The VFW is urging tens of thousands of student veterans to immediately contact the Department of Veterans Affairs at (888) GIBILL-1, or (888) 442-4551, if they are facing a financial hardship due to delayed VA housing payments. VA said earlier this week that as many as 180,000 student veterans’ housing payments were delayed this month due in part to computer updates to reflect benefit changes through the Forever GI Bill. Until the problem is fixed, VA is requiring benefits processors to work overtime and weekends, while many student veterans may be forced to raid their individual savings accounts or borrow money from their families to hopefully avoid late fees, ruined credit ratings or eviction. “The VA reports that education claims will be processed immediately, as will disbursements, but if student veterans do not achieve resolution within three business days, I urge them to contact the VFW through our 1StudentVeteran@vfw.org email address,” said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. “We will intervene directly with the VA to ensure your housing allowance is correct and paid. In the meantime, I would encourage all student veterans to contact their landlords and explain the VA’s computer processing problem, and for landlords to be patient and understanding, because they will be paid.”
2019 COLA Increases Will Be Largest in 7 Years
Military and federal retirees, veterans receiving compensation from VA, and Social Security recipients will see a 2.8% Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) increase beginning in 2019. This is the largest COLA increase since 2011 when it was 3.6%, and a 0.8% increase from last year. Annual COLA increases are based on the Consumer Price Index, which measures the inflation during the 3rd quarter of each fiscal year (July, August, and September) and compares it to the previous 3rd quarter.
DPAA Accounts for 203 Missing Personnel in FY 2018
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) accounted for 203 formerly missing persons from past conflicts, the highest yearly total reached by the agency or its predecessor organizations. Also, the agency individually identified the remains of three additional personnel, who were previously accounted for as part of group burials, reaching another milestone of 206 individual identifications for the FY. Broken down by conflict, 10 were accounted for from the Vietnam War, 37 from the Korean War, and 156 were from World War II. “Science and technology have expanded exponentially in recent years, enabling identifications that even five years ago seemed impossible. We also attribute the increasing yearly trend to DPAA’s expanded use of partnerships, a more precise management of disinterments, and improvements in our robust field operations,” said Rear Adm. Jon Kreitz, DPAA’s deputy director for operations. The agency is focused on the research, investigation, recovery and identification of approximately 34,000 (out of approximately 83,000 missing personnel) believed to be recoverable, who were lost in conflicts from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Four New Law Judges Appointed to VA’s Board of Veterans Appeals
President Trump recently approved the appointment of four new Veterans Law Judges to VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Lauren Cryan, Evan Deichert, William Donnelly, and Cynthia Skow will assume their roles on Oct. 14, and will begin holding hearings and signing decisions for veterans and other appellants. In fiscal year 2018, the board issued a historic 85,288 decisions to veterans — 61.6 percent more than 2017. “Bringing on additional judges means the board will be better staffed to conduct hearings and decide appeals properly in a timely manner,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Combined with procedural changes under the Appeals Modernization and Improvement Act of 2017 and the hiring of more than 200 additional board attorneys, this translates into better and faster service for veterans.”
Army Pvt. Delbert J. Holliday, 22, of Minneapolis, whose remains were previously identified, was buried Oct. 15 in Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Minn. Holliday was a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 7th Cavalry Division, participating in combat actions against the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces in the vicinity of North Pyongan Province, North Korea.
Navy Fireman 1st Class Creighton H. Workman was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941, when the ship sustained multiple torpedo hits and quickly capsized, resulting in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Workman. Interment services are pending.
Navy Chief Warrant Officer John A. Austin was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941. Interment services are pending.
Till next week, praying for all veterans.
– Charles Castelluccio