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
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.
ALAN GIBSON, CHAIR
By the time you read this, you will
have available on the VVA web site revised editions of
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
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
BY AVERY TAYLOR, CHAIR
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
The following describes where we stand on the Government Affairs
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
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
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.
Health Care 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Waiver of Membership Fees for Permanently Hospitalized Vets
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,
Charlie Richardson, Fara Sanchez-Schaefer, and Dick Southern.
Special advisers: Marcia Hicks, Nancy Montgomery, and Nancy
Switzer. Staff Coordinator: Bob Thomson.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add you to the committee
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
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
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.
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
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
Chair: Tom Berger. Members: Dottie Barickman, Liz Cannon, Tony
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.
Public Affairs Committee
BY JIM DOYLE, CHAIR
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
P-3-95 Chapter Involvement with Education
The VVA Education Guidebook has been a tremendous resource for VVA
P-4-95 Regulation of Certain Activities at the Vietnam Veterans
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
VVA members work at the community level to insure the safe and
proper disposal of toxic materials generated by industry and
P-6-03 Biennial Publication of the VVA Constitution,
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
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
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
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
V-5-95 – Veterans Environmental
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
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.
Veterans Benefits Committee
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
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.
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. PAWSPrisoners and Animals Working to Serveis
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
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.
Women Veterans Committee
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
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 membershipspecifically, 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
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.
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 announcedand women
veterans and women veterans with children are listed as a special
needs populationthere continues to be no provision for new women
veteran-specific programs or services with capital dollars
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:
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 Affairsthe 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 concernsis
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
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
veteransand 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.
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
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
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:
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 email@example.com
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.