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Veterans Benefits Information

Legion weighs in on 'State of the Union'

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Reprising his appearance from last Memorial Day weekend, American Legion Legislative Director Tim Tetz was once again a guest on the May 27 broadcast of CNN’s "State of the Union."

Program host Candy Crowley reminded Tetz that, last year, he said the biggest problem with veterans was their high unemployment rate. The current jobless rate for veterans in the 18- to 24-age bracket is 17.3 percent. Why, Crowley asked, do jobs continue to elude our younger veterans?

Getting younger veterans back into the civilian work force, Tetz agreed, is still a big problem. But it is generally a "hard time for young people to get jobs" and the unemployment rate for non-veterans in the same age group is 15 percent. The "scariest number" is that, out of 780,000 veterans in America currently without a job, two-thirds are aged 35 to 64 and often do not have GI Bill education benefits and other resources available to younger veterans.

The next topic was the perennial problem of the VA claims backlog, which Crowley said "is something like 900,000 and taking up to 400 days to get them processed. Seems like it’s gotten worse."

Referring to the previous week’s hearing by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Tetz brought the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) into the discussion. He noted that it took servicemembers an average of 404 days to get through that system — from the day their commanding officers identify them as possibly being unfit for duty because of injury or illness, to the day they are finally discharged from active duty.

Tetz said that making our troops "sit there and languish for 400 days in some barracks on some base is absolutely an atrocity."

Crowley ended the segment by saying, "We are struck by both the growing backlog at the VA, as well as the stories of some servicemembers who have been deemed unfit for service due to an injury, but have to wait up to 400 days or more to be discharged from the military."

Any servicemember who is having difficulties with their disability evaluation is encouraged to contact "State of the Union" by visiting Video clips from the show are available on the same Web page.

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, also appeared on the program.




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Murray, Collins, Michaud Applaud Veterans Homes Fix in Military Construction Spending Bill

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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), members of the Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee, along with U.S. Representative Mike Michaud (D-ME), Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health, applauded the inclusion of an amendment in the Senate Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill which would modify the way State Veterans’ Homes are reimbursed for nursing home care provided to veterans. The Senate Committee on Appropriations approved the bill on Tuesday by a vote of 30-0. The amendment, authored by Senator Murray, would result in more flexibility in determining reimbursement rates by requiring VA and the State Veterans’ Homes to collaborate in setting rates that accurately reflect the level of care provided. Washington and Maine are home to State Veterans’ Homes which require a high level of skilled nursing due to requirements by Medicare and Medicaid. However, currently the VA payments do not cover this level of care.

“This amendment is a critical step to ensuring Washington State Veterans’ Homes will not lose out on millions of dollars they need to keep operating,” said Senator Murray. “Thankfully we were finally able to move forward to provide this flexibility -- preventing staff layoffs which would have dramatically reduced the number of Washington veterans they serve. I am grateful to Senator Collins and Representative Michaud for their leadership on this issue.”

"By granting the Department of Veterans Affairs increased flexibility in reimbursement rates, our goal is to recognize the high-quality of care State Veterans' Homes provide disabled veterans and ensure they never have to turn away any of our veterans because of inadequate reimbursement from the VA," said Senator Collins. "The men and women cared for by State Veterans' Homes defended our freedom, many of them in combat.  We must defend their right to the care they deserve."

“Our severely disabled and elderly veterans deserve access to the best possible care and Congress cannot wait any longer to address the shortfalls our State Veterans’ Homes are facing,” said Representative Michaud. “I am grateful for Sen. Patty Murray’s collaboration and leadership on this issue and I look forward to continuing to work with her to ensure that this issue is resolved before the end of the year.”


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MSNBC host issues an apology

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MSNBC host Chris Hayes sparked controversy on May 27 when he stated on national television that he was "uncomfortable" referring to America's war dead as heroes. Nearly 24 hours later, Hayes issued an apology. 

"On Sunday, in discussing the issues of the word 'hero' to describe those members of the armed forces who have given their lives, I don't think I lived up to the standards of rigor, respect and empathy for those affected by the issues we discuss that I've set for myself," Hayes said in a written statement. "I am deeply sorry for that." Read his written statement here.



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Governor Quinn and Illinois Tollway Honor Fallen Servicemembers during Memorial Day Weekend - “Portrait of a Soldier” Memorial Exhibit on Display at Illinois Tollway Oases Through Independence Day

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HINSDALE – May 27, 2012. To commemorate Memorial Day, Governor Pat Quinn today joined officials from the Illinois Tollway to unveil the “Portrait of a Soldier” memorial exhibit at the Hinsdale Oasis and announce the summer exhibit schedule at multiple Tollway Oases in Northern Illinois. Currently, the exhibit features a series of hand-drawn portraits of 288 of the 300 Illinois men and women who have fallen in service to our country since September 11, 2001.

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Memorial Day recognized two anniversaries

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On May 28, President Barack Obama addressed a Memorial Day crowd at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that included Medal of Honor recipient Brian Thacker and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

The ceremony, emceed by actor and National Guard veteran Tom Selleck, marked nearly 30 years since "The Wall" was dedicated on Nov. 13th, 1982. About three months earlier, The American Legion had donated $1 million to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, making it the largest single contributor to the memorial.

In his remarks, Obama said the Vietnam War era has been called "a scar on our country" by some. "But here’s what I say. As any wound heals, the tissue around it becomes tougher, becomes stronger than before. And in this sense, finally, we might begin to see the true legacy of Vietnam.

"Because of Vietnam and our veterans, we now use American power smarter, we honor our military more, we take care of our veterans better. Because of the hard lessons of Vietnam, because of you, America is even stronger than before."

At the original 1982 dedication ceremony, American Legion National Commander Al Keller Jr. was the keynote speaker. He talked about the "lonely battle" fought by Vietnam veterans in the midst of domestic political strife and strong anti-war sentiments. "There is no shame in serving with honor and courage in difficult times," Keller said. "And there is no shame in enshrining the names of fallen comrades in immutable stone for generations to recall."

Thirty years later, the names of 10 more fallen warriors have been added to The Wall, bringing the total to 58,282.

Milt Heifner, national vice commander of The American Legion, and Peter Gaytan, the Legion’s executive director in Washington, represented the Legion family at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial ceremony where they too presented a wreath.

Heifner said it was important for Americans to honor those who have fought and died in uniform because "everything that we have in America is a result of the sacrifices by our troops, by our veterans. And what they’ve given us is through what they fought for and the sacrifices that they’ve made."

As an Air Force veteran, Heifner served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970, flying C-130 Hercules transport planes. "I flew in-country shuttles for six months, and then I flew special operations for another two years," Heifner said.

Memorial Day is the day when Heifner especially remembers the man who taught him to fly at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Okla. "He was shot down in an F-4 (Phantom jet fighter) over Hanoi. I think of him because he was my very first instructor. We flew together for six months."

Meanwhile, Brian Thacker received the Medal of Honor for his actions on March 31, 1971, while serving as a first lieutenant with an Army field artillery regiment at a base in Kontum Province, South Vietnam. On that day, the base was attacked by North Vietnamese Army forces and, when the American troops were forced to evacuate, Thacker stayed behind to cover the retreat. He ended up being trapped behind enemy lines and evaded capture for eight days until he was rescued.

The citation for Thacker’s Medal of Honor notes that the lieutenant "remained inside the perimeter alone to provide covering fire with his M-16 rifle until all other friendly forces had escaped from the besieged fire base. Then, in an act of supreme courage, he called for friendly artillery fire on his own position to allow his comrades more time to withdraw safely from the area and, at the same time, inflict even greater casualties on the enemy forces."

In 1962, the Military Assistance Command was created and headquartered in Saigon to manage the U.S. troop buildup. U.S. Marine Corps helicopter squadrons were stationed in Soc Trang to provide air support for South Vietnamese troops fighting the Viet Cong. By year’s end, 11,300 American troops were deployed to Vietnam.

Other speakers at the ceremony included Jan Scruggs, founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund; Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar; Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Chuck Hagel, Vietnam War veteran and former U.S. senator from Nebraska.








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Did you know?

The issuance or replacement of military service medals, awards and decorations must be requested in writing.

Requests should be submitted in writing to the appropriate military service branch division of the NPRC. Standard form (SF 180), available through the VA, is recommended to submit your request. Generally, there is no charge for medal or award replacements. For more information, or for the mailing address of the military branch office to submit your request to, call 1-86-NARA-NARA (1-866-272-6272) or visit the NPRC website at