Legion offers testimony on military sexual trauma

The House Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee held a hearing July 19 aimed at examining the issue of military sexual trauma, specifically with regard to treatment options currently available to victims.

The American Legion submitted testimony for the record. Legion testimony highlighted work that the organization has done in this area, specifically System Worth Saving. Additionally, the Legion provided some recommendations that would improve the options available to victims of MST. The American Legion recommends that:

  • VA expand gender-specific treatment options, given that mixed-gender treatment can exacerbate issues inherent in MST-related PTSD.
  • VA place MST councilors at all VA locations to better attend to the needs of victims who may be seeking help at VA. Resolution: http://archive.legion.org/bitstream/handle/123456789/2161/2012N295.pdf?s...
  • VA complete universal screening on all veterans for exposure to MST, both male and female. Universal screening would help to remove some of the stigma associated with seeking help, as well as help to bring needed treatment to victims.
  • Congress work with VA and DOD to rectify the issue of discharge classifications associated with MST. Many veterans who have been victims of MST are improperly discharged from the military after being diagnosed with a pre-existing "personality disorder," when in fact they suffer from MST-related PTSD. This has the paradoxical affect of pre-empting a service connection for this issue, and thereby barring these servicemembers from needed VA health care to treat the issue. Resolution: http://archive.legion.org/bitstream/handle/123456789/2498/2013S026.pdf?s...

In other news:

Goal targets 1 million VAVS hours: The Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission chairman sent out an email July 22 to all department adjutants informing them that The American Legion has established a goal of increasing our Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS) hours from 925,000 to 1 annual million hours by September 2014.

To ensure this goal is met, he informed them that VA&R is considering a number of initiatives in hope that they will assist in attracting new volunteers. The first initiatives include a redesign of the Volunteer Web Center www.legion.org/volunteers that will include a section for spotlighting volunteers and their success stories.

To ensure there are stories ready to post when the web page is re-launched, and new stories to post on an ongoing basis, he asks that each department appoint someone to serve as a point of contact who can work with Roscoe Butler, deputy national VAVS representative to ensure their successful Legionnaire VAVS volunteer stories are shared and submitted for posting on the new web page. The enhanced web page is scheduled to be re-launched in September 2013.

Kansas job fair coming up: This week planning continued on upcoming Hiring Our Heroes job fairs in Kansas, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Virginia. The highlight is the one in Garden City, Kan., on Aug. 8 at The American Legion Post 9. There is a lot of energy coming from the group that is putting this event together; volunteers at Post 9, Department of Kansas, Department of Labor, Kansas Works, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There are more than 30 companies like Union Pacific Railroad, Verizon Wireless, Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas and CBRE signed up to interview and hire servicemembers, veterans and their spouses. If you know a transitioning servicemember, veteran or spouse in the Garden City area who is searching for a job or currently has a job, but is underemployed or looking for a career change, please let them know about our hiring event at Post 9. Pre-registration is highly recommended: http://www.uschamber.com/hiringourheroes/garden-city-ks

Flyer: http://www.uschamber.com/sites/default/files/veterans/08082013GardenCity...

Meeting with Goodwill: The Economic Division participated on a panel July 25 at the "Goodwill for American Heroes Conference" in Washington, D.C. The panelists consisted of Sally Charney, director, Special Projects & Partnerships, Give an Hour; Col. Michael Coss, director, Soldier for Life Programs; Jennifer Geiring, director of Business Engagement, Hiring Our Heroes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Brian Ketz, acting chief of staff, Department of Labor; Jim Knotts, CEO, Operation Homefront; Nicole Klein, employment policy and program manager, Institute for Veterans and Military Families; and Angela Xhakolli, director of operations, Student Veterans of America. The group discussed the landscape of veterans’ unemployment, gaps in services, and how each organization is currently trying to fill those gaps. Goodwill hopes that they can glean information collected from this summit and direct their services toward those gaps.

House OKs defense bill: On July 24 the House of Representatives approved the Fiscal Year 2014 Defense Appropriations bill (H.R. 2397)

on a vote of 315 to 109. The legislation provides funding for national security needs plus funding for health and quality-of-life programs for servicemembers and their families.

The bill provides $512.5 billion in non-war funding, $5.1 billion below FY 2013 and $3.4 billion below the president’s request. However, this is $28.1 billion above the current level caused by sequestration spending cuts. Among the bill’s amendments are $85.8 billion in funding for Overseas Contingency Operations. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Vietnam connections: On Wednesday, staff attended a luncheon at the Department of State held in honor of visiting Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Sang both spoke of the tremendous progress the two countries have made toward normalization since the end of the Vietnam War. Cooperation on key issues such as trade, security issues, particularly with regard to China, MIA recovery and human rights will likely guide the US-Vietnam relationship in the coming years.

The event was followed by a meeting at the White House with President Barack Obama to discuss a range of issues from trade and commerce to military-to-military cooperation, to multilateral work on issues like disaster relief, to scientific and educational exchanges. They also discussed the ways in which through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) both the United States and Vietnam are participating in what will be an extraordinarily ambitious effort to increase trade, commerce and transparency in terms of commercial relationships throughout the Asia Pacific region.


DSO school preparations: VA&R is finalizing all items for the second session of the 2013 Department Service Officers School at the Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre Hotel in Indianapolis, Aug. 1–3. A total of 155 department, state and county Veteran Service Officers from around the country and Puerto Rico are planning on attending. The curriculum is broken out into three tracks depending on the level of experience of the attendee. Track 1 covers basic information that targeted the full development of compensation and pension claims. Tracks 2 and 3 cover topics such as: Why is there a VA backlog and what we can do to fix it, recent court cases, theory vs. practical application, a doctor’s approach to the process of evaluating a case, Radiculopathy secondary mental condition to chronic pain or loss of lifestyle, orthopedic issues, new and material evidence, effective us of the record of a PTSD claim based on personal assault, inconsistent GAF scores, character of discharge, and the new notice of disagreement form.

On Aug. 1, VBA will have personal available to assist school attendees one on one with their registration and problems using SEP. They will also be available to assist with eBenefits accounts. We’ve made VBA aware that The American Legion is holding a Membership Workshop and members of this group are welcome to visit with VBA personnel to enroll or request assistance with their own personal eBenefits account.

Working with Easter Seals: The Economic Division met with Shiree Skinner, director, Annual Giving & Special Events, Easter Seals, on July 22 to discuss a new military initiative, the Veteran Staffing Network. This initiative is a social enterprise business developed by Easter Seals serving Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia that builds on the organization’s experience in veteran employment programs.

Claims: During the week ending July 17, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals reached dispositions on 153 American Legion represented appeals. Of those dispositions, 66 percent of the denials were overturned with outcomes favorable to the veteran. In 30 cases, the board granted benefits outright after considering The American Legion’s arguments. In 70 cases, The American Legion was able to point out errors in the development of the veteran’s claims that mandated corrective action under the law. Of the total number of dispositions, 48 (31.4 percent) were outright denials.