Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Legislative Committees from VFW Departments throughout the United States visited Washington, D.C., this past week to communicate their legislative agenda to Congress. Bob Jones of Rexburg, Past All-American State Commander and National Legislative Committee Member of the Department of Idaho, and his wife, Carmelita, Outstanding Past State President of the VFW Auxiliary and VFW Auxiliary National Legislative Ambassador represented Idaho in the Nation's Capital. They visited the Congressional Offices of Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, and Representatives Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador.
Much of the conversation centered around the continuing issue of sequestration. The Budget Control Act of 2011, set spending caps for the federal budget through fiscal year 2022. As a result, the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration have been forced to live with an outdated budget that does not take into consideration the increased demand for VA benefits and services, or the additional costs required to maintain a military force capable of defeating threats around the world. The consequences of these budgetary limitations over the past six years is what many now describe as a hollow military force and a decrease in overall military readiness status. Because of the lack of spare parts, required maintenance, fuel and ammunition, the U.S. military has ships that can't sail, aircraft that can't fly, and troops that do not have the required training. In addition, the VA has not been able to keep pace with the growing demands on the health care system to meet its obligation to the nation's veterans.
VFW Legislative Committee Members also urged their members of Congress to oppose harmful TRICARE fee increases for retired military personnel which would result in higher health costs. In addition, the VFW made it very clear that it is opposed to the proposed privatization of the VA health care system. After conducting six surveys over the past three years, the VFW knows that veterans prefer receiving their health care through the VA. On a sad note, studies have found that veterans account for 18 percent of all adult suicides in the United States. An average of 20 veterans die by suicide every day.
The VFW offers camaraderie, as well as its many services to help ease the transition of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to civilian life. Further, the VFW fights to ensure Congress and the Administration keep America’s promise to care for veterans, long after their transition to civilian life. Veterans in need of assistance in understanding and applying for VA benefits are encouraged to contact Ron Naegelin, the Madison County Veterans Service Officer. He has an office in the Madison County Court House and can be reached by phone at 208-359-6249.