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OCTOBER 20, 2011 LEGISLATIVE Wong to Congress: Address veterans employment By Steve B. Brooks As the federal government deals with a $1 trillion


budget defi cit, many diffi cult spending and reduction decisions will need to be made. And while T e Ameri- can Legion completely understands this predicament, it doesn't want those decisions to strip away or pare down benefi ts that America's veterans have truly earned. National Commander Fang A. Wong presented that


message Sept. 21 during a hearing in front of a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans’ Aff airs committees. Wong presented the Legion's legislative priorities during the hearing, focusing on veterans employment, the Department of Veterans Aff airs’ claims backlog, and the treatment of post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. But before he fi nished, Wong made clear the Legion's


stance on dealing with the budget crisis. “T e American Legion understands the fi nancial


challenges our nation now faces,” he said. “T e Legion understands that tough spending decisions are coming. T at is why the Legion greatly appreciates the assur- ances our veterans have been given – from members of Congress, (VA Secretary Eric Shinseki) and the president himself at our national convention – that benefi ts earned by those who've served our country in uniform won't be sacrifi ced to achieve budget goals. Our veterans have sacrifi ced enough. T ey have paid in full their debt to society. However, the debt society owes them is quite another matter, and it’s a matter


TAPS


Robert H. Barlow Portland, Ore. Robert H. Barlow of Post 1


(Department of Oregon) passed away Aug. 28 at age 59. He was a Vietnam War Army veteran. Mr. Barlow served as department commander from 1995 to 1996, National Veterans Aff airs & Rehabilitation Region 8 chairman from 1995 to 1996, National Veterans Aff airs & Rehabilitation Region 8 vice chairman from 1994 to 1995 and National Economic Commission consultant from 1999 to 2001. He was a member of the National


Veterans Aff airs & Rehabilitation Region 8 from 1993 to 1994 and 1996 to 1999.


William E. Barr Lisbon Falls, Maine William E. Barr of Post 66 (Department


of Maine) passed away May 10 at age 84. He was a World War II Navy veteran. Mr. Barr served as National Children &


Youth Region 1 chairman from 1994 to 1995, National Children & Youth Region 1 vice chairman from 1993 to 1994, National Distinguished Guests Committee vice chairman from 2007 to 2008, and National Americanism Council vice chairman from 1986 to 1989, 2001 to 2007 and 2008 to 2011. He was a regional member of the


National Children & Youth Commission.


Vincent E. Blank Vinton, Iowa Vincent E. Blank of Post 57


(Department of Iowa) passed away Sept. 8 at age 84. He was a Korean and Vietnam War Navy veteran.


Mr. Blank served as department


adjutant from 1987 to 1989, department commander from 1984 to 1985, national commander’s aide from 1985 to 1986, national vice commander from 1989 to 1990, National Americanism Council vice chairman from 1981 to 1982 and National Distinguished Guests Committee vice chairman from 2004 to 2008.


He was a member of the National


American Legion Magazine Commission from 2001 to 2004 and the National Foreign Relations Commission from 1995 to 1998.


Gary L. Christesen Idaho Falls, Idaho Gary L. Christesen of Post 56


(Department of Idaho) passed away Sept. 20 at age 63. He was a Vietnam War Army veteran. Mr. Christesen served as National


Counter-Subversive Activities Committee consultant from 2005 to 2009, National Distinguished Guests Committee vice chairman from 2004 to 2005, and National & Homeland Security Council vice chairman from 2010 to 2011.


Francis M. Dabrowski Easton, Md. Francis M. Dabrowski of Post 278


(Department of Maryland) passed away Sept. 8 at age 78. He was a Korean War Coast Guard veteran. Mr. Dabrowski served as National


Americanism Council vice chairman from 1997 to 1999 and National & Homeland Security Council vice chairman from 2000 to 2011.


Cliff ord T. Gardner Jr. West Kingston, R.I. Cliff ord T. Gardner Jr. of Post 39


(Department of Rhode Island) passed away March 29 at age 81. He was a Korean War Navy veteran. Mr. Gardner served as National


Americanism Council vice chairman from 2003 to 2006.


Joseph W. Grahame Elkins, W.Va. Joseph W. Grahame of Post 29


(Department of West Virginia) passed away May 28 at age 75. He was a Vietnam War Army veteran. Mr. Grahame served as department commander from 2004 to 2005, and National & Homeland Security Council vice chairman from 1986 to 1987 and 1995 to 2011.


Daniel G. Pruitt Sr. Pascagoula, Miss. Daniel G. Pruitt Sr. of Post 160


(Department of Mississippi) passed away Aug. 24 at age 84. He was a Korean War Army veteran. Mr. Pruitt served as National


Americanism Council vice chairman from 1996 to 2008. He was a member of the National Legislative Council from 2005 to 2008.


John W. J. Richter Brenham, Texas John W. J. Richter of Post 48 (Dep-


artment of Texas) passed away Sept. 23 at age 85. He was a World War II Army veteran. Mr. Richter served as department commander from 1986 to 1987, National


Executive Committeeman from 1996 to 2000, Alternate National Executive Committeeman from 1992 to 1996, National Americanism Council vice chairman from 1988 to 1990, National Distinguished Guests Committee vice chairman from 2001 to 2005, National Foreign Relations Council vice chairman from 1971 to 1973, National American Legion Magazine Commission consultant from 1992 to 1996, and National & Homeland Security Council vice chairman from 1975 to 1985 and 1991 to 1992. He was a member of the National


Convention Commission Liaison Committee from 1999 to 2000, the National Commission on Children & Youth Liaison Committee from 1996 to 1997, the National Economic Commission Liaison Committee from 1998 to 1999 and the National American Legion Magazine Commission Liaison Committee from 1997 to 1998.


Dennis J. Vogel Montrose, S.D. Dennis J. Vogel of Post 154


(Department of South Dakota) passed away Sept. 13 at age 93. He was a World War II Army veteran. Mr. Vogel served as department commander from 1988 to 1989.


Bob G. Walls Mineral Springs, Texas Bob G. Walls of Post 75 (Department of


Texas) passed away Aug. 10 at age 78. He was a Korean War Army veteran. Mr. Walls served as department commander from 2003 to 2004, National


Americanism Council vice chairman from 1995 to 2001 and National & Homeland Security Council vice chairman from 2001 to 2006.


Clarence Walton Cameron, W.Va. Clarence Walton of Post 18


(Department of West Virginia) passed away May 26 at age 63. He was a Vietnam War Air Force veteran. Mr. Walton served as National


Americanism Council vice chairman from 1998 to 2006.


John L. Yeager Enid, Okla. John L. Yeager of Post 4 (Department


of Oklahoma) passed away Aug. 23 at age 74. He was a Korean War Navy veteran. Mr. Yeager served as department commander from 2002 to 2003, Alternate National Executive Committeeman in 2005 and National Distinguished Guests Committee vice chairman from 1994 to 1995.


He was a member of the National


Naval Aff airs Committee from 1995 to 2007.


D. T. Hargraves Jr. Helena, Ark. D. T. Hargraves Jr. of Post 41


(Department of Arkansas) passed away Oct. 5 age 85.He was a World War II Marine Corps veteran. Mr. Hargraves served as department commander from 1964 to 1965. He was a member of the National Counter- Subversive Activities Committee from 1951 to 1954.


that T e American Legion strongly believes this committee is willing to address." Wong said Congress needs to pass the Military


Construction/VA Appropriations measure by Oct. 1 to assure a seamless transmission of benefi ts to veterans. “Don't condemn VA to another round of uncertainty through a series of continuing resolutions,” Wong said. “You are so close to the fi nish line. Help start this fi scal year off on the right foot for veterans.” Wong spoke at length about the job crisis facing the


country's veterans – more than 1 million veterans without employment, including 632,000 who are 35-60. Congress can pass legislation creating incentives to promote the hiring of veterans, to help reduce those fi gures. “Civilian licensing agencies must recognize military training, education and experience when a veteran transitions to the civilian work force,” Wong said. “A soldier who drives a truck in a convoy through hazardous routes in Iraq can drive a truck to get eggs to market on time in the American Midwest. A Navy corpsman who saved Marines on the battlefi elds of Afghanistan has the skills to render emergency aid as an EMT back home. Yet the education, training and experience garnered from military service is not recognized by civilian licensing and certifi cation agencies. “T e American Legion urges Congress to work with


DoD, the Department of Labor and VA to fi nd a way to translate these skills, and put these veterans to work where they can make an impact.”


Wong also addressed a VA claims backlog of more


than 1 million that leaves many veterans footing the bill for their medication or treatment. “Some are forced to choose between medication and food on the table” he said. “Some go into massive debt while waiting for VA to rule; even a retroactive settlement can’t repair a credit history, or return a home lost through a mortgage default.” Accuracy, Wong said, is the only way to shrink


the backlog. “Unfortunately, VA still is using speed as the primary measurement of success,” he said. “But as we all know, when we rush, we make errors. Who pays the price when errors are made in this instance? I’ll tell you who: the veteran, who may see a claims process go from nine months to fi ve years because of one error. “VA needs to develop a better mechanism for


tracking errors, and it needs to use the knowledge of those errors to make a better training system.” Wong also briefed the committee on the Legion’s ad


hoc committee on PTS and TBI. “If this American Legion committee has learned one thing, it's that there is no magic bullet for curing post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, and if the treatment works, regardless of what the treatment is, it should be used to help the suff ering veteran,” Wong said.


On the Web: www.legion.org/legislative


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