As summer nears its end, I hope that you and your family – children, grandchildren, maybe great-grandchildren – have made many meaningful memories. Be sure to keep our service men and women in your thoughts and prayers, especially those currently serving abroad that were unable to spend the summer with their families.

In this update, I’d like to say farewell to Admiral Harvey, Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, and welcome his replacement, Carlos Hopkins. I would also like to highlight McGuire’s success with prostate treatment and some recent Congressional legislative actions, inform readers of some legal assistance opportunities and a relationship building course, and recognize Cessie Howell on her recent honor. I would also like to start publishing significant military anniversaries each Veteran Update for those interested in military history.

Farewell & Thanks Admiral Harvey

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Admiral John C. Harvey will be leaving his position as the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs effective 1 September. Admiral Harvey has been a strong advocate for active duty service members, veterans and their families during his service as Secretary. I have enjoyed working with him to expand veteran access to benefits, employment opportunities, education, and healthcare. Secretary Harvey has also worked diligently on veteran homelessness. He continued efforts to make Virginia the most veteran and military-friendly state by supporting legislation that accomplished all the Department of Defense State Liaison Office’s legislative goals for 2016 to improve the well-being of service members, veterans, and their families and he has been actively working to implement the 2017 goals. I very much appreciated his help and support for my bills to build Veteran Care Centers in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia. Admiral Harvey’s dedication and hard work for veterans will be missed.

Governor McAuliffe will be appointing his current Counsel, Carlos Hopkins, to the Secretary position effective with Admiral Harvey’s resignation to pursue a position as the Director of Strategy, Forces, and Resources Division of the Alexandria-based Institute of Defense Analysis. I look forward to working with Secretary designate Hopkins in continuing to make service members, veterans, and their families a priority within state government.

McGuire Leads Nation In Prostate Cancer Treatment

Thanks to the nationwide scope of the Veterans Health Administration, a national referral program has allowed Veterans from around the country to descend on the McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond for treatment of moderate to aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

Veterans from places like Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico and many other areas around the country have come to McGuire to take advantage of this innovative treatment. It’s only available in a handful of VA facilities, including McGuire.

Prostate cancer is the second-most common type of cancer among American men, who make up the largest population of Veterans. The most common form of treatment in most VA facilities is external beam radiation, a six to nine-week process that involves treatments five days a week.

At McGuire, brachytherapy offers a much better option for Veterans. Brachytherapy is a form of treatment that involves implanting radiated seeds directly into the prostate, where the seeds attack and eliminate the cancerous cells.

Research has shown brachytherapy to be a more effective treatment for moderate to aggressive forms of prostate cancer. Additionally, the treatment is completed in one day, allowing Veterans to quickly get back to their regular lives.

Current National Legislative Actions

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Passage of Forever GI Bill (H.R 3218): Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have unanimously passed legislation to make major changes to education benefits for military veterans. Now all that’s left is for President Trump to sign it into law.

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2017 has garnered strong bipartisan support in Congress, where lawmakers have worked to fast-track the bill to the president’s desk. Senators passed the legislation by voice vote, less than three weeks after the Forever GI Bill, as it’s become known, was introduced in the House of Representatives.

The new GI Bill would bring significant changes to the current law passed in 2008. Among its most popular provisions are the elimination – for veterans who left the military in 2013 or later – of a 15-year use-or-lose rule, as well as the expansion of benefits for reservists, Purple Heart recipients and surviving dependents. It would also restore GI Bill benefits to veterans impacted by school closures since 2015 and allocate more funds for college degree programs in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

If the Forever GI Bill becomes law, some of the provisions would take effect Jan. 1, 2018. Others would start next August, and others – like granting active-duty service members eligibility for the Yellow Ribbon Program – would not apply for a few more years.

Veterans Choice: The Senate and House approved S. 114 which if signed by the President will fix the funding shortfall of the Choice Program, make urgently needed improvements to VA’s health care system, such as improving hiring and training for VA doctors, and authorize VA to enter into 28 leases for medical facilities.

Veteran Legal Assistance

Multiple programs are either now available or will be available in the near future to provide veterans with free legal services. The Attorney General has been holding periodic clinics across the state to provide free legal services to needy veterans (the next one is 25 October in Lynchburg–click for details) with regard to medical and financial powers of attorney and advance medical directives.

The Attorney General’s Office has also recently released a Military and Veteran Legal Resource Guide which can be obtained here. The 33-page guide covers areas of unique concern to active duty military, military families, and veterans, including:

  • Employment
    • Including the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), pension and deferred compensation payments during military leave, continuing healthcare, and leave for military spouses and other family members
  • Consumer Protections
    • Including the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) which limits interest rates on loans, limits sale, foreclosure and seizure of homes, restricts repossession and eviction, and allows for the termination of certain leases
  • Education
    • Including the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, re-enrollment rights at colleges and universities, and certain tuition discounts for service members, their families, and veterans.
  • Taxes
    • Including deductions and exemptions for certain military pay, extensions on filing, and tax relief for disabled veterans and surviving spouses.
  • Family Law
    • Including legal protections to ensure proceedings are fair to a service member who may be called away for service and issues surrounding child custody and visitation
  • Voting and Line of Duty Act
    • Including programs to ensure easy access to the ballot for deployed service members and state benefits available to certain service members killed or disabled in the line of duty.
  • Access to Legal Services
    • Including contact information for attorneys and other professionals to assist with benefits issues, criminal matters, family law, and estate planning.

Starting in October, local private attorneys in a collaboration with the Army Reserve will provide free legal services to veterans at McGuire VA Medical Center. Services provided will be similar to those of the AG’s office but in contrast to to the Attorney General’s program, there will be no income qualification for these services. However, veterans of means should consult their financial adviser concerning tax implications.

If interested contact Wendy today to reserve your place. She may be reached at 518-774-4509 or Lawyers4Vets2@gmail.com. A flyer on this program is available here.

Relationship Skills Course

The Virginia Veteran and Family Support (VVFS) Program is offering a relationship skills building course for military/veteran couples coping with the impact of deployment, military service, post traumatic stress, operational stress or traumatic brain injury at the Omni Richmond August 18th-August 20th. Full details may be found in the attached flyer.

To Register, or if you have questions, contact Martha Utley at Martha.Utley@dvs.virginia.gov or call 804-482-8523.

Cessie Howell Honored

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Cessie Howell was selected by the American Legion Auxiliary, Department (State) of Virginia, as the 2017 Outstanding Woman of Virginia.

She received this award from State President Sallie Rossman at the Annual State Convention held at Dulles Hilton Airport July 13-16. She was selected for this honor based on her devotion of many years for the preservation of Virginia’s history and community service to the Salvation Army, Stafford Junction, the American Cancer Society and other community services. She is the wife of Speaker of the House of Delegates William J Howell. This is the first time a woman of Virginia has been honored in this way since 2006.

Military History Anniversaries

For those interested in military history future Veteran Updates will contain a link to military historical events around the date of the update if available and if readers like the idea. Items of historical interest for 1-15 August can be found here.

 

In closing, you can contact me at my district office by emailing delkcox@house.virginia.gov or by calling 804-526-5135, by US mail – PO Box 1205, Colonial Heights, VA 23834 – or by stopping by my Colonial Heights office at 250B East Ellerslie Avenue. I appreciate your views on legislation that will help me do a better job for the people I represent.

Please visit my Facebook page and my Twitter page. These pages, along with my website, have information/links to the 2017 General Assembly Session to include my 44 pieces of legislation, visitors’ photos, my legislative survey, videos of floor remarks, and related topics.

Please forward this Update to your fellow veteran friends and neighbors.