VA Making Adjustments to Mission Act During Pandemic

VA is not pausing the MISSION Act. The department is ensuring the best medical interests of veterans are met by adhering to the law in a manner that takes into account whether referrals for community care are clinically appropriate during the COVID-19 outbreak. VA is taking the following steps in order to ensure the safety of veterans as they access care:

– VA community care referrals for emergent or urgent clinical needs will continue as necessary.

– Veterans with care currently scheduled in the community should continue with this care as clinically appropriate and if available.

– Referral requests for non-emergent care with community providers will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis for immediate clinical need and with regard to the safety of the veteran when being seen in-person, regardless of wait time or drive time eligibility.

– VA is expanding the use of telehealth and telephone sessions to address many of veterans’ routine medical needs.

“We understand the need for community providers to halt in-person, non-emergent care to veterans, and all patients for that matter, in order to lessen the curve of this virus sweeping our nation,” said VFW Washington Office Executive Director B.J. Lawrence. “Many private health care providers around the country are being forced to make similar difficult decisions, but ultimately decisions that keep the overall safety of all patients in mind. Vigilance is required in slowing this coronavirus pandemic. The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking the correct approach in handling this matter but it remains vital that many of our veterans are able to still receive the care they require. Telehealth and telephonic medical sessions are good adjustments to current conditions but VA must make accommodations for veterans who are unable to access these means of care.”

Senate Passes Legislation to Expand Access to Tele-Hearings

Last Wednesday, the Senate passed VFW-supported H.R. 4771, the VA Tele-Hearing Modernization Act. This important legislation would permit appellants in disability compensation cases before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) to appear remotely by picture and voice transmissions, also known as “tele-hearings,” from locations other than VA facilities. Currently, veterans may appear via tele-hearing from one of roughly 65 locations in BVA cases. This legislation would undoubtedly improve access for veteran appellants in disability compensation cases and would permit a greater number of veterans to attend their own hearings. The bill passed the House in November and now heads to the president. The VFW urges the president to swiftly sign this important legislation.

Important Dates in April

April is Military Child Month

April 5 – Gold Star Spouses Day

April 9 – National Former POW Recognition Day

April 12 – Easter

April 14 – Air Force Reserve birthday

April 23 – Army Reserve birthday

April 30 – National Military Brats Day

POW/MIA Update

Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earl W. Smith, 22, was a pilot assigned to the 80th Fighter Squadron, 8th Fighter Group, 5th Air Force. On Aug. 20, 1943, Smith was piloting a P-38 Lightning fighter when he crashed into the harbor off of Paga Point. Smith did not eject and his body was not recovered. Interment services are pending.

Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earl F. Ferguson, 26, of Philip, South Dakota, was a pilot assigned to the 329th Bombardment Squadron, 93rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), 8th Air Force. On Aug. 1, 1943, the B-24 aircraft on which Ferguson was the co-pilot crashed as a result of enemy anti-aircraft fire during Operation Tidal Wave. Ferguson will be buried in his hometown. The date has yet to be decided.

Army Maj. Harvey H. Storms, 34, of McAllen, Texas, was a member of Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, which was part of the 31st Regimental Combat Team. He was reported missing in action on Dec. 1, 1950. Storms will be buried June 12, 2020, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Army Cpl. Ralph L. Cale, 19, of Covington, Virginia, was a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. He was reported missing in action on Dec. 2, 1950, when his unit was attacked by enemy forces in the vicinity of the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea. Cale will be buried Aug. 14, 2020, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. George M. Johnson, 23, of Seaford, Delaware, was a member of the 38th Bombardment Squadron, 30th Bombardment Group, stationed at Hawkins Field, Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, when the B-24J bomber he was co-piloting crashed into Tarawa lagoon shortly after takeoff. Johnson will be buried May 8, 2020, in his hometown.

Till next week, praying for all service members.


– Charles Castelluccio