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Open Letter to Congress-Support Our Vets 

Open Letter to U.S. Congress: Local VA Centers, VSOs, and Veterans in Transition

"The soldier fears war above all others. For he must bear the deepest wounds and carry the deepest scars." 
GEN Douglas MacArthur


July 15, 2015


Addressed To:

Senate Veterans Affairs Committees

House Veterans Affairs Committee

Arizona Congressional Delegation

Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Chairman, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee 

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) 

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)

Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS)

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) 

Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA)

Congressman Paul Cook (R-CA)



To Veterans Affairs Committees, Arizona Delegation, and Respected Members of U.S. Congress:


At this time of peak troop drawdown, our U.S. Military in process of becoming new Veterans are in need of greater cooperation in community partnerships involving each of the Defense Department, Veterans Administration, Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) and the individual Veterans or Military in transition. Dynamic partnerships are crucial to overcome extensive challenges in the transition process. 


We understand the demands are overwhelming for the 100,000s of military that are becoming veterans between 2012 and 2017. However, there are already too many of our Brave Men and Women who are caught in the gap, and more solutions are required to assist those who have sacrificed their lives for us, in bringing greater access to healthcare, civilian employment, and support services. 


Given Congress and the VA have chartered multiple VSOs to support military transition to civilian lifestyle, we at the Veterans1 Campaign are raising awareness on various ways the Military can aid in transition, and on the nonprofit organizations available to help Veterans through the complex process of VA claims, job search, and more. 


Sergeant Major Steven Domina (U.S. Army, Ret.), is a mentor and leading volunteer based in Globe, Arizona, serving also the VSO Disabled American Veterans (DAV) in Phoenix, Arizona. SGM Domina encounters many military and veterans caught in the gap. He provides the same kind of effective guidance that was provided during his transition, which focuses on the individual Veteran, as they go through the process. Here is a summary of recommendations that the Military, including Company Commanders can provide to SAMS in the exit process. 


1) The veteran is required to take their DD-214 to their local VA Office, should take care as soon as possible in transition out of the military, and should keep at the process as it is their responsibility in medical care. 


2) There are multiple VSOs who can assist in the claims process. The VSOs chartered by Congress and VA should be included in the transition booklet that military receive. (See Example in Appendix)


In his words: 


“Yesterday, after driving the DAV van down to Phoenix, I was sitting at the transportation desk when a vet walked up and asked me if I could answer a question. I said sure, and he asked ‘Where's the director's office,’ and I replied ‘On the 6th floor, but ask at the information counter behind you.’ He was a little miffed, to say the least. I did see him head off in the direction of the elevators.


“A typical occurrence at many VA hospitals nation-wide, because most veterans arrive at the VA hospital, sometimes years after discharge, with a service-connected malady, and expect an over-worked, under-staffed agency to immediately fix it.. The veteran HAS to be held accountable for their own health care, from the day after discharge till their interment into Arlington…” 


“As a retired US Army veteran, I've not had any problems with the Veterans hospital in Phoenix. As a volunteer DAV van driver I do hear of other vets who have and continue to have, problems with the VA system. If the word gets out that all members of the military go thru the local VA center upon their discharge or retirement a lot of problems could be prevented.”


“I believe that company commanders need to make the Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and Sailors (aka SAMS) of their unit aware of the function of the VA, and it's impact on their life after military service. Posts, camps and stations that out-process these SAMS need to put a block on their out-processing checklist that shows that the VA was contact/made aware of, another SAMS about to enter their system. That way their medical records are [entered] to the VA system, which speeds up the eligibility process, and preclude the possibility of lost or destroyed records.”


“When I retired, I was fortunate to have a mentor in the unit that had gone thru the process and he told me of my requirements AND VA's responsibility.”


As SGM Domina suggests, which was successful for his transition and has been successful for others, if Company Commanders can simply recommend to the SAMS that they need to contact their local VA Center upon discharge or retirement, this act of cooperation can help leverage some of the challenges and assist our military and veterans in beginning their new lives. SGM Domina also encourages: That VSO directory…would be a good ETS & Retirement booklet the vet gets as he walks out the door, along with that REQUIRED visit to the local VA office.”


As recommended also by a fellow U.S. Army Special Forces (Airborne) veteran and community mentor in Utah, new veterans should bring their DD-214 discharge document, which is required for VA Hospital Benefit registration, G.I. Benefits (i.e., school and G.I. home loans). The DD-214 exhibits everything about a Veteran’s time in service, including time on active duty, schools completed, assignments (both combat and garrison), awards presented, and much more. If a veteran has their own DD-214/Separation Documents, Personnel Records, and Medical Records as defined by Archives, there should be no reason for the veteran to get lost in the shuffle.


We at Veterans1 have heard the call of multiple members of congress for community partnerships with nonprofit organizations to help leverage the need of veterans and military in transition. SGM Domina and his efforts at DAV in Arizona are just one positive example. Please do continue to encourage nonprofit participation in public partnerships, for the sake of our Military and Veterans who have given all they have for our freedom. 


All of this is not a great deal to ask, and is within the lines of long-standing policy. While millions of dollars in IT infrastructure may appear to be a solution in engaging greater cooperation between Defense and VA, there is nothing that can replace direct human contact. 


Signed:


Sergeant Major Steven Domina (U.S. Army, Ret.), Arizona


Kenneth E. Feltman, Founder, Veterans1 Campaign, Washington, DC 


Velma Anne Ruth, M.Ed., Veterans Support Fund, ABS Community Research, Florida 


David Matluck, Chief Executive Officer, REBSEA, North Carolina


Edward Sklar, Director, REBSEA, Florida




This open letter is supported by Veterans1, based in Washington, D.C., 

In partnership with Veterans Support Fund, ABS Community Research, a nonprofit 501c3 advocacy organization, and REBSEA, a nonprofit 501c6 trade association.


Website: www.veterans1.org ~ Directory: www.absnetwork.info



Trade Association: REBSEA


                        





Need VA Claims Help? Contact Your Local VSO!



First Step: Take your DD-214 to your local VA Office, and Keep On It! Find the Office: www.va.gov/directory  


Help Is Available: There are multiple veteran service organizations (VSOs) that are chartered by the Veterans Administration and US Congress to assist veterans with claims processing. These nonprofits have state and local chapters across the country. Go to any of the links below to find a local VSO office near you. ​


Need help choosing one? Try American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, or Veterans of Foreign Wars. 


Contact us at if you need help identifying a location. Phone: (202) 768-7530 or Email: Veterans1@usa.com



Veteran Service Organization (VSO)

Website

American Legion

www.legion.org

American Red Cross

www.redcross.org

AMVETS

www.amvets.org

Army and Navy Union, U.S.A., Inc.

https://sites.google.com/site/armynavyunionusa/home

Blinded Veterans Association

www.bva.org

Catholic War Veterans of the U.S.A., Inc.

www.cwv.org

Fleet Reserve Association (FRA)

www.fra.org

Gold Star Wives of America, Inc.

www.goldstarwives.org

Italian American War Veterans of the USA

www.itamvets.org

Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A.

www.jwv.org

Legion of Valor of the United States of America, Inc.

www.legionofvalor.com

Marine Corps League

www.mcleague.org

Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)

www.moaa.org

Military Order of the Purple Heart of the USA

www.purpleheart.org

National Amputation Foundation, Inc.

www.nationalamputation.org

National Association for Black Veterans, Inc.

http://nabvets.org

National Association of County Veterans Service Officers (NACVSO)

http://nacvso.org

National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP)

www.nvlsp.org

National Veterans Organization of America (NVOA) 

www.nvo.org

Navy Mutual Aid Association

www.navymutual.org

Non Commissioned Officers Association (NCOA)

www.ncoausa.org

Paralyzed Veterans of America

www.pva.org

Polish Legion of American Veterans, U.S.A.

www.plav.org

Swords to Plowshares

www.swords-to-plowshares.org

The Retired Enlisted Association

www.trea.org

United Spinal Association, Inc.

www.unitedspinal.org

Veterans Assistance Foundation (VAF)

www.vafvets.org 

Veterans of Foreign War (VFW)

www.vfw.org

Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc. (VVnW)/Veterans Coalition

www.theveteranscoalition.org

Veterans of World War I of the USA, Inc. 

www.orderfirstworldwar.com

Vietnam Veterans of America

www.vva.org




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