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Joining Forces Initiative Relaunch

Last week, First Lady Jill Biden announced the priorities of the recently relaunched Joining Forces initiative. The focus will be on military spouse unemployment and underemployment, increasing access to health care, particularly mental health, and strengthening education for military children. “We must understand and account for the lifelong impact of service on military-connected children and ensure that children in veteran families, caregiving families and surviving families will also be included in the initiative’s work,” Biden said.

COVID-19 Funeral Expense Reimbursement

Due to the American Rescue Plan Act and other COVID-19-related legislation recently passed into law, FEMA will be able to provide financial assistance for COVID-19-related funeral expenses acquired after Jan. 20, 2020. Although applications are not yet being accepted, FEMA anticipates beginning later this month and is working on establishing a toll-free phone number for applying for assistance. People who have incurred COVID-19-related funeral expenses are being advised to keep and gather documents, like an official death certificate that shows the death is COVID-19 related and funeral expense documents. FEMA will also need proof of funds received from other sources such as VA, to determine the amount of your benefit. Beware of scammers – FEMA will not contact people prior to them registering for assistance.

Sign Up For COVID-19 Vaccine at VA

Veterans, spouses, caregivers, or CHAMPVA recipients need to sign up to let VA know you would like to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Once signed up, you will be contacted by VA as soon as a vaccine is available for you. Be advised that availability will differ by location. VA encourages everyone to take the first opportunity you have to receive the vaccine.

DPAA Remembrance Ceremonies

Last week, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency hosted three remembrance ceremonies in three locations across the globe. The ceremonies marked the 20th anniversary of the April 7, 2001, helicopter accident that killed seven U.S. service members and nine Vietnamese service members while on a DPAA recovery mission in Vietnam. The ceremonies were held in Vietnam at the memorial site for the accident, in the POW/MIA Corridor at the Pentagon, and on the Heroes’ Green at the DPAA facility in Hawaii. DPAA’s sacred mission is not without risk and the VFW honors these amazing people who do this important work.

New Contact Information

The Department of Veterans Affairs has a new information number to help veterans and spouses with questions. The new number is (800) MyVa411 (800-698-2411), press 0. Some of the things you can get help include: live assistance with general information directory assistance and technical support for VA.gov, VA Health Care, Community Health Care, National Cemeteries, Veterans Crisis Line, Debt Management, Facility Locator, Benefit Assistance, Homeless Veterans Line, and Covid-19 Information.

POW/MIA Update

Navy Seaman 2nd Class Howard S. Magers, 18, of Merry Oaks, Kentucky, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. He will be buried on May 29, 2021, in Smith’s Grove, Kentucky.

Navy Mess Attendant 1st Class Octavius Mabine, 21, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. Interment services are pending.

Till next week, praying for all service members.


– Charles Castelluccio

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