American Legion By Alan W. Dowd Just 16 months old, the U.S. Space Force is contributing daily to the nation’s defense, coming into its own as an independent military branch, and gaining some friends in high places. Gaining support Let’s start with those friends. After some initial speculation – and a political push from some quarters – that President Joe Biden might ground the Space Force, the White House in February announced its full support for the fledgling branch, which was born with strong bipartisan backing during the Trump administration. Gen. John Raymond, chief of space operations and Space Force commander, said the president’s support makes it “clear that this is not a political issue" but one of national security. That presidential vote of confidence is crucial as the Space Force builds itself into what America needs it to be: a branch dedicated to ensuring U.S. access to space and freedom of movement through space, defending U.S. interests and assets in space, deterring hostile activity against those interests and assets, and, if necessary, defeating hostile forces on the ultimate high ground. Biden is not alone. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin views space as “an arena of great power competition.” He notes that the “central role space plays in supporting other services in their warfighting role continues to grow.” And he wants to ensure that the Space Force is “improving the readiness of forces across all domains to protect and secure our homeland and U.S. interests abroad” and “advancing the development and employment of spacepower for the nation.” Maturing into independence As it advances the development and employment of spacepower, the Space Force itself is rapidly developing and taking on the burdens – and trappings – of an independent branch. From its first day on duty in December 2019, the Space Force has been tracking satellites, supporting military launches and operating the U.S. constellation of GPS satellites, upon which most Americans depend for the everyday stuff of modern life. In January 2020, Iran launched more than a dozen missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq. The missiles wrought lots of destruction, but they didn’t kill a single American. The reason: Space Force space warning squadrons were operating cutting-edge satellites capable of tracking missile launches and relaying crucial real-time data to troops in the line of fire. “Members of the U.S. Space Force detected those missiles at launch and provided early warning to our forces,” as Space Force Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David Thompson reported. In March 2020, the Space Force activated and began manning the new Counter Communications System – a ground-based system designed to jam enemy satellite signals during hostilities. In May 2020, Raymond signed an order shifting Operation Olympic Defender from Strategic Command to Space Command. Led by the United States and Britain, Olympic Defender is an international partnership “intended to optimize space operations ... enhance resilience ... synchronize U.S. efforts with some of its closest allies ... strengthen allies’ abilities to deter hostile acts in space, strengthen deterrence against hostile actors, and reduce the spread of debris orbiting the earth,” as the Pentagon explains. Japan, Spain, France, Italy, Australia, Canada and New Zealand are expected to participate in Olympic Defender. In August 2020, the Space Force published a “spacepower doctrine” that details “why spacepower is vital for our nation, how military spacepower is employed, who military space forces are and what military space forces value.” The precedent-setting document parallels the Pentagon’s landpower, seapower and airpower doctrines. By the fall of 2020, the Space Force had stood up an orbital warfare unit, which is tasked with operating the super-secret X-37B unmanned spaceplane. Last December, the Space Force gained a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And that same month, Space Force personnel were given an official name to be used alongside soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen: “guardians.” Contributing to national defense That’s an apt name for Space Force personnel, as underscored by the guardians’ work in protecting U.S. troops in Iraq from Iranian missiles. Although that incident is the highest profile example of the Space Force’s missile-launch detection mission, U.S. guardians are carrying out this missile-warning role dozens of times each month. In 2020, they detected and tracked at least 1,000 missile launches. That role underscores that space-based operations and assets are an essential part of earth-based operations. Raymond calls space “a huge force multiplier.” Indeed, no branch is more closely associated with terra firma than the Army. Yet as the Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson points out, an Army armored brigade “contains over 2,000 pieces of equipment that rely on space assets to function.” The same applies to the Air Force and Navy. “Air superiority depends on space superiority,” says Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich. Adds the New America Foundation’s Peter Singer, “The loss of space would mean naval battles would in many ways be like the game of Battleship, where the two sides would struggle to even find each other.” Plus, the Space Force is protecting countless out-of-sight, out-of-mind assets that the American people depend on for everyday life. Of the 2,218 operational satellites in orbit, 1,007 are owned and operated by U.S. firms, government agencies or military units. An attack on those satellites would cripple America’s satellite-dependent economy and render America’s citizenry blind, deaf, silenced, hungry and cut off from the world. The Space Force exists to prevent that terrifying possibility. As Lt. Gen. David Buck observes, “Space is critical to the American way of life.” Yet most Americans – having lowered their gaze from the heavens to their hand-held devices – are oblivious to how much they depend on space for communications (via those very hand-held devices), commerce, air and ground transport, emergency services, and security. All of that helps explain why Raymond argues that “the Space Force has a strong and daily connection with nearly every American.” From whom or what are Raymond’s guardians protecting us? Austin warns that “Chinese and Russian space activities present serious and growing threats to U.S. national security interests.” A U.S. government report notes that Beijing “views space as a critical U.S. military and economic vulnerability.” With an eye on exploiting that vulnerability, China has created a Strategic Support Force responsible for operations “involving satellite-on-satellite attacks,” according to RAND. Recent Pentagon reports add that China has “the most rapidly maturing space program in the world," is developing doctrines geared toward “destroying, damaging and interfering” with enemy satellites, and is acquiring technologies to accelerate “counter-space capabilities,” including lasers, satellite jammers and anti-satellite (ASAT) weaponry. China has conducted at least three ASAT tests in recent years. Russia, which stood up an Aero-Space Forces command in 2015, is conducting ASAT tests far more frequently than China. Moscow’s April 2020 ASAT test is believed to be its ninth test of a “direct ascent” ASAT in recent years. In July 2020, Russia tested a satellite-borne kill vehicle. This follows a similar test in 2017, when Russia deployed a satellite that “launched a high-speed projectile into space,” as Raymond revealed last year. In addition, the Russian military has deployed satellites capable of “rendezvous and proximity operations” – military parlance for maneuvering around other satellites to monitor, disrupt and/or disable them. In February 2020, Raymond reported that two Russian satellites were shadowing a U.S. Keyhole satellite in what he called “unusual and disturbing” behavior. China and Russia also deploy directed-energy weapons that can blind or damage U.S. satellite systems, Raymond adds. And the two authoritarian nations just announced plans to co-build a lunar base. Because of the weapons systems, doctrines and actions of China and Russia, access to space, and the freedom to maneuver in space, "can no longer be treated as a given,” Raymond explains. Freedom of maneuver in space doesn’t happen magically or organically. As with freedom of the seas, it depends on responsible powers deterring bad actors and enforcing norms of behavior. And that depends on some type of military force. “If you look back in history, every domain of warfare has a service that’s attached to it,” Raymond points out. Put another way, the emergence of the Space Force – like the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force – was inevitable. The Space Force is developing personnel, units, systems, tools, procedures, and practices to transfer and apply those norms of behavior to space. The United States is not alone in this important mission, as underscored by the broadening participation in Olympic Defender and a number of other recent developments. For example, NATO has recognized space as an operational domain of warfare. Britain recently created a space command. Japan has a new defense unit focused on space. And France has carved out a space-defense command within the French air force. “If space was once a new frontier to be crossed,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly concludes, “it is now a new front that we have to defend.” The main mission of the Space Force and its free world partners is not to wage war in the heavens, but to keep some semblance of peace. “Although space is a warfighting domain,” Raymond observes, “our goal is to actually deter a conflict from extending into space. The best way I know how to do that is to be prepared to fight and win if deterrence were to fail."
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough established a 120-day task force April 1 to conduct a whole-of-VA review and to design and implement a holistic and integrated VA mission on inclusion, diversity, equity and access. VA strives to provide quality care and services to all Veterans regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity but a 2019 Government Accountability Office report reveals that Veterans from underserved communities continue to face barriers to accessing VA health services. “Systemic barriers that underserved communities face many times negatively impact Veterans,” said McDonough. “In order to overcome many of these barriers, VA must tap into its vast diversity and use it as a major source of strength. The implementation of this task force will help the department become the inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible team our Veterans, their families, survivors and caregivers deserve.” The task force is charged with providing concrete and actionable recommendations addressing inclusion, diversity, equity and access to the secretary no later than July 31, and will focus on five objectives: Ensure execution of requirements outlined in Executive Order 13985 and any other subsequent and relevant Executive Orders. Examine and develop VA’s strategic mission, goals and objectives on inclusion, diversity, equity and access. Conduct a whole-of-VA review of policies, programming, training and strategic communications for workforce and Veterans’ initiatives. Identify opportunities to leverage data to inform and operationalize inclusion, diversity, equity and access. Develop institutional access points for underserved communities to establish strategic partnerships with VA. Led by the Chair, Deputy Chief of Staff and White House Liaison Chris Diaz — additional members of the task force include: Assistant Under Secretary for Health and Clinical Services Kameron Matthews M.D. Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Field Operations Cheryl Rawls. Deputy Chief Veterans Experience Officer Barbara Morton. Executive Director for Investigations/Acting Deputy Executive Director Hansel Cordeiro. Executive Director of the National Center for Organizational Development Maureen Marks, Ph.D. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Melissa Bryant. Senior Advisor to the Secretary and Veteran Service Organizations Liaison Ray Kelley. Acting Executive Director for the Center for Minority Veterans Dennis May. Acting Executive Director for the Center for Women Veterans Elizabeth Estabrooks. Chief of Staff at the Office of Enterprise Integration Shana Love-Holmon. Clinical Implementation Lead for PRIDE Tiffany Lange, Psy.D. Executive Director for the Center for Innovation Ryan Vega, M.D. Executive Director for Human Capital Management Lisa Thomas, Ph.D. Special Counsel Tahmika Ruth Jackson, JD, LL.M. Director of the Office of Tribal Government Relations Stephanie Birdwell. Special Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy White House Liaison James Anderson (facilitator). The task force recommendations will aim to eliminate barriers so that all veterans have equal treatment and experiences when interacting with VA. More to follow at the conclusion of the 120-day period.
VAntage Point Veterans would see improved infrastructure, more jobs and small business assistance in the proposed American Jobs Plan, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said April 15. Speaking during a White House press call, the secretary said the plan would give VA more resources to help Veterans. “It will ensure that we at VA have the resources we need to support Veterans and their families across three key areas,” he said. “We serve up to 9.5 million Vets, and we need the resources to modernize these facilities and deliver care.” While the median age of U.S. private sector hospitals is roughly 11 years, VA hospitals have a median age of 58 years. McDonough said 69% are older than 50 years. VA is the largest integrated health care system. The department operates more than 1,700 hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities, as well as more than 150 national cemeteries. “A lack of a modern infrastructure actually limits our ability to meet the evolving health care needs of Veterans,” he said. The plan calls for $3 billion to address immediate needs, making utility and building systems more energy efficient. The plan would also make VA facilities more accessible for disabled Veterans. Finally, the plan would provide upgrades to better serve women Veterans. The plan also calls for $15 billion to replace 10-15 outdated medical centers. The secretary said annual costs to fix facilities have nearly doubled from $11.6 billion in 2010 to $22 billion in 2020. He said VA needs extra money for modern facilities for Veteran care. “Investing in the health care infrastructure is about significantly expanding the breadth and depth of the medical services,” he said. Better jobs McDonough also said the plan would help give Veterans better jobs. He said Veterans deserve civilian jobs worthy of their service. About 200,000 service members transition from the military each year. He said the March 2021 Veteran unemployment rate was 4.5%, which is down from pandemic peak of 11.7%. “The jobs plan will ensure we’re creating good, quality jobs for Veterans, too,” he said. VRRAP applications opening McDonough also said Veterans will soon be able to apply for the Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program starting sometime between May 3-10. The program, known as VRRAP, was part of the American Rescue Plan. Eligible Veterans participating in VRRAP receive up to 12 months of tuition and fees. They also receive a monthly housing allowance based on Post-9/11 GI Bill rates. The program ends 21 months after enactment. It’s limited to a maximum of 17,250 participants and up to $386 million. To be eligible for VRRAP, a Veteran must meet the following criteria: At least 22 years of age and less than 67 years of age Not eligible for GI Bill or VR&E benefits Not enrolled in a Federal or State jobs program Unemployed due to COVID-19 pandemic Not receiving VA disability compensation because you are unable to work Not receiving unemployment compensation including enhanced benefits under the CARES Act Small business assistance The plan also included $5 billion in federal programs for small businesses, including Veteran-owned businesses. This money is for federal research as well as research and development that could lead to commercialization. About 2.5 million Veterans own a small business. Additionally, Veterans are 45% more likely to be self-employed than non-Veterans. “The American Jobs Plan will create a national network of federally funded small business incubators and innovation hubs to ensure that all Veterans, regardless of race or wealth, have a fair shot at starting and growing their own businesses,” he said. The investments are part of fulfilling President Joe Biden’s obligation to care for Veterans, said Terri Tanielian, special assistant to the president for Veterans Affairs. The plan will provide both short-term immediate and longer-term investments. “Veterans and their families have made enormous sacrifices for country, and we need to make sure that we are fulfilling our sacred obligation to serve them with health care, good jobs, business opportunities and more,” McDonough said. “The American Jobs Plan will help us do that.” More information Learn about the Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program at https://benefits.va.gov/gibill/vrrap.asp. Learn more about the American Jobs Plan at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/31/fact-sheet-the-american-jobs-plan/.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published a notice in the Federal Register April 1, to solicit public feedback to guide implementation of the new VA Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program (SSG Fox SPGP). SSG Fox SPGP will be a $174 million, three-year grant program to provide resources to community organizations that serve Veterans at risk of suicide and support to their families across the U.S. Those resources are outlined in the grant program Congress established under the authority of the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019. “Suicide prevention is a top priority for VA and this grant program is part of our comprehensive public health approach to reach all Veterans through the use of results-oriented initiatives aimed at reducing suicide," said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “This congressionally-enacted grant program will allow us to work with local providers to offer Veterans the support they deserve. The information gathered from this initiative will allow us to better invest and share resources with community organizations to collaboratively reduce Veteran suicide.” The public notice requests feedback on distribution and selection of grants, development of measures and metrics for administering the grant program, training, and technical assistance to grant recipients and non-traditional and innovative approaches and treatment practices for suicide prevention services. It also seeks public comment on how grant recipients should determine suicide risk and refer Veterans at risk of suicide or other mental or behavioral health conditions to VA for care. In addition to soliciting public comments, VA will be hosting two virtual listening sessions in the coming months. A second Federal Register Notice with registration information and further details will be forthcoming in the coming weeks. The feedback from both notices will be used to provide recommendations for the SSG Fox SPGP. View the notice and submit comments at the Federal Register. The public comment period ends April 22, 2021. ### If you’re a Veteran having thoughts of suicide or you know one who is, contact the Veterans Crisis Line 24/7/365 days a year. Call?1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at http://veteranscrisisline.net/Chat or text to 838255.
The American Legion The U.S. flag will be raised above the soon-to-open National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C., during a live broadcast program April 16. The ceremony will commemorate the millions of Americans who served in the trenches and on the homefront, transforming the nation through the sacrifices they made and the ideals they bequeathed. Set to begin at 10 a.m. Eastern time, the 75-minute broadcast will feature Oscar nominee Gary Sinise, as well as performances from the U.S. Army’s Band “Pershing’s Own,” the 369th Regiment Harlem Hellfighters Tribute Band and the original cast of the musical “Hello Girls.” Viewers will also hear insights from elected officials, military leaders, members of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission and the memorial’s design team. The flag that will wave over the memorial first flew over the U.S. Capitol April 6, 2017, commemorating the centennial of the day the United States went to war in 1917. It then flew over the American World War I battlefield cemeteries of Europe, honoring the 116,516 Americans who died during the war. The flag’s journey to Europe and back echoes that of the legendary doughboys, honoring those who gave their lives in battle and celebrating others’ triumphant return home. Register to watch the broadcast here, and watch a promotional video here.
VAntage Point All Veterans, their spouses and caregivers can get COVID-19 vaccinations from VA under the SAVE LIVES Act signed into law March 24. Covered individuals can receive a vaccine from VA due to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency. Under the bill, covered individuals are: Veterans who are not eligible to enroll in the VA health care system; specified Veterans who are eligible for hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care abroad; family caregivers approved as providers of personal care services for Veterans under the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers; caregivers of Veterans participating in the VA’s Program of General Caregiver Support Services; and caregivers of Veterans participating in the VA’s Medical Foster Home Program, Bowel and Bladder Program, Home Based Primary Care Program, or Veteran Directed Care Program. Civilian Health and Medical Programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs recipients. Veteran spouses. VA must prioritize the vaccination of (1) Veterans enrolled in the VA health care system, (2) Veterans who fail to enroll but receive hospital care and medical services for specified disabilities in their first 12 months of separation from service, and (3) caregivers accompanying such prioritized Veterans. Additionally, vaccines furnished abroad are authorized to be furnished in a geographic location other than a state regardless of whether vaccines are needed for the treatment of Veterans with a service-connected disability. This includes those participating in a VA rehabilitation program. More information To learn how to get COVID-19 vaccine from VA, visit https://blogs.va.gov/VAntage/84404/veterans-designated-caregivers-can-get-covid-19-vaccine-va/. Find answers to general VA COVID-19 vaccine questions at https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/. To receive ongoing updates about VA’s COVID-19 vaccine efforts and to indicate your interest in getting the vaccine once you’re eligible, visit https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/stay-informed. Read the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine fact sheet at https://www.fda.gov/media/144638/download. View the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine fact sheet at https://www.fda.gov/media/144413/download. Read the Janssen COVID-19 fact sheet at https://www.fda.gov/media/146305/download.
American Legion When President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill last week, it also created a policy change that has been long-advocated for by The American Legion — closing the 90/10 loophole. “The American Legion applauds Congress and President Biden for moving to protect veterans and members of our Armed Forces from being targeted by predatory, for-profit schools,” said American Legion National Commander James W. "Bill" Oxford. The 90/10 rule mandated for-profit schools obtain at least 10 percent of their revenue from sources other than Title IV education funds, which are the primary source of student aid. GI Bill benefits fall within the 10 percent category, making them valuable to for-profit institutions. Because of this, for-profit institutions have aggressively targeted veterans and servicemembers with deceptive recruiting methods. This left veterans particularly vulnerable to predatory institutions. Closing this loophole will protect veterans and their earned education benefits from being exploited by these institutions. In 2015, The American Legion’s National Executive Committee passed Resolution No. 15: Support Greater GI Bill Outcomes By Closing 90-10 Loophole. This resolution reaffirmed the Legion’s longstanding advocacy when it comes to securing a veteran’s right to education. “As the original drafters of the first GI Bill, our membership has unequivocally stated that closing the 90-10 loophole is critical to ensuring the Forever GI Bill is protected,” Oxford added.
VAntage Point As a member of what will be the most diverse White House Cabinet in history, I am honored to lead VA. We are charged with caring for Veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors. We will accomplish our mission by always putting Veterans first. I take full responsibility to ensure that our employees have everything they need to carry out the important work before us and that we operate in a culture that celebrates and draws strength from our country’s great diversity. This means that all VA staff, patients, their families, caregivers, survivors, visitors and advocates must feel safe in a workplace free of harassment and discrimination. I will not accept discrimination, harassment, or assault at any level or at any facility within VA. We will provide a safe, inclusive, equitable environment for all employees and the Veterans we serve. To ensure a welcoming environment for Veterans, we must foster fair and inclusive VA workplaces where the experiences and perspectives of our diverse employees are valued. The success of our mission depends on everyone being able to contribute their expertise, experience, talents, ideas and perspectives. I commit to advancing equity in VA and providing all employees with opportunities to reach their full potential; I commit to these principles and will make sure that my senior leadership team reflects and embeds them in everything that we do. One manifestation of that will be the Department’s commitment to equal employment opportunity, maintaining a workplace free of unlawful discrimination, harassment and retaliation, and creating a workplace that promotes equity, diversity and inclusion. All employees, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex (including gender identity, transgender status and sexual orientation), pregnancy, age (40 or older), disability, genetic information, marital status, parental status, or political affiliation will have an equitable and inclusive workplace free from unlawful discrimination, harassment and retaliation. I will hold all VA managers and supervisors accountable for maintaining this safe and civil environment, and I will instruct them to review my policy statement with staff and colleagues to reinforce these expectations. These protections will guide all management practices. VA and our Nation face great challenges made even more daunting by the COVID-19 pandemic. These challenges make it even more important that we have workplaces where everyone is treated well. I am committed to ensuring that employees have what they need to serve our Nation’s Veterans as well as those Veterans who have served us. As Americans, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to those who have worn our Nation’s uniforms.
Based in Washington state, Freedom Sisters Media is a multi-media company focused solely on women vets and offering guidance for success in life VFW Magazine Kerri Jeter is on a mission. She is working to tell the empowering stories of her fellow female veterans. On Veterans Day 2019 she launched Freedom Sisters Media to do just that. This faith-based, multi-media company shares the successes of women veterans via the internet. Through the Freedom Sisters podcast, which airs weekly, Jeter highlights the successes of her “sisters” who served in the military. “The conversations have been authentic, real, transparent and vulnerable,” said Jeter, a mother of five. “The show can be summed up like this: It’s women veterans’ soulful stories that help others overcome, heal and thrive.” Jeter, who served from 2012-2013 at Camp Buehring in Kuwait with the Army National Guard’s 35th Combat Aviation Brigade, said she finds her podcast guests through her network of fellow veterans and following specific hashtags on social media. “No matter how different the stories are week to week, the common thread is sisterhood, hope and healing,” said Jeter, a member of VFW Post 5878 in Tenino, Wash. “No topic is off the table. This is real life, and our sisters are real ‘sheroes.’ ” From her interviews each week, Jeter discovered common themes among female vet entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders: lack of funding, marketing, connection and networking. To address these issues, Freedom Sisters Magazine launched in January. Jeter put a call out on LinkedIn and Instagram and ended up with 30 female vets to write for the magazine. She calls her team “writeHers.” Magazine “readHers” will find practical tools, skill-sharing and knowledge to succeed in whatever endeavors lay ahead, Jeter said. The digital magazine app is available for subscription on iOS and Android. Subscribers get their first issue for free. ‘That Wasn’t Okay with Me’The road to Freedom Sisters started when Jeter enlisted on Dec. 5, 2006. A single mom with three kids, Jeter said she wanted to better her life for her children and herself. When she deployed to Kuwait in 2012, she was apart from her children for 18 months. She tried to make the best of it at Camp Buehring. While others were on the receiving end of care packages, Jeter was making care packages from things she bought at various markets and sending to her kids back home. “It was nerve-wracking because I was their primary caregiver,” Jeter said. “It was difficult, but I was really focused on my job and was promoted to captain during that time.” In 2015, Jeter was crowned Ms. Veteran America. During her reign, Jeter realized that the stories being reported about female vets simply weren’t accurate. “The stories are about our pain points or that we are all damsels in distress,” Jeter said. “That wasn’t okay with me.” When she left the National Guard, Jeter was re-married and had a “surprise” baby. She took a year off but felt “called by God” to serve women vets. “I just thought, ‘There has to be more to what I was called to do,’” Jeter remembered. “One night, I went to bed in distress and had a dream about the words ‘Freedom Sisters.’ When I woke up, I looked up the domain name and found it was available. We launched on Veterans Day 2019.” Jeter and her husband are both active members of Post 5878. While campaigning for Ms. Veteran America, Jeter said the Post kept inviting her back to speak about homeless women veterans. Currently, her husband, Marcellus, is junior vice commander. To learn more about Freedom Sisters Media, visit freedomsisters.com. This article is featured in the March 2021 issue of VFW magazine as part of our spotlight on women veterans for Women's History Month, and was written by Janie Dyhouse, senior editor for VFW magazine.
WASHINGTON — The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021, signed into law March 11 by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., equips the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ensure Veterans have continued access to quality health care and protections against COVID-19, as well as providing needed economic relief. The $1.9 trillion coronavirus economic relief package for Americans allocates $17 billion in support of VA’s nationwide response to the pandemic. “Like other hard-working Americans, Veterans have been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “Countless Veterans have lost jobs, closed businesses, home-schooled children and faced uncertain prospects while our nation grapples with this health crisis. The American Rescue Plan is a significant piece of legislation that helps VA deliver on the president’s promise of caring for the men and women who served our great nation, especially during this unanticipated and challenging time.” Outlined for VA in the American Rescue Plan: $14.5 billion for COVID-19 related health care, including information technology and facility requirements, ensuring access for 9.2 million enrolled Veterans who may have delayed care or have more complex health care needs as a result of the pandemic, as well as resources for Veterans currently receiving housing support and an estimated 37,000 homeless Veterans. $1 billion for debt forgiveness related to copayments or other cost sharing Veterans paid for VA health care and to reimburse Veterans who paid a copay or other cost sharing, for care and prescriptions provided from April 6, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021. $750 million for both construction grants ($500 million) and payments ($250 million) to State Homes to greatly improve the living conditions of our most vulnerable Veterans who reside in these facilities. $386 million to initiate a COVID–19 Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program that provides up to 12 months of training and employment assistance for unemployed Veterans to enter high demand occupations. $262 million to reduce the backlog of compensation and pension claims, which has grown from 76,000 in March 2020 to more than 212,000 in March 2021. The ARP funding will enable the Veterans Benefits Administration to reduce the claims backlog to around 100,000 by September 2022. $100 million to facilitate the modernization of VA’s badly antiquated supply chain system by accelerating the Department’s transition to the Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support. $80 million to establish the Department of Veterans Affairs Employee Leave Fund, which provides funds for paid leave for COVID-19 related causes. $10 million to decrease the Board of Veterans’ Appeals hearing requests (currently 87,499) and intake (35,000 appeals) backlogs. These efforts help Veterans economically by resolving their VA appeals and allowing them to begin receiving compensation and services. Additional American Rescue Plan support: Veterans experiencing unemployment and other financial hardships may also qualify for further assistance in the form of extension of unemployment insurance benefits and eligibility, stimulus checks, or expansion of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. Veterans with children could benefit from additional stimulus payments, an increased child tax credit and expanded childcare tax credits. Veterans are prioritized for the $28.6B Restaurant Revitalization Grants in the Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund. During the initial 21-day period in which the Small Business Administration (SBA) awards grants under this program, SBA will prioritize awarding grants to eligible entities that are owned and controlled by Veterans. Helps small businesses in economically disadvantaged areas keep front line state and local public workers on the job and paid and help public transit agencies avoid layoffs and service reductions. Assists communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, many of which are Veterans living in diverse communities across the country. Women and racial/ethnic minorities are becoming the fastest-growing populations of Veterans, as the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding economic crisis have hit communities of color and women particularly hard. Provides emergency funding for community investments to ease challenges experienced by many American Indian/Alaska Native Veterans and their families and provide much needed relief to embark on the long road to healing in the aftermath of tremendous losses during the pandemic. Closes what is known as the “90/10 loophole” to protect the integrity of the GI Bill and Veterans in receipt of their well-earned educational benefits. Learn more about the American Rescue Plan.