NEWS

Thank You

From 40 Voice of Democracy 2016 winners to the Veterans of Foreign Wars- it's impossible to put all our gratitude into words, but here's just a fraction of what we have to say. Thank you. For this and for so much more.


DOD suicide report

Today, the Department of Defense released the quarterly suicide report (QSR) for the second quarter of calendar year 2014.


Wearing unearned medal can be a crime; free-speech

Lying about receiving a military medal is constitutionally protected, but there’s no right to carry the lie a step further by wearing a combat decoration that hasn’t been earned, a federal appeals court said Wednesday.


Take your VFW Post back,

"Take your VFW Post back, one bar stool at a time." - Brian Duffy I am very proud of the above quote. All JVC take very serious notice that this is what I fully support.


VA Recommends Dropping Blue Water Navy Legal Battle

WASHINGTON - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is saluting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie for saying during congressional testimony yesterday that he would recommend the Justice Department not contest a recent federal court ruling that will benefit some 90,000 so-called Blue Water Navy veterans. His support to move forward potentially paves the way for the return of earned disability benefits that regulatory changes arbitrarily stripped away in 2002.

In Procopio v. Wilkie, Secretary Wilkie was sued by Navy veteran Alfred Procopio Jr., who was denied service connection for prostate cancer and diabetes mellitus because he never stepped foot on dry land or served within Vietnam's inland waterways. Procopio, a life me...


Nation's Top Teachers Selected for VFW Award

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is proud to announce the top three teachers selected in its 2019 Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award contest.

Each year, the VFW names one teacher from the elementary (K-5), middle (6-8) and high school (9-12) levels to receive the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award. Established in 1999, the award recognizes our nation's top teachers for their exceptional commitment to teaching Americanism and patriotism to their students by promoting civic responsibility, flag etiquette and patriotism in the classroom. The award is named after former VFW National Commander John Smart and retired VFW Quartermaster General Larry Maher.

Bobbie Schamens, a fourth-grade teacher at Meadowview Intermediate School in Sparta, Wisc., was named the elementary school winner for her efforts in recognizing the service and sacrifice of her hometown's military families. Schamens' personal experience as a military spouse has...


VFW's Annual Youth Scholarship Competition Opens

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is now accepting entries for its 2019-20 Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen youth scholarship competitions. The announcement comes just two weeks after the VFW's 2019 Legislative Conference concluded in Washington, D.C., where the top national winners were recognized.

Dedicated to encouraging a better understanding and appreciation of America, the VFW's Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen essay competitions help foster patriotism among today's youth. The programs also promote friendly competition and rewards success in the form of some $3 million in scholarships.

This year's theme for both programs challenges students to answer the question, "What Makes America Great?" The Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition is ope...


President Releases FY 2020 Budget Request

WASHINGTON - The president's federal spending plan for fiscal year 2020 adds 30,000 more troops and proposes a 3.1-percent military pay raise. It would also increase the Department of Veterans Affairs overall budget by 9.6 percent to $220.2 billion, which would enable the VA to implement the MISSION Act, strengthen mental health access and treatment programs, increase women's health services, boost electronic health record interoperability with the Defense Department, and support a host of legislative initiatives being championed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

"More money isn't always the solution to every problem, but the lack of it weakens every congressional initiative to improve the VA," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, who called the president's budget submission a very good start. "What the VFW now expects from Co...


VFW Concerned With VA MISSION Act Implementation

WASHINGTON - This morning, during testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. called for full congressional oversight over the implementation of the VA MISSION Act of 2018.

The organization made clear its dissatisfaction with the Department of Veterans Affairs' implementation thus far, citing arbitrary and misguided decision-making.

With more than 80 percent of VFW members relying on VA health care, and dedicating more than 10 million volunteer hours annually to supporting their fellow veterans at VA medical facilities, the VFW's views were actively solicited while drafting the legislation, but the organization has not been engaged to ensure its efficient implementation.

"Unlike appeals modernization, VA has elected to largely ignore the views of the nation's largest war veterans' organization when drafting rules to implement the VA MISSION Act," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, who leads the more than...


VFW Awards National Youth Scholarship Winners

WASHINGTON - Last night the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. proudly presented $209,000 in scholarships and awards as it named the national winners of its annual Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen youth scholarship competitions. The winners were announced during the Parade of Winners ceremony at the 2019 VFW Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

Together, the VFW's Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen scholarship competitions have helped foster patriotism by challenging middle and high school students to examine our nation's history, its democratic processes, and their roll in America's future based on an annual theme.

More than 40,000 high school students addressed this year's "Why My Vote Matters" theme, and last night Christine Troll was named the Voice of Democracy first-place national winner where she received the $30,000 T.C. Selman Memorial Scholarship award and delivered ...


VFW to Deliver Veterans' Voice to Congress

WASHINGTON - More than 500 members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliary are arriving in the nation's capital this weekend to urge their respective members of Congress to continue improving the programs and services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Highlighting the annual legislative conference will be the VFW national commander's testimony before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans' Affairs, and the presentation of two VFW national awards: the VFW Congressional Award to Senate VA Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and the VFW News Media Award to Military Times Deputy Editor Leo Shane.

Elected in July 2018 to lead America's largest and oldest major war veterans' organization, VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence is set to pres...


VFW Names 2019 Voice of Democracy State Winners

High school students across the country recorded audio-essays on this year's Voice of Democracy theme: "Why My Vote Matters." We've selected one winner from each state to qualify for the grand prize, a $30,000 scholarship to the college or technical school of their choice. Listen to your state winning essay!...


Lieutenant 'Green Thumb'

After two tours overseas with the Navy - one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan - former Lt. Vincent Grasso returned to his Long Island suburb, ripped up his front lawn and crafted a self-sustaining,
agricultural ecosystem on his tiny 45-foot-by-100-foot lot. Grasso, the deputy mayor of Valley Stream, N.Y., jokes that his neighbors initially thought he was performing some sort of ritualistic pet burial.

A member of VFW Post 1790 in Valley Stream, Grasso served in Iraq in 2006 as a petty officer 1st class working as an intelligence specialist with SEAL Team 5. In 2013, he deployed to Afghanistan as an intelligence officer with the Special Operations Joint Task Force. Grasso is 5-feet-10-inches of pure, distilled sarcasm. He only revealed his true height after repeatedly insisting he was 6-feet-4, explaining, "I loom large."

It's unclear whether his sense of humor was learned in or was merely strengthened by the Navy. Perhaps it came from his mother, who once joked that she would move to Canada during wartime if she ...


VFW Presents Donation to Kansas City Warriors Hockey Team

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Today, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. proudly presented a $12,000 donation to the Kansas City Warriors, the city's new ice hockey team comprised solely of disabled military veterans.

"We've been headquartered in Kansas City for more than 90 years and are happy to help support a hometown team, especially one that provides such a great opportunity for our local veterans to find healing and camaraderie," said VFW Adjutant General Kevin Jones.

The Kansas City Warriors operates under the mentorship of the Minnesota Warriors, a program that works in conjunction with the USA Disabled Hockey Program and a leader in the disabled veteran's hockey community. The teams use the game of hockey to assist veterans with disabilities in building self-confidence and helping them transition back into a mainstream lifestyle they had prior to their injury.

Participation in the Kansas City Warriors program is open to all injured or disabled veterans with a VA rating of 10 percent or highe...


VFW Grant Means More Than Money for Veteran's Family

The McKinney household is a bustling hub of love and activity. Veteran Stormie McKinney of North Carolina and her husband Tyrone, have six children and five dogs. Life has been a mix of happy times and intense trials for McKinney.

Joining the Navy in search of a prosperous career, McKinney achieved the rank of petty officer. However, a terrible sexual assault while she was working in the shipyards in France forever changed her path.

The horrific experience caused McKinney to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress (PTS) and she's now on disability. She was paying the family's bills with her checks and getting by, but the loss of her husband's pay put the family in a desperate situation.

McKinney had enough to pay for household expenses, but there wasn't enough left for things like food or clothes for her children. "I couldn't take care of them on my own. If I paid the bills, I couldn't feed my family," she said.

However, during a conversation with an online veteran community chat group, McKinney found ou...


Scholarship Gives Veteran a Chance to Finish College

Andrew Bramsch, 35, of St. Louis, Mo., didn't know what he wanted to do after graduating from high school, but he knew college was not for him. After exploring his options, he felt the military made sense and he enlisted in the Army.

Bramsch served in the Army for almost 11 years in airborne infantry. He was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., and in Vicenza, Italy. He also spent one year in Iraq and one and a half years in Afghanistan before medically retiring as a sergeant.

As fate would have it, events in Bramsch's military career ended up leading him to college after all. He is now finishing a master's degree in transportation and logistics management with American Public University System.

"I started in logistics in the Army after an injury. I was placed in the arms room and helped with supply. I saw there was a lot of planning and preparation in running a company. After that, I enjoyed being behind the scenes," said Bramsch. "I say that working in logistics means that no one knows what I do, but everyone goes ...


Veterans Groups Say $103 Billion in Funding Needed for FY20

WASHINGTON - In advance of the Administration's budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 and advance appropriations for FY 2021, the three coauthors of The Independent Budget (IB) - Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., Disabled American Veterans, and Paralyzed Veterans of America - today recommend a total of $103.3 billion to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) begins to fully and faithfully implement the VA MISSION Act of 2018, make needed improvements, and is able to timely deliver benefits and services to ill and injured veterans, their families and survivors. This is the first time the IB's recommended budget has topped the $100 billion mark, and represents a 17 percent increase over current FY 2019 funding.

Implementing the VA MISSION Act this fiscal year will require significantly more resources than have been provided through regular appropriations, and is the main reason why medical care ap...


Writing a Story of Hope and Healing With Help From a VSO Friend

Joel Capell sat at a book signing for his new memoir when a man came in and offered him a bit of rope. Capell took it, unsure what it meant. The man explained it represented the hope he found in Capell's book.

"No More Hope and No More Rope," said Capell. "That chapter in the book is one of the lowest points of my life."

The two men talked and cried. Capell was amazed. Not only was he there, but he was helping someone else. It was something he never would've imagined himself possible of years earlier. Capell is grateful for the rope thrown to him during a dark time. It came from the assistance navigating the VA he received, and the encouragement to tell his story, from friend and VFW accredited Veteran Service Officer, Zac Miller.

Capell, of Mount Victory, Ohio, joined the Army 23 years ago to pay for school. He spent most of his time in the National Guard as a combat engineer and has served three tours in the Middle East.

For a while, life seemed good. Capell considered himself bright and ready to take ...


VFW Post Feeds Hungry Veterans

In 2014, Feeding America initiated a Hunger in America national study. It showed that one in five households served by the Feeding America network has at least one member that has served or is currently serving in the military.

In Pennsylvania, that number is higher. The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank reported that within its 27 county-service territory, 26 percent of all households receiving assistance have at least one member who served in uniform.

To help combat this problem, in 2015, the food bank initiated MilitaryShare, which offers monthly food distributions at VFW and American Legion posts to veterans. VFW Post 1754 in Huntingdon is one such distribution site.

According to Post 1754 member Reeder Swartz, he has about 25 volunteers each month to distribute the food. In two hours' time, some 120 families are served.

Each family receives eggs, milk, two types of meat, 40 pounds of dry goods, 10 pounds of potatoes, apples, onions and whatever fresh fruits and vegetables are in season.

It costs...


VFW Launches Mobile App Ahead of 2019 Legislative Conference

KANSAS CITY, Mo.- With the 2019 VFW Legislative Conference only weeks away, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. has designed a new mobile event app to give attendees the tools needed to make the most out of attending VFW national events. The new VFW Events app allows for attendees of the VFW's Legislative Conference and National Convention to receive important notifications and reminders throughout the events, have instant access to the daily agenda, the opportunity to connect with other attendees and more.

The new VFW Events app is available for download at both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store by searching VFW Events. Users who don't have a smart phone or tablet...


Member Service Center Reps Expect Your Call

The VFW's Member Service Center Director Ken Romine has a simple message to convey: "Call us."

Established in 2017, the Member Service Center does more than people realize, and Romine wants his customer service representatives swamped with telephone calls.

According to Melodi Dailey, one of the service center supervisors, customers don't always know to call the center for orders, even if there happens to be a problem with a past order. All questions about VFW Store orders, including returns and exchanges, should go through the service center.

"We do everything in our power to help," Dailey said. "But if by chance we don't have what they need, we help them by locating it on the computer and supply them with the information they need."

The Member Service Center staff also addresses questions about dues and membership and helps members obtain new membership cards. If a member has misplaced an issue of VFW magazine, calling the service center will guarantee you get the issue in the mail.

"W...


The Home Depot Opens Its 2019 Community Impact Grant

The Home Depot has started accepting applications for its 2019 Community Impact Grant. VFW members can receive up to $5,000 to fund repairs or construction projects at their Post building.

While there are no guarantees to being funded, several VFW Posts have been awarded this grant in the past.

Applications are only accepted through Home Depot's online form. Telephone calls, emails or written submissions sent to Home Depot will NOT be accepted, nor will you be able to turn this application in at your local Home Depot store.

New this year, Home Depot now requires a project budget that must be submitted as a Microsoft Excel file. This new requirement is covered in-depth in the guide.

Pay close attention to the Tax ID Instructions. You will use the Employee Identification Number (EIN) of your Post and upload the Post's 501(c)(19) IRS determination letter at the end of the application. If you ca...


Scholarship Sends Veteran on his Next Mission

John Bradford Yarbrough, Jr., 27, of St. Louis, Mo., has always wanted to serve others, serve his country and find a way to make a difference in the world.

"I had a deep desire to serve after the attacks of September 11. I still remember being in 8th grade in 2005, and a Marine who had gone to my grade school and was on the cover of Time magazine ["Street Fight: Inside the Battle for Fallujah"] came to speak to my class. I wished I could've joined right then," said Yarbrough. "I've always had the view that it's your duty as an American citizen to serve in some capacity. And the military breeds leaders. Joining seemed like the easiest way to forge my own path."

VFW Help A Hero Scholarship recipient John Bradford Yarbrough JrVFW National Commander Heading to Eastern Europe

WASHINGTON - The national commander of America's largest and oldest major combat veterans' organization heads overseas this weekend to embed with members of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team from Fort Riley, Kan., who recently deployed to Eastern Europe as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The visit by B.J. Lawrence, national commander of the 1.6 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its Auxiliary, is the final chapter in a three-part story that began with a meeting with senior Army leadership in the Pentagon last fall. A discussion evolved around having the VFW national commander observe a unit undergoing pre-deployment training at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., then marrying up with that unit overseas. Fort Riley's 1st ABCT, part of the 1st Infantry Division, was selected, but since it had already completed NTC, Lawrence viewed similar training by armor ...


VFW Makes Surprise Donation to KC's Disabled Veterans Hockey Team

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - During its recent Military Appreciation Weekend, the Kansas City Mavericks, along with fans, raised an impressive $7,745 for the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW), a Kansas City-headquartered nonprofit who specializes in veterans, military and community service programs.

Today, the VFW is proud to announce it will donate those proceeds to the Kansas City Warriors hockey team who took the ice in its first exhibition game last Saturday against the Minnesota Warriors at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.

The Kansas City Warriors is a new organization operating under the mentorship and guidance of the Minnesota Warriors, an established program with 10 years of proven success and a leader in the disabled veteran's hockey community who operates in conjunction with the USA Disabled Hockey Program. Both Warriors teams are comprised of disabled American veterans who find healing through the sport.

"We want to thank all the fans who came out in support of the Mavericks and Warrior...


Indiana Post Raises $12,500 for Suicide Awareness

For the second year in a row, members of VFW Post 1587 in Speedway, Ind., and its Auxiliary walked to raise awareness about the rate of suicide among veterans.

Last year, the Post sponsored its first Walk 22 event and raised $10,000. This year, the event garnered $12,500. The goal for 2019 is $15,000.

According to Post Commander Tim Kanyuh, the money raised was donated to Families First Indiana for its Crisis and Suicide Intervention Hotline. Crisis intervention specialists are available 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-8255 or texting CSIS to 839863.

"A lot of us have been touched by someone who has committed suicide," Kanyuh said, referencing a fellow Iraq War veteran. "We just want to see it end and want to do what we can to help."

About 60 people took part in the two-mile walk in September that weaved throughout the streets of Speedway, home to the Indianapolis 500.

Along the way, the walkers stopped at local businesses to drum up donations and let people know why they were walking.

...


$165,000 for Autism Programs

A VFW Post in North Carolina has raised more than $165,000 for autism programs in its community. Post 4066 in Shelby, N.C., donated $58,000 to Cleveland County (N.C.) Schools in June for the district's autism programs.

Funds were raised thought private donations and Post events such as dinners, auctions, poker runs, raffles and yard sales. However, most of the money comes from an annual golf tournament, said Post 4066 Commander Clifford Ramsey.

"A lot of the money comes from community businesses that sponsor the event," the Army veteran said. "We have a lot of folks who get involved in our golf tournaments each year."

Over the past five years, Ramsey said, Post 4066's donations have funded summer camp, scholarships, curricular materials, scholarships, staff training and parent events. He said Post 4066 is aiming to raise $200,000 by the end of April, which is National Autism Awareness Month.

Ramsey, who served with the 52nd Aviation Battalion in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive in 1968, said that he and ...


VFW Blue Water Navy Vet Wins Federal Appeals Court Ruling

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a decade-old ruling yesterday that potentially paves the way for the return of earned disability benefits for some 90,000 so-called Blue Water Navy veterans from the Vietnam War.

The case, Procopio v. Wilkie, was supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and a number of other veterans service organizations and advocates. It had Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert L. Wilkie Jr. being sued by Navy veteran and VFW Life member Alfred Procopio Jr., who was denied service connection for prostate cancer and diabetes mellitus because he never stepped foot on dry land or served within Vietnam's inland waterways. Procopio, a Life member of VFW Post 6587 in Spring Lake Park, Minn., was assigned aboard the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, which was stationed inside Vietna...


'This Program Is Helping My Family'

The VFW's Unmet Needs program awarded more than $1,300 to an Iraq War Army veteran in need of financial support.

James Bohlin, an Army veteran who enlisted in March 2010, served as an infantryman in Afghanistan's Paktia Province with 509th Inf. Regt., 4th BCT, 25th Inf. Div., during a 2012 deployment.

Bohlin, of Dallas, Texas, said he has PTSD and physical disabilities stemming from his deployment to Afghanistan. He is rated 70 percent disabled by VA.

After leaving the Army in September 2014, he said it was difficult to deal with his separation from the Army and finances.

"I was able to hold it together for more than a year," Bohlin said. "But, things finally collapsed and things were looking bad. I was looking at foreclosure. Who knows what would have happened if I lost my house at that moment."

In April, Bohlin applied for an Unmet Needs grant. He said the way VFW Unmet Needs helped his family is "indescribable," and he considers himself "on the way to success."

"I was able to gather myse...


'I Can Feel Again'

A member of VFW Post 10165 in Diamond Springs, Calif., works for homeless veterans in his community and around the country. He's doing what he can to make sure his fellow brothers and sisters are "good to go."

Tracey DiVita, a Marine Corps veteran who served from 1999 to 2003, got the idea to help homeless veterans when he came across a man living on the streets who asked for money.

"I usually don't carry cash," DiVita said. "But, that day I just so happened to have $10, so I gave it to him."

A couple of days later, he ran into the same man again. This time, DiVita had two bags of cans and bottles for recycling. He offered the man the bags, but the man refused to take them.

"I offered it to him, but he said he had a hernia," DiVita said. "I got so mad because he was just full of it. I watched him swing a black garbage bag over his shoulder. I just thought that his whole life was in that garbage bag."

That gave him, what he said was, a "light bulb moment" - he thought of a "sea bag," or duffle bag....


Help A Hero Scholarship Helps 'Pave the Way' to MBA

Iraq War veteran Truong Mai had just started his career while pursuing a Master of Business Administration when he came into financial hardship. And VFW's Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship provided the assistance he needed.

"This scholarship really helped me out in regard to paying for tuition, books and stipends stuff like that," said Mai, who wrote a letter of thanks to Sport Clips CEO Gordon Logan.

Mai served in Iraq from November 2007 to January 2009 with the 3rd Armored Cav. Regt., and in Afghanistan from March 2011 to March 2012 with the 3rd Inf. Div., 497th Movement Control Team. He received $5,000 for the fall 2018 semester. He is studying at Florida State University, and said, the way his admissions process was handled showed that the university cares about its veterans.

"Florida State is one of the most military friendly universities in the United States," Mai said. "I like their value. The president of Florida State also served in the military."

Mai said the military is a "good ground" to be...


VFW Supports Grieving Widow and Daughter

Katie Bouchard and 6-year-old daughter, Piper, are getting a little bit better every day.

Katie and veteran Keith Bouchard had been married for over a decade when he took his own life. A family in despair with so many details to handle have managed a lot in the past year. What seemed to be a sudden occurrence had a long, telling trail leading to the loss of their hero.

Iowa native, Keith Bouchard joined the Marines in 1988 at 17 years old with the permission of his mother. In his 10 years, he experienced the Gulf War, deployments to Panama and Okinawa, and cold weather training in Norway. These trips were not without injury. Bouchard broke both legs during a helicopter jump performed in Panama.

Bouchard went on to join the United States Coast Guard after departing from the Marines. In addition to the Panama injury, he had to go through shoulder and back surgery. But, he truly loved the work he did in his 16 years with the Coast Guard before retiring in 2014.

"He was very good at what he did. He was in fe...


'Just Good Works'

VFW Post 1467 in Old Lyme, Conn., has the motto: "No bar, no building; just Good Works!"

According to past Post commander Ed Shyloski, when the Post was chartered in 1993, its members met in the Old Lyme Senior Center and agreed there was no reason for a Post home or bar.

Instead, they decided to put their efforts and funds into serving Old Lyme and surrounding communities.

"As normal practice every year," Shyloski said, "we have sent thousands of dollars to the West Haven VA Hospital, Rocky Hill State VA Hospital Program, West Haven VA Blind Center, Fisher House for West Haven and the Giant Steps Art and Music Therapy Program at West Haven VA Hospital."

Five years ago, an anonymous veteran donated $10,000 to the Post, saying everything he has done in his life was because of his experiences in the military.

That donation started the Post's Vets-In-Need Outreach program. Shyloski said the Post advertised the program in local newspapers to spread the word that the Post was ready to help.

"Now...


Veterans Service Organizations Issue The Independent Budget Policy Agenda for 116th Congress

WASHINGTON - Today, DAV, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States released The Independent Budget Veterans Agenda for the 116th Congress which contains policy recommendations to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs remains fully-funded and capable of carrying out its mission to serve veterans and their families both now and in the future. The Independent Budget is a roadmap for the 116th Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Administration to navigate critical veteran issues. It includes detailed recommendations in the areas of benefits, health care, infrastructure, education, employment, training and memorial concerns facing veterans and their families. For over 30 years, the three partnering organizations have co-authored The Independent Budget.

The Independent Budget sets full and faithful implementation of the VA MISSION Act as the critical issue for the 116th Congress. This his...


Action Alert: Tell Congress to Pass Blue Water Navy Legislation Now!

The VFW is urging its members and supporters to tell Congress to pass Blue Water Navy legislation now!

This past year, Congress failed to pass H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, which would finally restore VA benefits to some 90,000 veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

Veterans who served in the offshore waters of Vietnam, during the Vietnam War, continue to be arbitrarily and unjustly denied benefits for illnesses associated with Agent Orange exposure.

Do not stand by as veterans suffer. Contact your members of Congress to demand they pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act. Congress must not delay while Blue Water Navy veterans sicken and die from diseases related to exposure to Agent Orange.

Take action and contact your representatives today!

...


Painting Away the Trauma

In the aftermath of experiencing war, some VFW members have returned to their previous passion - art - to manage post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and bring hope to others.

VFW Life member Pete Damon is one of them. He was in Iraq for only a few weeks when everything changed.

On Oct. 21, 2003, Damon, who served with the Army's 3rd Assault Bn., 158th Aviation Regt., was working on the wheel of a helicopter at Balad Air Base when the rim "exploded." The blast severed Damon's arms and killed Spc. Paul J. Beuche, 19, of Daphne, Ala.

"I don't remember much," Damon said. "It was just flashes of horror of realizing my arms were gone."

Damon lost his right arm above the elbow and left arm below the elbow. He spent 15 months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center - three as an inpatient and 12 as an outpatient. In the following weeks, he underwent "multiple surgeries."

"I was pretty optimistic, I guess - as far as you can be in that situation," said Damon, a member of VFW Post 697 in Middleboro, M...


'What We Do Changes Lives'

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of VFW's National Veterans Service (NVS) Department. That is a century of working on behalf of the nation's veterans to ensure they are granted the benefits they have earned.

It's not an easy mission, as the NVS staff at VFW's Washington Office will attest, but one that grows increasingly more important each year. In 2017-18 alone, VFW's NVS staff recovered a record-breaking $8.36 billion for veterans. Of that, $1.4 billion was for new clients. VFW service officers filed more than 109,000 new claims last year.

"What we do changes lives," NVS Director Ryan Gallucci said. "It's humbling, challenging and rewarding. The scope of responsibility the VFW has to make sure veterans understand their benefits and that those were earned is tremendous."

An Iraq War vet, Gallucci said that he and those who work for him know better than most what it's like to assist discharging veterans get what they are entitled to receive.

"What we went through ourselves after dis...


VFW Announces Spring Scholarship Recipients

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is proud to announce its "Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship" program has surpassed awarding $5.7 million in scholarships to nearly 1,300 military and student veterans. The latest award of more than $768,000 will now help ensure 172 student veterans can continue their higher education classes this upcoming spring semester.

"The Post-9/11 GI Bill was a great piece of legislation that was made even better with the passage of the Forever GI Bill," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, whose organization championed both pieces of legislation through Congress. "But higher education is expensive, and oftentimes 36 months of benefits isn't enough for new veterans to fulfill their educational goals," he said. "I'm very proud that the VFW can help change the lives of 172 stu...


VFW and SVA Announce 2019 Student Veteran Fellowship Class

WASHINGTON - Ten Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. members and Student Veterans of America leaders have been selected for the 2019 VFW-SVA Fellowship program. The announcement was made Saturday at SVA's 11th National Conference in Orlando, Fla. The 10 fellows will now join more than 500 VFW members of when they converge on Capitol Hill in early March to advocate on behalf of all veterans, service members and their families.

"The VFW is proud to provide 10 student veterans the opportunity to participate in the legislative process to help improve the care and benefits of their fellow veterans," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. "We look forward to working with this year's fellows to hone their skills as veterans' advocates on campus, in their communities, and on the national stage."

The VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship is a semester-long academic experience that involves research, action, reporting and advocating on behalf of one of four veterans' policy areas: student veteran success on camp...


VFW Announces Annual Publications Contest

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is now accepting submissions for its 2019 National Publications Contest. VFW publications published up to four times annually, or five or more times annually, will be judged in four categories.*

The categories are:

Department-level publications:

  • Newspaper/Newsletter
    • Defined as being printed on newspaper stock or designed for online distribution as a PDF.
  • Best Feature Story
    • Entries from all publications will be considered for this category. Each article must be submitted separately. The story must be a published article of at least 300 words. It can be originally written by your newspaper/magazine staff or by a freelance writer, or be reprinted from a newspaper within your state. Feature articles published in online/electronic newsletters, newspapers or magazines also are eligible, but must be printed in color and submitted via USPS, not emai...


Is the Cyberworld Safer Than the 3-D World?

With every passing year, more and more of Americans' lives are lived online. Why drive to the bank or the DMV when you can deposit checks with your cell phone and renew your driver's license from home? Adults socialize with friends, pay bills and file their taxes online. High school seniors average a whopping six hours a day online,1 texting, playing games, and on social media.

All this Internet activity means we're safer in some ways-we can't lose our wallet in our living room or get into a traffic accident at our desk. But the online world carries its own dangers, and cybercrime is unfortunately exploding. A September 2018 Forbes article2 listed these five statistics:

  1. Every minute, 1,861 people fall victim to cyber-attacks and $1.14 million is stolen.
  2. Over the next five years, 146 billion records will be breached-four times the current rate.
  3. Ransomware attacks are increasing 350% per year, and damage costs will be $11.5 billion in...


Utah Senator Stops Blue Water Navy Bill

WASHINGTON - The objection by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to passing H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018, by unanimous consent today on the Senate floor has effectively doomed any chance of the bill being passed in the 115th Congress. Lee now joins Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), who objected last week due to the bill's overall cost. Lee's objection was because he wants to wait and see more sufficient evidence.

"We don't need more sick veterans to prove sufficient evidence," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. "Agent Orange made Vietnam veterans sick, and science agrees that there isn't any reason to treat so-called Blue Water Navy veterans any different than their peers who served ashore or on the inland waterways of Vietnam," he said. "What both senators have done is fail thousands of veterans - many of whom reside in their home states. Their obstruction to this bill's passage forsakes our nation's promise to take care of those who were injured or made ill due to their military service. T...


Navy Veteran Discovers a 'Gem' in VFW Pre-Discharge Representative

Veteran James E. Jones, Jr. of San Diego, Calif., is a remarkable person surrounded by the love and support of his family and friends. He has spent 26 years of his life in service to his country, and is set to retire from the Navy in a few months.

Growing up in a small community in Alabama, Jones knew he wanted to leave but was too intimidated by the thought of college. Instead, he joined the Navy and traveled all over Europe, before spending 12 years devoted to the conflicts in Africa and Iraq.

He still found the time to marry his love, Gidget, and have two daughters, Alexis and Jameiah. Then, with the experience and confidence gained in the military, he graduated cum laude with a degree in criminal justice, focusing on emergency management and homeland security.

The years abroad were understandably not easy on Jones, physically or emotionally. Like many veterans, Jones knows what it feels like to be caught in enemy fire.

After returning from combat, he began the transition to civilian life. But, this t...


Texas VFW Post Brings Christmas Spirit to Community

VFW Post 2195 will host its second "Operation North Pole" event on Dec. 15 in the dining room of Market Street in Allen. Children will speak to Mrs. Claus, who will be set up across town, through a ham radio.

Post member Jim Brevard, a Vietnam War veteran who served from 1964-65 with the Air Force's 619th Tactical Control Squadron, said the idea came from something he and Post Junior Vice Commander Robert Evans did while in the service.

"The radio guys would go down and set up and let the kids talk to Mrs. Claus at the North Pole," Brevard said.

They brought the idea to the Post, according to Brevard, because of their efforts to "give back to the community."

"It gives us a chance to show the community that we're here," Brevard said, "and we've done other community events, and we generally have a lot of people come up and talk to us and ask about the Post and what we do. This presents us with another opportunity for that."

As the only two ham operators at the Post, Brevard and Evans took the lead o...


First Afghanistan War Veteran to Lead Arkansas Post

Trisha Leslie, who served in Operation Enduring Freedom from 2010-2013, took on the role in April for VFW Post 4556 in Pocahontas, Ark. And to her, the accolade symbolizes change.

"Not only am I the first Afghanistan War veteran elected, but I am also the first female combat veteran and the youngest elected commander for our Post," Leslie said. "Too often, we are scared of change and not knowing what comes with it. But in order to evolve and keep the VFW a successful organization, we have to accept change."

When Leslie exited the Army, she knew she wanted to do more, but said she wasn't sure what that "more" would entail.

"Years went by before I figured out what it was I was looking for," Leslie said. "Then the opportunity presented itself when I was invited to a local Post meeting to visit with other former military members. It was then that I realized that I might be able to help out more at home than I ever could abroad."

She hopes to make her Post more inclusive by recruiting younger members and coll...


VFW to Senate: Pass Blue Water Navy Bill Now!

WASHINGTON - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is calling for the U.S. Senate to finally pass H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018, which would end the injustice of denying Vietnam, Korean DMZ and Thailand veterans who suffer from life-threatening health conditions related to exposure to Agent Orange the care and benefits they deserve. The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 299 earlier this year by a unanimous vote, but the bill has been stuck in the Senate. The VFW national commander is urging all senators to support its immediate passage.

"Agent Orange made Vietnam veterans sick," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, whose 1.6 million-member organization supports H.R. 299, which would restore VA benefits to some 90,000 so-called Blue Water Navy veterans who had their disability eligibility taken away in 2002 after regulatory changes. It would also require the VA to make whole veterans who were previously denied benefits.

The legislation would also h...


Sport Clips Haircuts Just Donated $1.35 Million to the VFW

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - At the national headquarters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., the Vietnam War veteran who founded Sport Clips Haircuts handed over a check for $1.35 million to the VFW Foundation today in order to support Help A Hero Scholarships for active-duty U.S. service members and veterans. Sport Clips began fundraising in October with the goal to exceed the $1.25 million raised last year for the program. By Veterans Day, November 11, Sport Clips, along with its clients, team members and product partners, raised the money for the largest donation in its 11-year history of supporting those who've served through the Help A Hero initiative.

In attendance was first-time scholarship recipient Army Specialist Ian Tucker, who is currently enrolled at Missouri State University studying criminal justice and legal studies. Tucker's goal is to earn his law degree, work for the Department of Justice a...


Veteran Gets Help So He Can Give Help

Javier Galvan signed up for the United States Marine Corps in 2006 at age 17, right out of high school. He didn't have plans for his future and felt the military offered a way to have a career and do something with his life. He also thought it might be a way to validate his American citizenship.

"I was born in the U.S., I'm from California, but I felt like society didn't welcome me because of my Mexican heritage," said Galvan. "I wanted to feel like a real American."

Galvan served his country for four years, deploying to Iraq in 2008 and Afghanistan in 2009. He enlisted with the idea of having a military career, but his experiences in the Marines gave him the desire to do other things. The Post-9/11 GI Bill helped him see he had an opportunity to go to school.

"I started college within weeks of leaving the military," Galvan said. "The Marines do not really have their own medical personnel, but seeing the work done by our Navy corpsmen and combat lifesaver training made me realize I wanted to be a doctor."

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VA Bears Responsibility to Make Student Veterans Whole, Says VFW

The Department of Veterans Affairs released a statement yesterday regarding the implementation of Forever GI Bill changes that were supposed to have been enacted this past August. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has now directed the Veterans Benefits Administration to cease attempting to implement the changes and instead reset the entire effort in order to get the job done correctly. The reset begins this Saturday, with the full implementation date now shifting to December 2019. Student veterans are expected to see positive effects of the changes in the spring 2020 semester.

"The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States was disappointed to learn about the 12-month delay in implementing this amazing benefit, but we recognize why hitting the reset button was necessary in order for the VA to get this right," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence.

The Forever GI Bill changed student housing allowances to reflect the ZIP codes where students attend the majority of their classes. This cha...


Ten Years of Second Chances

It's been 10 years since the first veterans treatment court started in Buffalo, N.Y., and Jack O'Connor is pleased with what he's seen over the past decade. Veterans who would be in prison - and without treatment - are healing and rebuilding their lives.

O'Connor, the former program director for Medicaid in Erie County, N.Y., started the court in 2008 with two other veterans advocates. Hank Pirowski, court coordinator for the county's mental health court at the time, and Judge Robert Russell also helped get the program going.

It all started when O'Connor and Pirowski were observing drug and mental health court sessions. A Vietnam veteran stood before Russell, looking at the floor and mumbling in response to questions.

Russell asked O'Connor and Pirowski, both Vietnam veterans, to have a chat with this veteran.

"All that man wanted was to talk to other Vietnam veterans," O'Connor said. "He was in a good program, but there were no veterans in it."

After talking with the two men, the veteran came ba...


Gold Star Peak is 'Closer to Heaven'

Kirk Alkire is not a medical professional in any sense. But the emotional moments he has witnessed atop mountain peaks in Alaska prove to him that climbing in honor of fallen service members is therapeutic.

One Gold Star father spoke of his deceased son, a Marine, for the first time in more than 15 years as he hiked to the summit.

"This poor guy has been carrying this around, bottled up, since 2002, and we had no idea," said Alkire, who led a mission to name an Alaskan mountain peak after Gold Star families. "We just figured this is who he is, and this is how he talks about [his son]."

Alkire, a Life member of VFW Post 9785 in Eagle River, Alaska, said it wasn't the people who caused this father to open up.

"We were just a vehicle that got him there," Alkire said. "But the process, the climb and then reaching the summit and seeing all the wonderful stuff that's there... It's a powerful thing. And, like I said, I have no certifications in mental health or anything, but I can tell you that these mountains ...


National Academies Link Hypertension, MGUS to Agent Orange Exposure

WASHINGTON - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to add hypertension and a precursor to multiple myeloma to the current list of 14 presumptive diseases associated with contact with chemical defoliants used in Vietnam, Thailand, and along the Korean DMZ.

The VFW's case is bolstered by a new report just released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The report, entitled Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 11 (2018), found that sufficient evidence exists that links exposure to at least one of the hazardous chemicals with hypertension and MGUS, or monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance. The hypertension finding is an upgrade from th...


VA Rates 70 Percent of its Nursing Homes as Failures

WASHINGTON - The national commanders of the nation's two largest veterans organizations are demanding that Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie bring immediate attention to his nursing home program that currently has 70 percent of its 132 homes receiving failing grades by the VA's own rating system.

The call by Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. National Commander B.J. Lawrence and American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad is in response to a series of scathing articles by two USA Today and Boston Globe reporters who documented substandard and negligent care at the VA nursing home in Brockton, Mass., which is one of 45 nursing homes that received the VA's lowest rating of one star. Forty-seven homes received two stars, 16 homes three stars, and 15 homes four stars. Only nine nursing homes received the VA's top five-star rating.

...


The Great War's Great Women

One of the requisite World War I recruitment posters showed a beautiful and composed nurse bending over a young soldier gazing up at her in gratitude and admiration.

Such art was, of course, a fantasy, and by war's end it was an affront to truth. Thousands of U.S. nurses served admirably during the Great War of 1914-18, but there was nothing romantic about their experience. Trench warfare and the impact of the machine gun on infantry operations created an avalanche of casualties that turned field hospitals into hospices of horror.

During the Battle of Belleau Wood in June 1918, for instance, "hundreds and hundreds of wounded poured in like a rushing torrent," Army Nurse Eula Crow wrote in her diary. "The packed, twisted bodies, the screams and groans, made me think of Dante's Inferno."

Conditions were no better at the evacuation station near the old St. Mihiel salient south of Verdun, in northeast France. It was there that the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), under the command of Army Gen. John J. Pershing,...


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