It’s Deer Season in Pennsylvania

By the time this is read, the Pennsylvania gun deer season will be well under way. Here are a few safety notes. Be sure to tell some one where you will be hunting. Be sure of your target. Drink lots of fluids – water, sports drinks – to stay hydrated. Take along one of those plastic sleds that you used to sled ride on, to load that deer on to, to make an easy drag. Not all cell phones work in all areas.

Latest VA Fix Isn’t

The VFW is adamantly opposed to the latest congressional attempt to fix the Department of Veterans Affairs. The “fix,” as introduced Tuesday by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), “throws out the idea of acceptable patient wait times and eliminates the requirement of the veteran to ask for VA permission to use civilian medical providers. The “fix” would also erode the VA health care system by charging veterans for care related to their service-connected wounds, illnesses or injuries. The VFW has conducted multiple surveys that reflect more than 80 percent of veterans who are eligible for VA care choose to use their earned VA care, despite the overwhelming majority having other options, such as employer-sponsored health insurance, the military’s TRICARE plan or Medicare. Veterans appreciate options, and ultimately they choose whichever health plan best fits their individual circumstances. Having unregulated choice, however, puts the onus on veterans to find their own care – and that needs to be a decision between doctors and their patients, not Washington. A more detailed VFW press release and call to action will be posted at a later date.

NDAA Update

Following several weeks of negotiations with the House, the Senate unanimously approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2018. In recent months, the VFW has placed significant pressure on Congress to preserve or extend the benefits granted to members of the military, retirees, veterans and their families, such as pay and allowances; TRICARE reform; the Survivor Benefits Plan; the declassification of documents related to toxic exposure; military sexual assault; and benefit parity for certain members of the National Guard and Reserve. The VFW is glad the final bill includes provisions important to VFW members. Specifically, the final bill does not impact the grandfathering of TRICARE enrollment and copayment costs for current retirees. Authorized spending levels in the NDAA are well above the $549 billion sequestration spending cap on defense spending for the year, which requires Congress to strike a budget deal to adjust the outdated caps that were set in 2010 and fails to account for the changing needs of America’s military.

Recent GI Bill Changes

In recent months, there have been substantial changes and additions to the GI Bill benefit. One VFW-supported change is the removal of the 15-year use it or lose it cap. The 15-year time limitation to use Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits was eliminated for veterans who left active duty on or after Jan. 1, 2013. Additionally, children who became eligible for the Fry Scholarship on or after Jan. 1, 2013, and all Fry Scholarship-eligible spouses now have the 15-year cap removed as well.

POW/MIA Update

Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Donald E. Underwood, 23, of River Rouge, Mich., whose identification was previously announced, was honored next to his mother’s grave in Flat Rock, Mich., on Nov. 25, followed by a burial at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., on Nov. 28.

Navy Reserve Radioman 2nd Class Julius H.O. Pieper was a member of Landing Ship Tank Number 523 (LST-523) off the coast of Normandy, France, on June 19, 1944. Interment services are pending.

Army Sgt. Ollie E. Shepard was a member of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. Interment services are pending.

Till next week, praying for all service members.

– Charles Castelluccio