Veterans: U.S. veterans organizations support embattled VA chief

Veterans: U.S. veterans organizations support embattled VA chief

The Westerly Sun

The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and leaders of other veterans organizations have rallied around VA Secretary David Shulkin in the wake of a travel controversy and reports of dissension in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Keith Harman, the VFW commander, praised the administration’s “host of successes” in its efforts to improve services for veterans and increase accountability in the VA, and criticized those in the department who “have become a cancer inside this administration.”  

On Tuesday, Shulkin said that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had assured him that he still had the trust of President Trump — a message that was repeated that day by the president's press secretary.

Harman said: “I now call on President Trump to clean house of these distractors. We need a fully functioning VA, not distractions or self-inflicted headlines.” His statement followed a report by the VA’s inspector general that Shulkin’s top aide had falsely represented that he was receiving an award in Denmark in July, in order to justify free travel for Shulkin’s wife. The aide retired on Feb. 16.. 

R.I. Legislation 

Two veterans’ bills have been introduced in the House.  House Bill 7656 would increase the exemption for retirement income from state income tax from $15,000 to $20,000 beginning in 2019. The bill has been referred to the House Finance Committee. 

House Bill No. 7667, sponsored in part by Rep. Samuel Azzinaro, D-Westerly, would create an instant ticket scratch off game pilot program to raise funds for Rhode Island veterans and dependents of qualified service members. The bill has been referred to House Finance. 

On March 28, the second annual Military and Veterans Outreach Day will be held at the Statehouse by the House of Representatives. All veterans and their families are invited to this event. Statehouse tours will be offered from 2 to 4 p.m. and resource tables from veterans support organizations will share information about benefits and services.

This is your opportunity to connect with military members and veterans statewide. The first such event was held last June and was organized by Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson, D-Warwick, a Navy veteran. For more information about this year’s Outreach Day, contact Vella-Wilkinson, at 401-952-7340.

Women Veterans

Meetings devoted to benefits for women veterans will be held at the Rhode Island Veterans Center, 2038 Warwick Ave., Warwick, on Thursday, March 15, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and on Saturday, March 17, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For information call 401-223-3651. 

Salute to Veterans

More than two dozen veterans gathered at Federico Gym at Westerly High School on Jan. 16 to support WHS student David Tiedemann’s senior project. The veterans were introduced before the varsity basketball game and joined the two teams at half court for the playing of the National Anthem.

Donations from that evening supported Operation Stand Down Rhode Island, which assists military members and their families with housing, food, clothing and employment services. “It was an honor to have been part of this event. Knowing that young men like David are here gives us hope for a better future for America. Thank you, David, for being the outstanding young man you are,” said veteran Raymond Blanda Sr.

Voice of Democracy

Since 1947, the Voice of Democracy has been the VFW’s premier scholarship program. Each year, nearly 40,000 high school students compete for more than $2 million in scholarships and incentives. Students compete by writing and recording an audio essay on an annual patriotic theme.

The Post 8955 winners for this year were Marissa Berardo – First Place; Aaron Tallardy – Second; and Kyle Cioffi – Third. The Westerly High School students presented their essays and received their awards at our February meeting.

We are very proud to announce that Marissa was also named the Department of Rhode Island winner. She will travel to Washington, D.C., to compete for the national scholarship of $30,000 as part of the 2018 VFW Legislative Conference. She will be escorted by Cmdr. William Siano, Post 8955 and state VFW commander.

Project Outreach

This service is available to all veterans and their families who are in need of information regarding the numerous resources/agencies that are available. Our outreach officer is ready to meet with you the first Wednesday and third Monday of each month from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Post Home. Appointments are not needed to meet with the service officer, Walter Kimball; 401-596-0470.

The VFW welcomes all who meet our eligibility criteria. If you have received a campaign medal for overseas service; have served 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days in Korea; or have ever received hostile fire or imminent danger pay, then you are eligible to join our ranks.

New members are welcome to attend our next monthly meeting, at 6:30 p.m. March 7 at our Post Home, 113 Beach St., Westerly. Meetings are the first Wednesday of each month. If you know of a comrade or family of comrade in distress please contact Comrade Dora Vasquez-Hellner, 401-212-6377, for assistance.

This week in military history: In 1944, Maj. Gen. Frank Merrill’s guerrilla force, nicknamed Merrill’s Marauders, begin a campaign in northern Burma.

The unit, whose purpose was to engage in a “long-range penetration mission” in Japanese-occupied Burma, was authorized by Roosevelt and Churchil in August 1942.





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