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november/december 2009

red star bulletThe Veteran Departments : REMF Diary of Dying | VVA's Service Office Program | Stayin' Alive | Final Resting Place | Burying Veterans with Dignity | Suits for Vets | President's Report | Letters | Government Affairs | TAPS | Veterans Benefits Update | Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee Report | Economic Opportunities Committee Report | PTSD/Substance Abuse Committee Report | Homeless Veterans Committee Report | Veterans Incarcerated Committee Report | Region 4 Report | Region 9 Report | Minority Affairs Committee Report | The Faces of Agent Orange | POW/MIA Affairs Comittee Report | Books In Review | Membership Notes | Locator | Reunions |

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REMF Diary of Dying and Bureaucratic Complexity

By David Willson

OCTOBER 2008…

My ribs had been causing me serious pain since June. I’d been to see Dr. Brooks several times and lots of theories had been pursued. Finally, I got the diagnosis: multiple myeloma. I recognized the name of the disease from the Agent Orange Dirty Dozen. I looked up the list on the VA website and there it was, nestled between Hodgkin’s disease and respiratory cancers. Fine bedfellows: “Presumptive conditions for disability compensations.” 

An open and shut case. I am a Vietnam veteran who served in-country from September 13, 1966, through October 23, 1967. I was stationed in Tan Son Nhut and then in Long Binh, but I was all over the country. I was presumed to be exposed. I was told that I had Stage 2-B multiple myeloma, and that my disease was in an aggressive mode. Looked to me as though I hit the jackpot.

[ read complete article ]


VVA’s Service Officer Program: The Veteran’s Benefit

BY MARC LEEPSON

When David Willson, a VVA member battling Agent Orange-induced bone cancer, applied to the VA for his veterans benefits last September, he found out that the vast government agency had his name spelled wrong and his address all screwed up. But that was the least of the Seattle resident’s VA-related problems.

As Willson faced radiation, debilitating chemotherapy, and a harrowing bone-marrow transplant, months went by with no word from the VA about the fate of his benefits application. He was not alone. VA employees today face a mountain of more than one million unprocessed claims by veterans seeking physical and psychological disability compensation. “There is a backlog,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki told the House Veterans Affairs Committee October 14. “It is too big, and veterans are waiting too long for decisions.”

[ read complete article ]


STAYIN' ALIVE:


BY JAMES BROWN

Nine years ago, Adirondack Chapter 79 in Queensbury, New York, north of Albany, was looking for a fundraiser that would be unique and not infringe upon the efforts of other local service organizations. Since the chapter had a working wood shop (obtained through a grant), the decision was made to look in that direction. The chapter president at that time, Gary Murphy, came up with an idea: picnic tables. The rest is Chapter 79 history.

Most Saturdays in the spring and summer you can find half a dozen chapter members running routers, circular saws, chop saws, and drills on the production line. A special jig is used to assemble legs ahead of time. Then the 2x6 lumber is attached using outdoor hardware and deck screws. Braces are installed and the finishing touches (corners cut, edges routered) are completed. 

[ read complete article ]




BY BOB HOPKINS

The wind came from the Northwest, cutting through the assembled with a vengeance. Newly fallen snow crunched underfoot as the Honor Guard from Allenhurst, New Jersey, VVA Chapter 12 carried Ron Kowalski to his final resting place. The bright February sun did little to lessen the cold sting. As the Marine Corps League stood at attention, a VFW Color Guard formed a corridor of honor for the casket to pass through, and an American Legion rifle squad waited to fire a salute.

A Jersey City-born hulk of a man, Kowalski was beloved by his family, friends, and comrades and was receiving the time-honored tribute afforded military veterans at the time of their passing. After the ceremony, everyone met at a nearby restaurant to eat, swap stories—real and enhanced—about Ron, and to console his family.

[ read complete article ]


A New Outfit For Disabled Veterans

BY XANDE ANDERER

A casual conversation between two neighbors set everything in motion…

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were still young in 2003. Jeannie Lehowicz, the Director of Programs for Severely Wounded Service Members, had noticed something during her work with severely wounded veterans at Walter Reed and Bethesda Medical Centers: The service personnel recovering there were not just struggling with their wounds, they also were struggling with the realization that their military careers were suddenly over.

The men and women Lehowicz was helping at these facilities were young. Most had enlisted as teenagers—the military was their first job, and many had hoped to make it their careers. Roadside bombs and mortar rounds had changed their plans in a split second. The realization they would soon be forced to enter the job market was yet another challenge in a long string of unforseen challenges.

[ read complete article ]

 

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