As fall has now arrived and we begin to anticipate the weather turning cooler, a first reminder that Election Day is approaching and the registration deadline will soon be here (15 October). One of the ways veterans continue to serve their communities and nation is by voting and this election is very important for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I highly encourage everyone to ensure they are registered, informed of the candidates and the issues, and to vote on election day, Tuesday November 6th. On Sunday of that same week we commemorate Veterans Day and I encourage you to attend one of our local ceremonies and take your friends and families, if possible. While you understand the importance of this day, many do not. More information on local events will be provided in upcoming updates.

In this update are articles on my visit to the Richmond Area Chapter of MOAA at their dinner meeting and Delegate Miyares selection as the MOAA Hampton Roads Chapter’s Legislator of the Year for Veterans Advocacy. There is also information on the President’s signing of the VA budget and its impact on veteran community care as well as an update on Burn Pit exposure. I have also included announcements on the transfer of the Department of Military Affairs and a VVFS workshop for couples whose relationships are impacted by their military service as well as an update on the V3 program.


RACMOAA Dinner

RACMOAA Leadership and USO representative Tricia Riggs with Speaker Cox

I was honored to be the guest speaker at the Richmond Area Chapter of MOAA’s September dinner meeting. I discussed 2018 veteran related legislation and also some of the challenges expected in the 2019 session. I also had the opportunity to discuss with their members other issues of interest to veterans and assist in the recognition of the USO and all that they do for our veterans.


President signs largest VA budget

On 21 September President Trump signed the first appropriations bill of the year. The over $200 billion package includes full year appropriations for VA to start implementation of VA MISSION Act of 2018, streamlines the process for appealing decisions on benefit claims, reduces the rate of suicide among veterans, and modernizes the VA’s electronic health care record.

The VA will receive its full budget for FY 2019 and partial advance funding for FY 2020 to assure continuity of veterans’ health and disability, education, survivors, memorial and other benefit payments between fiscal years.


Governor transfers Department of Military Affairs

Governor Northam recently signed Executive Order Twenty transferring oversight of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) from the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security to the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs.

“This transfer is a long-planned result of the creation of the Veterans and Defense Affairs Secretariat,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “The Public Safety and Homeland Security Secretariat will continue to maintain authority over the Virginia National Guard in times of emergency. This transfer also recognizes the National Guard’s day-to-day working relationship with the United States Department of Defense and the Veterans and Defense Affairs Secretariat.”

“Aligning the Department of Military Affairs under Veterans and Defense Affairs will allow for more streamlined communications with our federal defense partners and better allocation of defense resources for the Virginia National Guard,” said Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins.

The alignment of DMA under the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs will not reduce DMA’s support for the Commonwealth’s emergency management operations, but will change administrative oversight of the agency. Realignment is also consistent with the General Assembly’s intent in having the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs serve as the Governor’s defense liaison in support of military activities within the Commonwealth.


Del. Jason Miyares – Legislator of the Year for Veterans Advocacy

The Hampton Roads Chapter of the Military Officers Association (MOAA) announced that Delegate Jason Miyares (Virginia Beach – 82nd District) was recognized as their 2018 Virginia Legislator of the Year for his tireless work advocating for veterans and their families.

Delegate Miyares stated, “I’m honored to be recognized by The Hampton Roads Military Officer Association for my work in the General Assembly to enhance the quality of life for all Virginian veterans.” “Working for more accountability, transparency, and affordability in veterans’ affairs is a challenge and one I look forward to continuing next Session.”

In November, Virginia voters will have the opportunity to ratify a constitutional amendment that Del Miyares served as chief patron for which provides real property tax exemption for the principal residence of the surviving spouse of disabled military veterans. You are encouraged to vote “Yes” on this amendment.


New ‘Tricare Retiree Dental Program’

FEDVIP replaces the Tricare Retiree Dental Program, which ends 31 December. In order to have dental and vision coverage on 1 January 2019, retirees must sign up during the enrollment period. Active duty families are still eligible for dental coverage under Tricare, but if they want the new vision coverage, they must sign up during the enrollment period.

The enrollment period for coverage under FEDVIP, is 12 November to 10 December, but the time to start comparisons is now. Rates and detailed program benefits along with a comparison tool are now available here.


Community Care

Now that the VA budget has been approved and the VA is working on implementation of the provisions of the VA MISSION Act of 2018, the VA is offering a variety of health care and services for Veterans through community health care providers and other partners outside of VA. Veterans may be eligible to receive care from a provider (doctor) in their community when VA cannot provide the care they need. This type of care is known as “community care,” and is provided on behalf of and paid for by VA.

These services are provided to Veterans based on certain conditions and eligibility requirements, and in consideration of a Veteran’s specific needs and circumstances. Although some changes have taken place with community care recently, Veterans continue to have access to this type of care. The process starts at your VA medical facility. For more information on eligibility for Community Care and how to receive it, click here.


Burn Pit Toxic Exposure

Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus recently urged Congress in an interview with Fox News to make good on its “sacred obligation” to support the growing number of veterans sickened by exposure to burn pits at U.S military bases abroad. “By and large, our country does an extraordinary amount for our veterans and for those who are serving in uniform, and for their families,” Petreaus, currently a board member for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), told Fox News. “But comparing what our VA does to any other country’s care of veterans…this is the gold standard. Certainly, a gold standard that can always improve, without question. This is an issue, though, where we have a sacred obligation, and we need to meet that obligation.” In a July IAVA Burn Pit Letter to Congress to Congress mentioned by Fox News and obtained by Task & Purpose, Petraeus called upon lawmakers to support the Burn Pits Accountability Act, legislation introduced in May that would direct the Department of Defense to include questions regarding burn pit exposure among U.S. service members health assessments. “If a service member reports being exposed, he or she will be enrolled in the Veterans Administration’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry,” wrote Petraeus of the 154,000-veteran strong VA database. “Over time, this will increase the quantity of data that the VA can evaluate, better enabling it to determine the effect of burn pit exposure and to identify the most effective treatment for those affected.” Claims arising from burn pit exposure claims are usually handled slowly and inconsistently by VA medical centers. Veterans’ advocates have for years urged the VA to define illnesses arising from burn pit exposure as presumptive service connected disabilities tied to the circumstances of a deployment. While the Pentagon and VA maintain that there is empirical evidence of correlation or causality between burn pit exposure and deadly respiratory illness among U.S. service members, a February ruling by an administrative court judge established an important precedent by detailing the connection between exposure and lung disease in a federal contractor. As the IAVA noted in June, better data means better evidence. “Although established in 2014, only 141,000 have completed the registry questionnaire out of the 3.5 million veterans the VA says are eligible to register,’’ legislative director Tom Porter testified in June. “Only 1.7 percent of the post-9/11 veterans eligible to register have done so, and only 35 percent of IAVA members exposed have.”


Governor Northam Recognizes Businesses for Commitment to Hiring Virginia Veterans

Governor Northam recently recognized businesses and government agencies for their ongoing commitment to creating employment opportunities for Virginia’s military veterans at the 2018 Virginia Workforce Conference, hosted by the Virginia Chamber Foundation.

Joined by Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins and Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services John L. Newby II the Governor presented a series of special achievement awards at the 6th Annual Virginia Values Veterans (V3) Awards Luncheon during the 2018 Virginia Workforce Conference.

he Virginia Values Veterans (V3) is a program of the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Veterans Services. Its mission is to help employers understand, design and implement nationally-recognized best practices in recruiting, hiring and training military veteran employees. For more information on this program, please visit www.dvsV3.com.

You can see a complete list of awards presented here.


VVFS Mission: Healthy Relationships

The Virginia Veteran and Family Support (VVFS) program is sponsoring a relationship workshop for committed couples experiencing relational stressors due to the impacts of their military service. This is a free but limited seating weekend enrichment workshop to be held 16-18 November at the Lansdowne Resort and Span in Leesburg, VA. For more information and to schedule and appointment for registration contact Leanna.Craig@dvs.virginia.gov or call 540-556-9112.


Military History Anniversaries

For those interested in Military History, items of interest for 1-15 October can be found here.


Sincerely,

Kirk Cox