President

John Rowan

President

I have had the privilege of serving as your President for the last sixteen years and thank all the members, Chapters, State Councils, and the Regional and At-Large Directors for having faith in me over these years and thank them and my fellow officers for their continued support.

 

Vice President Tom Burke has had to deal with serious personnel problems after we had to lay off staff last year. He worked with our Human Resources law firm to ensure that our personnel actions were fair and equitable and helped with our administration and staff issues as we lost some of our senior staff. We have also contracted recently with a human resources firm to enable us to take care of our staff as COVID restrictions change daily.

 

Our Treasurer, Jack McManus, has used his skills as a manager to keep us afloat as our fundraisers went through great difficulties last year, and our finance staff suffered cutbacks and changes. Tom and Jack’s administrative experience has helped us immensely during these hard times, particularly with the use of lower cost consultants to take over some of our staff functions.

 

Our Secretary, Bill Meeks, has kept an eye on our Chapters and State Councils through these trying times and kept our Board of Directors functioning through Zoom meetings and on-line voting. He has also kept an eye on our membership department operations. Amazingly, despite our advancing age, our membership has been growing, setting new records every month. (An interesting statistic: VVA has eight members over 100 years old)

 

As Congress opened this year, the Democrats took charge of the House and Senate. Thus, the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees found themselves with some new leaders. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) switched seats with Tester as SVAC Chair and Moran as the Ranking Member. Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) stayed as Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. The new Ranking Member is Rep. Michael Bost (R-Il), a former Marine. As always, we maintain relations with all Committee members, no matter the party. It is this steadfast bipartisanship that has kept VVA in good grace with all Members of Congress.

 

Perhaps, because of our constant activity on the Hill, the SVAC and HVAC both have been putting out a very large number of bills affecting veterans and their families. What was most rewarding was the fact that both the Senate and House, as well as most of the other Veteran Service Organizations, have decided that this is the year they are going to deal with toxic exposures. There are two major, almost identical bills going through SVAC and HVAC that, if passed, will go a long way to dealing with our health issues from Agent Orange to Burn Pits. During my annual testimony, I kidded Sen. Tester that it looks like they went through their files and put in the bill every leftover toxic exposure issue that had not been dealt with for the past fifty years, such as clearing up Agent Orange issues, such as adding Thailand, Guam, the Philippines, and Johnson Atoll, or adding radiation exposures from cleanups in Eniwetok and Palomares, Spain. We must work to make the final bill as comprehensive as possible, including a focus on the descendants of exposed veterans.

 

Our Government Affairs Department has had no peer in Congress. But between staff and consultant losses last year and the recent retirement of our Executive Director for Policy and Government Affairs Rick Weidman, we are down to one person, Sharon Hodge, our new Director for Policy and Government Affairs. Thankfully, she has been up to the job, and we hope to fill the vacancies soon.

 

Unfortunately, the fundraising losses in early 2020 forced the VVA Veteran” to go virtual only. Thankfully, a reversal of our losses has enabled our award-winning newspaper to go back to limited print editions. Hopefully, as our fundraising returns, the VVA Veteran can fully return to pre-COVID levels. We thank our peerless staff for continuing to produce a wonderful and informative paper through these trying times.  

 

Our Membership Department with guidance from the Membership Affairs Committee has persevered through changes in consultants, staff, technology, and structure.

 

The Finance Department, the Administration Department, the IT staff, and our Household Goods Program also keep our organization running efficiently. I want to thank all of them for their efforts.

 

The Veterans Benefits Department has also been dealing with the changes that have gone on in the VA as well as VVA. Thankfully, our Director, Ms. Felicia Mullaney, and all our staff are up to the task.

 

The Communications Department has brought us into the digital era with Facebook, Twitter, and other outlets, while getting our message out to the print and video media.

 

The Veterans Health Council Director, Col. Artie Shelton, MD (USA ret.) and his Deputy, Rebecca Patterson, MS. CPH, have represented VVA in various health forums during the pandemic.  Col. Shelton orders you to get the vaccine. We may need a booster soon.

 

I thank the members, chapters, and state councils for the hard work you do on behalf of our veterans and families. You make us look good and give us the authority to work on your behalf in Congress and the VA. I thank you for your support and hope you will allow me to continue to serve as your President.

I have had the privilege of serving as your President for the last sixteen years and thank all the members, Chapters, State Councils, and the Regional and At-Large Directors for having faith in me over these years and thank them and my fellow officers for their continued support.

 

Vice President Tom Burke has had to deal with serious personnel problems after we had to lay off staff last year. He worked with our Human Resources law firm to ensure that our personnel actions were fair and equitable and helped with our administration and staff issues as we lost some of our senior staff. We have also contracted recently with a human resources firm to enable us to take care of our staff as COVID restrictions change daily.

 

Our Treasurer, Jack McManus, has used his skills as a manager to keep us afloat as our fundraisers went through great difficulties last year, and our finance staff suffered cutbacks and changes. Tom and Jack’s administrative experience has helped us immensely during these hard times, particularly with the use of lower cost consultants to take over some of our staff functions.

 

Our Secretary, Bill Meeks, has kept an eye on our Chapters and State Councils through these trying times and kept our Board of Directors functioning through Zoom meetings and on-line voting. He has also kept an eye on our membership department operations. Amazingly, despite our advancing age, our membership has been growing, setting new records every month. (An interesting statistic: VVA has eight members over 100 years old)

 

As Congress opened this year, the Democrats took charge of the House and Senate. Thus, the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees found themselves with some new leaders. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) switched seats with Tester as SVAC Chair and Moran as the Ranking Member. Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) stayed as Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. The new Ranking Member is Rep. Michael Bost (R-Il), a former Marine. As always, we maintain relations with all Committee members, no matter the party. It is this steadfast bipartisanship that has kept VVA in good grace with all Members of Congress.

 

Perhaps, because of our constant activity on the Hill, the SVAC and HVAC both have been putting out a very large number of bills affecting veterans and their families. What was most rewarding was the fact that both the Senate and House, as well as most of the other Veteran Service Organizations, have decided that this is the year they are going to deal with toxic exposures. There are two major, almost identical bills going through SVAC and HVAC that, if passed, will go a long way to dealing with our health issues from Agent Orange to Burn Pits. During my annual testimony, I kidded Sen. Tester that it looks like they went through their files and put in the bill every leftover toxic exposure issue that had not been dealt with for the past fifty years, such as clearing up Agent Orange issues, such as adding Thailand, Guam, the Philippines, and Johnson Atoll, or adding radiation exposures from cleanups in Eniwetok and Palomares, Spain. We must work to make the final bill as comprehensive as possible, including a focus on the descendants of exposed veterans.

 

Our Government Affairs Department has had no peer in Congress. But between staff and consultant losses last year and the recent retirement of our Executive Director for Policy and Government Affairs Rick Weidman, we are down to one person, Sharon Hodge, our new Director for Policy and Government Affairs. Thankfully, she has been up to the job, and we hope to fill the vacancies soon.

 

Unfortunately, the fundraising losses in early 2020 forced the VVA Veteran” to go virtual only. Thankfully, a reversal of our losses has enabled our award-winning newspaper to go back to limited print editions. Hopefully, as our fundraising returns, the VVA Veteran can fully return to pre-COVID levels. We thank our peerless staff for continuing to produce a wonderful and informative paper through these trying times.  

 

Our Membership Department with guidance from the Membership Affairs Committee has persevered through changes in consultants, staff, technology, and structure.

 

The Finance Department, the Administration Department, the IT staff, and our Household Goods Program also keep our organization running efficiently. I want to thank all of them for their efforts.

 

The Veterans Benefits Department has also been dealing with the changes that have gone on in the VA as well as VVA. Thankfully, our Director, Ms. Felicia Mullaney, and all our staff are up to the task.

 

The Communications Department has brought us into the digital era with Facebook, Twitter, and other outlets, while getting our message out to the print and video media.

 

The Veterans Health Council Director, Col. Artie Shelton, MD (USA ret.) and his Deputy, Rebecca Patterson, MS. CPH, have represented VVA in various health forums during the pandemic.  Col. Shelton orders you to get the vaccine. We may need a booster soon.

 

I thank the members, chapters, and state councils for the hard work you do on behalf of our veterans and families. You make us look good and give us the authority to work on your behalf in Congress and the VA. I thank you for your support and hope you will allow me to continue to serve as your President.