Coast Guard marks 75 years

On Feb. 19, the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve celebrated its 75th anniversary. The members of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve has a strength of 8,100. Since 1941, reservists have provided critical skills and experience that are vital to the Coast Guards ability to lead, manage and coordinate a national response to acts of terrorism, disasters or other emergencies in the maritime region.

Erie VA Medical Center Health Fair

The Erie VA Medical Center invites veterans and their families to attend the annual Veteran Health Fair to learn about a variety of VA healthcare programs and services. Meet with VA Health experts on site. Attending will be: Eligibility & Enrollment, Caregiving Support, Smoking Cessation, Move, My Healthy Vet, Peer Support Specialists, Hospice Palliative Care, OEF/OIF/OND, Health Promotion, Telehealth, Vet Center and more. The Health Fair will be held at The Erie VA, 2nd floor, Feb. 28 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Be sure to have your VA Medical Card and if you are not enrolled be sure to bring your discharge papers DD 214.

Hearing on VA Disability Claims Process

On Tuesday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a hearing to discuss how new processes and IT systems, specifically the National Query System, are impacting VA’s ability to process timely decisions for disability claims. VA reported the system is helping to alleviate backlog issues, but it is still a work in progress. VFW National Veterans Service Deputy Director Ryan Gallucci informed the committee about several issues with the new claims system, including one which severely limits the ability of VFW Service Officers to serve their clients. The VFW recommended some logistical fixes, many of which the committee members agreed with and will look to implement changes as soon as possible.

Online Exchange Shopping to Open to Veterans

All honorably discharged veterans will soon be able to shop online on the websites offered by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, the Navy Exchange, the Marine Corps Exchange and the Coast Guard Exchange. The VFW has backed this proposal since it was first proposed in 2014, because it is a huge win for honorably discharged veterans and the MWR programs the exchange services support. According to an article published this week in Military Times, the new online shopping privilege will exclude from sale, however, all uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products. The exchanges will use existing Defense Department data to determine eligibility. Veterans whose records are incomplete or do not appear in the VA’s database will need to register through VA, according to a letter provided to congressional oversight committees.

Legislation Clears the House

This week the House of Representatives passed H.R. 512, legislation which will grant congressional offices greater access to records held by VA when a veteran asks their member of Congress for help. The House also passed H.R. 974, which the VFW supports, and would allow the VA secretary to grant preference to companies who employ veterans in full-time positions. Both of these bills now go to the Senate for consideration.

MIA Update

Navy Fire Controlman 3rd Class Robert L. Pribble was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Pribble was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Interment services are pending.

Till next week, praying for all veterans.

– Charles Castelluccio