Government Affairs Committee Update September/October 2021

BY PETE PETERSON, CHAIR

The upcoming National Convention is happening at the most critical point of VVA’s existence. The Convention will either develop the method and means for us to pass on our knowledge to new generations of veterans, or it will serve as the last call for our existence.

At the 2019 National Convention the membership received two briefings. Working Group I gave us the requirements and timetable for shutting down the organization. Working Group II let us know that it was feasible for us to morph into a new organization that blends the current VVA membership with younger veterans. Unfortunately, many members wanted to hold onto our name, while younger veterans were not interested in joining a 100-year-old-model veterans organization.

Meanwhile, the Veterans Benefits Committee was tasked with finding a means of ensuring the smooth transition of our current claimants into a new organization over several years. The committee is well on its way to making that happen. Most members, including chapter and state council presidents, are not aware of the significance of this task. They do not understand that once VVA takes the Power of Attorney for a veteran, we are legally bound to see that claim through till it is completed.

In many instances, a claim can take five to seven years to complete. If we miss an appeal date, we are liable and can be sued. We cannot just tell a veteran that we will no longer hold your Power of Attorney and you need to find someone else to do that for you. It is up to the veteran to decide whether or not he or she wants to find a new VSO to handle the claim. If the claim is in appeal status, it is the policy for all VSOs not to take the claim. When you take a claim that is in appeal status you are accepting another VSO’s work. It is like changing lawyers just before the jury decides the case.

If you want to know what that looks like, consider the situation the Military Order of the Purple Heart is in after closing its benefits program without warning. It is dealing with unanticipated issues that will cost quite a bit of money.

VVA chapter and state council presidents need to understand, and explain to the membership, that VVA is a corporation governed by laws—in this case, the laws of the state of New York. As a corporation, we must either obey those laws or pay a monetary price for not doing so.

The key to our survival is to ensure that the membership gets the correct information in order to make intelligent decisions based on facts, not hearsay. In order for this to happen chapter and state council presidents must do their homework, which entails reading the laws and asking questions about whatever they don’t understand.

VVA is going to go away whether we like it or not. The question is: What do we want to see happen before our demise? Will it be a smooth transition or will it be a haphazard fiasco? The choice depends upon our chapter and state council presidents. We hope that they will provide their members with the information that they need to make sound decisions. The ball is in their court, and we are waiting to see what decisions they make.

We will find out at the National Convention.

Take Action

Please join VVA in supporting S. 657, The Agent Orange in Thailand Act, introduced by Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and companion bill H.R. 2229, introduced by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), also entitled The Agent Orange in Thailand Act.

This legislation would modify the presumption of service connection for veterans who were exposed to herbicidal agents while serving in the armed forces in Thailand during the Vietnam era, and for other purposes, regardless of where on the base the veteran was located or what military job specialty the veteran performed.

They also would provide VA benefits to Vietnam War veterans who served on bases in Thailand between January 9, 1962, and June 30, 1976, and were exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides, which were widely used to remove foliage that provided cover for enemy forces.

Use this link below and send the prepared letter to your Members of Congress asking them to support S. 657 and H.R. 2269, the Agent Orange in Thailand Act, which would offer health care and compensation to those veterans who served in Thailand in all military locations.




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