veterans focus on co-morbidities involving PTSD and a host of other ailments, including cardiac diseases and autoimmune diseases such as hepatitis and diabetes.

The committee's accomplishments are due to the commitment and teamwork of its members. I am honored to serve as chair and salute all members for their dedication and hard work.

Chair: Tom Berger. Vice Chair: Fr. Phil Salois. Members: Dottie Barickman, Liz Cannon, Tony Catapano, Bob Corsa, Marsha Four, Larry Goucher, Bob Maras, Sandy Miller, Jim Shott, and Mary Ellen White. Special Advisers: Steve Mason, Nancy Switzer, Dee Hagge, and Mary Miller. Staff Liaison: Mokie Pratt Porter.

 

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Public Affairs Committee
BY JIM DOYLE, CHAIR
 

P-1-95 Community Service

Chapters and state councils continue to participate actively in local community activities. These activities include working with homeless programs, regular visits to VA hospitals and food banks, and other community-based activities that improve the general well-being of our communities and veterans.

P-2-95 Children's Welfare

Individual members, chapters, and state councils are in the forefront of insuring the protection and well-being of children in the United States and throughout the world, through various services and programs. These activities include, but are not limited to, preparing identification cards for children.

P-3-95 Chapter Involvement with Education

Using the VVA Education Guidebook as a resource ,VVA members are involved at every level of the educational process, including development and implementation of curriculum. VVA has become an active participant in the Library of Congress Veterans Oral History Project, the National Association of Social Studies, and other educational activities.

P-4-95 Regulation of Certain Activities at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

VVA continues to cooperate with the National Park Service in developing and enforcing appropriate restrictions on activities at The Wall. The responsibility for enforcing these regulations lies with the National Park Service.

P-5-95 Endorsement for Participation in Local Environmental Efforts

VVA members are a leading voice in local efforts to assure a safe environment. VVA members work at the community level to insure the safe and proper disposal of toxic materials generated by industry and commercial use.

P-6-03 Biennial Publication of the VVA Constitution and Resolutions

This resolution is enforced by the Communications & Publications Department. The Constitution and Convention Resolutions are included as inserts in the issues of The VVA Veteran published following the National Convention.

P-7-03 Requirement to Report Progress on All Currently Approved Convention Resolutions at Least Annually

This resolution was modified at the 2003 Convention to provide for at least annual reports rather than semiannual reports. The change was made to allow new committee and task force chairs and members to have adequate time to develop action plans for resolutions.

P-8-01 The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

VVA and AVVA members continue their active stewardship of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial through a variety of activities and programs. This resolution reinforces the notion that this memorial is our memorial, requiring us to be actively involved with its maintenance, promotion, and respectful use. Activities include local efforts to wash The Wall on a regular basis and to maintain the footlights along the memorial.

P-9-01 Vietnam War In Memory Plaque Project

VVA was the first organization to support and encourage the completion of this project that will recognize the sacrifices of those who returned home from Vietnam only to die later as a direct result of their service in the war. Casting of the plaque has been completed. VVA has been asked by the In Memory board to host a dedication ceremony for the plaque on Veterans Day 2004. Plans are being developed to fulfill that request.

P-10-01 Recognition of the Veterans Against Drugs Task Force

VAD is an expanding program that offers young people the opportunity to choose life over drugs. The program continues to expand its outreach and educate our children and communities about the dangers of drug use. Task force members continue to act as role models for the program.

P-11-03 Support for the Chapel of Four Chaplains Recognition Program

VVA and AVVA members are active participants in this program that recognizes those whose extraordinary efforts support veterans and their families. Paul Sutton has been reappointed VVA liaison to the program. He accepts nominations for three levels of awards: the Legion of Honor, Bronze Medallion, and Humanitarian Award.

Chair: Jim Doyle. Members: Ralph Garcia, Tom Hall, Larry Klein, James Maddox, Charlie Mitchem, Mary Stout, and Avery Taylor. Special Advisers: Mary Miller, Margaret Wojciechowicz, and Nancy Switzer. Staff Coordinators: Mokie Porter and Michael Keating.

 

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Veteran Affairs Committee
BY BRUCE WHITAKER, CHAIR

As defined in the VVA Constitution, the Veterans Affairs Committee presents programs related to a variety of subjects and special interests. The committee coordinates its activities closely with the President, other officers, and other committee chairs.

The committee works in conjunction with the Veterans Benefits Committee, Health Care Committee, Government Affairs, and the SHAD/Project 112 Task Force.

Since our November 2003 meeting, we have been researching the 14 resolutions assigned to the committee. To date, we have concluded three resolutions (Philippine Veterans V-13-95, Encourage The Government of Canada to Accept and Honor Canada’s Vietnam Veterans V-14-99 and Resolution V-15-99); have resolved that one resolution (Veterans Environmental Health Effects V-5-95) should be shared with SHAD/Project 112 Task Force.

Chair: Bruce Whitaker. Vice Chair: Charlie Richardson. Members: George Corbett, John Wallace, Rob Coughlin, Richard Marcinik, Levett Hobbs, Ken Holybee, and Connie Christensen. Special Advisers are Jim Grissom, Ed Chow, and Dee Hagge.

 

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Veterans Benefits Committee
BY JERRY KLEIN, CHAIR

The Veterans Benefits Committee has been very active in pursuing its mission since the end of the 2003 National Convention. A Basic Training Course for new Service Representatives is scheduled for May. An Advanced Training Course is scheduled for May as well, directly following the end of the basic training course.

At the Leadership Conference in August, we will present two types of training: service
coordinator training and an explanation of PTSD from a claims benefits perspective. "An Anatomy of a PTSD Case'' will be presented as a training tool explaining how to prepare, research, and present an effective PTSD claim.

The Convention Resolutions are always an important aspect of follow-up. The membership has charged each committee to implement approved resolutions. Some progress has been made in fulfilling that mandate. The Defense Authorization Act of 2004, H.R. 1588, was enacted into law in the first session of the 108th Congress and included "Veterans' Disabled Tax'' language for military retirees rated 50 percent (VB-12-95). The legislation did not go far enough to satisfy the intent of the resolution. Additional efforts will continue to pursue modifications in the current law.

Hepatitis C legislation is pending in the second session of the 108th Congress. VVA is working with members of Congress in both houses to fulfill the resolution (VB-15-95).

A review of VB-1-95 Judicial Review legislation will be followed, and we will seek introduction of legislation previously introduced in Congress.

A request for legislation to deal with VB-2-95 (Board of Correction of Military Records) and VB-3-95 (Less-than-honorable Administrative Discharges) will be investigated.

Chair: Jerry Klein. Vice Chairs: Rich Levesque and Charlie Richardson. Members: Randy Barnes, Darrol Brown, Butch Huber, Allen Manuel, Jim Pace, Pat Pudetti, John Rowan. Special Adviser: Jim Grissom, Bob Maras, and Sandie Wilson. Staff Coordinator: Leonard Selfon.

 

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Veterans Incarcerated Committee
BY JOHN KOPROWSKI, CHAIR

The Veterans Incarcerated Committee has been busy these past six months. Although it seemed at times we had to take a step back, we've made progress.

The committee Policy Statement was approved by the committee and submitted to the Board of Directors. The purpose of the committee is to develop advocacy programs of awareness with regard to the special needs of veterans who are presently or formerly incarcerated. The committee works with state and federal agencies to develop programs to help in the rehabilitation of veterans incarcerated.

Our Mission Statement for 2004 will be approved at the committee meeting in April and be published in the next issue of The Veteran.

The committee met with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans in January. The coalition has put together a guide to help veterans incarcerated plan for their release into society. It provides information that can be used prior to release and after release. To order a copy, write to the National Coalition, 333 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E., Washington, DC 20003-1148

Since publication of the December issue of the cover story on PTSD post sentencing by Bill Triplett, we have received several requests for assistance. However, we cannot provide support in any matter pertaining to legal issues. We neither have the resources nor the expertise or the capacity to hire legal experts with knowledge of criminal laws in each state. VVA has maintained this position since its founding, but does not prohibit state councils and chapters from getting involved in this kind of activity.

The Veterans Incarcerated Assistance Booklet is finished and will be ready for distribution to state councils and chapter liaisons helping incarcerated chapters. The booklet is a planning guide to ease the release into society and help formerly incarcerated veterans find a better way of life. 

Chair: John Koprowski. Members: Ron Adams, Jim Doute, Adolph Gardner, Joe Jennings, Allen Manuel, Tom Meinhardt, and Tim Susengill. Special Advisers: Wayne Miller, Jeani Wells, and Jeff White. Staff Coordinator: Elaine Chaney.

 

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Women Veterans Committee
BY MARSHA FOUR, CHAIR

These last six months have been busy. The planning of VVA events for Veterans Day 2003 and the celebration of the anniversary of the Vietnam Women's Memorial expended a great deal of committee energy. It was the culmination of a year's work. Much outreach was accomplished. It was also a positive experience to see the coordination of activities between agencies, organizations, and VSOs. These activities gave us the opportunity to come together in a venture that fostered increased communication and friendships.

In November, the committee reviewed and submitted its legislative priorities to the Government Affairs Committee. These have been worked into the VVA congressional testimony. We welcomed Al Batres, the director of the VA's Readjustment Counseling Service, to our January meeting.

The VA Summit 2004 for Women Veterans is scheduled for June 18-20 at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington. The format will be similar to that of Summit 2000, with plenary sessions and presentations from several speakers. There also will be tiers of topic sessions. Each will have a moderator and a panel of experts. Workshops will be designed to allow for group participation. The work of the groups will be reported to the body of Summit participants on the last day. To attend, call the Center for Women Veterans at 202-273-6193, and register as soon as possible. Should you register and later realize you cannot attend, please call the center and cancel. In this way others on the waiting list will have the opportunity to attend.

We have all been reading about the incidences of military sexual trauma (MST) and rape in the military. With the attention this subject received 12 years ago and the Senate hearings that ensued, many of us believed this would go away. But today many, many more women are serving in our armed forces. We are hearing about many, many more reports of abuse. The committee will look at the implications of this issue. MST counseling is available in the VA regardless of eligibility criteria. But this issue begs several questions that we will investigate.

Chair: Marsha Four. Vice Chair: Sandy Miller. Members: Carolyn Baker, Lois Beck, Connie Christensen, Billie Culin, Judi Greg, Bob Maras, Judy McCombs, Alta Milling, Anna Maria Rutallie, Linda Schwartz, Sandie Wilson, Sandra Spatz-Wiszneauckas, and Mary Ellen White. Special Advisers: Joan Furey, Martha Green, Sara McVicker, Jill Mishkil, Anne Pancrazio, Fara Sanchez-Schaefer, Nancy Switzer. Staff Coordinators: Tracie Houston and Lavonia Levroney.

 

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Homeless Veterans Task Force
BY SANDY MILLER, CHAIR

The legislative priorities of the Homeless Veterans Task Force have been established and our Strategic Plan has been revised.

This task force speaks to and realizes all five Core Values as outlined in the VVA Strategic Plan. Advocacy can be realized through our continuing efforts and work at all levels of government to ensure that legislative issues relative to homeless veterans are orchestrated. Through the efforts of the task force and its members, meaningful achievement has been accomplished and is evident in the number of homeless veterans who have been reached and assisted. VVA Homeless Veterans Task Force has become a great resource in the community when dealing with homeless veterans, adding to our integrity and ability to take responsibility. The compassion of the Task Force is obvious in our caring approach to ending homelessness among veterans. The idea of camaraderie is exemplified in our mission to support each other as veterans, homeless or not.

The members of the VVA Homeless Veterans Task Force continually seek to lead. "The challenge to do what is right for America and its’ veterans" in keeping with the vision of Vietnam Veterans of America. By aggressively advocating on behalf of homeless veterans through the legislative process; by task force members providing services to homeless veterans; and by continuing to serve our communities, the VVA Homeless Task Force is in full compliance with the mission of VVA.

Legislatively, we continue to seek a "fair share" of resources to meet the special needs of homeless veterans, to link set-aside HUD McKinney homeless dollars with the VA Homeless Grant and Per Diem Program funding to ensure the availability of necessary resources for transitional housing, to set aside VA Health Care for Homeless Veterans funds as a line item in the budget, to insure the VA FY05 budget includes all authorized appropriated funds for implementation of all provisions of PL 107-95, the Homeless Veterans Assistance Act of 2002, to insure adequate funding for Health and Human Services for HUD McKinney-Vento programs, including PATH, HCHV, and HVRP to insure that funding for FEMA includes $200 million for the National Emergency Food and Shelter Board, and to insure that the VA Homeless Grant and Per Diem Program include women veterans as a priority category under the next capital grant round.

Additionally, the HVTF will award one Life Membership to VVA on an annual basis to an individual homeless veteran who has successfully made the transition from homelessness back to the community.

Chair: Sandy Miller. Vice Chairs: Marsha Four and Paul Sutton. Members: Ron Adams, Lew Broughton, and Sam Hell. Special Advisers: Linda Boone, Lynda Greene, Jeani Wells, and Mary Yeomans. Staff Coordinator: Sharon Hodge.

 

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Project 112 / SHAD  Task Force
BY JACK DEVINE

"We don't know what we don't know." This slogan, coined by Rick Weidman, seems to sum up a lot about SHAD. That sailors were exposed to a variety of biological agents, simulants, and tracers, and to chemical agents and decontaminants during a decade of testing is no longer in dispute. Precisely what they were exposed to, and the potential effects of that exposure, remain murky.

DoD, under prodding of Congress and a lawsuit initiated by VVA, has told some bit of truth and pretends that all the important facts are public. After first denying that SHAD even happened, officials now acknowledge that some 50 tests were held, 20 of which fell under the auspices of the SHAD project. After an "exhaustive" investigation that VVA believes was neither exhaustive nor particularly thorough, DoD released a series of Fact Sheets. The facts do not match the recollections of those who participated in them. In the words of one sailor: "Man, these are scrambled."

VVA has devoted staff and resources to uncovering the facts of SHAD. At the second meeting of the Project 112/SHAD Task Force last November, we set the stage to jump start our investigation. The deposition in December of Dr. J. Clifton Spendlove, technical director of the SHAD program, generated intense media coverage. In February, Government Relations staff and members of the task force spent two weeks interviewing SHAD veterans and officials from the Deseret Test Center. The lawsuit against individuals at DoDindividuals from the VA were eliminated as defendants by a court rulingis proceeding.

At the next meeting of the task force in April we will review what we know (and don't know) and see how we can expand our base of knowledge.

Chair: Jack Devine. Members: Jack Alderson, Jim Druckemiller, Norm LaChapelle, Bob Maras, Paul Sutton, Homer Tack, and Mary Ellen White. Staff Coordinator: Bernie Edelman.
 

 

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Veterans Initiative Task Force
BY ROBERT MARAS, CHAIR

First, I want to thank our members and others who have provided information about missing Vietnamese. We are told by representatives of the Joint Task Force Full Accounting in Hanoi that this information continues to further cooperation by the Vietnamese in providing information on American missing. I would also like to thank the members of the Veterans Initiative Task Force for their efforts in working towards our mission of the fullest possible accounting of all POWs/MIAs.

In September while in Hanoi, members of the Veterans Initiative delegation attended the repatriation of five sets of U.S. remains; two additional sets of remains were recovered while task force representatives were in country.

The Veterans Initiative Task Force made its first trip to Vietnam in May 1994. In the almost ten years of working veteran to veteran, the Task Force has made 16 trips to Vietnam and has provided information to the Vietnamese Veterans Association on 8,694 Vietnamese KIA; 1,086 Vietnamese prisoners; and 2 Vietnamese MIA.

The task force is developing a new brochure. We are also working on a great program for our upcoming Leadership Conference. We plan to have representatives from PAC/CIL-HI attend, along with JPAC/JTFF-A members. We want to show all phases of the recovery process: what takes place when information is received and then sent to the field; what happens when remains are found; and how the remains are identified at CIL-HI and the families are notified. I hope to see many of you there.

If you know those with information about missing Vietnamese, please encourage them to submit the information to the VI Task Force in care of the VVA national office. Should you have any suggestions on how to further spread the word about the Veterans Initiative, please contact me at bmaras@vva.org With everyone’s help, we can succeed.

Chair: Bob Maras. Vice Chair: Jim Doyle. Members: Richard Delong, Lee Fisher, Gary Jones, Larry Klein, and Jack Thomas. Special Advisers: Janet Alheit, Dan Druen, Bill Duker, Patricia Fisher, Kay Gardner, Susie Regan, Nancy Switzer, and Jeff White. Staff Coordinator: Mokie Porter.

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