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VFW Washington Weekly, April 1, 2011

Posted at 12:32 PM on Friday, April 1, 2011 by Dept MO-VFW

In This Issue:
1. Budget Update
2. Hearing on VA's VR&E Programs
3. Veterans Crisis Line
4. Retroactive Stop-Loss Payments Extended Again

1. Budget Update: With just over a week left before the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires, both House and Senate remain locked in negotiations to avoid a government shut-down on April 8th. A CR is a stop-gap measure used to fund government agencies at last year's levels if a formal appropriations bill has not been signed into law by the end of the fiscal year. Fortunately, VA medical care accounts -- under Advanced Appropriations -- have funding for FY 2011, but other portions of the VA budget and critical programs under DOD are operating at FY 2010 levels.
Congress has a week to resolve budget differences before taking a two week break during the Easter recess. We urge you to call your members and ask them to finish their work on the FY 2011 budget. It is imperative that they resolved funding for this year so that vital programs under VA and DOD are not left underfunded or worse -- stopped all together. For congressional office phone numbers, use the link provided and type in your zip code. http://capwiz.com/vfw/dbq/officials/

2. Hearing on VA's VR&E Programs: The House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing on VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) budget for FY 2012. The VR&E program assists veterans with service-connected disabilities in preparing for, finding and keeping jobs suitable to their skill sets and provides those with severe disabilities services to help them live independently. The number of individuals applying for benefits under this program has increased as military personnel, guardsmen, and reservists return from conflicts and transition to veteran status. The Independent Budget (IB) has called for additional funding for these critical services. The FY 2012 IB recommendations include 100 new staff counselors and 50 additional FTE for management and oversight of contract counselors and rehabilitation and employment service providers. Members of the Subcommittee voiced concerns about the large caseload carried by VR&E counselors and have asked for increased funding to provide better management of the program. For more information about the hearing or to view the recorded webcast visit the House VA website at: http://veterans.house.gov/

3. Veterans Crisis Line: Eighteen veterans commit suicide on average in America every day. That's 6,570 a year or quite possibly 65,700 over the past decade. To help combat this nationwide crisis, the VA created a confidential 24/7 Veterans Crisis Line just for veterans and their families to call, but VA still needs our help to distribute and display outreach materials in VFW Posts, newsletters, websites and workplaces. A choice of products is available for download at http://reingoldweb.com/crisisline_ads_public/index.html. Please help someone in need by displaying these products everywhere. Trained VA professionals are available at all hours --- at 1-800-273-8255, Press 1 ---to assist veterans and their family members. You do not have to be enrolled in VA to call the free, confidential service.

4. Retroactive Stop-Loss Payments Extended Again: The deadline to apply for retroactive Stop-Loss payments has been extended again, this time to April 8. Everyone on active duty between 9-11 and Sept. 30, 2009, is eligible for $500 for every month they were involuntarily extended beyond their normal date of separation. Payouts have been averaging almost $4,000 per person, but you must apply to get paid. The VFW asks that you forward this information to everyone you know. To apply, go to http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2010/0710_stoploss/

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