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

October/November 2004

Vietnam Veterans of America
SEMIANNUAL COMMITTEE REPORTS

Resolution P-7-03 States:

 

 

  "Vietnam Veterans of America requires that all national committees and task forces report at least annually in The VVA Veteran on actions taken which further the implementation of currently active committee resolutions."  

 

 

 

Agent Orange/Dioxin
ETaBO Committee
Government Affairs
Health Care Committee
Membership Affairs
Minority Affairs
POW/MIA Affairs
PTSD/Substance Abuse
Public Affairs
Veterans Affairs
Veterans Benefits
Veterans Incarcerated
Women Veterans
Homeless Veterans
Project 112/ SHAD
Veterans Against Drugs
Veterans Initiative

 


Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee
BY LINDA SCHWARTZ, VICE CHAIR

We have accepted with regret the resignation of Paul Sutton as Chair of the Committee. His organizational skills, attention to detail, and comprehensive reports were valuable to the progress and accomplishments of this committee. During his many years working on the issues of Agent Orange and dioxin he served both as Vice Chair and Chair of the Committee. He will be missed.

The Ranch Hand Study, also known as the U.S. Air Force Health Study, has been on going since the late 1970s and is slated to go out of business in 2007. VVA is on record as being opposed to additional funding for the study. However, there is concern about 50,000 plus biological specimens taken from Ranch Hand study subjects that are in storage at subzero temperatures at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas. While it is hard to estimate the viability of these specimens, some analysts have suggested that more precise measurements of dioxin in the tissue samples may be of value to Vietnam veterans. Although this study is coming to a close, no provisions for the storage and or additional analysis of these specimens have been made. This will be monitored by the Committee.

The Committee sponsored a well-attended workshop on Agent Orange at the Leadership Conference in Nashville. Attorney Gershon Smoger gave an update on the Agent Orange Class Action Suit. A new effort by civilians who were exposed in Vietnam to join the suit has created a new wrinkle in the proceedings. It was reported that Judge Weinstein ruled that chemical companies that produced Agent Orange were military contractors and therefore have immunity from civilian law suits. Briefs are being prepared and further action is slated for early November. Research in Vietnam remains stalled. Efforts to identify hot spots in Vietnam should have been well underway by now. No word on where the negotiations are at this point.

The Committee is reviewing Resolutions and making plans for the 2005 Convention. VVA President Tom Corey will be convening a two-day meeting of Agent Orange advisers, Committee members, and scientists to discuss future plans for the Committee’s efforts and the role VVA will play in the post Ranch Hand Study.

Vice Chair: Linda Schwartz. Members: Billee Culin, John "JD" Davis, William Dumsick, Alan Gibson, Gary Jones, Darrel Martin, Gerald Ney, William Sawyer, and Jack Thomas. Special Advisers: Thomas Berger, George Claxton, Fran Davis, Cathy Greene, Michael Lay, Robert Stocker, and Stephen Lester. Staff Coordinator: Jennifer Chaney.

 

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ETaBO Committee
BY ALAN GIBSON, CHAIR 

By the time you read this, you will have available on the VVA web site revised editions of "VVA's Guide to Veterans Employment" and "VVA's Guide to Veterans Preference," which were initially distributed in 1999. Also available will be two new books, "VVA's Guide to Vocational Rehabilitation" and "VVA's Guide to Small Business."

We conducted a well-received seminar on those guides at the Leadership Conference. I thank the committee for a job well done. The major complaint was that more time was needed. The ETaBO web page provides a link to the guides, which can be downloaded. Go to www.vva.org Of course, every member of the committee is ready to be of assistance with any question you may have.

As for the web site, it belongs to the membership. It will only be as helpful as you wish it to be. Any suggestions you have for changes or additions will be deeply appreciated. 

Along with the Government Relations Department, we have been working with the Department of Labor to get language removed that could keep veterans from being paid overtime. We try to work the system, as it exists, without fanfare, but if you are needed to help, you will be contacted via the VVA Talk List or your state council. Contact Dick Southern at southern@lodelink.com to be added to the Talk List.

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

 

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Government Affairs Committee
BY AVERY TAYLOR, CHAIR

The Government Affairs Committee has completed or moved forward with most of the seven key 2004 initiatives that were named in my February report. We are still working on completing the review and recommendations for all combat awards. Also, a request was made for the committee to investigate and present a VVA position regarding the events surrounding the U.S.S. Liberty. After a thorough investigation into the background of this event, the committee decided the problems and issues faced by the veterans of this incident were common to many similar events throughout history. Consequently this report is being revised into a more generic resolution proposal that will address the rights of all veterans to timely access to services and benefits earned.  Specific incidents and negative charges that could lead to complex legal entanglements will be excluded from the resolution proposal. We expect this to make it out of committee in time for next year's National Convention.

The following describes where we stand on the Government Affairs resolutions.

G-1-03 The "Veterans Vote!" Campaign. Working in cooperation with the Public Affairs Committee, public service announcements and other media material have been istributed to each of the states to promote VVA's 2004 "Vote for America" campaign. Buttons, lapel pins, posters, bumper stickers, and information on what political activities by VVA members are permitted also have been produced and disseminated to state councils and chapters.

G-2-95 The Legislative Coordinators Network. The committee is working through the Conference of State Council Presidents to revitalize and make this program more effective. Each State Council president is being encouraged to identify and recruit people who will be committed and effective as coordinators in their states.

G-3-95 Support for the National Gulf War Resource Center. VVA continues to provide financial support and office space to the resource center, which is active in collaborating with VVA regarding 112/SHAD and a wide variety of issues involving the deployment of American troops overseas.

G-4-97 Extension of Vietnam Conflict Ending Date and Eligibility for Vietnam Service Medal. There has been no legislative activity on this issue during the 108th Congress. The committee will retain 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 until December 31, 2003. However, 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. The VA has eliminated hearings at the central office and now contacts veterans by telephone and video conferences for their hearings. This resolution had been recommended for retirement at the 2003 Convention, but the delegates chose to keep it on the books since there are still cases and places where the hearing sites and methods are not satisfactory. This resolution will remain an active agenda item until the membership is satisfied that all that can be done has been done.

G-7-99 Service Connection for Hepatitis C. S. 1846, introduced by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), which would establish a presumption of service-connection for certain veterans with hepatitis C, is unlikely to garner support in the current Congress. VVA has attempted to interest other Senators and Members of Congress in co-sponsoring  this legislation and will do so in the 109th Congress as well. VVA also has supported  H.R. 73, introduced by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), and companion legislation S. 1847, introduced by Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), the Veterans Comprehensive Hepatitis C Health Care Act, and will do so when this legislation is introduced in the 109th Congress.

G-8-99 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. 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.

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, Marshall Mudge, Linda Schwartz, Mary Stout, and Bruce Whitaker. Special adviser: Nancy Switzer. Staff Coordinator: Bernie Edelman.

 

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Health Care Committee
BY Linda Schwartz, Chair

The Committee continues to monitor the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) process. Although VA originally had used the concept that excess property was costly to maintain, this process has resulted in closures of hospital beds and facilities. While we thought the original proposals accepted by Secretary Principi would be the sum total of the asset management decisions, new plans were recently announced. VA will be contracting out additional site-specific studies for 22 markets (Boston, New York City, Louisville, Waco, Big Spring, Walla Walla, Montgomery, Canandaigua, Montrose, Castle Point, St. Albans, Lexington, Livermore, White City, Perry Point, Gulfport, West LA, Pittsburgh, Denver, Knoxville, Popular Bluff) in 16 VISNs.

The focus of these studies will vary, but the basic studies will include a financial analysis, a stakeholder communication plan, an implementation timeline, and a general capital plan. Four facilities in VISN 3 (New York City, Montrose, Castle Point, and St. Albans) and the VISN 2 facility at Canandaigua put New York State at the top the list slated for study. Federal Advisory Committees are planned to assist with input for the site reviews. 

The Committee expressed concern that the Advisory Committees have provisions for only one veterans service organization to be represented in the membership. VVA state  councils and chapters in the areas of these facilities are urged to keep informed about the process and to become involved in the Advisory Committee process.

Mandatory Funding for VA Health Care remains at the top of VVA’s Health Care agenda.  while this is opposed by the administration, VSOs have banded together to take the funding for vital health care services and programs out of the discretionary category and into the realm of mandatory funding. Congress must enact legislation to make this change. Despite the fact that the original energy to make this much-needed change has  declined, we are looking forward to a new congressional session to see these changes made. Pocket guides with talking points that can be used when talking to members of Congress and staff are available through the national office.

At press time, Congress has enacted the Defense Authorization Budget, but the VA  budget has not been voted on. VA, therefore, is functioning on a continuing resolution until lawmakers make a decision on funding levels. VVA has supported increases in the  budget to fund VA Health Care adequately. While some increases have been made, these levels of funding still fall short or what is needed to assure quality care to America’s veterans.

Quality care is a concern of the Committee. We reviewed VA’s proposal to authorize optometrists to do laser surgery to correct vision. Because this level of care is usually reserved for Ophthalmologists (physicians qualified to diagnose and treat eye diseases including surgical procedures), VVA President Tom Corey will contact Secretary Principi to express VVA’s objection to these plans.

The National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study, which was supposed to be well underway by now, is on hold while VA reviews the study design. VVA has long been a supporter of this study which involves revisiting the same veterans who were part of the landmark National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study commissioned by Congress in the late 1980s. The original study was conducted by the Research Triangle Institute and is sometime referred to as the RTI Study.

Several features of the study were particularly helpful in assessing the numbers of veterans with undiagnosed PTSD and keeping the Vet Center Program alive. The idea of taking a look at the same veterans 20 years later will be helpful in understanding how Vietnam veterans have aged, and what health problems, coping skills, and life changes have occurred since the first study. VVA took point on shepherding funding for the study through Congress and the VA because findings from the study can be valuable tools for identifying health problems associated with chronic PTSD. Tom Berger, the chair of VVA’s PTSD Committee; Linda Schwartz, the chair of VVA’s Health Care Committee; and Rick Weidman, VVA’s Director of Legislative Affairs, have been in discussions with VA researchers to get the study back on track and assure that the original intent of the study is preserved.


Membership Affairs Committee
BY BILL MEEKS, JR., CHAIR

Verification and Security of DD Form 214 (M-1-03): Requires that all applicants for individual membership in VVA must provide a copy of their 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. A box-by-box review of stored DD Form-214s is underway. They are being entered into a database.

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 and staff and the Membership Chair and Committee respond on a daily basis to all communications pertaining to membership. The Membership Affairs Committee continues to provide a direct avenue for the membership to express concerns, problems, and ideas to the committee through the Membership Affairs Committee and the State Council Membership Chair contact list.

Membership Growth and Retention (M-3-03): Requires, at all levels in VVA, the development of a master plan to recruit and retain members, utilizing all available resources on a priority basis.

The 2003 VVA Membership Survey was conducted to ascertain the attitudes, opinions, and demographics of VVA members. The 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, 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 any and all otherwise qualified Vietnam-era veterans permanently hospitalized who wish to join the organization. Furthermore, chapters and state councils enrolling such veterans waive all rights to membership fees. 

During its November 2003 meeting, the VVA National Board of Directors approved designating a new class of membership, Permanently Hospitalized Veterans (PHV), and waived the membership dues for these veterans.

The chapter transmittal form has been revised to allow submission of new PHV memberships, and a PHV membership application form has been created. The revised chapter transmittal and the PHV application are available on the VVA web site and also will be mailed upon request.

Chair: Bill Meeks, Jr. Vice Chair: Lupe Alviar, Jr. Members: Carol Baker, Tom
Berger, Fred Elliott, Ned Foote, John Miterko, Charlie Montgomery, Johnny Pancrazio,
Charlie Richardson, Fara Sanchez-Schaefer, and Dick Southern. Special advisers: Marcia Hicks, Nancy Montgomery, and Nancy Switzer. Staff Coordinator: Bob Thomson.

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Minority Affairs
BY FRANCISCO IVARRA, CHAIR

Our Policy and Procedures Statement was rewritten and approved by the National Board of Directors. Members of this committee will remain committed to VVA’s Constitution: “The Minority Affairs Committee shall identify and develop programs of awareness of, andprograms of interest to, minority veterans of the Vietnam Veterans of America, and shall seek to expand the membership of minorities in the Vietnam Veterans of America.” 

Minority Affairs Committee members Francisco F. Ivarra, Gumersindo Gomez, and Simon Sierra; Special Advisers Ed Chow and Carol Nealy; and special guest, Francisco Muniz began 2004 by visiting our fellow veterans in Puerto Rico at the invitation of Puerto Rico State Council President Jorge Pedroza, who also coordinated the visit. The purpose of the January 15-18 visit was:

1. To increase VVA national visibility and strengthen cooperative working relationships with VVA Puerto Rico.

2. To demonstrate to our fellow veterans that VVA is serious about developing a coordinated response to the specific concerns voiced by our members in Puerto Rico.

It was made clear that we were not in Puerto Rico to evaluate people or programs, correct wrongs, or to resolve personal or group difficulties. We remained focused on the purpose of our visit and had honest and valuable open dialogue. All our meetings went well; there was mutual respect between committee members and representatives of the VAMC, VARO, and the Vet Center.

Some improvements have been made and others still need to be made. We have proud and supportive VVA members in Puerto Rico, and VVA gained considerable visibility and credibility from our visit.

I want to thank the MAC members who continue their involvement and participation with their local chapters, state councils, and communities. The commitment and dedication of these individuals is highly valued and continues to be an integral part of our committee. It is important to keep issues related to minority veterans within the scope of influence and national visibility. As chair, I have attended several meetings, functions, and events sponsored by other organizations. Some of these include the National American Indian Veterans Committee, the Hispanic War Veterans of America, the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, World War II Memorial Committee, the Puerto Rico Veterans Committee, Tejano Monument Commission, the Citizens Educational Foundation, and the Blinded Veterans Association.

The MAC informational and recruitment brochure was printed and made available to members at the National Leadership Conference. Comments on the brochure were extremely positive. Plans for our National Diversity Award are on track. Once we gain official approval, we plan to present it at the 2005 National Convention. The award will recognize excellence in leadership and contributions made to the minority veterans community by an individual, group, or organization.

The MAC and the VVA Veterans Benefits Committee were instrumental in having a VA Benefits letter mailed to our fellow Puerto Rico veterans. Meetings were held at the VA with Charles Nesby, the Director of the Center for Minority Veterans, and Ron Henke, the Director of Compensation and Pension, to discuss the letter, which was considered confusing and adverse to the Puerto Rico veterans community. Jorge Pedroza and Gumersindo Gomez took the lead on this crucial issue. Special thanks to Jerry Klein and Len Selfon for their effective involvement and support in addressing this issue.

The VVA Board of Directors unanimously passed a motion during its April meeting asking President Tom Corey to write a letter to VA Secretary Anthony Principi requesting the following:

1. That all actions and consequences implied in the VA letter dated November 7, 2003, be immediately stopped.

2. That in the future the process used to circulate any VA letter include all veterans and not target any specific minority veterans group.

3. That appropriate steps be taken to improve the process used in letter writing and circulation so that this lack of cultural sensitivity will not become an issue again.

4. That future VA letters addressed to Puerto Rico veterans be written in English and Spanish.

Our seminar at the Leadership Conference, “Connecting the Dots: Leadership and Effective Outreach,” was a success. Seminar presenters included Ed Chow, Lee Fisher, Gumersindo Gomez, Norman Hawkins, Steve House, Connie Steers, and Jerry Yamamoto. I greatly appreciate their outstanding work and I salute their commitment to helping our minority veterans community. Their information on doing effective outreach to the minority veterans community was well received. The overall results from the evaluations indicate that most attendees found the seminar meaningful and practical.

There are some areas that need improvement. We plan to strengthen these areas of concern with all future seminars. After our seminar, Bill Farrell offered a resolution supporting legislation and policy making Vietnam Montagnards eligible to receive VA benefits. A second resolution was presented by Bill Messer to improve veterans’ services to Native Americans, Native Alaskans, and Native Hawaiians. Both resolutions were unanimously supported and passed by the Minority Affairs Committee.

The Minority Affairs Committee continues to serve the VVA membership and the minority veterans community. The members are committed to our obligations, and we will continue to work toward achieving success in cooperation with our fellow veterans and national leadership.

Chair: Francisco Ivarra. Members: Lee Fisher, Larry Frazee, Gumersindo Gomez, Virgie Hibbler, Steve House, Joe Jennings, Albert Lewis, Carol Near, Jorge Pedroza, Fernando Rodriguez, Fara Sanchez-Schaefer, Simon Sierra, Connie Steers, and Jerry Yamamoto. Special Advisers: Ed Chow, Patricia Fisher, Barry Hagge, and Don McDole.

 

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POW/MIA Affairs Committee
BY LARRY KLEIN, CHAIR
 

I am still recovering from the thrashing that hurricane Ivan and a tornado gave me and thousands of others in Pensacola, Florida. Everyone is fine and everything should be back to normal in a couple of months. I want to thank everyone for their concern, thoughts, and prayers. Again VVA and AVVA showed their true colors. Special thanks go to the Florida State Council.

I did not make the last trip to Vietnam with the VITF because Ivan closed down the airport.

In June, I attended the 35th annual meeting of the National League of POW/MIA Families in Washington, D.C. This event is the most comprehensive update on the POW/MIA issue available.

I highly encourage everyone who wants to know what is taking place inside DPMO to attend. I especially encourage State Council Presidents to see that their State POW/MIA Chairs attend. They will receive an enormous amount of information.

DPMO publishes a schedule of updates for those who cannot make the annual meeting  These are a little shorter, but still supply a tremendous amount of information. To find out when these updates will take place in your area, check the POW/MIA Committee ink on the VVA website or e-mail me at either lklein1946@aol.com or lklein@vva.org and I will add you to the committee distribution list.

To date, there are still 1,849 Americans missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. The breakdown is as follows: Vietnam, 1,410; Laos, 377; Cambodia, 55; and the Peoples Republic of China territorial waters, 7. Over 450 of the 1,849 were at-sea or over-water losses and have been classified as No Further Pursuit (NFP), which means that there is a high probability the remains never will be found.

Just as the introduction of DNA has been instrumental in the positive identification of remains, so will the future introduction of a deep-water recovery vessel that will be used to retrieve those classified as NFP. There are nine sites to be searched as soon as the vessel becomes available.

With the increased findings of American remains from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War, greater attention has to be placed on finding the more than 900 families from Vietnam and the possible 1,500 families from the Korean War who have not supplied DNA Family Reference Samples (FRS) to DoD for possible identification of remains being held in Hawaii. The exact number is not known because of the way DoD classifies the remains. At last count there were over 200 sets of remains not yet identified from Vietnam. Remains from the Chosin Reservoir in Korea have been identified as coming from one unit; DoD has a pretty good idea of who they are.

As I mentioned in my POW/MIA presentation at the Leadership Conference, we can help with identification. Contact your State Council President and State POW/MIA Chair. They were provided with lists of the missing families from Vietnam and the 1,500 names of those DoD is looking for from Korea.

The next time someone mentions that he or she has a loved one still missing, the question after you thank them for their loved one’s service should be: Do they know if there is an FRS on file with the DoD? If they say no, or they don’t know, get them to find out for sure. If it turns out that there is none, put them in touch with the DoD, DPMO, the National League of Families, or myself.

The joint POW/MIA and VITF seminar at the Leadership Conference was very successful, as indicated by the surveys turned in by those who attended. The two committees were combined into one, and the only real complaint was the seminar was not long enough. The surveys will be used to make the seminar even better the next time.

The committee will continue to monitor the ongoing involvement by the DPMO leadership with archival researches in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Russia, along with the World Wide Joint Field Operations, and will make reports available on the website and distribution list. We will continue to work with DoD, the League of Families, and others to accomplish our mission statement. The committee will continue to seek the enforcement of legislation on the books, and will seek enactment of legislation that is our part of the Legislative Agenda.

The confusion with the change of POW/MIA Recognition Day did not seem to stop the remembrance of those still listed as missing from all wars. Forty-four states issued proclamations for the new date. That means that the interest and concerns we have about the POW/MIA issue have not faltered. The committee has expressed its concern to the DoD about the late notice. We have been assured that if there is a need to change the date in the future sufficient notice will be given to everyone concerned.

Please continue to do your part to keep the POW/MIA issue alive by educating those at all levels that we can never forget those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and have never been returned to the country and soil that they paid that sacrifice for.

Chair: Larry Klein. Vice Chairs: Bob Johnston and Al Cummings. Members: James Baughn, Dan Carr, Buster Holmberg, Robert Jones, Joe Kristek, Patrick Mahoney, Alta Milling, Robert Mozingo, 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 hard at work during the past 12 months. What follows is a partial list of the committee's accomplishments and initiatives.

The committee's "Policy and Procedures" document was approved unanimously at the April VVA Board of Directors meeting.

The committee sponsored a nationwide PTSD poster contest in which 13 people submitted entries. The winning entry will be selected by the end of October.

Since February, 55,000 copies of the PTSD tri-fold brochure have been printed. More than 50,000 have been distributed around the country with the help of VVA's Council of State Council Presidents, VVA Service Officers, and the national VVA office staff. The most innovative distribution effort was initiated by Mokie Porter, national office Committee Liaison, who gave a box of the brochures to airline attendants staying at the Sheraton Hotel in Nashville during the VVA National Leadership Conference in August. She asked the flight attendants to distribute the brochures to our returning Iraq and Afghan troops.

The committee sponsored a presentation at the Leadership Conference. More than a hundred conference participants attended Dr. Joe Boscarino's presentation, "Exposure to Combat, PTSD, & Future Medical Problems: The Health Impact of Military Service for Vietnam Veterans." In addition to giving a great seminar, Boscarino was honored with a VVA life membership in recognition of his 20-year history of groundbreaking health care research focusing on Vietnam veterans.

With the assistance of national office staff member Carol Engle, the committee's web page is now up and running as part of the VVA web site at www.vva.org The web page contains minutes and reports from PTSD/SA Committee meetings; links to important articles such as the study reported in the July 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine about PTSD and our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; announcements of events; the committee's "mission statement"; and links to other organizations and agencies that specialize in PTSD, mental-health, and substance-abuse issues. In addition, VVA's "Self-help Guide on PTSD" and the "You're Not Crazy" tri-fold brochure can now be downloaded directly from the web page.

The committee also continued its efforts to build partnerships with other organizations to identify the priority mental-health and substance-abuse issues affecting America's veterans. For example, the chair participated in a panel discussion at the 25th Anniversary Conference of the National Association on Mental Illness in early September where he addressed the decline in VA funding for these issues. In July, the chair presented a program, "Domestic Violence and PTSD," to counselors attending the Vet Centers' annual Region 3A Counselors Training session in Atlanta.

The chair also was recently appointed to serve as the veterans' representative to the VA's Substance Use Disorder Group of the Quality Enhancement Research Initiative Executive Committee, which provides input on VA substance-abuse programs directly to Secretary Principi and his deputies. In addition, the committee is investigating funding opportunities and collaborative research projects with several other agencies and individuals on suicide prevention, crisis management, and other mental health- related programs that incorporate the concept of training veterans to care for veterans.

These accomplishments are due to the commitment, support, and teamwork of committee members. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of them for their dedication and hard work. 

Chair: Tom Berger. Members: Dottie Barickman, Liz Cannon, Tony Catapano, Bob
Corsa, Marsha Four, Larry Goucher, Bob Maras, Sandy Miller, Johnny Pancrazio, Fr. Phil Salois, Jim Shott, and Dave Whaley. Special Advisers: Dee Hagge, Mary Miller, Anne Pancrazio, and Nancy Switzer. Staff Liaison: Mokie Porter.

 

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Public Affairs Committee
BY JIM DOYLE, CHAIR
 

P-1-95 Community Service

Chapters and state councils remain active in their communities with a variety of community service activities, including working with homeless programs; regular visits to VA hospitals; organizing 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 through various services and programs that include, but are not limited to, preparing identification cards for children.

P-3-95 Chapter Involvement with Education

The VVA Education Guidebook has been a tremendous resource for VVA members and
educational professionals.

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 ultimate responsibility for
enforcing these regulations is the National Park Service.

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

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, Resolutions, etc.

This resolution is enforced by the Communications & Publications Department. It is included as an insert in the issue of The VVA Veteran published immediately following the National Convention in odd-numbered years.

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 reports at least annually rather than biannually. 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

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, and that requires us to be actively involved with its maintenance, promotion, and respectful use. Activities included local efforts to wash The Wall on a regularly scheduled basis and volunteers maintaining the foot lights along the length of 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. VVA has been asked to organize and host the official dedication ceremony on November 10.

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, and the 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 of recognition for those who contribute their efforts to supporting veterans and their families. Paul Sutton has again been appointed VVA Liaison to the program and accepts nominations for the three levels of awards presented by the program: (1) Legion of Honor, ( 2) Bronze Medallion, and (3) Humanitarian Award.

Chair: Jim Doyle. Members: Jim Boyd, George Duggins, Ralph Garcia, Tom Hall, Larry Klein, James Maddox, Mary Stout, Avery Taylor, and Jack Thomas. Special Advisers: Jim Doute, Gary Jones, Mary Miller, Nancy Switzer, Dick Southern, Ray Truelove, and Margaret Wojociechowicz: Staff Advisers: Mokie Porter and Michael Keating.

 

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Veteran Affairs Committee
BY BRUCE WHITAKER, CHAIR

The committee is responsible for 14 resolutions, as directed by the delegates to the National Convention. The committee has been researching them to determine which ones should be rescinded, re-assigned to another committee, or redefined.

The following resolutions will be recommended to be rescinded at the 2005 National Convention:

V-14-99 – Encourage Government of Canada To Accept and Honor Canada’s Vietnam Veterans. Research by committee member George Corbett has revealed that the Canadian government has no provision for Canadian Vietnam veterans’ burial because the government views them as veterans of the American Armed Forces. Gordon Beech, Service Officer of the Royal Canadian Legion, recommends that our resolution be retired because Canada has ceased its efforts.

V-15-99 – The Establishment of a New National Cemetery in Valley Forge National Historical Park. Research by AVVA Special Adviser Dee Hagge revealed that federal legislation has been enacted to establish a new national cemetery in Eastern Pennsylvania.

The following resolution will be recommended for reassignment, or sharing, to the SHAD/Project 112 Task Force:

V-5-95 – Veterans Environmental Health Effects.

The following resolution is recommended for a rewrite:

V-8-95 – Sexual Harassment.

V-6-95 – Participation in the Process of Accrediting DVA Medical Centers. Information from the VA’s Department of Accreditations is being obtained to determine the method for providing consumer input into the accreditation process.

We are continuing our efforts to seek compliance with committee resolutions, along with our research to determine their effective status.

The Veterans Affairs Committee was represented by the chair at VVA’s annual testimony before the joint meeting of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on March 25.

The Veterans Affairs Committee meets at every national Board of Directors meeting on Fridays and welcomes membership attendance and participation.

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: Ed Chow, Jim Grissom, and Dee Hagge. Staff Adviser: Sharon Hodge.

 

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Veterans Benefits Committee
BY JERRY KLEIN, CHAIR

The Veterans Benefits Committee resolutions approved at the 2003 National Convention require either congressional action or approval through the regulatory process. As of this date, we have not had success in moving these issues. Unfortunately, the climate in Washington has not been favorable for obtaining an impartial hearing on the substantive issues raised in our convention resolutions. Except for a partial success with the so- alled Disabled Veterans Tax, and the continued strong support of the Veterans Benefits State Council Service Representative Program by our organization’s leadership, VVA has not had success in moving its veterans benefits agenda.

I want to commend our national staff for their hard work and dedication as they continue to pursue our agenda in our Nation’s Capital. I urge all VVA members to actively pursue VVA’s Veterans Benefits issues by taking a proactive stance and contacting their elected officials, Senators, and Members of Congress to support VVA’s convention resolutions. Participate in VVA’s Legislative Coordinator Network, monitor votes of elected officials, and educate these elected officials about why VVA has taken its positions on issues that were approved by the membership at the 2003 National Convention.

Issues continue to revolve around the Veterans Benefits Disability Commission as it begins reviewing the Veterans Benefits System. We must continue to monitor the process as its moves forward, being vigilant and ready to challenge any attempt to diminish or trim existing benefits. We must also continue to monitor the process of the Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Benefits Administration Re-Write project to insure that the regulatory process is not used to reduce veterans benefits. 

I hope to be able to present a more favorable and optimistic report in the future.

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

 

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Veterans Incarcerated Committee
BY JOHN KOPROWSKI, CHAIR

Congratulations to Vietnam Veterans of America Veteran Incarcerated Member of the Year David Lee Oates of Chapter 283 at the Macomb Correctional Facility in New Haven, Michigan. His commitment to serving veterans is in keeping with our motto, "In Service to America."

I was somewhat amazed that there weren't more nominations for this award. There's no doubt in my mind that there are many individuals out there doing great things. I personally know of several I would endorse. So, get with the program. Nominations are coming up sooner than you think for the 2005 National Convention in August.

The Veteran's Incarcerated Assistance Handbook is ready to be printed and put on CDs. It should be ready for distribution to liaisons by the end of the year. This handbook will be easier to update and keep current.

We would like to once and forever put to rest the old "Felon to Freedom" booklet. I still get requests for it. There are none, and if you have one, please throw it away. It's outdated and useless.

In the past few issues of The VVA Veteran, committee members have been writing about their chapters. This is our way of letting everyone know about productive chapters doing great work for their communities on the inside and on the outside.

Just a few that come to mind include Chapter 545 which does custom rock carving and rock art. Chapter 616 donated $1,000 to the Red Cross, which will match or double the donation for care packages to troops in Iraq. PAWSPrisoners and Animals Working to Serveis a puppy-raising program for canine companions for independence. I know there are many more, so drop me a line and let all of VVA know what you do.

We do not get involved in any judicial matters, parole hearings, or appeals. So please stop writing and asking VVA to represent you in a court of law. It cannot be done.

I'll be in Missouri in October to visit chapters at Bowling Green and Moberley.

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

WV-1-03 Support of Women Veterans: Committee members have done outreach at various functions, including Memorial Day in Washington, D.C., and the Women Veterans Summit 2004. Information packets on women veteran topics continue to be delivered to all state council presidents for distribution. Committee members continue to attend and represent the concerns of women veterans at many other VVA committee meetings. We continue to interact with the Government Relations staff on items relative to legislation. I delivered testimony on the renewal of VA authority to provide military sexual trauma counseling. We are asking that this authority be made permanent. The current authority is due to expire on December 31.

WV-2-03 Medical Treatment of Women Veterans by DVA: We have advocated for this at the VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans. We await the soon-to-be released VA response to the 2004 Report and Recommendations of this advisory committee. This advocacy also included WV-3-03 Woman Veteran Program Managers (WVPM), to increase the allocated time for the WVPMs to no less than half time to perform their duties.

As we move forward, we will examine our committee priorities and begin the process of
reviewing and evaluating committee resolutions for the next National Convention.

Nashville was a great place for the Leadership Conference. The Conference was well attended and the music moved many to dance. I would like to thank all those who donated soap and shampoo to be used by homeless veterans in the Philadelphia area.

The Women Veterans Seminar was well attended. We presented information on group dynamics: its influence on the group, its leadership, and its membershipspecifically, women veterans. A seminar questionnaire gathered information on the attendees' perceived chapter interaction with its membership. Additional information was provided as a resource on women-veteran issues. It was presented in an effort to increase the chapters' ability to recruit and retain women veteran members. I want to thank Tom Berger, chair of the PTSD/SA Committee, for helping with the presentation.

Chair: Marsha Four. Vice Chair: Sandy Miller. Members: Carolyn Baker, Lois Beck, Connie Christensen, Billee Culin, Judi Greig, Bob Maras, Judy McCombs, Alta Milling, Anna Marie 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, and Nancy Switzer. Staff Coordinators: Tracie Houston and LaVonia Levroney.

 

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Homeless Veterans Task Force
BY SANDY MILLER, CHAIR

The Homeless Veterans Task Force continues its mission of disseminating information and providing resources to state councils and chapters. Though many state councils do not have a Homeless Veteran contact, we have a database and would like to see every state council provide a point of contact for easier and more efficient distribution of this information. We ask that state council presidents consider making this appointment and notify the office of the individual contact. 

In planning for the Leadership Conference in Nashville, the Homeless Veterans Task Force decided not to hold any in-house training seminars. Instead, we visited a homeless program in the area. We wanted to donate computer equipment. We were  able to locate an organization that has a program component providing transitional housing for homeless women veterans. Operation Stand Down Nashville has a two- bedroom house with three women living there. The house, Angel's Landing, is run by Terri Klozik.

Several task force members and guests visited Angel's Landing during the Leadership Conference. The first thing many of us noticed was the small garden in the front yard with a statue of three angels. We were greeted by the senior resident of the house, who was happy to show us around her home. It is a quaint little house, with a large back yard, in a quiet neighborhood. We could see the pride these women take in their home and their new-found life. Plans are under way for the purchase of a second home that would house an additional three or four women.

In support of Angel's Landing, we are donating $1,300 in computer equipment to them. This equipment will enable the residents to gain access to employment advancements, educational opportunities, and training assistance. 

We continue to move forward with the legislative agenda as established by VVA. One item we will continue to fight for is the priority of women veteran programs in future Department of Veterans Affairs Homeless Grant & Per Diem capital grant rounds. Though a special needs grant was recently announcedand women veterans and women veterans with children are listed as a special needs populationthere continues to be no provision for new women veteran-specific programs or services with capital dollars attached.

A second major concern of the HVTF is the renewal of existing per-diem only awards from the VA Homeless Grant & Per Diem program. VVA has taken a very strong stand that those programs with a proven history of providing efficient and effective services should not have to compete with new, unproven programs for funding dollars. We will continue to fight on behalf of our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

The members of the VVA Homeless Veterans Task Force wish to thank Paul Sutton for his many years of service on the task force.

Chair: Sandy Miller. Vice Chair: Marsha Four. Members: Ron Adams, Lew Broughton, and Sam Hall. 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 have further organized and analyzed a significant amount of the first-hand, primary- ource information acquired from personal correspondence with 112/SHAD veterans and the interviews we conducted with SHAD veterans in San Diego and Seattle, as well as interviews we conducted with scientists and safety officers who worked at Deseret Test Center and Dugway Proving Ground in Utah in planning the implementation of SHAD tests.

The lawsuit we initiated against individuals at the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairsthe goal of which is to hold individuals accountable for obfuscating the truth and withholding information that has little or nothing to do with the national defense and national security concernsis proceeding slowly, awaiting rulings by the trial judge. In this endeavor, VVA is the lead plaintiff; we are represented on a pro bono basis by attorneys from the law firm Shaw Pittman.

We have been updating the Institute of Medicine about what we have learned, and we are giving them input about the parameters and specifics of the study they are doing under contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

We convinced a senior staffer with Top Secret clearance on the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs to review documents in the research library at Dugway Proving Ground. He reported that, in his estimation, the DoD investigators met their mandate from Congress in delivering their report last June. However, he said that, as we suspected, there is much more to this than we had asked to be uncovered, and that hundreds of veterans may have been exposed to chemical and biological agents and simulants without their knowledge in the years before the 112/SHAD project began. On the one hand, we don't know what we don't know. But we do know that we are learning an awful lot about a very small part of something much larger.

Because we are finding that many 112/SHAD veterans have not received letters from the VA advising them that they are eligible to come to a VA medical center for a health check, we are working with the VA to do better outreach to SHAD veteransand to VA clinicians and staffers, many of whom don't know about SHAD. To this end, we had a meeting with VA officials responsible for reaching out to veterans.

We continue to identify errors of omission and commission in the Fact Sheets published by DoD and will be working with them to correct the record. 

In addition to briefing members of Congress and their staffs, we have been working with interested members to hold hearings and to pass legislation to benefit 112/SHAD veterans. A bill introduced by Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and signed into law in December 2003 gave SHAD veterans the right to a free physical, as well as treatment for health conditions for which they do not have to prove service connection. We are currently working with staff for Rep. Mike Thompson (D- Calif.) to craft legislation that would create an independent commission to investigate all aspects of 112/SHAD.

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

 

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Veterans Against Drugs Task Force

BY HERB WORTHINGTON, CHAIR

At the 2003 National Convention, the VAD Task Force presented a resolution calling for anyone involved with the program to be free of drugs. It passed unanimously.

In order to be an example to our young people and act as mentors, we must hold ourselves up to the principles we teach our youth. This does not mean that we cannot use our life experiences to teach these children about drugs and violence. Rather, our experiences should demonstrate that we recognize our pitfalls and shortcomings. Our successes can guide America’s future leaders down a successful path.

The Veterans Against Drugs program embraces VVA’s motto, “In Service To America,” while presenting a grass-roots program across our country in a variety of venues. Whether it is talking to our young people at a National Guard Boot Camp, visiting others in a youth detention center, working with the community to promote juvenile patriotism, or working with an art school on portraits of children killed in violent crimes, we are there. Both VVA and AVVA members have taken this program and VVA’s core values to many local communities. We are making an impact on young people and on everyone around us.

Join us. Pick up the gauntlet and fight the battle against drugs and violence in your community. Make a difference in a child’s life.

If not now, then when? If not you, then who?

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

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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 also would 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 a decade 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. At the Nashville Leadership Conference, representatives from PAC/CIL-HI attended, along with JPAC/JTFF-A members. We wanted 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.

If you or a friend has information about missing Vietnamese, please consider submitting the information to the VI Task Force in care of the VVA national office. Should you have any suggestions on how to 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, Bob Johnston, Gary Jones, Kim Kendrick, 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 Advisor: Mokie Porter.

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