August 2, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
Do you know if any of the veteran’s services organizations are sponsoring any scholarship programs?

Jerry W
Via the internet

Dear Jerry
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and Student Veterans of America are now accepting applications from student veterans interested in participating in the 2017 VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship program. Now in its third year, the fellowship offers 10 selected student veterans the unique opportunity to meet face-to-face with their members of Congress during the annual VFW National Legislative Conference, as well as provides additional opportunities for fellows to address veterans’ issues in their communities.

Student veterans interested in applying for the 2017 VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship must complete an application package that includes a proposal that addresses one of these four specific legislative issues:

  • The success of veterans in the civilian job sector;
  • The future of VA health care;
  • The success of veterans in higher education; or
  • The successful transition from military to civilian life

The essay should discuss why the issue is important to the veterans’ community, and how the fellowship candidate plans to address the issue through community-based advocacy. Selected fellows will then be flown to Washington, D.C., to storm Capitol Hill alongside fellow veterans’ advocates as part of the 2017 VFW Legislative Conference, Feb. 26 to March 3.

“The VFW has been advocating in Washington on behalf of veterans, service members and their families for more than a century, and we want to share our experience with a new generation of veteran leaders through our SVA partnership and our annual Legislative Fellowship program,” said VFW National Commander John A. Biedrzycki Jr. “Last year’s fellows showed me that a new generation of leaders is ready to step up and take action. I can’t wait to see what the 2017 fellowship class brings to the Halls of Congress.”

“Student Veterans of America is proud to partner with the VFW to provide 10 students the opportunity to bring the issues facing veterans from their campus to the Halls of Congress,” said Jared Lyon, SVA president and CEO. “In this the third year of the program, we’re proud to add a more robust academic component to the curriculum, so that our student veterans are receiving academic recognition for their efforts. We thank the VFW for their continued support of SVA and our nation’s veterans, and are excited to work together to help transform yesterday’s warriors into today’s scholars, and tomorrow’s leaders.”

VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship opportunities are open to currently-enrolled student veterans at colleges and universities with active SVA chapters. Candidates must be VFW members, the criteria for which can be found here.

All applications must be submitted by close-of-business Oct. 21, 2016. Selected fellows will be notified before Thanksgiving, with a formal announcement of the fellowship class at the SVA National Conference in Orlando, Fla., in January 2017. For full details about the fellowship and to apply, visit www.vfw.org/StudentFellowship.

Many past fellows earned academic credit for their experience, as well as found internships, accepted additional academic opportunities, and even landed jobs as a result of their fellowship experience.

The VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship is another example of the strong collaboration between VFW and SVA that resulted from a memorandum of understanding signed by the two organizations at the SVA National Conference in January 2013.


Shaft NotesBlue military style mailbag with BAVF red letters stenciled on it. Below the BAVF is a tag that says SGT. SHAFT
Chairman Jeff Miller recently  introduced H.R. 5620, the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016. The bill would strengthen protections for whistleblowers and help fix the Department of Veterans Affairs’ biggest problem – its pervasive lack of accountability for misbehaving employees. Additionally, the bill would reform the department’s disability benefits appeals process – a top priority for VA leaders and many veterans service organizations. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Shorten the firing/demotion/appeals process for rank-and-file VA employees from more than a year on average to no more than 77 days
  • Remove entirely the Merit Systems Protection Board from the firing/demotion/appeals process for VA senior executives
  • Provide VA whistleblowers with a means to solve problems at the lowest level possible, while offering them protection from reprisals and mandating strict accountability for those who reprise against them
  • Give the VA secretary the authority to recoup bonuses and relocation expenses from misbehaving employees
  • Give the VA secretary the authority to reduce the pensions of senior executives convicted of felonies that influenced their job performance
  • Reform the department’s broken disability benefits appeals process

“The biggest obstacle standing in the way of VA reform is the department’s pervasive lack of accountability among employees at all levels. Until this problem is fixed once and for all, long-term efforts to reform VA are doomed to fail. For too long, union bosses, administration officials and their enablers have used every trick in the book to help VA bureaucrats who can’t or won’t do their jobs remain firmly entrenched in the agency’s bureaucracy. The VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016 gets rid of these loopholes, which have been unfairly forcing veterans and the many good VA workers to deal with deadwood employees for years. Union bosses and defenders of the broken status quo will oppose this bill, and that is exactly why it must become law.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

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