This afternoon VA Chief of Staff John Gingrich spoke to the Joint Opening Ceremony at the 66th annual AMVETS National Convention in Louisville, thanking AMVETS and the AMVETS family of organizations for their continued "assistance, advice and advocacy" on behalf of America's veterans.
"Millions of veterans have been cared for through your volunteerism," said Gingrich, highlighting AMVETS' 173,000 volunteer hours through the VA Voluntary Service Program in 2009. "We wouldn't succeed in our mission without you."
Gingrich also thanked AMVETS for their recent efforts on securing service dog benefits for disabled veterans and said that he and the Secretary look forward to hearing the results from AMVETS' 2010 Symposium for 21st Century Veterans. Gingrich also said that VA was prepared to start paying Agent Orange presumptive claims by October, should Congress approve--an announcement that was received with raucous applause.
He also took the time to highlight VA's recent efforts to transform the cultural mindset of VA, recent record increases in VA funding, and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki's top three goals to improve VA services: Increasing access to care and benefits, eliminating the claims backlog by 2015, and ending homelessness in five years.
During the ceremony AMVETS delegates also heard from the Minister of Republic of China (Taiwan) Veterans Affairs Commission, Gen. Tseng Jing-Ling. AMVETS has long partnered with Taiwan to share ideas and resources on how to best serve our fellow veterans.
AMVETS National Commander Duane J. Miskulin and AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary National President Patty Piening also addressed the members of the AMVETS family who came to Louisville to tend to the annual business of AMVETS.
American Veteran Online will continue to follow this year's convention, bringing you regular highlights and updates from the business sessions, including AMVETS' resolutions, which will help to guide AMVETS' legislative agenda for 2011 due on Veterans Day. Check back regularly and, as always, let us know what you think.
(Photo: VA Chief of Staff John Gingrich addresses the AMVETS National Convention while Taiwanese Gen. Tseng Ling, AMVETS National Commander Duane Miskulin, and AMVETS National Executive Director Jim King look on. Photo by Jay Agg.)