Davy Leghorn, assistant director of The American Legion's National Veterans Employment and Education Division, testified June 7 before the Subcommittee on Investigation, Oversight and Regulation. Leghorn’s testimony focused on the challenges facing veteran-owned small businesses operating as wholesale distributors under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Surgical Prime Vendor-Next Generation (MSPV-NG) program. “MSVP Next Generation not only reduces federal contracts for veteran-owned businesses, but also sidesteps the rule of two,” Leghorn said. “Privatizing the functions of the VA Office of Acquisitions and Logistics presents a conflict of interest and harms small businesses.” The “rule of two” is an obligation for government purchasing officials to conduct market research. If it validates that two small businesses can do the job at a fair and reasonable price, then the contract is set aside to be awarded to small businesses. The Veterans Health Care, Benefits and Information Technology Act of 2006 intended for the VA to adhere to the rule of two even after they have met the minimum goals for utilizing service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. This was affirmed by the Kingdomware Tech. Inc. v. United States Supreme Court decision in 2016. Since then, the VA has created internal regulations and policies to work around the court’s ruling, leveraging the narrative that veterans’ lives are at stake due to the burden placed upon them by the decision. “We believe VA is the most qualified to deliver health care services to veterans, and we want them to step up to their responsibilities,” Leghorn said. “The intimation that the adherence to the Vets First procurement priorities could potentially cause catastrophic disruption to the health care supply chain is markedly false.” To help the VA carry out their mission of serving America’s veterans, Congress established the Veterans First Contracting Program, also known as Vets First. This program gives the VA authority to award sole-source contracts to veteran-owned small businesses so long as they are a responsible source. The contract falls between $150,000 and $5 million, and the contract can be made at a reasonable price. “Despite this authority, the VA has continued to impede its own authority and work against the intentions of Congress by creating internal regulations and policies that make it harder to award contracts to veteran-owned small businesses,” said Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss. The VA filed a justification and approval to move thousands of medical products under the control of four prime vendors, according to Kelly. Many of these products could be purchased from veteran-owned small businesses. Instead, the VA is including small businesses at the subcontracting level and have provided no details for a plan. “The VA has used many excuses for these actions, the most common being that it’s too burdensome or too expensive to work with veteran-owned small businesses,” Kelly said. The American Legion is an advocate for reasonable number of federal contracts to be set aside for veteran-owned small businesses, according to Resolution No. 154. “It is clear from today’s discussion that the theory that contracting with veteran-owned small businesses is expensive and burdensome is nothing more than a misconception,” Kelly concluded. “Therefore, the VA needs to take their responsibility to help America’s veterans succeed in all aspects of life seriously. We shouldn’t try to meet goals for veterans — we should try to exceed them.” More Legion Stories: https://www.legion.org/legislative/242238/legion-testifies-legislation-addressing-va-staffing-shortages https://www.legion.org/flag/242251/ohio-post-retires-flags-instills-patriotism https://www.legion.org/veteransbenefits/242189/legion-testifies-replacing-private-grave-markers-headstones https://www.legion.org/careers/242134/vas-top-10-tips-veteran-job-seekers
VFW Response to Joint U.S./North Korean Summit Statement 'We must have hope that this agreement will ... help bring closure to thousands of families of missing American servicemen from the Korean War' Washington — "We must have hope that this agreement will finally bring peace to the peninsula and help bring closure to thousands of families of missing American servicemen from the Korean War. The VFW salutes President Trump for bringing this issue to the table, and we thank the North Korean leader for agreeing to it. Now the hard work to bring the initiative to fruition begins.” — Keith Harman, National Commander, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Read the Joint U.S./North Korean Summit Statement Read VFW’s letter to President Trump
June 14: VFW Salutes Flag Day and US Army’s Birthday VFW offers past and present soldiers its sincere gratitude KANSAS CITY, Mo. – June 14 is Flag Day as well as the United States Army’s 243rd birthday. The 1.7 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliary extends a happy birthday to all soldiers past and present, and to their families, too. You selflessly and faithfully protect the flag of a country you helped to create. You march behind it, been buried under it, and wear it proudly as you continue to protect and secure our nation and allies from tyranny and evil. Happy Birthday, Army. Hooah!
WASHINGTON — For the second consecutive year, a House committee blocked lawmakers from voting on a measure that aims to allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana in states where the drug is legal. The House Rules Committee shot down the measure Wednesday evening when deciding which amendments could be introduced during debate on the VA spending bill for the 2019 fiscal year. The spending bill is expected to move to the House floor this week. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., condemned the decision to deny consideration for his amendment, titled “Veteran Equal Access.” He blamed Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, the chairman of the Rules Committee. “For the second year, Pete Sessions has shown that he does not care about the health and well-being of our veterans – who are speaking out across the country,” Blumenauer said in a prepared statement. “By blocking this vote, Chairman Sessions has turned his back on our wounded warriors, commonsense, and the will of the American people. He should be ashamed.” Blumenauer argued the measure could pass through the House if lawmakers were given the chance to vote on it. The Rules Committee struck down the amendment last year when Blumenauer sought to make it part of the VA spending bill for the 2018 fiscal year. It passed in 2016 with a vote of 233-189 but was removed from the final spending bill that year during negotiations. Veterans Equal Access would allow VA doctors to recommend marijuana to veterans who are eligible for it under state laws. The VA currently prohibits its doctors from completing forms for patients that would admit them into medical marijuana programs. In addition to Blumenauer, nine Republicans and eight Democrats signed on as co-sponsors. “All they want is fair and equal treatment, and the ability to consult with their own physician on all treatment options,” Blumenauer said. In the past year, more veterans have rallied behind marijuana as a potential treatment for ailments such as chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and other health problems that disproportionately affect people with military service. Many people view it as an alternative to addictive opioids. The effort recently has made slight progress in Congress. In May, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs unanimously approved a bill that would push the VA to research the safety and effectiveness of medical marijuana. It’s uncertain when the bill might go to the full House for a vote. The American Legion began advocating for marijuana research two years ago. The group supports reclassifying it from the list of Schedule 1 drugs, which are defined as having no medical use – making research highly restricted.
FENTON, MI – Growth Management Group (GMG), the Michigan-based tax consulting firm which has recovered over $500M in specialized tax incentives for its clients nationwide since 2004, has just launched SparkMyResume, a free online tool designed to help certain job-seeking military veterans, the disabled, and others float their resume to the top of the stack. This free service pre-screens a job-seeker for potential tax credits — up to $9,600 — they may bring to any employer if hired, then generates a certificate for the applicant to attach to their resume. This certificate is designed to pique the curiosity of the hiring manager. Compelled to learn more, the intrigued hiring manager can look up online the potential tax credit eligibility by entering the applicant’s unique Candidate ID# found on the certificate. Should the hiring manager decide to hire a tax-credit-qualified applicant, they can instantly activate GMG’s service to outsource the procurement process. “SparkMyResume effectively bridges the gap between awareness & implementation of hiring tax credits,” notes Wynn Yin, a Senior Advisor with GMG. “Not only are job-seekers now able to benefit themselves and educate prospective employers through this service, but now we’ve made it easy for employers to actually cash in on these tax credits without having to do it themselves and go through the hassle of learning how to process the paperwork. It’s a win-win for everybody.” A noteworthy aspect of this service is that a candidate’s exact reason for tax credit eligibility is withheld from prospective employers. Previously, in order to play the “hire-me-I-come-with-a-tax-credit” hand, a candidate must disclose their reason for eligibility. SparkMyResume now helps the applicant retain their ability to disclose their disability or veteran status, for example, at their discretion. SparkMyResume primarily screens for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). WOTC was created to incentivize employers to hire individuals belonging to certain disadvantaged groups, including select military veterans, disadvantaged youths, those on government subsidy programs, and the long-term unemployed. For more information on WOTC, please visit the U.S. Department of Labor website. Register for a free account at bit.ly/sparkmyresume to see if you’re eligible to generate your free tax credit certificate.
WASHINGTON – The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. thanks President Donald Trump for signing the VA MISSION Act. The VA MISSION Act was the result of a bipartisan and bicameral effort led by Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, Ranking Member Sen. Jon Tester and House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Rep. Phil Roe. The legislation passed in the House on May 16 with a vote of 347-70. The Senate passed the bill on May 23 with a vote of 92-5. “President Trump signaled his support for this bill early on in the process which shows that he puts veterans before politics,” said Keith Harman, national commander of the 1.7-million member VFW and its Auxiliary. “This historic legislation will help our veterans get the care they earned when they joined the military.” “The VFW and other veteran service organizations worked closely with Congress and the White House to help create a carefully negotiated bipartisan deal with the fingerprints of veterans who rely on the VA all over it,” he said. The VA MISSION Act will improve the Department of Veterans Affairs’ ability to hire high-quality health care professionals, streamline VA community care programs, expand caregiver benefits to pre-9/11 veterans and create a process to examine VA’s capital infrastructure to better serve veterans. “The VA MISSION Act will help improve the care our veterans get at the VA while leveraging the capabilities of the private sector when needed. It will help recruit the best talent at the VA, which is what our veterans deserve, and it also extends caregiver benefits to every veteran who needs it,” Harman said.
Are you a veteran who wants to be a pilot? The Department of Transportation has a new program just for you. The Forces to Flyers program is a three-year research initiative led by the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) and its Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. This program is designed to help ease the critical shortage of commercial pilots. HOW IS THIS PROGRAM DIFFERENT FROM THE GI BILL? If you want to use the GI Bill to get commercial flight certification you must already have a private pilot's license. You aren't eligible to participate in this program if you already have your private pilot’s license. However, you can enter the program and get your private pilot's license then use your GI Bill for the remainder of the program. To participate in this program you must have: A first-class medical certificate, A student pilot certificate, and A letter of reference from a previous or current commanding officer, teacher/instructor/professor, or supervisor/manager. HOW MUCH DOES THE PROGRAM COST? Under the Forces to Flyers program flight schools must deduct $13,526from the cost of training. This amount represents the 100% annual benefit level for the Post-9/11 GI Bill for vocational flight school training. So, if you are eligible for the GI Bill you could possibly get certified for free. If you don't have GI Bill eligibility you will have to come up with the $13,526 yourself. WHAT EXACTLY DOES THIS TRAINING ENTAIL? This is an accelerated training program, some people have reported completing it in 4 months. According to the DOT, flight schools offering this training will provide the training necessary for up to 40 students to earn the following certificates and ratings: Private Pilot Certificate Instrument Rating Commercial Pilot Certificate Multi-Engine Rating Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) Certificate CFI-Instrument (CFI-I) Certificate After receiving a CFI-I Certificate, participants will be able to seek employment as flight instructors while obtaining the flight hours necessary to qualify for an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP) and become an airline pilot. WHAT SCHOOLS ARE PARTICIPATING IN THE PROGRAM? Currently, this is a test program to determine the interest in a training program for veterans to become pilots. As such, there are only four schools nationwide participating: Western Pacific/Northwest/Mountain/Alaskan Region: Leading Edge Aviation, Inc. – Bend, Oregon Central/Great Lakes Region: CTI Professional Flight Training, LLC – Millington, Tennessee Southwest Region: U.S. Aviation Group, LLC – Denton, Texas Eastern/Southern Region: CTI Professional Flight Training, LLC – Fort Lauderdale, Florida HOW DO I ENROLL IN THE PROGRAM? Since this is a test program, vacancies are extremely limited, so don't delay in applying if you are interested. Check out the Dept. of Transportation Forces To Flyers website for details.
Members of VFW Post 1926 in Simsbury, Conn., hope a new program will allow them to be more involved in the lives of veterans who need help (Pictured) Members of Cub Scout Den 11, of Boy Scout Pack 276 in Simsbury, Conn., were recognized for donating $486 to the Post’s Adopt-a-Vet program. The four Cub Scouts, in the front row, responsible for the donation are: (from left to right) Brett Osborne, Dylan Soto, Aiden Drake and Phelps Merriman. Caleb Deems, who is missing from the photo, also participated. Those in the back row are: (from left to right) Post Commander John Romano; Den Leader Suzanne Osborne; her son, Josh; Post Quartermaster John Lamb; and Senior-Vice Commander John Fox. The Post’s long-standing veterans’ relief fund program wasn’t getting the job done, said Post 1926 Senior Vice Commander John Fox. That’s why the Post started the Adopt-a-Vet program last year. It not only helps veterans financially, but also helps them find jobs, transportation and housing. It also gives veterans additional help as time goes on, and veterans are given goals to meet in order to receive help from the program. “It’s about accountability,” Fox said. “It’s not only accountability for the veterans, but for us, too. We want to make sure we are providing the help that the veterans need and to be a safety net for them if we need to be in the future.” The new program is led by co-chairs Fox, a Vietnam War veteran who was an electrician’s mate in the Navy from 1968-72, and Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran Jason Lill, a retired Army National Guard chief warrant officer 5 who was a helicopter and fixed-wing pilot. “Our goal is to give a hand up — not a hand out,” Fox said. “We don’t want to just give veterans a grant to pay their bills. We want to give those veterans help and guidance to get them back on their own two feet and not let them fall into traps that made them dependent to begin with.” Fox said the program ensures that veterans have goals and that the proper help is given in order for them to succeed. “We sit down with the veteran and have a conversation about what their needs are, and lay out a plan for them,” Fox said. “We help them through every step.” The first veteran to receive help through the program was a homeless veteran named Matt. He was a Marine stationed at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Fox said Matt suffers from depression and was discharged from the Marine Corps because of his condition. The Adopt- a-Vet program helped Matt secure a job, find a place to live and provided him with a car that was donated from a local resident. In December, the Simsbury Cub Scout Den 11 of Boy Scout Pack 276 donated $486 to Post 1926’s Adopt-a-Vet program. “It was great receiving that donation from Cub Scouts,” Fox said. “For them to be so young and take the initiative to raise that money for veterans is a story in itself.”
As this year marks the 100th anniversary of World War I, and The American Legion prepares to celebrate its centennial in 1919, Post 69 in Malden, Mass., honored the 140th anniversary of the infamous Battle of Little Bighorn. The reason for the ceremony two years ago was to provide a military footstone for U.S. Army Sgt. Richard P. Hanley, a Medal of Honor recipient buried in Malden. Hanley served in the 7th Cavalry under Gen. George A. Custer; Post 69 did not know that historic information, or that a Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Little Bighorn was buried nearby, until Post Adjutant John Graham received a phone call from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Ray Johnston’s job with the society is to locate Medal of Honor recipients who do not have an appropriate military headstone; Hanley had a family one that did not recognize him as a Medal of Honor recipient. Johnston provided Graham with Hanley’s plot number at Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden. When Graham went to the gravesite and read the headstone, he said, “7th Cavalry … Custer? You’ve got to be kidding me. And he’s buried here!’ To find out he served with Custer blew my mind.” Since Hanley had a family headstone he wasn’t eligible for a military one paid for by the VA. So Post 69 spearheaded a campaign to provide Hanley with a military footstone that recognized him as a Medal of Honor recipient. Hanley earned the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Little Bighorn in Montana on June 25, 1876. His Medal of Honor citation reads, “Recaptured, single-handed, and without orders, within the enemy's lines and under a galling fire lasting some 20 minutes, a stampeded pack mule loaded with ammunition.” On June 25, the 7th Cavalry was transporting 24,000 rounds of ammunition on pack mules and Hanley was one of the soldiers on their way to assist Custer during the Battle of Little Bighorn, often called Custer’s Last Stand. During the heavy enemy fire, a pack mule carrying 1,000 rounds of ammunition got frightened ran directly toward the enemy. Hanley mounted his horse and “rode through a withering hail of bullets, directly into the face of the enemy, in pursuit.” After 20 minutes of chasing the mule and racing through enemy fire, he got a hold of the mule and returned to his comrades who were in desperate need of the ammunition. That same day, Custer was killed, along with 267 of his fellow soldiers. Hanley served 30 years in the U.S. Army and retired in New York City, where he died in September 1923. Post 69 held a gravesite ceremony on June 25, 2016, the 140th anniversary of the battle. The more than 100 attendees included post members, Malden police and fire department, the National Guard, Chelsea Soldiers Home staff and residents, city councilors, members of the 7th Cavalry from the Vietnam War, then-Massachusetts State Commander Kenny Stark and Past National Commander Jake Comer, who was a guest speaker. Veterans in period uniform were present, as well as a riderless horse carrying rear-facing boots – the symbol of a fallen soldier. And the 7th Cavalry’s marching tune, “Garryowen,” was played. Hanley’s military footstone now rests in front of his family’s headstone and reads, “Sgt. Richard P. Hanley, Medal of Honor, Little Bighorn, CO. C. 7th U.S. Cavalry.” The cost of the footstone, the placing of it at the cemetery, and invitations for the event was at no cost to Post 69. “Everyone was all in; it was a team effort from the post members and the community,” Graham said. “It just went fantastic. It was absolutely incredible.”
Every 3rd Saturday in May is Armed Forces Day: For those that may not have taken the time to think about the sacrifices, we call your attention to the following commentary. It's a time to reflect on freedom, and those who defend it. America is blessed to have true heroes among us. Our nation’s birth and survival has fallen upon the shoulders of patriotic men and women who have put everything on the line to keep our country free. Our servicemen and women recognize that only at great cost can the concept of liberty and justice become a reality, and only with great sacrifice can freedom prevail. Armed Forces Day was created in 1949 to honor those who wear the uniform of our nation. It is an opportunity to express our gratitude to selfless patriots who raise their right hands when most don’t. It’s a day to recognize our proud soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, and thank them for protecting the freedoms we cherish. It is also a chance to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation. Army 1st Lt. Robert Wolfe, security force platoon leader for Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah in Afghanistan, provides rooftop security in February 2013. Armed Forces Day is an opportunity to think about the sacrifices made by our servicemen and women.(Lt. j.g. Matthew Stroup/Navy) In his 1950 proclamation, President Harry S. Truman called on all Americans to mark Armed Forces Day by recognizing “the skill, gallantry, and uncompromising devotion to duty characteristic of the armed forces in the carrying out of their missions.” Those of us who have worn the uniform understand all too well the struggles and sacrifices that military service requires, and what a great responsibility it is. From defending our country in times of peril to helping on the home front in times of peace, being a steadfast protector of our great nation is truly the highest honor. As veterans, we’ve seen firsthand the costly price of freedom. Our members know the commitment and determination it takes to protect this great nation, and to help bring peace and prosperity across the globe. Deployed to all corners of the Earth, our armed forces continue to selflessly leave their families and loved ones behind to go wherever and whenever needed ― without hesitation. Armed Forces Day is a time for all Americans to reflect on the freedoms we have today, and to think about the brave service members who for centuries have provided our country with the very security which makes those freedoms possible. Through the years, it has been the powerful force of our military men and women tenaciously defending and preserving our way of life who have defined what it means to be courageous ― and today we thank our military for everything they have and continue to do. America is blessed to have true heroes among us. This op-ed was written by VFW National Commander Keith Harman and appears in Miltiary.com