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Posted at 07:58 PM on Saturday, October 13, 2007 by Dept MO-VFWNATIONAL LEGISLATIVE SERVICE
1. VA Appropriations on Hold: The government's fiscal year began Oct. 1 and none of the 12 appropriations bills have been finished, to include the VA funding bill. The separate VA funding bills passed by the House in June and the Senate last month include a $4.4 billion dollar increase above last year's levels with broad bipartisan support. However, the two bills have not been conference, so the VA for the eighth consecutive year began a new fiscal year without an approved budget. The VA is operating on a continuing resolution at the previous fiscal year's funding level - a level that is already inadequate and $4 billion less than what the House and Senate have determined the VA needs to provide sufficient resources for healthcare, to reduce the claims backlogs, research, and a host of other program enhancements and benefits. VA cannot afford to have any more delays in funding. Timely funding is needed. The VFW calls on Congress to end the political games and do what is right for this nation's veterans, especially those wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. We urge all VFW members, and all concerned veterans' advocates to call your representatives and senators today and tell them to pass the VA budget. This nation's 24 million veterans are looking to them to do the right thing. For a list of senators by state: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm For a listing of House members by Zip Code: http://www.house.gov/writerep
2. Disability Commission Testifies: The members of the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee this week. Commission Chairman retired Army Lt. Gen. James Terry Scott, spoke on behalf of the Commission, which released its final report to the public last week. The Commission held hearings for more than two years on VA and DOD's disability benefits systems. They were tasked to study a wide-array of issues with respect to disabled veterans, disabled servicemembers, their survivors and families. Throughout the hearing General Scott answered questions concerning the Commission's recommendations on ways to reduce the unacceptable disability claims backlog and how to improve PTSD services for veterans. The VFW applauded the commission's work and its 113 recommendations, 14 of which were considered to be priorities. For more on the hearing visit the House VA website at: http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/. For the VFW Press release, go to: http://www.vfw.org/index.cfm?fa=news.newsDtl&did=4244. For the commission's 18-page executive summary and full report, go to: http://www.vetscommission.org/reports.asp.
NATIONAL SECURITY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS
1. Military Strength: Defense Department officials announced Wednesday that all four military services had reached their recruiting and retention goals for fiscal year 2007, which ended Sept. 30. The largest service, the Army, announced plans to speed up plans to add 74,000 soldiers to their ranks by the end of 2010, two years earlier than envisioned, which would result in an overall end strength of 547,000 soldiers. Officials cite three main reasons for their success: better recruitment, increased retention of those already in service, and less attrition from those contemplating separation or during the early stages of enlistment. Encouraging is news that the Army's dropout rate from basic training plunged from 18% to only 7% of new enlistees. The Army cites two reasons: better influence from drill sergeants, who are mostly all combat veterans who teach and lead more as coaches than the traditional DI of the past, and better attitudes from enlistees, who know they will be going to war.
2. VFW Trip Report: A summary of VFW Commander-in-Chief George Lisicki's fact-finding mission to Japan, Korea and Taiwan can be found on the VFW website at: http://www.vfw.org/legislative/200709fareastreport.pdf. Also, VFW Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief Glen Gardner, Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief Tommy Tradewell, and VFW Director of National Security & Foreign Affairs Mike Wysong, will be leaving tomorrow for a two-week fact-finding mission to Europe to meet with American military leaders.
3. Reserve Component Mobilization: The total number currently on active duty in support of the partial mobilization for the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 70,228; Navy Reserve, 5,926; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 7,553; Marine Corps Reserve, 6,823; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 292. This brings the total number of mobilized Guard and Reserve personnel to 90,822, a decrease of 587 from last week.