March 8, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft
Can you please help me?  I received the Armed Forces Expeditionary in May or June of 1964. It was for serving in Vietnam. At that time it was the only medal given for Vietnam service. It is on my DD214. The VA has turned me down for Agent Orange related compensation claim.  They say it was also given out for being in Thailand, which it was from May of 1962 to August of 1962. At that time I was stationed at Westover AFB NPRC has no records of this or any pay records or TDY orders etc, would you please help me? Thank you.

Roland C
Via the internet

Dear Roland
I have referred your letter to the powers that be at the Department of Defense.   Hopefully you will hear from them soon.

Shaft Notes
Before  a recant joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, John A. Biedrzycki Jr., national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., delivered testimony focused on recommendations for transforming the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide America’s veterans with a more effective and efficient health care system. With 25 committee members in attendance, he also used today’s opportunity to communicate the VFW’s position on potential efforts to move toward privatized VA care.

“We agree that Congress must take a comprehensive look at the Veterans Health Administration to fix what is broken, and we will work with you to identify problems and make those needed changes,” said Biedrzycki. “But let me be clear, the VFW is absolutely opposed to the privatization of VA health care! It cannot be replaced! And we will fight any efforts to do so!”

Biedrzycki went on to note that while the VA’s outreach efforts surrounding the Choice Program have improved, the delay of medical documentation transfers and authorization for follow-up care still leaves much room for improvement in scheduling community care appointments.

“VA is working on several IT projects to address this concern, which the VFW supports,” he noted. “Congress must provide VA the necessary resources that have been requested. Congress must also act on VA’s proposal to consolidate its community care programs. This consolidation is critical to the overall health care delivery transformation.”

The VFW national commander pledged the organization’s support for VA Secretary Bob McDonald’s MyVA transformation, and strongly urged Congress to work with the VA to ensure the numerous programs associated with this initiative succeed.

He also took today’s opportunity to convey some important findings derived from a recent survey conducted by the organization to gauge how well the VA is serving women veterans. The survey found that the VA has made progress in addressing the unique needs of women, but improvement is still needed in the areas of health care, outreach and homelessness.

Results indicated that women prefer to receive care from female providers, and are more likely to be satisfied with their overall VA experience when receiving care from a female provider, yet only 40 percent of women were given the opportunity to choose the gender of their primary care provider.

“VA must make every effort to hire more women health care professionals and expand women-specific programs to ensure all women veterans have access to women-specific primary care,” said Biedrzycki.

The survey also indicated 38 percent of those who reported being homeless or at risk of homelessness also reported having children. Homeless veterans with children experience unique challenges when obtaining VA health care and other benefits and services, to include job training opportunities. According to the national commander, “We must find child care options for these veterans now!”

He went on to note the VFW’s support for a variety of topics to include the inclusion of Blue Water Navy ships for the purposes of Agent Orange presumption, expanding eligibility for Gulf War Registry health exams to Afghanistan war veterans, and the Fort McClellan Health Registry Act.

Chairman Miller released the below statement regarding former Phoenix VA Medical Center Director Sharon Helman pleading guilty to a felony.

“While I’m pleased Sharon Helman is now facing some consequences for her criminal activity, I’m extremely puzzled as to why the Department of Justice chose to coddle her with a sweetheart plea deal that amounts to nothing more than a weak slap on the wrist. Such extraordinary leniency is an insult to the many veterans who suffered from the malfeasance and mismanagement of the Phoenix VA Health Care System. It’s also a reminder that to this day not a single Phoenix VAHCS employee has been successfully disciplined for wait-time manipulation and the department still refuses to punish two high-level Phoenix VA managers who it found to have retaliated against whistleblowers. Enough is enough. It’s time for VA and the Senate to get in step with veterans and taxpayers and get behind commonsense proposals like the House-passed VA Accountability Act, which would enable the department to quickly purge corrupt and incompetent employees from the payroll and prevent convicted felons from sneaking out the back door with full taxpayer-funded pensions. Until then, VA’s accountability problems will only continue.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs


Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, President Emeritus of the Women’s Memorial Foundation, was center stage March 2 as Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the First Lady, and Dr. Jill Biden kicked off Women’s History Month 2016. The event, which honored the service of America’s women veterans, paid particular tribute to Brig. Gen. Vaught and her nearly sixty years of service to the nation, first as an Air Force officer and later as President of the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation. Fittingly held in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, which features sculptures of prominent Americans, more than 500 guests gathered to honor this extraordinary woman—our very own Wilma Vaught! .

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