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Director's Messages
VETS NEWS
Jim Willis
Director Jim Willis; Vietnam War Veteran, US Air Force
November - December 2010
 
Celebrate Veterans Day, Happy Birthday Marine Corps
 
 
November 11, 2010 marks the 56th Anniversary of the modern celebration of Veterans Day.
Originally known as Armistice Day, the Veterans Day we now celebrate was created to honor all veterans instead of just those who fought in World War I, as was the case with Armistice Day.
Interestingly enough, the idea was the brainchild of Alfred King of Emporia, Kan. who had been actively involved with the American War Dads during World War II. Mr. King’s campaign to lobby the Congress was successful and resulted in President Dwight Eisenhower signing the bill into law on May 26, 1954.
 
Sadly, our country celebrates this Veterans Day while we are still at war. On the grounds
of ODVA at a ceremony on Veterans Day at the Afghan-Iraqi Freedom Memorial we will
add the names of four more Oregonians who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service
to our nation. Our memorial was the first of its kind in the United States when it was dedicated in 2006.
 
As some of you may know, we add these names on Memorial Day and Veterans Day each year. All of us look forward to the day when there will be no new names to add to this beautiful and dignified memorial.
 
On November 10th, the United States Marine Corps will mark its 235th Birthday. Happy Birthday Marines! May you continue to serve our nation in the tradition of your motto, “Semper
Fidelis.”
 
As we enter the Holiday Season, I hope it will be a time of continuing recovery from the devastating recession that has so negatively impacted our state and nation. It is a time to
continue in our efforts to serve the veterans who have kept our country free.
 
My hope is that our elected officials at all levels of government will continue to support our veterans and their families as a matter of public policy and out of respect for all that they
have done and continue to do.
 
I would like to thank all of you who continue to volunteer your time and efforts to comfort and support our veterans of all eras. You have and will continue to make a difference in their quality of life and respect for their accomplishments.
 
 

September - October 2010
 
USS Ranger Finds A Home in Chinook Landing Marine Park... and Other Veteran News
 
 
On August 10, 2010, Chinook Landing Marine Park in Fairview was the site of a long awaited event. Representatives from the METRO Council, Multnomah County, the City of Fairview, and a host of veterans and their families were present to hear former Oregon Governor Victor Atiyeh announce that Chinook Landing Marine Park will be the future home of the aircraft carrier USS Ranger.
 
Once in place, the Ranger will be the largest floating museum in the world! For more information on the Ranger and how you can help, simply log onto www.ussranger.org and see the good work being done by the USS Ranger Foundation.
 
From August 12th through the 15th, Redmond High School was the home of the Vietnam Traveling Wall. From the opening ceremony on the 12th to the somber closing ceremony on the 15th, the hard work of the Central Oregon Tribute to Heroes group was apparent in the community support and planning that led up to this great veterans’ event.
 
The sponsoring agency was the Redmond VFW Post with co-chairs Jeff Casserly and Dennis Guthrie leading the way. Jeff Casserly served as the Master of Ceremonies at both of the opening and closing ceremonies. All in all, this event was a job well done.
 
While in Central Oregon, I visited with the staff and toured the facilities of the Central Oregon Veterans Outreach (COVO) group. My hosts were David Fairclo, ODVA Advisory Committee member, and Chuck Hemingway, COVO Executive Director. Among other activities, COVO operates the Home of the Brave, a transitional housing program for homeless veterans, and has just purchased a newly renovated two-bedroom duplex designed to house female veterans or veterans with families. In addition, COVO is retrofitting a van-bus to operate in Central Oregon as a mobile veteran healthcare vehicle. My hat is off to these great veterans who are operating on a shoestring budget and yet accomplishing great things in support of their fellow veterans and their families.
 
Moving on to Eastern Oregon, I joined ODVA Advisory Committee Member Charles Schmidt to meet with a group of veterans at the American Legion District 10 meeting in John Day. These veterans were briefed on a number of important veterans issues including important bills pending before this session of the U.S. Congress. They are H.R. 2756, the "Veterans’ Home Loan Refinance Opportunity Act of 2009," and H.R. 2319, the "Veterans’ Home Loan Improvement Act of 2009."
 
On passage, H.R. 2756 will allow states that offer Veterans Home Loans for the first time to refinance those loans to the benefit of the veterans borrowers, while H.R. 2319 will amend the IRS Tax Code to make the state veterans home loan a lifetime benefit instead of only being able to use the benefit for 25 years from date of discharge. It is my hope that both of these important bills will pass during this session of Congress.
 
During the Oregon General Election in November of this year, you will see Ballot Measure 70 for your consideration. Measure 70, on passage, will amend the Oregon Constitution to make the Oregon Veterans Home Loan a lifetime benefit instead of the current law that only allows this benefit for 30 years from date of discharge. I urge all veterans and their families to become familiar with this important measure and cast your vote in this important election.
 
As always, I want to express my appreciation to everyone who continues to support the Oregon Veterans’ Home in The Dallas. Your donation of time, goods and monies are important to the quality of life of our residents and allows us to continue to operate one of the finest Veterans’ Homes in the nation.

July - August 2010
 
Recent Proposed Changes Within the USDVA, and How They Affect Oregon Veterans
 
 
Editor’s Note: This article was written and published before June 28th, in order to make the July / August press run.
 
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has announced several changes and activities that are important to Oregon Veterans. June 28th through the 30th, an Independent Review Committee will be investigating veterans’ health care at the Roseburg Health Services facility.
 
The Douglas County Veterans Forum has indicated that it will meet with this group to emphasize the need to stop downsizing and out-sourcing veterans health service at the facility. I strongly believe that the Roseburg facility should be a full service Medical Center in line with the needs of the more than 85,000 veterans in the Roseburg catchment area.
 
My hope is that the Independent Review Committee will come to that same conclusion and make that recommendation to the Secretary of the USDVA. In addition, the Portland VAMC recently announced a change in how Beneficiary Travel reimbursements will be paid to qualified personnel.
 
Effective July 1, qualified personnel will be required to submit travel vouchers 30 days prior to their appointment. These vouchers for reimbursements will be processed by mail or electronic funds transfer from all VA clinics, including Portland and Vancouver.
 
One veteran responded to this change by saying in this partial quote, “I will have to submit a voucher and they will reimburse me 3-4 weeks from the visit. Isn’t that a terrific way to make sure Veterans don’t get their care, decreased appointment keeping will occur… but, oh yes, perhaps some money will be saved because the veteran cannot afford to drive in. Some of us can only afford to drive in for our appointments because we get travel pay. This is ridiculous when the gas comes out of my monthly budget and could cause an extreme hardship.”
 
While I was not aware of the change until it was announced, I checked with my fellow State
Directors only to learn that this change was unique to Oregon and was not a national policy.
I also learned the entire Oregon Congressional Delegation has sent a letter to the Acting
Administrator of the Portland VA Medical Center asking for consideration of low-income
veterans in the new reimbursement policy.
 
We will work with the VA Health Care folks here in Oregon to see if this change can be modified when it affects veterans who need to be paid at the time of their appointment so that they can afford to continue to receive health care.
 
In other news, the USDVA has announced the opening of the Newport Clinic with a ceremony to occur on July 7 at 2 p.m. in Newport. I applaud the USDVA for providing our veterans on the Central Oregon Coast a facility that will work to meet their health care needs in or near the communities in which they live.
 
I would like to thank all of you who continue to support our veterans at the Oregon Veterans’ Home in The Dalles. Your efforts continue to contribute to their quality of life and are much appreciated.
 
I hope all of you enjoy a safe and happy Fourth of July as we celebrate our nation’s 234th birthday.

May - June 2010
 
Keeping the Promise – Remembering those we Have lost
  
 
For as long as we have been a nation, as a people we have always expressed our commitment that we will never forget those who died in service to our country. I am concerned that to some people, Memorial Day is just another three-day weekend, or the beginning of the summer or vacation season. We as veterans can do something about that and keep our promise to those who gave their all.
 
First, it is estimated that there will be some 45 Memorial Day ceremonies throughout our state this year. The locations are listed in this edition of the VETS NEWS. Plan to take someone with you to one of these ceremonies and make a special effort to see that young people attend so that they can understand the importance of what we do and why we do it.
 
Second, share the story of a special family member or fellow Soldier, Sailor, Airman or
Marine who was lost while serving in uniform. The stories of their courage never grow old and bear repeating so that our memory of their service is not lost.
 
Third, for those that are able, many communities place small American flags on
the gravesites of our veterans or larger ones on our city streets. Volunteer to help place them and help pick them up when the ceremonies are concluded.
 
And finally, remember those Gold Star family members among us who lost a beloved family member in defense of our nation. This Memorial Day I will think of patriots all through our history, serving from Lexington and Concord Bridge in Massachusetts to the severe heat and cold in Iraq and Afghanistan and every other conflict throughout our nation’s history.
 
Our perspective is often driven by the war in which we served, but it makes even more
personal our memories of those who will never grow old, or as someone once said,
“Those who gave all of their tomorrows so that we could have today.”
Rest in peace honored warriors. You have earned the gratitude and respect of a nation.

March - April 2010
 
The 41st IBCT Needs Your Help
 
 
The 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) is coming home from Iraq in the April- May time frame. Many of you have sent them packages during their  deployment and have offered encouragement throughout their tour of duty. I know that they have appreciated your efforts and now as they prepare to rejoin their  families, return to their jobs, seek employment or go back to school, they will need your assistance back here at home.
 
Oregon Partners in Crisis has joined with the Oregon National Guard Reintegration
Team for a series of community meetings to plan how we can assist the members of the 41st IBCT after they return from their tour of duty. The meetings will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in each location and are scheduled as follows:
 
March 16 - Tigard Armory, 6700 SW Oak St.
March 17 - Springfield Armory, 3100 Pierce Pkwy.
March 18 - Salem ARC, 3225 State St.
March 23 - Medford Armory, 1701 S. Pacific Hwy.
March 24 - Roseburg Armory, 111 NW General Ave.
March 25 - Bend Armory, 875 SW Simpson Ave.
March 30 - Ontario Armory, 720 NW 8th Ave.
March 31 - La Grande Armory, 401 12th St.
April 1 - Pendleton Armory, 2100 NW 56th Dr.
 
RSVP is required as seating may be limited.
If you are able to attend one of these events and wish to help, please call Élan Lambert, Executive Director of Oregon Partners in Crisis at 503-400-8147 or email elanlambert1@aol.com.
 
Anyone willing to help is invited with emphasis on the following:
• Veteran or family member of a veteran
• County Veteran Service Officer (CVSO)
• Law enforcement professional
• Clergy or lay minister
• Community mental health director
• Employer
• Mental health or addictions provider
• Housing professional
• Community corrections professional
• Employment professional
• Criminal Justice professional
• Veteran service organization
• Judge or District Attorney
• Crisis or domestic violence intervention specialist
• Public defender or criminal attorney
• Elected officials
• College or university professional
• Specialty court administrator
• Community members
• VA professionals
 
In another area of interest, the deadline for proposals for the location of Oregon’s second veterans’ home has passed and proposals were received from Douglas County, Jackson County, Linn County, Klamath County and the City of Coquille. The proposals have been passed to an evaluation team consisting of John Osborn, ODVA Construction Project Manager; Denny Nielsen, Retired Vice President, Salem Hospital; Bruce Craig, Acting Administrator, ODVA Support Services Division; Bruce Shriver, CFO and Administrator of the ODVA Financial Services Division and Tino Ornelas, Hillsboro businessman and member of the Governor’s Advisory Committee to ODVA with retired ODVA Director Jon Mangis serving as an advisor to the evaluation team.
 
The evaluation team should complete its work by mid to late March and make a
recommendation to the ODVA Director’s office with an announcement of the successful location to follow. I would like to thank everyone for your interest in this most important project. I look forward to the construction of a Veterans’ Home of which we can all be proud. I would also like to extend my appreciation to all of you who have made donations and given volunteer hours to our Veterans’ Home in The Dalles.

January - February 2010
 
 
 Here's to the new year... Filled with opportunities
 
Having just completed the Holiday Season, I hope that all of you enjoyed your time with family and friends and are looking forward to a year filled with service and accomplishment.
 
During this Holiday Season, I had the opportunity to observe some dedicated professionals and volunteers whose work honors and serves our veterans every day. This included a Thanksgiving day visit to the Roseburg VA Medical Center, a holiday dinner at the Oregon Veterans’ Home,
sponsored by the Oregon Paralyzed Veterans of America, and a very meaningful Wreaths Across America ceremony in the East Galleria of the State Capitol sponsored by the Oregon Funeral Directors Association. Each of these events reminded me that Oregon is blessed with people who will give of their time and energy in support of those who have served our nation in war and in peace.
 
As this message goes to press, we begin a new year – one filled with opportunities and new beginnings. It is a time when I pause to give thanks for the truly great staff here at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs who have chosen a career of service that features few external rewards, but offers the chance to change the quality of life for those we serve for the rest of their lives. I am also thankful to those who have supported us in our mission from the general public, veterans organizations, and the Executive and Legislative branches of the state and federal government. I am also grateful for the work done by county and municipal leaders who work for our veterans.
 
Our Department has enjoyed a long and successful relationship with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) and the Oregon Employment Department. As many of our veterans struggle during this tough economic time, I am very thankful for the efforts underway by the ESGR and the Employment Department to place as many of these veterans as possible.
 
I would also like to thank our partners in higher education for working with us to enroll as many veterans as possible in the various GI Bill programs available to our veterans. This is an investment by the American people that will pay off for many years to come.
 
Thank all of you who went out of your way to brighten the lives of some veterans who may not have had a joyful Holiday Season without your help. Thanks also to you who continue to support our senior veterans at the Oregon Veterans’ Home. Plans are underway to begin work on our second Veterans’ Home this year so that we can serve even more of these deserving veterans and their spouses.

November - December 2009
 
 
Reintegration: Caring for Oregon’sWarriors and Their Families
 
On October 15, 2009 Oregon held its 9th Reintegration Summit on Post Deployment. While some additional work remains to be done, much progress has been made since the first Summit.
 
More than 200 people attended the Summit to include elected officials, congressional staffers, federal, state and county employees, military personnel, veterans and many volunteers.
 
Areas addressed included veterans issues impacted by the actions of the 2009
legislative session, mid-deployment family issues, a live video teleconference from
Iraq with Col. Dan Hokanson, Commander of Oregon’s 41st BCT and his staff, a report on caring for women veterans and a review of the workgroup dealing with veterans in the Criminal Justice and Mental Health systems.
 
After these presentations, breakout groups dealt with family, health, employment,
education and legal issues. Following the breakouts, the group leaders reported on
the actions and challenges faced by each of the work groups. A number of these groups will meet prior to the next Summit that is scheduled for March 18, 2010 in Salem.
 
I would like to thank everyone who has given of their time and talent during our
reintegration summits. In a related matter, the Transportation, Women Veterans’ Health Care and Reintegration Task Forces have been appointed and began their work in October with organizational meetings and the setting of priorities associated with the outcomes that each of them plan to achieve. There will be more information on the progress of these Task Forces in later issues of the VETS NEWS.
 
With his retirement from the Portland VA Medical Center scheduled for December,
Reintegration Summit Co-Chair Jack Heims was honored by the National Guard for his service to the military community and veterans.
 
Brigadier General Mike Caldwell presented Jack with the Oregon Commendation Medal for his service, pinning him in front of the crowd of 200. Thanks, Jack, for all you have done and all you will continue to do for veterans.
 
I would like to thank all of you for your continued donations to the Oregon Veterans’ Home. These donations contribute greatly to the quality of life for our most senior veterans and are much appreciated.
 
I want to wish all of our veterans and their families a safe and happy Veterans Day. Many events are scheduled throughout our state and are contained in this issue of the VETS NEWS.
 
In closing let me urge every veteran and family members to contact an accredited Veteran Service Office if you have any questions about your benefits. A listing of these Service Officers is also contained in this issue.

September - October 2009
 
 
Stolen Valor: Phonies, Fakes and Frauds
 
President George W. Bush signed the Stolen Valor Act into law on Dec. 20, 2006. Title 18, United States Code, Section 704 prohibits the unauthorized wearing, manufacturing or selling of all military awards. Violators of this statute face a fine of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment of
up to one year.
 
Specific details regarding the sale or offering for sale of protected military awards are important. In the case of a person wearing unauthorized medals, specific details about the venue that was attended, other potential witnesses, and specific claims made by the imposter when questioned are key points in determining if a violation of federal law has occurred.
 
How do you spot imposters? When asked to verify details of their military records, phonies often say they didn’t go through the normal military channels, said Mike Sandborn, a Washington D.C. FBI Special Agent and former Marine captain who works medals fraud cases. Phonies will often say they were in high demand by the military and weren’t required to go through the normal
training.
 
An imposter will often say that the details of his or her career exploits are classified. But even with awards for classified actions, ceremonies are not classified. Veterans claiming to have received an award should be able to produce an order granting it no matter how secretive the action.
 
Imposters may also say that their military documents were destroyed by fire or some similar disaster. Check their decorations. Imposters often wear medals in the wrong order or in disproportion to their time in service (if they were in the service at all). Check their birth date. When it comes to the Medal of Honor, age matters. According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the youngest living recipient is 53-year-old Gordon R. Roberts.
 
Just ask. Don’t be afraid to test someone if you think they’re faking, FBI agents say. If they’re legit, they won’t mind if you ask questions. Highly decorated veterans usually are very modest and rarely draw attention to their accomplishments. Imposters love to boast.
 
Remember that true heroism is like a river – the deeper it runs, the quieter it is. If you have reason to believe that a person or persons are wearing or selling military awards illegally, contact you local FBI Office. In Oregon that number is 503-224-4181.
 
You may also want to check out online databases for information about both real and fraudulent war heroes. The site www.homeofheroes.com has a confidential online “bust a phony” form. Information submitted is turned over to the FBI.
 
The Congressional Medal of Honor Society also maintains a list of living MOH award recipients at www.cmohs.org. If you suspect someone may be a phony POW, it is recommended you go www.pownetwork.org/phonies/phonies.htm to see if they have already been reported. Many
other sites exist that are devoted to identifying phony SEALS, Special Ops, Special Forces,
etc.
 
The bottom line is that too many people have sacrificed too much to allow Phonies, Fakes and Frauds to steal the valor of our real heroes. Report these cowards so that they may be held accountable for their actions.

July - August 2009
 
 
The Latest “Greatest Generation"
 
Recently while talking with a WW II veteran, he observed that the young men and women who have volunteered to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) should be considered the “latest” greatest generation.
 
With both apologies and appreciation to author Tom Brokaw, I tend to agree with the WW II veteran when he says that the latest generation to attain greatness is the one currently serving in OIF and OEF.
 
The recognition and respect paid to these young people is due in part to
another generation of American warriors. They are the more than 2.7 million that
served in uniform in Vietnam. There is no need to recount how these great veterans were treated when they came home, Except to say that they were and are determined as a generation ofveterans that it will not happen again.
 
All across our nation at airports, community events and highway escorts, these new veterans are honored for the service and sacrifice they are making for their fellow Americans.
 
Even as we reach out to thank them, we must also remember those who served
with equal honor in places like Korea, Grenada, Panama, the Gulf War and Middle Europe, in both the Cold War and hot wars, and conflicts around the globe.
 
As we honor this latest generation of American veterans, we recognize also that they are only the most current generation of men and women who were willing to step up when called and who served with commitment and honor. We are blessed as a state and nation to have this caliber of service members. As long as they continue to serve, our nation will be preserved and the freedoms we cherish defended.
 
My thanks and appreciation goes out to all who have worn the uniform.


May-June 2009
 
The Red Lion on the River in Portland was the setting for the 3rd Annual Induction Ceremony for the Oregon Military Hall of Fame. Over 650 veterans, family members and supporters attended the ceremony held on Saturday April 18.
 
Inductees were recognized in two categories, Service to Country and Community and Service Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.
 
The ceremony was conducted by Remembering America’s Heroes, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to educating our youth and our communities about the meaning of service and sacrifice on the part of our veterans.
 
I would like to use my message to recognize former Marine Corps Sergeant and Korean War Veteran Ernie Argo of Lebanon.
 
Ernie was the only inductee in the category of Service to Country and Community and what a life of service it has been. Ernie Argo moved to Oregon with his parents and they settled in the Jefferson area. Jefferson High School would not accept Ernie’s academic transfer, so he quit school and went to work for the railroad with his father. In 1951, Ernie enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He served with the 1st Marine Division, 1st AMTRAC BN, B Company in Korea as a mechanic, testing landing craft.
 
In 1954 he left active duty at the rank of Sergeant but remained in the Marine Corps Reserve until 1959. Ernie joined the Santiam Detachment of the Marine Corps League (MCL) and is a lifetime member. He was the local Marine Corps League Commandant three times and served also as the Department of Oregon Commandant. He formed a Marine Corps Drill Team, marching throughout Oregon in parades and other events.
 
Ernie is a life member of both the American Legion Post 51 in Lebanon and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 584 in Albany where he served as Post Commander three times. During his term as Post Commander, the building was remodeled in its current configuration. He was also responsible for the flagpole that stands in front of the Post Home. Ernie never missed a meeting while holding office.
 
He was part of the MCL crew that built permanent restrooms at Timber Linn Memorial Park in Albany, which also served as the site of the MCL Clubhouse.
 
Ernie helped with the construction of the Linn County Veterans Memorial located in Timber Linn Park. The Memorial commemorates those Linn County Veterans who gave their lives during the 20th century wars. The original memorial has been incorporated into the current Linn County Veterans Memorial and Ernie made a significant contribution to that memorial as well. He was responsible for procuring the 155mm Howitzer gun that sits at the centerpiece of the Memorial today.
 
Ernie served as President of the Linn County Veterans Council (LCVC) four times. In 1987, Ernie was honored as the Linn County Veteran of the Year. LCVC organized and hosts the largest Veterans Day observance west of the Mississippi. Ernie was also part of the American Legion Color Guard that won a national championship. The Color Guard stood duty at many area funerals and flag ceremonies.
 
In addition to this service to his fellow veterans and their families, Ernie also found time to serve more than 1,000 hours at the Lebanon Community Hospital where he worked with his wife Marie.
 
Ernie and Marie also worked in support of local Girl Scouts along with daughters Dianne and Debbie. Ernie also volunteered to help build the Whispering Winds Girl Scout Camp and was honored when he was named an Honorary Girl Scout.
 
In what was left of his limited time, Ernie was a member of the Rollin’ Oldies Car Club and restored and displayed a number of vintage automobiles. Members of the club say that Ernie was never too busy to help another member or to recruit new members.
 
When it was time to restore the old Lebanon railway depot, Ernie was right there as part of the team that completed the task.
 
In 2008, the American Red Cross honored Ernie for his 105 whole blood donations. It seems that whenever and wherever he was needed, Ernie was there for his community.
 
While slowed to some degree by poor health, Ernie always has a quick smile for his friends and fellow veterans. In my letter to the selection committee concerning Ernie’s latest honor, I said, “If I were to seek a role model for the perfect community volunteer, I would need to look no further than Ernie Argo.”
 
Thanks Ernie for all you have done for your community, state and nation. Well-done Marine!

March-April 2009
 
As a result of the report completed by the Governor’s Task Force on Veterans Services, a series of House and Senate Joint Memorials have been introduced in the 75th session of the Oregon Legislature.
 
These Memorials are designed to seek action on the part of the U.S. Congress and unfortunately often result in nothing more than a “feel good” document that doesn’t accomplish very much.
 
I believe that these Memorials are different in several respects. First, the Task Force members believe strongly in the need to strengthen the benefits and services allocated for our veterans and their families. Second, the State House and Senate committees dealing with veterans issues have put these Memorials on a fast track and have given strong support for their passage, and Third,
Oregon’s Congressional delegation has stepped up to see that the necessary bills are written to present to the Congress on behalf of our veterans.

Here is an example of the actions that are being taken:

HJM 2: Urges Congress to increase funding for Local Veteran Employment Representatives and for the Disabled Veteran Outreach Program. Congressmen Schrader and DeFazio have agreed to champion this effort.
 
HJM 4: Urges Congress to fund a 90-day soft landing for returning National Guard personnel. Senator Ron Wyden has agreed to write a bill in support of this effort.

SJM 1: Urges Congress to eliminate date of discharge restrictions on the State Veterans Home Loan program. Congressman Earl Blumenauer has agreed to take on this important effort.

SJM 2: Urges Congress to develop and fund a statewide veterans transportation program to include wheelchair bound veterans. Congressman Peter DeFazio will lead this effort.

SJM 3: Urges Congress to fully fund the VA Health Care program for all veterans in Categories 1 through 8. Congressman Greg Walden and his staff have agreed to work on this effort.

In addition to these examples, a number of issues dealing with women veterans were made a part of the Task Force report and Congressman David Wu has agreed to look at legislation that may assist these women with the challenges they face as a result of their service to our nation.

Another effort underway in our state is targeted toward the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Efforts are underway to place Veterans Service Officers (VSOs) on university and community college campuses throughout the state to aid veterans in applying for these benefits, which become available in August of this year. In addition, these VSOs will also be able to work with the Montgomery GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve and the Reserve Education Assistance Program.
 
In addition, to these benefits, tuition waivers can be obtained for children and spouses of members of the Armed Forces who are 100 percent service-connected disabled or who were killed in action in Iraqi or Afghanistan or during other service during the War on Terrorism. All Oregon public universities grant these waivers. Portland Community College also grants the waiver voluntarily and Chemeketa Community College voluntarily grants a reduced tuition.
 
To best determine your benefits at any college or university you should contact their financial aid office and they will assist you with the benefits to which you are entitled.
 
My staff and I look forward to a successful outcome during this challenging session of the State Legislature and the U.S. Congress. When times are tough economically or otherwise, it is a time for new thinking and more effective and efficient ways of meeting our challenges. I think we can meet these challenges and continue to serve those who have served our nation with honor and distinction. My thanks to all of you who have served and all of you who have supported their service.

January-February 2009
 
A Special Thanks to Contributors of the Governor’s Task Force Report
 
As we close out the Holiday Season and begin the new year, it seems a fitting time to say thank you to all the veterans and public officials who took time to offer their contributions to the Governor’s Task Force on Veterans’ Services. The completed report was submitted to Governor Kulongoski in mid-December and contains recommendations to both the State Legislature and the U.S. Congress.
 
My sincere thanks also goes to the members of the Task Force who traveled the state to hold meetings with public officials and veterans to get their input. A prioritization process led to the findings and recommendations that are intended to make the greatest impact in serving our veterans and their families.
 
Another effort underway that deserves our recognition is the creation of the “Chesty Puller Statue.” Lieutenant General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller is respected as a “Marine’s Marine.” Lt. General Puller’s leadership and bravery continues to inspire Marines across the world. If you are interested in learning more about the statue, you can contact Oregon’s own First Sergeant Jim Barnett USMC (Ret.) at firstsgtjrbusme@peoplepc.com. To view a concept of the statue you can visit www.seagoingmarines.com and click on the “Chesty Puller Statue” link.
 
In mid-December 2008, ODVA undertook a suicide awareness campaign designed to assist veterans who may be having thoughts of suicide. These veterans are encouraged to call 1-800-273-TALK and press 1 to be routed to the Veterans Hotline, which can also be used to obtain guidance for family, friends and employers. Your call is confidential.
 
Suicide is a personal and family tragedy that impacts veterans at twice the number of other members of our society. In fact, suicide ranks as the leading cause of death among male veterans ages 18 to 24 and the second leading cause of death among male veterans ages 25 to 44.
 
Another suicide resource available to Oregon’s veterans are the Suicide Prevention Coordinators at the Portland and Roseburg VA Hospitals. In Portland you can call Rob Tell at 503-220-8262 Ext 56198 and in Roseburg you can call Colleen Denny at 541-440-2000, Ext 143112.
 
In closing let me also thank all of our veterans and their families who helped less fortunate veterans during the Holiday Season and those who made contributions to our senior veterans at the Oregon Veterans’ Home. Your generosity is appreciated. My staff and I wish all of you a Happy, healthy and successful New Year.

November-Decemeber 2008
 
Governor's Task Force Update
 
There has been much interest within the Oregon veteran community as to the progress made by the Governor’s Task Force on Veterans Services. The attached letter from Paul Evans, the Task Force Chairman will give you an update on what the Task Force has done and where we are with the process as this edition of the VETS NEWS goes to press.
 
October 10, 2008
 
To all Oregon Veterans and their families,
 
This letter is a brief explanation of what the task force is planning on recommending to the Governor for consideration. Please note: this is a draft list of principles – the specifics will be worked out in the coming months and will be shaped by the economic outlook and the legislative process. However, we want to make sure you know what our priorities are – and have an opportunity to comment.
 
EDUCATION
 
The task force wants to expand the accessibility of veterans’ services officers throughout the higher education landscape. We want to provide coverage at every community college and public university; the New GI Bill is an opportunity we should provide the resources to maximize. VSOs will help veterans capture under-realized assistance and bring funds into our communities. We are also exploring housing and family assistance proposals that will make using the New GI Bill easier.
 
EMPLOYMENT
 
The task force wants to highlight the need for greater federal support for the DVOP/LVER
program/s. We are also exploring options to implement awareness efforts associated with the “Hire Vets” program and a state recognition award for employers that go the extra step to help employ – and retain – veterans.

 
HEALTH CARE
 
The task force wants to emphasize the need for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to expand access for all categories of service; categories 1-8 should be fully funded. We are also pushing for a review (at the federal level) of the challenges for veterans living in remote/rural areas. At the state level, we are committed to fixing the technical issues associated with the TRICARE incentive program.
 
HOUSING
 
The task force wants to expand housing opportunities for veterans. This includes proposals targeting homeless-to-work; student veterans’ housing; and retirement housing options. The ODVA and Oregon Housing and Community Services are developing a “Housing Plus” program that will include permanent housing for veterans and families in need. We are also considering a referral that will delete the 30-year cap on ODVA home loans as well as revisions to the eligibility criteria that reflects current service.
 
FAMILIES
 
The task force wants to emphasize the historic stresses placed on military families supporting our veterans. We are looking at increasing the emergency relief funds (for both the Oregon Military Department and the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs), working with the legislature on development of “veterans’ courts,” establishment of an Oregon Military Families Appreciation Day, and “bridge” proposals between existing public programs and military families.
 
REINTEGRATION
 
The task force wants to emphasize the need for an expanded – comprehensive – reintegration strategy for National Guard and Reservists. We will work with our federal partners to expand the “Yellow Ribbon” efforts; we will seek implementation (and funding) for the “soft landing” initiative/s. At the state level, we are developing regional minisummits that share information and will help tailor programming to local need/s. Oregon is a national leader on this effort, and we will continue to refine our approach and make a great program even better.
 
TRANSPORTATION
 
The task force wants to expand transportation access for veterans: especially to/from VA Health Care facilities. We heard this issue throughout Oregon, and we are working with federal partners to advocate for increased funding as well as recognition that remote/rural areas have unique challenges. At the state level, we will work to increase flexibility in funding for these efforts.
 
WOMEN VETERANS
 
The task force wants to highlight the needs of women veterans’. Over the past six years, nearly 190,000 women have served overseas; many women have served in direct combat (regardless of their Military Occupational Specialty). This transformation of the force has had an impact upon the lives of women veterans. We will work with federal, local, and state partners to expand access to in-residence health care, family support, and assistance for Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Oregon is uniquely positioned to lead on these issues, and the task force is committed to increasing awareness of the new reality as well as working to find tailored solutions to meet these needs.
 
THE NEXT STEPS
 
The task force will put forward a package of recommendations for the Governor before the end of the year. Governor Kulongoski will review the materials and forward his recommendations to the Oregon Legislature. It is vital that all involved understand the evolving political context: the economy is uncertain – and the Governor will have to prioritize his recommendations in context.
 
The State of Oregon will take steps to improve the lives of veterans, but most of the heavy lifting must be done at the federal level. The recommendations of our task force will inform the debate and mobilize our efforts. Please understand, that our mission is to identify major themes and recommend remedy; we had to select the proposals that would do the most good for the most veterans.
 
If your individual suggestion is not included in the list above, know that it may still come to fruition – the details of many of our proposals will be worked out during the upcoming session. Once the Governor reviews and prioritizes our recommendations; members and participants are encouraged to help advance that agenda. We will work to implement the proposals over time, but the Governor will highlight the “first steps” for us to take this session.
 
Your work will help us turn the page on veteran’s care throughout Oregon. The ODVA has already begun an outreach effort that will focus on improving access to remote/rural areas of Oregon. And we expect great things from the 2009 Legislative Session; I am confident that this effort will yield a better life for thousands of veterans and families. Together we can help our nation and our Oregon keep faith with the men and women that kept faith with us.
 
Again, thank you for your willingness to give of your time and talent to the citizens of Oregon. I deeply appreciate your commitment to public service.
 
Sincerely,
PAUL L. EVANS
Veterans’ Services Task Force, Chair

 
I want to join Paul and the other members of the Task Force in expressing my deep appreciation for the hundreds of ideas and concerns expressed to our members as we traveled the state to listen and learn. I believe that Oregon veterans and their families will be better off due to the work of this group of dedicated individuals and I would like to thank all of my fellow Task Force members and staff for their hard work and commitment.

September-October 2008
 
Governor’s Task Force Holds Town Hall Meetings Statewide
 
As this issue of the VETS NEWS goes to press, the Governor’s Task Force on Veterans Services will have completed town hall meetings in 24 Oregon communities and toured thirteen facilities throughout Oregon.
 
During late-August and early-September, the Task Force will prepare a written report to the Governor of its findings and recommendations to better meet the needs of Oregon’s veterans and their families.

With subcommittees dealing with Reintegration Services, Post-Separation access to services and the needs of senior and aging veterans, the Task Force is dedicated to meeting the needs of veterans who range in age from their late-teens to those who are in their nineties.

In addition to the support for this effort from the Governor, many members of the Oregon House and Senate have taken part in both the Task Force meetings and the town hall gatherings across the state.

Veterans in Oregon are indeed fortunate to have the continued support of concerned elected and appointed leaders along with private citizens.

By taking the findings of the Task Force to the 2009 Oregon Legislative Session along with Joint Memorials to be sent to the US Congress, it is hoped that the needs of our veterans will be met operationally in the short term and strategically for decades to come.

As the Director of the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs, I sincerely appreciate the input received from all of those concerned individuals who attended our town hall meetings across the state.

It is our plan to publish the report of the Task Force on our website as soon as is possible.

In closing let me also thank all of you who are working in support of our troops in the field and their families here at home. Special thanks also goes to the Oregon National Guard Reintegration Team who continue to do a superior job in support of not only our Guard personnel, but also for members of our Active Reserve and Active Duty forces and their families. Thank you also to those of you who continue to support our senior veterans and their spouses at the Oregon Veterans’ Home.

July-August 2008
 
 
During the first week of June, Oregon’s veteran community suffered the loss of two of our veteran advocate champions of the first order. Walter Crews, age 79, passed away at his home in Aurora on June 1st and Richard “Dick” Lucht, age 75, passed away at his home in McMinnville on June 5th.

Both of these distinguished veterans had been very active in the State Legislature on behalf of their fellow veterans and both served as members and as chair of the United Veterans’ Groups of Oregon (UVGO).

Walter was a retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant and Dick was a U.S. Navy  Seabee and was honorably discharged at the rank of 3rd Class Petty Officer. Both Walter and Dick were Korean War veterans and were very proud of their service.

Walter was a member of the Non-Commissioned Officers Association (NCOA)  and had served as State Chairman of that group. During his membership, Walter earned nearly every award for service that can be bestowed by the NCOA. He also served as a member of the Governor’s Advisory Committee to the Director of ODVA from March of 2000 until March of 2008. During his service on the committee he was elected Secretary, Vice Chair and Chair of the group. Walter also served as the state Secretary-Treasurer of the Korean War Veterans’ Association (KWVA).

Walter is survived by his wife Bernice. Services were held for Walter on June 8th in
Aurora.
 
Dick was a member of Disabled American Veterans (DAV)  and in addition to serving as the State Commander, he was serving as the National Executive Committeeman for Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington at the time of his death. Dick was also a member of AMVETS, American Legion and VFW. Dick was appointed to the Governor’s Advisory Committee to the Director of the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs in March of 1993 and served until March of 2001. He held the offices of Secretary, Vice Chair and Chair of the committee during his tenure. Dick’s favorite veterans’ cause was the Oregon Veterans’ Home in The Dalles. It was Dick’s hard work with the Oregon Legislature that led to the creation of the Home that opened in 1997.

Dick is survived by his wife Nita. Services for Dick were held on June 9th in McMinnville.

The many cards of condolence received by both of these families and the attendance at their services were a testament to how broadly these great veterans had touched the lives of their fellow veterans and their families. They both believed strongly in service above self and lived their lives in that fashion until their final days. I join the Governor and the men and women of the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs when I say thank you and may you rest in peace.
 
In closing let me say, in memory of both Walter and Dick, how much we appreciate
your continued support for the Oregon Veterans’ Home and the great senior veterans and their spouses who live there in dignity and honor. May we also remember to take a moment to honor our country as it celebrates its 232nd birthday this July 4th.

May-June 2008
 
Governor Appoints Veterans Task Force
 
On March 27, 2008, Governor Kulongoski signed Executive Order 08-08 that created the Governor’s Task Force on Veterans Services. This 27-member task force has members from the Executive and Legislative branches of state government, as well as veterans, private citizens, subject matter experts and State Agency leaders. Mr. Paul Evans, the Governor’s Policy Advisory on Military and Veterans Affairs, will chair the Task Force.  
 
The Task Force will work in three mains areas:
 
(1) Reintegration Services;
(2) Postseparation access to services (36 months or more); and
(3) Retirement/senior care.
 
The Task Force held its first meeting on April 3rd and is scheduled to meet through and including August 28, 2008 with a final report working group to finish their work by the end of 2008. The Task Force will complete the following tasks:
 
a. Compile a program inventory;
b. Prepare a baseline evaluation of programs identified;
c. Hold public hearings on existing programs associated with the three major policy areas assigned to the Task Force;
d. Develop a comprehensive list of recommendations:
e. Prioritize the list of proposals into tiers for legislative and executive consideration; and
f. Report written findings and recommendations to the Governor on or before December 31, 2008.  
 
During the course of their work, many of the Task Force members will visit existing veteran treatment centers and service locations, as well as hear from those who are working in direct support of veterans and those who provide support services to those programs.
 
I am convinced that the work of this Task Force will result in the most comprehensive study of veterans programs and services in the history of the State of Oregon. In the end, our veterans and their families will be better served with programs designed to meet their ongoing needs.
 
On April 9, 2008, my staff and I met with members of the Association of Oregon Counties (AOC), County Veteran Service Officers (CVSOs) and Paul Evans of the Governor’s office to discuss veteran service issues important to the Governor’s Federal Forest Payment Task Force. The issue before this work group was the threat to veterans’ services at the county level caused by a draw down in Federal Forest payments in 32 of Oregon’s 36 counties.
 
After much discussion, a key finding seemed to be that the State should continue to provide pass-through general funds to the counties for veteran services and that a baseline amount should be established to ensure the counties could continue to fund these services. While there is more work to be done, it is clear that this will be an issue for the 2009 session of the State Legislature and  that a sound funding proposal should be agreed upon prior to the session.
 
I believe it is important to safeguard these important county programs and will continue to work with the AOC and the CVSOs to solve any issues associated with the necessary funding. On April 10, 2008 Governor Kulongoski signed Executive Order 08-10 , determining that a state of emergency existed in Tillamook, Lincoln, Coos, Clatsop and Curry Counties and coastal portions of Lane and Douglas Counties due to limitations on ocean commercial and sport salmon fishing.
 
Further, the Governor directed state agencies to work in a cooperative and coordinated manner in order to mitigate the impacts of this emergency, provide expedited service and resources to persons and businesses adversely affected by the emergency, and focus state efforts in a manner most likely to relieve the unemployment, human suffering, financial loss and other economic impacts of this emergency.
 
As a result, I have contacted the CVSOs in the impacted counties and asked them for an assessment of those veterans in the fishing and related industries to determine what kinds of services they need so that we can best determine which agencies should respond and where. Just as we did for those veterans in Northwest Oregon who were affected by the flood and wind events during December 2007, the Oregon veteran’s community must pull together again to help those who are going to be impacted by this latest emergency. I will be in touch with the Oregon Veteran Service Organizations  after we determine the needs and how best to help.
 
In closing, I want to thank all of you who are sending comfort items to our troops  in the field, who are contributing to the senior residents at the Oregon Veterans’ Home and who are volunteering your time in the many worthwhile programs at the federal, state and local levels that aid our veterans and their families.

National Military Appreciation Month - May 2008
 
"During the month of May, our National Military Appreciation Month gives all Americans the opportunity to thank the members of our military for their courage, commitment and service to our nation. The men and women or our Armed Forces are a reflection of all the people of our country and represent the very best we have to offer. Every freedom we enjoy can be traced back to the service of our military and our current generation of service members are doing a great job of maintaining that tradition. I hope each of us will take a moment this month to thank everyone wearing the uniform of our Armed Forces. Perhaps you can send a service member a letter, drop them a card, or even better send them a package of comfort items  to help them during their service. May God continue to bless them and our great country." -- Director Jim Willis

March-April 2008
 
March will bring a major change to the membership of the Advisory Committee to the Director of the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Leaving the Committee after eight years of honorable and valuable service will be Staryl C. Austin, Jr., of Salem, Furlton M. Burns of Portland, Walter R. Crews of Aurora and Robert Haltiner of Oregon City. All have served two four-year terms, from March of 2000 until March of 2008. They represent military service during WWII, Korea and Vietnam. These members will be honored with a Governor’s Commendation Award at the Advisory Committee meeting scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 19, 2008 in the Director’s Conference Room at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in Salem. The public is invited.
 
Joining the Committee at that meeting will be Joseph R. (Ryan) Howell of Albany, an Army National Guard combat veteran of the war in Iraq, Eugene J. LaBonte of Grand Ronde, a Native American and a Vietnam era veteran who served in the U.S. Navy as a radioman, Gerard F. Lorang of Portland, a Vietnam era veteran who served in the U.S. Army as a radio technician and Kevin J. Owens of North Bend, a Gulf War era veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard where he served as an electricians mate. While we would have liked to have appointed all of the veterans who were interested in these positions to the Committee, we are proud of this distinguished group of veterans who are willing to serve their fellow veterans.
 
On February 5th, I was pleased to join the members of American Legion Post and Auxiliary #122 when they donated 80 fifteen minute phone cards to the Oregon Veterans’ Home. This generous donation of twenty hours of talk time will enable our senior veterans to stay in touch with friends and family on special occasions or other important times in their lives.
 
On February 8th and 9th, I was pleased to join members of the VFW and Auxiliaries at their mid-year conference in Medford. While at the conference, it was my honor to present a Director’s Commendation Award to the members of VFW Post 3452 in Tualatin for their effort in helping victims of the recent floods through Operation Recovery. A photograph of this award presentation also appears below. I would also like to thank all the veterans organizations that have reached out to those in need during the recent flood and wind disasters in our state.
 
I would like to extend my thanks to former ODVA Director Jon Mangis for his willingness to Chair the Oregon WWII Memorial Committee. Members of the committee are expected to be announced in the near future and together they will work on the creation of a fitting WWII Memorial on the grounds of the Capitol mall. Jon Mangis worked on the National WWII Memorial Committee that created a wonderful tribute to our WWII veterans located in our nation’s capitol and I am confident that Chair Mangis and his Committee can come up with a design that will be an equally fitting memorial for Oregon to honor this great generation of veterans.
 
In closing, I would like to thank everyone for your continued support of the Oregon Veterans’ Home. Veterans, their families and members of the public continue to donate volunteer hours, books, magazines, cable television, phone cards, clothing and cash to help assist with providing an environment of honor and dignity for our senior veterans and their spouses. These efforts are much appreciated.

January-February 2008
 
Following the recent severe flooding and windstorms in Oregon, disaster declarations have been made and the communities impacted are beginning to deal with the aftermath of this serious weather event.
 
In working to support our veterans and their families, Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs (ODVA) staff and County Veterans’ Service Officers have been working at the Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) in St. Helens, Vernonia, Seaside and Tillamook, which are located in the hardest hit counties of Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook.
 
Veterans have been able to receive cash assistance through the Oregon Veterans’ Emergency Financial Assistance Program and gift cards purchased through the Fred Meyer Corporation. Fred Meyer was selected because they have the items most often identified by the victims of this disaster, i.e., pharmaceuticals, food, clothing, housewares and home repair items. I would also like to offer my appreciation and congratulations to the Fred Meyer Corporation for donating an additional $500 in gift certificates to our veterans and their families in the affected areas.
 
The early response to the immediate needs of these veterans and their families is being met and is ongoing at this time. It is clear that the long term effects will take months and in some cases years to overcome. Having visited each of these sites, it is clear a longer-term solution is needed. Just imagine (as was the case with a number of veteran families) that one day you are employed, your kids are in a local school and you live in your own home. Then, in less than 24 hours, your home and car are gone and your place of employment is underwater. In short, you find yourself, homeless and unemployed and the schools your kids were attending are condemned and they are being bused to a school over 50 miles roundtrip from your home. You need a way to get around, food, clothes and a place to stay. And all of this is occurring just ahead of the Christmas holidays.
 
What can the veteran community of Oregon do to help? They can participate in OPERATION RECOVERY. Operation Recovery is designed to pair up a local post, chapter or detachment of a veterans’ organization with an individual veteran family to help them get back on their feet. This may consist of assistance with home or auto repair, furniture, houseware or home repair supplies.
 
These needs are being assessed at the Disaster Recovery Centers at the time of this printing and it is hoped that those in need will be matched with various veterans’ organizations early in 2008. As veterans, we have covered each other in peace and war and here is yet another opportunity to help those who are truly in need.
 
I want to take the opportunity to wish all of you a safe and healthy New Year full of success and accomplishment. Thank you all for your willingness to help each other, for your support of our Department and for your continued support for the Oregon Veterans’ Home.
 

November-December 2007


After two and one-half years of work, the Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission (VDBC) released its long awaited 562 page report on October 3, 2007 in Washington D.C.

The thirteen-member commission chaired by James Terry Scott, LTG, USA (RET) was established by Public Law 108-136, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2004.  Between May 2005 and October 2007, the Commission conducted an in-depth analysis of the benefits and services available to veterans, service members, their survivors and their families to compensate and provide assistance for the effects of disabilities and deaths attributable to military service.

Serving from Oregon on the Commission was Colonel Larry G. Brown, USA (RET) who was of great assistance to ODVA in the preparation of this report on the Commissions’ work.

The full report may be viewed by going to http://www.vetscommission.org/pdf/eReport_prepub_9-27.pdf.

The Commission makes 113 recommendations.  All are important and should receive attention from Congress, The Department of Defense (DoD), and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  The Commission suggested that the following 14 recommendations receive immediate consideration.

Priority Recommendations  (These are summaries of the recommendations)
Recommendation 4.23                             Chapter 4, Section l.5
VA should immediately begin to update the current Rating Schedule, beginning with those body systems addressing the evaluation and rating of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental disorders and of traumatic brain injury.

Recommendation 5.28                             Chapter 5, Section 111.3
VA should develop and implement new criteria specific to post-traumatic stress disorder in the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities. VA should base those criteria on the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders and should consider a multidimensional framework for the characterizing disability dues to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Recommendation 5.30                             Chapter 5, Section 111.3
VA should establish a holistic approach that couples post-traumatic stress disorder treatment, compensation, and vocation assessment.  Reevaluation should occur every 2-3 years to gauge treatment effectiveness and encourage wellness.

Recommendation 6.14                             Chapter 6, Section 1V.2
Congress should eliminate the ban on concurrent receipt for all military retirees and for all service members who separated from the military due to service-connected disabilities.  In the future, priority should be given to veterans who separated or retired from the military under chapter 61 with:

·        Fewer than 20 years of service and a service-connected disability rating greater than 50 percent, or
 
·        Disability as a result of combat.

Recommendation 7.5                                           Chapter 7, Section 11.3
Eligibility for Individual Unemployability should be consistently based on the impact of an individual’s service-connected disabilities, in combination with education, employment history, and medical effects of an individuals’ age or potential employability.

Recommendation 7.6                                           Chapter 7, Section 11.3
Recognizing that individual Unemployability is an attempt to accommodate individuals with multiple lesser ratings but who remain unable to work, the Commission recommends that as the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities is revised, every effort should be made to accommodate such individuals fairly and with the basic rating system without the need for an Individual Unemployability rating.

Recommendation 7.7                                             Chapter 7, Section 111.2
Congress should increase the compensation rates up to 25 percent as an interim and baseline future benefit for loss of quality of life, pending development and implementation of quality of life measure in the Rating Schedule.  In particular, the measure should take into account the quality of life and other non-work related effects of severe disabilities on veterans and family members.

Recommendation 7.9                                           Chapter 7, Section 111.2
Congress should consider increasing special monthly compensation, where appropriate, to address the more profound impact on quality of life by the disabilities subject to special monthly compensation and review ancillary benefits to determine where additional benefits could improve disabled veterans’ quality of life.

Recommendation 7.10                             Chapter 7, Section 111.2
Congress should enact legislation that would bring the ancillary and special purpose benefits to the levels originally intended considering cost of living and provide for automatic annual adjustments to keep pace with cost of living.

Recommendation 7.14                             Chapter 7, Section 111.3
VA and DoD should realign the disability evaluation process so that the Services determine fitness for duty, and service members who are found unfit are referred to VA for disability rating.  All conditions that are identified as part of a single, comprehensive medical examination should be rated and compensated.

Recommendation 8.2                                           Chapter 8, Section 111.1.B
Congress should eliminate the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset for survivors of retirees and in-service deaths.

Recommendation 9.1                                           Chapter 9, Section 11.5.A.b
Improve claims cycle time by:

·        Establishing a simplified and expedited process for well documented claims, using best business practices and maximum feasible use of information technology; and

·        Implementing an expedited process by which the claimant can state the
claim information is complete and waive the time period (60 days) allowed for further development.

Congress should mandate and provide appropriate resources to reduce the VA claims backlog by 50 percent within 2 years.

Recommendation 10.11                           Chapter 10, Section V11
VA and DoD should expedite development and implementation of compatible information systems including a detailed project management plan that includes specific milestones and lead agency assignment.

Recommendation 11.1                                         Chapter 11
Congress should establish an executive oversight group to ensure timely and effective implementation of the Commission recommendations.  This group should be co-chaired by VA and DoD and consist of senior representatives from appropriate departments and agencies.  It is further recommended that the Veterans’ Affairs Committees hold hearings and require annual reports to measure and assess progress.
 

Early reviews of the Commission report by the National Association for Uniformed Services (NAUS) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, (VFW) were congratulatory in nature and urged the VA, DoD and the Congress to “get on” with implementing the recommendations.
 
In closing, let me wish a belated Happy 232nd Birthday to the US Navy on October 13, 2007.  It is also time to say a Happy 232nd Birthday to the United States Marine Corps effective November 10th, 2007.  Semper Fi Marines!  I would also like to thank all of you who continue to support the Oregon Veterans’ Home and our troops in the field around the world.

September - October 2007
 
In a previous message, I pointed out a number of persons and groups that are helping members of our armed forces and their families. These efforts for “help tomorrow’s veterans today,” is something we can all do in one way or another.
 
Operation Hero Miles
 
One way you may be able to help is to donate your unused frequent flyer miles to military personnel and their families. You can do this by contacting Operation Hero Miles on the internet at www.heromiles.org. The website explains how your donation is currently being accepted by ten of the nation’s major airlines. You can also call 1-888-294-8560 toll-free for information.
 
Linn County Veterans Memorial
 
Recently I talked with members of the Linn County Veterans Memorial Association. They tell me that in over a year since they began their effort to build a new memorial, that much progress has been made and they plan to dedicate this new memorial to the veterans of Linn County on Saturday November 10, 2007 at 4:00 pm. at Timber Linn Park in Albany.
 
The memorial will be built in the shape of the state of Oregon and will include flowerbeds, a 155mm artillery piece, a plaza area and bronze plaques from the original veterans memorial. Over 25 local businesses have stepped forward with donations of money, labor and materiel to complete the project.
 
Six flagpoles will grace the area along with memorial bricks containing the names and branch of service of local veterans. To purchase a brick or to make a donation to this worthwhile project please call Bob Gore at (541) 967-6936 or email at Bobgore47@comcast.net or call Dean Booth at (541) 990-7715 or email at deanvicky@yahoo.com. Congratulations to these great veterans on their success with this worthwhile project.

July - August 2007
 
Legislative Session Adjourns
By the time this issue of the VETS NEWS goes to press, the legislative session should be adjourned. As you can see from our ‘Oregon Legislative Assembly Winds Down’ article on page 10 of this edition, veterans and their families had a good session and I would especially like to thank the members of the legislature for approving the ODVA budget for 2007-09. I would also like to thank those veterans and family members who spent hours of volunteer time during this session to testify on bills important to their fellow veterans and their families. I am also grateful to the dedicated staff here at ODVA for their time and effort during the legislative session.

One of the bills passed during this session will create the Oregon Veterans Recognition License plate program. We would not have been able to pass this bill without the able assistance of DMV Administrator Lorna Youngs and her staff and I thank her for her support throughout the session. While the final design for the new Veterans license plate is not yet completed, a sample prototype is included in this message to give you some idea of what they will look like in the future.
 
What we do know is that all of the groups who had a special veterans plate will be included in the new design if they choose to use it. Also featured in the new design will be the choice by our veterans to include the seal from their branch of service, or campaign medals or valor medals.
 
A brochure is being produced to explain how these choices will be made. One of the best features of this new program will be that there will only need to be 500 total renewals of all the various kinds of veterans’ plate to ensure the program will continue year to year.
 
I want to thank the Rose Festival Association for including a salute to our state’s veterans as part of this year’s Grand Floral parade. The honor paid to veterans is much appreciated and especially the tribute to the Greatest Generation.

In closing, I want to wish our great country a very happy 231st birthday! I hope you will be able to attend some of the many events around our state that honor our country on the 4th of July. Thank you also for your continued support of the Oregon Veterans’ Home in The Dalles. If you have not had the opportunity to visit our Home, please plan to do so when your travels take you to The Dalles. I hope all of you are having a safe and healthy summer and enjoying some time off with friends and family.
 
New Veteran License Plates will become available in January of 2008.
View Current Veteran-related and Military Service License Plates...

May - June 2007
 
COVO Program Wins Awards
 
In this message, I want to pay tribute to some of the great people here in Oregon who are assisting our veterans and our troops in the field. The Central Oregon Veterans Outreach program or COVO is an example of veterans working for veterans at the local level. COVO members had a vision of creating transitional housing for homeless veterans. As a result of their hard work and determination, they have opened the “Home of the Brave” and are operating the five-bed facility with hopes to expand to ten beds in the very near future. Their work led to a merit award from the Oregon Coalition for Housing and Homelessness and a commendation award from ODVA. On May 4, 2007, the Southern Oregon Veterans Outreach program or SOVO will open their new office in Coos Bay. I know that their members have already assisted a number of veterans with plans to do much more. I salute all of these groups of veterans for what they have done and for what they will do in the future.
 
In paying tribute to any of the great groups of veterans, families and other volunteers, you always run the risk of missing someone. Having said that, let me just say a few words about some of those who are taking care of our veterans of tomorrow both deployed and when they need help here at home. Groups such as the Coalition of Troop Support (COTS), Operation Oregon Treats (OOT), the Marine Corps League, the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)Operation Love Boxes, and our own employees here at the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
 
It seems there are unlimited opportunities to volunteer to help our veterans and our troops. Check with veterans organizations in your area or contact ODVA and we will be glad to give you the name of some organizations that could really use your help. I also want to thank the volunteers who continue to serve our senior veterans and spouses at the Oregon Veterans’ Home. Your help and commitment is truly appreciated. On behalf of all of Oregon’s veterans I want to thank all of you for what you have done and continue to do for our veterans, their families, survivors and of course, our troops and their families.

March - April 2007
 
 
110th Congress Convenes
 
By now everyone knows the 110th Congress is in session and well underway. The question of what this means to our nation’s veterans, their families and survivors is still up in the air. However, if the statements of both the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairs are setting the direction for the future, there is reason for cautious optimism.
 
Rep. Bob Filner, California, was interviewed in the February 2007 issue of the American Legion magazine and what he had to say should give every veteran reason to hope for some action on important veterans’ issues.
 
Here is a summation of what he had to say about his plans for this session:
 
Re-establish public hearings so that veterans and the committee members will have a better sense of what’s going on with regard to veterans’ issues.
 
Looking forward to a “21st - century GI Bill” which will strengthen education benefits and make sure that National Guard and reserve units have the same access to benefits that others do.

More needs to be done with regard to mental illness with an emphasis on PTSD.
 
Commitment to working closely with the Senate to create and fund the “21st - century GI Bill.”
 
Provide the funding for after action needs as a cost of war to ensure that veterans are well cared for.
 
Acknowledges a claims backlog of almost 700,000 and would like to deal with all claims in at least 180 days.
 
Concern that VA records are still at risk and wants to do everything possible to preserve and protect veterans’ records.
 
He believes that creating a mandatory funding formula for veterans’ health care should be an “up front” part of the “21st century GI Bill.” He admits that this will be a tough issue with other members of the House and Senate who are not serving on the Veterans’ Affairs Committees.
 
He is not in favor of any increase of enrollment fees or co-pays. Favors bringing the Priority Group 8 veterans back into the health care system.
 
Increase the amount of funding available for VA construction.
 
Sees mental health and long-term care as high priorities and a continuing responsibility long after the service that led to the need to treat the individual veteran.
 
While I have not seen a similar all-inclusive statement concerning the Federal VA on the part of Senator Daniel Akaka, Hawaii, Chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I have seen his concerns about the proposed 2008 budget for the Federal VA.
 
The Senator has stated that out-of-pocket expenses veterans would be forced to pay under the new budget proposal seems particularly cruel. Senator Akaka also said, “Why are we asking veterans to suffer in order to finance a war?” He sees the new budget as failing to consider the cost of caring for veterans as part of the cost of war.

While only time will tell, it seems that House Chair Filner and Senate Chair Akaka are on the same sheet of paper as it pertains to strengthening benefits and providing funding for programs that provide services to veterans.
 
There are also two proposed bills relating to merchant mariners. H.R. 23, introduced by Rep. Filner, would provide benefits to certain individuals who served in the United States merchant marine (including the Army Transport Service and the Naval Transport Service) during World War II. H.R. 447 would allow World War II merchant mariners who were awarded the Mariners Medal to be eligibile for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care on the same basis as veterans who have been awarded the Purple Heart if passed.
 
I urge every veteran to pay close attention to this session of Congress, especially with regard to the move to create mandatory funding for veterans health care. The very pro-active statements with regard to this long overdue funding formula is a breath of fresh air and something that we should all support.
 
Closer to home, the 74th session of the Oregon Legislature is underway and shows good promise for a number of veterans’ issues including a new veterans recognition license plate program to veterans’ education to caring for our senior veterans and much more. We are also seeking to continue those programs that have been successful as a result of the 2005 session. At this writing I am happy to report that there is a strong and involved House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs chaired by Rep. Jeff Barker who as a former Marine is dedicated to dealing with issues important to veterans, their families and survivors.
 
In our next issue of the VETS NEWS, we will review all of the veterans’ legislation and its impact on Oregon’s veteran community.
 
As always, I continue to appreciate all veterans and their service to our state and nation. Their continuing support of our mission and the Oregon Veterans’ Home in The Dalles is also appreciated.
 

January - February 2007
 
 
New Legislative Session Means Opportunities For Veterans 
 
On January 8, 2007, the Oregon State Legislature will convene its biannual session. Our veteran’s service in the armed forces of the United States was and is in large part about preserving our freedoms. The right of citizens in a democratic republic to elect their leaders at the local, state and federal levels is one of those freedoms, but our duty as citizens and veterans does not stop there.
 
As our freedoms relate to the state legislature, we have a duty as veterans to show up for legislative hearings to review new legislation, listen to testimony, provide testimony and answer questions from our lawmakers in order to better serve our fellow veterans, their families and survivors.
 
During the 2007 session of the legislature, the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs (ODVA) will concentrate our energies on maintaining and strengthening the benefits earned by our veterans and conveyed to them as a matter of public policy both at the federal and state levels.
 
Our major veterans concerns will be for housing, employment, technical training, education, emergency assistance, and continuing a network of statewide veteran advocacy that is truly one of the best in the nation.
 
As an example, we have included in our 2007-2009 budget, funding for emergency assistance to veterans, funding to continue the expansion and enhancement program carried out by the County Veterans Service Officers (CVSO’s), continued funding for the National Service Officers (NSO’s) and continued funding for full and part-time college education.
 
The United Veterans Groups of Oregon, (UVGO) has also created a set of priorities for this session of the legislature which include but are not limited to modifying existing Oregon law to include certain limited benefits afforded the Oregon National Guard to all Oregon service members to include active duty, reserves and if applicable, all military retirees.
 
UVGO will also seek necessary funding for the maintenance of the Oregon Veterans’ Home as well a seeking approval for a Veterans Recognition License Plate program. UVGO will seek general fund support for all veterans’ service officers on a statewide basis. Veterans’ Preference Points will be addressed by seeking to bring Oregon’s Veterans’ Preference Points policy in line with the Federal policy.  UVGO will also champion the creation of an Oregon Veterans Business Enterprise Program along with a Veterans Merit Scholarship Program.
 
As you can see, this will be a busy session of our state legislature with regard to veterans’ issues. I encourage those of you who can to become involved in the process and make a difference for those veterans who cannot come to the session to protect their benefits.
 
I would like to close by thanking all of you who give of your free time to volunteer in helping our veterans or have continued to make contributions to the Oregon Veterans’ Home and ask that you continue to remember our residents in 2007. I wish all of you and your families a happy, healthy, and successful New Year.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

November - December 2006
 
 
Value Veterans As Our Forefathers Did
 
As we celebrate another Veterans Day, we do so with members of our all-volunteer U.S. Armed Forces serving in harm’s way in hot spots all around the world while others serve in support roles to make sure that these front line personnel have the equipment and technical support they need to carry out their mission.
 
These men and women do their duty in spite of conditions, criticisms and arguments over national policies pertaining to their deployment. These veterans of tomorrow also do their duty at a time when the very term “veteran” seems to be open to debate.

Such was not the case when the father of our country  George Washington said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.” Clearly, George Washington knew the need to value our nation’s veterans and to continue to honor and care for them long after their active service.

On March 4, 1865, during his second inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln said that in order to bind of the wounds of our nation following the Civil War that it was our nation’s duty “to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan.” Again, this was a clear statement of public policy on a national level by the President of the United States.
 
It was President Calvin Coolidge who said, “The Nation that forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.” And it was our own Governor Ted Kulongoski  who said, “Ultimately, what I believe is a nation is judged by how it treats those who have heard the call of their country and answered it. We need to think about how we can better serve those who served us during time of great conflict. This government is going to recognize veterans’ service to this country and this State.”  This is a quote from the Governor’s remarks at the State Capitol Veterans’ Muster on February 12, 2003. I can only hope that others will take to heart these statements made by leaders that echo down throughout our history as a nation.
 
These statements leave no doubt as to the importance of our veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Their legacy is one of courage, honor and determination in the preservation of liberty and as a matter of national and state public policy, they deserve the benefits that have been accorded to them as a result of their honorable service to our nation. I wish each of them good health and success as we celebrate Veterans Day 2006.
 
Sadly, this Director’s Message must record the loss of one of our very best. On September 23, 2006, Ronald Leslie Anderson passed away following a valiant battle with cancer. Ron Anderson wore the uniform of his country for over 40 years before retiring at the rank of Command Sergeant Major. Making his home in Wilsonville, Ron was active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Korean War Veterans Association, the American Legion, and many other veteran and community based organizations. Ron’s last activation occurred during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Strom having already served during the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Never one to ask others to do what he was willing to do, Ron was a strong supporter of the Oregon Korean War Memorial in Wilsonville, testified at the State Legislature in support of veterans’ issues and in 2002 was named First Citizen for the City of Wilsonville. Very proud of his Scottish heritage, Ron served as a guide for the Portland Police Highland Guard  and at the time of his passing was in training as a Drum Major.
 
Space simply does not allow me the ability to express Ron’s many contributions. Suffice it to say that when something needed to be done for veterans, active duty personnel or their families, Ron was first in line to help and to guide others. Ron’s service will live on each time one of his many friends or family pause to remember him and his service to his community, our state and this nation. The motto of the Highland Guard may be the best way to remember Ron’s many contributions. Nunquam Obliviscar – Latin for “We Shall never Forget!”
 
On November 10th, we will celebrate the 231st birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps. Semper Fi Marines  and Happy Birthday! Enjoy your day and thank you for your service to our State and Nation and the freedom you have provided and are providing to peoples around the world.
 
On December 7th, we will remember the attack on Pearl Harbor  65 years ago. Sadly, there are too few survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor with whom to remember this signature event in American history. It seems little to say thank you to them for their service and sacrifice along with their brother and sisters who served on Wake Island and the Philippines. Perhaps they will be satisfied in knowing that their courage and valor will never be forgotten in a period in our history when our very liberty was at risk from forces that intended to rule the world.
 
This Veterans Day we would do well to remember a slogan from World War II. “Remember Pearl Harbor” as we remember veterans of all wars in which our forces have served. May those who were lost in these wars rest in peace and those who live enjoy the gifts of freedom that they ensured for this generation and the ones that will follow in a nation bright with promise.

September - October 2006
 
 
Birthdays and Benefits
 
Birthdays
 
On September 18, 2006, the United States Air Force will celebrate its 59th birthday.  In what began as a part of the United States Army, the Air Force became a separate branch of the Armed Forces on September 18, 1947 by act of Congress and is most recently a member of our nation’s joint and total force. This highly-trained and technically-proficient group of professionals deserves our praise as we extend a very Happy Birthday to the men and women of the United States Air Force.
 
In October, we will celebrate the birthday a far more senior service.  It was on October 13, 1775 when the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia voted to “fit out two sailing vessels, armed with ten carriage guns, as well as swivel guns, and manned by crews of eighty officers and men.”  It was this original legislation that constituted the birth certificate of our Navy.  From these humble beginnings, our Navy has grown to the finest naval force in the World. As they celebrate their 231st birthday, we say “Hooray for the United States Navy.”
 
Benefits 
 
On the of the saddest duties a veteran advocate can have is to tell a veteran that they no longer qualify for a specific benefit because the time the veteran had in which to apply for the benefit has expired.
 
In an effort to avoid that disappointment for qualified veterans in the future, I would like to review just a few, but not all of the state and federal benefits that can expire. Please share this information with other veterans. No one wants any veteran to lose access to a benefit due to an expiration date.
 
Federal Benefits:
 
Combat Veterans:  The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will provide combat veterans free health care for any illness possibly associated with service against a hostile force in a war since the Gulf War or during a period of hostility after November 11, 1998.  Time limit:  Two years from release from active duty.
 
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment: VA helps veterans with service-connected disabilities prepare for, find and keep suitable employment.  For veterans with serious service-connected disabilities, VA also offers services to improve their ability to live as independently as possible.  Some of the services offered are:  job search, vocational evaluation, career exploration, vocational training, education, and rehabilitation service.  Time limit:  Generally 12 years from VA notice to veteran of at least a 10 percent disability rating.
 
Dental:  Veterans may receive one-time dental treatment if they were not provided treatment within 90 days before separation from active duty. Time limit: Must apply within 90 days from separation (The time limit does not apply to veterans with dental conditions resulting from service-connected wounds or injuries).
 
Education and Training
 
Montgomery GI Bill- Active Duty (Chapter 30)  Time limit:  10 years from release from last period of active duty.  Limited extensions available.
 
Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (Chapter 1606)  Time limit:  14 years from the date of eligibility for the program, or until released from the Selected Reserve or National Guard, which ever occurs first.  Some extensions available if activated. 
 
State Benefits:
 
State Veterans Home Loan Program: Oregon is one of only five states that offer a low interest Veterans Home Loan.  This loan is currently offered at 5.65%.  Time limit:  30 years from date of separation.
 
Veterans Preference Points for Public EmploymentTime limit:  15 years from date of separation.
 
Disabled Veterans Preference Point for Public EmploymentNo expiration.
 
More examples of Veterans benefits will be a part of the next Director’s message.  If you have any questions about your Veterans’ benefits, please contact any County Veterans Service Officer, State Veterans Service Officer or National Service Officer.
 
Find and contact a Service Officer using the ODVA VSO Directory...

Learn more about benefits...  
 
 
 
 
 
 

July - August 2006
 
 
Data Theft From The Federal VA
 
As most of you know, the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)  has discovered that an employee took home electronic data from the VA that contained the names, social security numbers and dates of birth for up to 26.5 million veterans and some spouses. That data was stolen by persons unknown.
 
In addition, it has been learned that the stolen information also contained information on some 2.2 million active-duty military personnel, National Guard and Active Reserve personnel.
 
One of the most important of the concerns caused by this theft is the issue of Identify Theft. To find out more about the theft and to learn what you can do to protect yourself, please visit the ODVA website at www.oregon.gov/ODVA and then click on VA Data Theft.
 
This site will continue to be updated, as more information is available. One thing that you can do is to take advantage of your right to one free credit report per year. You can request this report from one of the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion at www.AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.
 
Checking your credit report is always a good idea, but you will also want to pay special attention to statements for your major credit cards as well as your debit card.
 
Hopefully the criminal investigation into this massive data theft will determine that none of the data has been used illegally but unless or until that happens, we all need to protect our credit and our identification.
 
On another subject entirely, I want to thank everyone involved for making the Gold Star Families  honors luncheon and ceremony a great success. This event was a first of its kind here in Oregon and was put on to show these families how much we honor and appreciate their sacrifice and the courageous and honorable service of their loved ones.