Last week, the VFW joined Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), along with other veteran and military advocacy groups and surviving spouses, to discuss the repeal of the “Widow’s Tax” that made it into the final conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020. The VFW wants to thank Reps. Smith, Yarmuth, Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) for their hard work and dedication in ending the unjust Survivors Benefit Plan and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset.
VFW Priorities Included in NDAA Conference Agreement
The VFW Conference Committee has settled on a finalized version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2020. The Conference Report includes a 3.1 percent pay raise for troops and improving occupational license portability for relocated military spouses. Other important VFW-supported provisions include: expanding Arlington National Cemetery; granting full military honors for Medal of Honor and Prisoner-of-War Medal recipients; directing DOD to conduct post-deployment medical assessments for burn pits, toxic airborne chemicals, and other airborne contaminants; and incorporating blast exposure history into service members’ medical records. As of right now, the House has passed the final version. Next week, the Senate will vote on the bill. Once passed, it will go to the president for his signature.
Certain Veterans Can Now Be Part of a Class Action Lawsuit
Last Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, in a 6-3 decision, correctly granted the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. The plaintiffs in this case were service members who were involved in the cleanup of radioactive plutonium in Palomares, Spain, after a B-52 Stratofortress bomber collided with a KC-135 refueling tanker on Jan. 17, 1966. The collision caused two thermonuclear bombs to impact the ground and detonate, spreading radioactive debris for miles. More than 1,400 service members were sent to assist in cleanup and monitoring efforts, some of whom were exposed to very large quantities of radioactive material. This is the first time the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has permitted a class action lawsuit in an individual appeal of a Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) decision. After this decision, it will be easier for other classes of veterans with similar claims to file appeals from decisions of the BVA.
How Veterans Can Access Commissaries and MWR Facilities
Starting Jan. 1, 2020, there will be expanded access for Commissaries, Military Service Exchanges, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities for newly eligible veterans. Next month, veterans who received a Purple Heart, were former POWs, or veterans with a service-connected disability rating will be able to physically access on-base facilities that were previously off limits to those veterans. Veterans seeking access to military installations will require identification. Veterans can use their current VA-issued Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC). If a veteran is ineligible for a VHIC, DOD will temporarily accept the VA Health Eligibility Center Form H623A that indicates Priority Group 8E and an acceptable identification credential, like a REAL-ID-compliant driver’s license or a U.S. passport.
Army Pfc. William J. Winchester, 20, of Mount Hope, Alabama, was a member of Company D, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. He was captured by enemy forces near Unsan, North Korea in November 1950. Winchester will be buried March 19, 2020, in Lima, Ohio.
Marine Corps Reserve Pvt. William E. Rambo, 20, of LaPorte, Indiana, was a member of Company H, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio. Rambo was killed on the first day of the battle, Nov. 20, 1943. Rambo will be buried on April 11, 2020 in Arlington National Cemetery.
Till next week, praying for all service members.
– Charles Castelluccio