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All of the major veteran’s service organizations are mounting a strong offensive to any curtailment of our hard earned benefits. I know that more than 70 members of the national legislative committee of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States met with their members of Congress this week to end sequestration, to pass a new budget, and to ensure that a nation that creates veterans properly takes care of them when they return home.
“Sequestration is the most significant threat to military readiness and national security of the 21st century,” exclaimed VFW National Commander John A. Biedrzycki Jr., “and despite almost universal congressional opposition to it, no member of the House or Senate has yet introduced any legislation to end it, which makes zero sense to veterans, service members or their families. The return of mandatory sequestration in fiscal year 2016 has to be dealt with by a Congress that created it,” he said, “just as Congress must continue to properly care and treat generations of wounded, ill and injured veterans that our government created.”
Along with sequestration, the VFW national commander is very concerned that Congress has yet to pass any funding bills for the government’s new fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, which could trigger another government shutdown similar to last year. “Congress must fund the government and remove the forced sequester provision of the Budget Control Act to ensure that the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs and other agencies that support veterans have the resources needed to defend our nation and to care for those who do the defending,” said Biedrzycki.
Also high on the week’s VFW legislative agenda was ensuring the effective implementation of the Veterans Choice Act to ease access to care issues by VA and non-VA providers, employee accountability, the claims backlog, and eliminating the one-percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment penalty, which jeopardizes the success of every proposal to modernize the current military retirement system.
VFW legislative committee members also delivered advance copies of the organization’s latest report regarding veterans’ options, preferences and expectations when seeking health care. Entitled “Our Care,” the nationwide survey of 1,847 members revealed that where veterans choose to receive their care depends on the number of options they have available, but with all factors being equal, they prefer to use the VA because the continuity and continuum of care they receive is unmatched anywhere in the private sector. Read more about “Our Care” from this PDF.
While in Washington the VFW national commander had the opportunity to discuss veterans’ issues with VA Secretary Bob McDonald and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, as well as receive update briefings by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, and meet with Acting Undersecretary of Defense, the Deputy Undersecretary of the Navy, the Senior Enlisted Advisors of the Joint Chiefs and Navy, and the directors of the Marine Corps and Joint Staffs.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald announced the award of $4 million in renewal funding offered through the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program to 21 community agencies that currently provide enhanced services for homeless Veterans with special needs.
“These important grant renewals will allow community agencies to continue to provide critical transitional housing services where they are needed,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “As a key component of the VA’s plan to significantly reduce homelessness among Veterans, the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Special Need grants will provide funding to community agencies that provide services to homeless Veterans.
The program promotes the development and provision of supportive housing and services with the goal of helping homeless Veterans achieve residential stability, increase their skill levels and income, and obtain greater self-determination. Specifically, GPD Special Need grant funding will assist with additional operational costs that would not otherwise be incurred but for the fact that the recipient is providing transitional housing and services for the GPD “Special Need” populations, including women, chronically mentally ill, frail elderly, terminally ill, and individuals who have the care of minor dependents.
As a result of these and other efforts, Veteran homelessness is down significantly since the launch of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness in 2010. The state of Connecticut and cities of New Orleans, Houston, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City have all recently announced the achievement of significant milestones related to ending Veteran homelessness.
More information about VA’s homeless programs is available at www.va.gov/homeless. Community organizations seeking details and/or more information may visit VA’s National Grant and Per Diem Program website www.va.gov/homeless/GPD.ASP.