(BUSINESS WIRE)--Responding to President Obama’s call for all Americans to get more involved, America’s Wounded Warriors from across the country will converge on Washington, D.C. the second week of February, 2009 to meet with their Senators and Members of Congress. Their purpose will be to educate their Representatives on the issues of greatest importance to all Veterans, not just those who have been wounded in combat.
Coming by twos and threes from almost every State and Territory, Capitol Hill will be awash in a sea of color as some 100 members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart travel the halls of Congress, their distinctive blue blazers adorned with the medals they were awarded for defending our National freedoms. The most prominent of these will be the Purple Heart Medal worn on their lapel, the symbol of dedicated service to the country.
According to Hershel Gober, National Legislative Director for the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), “It is important that Members of Congress hear directly from their own MOPH constituents about issues of importance to Veterans in their respective states and nationally.“
This annual “March on the Hill” by MOPH produces real results for the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Veterans it serves. In 2008, for example, Congress passed legislation that recognizes the seriousness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but much remains to be done. Other legislation recognized the severity of the homeless Veteran problem, but significant improvements are still required in the way that the VA addresses the homeless issue.
This year, MOPH National Commander Jeff Roy has asked the Order’s Members to address five top priority issues with their Representatives in the Congress. Each of these issues is consistent with the President’s philosophy and direction for economic recovery:
1) Provide assured/advanced funding for the Department of Veteran Affairs Health Care Administration. 2008 was the first time in 22 years that the VA received its operating funds on time. Without timely funding, the VA cannot provide all the health care, hire new medical personnel, or fully operate the clinics and hospitals needed for our Veterans. MOPH was pleased when President Obama voiced support for advanced funding and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Shinseki has also urged Congress to set the VA funding a year in advance to minimize political pressures. MOPH Members will urge their Representatives to reform the VA’s Medical Care Appropriation to give it an advanced appropriation status.
2) Improve the VA claims process. The VA claims process is burdensome, extremely complex and often misunderstood, not only by Veterans, but many VA employees as well. The VA must invest more funds for training adjudicators and decision makers and, should hold them accountable for higher standards of accuracy. Congress still needs to focus on the claims process from beginning to end with a goal of eliminating or reducing delays caused by superfluous procedures, poor training and lack of accountability. Veterans should not have to wait for months or years for a final decision to be made on a completed and filed claim.
3) Fund research and treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We will ask Congress to fund continued VA research and treatment of PTSD and to direct the VA to expend the funds necessary to ensure that our military and Veterans receive the best possible treatment that our Government can provide. The issue of PTSD surfaced prior to Vietnam, while Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) have become more prominent in the current ongoing conflicts. Unlike our failure to recognize PTSD during Vietnam, we must not wait to recognize that TBI is a serious problem and must be dealt with immediately. Those afflicted with these conditions deserve the best care that a grateful Nation can provide.
4) Address further the homeless issue among Veterans and their families.
MOPH appreciates and applauds Congress for passing beneficial legislation for homeless Veterans and their families that increased funding of comprehensive service programs, authorized domiciliary services for homeless Veterans, enhanced the capacity of domiciliary care programs for female Veterans, and provided supportive services for very low-income Veteran’s families. It also addressed and provided more support for those Veterans who have substance abuse and mental health disorders “a principle factor leading to homelessness.”
MOPH believes it is imperative that we, as a Nation, continue to address the issue of calling our Veterans “homeless.” Instead, we declare “these Veterans who served in uniform have a home, and it is called AMERICA.” It is our Nation’s duty and obligation to honor their service and to provide them with every means at our disposal to help them reclaim their lives and be productive U. S. Citizens.
5) Allow concurrent receipt of military retired pay and VA disability compensation. Currently, only those Veterans rated 50 percent or higher and who are military retirees, may receive both their full military retirement and VA disability compensation. MOPH believes this to be a gross injustice. Nearly 550,000 disabled retirees with disabilities rated below 50 percent continue to pay their own disability compensation by sacrificing, dollar-for-dollar, their retirement pay. MOPH Members will urge their Representatives to support two recently introduced Bills, H.R. 303 “The Retired Pay Restoration Act” (Rep. Gus Bilirakis, FL-9), and H. R. 333 “Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act” (Rep. Jim Marshall, GA-8) which would correct this issue and recognize that all military retirees with disabilities deserve to receive their fully earned retired pay and VA compensation without financial penalty.
In addition to personal meetings on Capitol Hill, MOPH Members not able to travel to Washington, DC will call or write their Representatives in their District offices to press their case for Veteran’s issues.
The Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) is unique among all Veteran service organizations (VSO’s) in that its membership is comprised entirely of Veterans who were wounded in combat while serving their country. For this sacrifice, they were awarded the Purple Heart Medal.
With grants from the MOPH Service Foundation, the MOPH and its Ladies Auxiliary, promote Patriotism, Fraternalism, and the Preservation of America’s Military History. Most importantly, they provide comfort and assistance to all Veterans and their families, especially those requiring claims assistance with the VA, those who are homeless, and those requiring employment assistance.
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