FRA NewsBytes October 23 2015

FRA Newsbytes 10/23/2015

FRA Newsbytes 10/23/2015

In this issue:
2015 FRA/LAFRA Convention Was a Great Success, New Officers Elected
President Vetoes FY 2016 NDAA
VA Benefits Chief Allison Hickey Resigns
VA Officials Refuse to Appear Before Committee, Get Hit with Subpoena
Vietnam Veteran “In Memory” Honor Roll


2015 FRA/LAFRA Convention Was a Great Success, New Officers Elected
FRA delegates from around the nation convened in Spokane, Wash. last week. Keynote speaker Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers kicked off the opening ceremonies, and USMCR Sgt. Maj. Tony Spadaro, a Shipmate from Branch 70 in Poway, Calif. addressed the convention that Friday. Committees met and business meetings were held throughout the three-day event, and a new Veterans Committee was established. Friday saw the election of national officers for the new Association year! Please join us in welcoming PNP Virgil Courneya as our new National President and PRPSC Don Larson as National Vice President.
President Vetoes FY 2016 NDAA
President Obama vetoed the FY 2016 NDAA on Thursday, just two days after Congress sent it to his desk.  President Obama held a photo-op in the Oval Office when he used his veto pen on the National Defense Authorization Act.

The president has opposed the 2016 NDAA because it supports a $38 billion addition to defense spending through a wartime account known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), which skirts Budget Control Act caps. The decision amounts to a public rebuke of Congress, which warned Obama not to veto the measure as part of a showdown over government spending.

It is unlikely that Congress will have the votes to override the veto. The Senate, however, voted 70-27 to pass the bill, enough to override a veto. Congressional leaders have said that some members would switch their vote to avoid defying the president.  The House vote count, 270-156, would not be enough to override a veto as it stands.
VA Benefits Chief Allison Hickey Resigns
Allison Hickey, the Veterans Affairs Department’s top benefits official stepped down from her post Friday amid renewed attacks from her critics.

As undersecretary for benefits, Hickey oversaw more than 20,000 VA employees and the delivery of benefits to more than 12 million veterans and their families. She is one of the last holdovers from former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s tenure, and was frequently praised by top officials for her efforts to modernize the department and her dedication to veterans.

Congressman Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs stated that “Although Allison Hickey deserves credit for her military service and willingness to work on behalf of our nation’s veterans, she was not cut out for the job of VA Under Secretary for Benefits. She leaves the department amid a damning Office of Inspector General report linking her to a scheme in which senior Veterans Benefits Administration officials abused their authority, resulting in the misuse of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. And though VA statistics show the disability benefits backlog shrank on her watch, those figures must be taken with a healthy grain of salt in light of assertions from prominent veterans groups and even VA’s own Inspector General that the department’s backlog numbers are not to be trusted. Right now, VBA needs a leader who will put veterans—not VA bureaucrats—first while working to end the backlog without sacrificing quality, accuracy or service to veterans. Unfortunately, Hickey was not that type of leader.”
VA Officials Refuse to Appear Before Committee, Get Hit with Subpoena
The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) held a hearing on Wednesday to get to the bottom of an Inspector General report which found that senior officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs engaged in a scheme to cash in on relocation bonuses at the expense of taxpayers.

Problematically, every VA official or employee who was named to appear did not attend. HVAC voted on a motion to issue a subpoena to compel five individuals to appear: Danny Pummill, Principal Deputy Undersecretary for Benefits; Diana Rubens, director of the VBA Philadelphia and Wilmington Region Office; Kimberly Graves, director of the St. Paul VBA Regional Office; Robert McKenrick, director of the Los Angeles VBA Regional Office; and Antione Waller, director of the Baltimore VBA Regional Office.  Former undersecretary for benefits Allison Hickey was also due to testify but resigned before the hearing took place.
Vietnam Veteran “In Memory” Honor Roll
More than 58,000 names are listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that was built in 1982 to honor Vietnam veterans and help heal the wounds of a divisive conflict. But those who survived the war — and who later died as a result of their service — are not listed on the wall. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund acknowledges their service and sacrifice through an online “In Memory” Honor Roll. Causes of death that fit the criteria for inclusion in the program include exposure to Agent Orange, PTSD-related illnesses/events, cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, etc. The program is free and the application process is simple. To honor a loved one, you only need to submit the veteran’s DD214 to show proof of his or her service in the Vietnam War, a copy of his or her death certificate, and a photograph. The application deadline for inclusion in the 2016 ceremony is in March. For information or to submit applications, go to: http://www.vvmf.org/InMemoryProgram.