VFW 2021 Priority Goals

This month marked the beginning of the 117th Congress. The 2021 VFW Priority Goals focus on budget; health care; disability assistance and memorial affairs; education, employment, and transition assistance; military quality of life; and national security, foreign affairs, and POW/MIA. The VFW looks forward to working with the new and returning members of Congress to improve care and benefits for veterans, service members, and their families.

Gen. Lloyd Austin (Ret.) Confirmed as Secretary of Defense

On Friday, the Senate voted to confirm Gen. Lloyd Austin (Ret.) as the new defense secretary by a vote of 93-2. Austin retired from the military in 2016, as a four-star Army general, after more than 40 years of service. Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) called Austin’s confirmation “an extraordinary, historic moment.”

MilTax and IRS Free File Available Now

MilTax, a Department of Defense program which offers free preparation and e-filing software for all military members and some veterans, with no income limits, is now open. IRS Free File online is also currently available for Americans whose income for 2020 was $72,000 and below.

Complete the Airborne Hazards and Open Pit Registry

All veterans who served in eligible locations should include their information in the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pits Registry. Participation in the registry is very important as it will allow VA to track burn pit exposure and draw inferences regarding associated adverse health effects. Exposure to burn pits may be associated with respiratory conditions such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Recently, VA stated that veterans with underlying respiratory conditions may be at greater risk for developing complications related to COVID-19. Service members and veterans who have already signed up for the registry should make sure that their contact information, phone number, address, and email are up to date.

Important Dates in February

Feb. 3: Four Chaplains Day – Marks the 77th anniversary of the sinking of USAT Dorchester by a German submarine during Word War II. The ship departed New York City on Jan. 23, 1943, in route to Greenland, carrying approximately 900 others as a part of a convoy of three ships, escorted by three Coast Guard ships. As the ship went down, the four chaplains helped hand out life jackets. When the supply was depleted, they took off their own and gave them to others. They were last seen with their arms linked together saying prayers and singing hymns as they went down with the ship.

Feb.14: Valentine’s Day

Feb. 15: Presidents Day

Feb. 19: Coast Guard Reserve birthday

POW/MIA Update

U.S. Navy Chief Machinist’s Mate Lada Smisek, 42, of Cleveland, Ohio, served at the Naval Ammunition Depot and Submarine Base in Cavite, Philippine Islands. According to prison camp and other historical records, Smisek died Sept. 28, 1942, and was buried along with fellow prisoners in the local Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery, in grave number 437. Smisek will be buried on Jan. 29, 2021, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

Till next week, praying for all.


 – Charles Castelluccio