• P.O. Box 65900 Washington, D.C. 20035-5900
  • 202-257-5446
  • P.O. Box 65900 Washington, D.C. 20035-5900
  • 202-257-5446

January 26, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
Have you heard anything about new members being appointed to the VA Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans?

Jenifer R
Via the internet

Dear Jenifer
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced the appointment of four new members to the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans. The committee was chartered on November 2, 1994, and advises the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on the needs of the nation’s 4.7 million minority Veterans on compensation, health care, rehabilitation, outreach and other benefits and programs administered by the VA.   The committee assesses the needs of Veterans who are minority group members and recommends program improvements designed to meet their needs. The committee members are appointed to two or three-year terms. Minority Veterans comprise nearly 21 percent of the total Veteran population in the United States and its territories.

The new committee members are:

Melissa Castillo: Navy Veteran of San Antonio, Texas. Served as the Assistant Regional Director for San Antonio Region, Veterans County Service Officer Association of Texas; Assistant Women Veterans Coordinator; Advisor to the US Army Survivor Outreach Services Program; and Advisor to the Alamo Community College District Veterans Affairs Committee.  Currently serves as the Assistant Veterans Service Officer at the Bexar County Veterans Service Office in San Antonio, Texas, and is an accredited Veterans Service Officer.

Benno Cleveland: Army Veteran of Fairbanks, Alaska. Served two tours in Dong Tam, Vietnam where he earned a Purple Heart.  He also served as Senior Vice Commander and Department Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.  In recognition of his distinguished military service, the Alaska Federation of Natives bestowed him with their “Veteran of the Year” honors in 2014 at their Annual Convention in Anchorage. Mr. Cleveland also founded the Alaska Native Veterans Association and is currently serving as President.

Ginger Miller: Navy Veteran of Accokeek, Maryland, and former homeless disabled Veteran. Ms. Miller became Founder and CEO of two nonprofit organizations that serve Veterans and their families: John 14:2, Inc. and Women Veterans Interactive.  She served as Chairwoman of the Prince George’s County Veterans Commission; Commissioner, Maryland Commission for Women; member of the Maryland Veterans Resilience Advisory Council; and a member of the Maryland Caregivers Support Coordinating Council.  She is currently a member of Disabled American Veterans.

Xiomara Sosa:  Army Veteran of Summerville, South Carolina. Ms. Sosa is the Founder and Principal of XAS Consulting, LLC, an integrative mental healthcare and holistic wellness consulting firm. She served on the Women Veteran Social Justice board of directors; Military Partners and Families Veteran Initiative; the Semper Fidelis Health and Wellness Advisory Board; and a current member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, Inc.

The new members join current members:

Marvin Trujillo, Jr., Committee Chairman, Marine Corps Veteran

Many-Bears Grinder, Col. (USA-Ret)

Patricia Jackson-Kelley, Lt. Col. (USA-Ret)

Librado Rivas, Command Sgt. Maj. (USA-Ret)

Teresita Smith, Sgt. First Class (USA-Ret)

Rebecca Stone, Staff Sgt. (USA-Ret)

Cornell Wilson, Jr., Maj. Gen. (USMC-Ret)

Anthony Woods, Army Veteran


Shaft Notes
Brooke Goldberg, Deputy Director for MOAA’s Government Relations Department,  testified on behalf of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)  and The Military Coalition before the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee today on the military commissary program and maintaining the value of this important benefit for the entire uniformed services community.

Goldberg thanked the committee for their continued support of the “landmark benefit” that remains protected due to their efforts.

She went on to explain how military families are doing a lot more with a lot less citing smaller pay raises and decreased housing allowances. She said families rely on the consistent products, savings and sense of community provided by the commissary.

The FY2016 Defense Authorization Act specified that any changes to the commissary system must ensure the same levels of product quality, patron savings, and patron satisfaction or maintained.

Goldberg said those standards are exactly the ones that should be used in assessing any proposed changes.  In the process, she said, it will be important to guard against any redefinition of what the “patron benefit” actually is.

She described how the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) currently compares thousands of items in its market basket study, weighted by sales volume, against private grocers and calculates an average savings level of 30 percent. When Boston Consulting Group measured just 50 items in their market basket, it found a much lower savings level.

“We believe that changing the market basket could result in a reduced benefit by excluding comparison of items commonly purchased by patrons in calculating the savings measured,” Goldberg said. “Therefore, maintaining consistency with previous calculations is imperative to continuing the benefit that patrons know and rely on.”

“The commissary is more than just a grocery store; it is a benefit that supplements income for the currently serving, wounded warriors, widows and military retirees, at a price that would be far more costly to DoD if paid in monetary compensation,” said Goldberg.  She explained that while the commissary costs taxpayers the equivalent of a 2 percent pay raise for the entire military, the monetary value of grocery savings it delivers for an E-5 family of four with eight years of service equates to a 9 percent pay raise. That amount is higher for more junior families.

“In times of austerity, we should not be doing anything to cut a benefit that the currently serving, wounded, widows and retirees so greatly rely upon and earned access to, when we cannot afford to replace it with something equally good or better,” she stated.

Representative Joe Heck, subcommittee chairman, expressed his appreciation for the views of the witnesses, asserting the subcommittee’s intent is to preserve the benefit first while exploring options that might generate savings while still meeting that prerequisite.

“The goal is to continue to sustain a commissary benefit that is substantial and valued,” he concluded.

Tags CLOUD

#Vote4Vets1st80-hour pay periodA National Home for Disabled Volunteer SoldiersAbuse of AuthorityAccess Stand DownActive DutyAcute Kidney InjuryAdaptive Sports GrantsAddictionaddiction treatmentAdvanced Practice Registered NursesAdvanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN)Advisory Committee on Minority VeteransAdvisory Committee on Women VeteransAdvocacy ProgramAFGEAgent OrangeAir ForceAir Force ReserveAKIALPALSAlyce DixonAmerican Federation of Government EmployeesAmerican Gold Star MothersAmerican LegionAmerican Nurses AssociationAmerican PlatoonAmir M. HekmatiAMVETSAnemiaanti religiousAppeals ModernizationAPRNArlington CemeteryArlington National CemeteryArmed Forces ExpeditionaryArmed RobberyArmed Services CommitteeArmyArmy & Air Force Exchange ServiceArmy Exchange ServiceArmy Women's FoundationASAEAsbestosAssistant Secretary for Information and TechnlologyAssisted Living ProgramAtomic Veterans Healthcare Parity ActATSDRAudiology Awareness MonthbenefitsbenzenebillBilrakisblindBlindedblindnessBoard of Veterans AppealsBoosting Rates of American Veterans Employment ActBowen Military Test Groupbrain cancerbrain healthbrain injurybrain related injuriesBrain TrustBRAVE ActBronze StarBudget FlexibilityBurialCamp Hometown HeroesCamp LeJeuneCancerCaregiver ServicesCarlton SherwoodCasey TreesCatch-22CAWPCDCCenter for Investigative ReportingCenter for Women VeteransChamplain CollegeCHAMPVAChange DirectionChattanoogachemical weaponCherokeeCHIP IN for Vets ActChoice ActChoice ProgramChoice Program billingChristianityCivil Service CommissionCivil Service RulesClaimCoast Guardcolon cancerCombat Related Special Compensationcombat-relatedCommisaryCommunities Helping Invest through Property and Improvements Needed for Veterans ActComp and Pen ExaminationsCompensation ClaimsComprehensive Addiction and Recovery ActConcealed CarryConcurrent receiptConcurrent Retirement Disability PaycongressCongressional Awards Receptioncontaminated drinking waterCorrupt EmployeesCost OverrunsCOVER ActCRDPCreditable Servicecrisis interventionCrisis LineCRSCCVC ProgramCWVDAVDBE ProgramDC VA Medical CenterDD214DEERSDefense Commissary AgencyDefense Employer Support Freedom AwardDenver VA Medical CenterDepartment of DefenseDepartment of JusticeDepartment of LaborDepartment of Veteran Affairs Regional OfficeDepartment of Veterans AffairsDepartment of Veterans AffarisDependency Indemnity CompensationDepressionDesert ShieldDesert StormdiabetesdiabeticDICDignified Interment of Our Veterans ActDioxinDioxin exposuredisabilityDisabledDisabled American VeteransDisabled VeteransDisadvantaged Business Enterprise ProgramDischargeDMZDODDOLDomestic ViolenceDr. Carolyn M. ClancyE-SERBeBenefitsEducationEnewetak AtollenlistedESPNFairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment ActFamily Medcial Leave Actfederal civil service systemFederal WayFemale Veteran Suicide Prevention ActFisher HouseFlag DayFleet Reserve OrganizationFlorida Department of Veterans Affairsforced to retireFort McClellan Health Registry ActFourth Estate AwardFRAFry ScholarshipFt. BelvoirFully Developed Claims ProgramFY17 National Defense Authorization ActFY2016 Defense Authorization ActG.I. BillGAOGeneral Assembly Military and Veteran CaucusGeneral Joseph F. DunfordGI BillGI Bill Fairness ActGiven an HourGold Star Families Voices ActGrant and Per DiemGrow the ArmyGuideStarGulf War RegistryGulf War VeteransGus BilirakisH.R. 1994H.R. 4063H.R. 83Harm Reduction CoalitionHASCHawaiiHead TraumaHealth and Human Serviceshealth carehealth care insurancehealth care planhealth insuranceHealth NethealthcareHealthNetHearing lossHeath IT InitiativeHelp A HeroHepatitisherbicideherbicidesHire More Heroes ActHomeless VeteranHomeless VeteranshomelessnessHonorably DischargedHonoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012HospitalHouse Armed Services CommitteeHouse Committee on Veterans affairsHouse Veteran Affairs CommitteeHouse Veterans Affairs CommitteeHUD VASHIBM Corporationidentity theftIGIllegal TerminationInactive ID CardInfantryman badgeInspector GeneralinterredIranISILISISJapanese AmericansJason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety ActJewish War Veterans of the U.S.Joint Chiefs of StaffKaiserKiewit-TurnerKoreaLadies Auxiliary VFWLake Baldwin Veterans Affairs Outpatient ClinicLawyers for HeroesLeanIn.orglegislationlendingLeukemiaLibrary of Congress’ Veterans History Projectlive in infamyloss of limbLymphomaMarineMarine CorpsMarine Corps Amphibious Warfare SchoolMarshall IslandsMedal for ServiceMedalsmedicaidmedical careMedicaremental healthMerchant MarineMerchant MarinersMerit Systems Protection BoardmesotheliomaMilitarymilitary commissary programMilitary IDMilitary MedalsMilitary Officers Association of AmericaMilitary Order of the Purple Heartmilitary retireesMilitary spousesMillion Veteran Programmisuse of government travel cardsMLAMOAAMOAA Military Family InitiativeMOAA Military Family National Service AwardMOPMSPBmTBIMyelomaMyVAMyVA initiativeNational Brain BankNational CemeteryNational Defense Authorization ActNational Department of Veterans Affairs ArchivesNational GuardNational Personnel Records CenterNational Press ClubNational Veterans Golden Age GamesNational Veterans Wheelchair GamesNative AmericanNavyNDAANeuropathyNight of HeroesNIMHNo Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered ActNVSBEOak Ridge BoysOCSOffice of Construction and Facilities ManagementOffice of General CounselOfficer Candidate SchoolOIGOne MindOperation Ranch HandOpioidopioid addictionOpioid ManagementOpioidsOPMOverdose Education and Naloxone Distribution programpain managementPaitentsLikeMeParalyzed VeteransParalyzed Veterans of AmericaParkinson's DiseasePathways to InnoVAtionPeace Prize MedalPearl HarborPenFed FoundationPensionPentagon Federal Credit Union FoundationperchloroethylenePersian GulfPhilly POPSPhoenix VA Health Care SystemPicnicpolytraumaPolytrauma Rehabilitation CentersPolytrauma System of CarePosttraumatic Stress DisorderPrayerPrescription DrugsPreventing Veteran Suicideprimary careProblem EmployeesPROMISE ActProvider AgreementsPTSDPuerto Rico VAPulitzer PrizePurple HeartPurple Heart MedalPVAradioactive falloutRegistered Sex Offenderrelocation incentives programResourcesResponsible Opioid Management and Incorporating Scientific ExpertiseretiredROTCSallie MaeSAVE Benefits ActSBPscandalScholarshipSclerodermaScripTalkScripttalkSecretary of Veterans AffairsSecretary Sloan GibsonSeismic Safety and Construction Authorization ActSemper FiSenate Armed Services CommitteeSenate Committee on Veterans’ AffairsSenate Veterans' Affairs CommitteeSeniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits ActsequestersequestrationService AnimalsServicememberServicemembersSgt. Shaftslap on the wristSmall BusinessSocial SecuritySoldierSpina Bifidaspinal cord injurySports ClipsSSASSIAStudent Veterans of AmericasuicdesuicideSuicide PreventionSuicide Prevention Fact SheetSuicide Prevention Office and Mental Health ServicessuicidesSummer of ServiceSurvivor Benefit PlanSVASyriaTBITehranTelehealthThanksUSA.orgThe Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment ActThe Home Depot FoundationThe Joint CommissionThe Military CoalitionTinnitusTIPTomah VA Medical CenterToxic Exposure ResearchTransition in PlaceTransitional HousingTraumatic Brain InjuryTri-WestTricareTricare for LifeTricare PrimetrichloroethyleneTriWestU.S. Attorney’s OfficeU.S. Department of Veterans AffairsU.S. House Veterans Affairs CommitteeUFUnder Secretary for HealthunemploymentUnionUniversity of FloridaUS ArmyUS Department of DefenseUS Savings BondsUSA Addiction Treatment PartnershipUSERRAUSMCUSNUSS Weiss APD 135VAVA AccountabilityVA Accountability ActVA BacklogVA BenefitsVA BudgetVA Caregiver Support ProgramVA Caribbean Health Care SystemVA claims backlogVA Compensation programVA crisis lineVA DenverVA DependencyVA disability compensationVA emergency roomVA EmployeeVA Health CareVA HealthcareVA home loanVA Inspector GeneralVA Medical CenterVA Medical CentersVA officialsVA OIGVA PharmacyVA Puget Sound Health Care SystemVA Regional OfficeVA Under Secretary for HealthVA’s National ArchivesVACAAvaccinationsVBAVEP ProgramVetVET ActVet Connect Act of 2016VeteranVeteran Appointment Request AppVeteran BenefitsVeteran Enrollment Rework ProjectVeteran Farm TrainingVeteran suicideVeteran suicide ratesVeteran SuidiceVeteran's PreferenceVeteran’s Choice fundveteransVeterans AdministrationVeterans AffairsVeterans Affairs CommitteeVeterans Affairs Medical CenterVeterans Benefits AdministrationVeterans ChoiceVeterans Choice ActVeterans Choice ProgramVeterans Crisis LineVeterans Dayveterans EditVeterans EmploymentVeterans First ActVeterans Health AdministrationVeterans Homeless ProgramsVeterans of Foreign WarsVeterans of Foreign Wars Memorial BuildingVeterans Service OrganizationsVFWVFW AuxiliaryVFW-SVA Legislative FellowshipVHAVHA facilitiesVHA Office of Public HealthVietnamVietnam veteranVietnam VeteransVietnam Veterans MemorialVietnam Veterans of AmericaVietnam Warvinyl chlorideVirtual Lifetime Electronic RecordVision Rehabilitation ClinicVISN & MCD CompensationVISTvisually impairedVLERVolunteerVSOWalgreensWashington DC Veterans Medical CenterWashington State UniversityWASPswater supply at Camp LejeuneWatsonWheelchair AthleteWheelchair GameswhistleblowersWomen Airforce Service PilotsWomen VeteransWomen Veterans Call CenterWomen Veterans CommitteeWomen's Army Corpswomen's healthWomen’s History MonthWomen’s Integrated Treatment and Recovery ProgramWorld War IWorld War IIwounded militaryWounded WarriorsWWIIWWPYMCA