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Saves Lives Act Signed Into Law

On Wednesday, President Biden signed into law VFW-supported H.R. 1276, Strengthening and Amplifying Vaccination Efforts to Locally Immunize All Veterans and Every Spouse (SAVE LIVES) Act. The law allows VA to provide a COVID-19 vaccine to all veterans, their spouses, caregivers, and Civilian Health and Medical Program recipients regardless of their eligibility for VA health care. Veterans who are already using VA health care will have priority. To get more information, call the Erie VA at (800) 274-8387, Option 2.

VFW Testifies on C&P Exams Backlog

On Tuesday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a hearing to discuss VA compensation and pension (C&P) exams. VA paused C&P exams in April 2020 due to health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic and, although exams are now taking place, there is a considerable backlog causing delays to the entire VA disability claims process. VFW National Veterans Service Director Ryan Gallucci recommended VA use all its available resources and tools to address the backlog, consider private medical evidence when making rating decisions, and improve communication with veterans and veterans service organizations about claims status and scheduling for exams.

Press Conference on Comprehensive Toxic Exposure Bill

On Tuesday, VFW National Legislative Service Associate Director Kristina Keenan participated in a press conference held by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) to introduce S. 927, the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act. This legislation aligns directly with the VFW’s priority to establish a permanent framework to address past, present, and future toxic exposures in the military at locations both domestic and abroad. Unlike other bills which address toxic exposures in a piecemeal fashion, the VFW believes the TEAM Act will not only take care of a significant number of veterans but would provide VA the guidance necessary to address all toxic exposures in the military. The VFW also supports the companion bill, H.R. 2127, introduced by House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Mike Bost (R-IL). The VFW looks forward to working with Sens. Tillis and Hassan, and Ranking Member Bost on this comprehensive legislation to provide America’s veterans with the care and benefits they need.

Senate Introduces Bill to Extend and Improve Care and Benefits for Gulf War Illness

On Thursday, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a bill that addresses the VFW’s concerns surrounding care and benefits for Persian Gulf War veterans outlined in the Independent Budget. Although U.S. military operations in the Persian Gulf are currently ongoing, the authorization to provide benefits will expire on Dec. 31, 2021. The Improving Benefits for Gulf War Veterans Act would permanently extend VA’s authority to grant benefits for Gulf War Illness and would broaden the definition of Persian Gulf veteran to include those who served in Afghanistan, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, and Jordan. Additionally, since Gulf War Illness is difficult to identify, the bill would create a single Gulf War Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) for the associated symptoms and would provide training to VA medical examiners for Gulf War disability claims. The VFW looks forward to working with Sen. Menendez to pass this significant legislation.

POW/MIA Update

Army Pvt. Lyle W. Reab, 22, of Phillips, Nebraska, was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division. He was reported missing in action as of Nov. 9, 1944. Reab will be buried June 8, 2021, in Aurora, Nebraska.

Marine Corps Pfc. John F. Middleswart, 19, of San Diego, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. He will be buried on June 8, 2021, in his hometown.

Navy Pharmacist’s Mate 3rd Class George L. Paradis, 23, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. Interment services are pending.

Navy Seaman 1st Class Wilbur F. Ballance, 20, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. Interment services are pending.

Navy Fireman 1st Class Harold E. Bates, 27, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. Interment services are pending.

Navy Seaman 1st Class Elmer P. Lawrence, 25, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. Interment services are pending.

Navy Signalman 1st Class Eugene M. Skaggs, 33, 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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