Sequestration deadline edges closer

On Feb. 12, American Legion staff attended a Senate Armed Services Committee oversight hearing that took testimony from Department of Defense (DoD) witnesses who related the damage such cuts would make to operations to DoD and the services for the rest of the fiscal year.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said there could be two implementations of sequestration. The first sequestration will begin on March 1; and a second one March 27 due to a breach in the discretionary spending caps for fiscal year 2013. The combined effects could force the DoD to cut $46 billion.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said about one-third of these cuts would come from force structure. The other two-thirds of the reductions would occur in the modernization, compensation and readiness accounts.

The following day at a news conference, Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno said that if sequestration goes into effect, the military will have to be allowed to close bases. Odierno said the Army would be forced to become so much smaller that it would be "inefficient" not to close bases. The base closure process would be paid for by the money not being spent on additional forces.

Read more:

Resolution No. 55: Protecting the Defense Budget

Resolution No. 63: Rebuild America’s Defense Industrial Base

In other news:

Afghanistan troops: President Barack Obama’s announcement Feb. 12 that 34,000 U.S. troops will come out of Afghanistan in the next 12 months makes sense in the context of the broader campaign, said Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. "The president’s decision, announced last night, … puts us firmly on a path, I believe, to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan," he said.

National Commander James Koutz responded: "American Legion service officers stand ready to support our men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces and help them understand their VA benefits," Koutz said. "American Legion-sponsored job fairs and business workshops await their return, offering opportunities to convert military experience into successful careers. American Legion posts and individual members are available for those who come home wondering where to turn for camaraderie and support. That is what we do. It is who we are."

Read more:

Read American Legion Commander’s full response here.  

Small business issues: The Economic Division hosted the VET-Force meeting on Feb. 12. Presenting at this were numerous members of the Legion’s Small Business Task Force, members of VET-Force, Emily Murphy and Corey Cooke from the House Small Business Committee and Tom Leney, executive director of Veterans and Small Business Programs. This meeting provided a forum for the veterans’ small business community to voice their concerns to the heads of an agency’s Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization and professional staff in Congress. The discussion was mainly over the VA verification issue.

Flag amendment update: On Jan. 18, House Joint Resolution (H.J. Res.) 19 was introduced by Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri. His legislation is a proposed constitutional amendment to protect the American flag from physical desecration. Its text states simply: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."

The next task is finding co-sponsors for this legislation. Please contact the offices of your representative and senators and ask them to become co-sponsors of the flag amendment in their respective chambers.

Mali update: The United States continues to work with international and interagency partners to support the efforts of France and the African-led international support mission to Mali to counter extremists and restore Malian sovereignty, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs told Congress on Feb. 14.

Resolution No. 82: Policy on Africa

Read more at:

System Worth Saving visits: Executive Director for the American Legion National Headquarters Peter Gaytan, Past National Commander Ron Conley and Director for Veteran Affairs and Rehabilitation Division Verna Jones conducted a site visit to Las Vegas VA Medical Center. The visit focused on women veteran health care.

Also, last week senior field service representative Warren Goldstein and task force member Mike Suter conducted a System Worth Savings site visit to Salem, Va. The visit focused on womens veteran health care. The SWS team conducted a town hall meeting prior to the hospital site visit.

Claims: As of the month of December 2012, The American Legion represented a total of 688,382 veterans, surviving spouses, children, and parents that seek our assistance. In the month of December 2012, more than $721 million was paid out to the people we represent through the Veterans Benefit Administration.

During the week ending Feb. 8, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals reached dispositions on 154 American Legion represented appeals. Of those dispositions, 69.4 percent of the denials were overturned with outcomes favorable to the veteran. In 33 cases, the Board granted benefits outright after considering The American Legion’s arguments. In 74 cases, The American Legion was able to point out errors in the development of the veteran’s claims which mandated corrective action under the law. Of the total number of dispositions, 42 were outright denials.

POW/MIA Update

Cpl. Robert G. Archer, U.S. Army, 31st Regimental Combat Team, was lost on Nov. 20, 1950, near Hagaru-ri, North Korea. He was accounted for on Feb. 7, 2013.

Cpl. Robert W. Scott, U.S. Army, 31st Regimental Combat Team, was lost on Dec. 1, 1950, near the Sinhung-ri, South Hamgyong Province, in North Korea. He was accounted for on Feb. 7, 2013.