House Subcommittee Hearings on Military Transition

VFW National Security and Foreign Affairs Associate Director Brittany Dymond testified before the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity regarding the military Transition Assistance Program. She conveyed the critical importance of removing barriers for transitioning service members (TSMs) to the VA Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) program. “Receiving expedited claims decisions means BDD participants are better able to minimize gaps in essential care like mental health counseling and medication management,” said Dymond. Also discussed was the need for DOD to connect TSMs to community resources as required by law. The heightened suicide risk among new veterans can be mitigated by connecting them to their benefits and community-based organizations where they can find the social support and camaraderie that often is lost after leaving military service.

PACT Act Implementation Hearing

The House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a hearing on VA’s implementation of the PACT Act. The committee covered issues related to VA’s processing of PACT Act claims, automated decision technology, and communications to veterans about their benefits. VFW National Legislative Director Pat Murray submitted a statement for the record outlining numerous observations VFW staff have made through assisting thousands of veterans with their claims. “In early 2023 the VFW launched to help guide veterans through the benefits process for free, with no strings attached. We have assisted with 2,500 claims for hypertension, more than 2,000 related to sinusitis/rhinitis, 1,800 on respiratory issues, and more than 1,800 gastrointestinal issues. While the burden of proof for service connection has been relaxed, hurdles still remain.”

USAA Poppy Wall of Honor

In observance of Memorial Day, the VFW-supported and USAA-sponsored Poppy Wall will be available for viewing on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on May 26-28. The display will be situated between the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Comprised of 645,000 poppies, it represents the number of service members since World War I who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is Monday, May 29. Memorial Day was first known as Decoration Day. The day originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I,  the United States found its self embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars, our present Memorial Day. Remember to fly your American Flag at half staff from sunrise till noon. Did you know on Memorial Day a National Moment of Remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time?

New Erie VA location

Erie County Veterans Services has moved to a new location. They are in the Erie Intermodal Transportation Center, located at 208 E. Bayfront Parkway, Suite #102 (just East of the Blasco Library). The office hours remain the same: 8 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays. Call (814) 451-6270 or fax (814) 451-7678.

POW/MIA Update

Army Cpl. Joe A. Vinyard, 23, of Loudon County, Tennessee, was assigned to Company A, 774th Tank Battalion, as a crewmember on an M4 Sherman tank. He went missing in December 1944 after his unit was engaged in battle with German forces. The War Department issued a presumptive finding of death in April 1946. He will be buried in Maryville, Tennessee, on a date yet to be determined.

Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Robert C. Elliott, 24, of Plains, Kansas, was assigned to the 343rd Bombardment Squadron, 98th Bombardment Group, 9th Air Force. On Aug. 1, 1943, the aircraft on which Elliot worked as an assistant engineer was hit by enemy fire. He will be buried in his hometown on Aug. 1, 2023.

Army Pfc. Willard H. Brinks, 24, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division. Brinks was reported as killed in action on Nov. 22, 1942. He will be buried in his hometown on May 19, 2023.

Till next week, praying for all service members.


– Charles Castelluccio