The official blog of American Veteran Magazine, the national quarterly publication of AMVETS.

Monday, November 30, 2009

This Week at American Veteran

Business is back on at AMVETS National Headquarters after the Thanksgiving holiday. I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday and kept our brave men and women fighting overseas in their thoughts and prayers.

This week at American Veteran, we will discuss Dana Bowman's first jump with the AMVETS parachute at last weekend's nationally-televised NCAA football game between New Mexico and No. 4-ranked Texas Christian University (TCU) in Texas.

American Veteran will also cover this weekend's fall meeting of the AMVETS National Executive Committee at the BWI Hilton in Linthicum, Md. AMVETS leaders will discuss progress since the national convention and critical issues for the organization such as Stolen Valor and the upcoming 21st Century Veterans Symposium this summer at the AMVETS National Convention in Louisville.

Congress is back to work, which means we will continue to follow AMVETS Legislative Department, advocating for our veterans on Capitol Hill in Washington. Critical issues continue to be veteran-owned small business contracting, VA family caregiver plans, and the VA budget for FY2010, which is now two months late.

If you have stories you would like to share with American Veteran, please let us know. And, as always, feel free to leave your comments.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

AMVETS Visits American Troops; Allies in Far East This Fall

Every year, AMVETS and the AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary visit our allies in South Korea and Taiwan, visit troops stationed on the Korean peninsula, and visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

This year, AMVETS National Commander Duane Miskulin, AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary National President Patty Piening, and AMVETS National Service Foundation President Joe Piening set out on the week-long trip, corresponding to the Republic of China (Taiwan) Independence Day on Oct. 10.

Cmdr. Miskulin was given the opportunity to speak at the government of Taiwan's official Independence Day commemoration, alongside Republic of China President Ma Ying-Jeou.

AMVETS has a long-established working relationship with the Republic of China. For years, AMVETS has hosted Veterans Affairs leadership from Taiwan at AMVETS events stateside, and Taiwan has returned the favor.

On the Far East visit, Cmdr. Miskulin and the Pienings also had the opportunity to speak with American troops and military leadership from the Eighth U.S. Army stationed in South Korea. Over the last few years, American forces have consolidated operations away from the demilitarized zone with North Korea, moving into the new U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan. AMVETS leaders were treated to a tour of the post, which opened in 2006.

On the return from the Far East, the AMVETS leaders stopped in Hawaii to visit with American troops stationed at Schofield Barracks and to pay their respects to those who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor. AMVETS played an integral role in fund-raising, construction, renovation and maintenance of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

(Photo: AMVETS leaders meet with leaders from the Republic of China (Taiwan) on this fall's Far East visit. Photo courtesy of the Republic of China.)

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

AMVETS Riders Lead an American Warrior Home

On Sunday, Nov. 15, AMVETS Riders from Chapter No. 7 in Morristown, Tenn. joined the local Patriot Guard Riders and members of the Tennessee Highway Patrol to escort the body of Army Spc. Fred Greene back to his hometown of Mountain City, Tenn.

Greene, a 29-year-old Army combat engineer, was one of the 13 victims of the Nov. 5 shooting at Fort Hood, where Army Maj. Nadal Hasan opened fire on a crowded room of soldiers preparing to deploy.

Alan Sipe, president of AMVETS Riders Chapter No. 7, said the AMVETS Riders joined up for a 45-mile stretch of the journey, which passed through the mountains of eastern Tennessee on Sunday morning. Sipe said that entire congregations of small churches along the route lined the streets to pay their respects to Greene.

"The Tennessee Chapter No. 7 Riders were very moved at each and every moment of the ceremonies as they led one of their fallen brothers to his final resting place," said Sipe. "May he forever rest in peace."

Greene was laid to rest on Wednesday at his family church in Mountain City. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in attendance to pay his final respects. Sipe said that Greene was buried with full military honors and treated as a KIA.

According to the Associated Press, Greene enlisted in the Army in 2008 and was assigned to the 16th Signal Company, which was heading overseas. Greene is survived by his wife, Christie, and his two adopted daughters, Haley and Allison.

(Photo: AMVETS Riders served as members of the Honor Guard when Spc. Greene arrived at the Tri-Cities Airport on Nov. 15. Photo courtesy of Alan Sipe. Video: news coverage of Spc. Greene's ride home and his funeral on Wednesday, Nov. 18. Embedded using HTML code provided by

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 23, 2009

This (Short) Week at American Veteran

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, AMVETS National Headquarters will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 26 and Friday, Nov. 27 so that our staff can spend the holidays with their loved ones. Congress is also on recess this week for the Thanksgiving District Work Period, which means many of our legislators will be in our hometowns, listening to their constituents.

Tomorrow on American Veteran Online, we will feature the story of AMVETS Riders Chapter No. 7 in Morristown, Tenn., which helped to escort Army Spc. Fred Greene, one of the fallen from the Fort Hood shooting, to his home town of Mountain City, Tenn.

American Veteran will also follow up on last week's Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, citing government contracting fraud among businesses claiming to be service-disabled veteran owned small businesses (SDVOSBs).

In May, AMVETS Deputy Legislative Director Christina Roof testified that a lack of oversight could lead to excessive fraud by small businesses seeking to take advantage of veterans' preferences in contracting and proposed changes to the system to ensure compliance. The new report confirmed AMVETS' greatest concerns over the gravity of the situation.

We will also post highlights from Cmdr. Miskulin's visit to the Far East, which we were unable to post last week.

We're always eager to hear from our readers and the AMVETS posts and departments around the country, so please feel free to comment below, send us story ideas and content, or click on the new "Like/Dislike" boxes at the bottom of each entry.

Finally, AMVETS leaders ask that this Thanksgiving, we all give thanks for the brave men and women, young and old, who have fought to preserve the ideals of our great nation--especially those who have been called to serve and cannot join us this holiday season.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, November 20, 2009

Post-9/11 G.I. Bill Update: In My Opinion...

Yesterday, I received a phone call from a colleague of mine who works as a student-veterans' consultant for the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College. He passed along a memo from the Buffalo VA Regional Office to campus education claims representatives across the Northeast asking them to square away their paperwork.

The memo discussed how claims-processors were not filing paperwork for the correct chapters of the G.I. Bill, which has contributed to incorrect payments and increased delays in benefits-delivery across the region.

At colleges around the region, payments have started to trickle in for tuition. However, living stipends remain MIA.

Matt Susko, an Army veteran of Iraq, said that his school, Cape Cod Community College, received his tuition, but he has not seen any kind of compensation from VA beyond his $3,000 emergency living stipend check.

On Monday, Bob Brewin from NextGov reported that DC-area student-veterans were still missing their G.I. Bill living stipends and that the VA Monday Morning Workload Report still showed only a slight reduction in claims awaiting adjudication.

Last month, VA retained the services of ACS Federal to assist with claims-processing--a move AMVETS hesitantly supported. However, as Brewin reported, the move hasn't changed much to this point in terms of the backlog.

I hate to keep harping on the G.I. Bill delays, but my own experiences leave me pessimistic about Chapter 33 implementation and the effects on today's student-veterans' community.

When I returned from Iraq, I sought to take advantage of my new Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP, Chapter 1607) benefits. After speaking with leaders in my unit and reading up on the new benefit, I went to apply with my VA representative at URI. She had never heard of Chapter 1607 or REAP and had me write in my query on the old Montgomery G.I. Bill paperwork.

Needless to say, nothing happened immediately. I had to re-file my paperwork and enroll under my old benefit, which was fine at the time. It took about six months to sort out Chapter 1607 and I was entitled to some significant back pay once it was sorted out.

At the time, REAP was a substantial increase in benefits, but in no way did it cover the complete cost of my education. I held down several part-time jobs and took out student loans to make up the difference.

Fast forward to 2009 with the complicated Chapter 33 benefits and more than 80,000 student-veterans immediately seeking to take advantage. Compound this with many students who were counting on Chapter 33 to cover all the expenses associated with a college education, including rent, utilities, and groceries, and campus employees who file these complex claims as a collateral responsibility and you're left with finger-pointing about who dropped the ball.

Though VA has the money to pay each of veteran filing for Chapter 33, time is critical. Though I had the luxury of waiting for my paperwork to be sorted out, many of the veterans enrolled in under the new benefit are literally down to their last dime. While schools may understand that the "check is in the mail," this story is a little more difficult to explain to the cashier at Stop & Shop or the clerk at the Sunoco station.

If there's anything veterans know how to do, it's hurry up and wait. But there's even a breaking point for us. Rumors have already started to circulate that veterans plan to drop out of school in the spring just to avoid what they see as an inevitable hassle.

AMVETS leaders are doing all they can to reassure veterans that the money is on its way and that these initial hiccups should not repeat themselves over the next two semesters, but patience is understandably wearing thin.

Personally, I hope that ACS and VA can sort out this backlog quickly and deliver benefits in time for winter break, but a great deal of this still rests on the claims-processors working efficiently on the college campuses.

At some point, the blame has to shift off of VA. From what I've seen, they have been responsive to the concerns of the veterans' community, but the same cannot be said for the schools.

AMVETS leaders have been screaming for colleges and universities to prepare for the influx of veterans this fall. This latest memo from Buffalo indicates to me that certain schools did not take these warnings seriously.

So, I guess we can only reiterate what Buffalo is telling the claims-processors on college campuses: Pay attention to the details. You're the most critical step in ensuring our veterans receive the benefits they have earned.


If you have a Post-9/11 G.I. Bill issue that you would care to share, please feel free to leave your comments below.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sen. Coburn Lifts Hold; Senate Passes Monumental Veterans' Caregiver Bill

For the last few weeks, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) had a hold on the Senate version of a bill (S. 1963) that would establish monthly living stipends, travel reimbursement, and health care benefits for family caregivers of severely disabled veterans. Yesterday, Coburn lifted his hold and tonight the Senate passed the bipartisan bill 98-0.

Coburn put a hold on the bill after the Congressional Budget Office determined that it could cost up to $4 billion over the next four years to implement the new programs without an offset in other government spending.

AMVETS testified in support of the companion family caregiver bill in the House, calling it a critical step in caring for today's war-fighters.

Though AMVETS leaders were happy to see Coburn lift his hold, AMVETS still disagrees with the CBO assessment that the family caregiver plan represented a completely "new" cost of war.

"CBO looked at the family caregiver program as if no other program existed to care for our severely injured veterans," said AMVETS National Legislative Director Ray Kelley. "However, the family caregiver plan is an innovative and more efficient way to offer the kind of care already available through VA. Over time, the family caregiver plan should only open up more resources to veterans and their families."

In addition to the family caregiver plan, the bill includes increased funding for veterans' health care facilities, improved care for female veterans, and expanded programs for rural and remote veterans.

As as cost-controlling measure, the Senate version of the family caregiver plan limits the program to OIF/OEF-era veterans.

Versions of the landmark bill have now passed in both the House and the Senate. Now the bills will go to committee before Congress votes on a final version. Check back with American Veteran Online for updates, as we inch closer to a groundbreaking family caregiver plan for today's veterans.

(Photo: Stock image of the U.S. Capitol from spring 2009 by Ryan Gallucci.)

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fall Issue of American Veteran Magazine Available Now

The fall issue of American Veteran is now available and should be in your mailbox this week. To preview the issue online, Click Here.

For this issue, we sat down with Marine Corps veteran and world-renowned chef John Besh at his flagship restaurant August in New Orleans. Besh shared his inspiring story of military service and the way his vast Marine Corps network has helped him succeed in a cut-throat culinary world.

In this month's "Off the Shelf," we discuss Craig Mullaney's The Unforgiving Minute, which chronicles Mullaney's lessons-learned throughout his unorthodox and inspiring military career.

We also welcome new AMVETS national spokesman and inspirational wounded paratrooper Dana Bowman and discuss the AMVETS Riders first national program to support the Camp Hope wounded warriors retreat in Missouri.

This issue also features updates on two critical issues to AMVETS and the veterans' community: sufficient, timely and predictable funding for the VA and the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. We discuss the historic signing of the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009 and how it will effect VA funding down the road, and we take a look at the VA's implementation of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and AMVETS' role in helping veterans receive timely compensation amid unforeseen payment delays.

In this fall's Keeping Posted, we highlight AMVETS' work from the departments of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana and Wisconsin.

We've already started compiling material for the winter issue, so please send your submissions to the National Communications Department as soon as possible, and, as always, please let us know what you think.

To send a letter to the editor, you can either send your comments to the attention of the Communications Director at AMVETS National Headquarters, 4647 Forbes Blvd., Lanham, Md. 20706, or simple comment on this blog with the name you wish to appear.

(Photos: Top: Chef John Besh discusses his military experiences at his award-winning August restaurant in New Orleans. Photo by Jay Agg. Middle: Dana Bowman shares his inspirational story with AMVETS at this summer's national convention. Photo by Ryan Gallucci. Bottom: President Obama signs VA advance appropriations into law at the White House this fall. Photo by Ryan Gallucci.)

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

UPDATE: Senate Passes VA Budget

This afternoon, the Senate passed the FY2010 Military Construction and VA budget by a vote of 100-0. AMVETS leaders have been calling on Congress to work out the details in the VA budget for weeks, since the Oct. 1 due date lapsed.

"This marks the 20th time in the last 23 years that the VA budget has been delivered late, further reinforcing why the recent signing of advance appropriations for VA health care was so critical," said AMVETS National Legislative Director Ray Kelley. "Now, even when politics stalls the process, our veterans' care will not suffer at the same time."

Last month, President Obama signed the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009 into law, authorizing Congress to finance VA health care one year in advance. The FY2010 VA budget will be the first to contain advance appropriations for the following fiscal year.

The Senate version of the VA/MilCon budget includes $133.9 billion to fund VA. With the addition of Senate amendments, the budget will now go to conference before Congress votes on a final version to send to the President. Check back with American Veteran Online for updates on this year's VA budget process.

(Photo: Stock image of the U.S. Capitol Building from Nov. 2009 by Ryan Gallucci.)

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 16, 2009

This Week at American Veteran

This week at American Veteran, we will highlight AMVETS National Commander Duane J. Miskulin's recent visit to the Far East. On the recent visit, alongside AMVETS Ladies' Auxiliary National President Patty Piening, Miskulin visited with American troops stationed in South Korea, allied leaders in South Korea and the Republic of China (Taiwan), and visited the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii.

We will also discuss the recent AMVETS Americanism Program visit to the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, where 92 high school students from across the country came together to learn about American history, American government, and to visit historic landmarks in the original nation's capitol, Philadelphia.

American Veteran will also continue to follow developments on Capitol Hill, including Wednesday's hearing in the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs concerning veterans' employment. We will also keep you up to date on critical pending legislation, such as the VA budget for FY2010 and the Veterans' Caregiver and Omnibus Health Benefits Act, which is currently stalled in the Senate.

In recent weeks, AMVETS leaders have taken up the cause of Stolen Valor, which has become much more prevalent in the current conflicts. More and more reports have come into AMVETS National Headquarters in the last few months documenting incidents where people pose as decorated combat veterans in an effort to curry special treatment. AMVETS takes these accusations very seriously, considering the negative affects Stolen Valor can have on the legitimate veterans' community, which has earned reverence in our society through tremendous sacrifices.

In 2005, AMVETS supported strengthening the Stolen Valor Act beyond the Medal of Honor, meaning those who wear other unauthorized military decorations or otherwise pose as veterans for personal gain can be charged with a federal crime. American Veteran is following each of these incidents very closely--some of which have garnered national media attention--and we will keep you posted in the coming days.

As always, we're eager to hear from you and if you have a story you would like us to highlight on the blog, just let us know.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, November 13, 2009

Veterans Day 2009: AMVETS Family joins President; Vice President for Special Events Around Nation's Capitol

On Veterans Day 2009, AMVETS National Commander Duane J. Miskulin joined President Barack Obama, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and leaders from the nation's other leading VSOs for a special breakfast in the East Room at the White House , followed by a memorial ceremony and a somber wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery.

That afternoon, AMVETS legislative and communications staff joined Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden for a veterans' luncheon at the Vice President's residence. Biden delivered a heart-felt speech acknowledging the sacrifices of not only America's military men and women, but also the parents, spouses, children and other loved ones who have stood by their service members throughout American history.

Biden recalled meeting a WWII veteran in Europe while commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Normandy landing. Biden said that when he thanked the man for his service, the man took his wife's hand and told then-Senator Biden that it was in fact his wife who made it all possible.

Biden went on to say that the only solemn obligation of our federal government is caring for the veterans who have fought in defense of our nation and that he was honored to be in a position to ensure that our nation upholds its obligation.

AMVETS leaders were on hand for other events around the nation's capitol for Veterans Day. American Veteran is in the process of collecting additional photos and details of the day's events. Check back on Monday for additional updates.

If your post or department would like to share its Veterans Day photos and stories, please let us know. American Veteran is eager to tell the story of AMVETS who commemorated the holiday nationwide.

(Photo: Vice President Joe Biden thanks veterans assembled at the Vice President's home for their service on Veterans Day. Photo by Ryan Gallucci.)

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Executive Order Authorizes Expanded Initiative for Veterans' Federal Employment

The night before Veterans Day, President Obama signed an executive order authorizing an expanded program for veterans seeking federal employment. Leaders from the departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs, Defense and Homeland Security explained the new Federal Government Veterans Employment Initiative and how departments across the federal government will work to ensure more veterans are hired for civil service jobs.

AMVETS and the nation's other leading veterans' service organizations were on hand to hear details on the new program after calling for improved outreach efforts to unemployed and transitioning veterans in the wake of staggering unemployment figures among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Deputy Veterans Affairs Secretary Scott Gould explained that veterans already possess many of the skills that civil service employees need to succeed.

The new federal government initiative will expand beyond the traditional five and 10 point advantages in resume consideration to help match veterans' skill sets with civil service positions.

The Office of Personnel Management will use current veterans' employment figures across the federal government as a baseline from which to measure success, and OPM Director John Berry assured the assembled veterans' advocates and media that the program will succeed, considering the level of accountability and commitment directly from the White House.

(Photo: Deputy Veterans Affairs Secretary Scott Gould explains VA's role in the Federal Government Veterans Employment Initiative. Photo by Ryan Gallucci.)

Bookmark and Share

VA Launches New Web Site

On Veterans Day, the Department of Veterans Affairs introduced its new Web site design for

The new layout, which is just one part of VA's efforts to improve communication with the veterans' community, is designed to be more visually appealing and user friendly.

The new Web site contains the same tabs with the same information to help veterans navigate the VA system, but the layout has been changed to more prominently display timely information, such as news and veterans' health alerts.

As VA overhauls more than 500 Web sites and 80,000 unique Web pages, department leaders have asked for patience, in the event that minor glitches occur during this week's changeover.

(Image: Screengrab of the new official VA Web site.)

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

President, Top Military and VA Leaders Honor the Fallen at Fort Hood

President Barack Obama, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey joined hundreds of soldiers, military families, first-responders, and survivors at the Army III Corps Headquarters at Fort Hood for a somber remembrance ceremony in honor of the 12 soldiers and one civilian who were killed last Thursday in the brutal rampage at Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing center.

Thirty-eight other soldiers were wounded in the cowardly act perpetrated by another American soldier.

"It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy, but this much we do know: No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor," said Obama in his remarks, "and for what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice in this world, and the next."

Below is video of the Fort Hood memorial service in its entirety posted on the official White House blog:

Following today's somber ceremony, military leaders met with families of the fallen and soldiers who survived the brutal attack. Defenselink, the official Pentagon Web site, features in-depth multimedia coverage of the tragedy, including a tribute to the victims. To view the Pentagon's site, Click Here.

AMVETS leaders ask that this Veterans Day, Americans remember the 13 Americans who lost their lives in this cowardly act:

Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, Havre de Grace, Md.
Maj. Libardo Caraveo, Woodbridge, Va.
Capt. John P. Gaffaney, San Diego, Calif.
Capt. Russell Seager, Racine, Wis.
Staff Sgt. Justin Decrow, Plymouth, Ind.
Sgt. Amy Krueger, Kiel, Wis.
Spc. Jason Hunt, Tillman, Okla.
Spc. Frederick Greene, Mountain City, Tenn.
Pfc. Aaron Nemelka, West Jordan, Utah
Pfc. Michael Pearson, Bolingbrook, Ill.
Pfc. Kham Xiong, St. Paul, Minn.
Pvt. Francheska Velez, Chicago, Ill.
Michael G. Cahill, Cameron, Texas

American Veteran will continue to follow this story. Check back regularly for updates.

(Photos: Top: President Obama speaks at today's Fort Hood memorial service honoring the victims of the Nov. 5 shooting rampage. DoD photo by Cherie Chullen, released. Bottom: Adm. Mullen with Army 2nd Lt. Brandy Mason, who was shot in the hip during the horrific rampage that left 13 dead and 38 wounded. DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, Released. Video: Tuesday's memorial service in honor of the Fort Hood victims from the official White House blog.)

Bookmark and Share

AMG Medical, Sams Club, Top Medical Supply Companies Offer Free Canes for Vets this Veterans Day

Starting on Veterans Day, AMG Medical Inc. will offer up to 25,000 free Hugo Folding Canes to veterans at Sam's Club stores around the country through the "Hugo Salutes Our Veterans" program. No membership to Sam's Club is necessary to take advantage of the offer and veterans who take advantage will actually receive a free one-day membership to Sam's Club. Canes will be available while supplies last.

The program was originally started in 2007 by AMG Medical to honor parents and relatives of AMG employees who served in the military. This year, the program expanded to the general public through the generosity of AMG Medical, Sam's Club, Procter and Gamble, Novartis, Wyeth, Johnson & Johnson, U.S. Nutrition, First Quality, and Schiff Nutrition.

Philip delBuey, global president of AMG Medical, said the Hugo program is one small way to say "thank you" to the veterans, keeping with AMG's mission to help people stay active.

To learn more about Hugo Salutes Our Veterans, visit

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 9, 2009

This Week at American Veteran

This week at American Veteran, we will be covering Veterans Day in depth. We will also highlight last week's homeless veterans summit, hosted by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. At the summit, Shinseki outlined an ambitious plan to end homelessness among veterans, which has been met with cautious optimism around the veterans' community.

This morning, AMVETS launched its new veterans' health care information Web site,

American Veteran encourages our readers to check out this new resource and, please, let us know what you think.

AMVETS will also officially publish its legislative agenda for FY2010 on Veterans Day. Check out at noon on Veterans Day to read the document.

AMVETS will be on hand this week as Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden host members of the military and veterans for a Veterans Day luncheon.

AMVETS posts and departments around the country will also host their own Veterans Day events ranging from special dinners honoring local veterans, to parades and special visits to veterans at VA Medical Centers around the country.

American Veteran Online is eager to highlight these events, so if your post or department has photos or stories you would like to share, please let us know.

American Veteran will also be following developments on Capitol Hill with last week's passage of the health care reform bill in the House. AMVETS leaders still seek clarification on how the latest language will affect veterans who use VA health care and their loved ones.

Finally, American Veteran will continue to follow the developments out of Fort Hood, where 12 American soldiers and one civilian were brutally gunned down by a rogue soldier.

AMVETS National Executive Director Jim King said last week that the thoughts and prayers of AMVETS are with the victims of the brutal attack. On Friday, AMVETS National Headquarters held a moment of silence in memory of the fallen.

As details emerge, AMVETS leaders remain skeptical of the shooter's motives, but still will not jump to conclusions.

Check back regularly with American Veteran Online for updates on these and other stories. And, as always, please let us know what you think.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, November 6, 2009

Live from Capitol Hill: Senate Democratic Policy Committee Hosts Hearing on Burn Pits

AMVETS leaders are on Capitol Hill this morning for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing on burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan and the health impact on American troops.

To view live video of this morning's hearing, Click Here.

AMVETS is concerned that the health effects associated with burn pit exposure could turn into the next Agent Orange debacle for today's veterans.

Today, the Pentagon and VA are aware of the risks associated with burn pits appearing all across the combat zone and VA plans to study the effects on veterans known to have been exposed.

However, AMVETS is concerned that hundreds of thousands of veterans may slip through the cracks since they may have deployed early on in the conflicts.

American Veteran will be following this hearing closely. Check back later today for updates.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, November 5, 2009

BREAKING: Tragic Shooting at Fort Hood

This afternoon, reports came in from Ft. Hood that more than 40 soldiers had been shot in a brutal rampage on the U.S. Army's largest post. According to the Pentagon, twelve people were killed and 31 wounded.

Shortly before 5 p.m., Fort Hood Commanding General Army Lt. Gen. Bob Cone confirmed that the shooter was a soldier at the post who used a handgun to carry out the attacks. Shortly before 6 p.m., sources confirmed that the shooter was Army Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan, a military mental health doctor. Initially, the military reported that Hasan was killed, but late last night, Cone confirmed that he was alive and in custody.

Three other soldiers were apprehended in connection with the incident. Two of the three were cleared and released. One final person-of-interest remains in custody.

CNN reported that the shooting took place at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center where soldiers transit back and forth from the combat zone. Fort Hood was on lock-down while soldiers and local police from nearby Killeen, Texas, swept the post.

AMVETS National Executive Director Jim King says he was "shocked and saddened" by the report.

"An incident like this is just unheard of on a military post in our own country," said King. "As we continue to sort out the details, AMVETS' thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims. Our troops should feel safe on American soil. Americans must now rally around our brave men and women who wear the uniform in the wake of this unimaginable tragedy."

Most of the soldiers who were killed in the rampage were set to deploy overseas. AMVETS leaders will honor these fallen heroes with a moment of silence at AMVETS National Headquarters tomorrow morning.

AMVETS and American Veteran will continue to follow this story.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Live from Capitol Hill: AMVETS Joins House Speaker Pelosi and Other Top Military Advocates for Roundtable

This afternoon, AMVETS joined many of the nation's other top military and veterans' organizations for a roundtable discussion with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic Congressional leaders.

Among the topics of discussion were hot-button issues like Dependence and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) offsets for military widows who also collect Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) payments, persistent implementation and inequity issues with the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, transition issues, and military mental health.

AMVETS National Deputy Legislative Director Christina Roof took the opportunity to explain AMVETS' legislative agenda for FY2010, which will be available to the public on Veterans Day.

Some participants took the opportunity to voice their continued concerns over the Obama Administration's plans for Afghanistan and the potential impact on warfighters and military families .

Participants in the discussion also took the time to thank the Congressional panel for their proactive roles in recent significant victories for the military and veterans' communities such as the signing of VA advance appropriations for health care and the recent passage of a bill that will allow military spouses to keep their residency regardless of mandatory military moves. AMVETS was one of the few veterans' organizations to speak out in support of the military spouses residency bill.

Many significant Congressional leaders were on hand for the roundtable, including Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), VA Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman and AMVETS Silver Helmet recipient Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas), Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), and chairman of the new military families caucus Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.).

Though the roundtable was largely ceremonial, it provided a critical opportunity for many organizations to voice their concerns directly to key decision-makers.

To read AMVETS' official statement from today's roundtable, Click Here.

(Photo: AMVETS National Deputy Legislative Director Christina Roof looks on as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivers her opening remarks at this afternoon's roundtable. Photo by Ryan Gallucci.)

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

VA, DoD Wrap Up Successful Mental Health Summit

Last week, VA and DoD hosted the first joint summit to discuss military and veterans' mental health. AMVETS leaders were on hand alongside leaders from the nation's top military and veterans' organizations, health care practitioners, and other public interest groups to discuss an issue that affects veterans of all conflicts, past and present.

AMVETS Deputy Legislative Director Christina Roof took part in the summit and viewed it as a critical first step in addressing a broad range of issues facing today's war fighters, but acknowledged that both VA and DoD have a long way to go on issues such as suicide-prevention and disclosure procedures.

"It was easy to understand all points of views on medical treatments and disclosure information to superiors," said Roof. "On one hand you want service members to feel comfortable reaching out for help and not worrying they will be deemed non-deployable or discharged, but on the other hand you could see the validity in DoD’s concerns about mentally unstable individuals not being ready for a combat zone, or posing a danger to themselves or others in their units."

During the week, summit participants heard from a variety of experts on the topic presenting a variety of potential solutions and candid commentary on the problems facing today's affected service members.

One of the most memorable presentations during the week came from IAVA Chief Legislative Counsel Patrick Campbell, who for the first time publicly shared his personal struggles with combat stress. Campbell acknowledged that it had taken him years since returning from Iraq to come to terms with many of his experiences, and he pulled no punches in criticizing VA and DoD processes for handling situations like his.

From the week's symposium, VA and DoD plan to compile a comprehensive report that will outline critical issues that remain within the military and veterans' communities and new ways to address these challenges in an effort to develop a public health model for mental health care throughout all communities.

This week, VA is hosting another summit outlining the department's plan to eliminate veterans' homelessness, which will once again touch on the topic of mental health and mental health care. American Veteran will be on hand tomorrow during the summit. Check back for updates.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 2, 2009

This Week at American Veteran

This week at American Veteran, we will highlight last week's VA/DoD summit on mental health. The summit wrapped up late last week and AMVETS leaders were on hand to participate in the first-of-its-kind discussion.

We will also discuss DoD's retroactive stop-loss payments, which took effect Oct. 21. To date, reports show that more than 4,000 service members have sought to take advantage of the payments.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will host a round table discussion for military and veterans' organizations to discuss military retiree issues. AMVETS leaders will be on hand for the special meeting and American Veteran will offer coverage, as well.

Last week, VA announced it will hire a contractor to assist with Post-9/11 G.I. Bill claims processing. This week, American Veteran will discuss the announcement and how the new contractor will affect the claims process for student-veterans.

The next print issue of American Veteran is down range and should show up in mailboxes shortly, in addition to being available online.

With the fall issue closed, American Veteran is now looking for content from posts and departments nationwide for the winter issue. We're always eager to hear what's happening around the country, and, as always, we're eager to hear what you think on this blog.

Bookmark and Share