April 21, 2015

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft,
I recently left the Navy as a nuclear submarine officer. I am looking forward to becoming a member of a military service organization.

Would you please recommend an organization for military officers which strongly advocates for veterans and their families/I appreciate your advice.

VSA
via Internet

Dear VSA
I highly recommend that you join Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), the nation’s largest officers association with more than 380,000 members from every branch of service, including active duty, retired, National Guard, Reserve, and former officers and their families and survivors. MOAA is a nonprofit and politically nonpartisan organization and an influential force in promoting a strong national defense.  MOAA represents the interests of service members and their families in every stage of their lives and careers, and for those who are not eligible to join MOAA, Voices for America’s Troops is a nonprofit MOAA affiliate that supports a strong national defense. For more information, visit www.moaa.org. or www.voicesfortroops.org/. Speaking of MOAA Their president and CEO, retired Navy Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, and chairman of the board of directors, retired Air Force Gen. Charles T. Robertson Jr., presented six supporters of the defense community with the association’s highest awards Tuesday night, at the annual awards ceremony reception on Capitol Hill, kicking off MOAA’s storming the Hill legislative blitz taking place this week.

Shaft Notes
Congresswoman Janice Hahn (CA-44) and Congressman Dan Benishek (MI-01), introduced legislation to make resources available to veterans fleeing domestic violence. The legislation updates the definition of “homeless veteran” to include those fleeing domestic violence so that they may access benefits for homeless veterans.

Among women veterans, 39 percent report experiences with domestic violence at some point in their lifetimes, well above the national average. Tragically, domestic violence is a major contributor to homelessness among women and the growing number of homeless female veterans.

“We must provide these heroes who have protected us with the resources they need, including a place where they are protected. Veterans have put their lives on the line for our country and should never find themselves without a safe home to come back to just because they don’t fall under the proper definitions,” said Congresswoman Hahn. “By making this small yet significant change, veterans fleeing domestic violence will have access to resources so they do not need to choose between staying with an abuser and becoming homeless.”

“This is a common-sense bill,” said Dr. Benishek, Chairman of the Veterans Subcommittee on Health.  “Veterans whose lives have been upended by domestic violence should never be turned away on account of a technicality.  We have an obligation to do everything in our power to help our heroes when they return home.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs has developed a number of programs to assist homeless veterans, however, the outdated definition of “homelessness” can cause problems for victims of domestic violence.  The legislation introduced today would correct and expand the Department of Veterans Affairs’ definition of “homeless veteran” to include veterans fleeing situations of domestic violence and other life threatening situations.  By expanding the definition, it brings it to the same standard as the rest of the law and will allow those veterans to access the benefits that should be available to all homeless veterans.

Congresswoman Hahn was successful in establishing a temporary fix to help veterans displaced by domestic violence through the House Appropriations process last year, and her newly introduced legislation aims to permanently fix this tragic oversight in federal law.

This legislation has already garnered the support of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), AMVETS, The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, The Service Women’s Action Network, The Association of the US Navy, The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, Veterans for Common Sense, The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, and The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Merchant Mariners:
Washington, DC—Today, Congresswoman Janice Hahn (CA-44) and Congressman John Duncan Jr. (TN-2)  introduced the “Honoring Our WWII Merchant Mariners Act of 2015.” This legislation would provide surviving Merchant Marines who served during World War II with a modest benefit for their bravery and sacrifice.

During World War II, more than 200,000 Americans served in the U.S. Merchant Marines and aided our nation’s military efforts in both Europe and the Pacific.  Thousands of our Merchant Mariners faced enemy attack and died at sea while hundreds more were captured and held as prisoners of war. Despite having the highest casualty rate of any U.S. service during the war, they were not eligible to receive veteran’s benefits.

“The veterans of the Merchant Marine risked their lives in the service of this nation, but we have never properly thanked them,” said Congresswoman Hahn. “Let us finally right this wrong and repay our debt of gratitude owed to these heroes.”

The legislation would provide a one-time lump sum of $25,000 to each of surviving WWII Merchant Marines. As many of these veterans are now well into their 90s, and fewer than five thousand Merchant Mariners who served in World War II are alive, the Congresswoman stressed the importance of passing this bill as quickly as possible.

“So few of these Merchant Mariners are with us today,” noted Congresswoman Hahn. “Time is running out to thank them properly, and I encourage my colleagues to act quickly in cosponsoring and passing this important legislation.”

Congressman Duncan said, “I have helped thousands of Veterans and those on active duty and have great respect for them. The word ‘hero’ is tossed around too lightly today, but I think anyone who puts their life on the line for their country deserves that description. Although the Merchant Marines were not formally recognized as Veterans, they are very patriotic and brave Americans whose sacrifice for our Nation cannot be repaid.”

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