Washington DC, March 21, 2012

MOPH National Commander Testifies on Veteran Priorities for 2012

On March 21, 2011, Bill Hutton, National Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, testified before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Committees on Veteran’s Affairs on the priority veteran issues that the organization believes the Congress needs to address in the 112th Session of Congress.

National Commander Hutton Testifies Before Congress

In his opening remarks, Commander Hutton thanked the respective Committee Chairmen for their continuing efforts on behalf of America’s Veterans and the many accomplishments achieved during the 111th Legislative Session. However, Hutton made clear that much remains to be done to support of our military men and women who have served and continue to serve in harm’s way. MOPH believes, without equivocation, that upon their return home these veterans deserve the best health care available and the timely processing of claims for any benefits earned by their service.” According to Commander Hutton, “MOPH’S priorities for the Second Session of 112th Congress include:

TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI): MOPH notes that the signature wound of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is TBI. These injuries change the lives of victims and the lives of their loved ones forever. While none of us can change this horrific episode in their lives, we can insist and ensure that they receive the best possible medical care that is available. MOPH supports S. 957 and H.R. 1855, the “Veterans Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitative Services Improvements Act Of 2011.”

POST TRAUMATIC STRESS (PTS): After ten years of war and multiple combat deployments, many military members are suffering the effects of PTS. Suicide and attempted suicide rates continue to be of concern among our military including Guard, Reserves and Veterans in spite of the many efforts by DoD, the VA and others in the medical profession. PTS also affects the member or veteran’s family as well and is one of the significant contributing causes of suicide, homelessness, substance abuse and acts of violence including domestic violence, sexual assaults and unemployment. MOPH especially urges Congress to provide necessary funding to ensure that additional medical and mental health specialists are available at DoD and VA facilities to provide service to veterans suffering from PTS.

VA CLAIMS BACKLOG: MOPH and other VSOS have testified on these issues for many years. The Veterans Committees have held many hearings concerning the delay and accuracy of processing VA benefits claims, and Secretary Shinseki has placed the reduction of the time required to process a claim as one of his top priorities. MOPH urges Congress to ensure that VA has sufficient funding to continue to update information technology systems, and to have qualified professionals process claims in a timely manner. It is also imperative that the VA concentrate on accuracy and gets it right the first time. Finally, the VA and DoD should once and for all perfect their partnership to immediately implement a truly seamless transition system.

ELIMINATION OF THE SURVIVOR BENEFIT PROGRAM (SBP) AND THE DEPENDENT INDEMINITY COMPENSATION (DIC) OFFSET: MOPH acknowledges that this issue has little visibility in Congress at this time of austere budget measures. However, all recognize that the dollar for dollar offset of SBP receipts by the amount of DIC receipts is wrong. The military member paid for SBP; just as we all do for an insurance policy to provide for the surviving spouse. DIC, which is administered by the VA, is paid when a military retiree dies of a service connected injury or a disability. MOPH was disappointed that a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, which would have corrected this onerous situation, did not become a part of the final legislation. MOPH will keep the offset issue on the radar screen as it affects many thousands of surviving spouses and at some point we are hopeful that justice will be done.

JOINT PRISONERS OF WAR, MISSING IN ACTION ACCOUNTING COMMAND (JPAC): Although not under the purview of the Veteran Committees, MOPH addresses it to you as members of Congress and American citizens. MOPH has an unwavering commitment to obtain the fullest possible accounting of all Americans still listed as missing in action and unaccounted for. Guaranteeing the return of fallen warriors from the many battlefields is a most sacred of missions; none of our members will rest until this mission has been fulfilled. As veterans we follow the adage that “we leave no soldier behind.” The fulfillment of this sacred mission is important not only to the families who seek closure but to our country. MOPH urges Congress to provide full funding for JPAC for as many years as it takes to complete the mission.

FUNDING FOR THE VA HEALTH CARE ADMINISTRATION (VHA): MOPH urges the Congress to ensure adequate funding to care for those veterans who are enrolled in the VHA system, especially as the number of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans requiring medical attention continues to increase. MOPH supports H.R. 3895, the “Protect VA Healthcare Act of 2012.” We agree that the healthcare of America’s veterans should not be subject to the sequestration provisions of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act. This country sends our men and women to war and we must recognize our responsibility to care for them when they return.

CONCURRENT RECEIPT: This is another one of those issues that is obviously wrong and an injustice, but given the current deficit and budget woes, may not be addressed by this congress. Nevertheless MOPH believes that all military retirees, regardless of VA disability rating, should be authorized to receive both their earned military retirement for their many years of dedicated service in uniform and the VA compensation, which is a benefit that they receive for being injured or diagnosed with an illness as a result of their military service.

VETERANS EMPLOYMENT: MOPH is pleased that Congress passed, and the President signed into law, The “Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011” to address the extremely high veteran unemployment rate. With the nation’s unemployment rate at 8.5 percent and the rate for veterans at 12 percent, MOPH urges Congress to ensure full implementation of this program.

TRICARE/MEDICARE: Many members of MOPH rely on these two programs for their health care. For retired military members, Tricare is an important benefit that was earned. MOPH urges Congress to take action to prevent the 27 percent cut in payments that will take effect on March 1 of this year, to medical providers who accept Tricare/Medicare patients. It is well known that many doctors are not accepting new patients or are opting out of the program altogether.

SERVICE DISABLED VETERAN OWNED SMALL BUSINESSES (SDVOSBs) AND VETERAN OWNED SMALL BUSINESSES (VOSBs): Through congressional efforts, Public Law (PL) 106-50 was signed into law in 1999 and Part 19, of the Federal Acquisition Regulations, gave Service Disabled Veterans the opportunity to be part of the Federal Government contracting arena as a designated group. As enacted, Public Law 106-50 established a SDVOSB procurement goal of 3 percent for all federal agencies and prime contractors. However, it was discovered that PL 106-50 did not allow for set aside procurements for SDVOSBs and thus, other mandates were created to establish lawful procurement vehicles to assist agencies in achieving the 3 percent goal. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) “Veterans First Program” is not operating in a manner that puts Veterans first and uses other procurement methods to bypass SDVOSBs and VOSBs. The MOPH urges that you insist that the VA adhere to Congressional intent and guarantee that veterans do come first in implementing the Veterans First Program.

The organization now known as the “Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. Inc.,” (MOPH) was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all combat wounded veterans and active duty men and women who have received the decoration. Chartered by the Congress, the MOPH is unique among veteran service organizations in that all its members were wounded in combat. 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, through veteran service, 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. Through the VAVS program, MOPH volunteers selflessly provide assistance to hospitalized veterans at VA medical facilities and state veterans homes.

For information contact:
MOPH National Legislative Director, Hershel Gober, (202) 550-2491, [email protected]
National Public Relations Director, John Bircher, 352-753-5535
Email: [email protected]

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College of the Ozarks Aquatics Department, in conjunction with the American Red Cross’ “Learn to Swim” program, will offer swim lessons from April 16-26, 2012, at the Howell W. Keeter Athletic Complex Natatorium.

Lessons are offered to children ages six months through 15 years. The “Parent and Child Aquatics” program, available to students six months to four years old, will begin at 5 p.m. nightly.

The “Learn to Swim” program, available for students ages 5 to 15, will be offered in two different sessions. The first session begins at 5:30 p.m. and the second begins at 6:15 p.m. Participants will be divided into groups based on ability, and each group will have its own instructor.

There are eight lessons in the program, and the registration fee per student is $60. Participants may register beginning Monday, March 26, by calling Associate Professor of Physical Education Bill Keeter at (417) 690-2567 or C of O Athletic Department at (417) 690-2565.

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Twelve College of the Ozarks students will embark with six Bataan Death March/Corregidor POW survivors and liberators and three descendants of survivors on an incredible journey to the Philippines April 3-13.

Seventy years ago this March and May, thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were taken as prisoners of war by the Japanese in the Philippines on Bataan and the island of Corregidor. They would become known as the “Ghost Soldiers,” nearly forgotten because of the raging war in the Pacific. These “Ghost Soldiers” endured unthinkable living conditions and inhumane treatment by the Japanese military.

It would take reports of the savage Bataan Death March to reach the U.S. mainland before the outrage spurred the U.S. military to save the “Ghost Soldiers.” Once the Americans heard how American soldiers were made to march 80 miles without food or water, shot upon stopping or resting, and ruthlessly beaten or bayoneted, special forces, following the invasion, were dispatched to liberate the POWs three years after they had been imprisoned.

Now, 70 years later, Philippine survivors Wayne Carringer (27th Bomb Group, U.S. Army Air Corps), Jim Collier (59th Coast Artillery, U.S. Army), Bob Ehrhart (4th Marine Regiment), Warren Jorgenson (4th Marine Regiment) and Bataan/Corregidor liberators Ed Night (43rd Infantry, U.S. Army) and Lawrence Nelson (1st Calvary, U.S. Army) will accompany College of the Ozarks students to significant sites. Among those, the contingent will visit Camp O’Donnell, the prison camp where some were held on Luzon, the Balanga location where Major General Edward King surrendered the “Battling Bastards of Bataan” and Mt. Samat for the Day of Valor 70th Anniversary ceremony.

Since June 2009, College of the Ozarks has been sending its students with WWII veterans to European and Pacific battle sites to learn about history from the men who lived it. The students are devoted to learning each veteran’s story, so that their legacy will live on, their sacrifices will not be forgotten.

During the trips, two or three students pair up with a veteran and document the trip by journaling, keeping up a group blog and recording the veterans stories, as well as significant moments on the trip, by using a flip-cam or digital voice recorder. Students report learning more during one of these two-week trips than they learned in 12 years of pre-college schooling. Moreover, they vow to pass on to their children what they learned.

This trip and others like it are about history and making history. Generational gaps are bridged, emotional wounds of the veterans healed, and what may have been a superficial patriotism transformed into unwavering love of country and our nation’s veterans.
Students are selected from a pool of applicants who submit essays defining their desire to learn from the veterans. The highly competitive process has produced student-veteran pairings who share not only experiences, but more importantly, a bond between two very different generations that is cherished by both.
The Patriotic Education Travel Program is funded completely by College of the Ozarks and generous donors, allowing students and veterans to travel at no personal cost. For more information about participation or support of the Patriotic Education Travel Program, please contact the Character Education Office at (417) 690-2242.

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