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NY Metro Vets- September 2006 Newsletter

September 19, 2006 | Other News, Things to Do

WELCOME BACK EDITION!

This Newsletter Includes the Following Articles:
– VA Keeps NY VA Hospitals Open (VA CARES)
– Message from NYU Medical Center (VA CARES)
– 2007 COLA Update
– NYS Gold Star Mother’s Day
– NYS Vietnam War Date Change
– NYS Health Dept. Vet Clearing House
– Guide for Parents of Deployed Soldiers
– Veterans & Servicemembers Rights Website
– 24 Year Agent Orange (AO) Study Ending
– American Legion/NY Mets Outing
– Broadway to Baghdad Fundraiser (VVA)
– Upcoming Events
– My Final Thoughts

VA KEEPS NY VA HOSPITALS OPEN: VA Secretary Nicholson announced that the VA will keep both the Manhattan and Brooklyn VA Medical Centers open and will make major renovations and improvements at the St. Albans VA center in Queens. There had been a 3-year analysis studying if the centers should be consolidated. The decision was based on both the convenience of the veteran’s and the VA’s desire to continue to retain its close ties with NYU’s Medical school and the Medical School of the State University of New York. The Secretary also said he wanted to personally thank the local advisory panels for the Manhattan/Brooklyn study and the St. Albans study, along with many others, including the New York Congressional delegation, veterans groups, city and state leaders, other stakeholders and VA employees which have guided the VA in these decisions [Source: TREA LegUp 18 Aug 06]

MESSAGE FROM NYU MEDICAL CENTER: The Committee to Save the Manhattan VA Hospital would like to thank all the Committee members, including our local veterans organizations/advocates, elected officials, community members, and volunteers who assisted with efforts to preserve the Manhattan VA Hospital! As you are aware, VA Secretary, James Nicholson, made his decision on August 11th to keep the Manhattan VA Hospital open. Your leadership and support were vital to this cause. All the best! – Gilda Ecroyd and Karen Acker, NYU.

2007 COLA UPDATE: In mid-August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the July 06 monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is used to calculate the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for military retired pay, VA disability compensation, survivor annuities, and Social Security. The CPI continued its upward trend, rising another 0.3% in July for a cumulative increase of 3.4% so far this fiscal year. Once again, a large share of the increase was due to a jump in energy prices. The July CPI-W contained a 3.1% increase in energy costs and a 1.8% increase in transportation costs, which influenced the increase in inflation. Last year, the CPI had risen 3.2% through the month of July and ended up the year at 4.1%. With inflation running slightly ahead of last year’s pace, it would seem likely that we will end this year in the same ballpark. [Source: MOAA LegUp 18 Aug 06]

NYS GOLD STAR MOTHER’S DAY:
On July 1, 2006, Governor George E. Pataki announced that he signed legislation into law that designates the last Sunday in September as “Gold Star Mother’s Day” honoring New York mothers who have lost a son or daughter during wars and armed conflicts or while in service to our country.

The American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., is a federally chartered, non-profit organization founded in 1929, shortly after World War I, by Mrs. Grace Darling Seibold and a group of mothers from Washington, D.C. for the purpose of perpetuating the ideals of American freedom and democracy for which their children had so gallantly fought and died. The organization was named after the Gold Star that families traditionally hung in their windows in honor of a deceased member of the U.S. Armed Services.

Today, there are more than 200 chapters of American Gold Star Mothers across the United States composed of mothers who have lost a son or daughter during past wars and armed conflicts, or while serving our country. New York State has a number of local chapters, including several in the Capital Region.

Under State law, a day of commemoration does not constitute a holiday or half-holiday, but instead is a day set aside in recognition and special honor of a person, persons, group ideal or goal. There are currently more than 20 days of commemoration in New York. The new law designating the last Sunday in September as “Gold Star Mothers’ Day” will take effect immediately. [Source: NYS DVA]

NYS VIETNAM WAR DATE CHANGE: Legislation changing the starting date of the Vietnam War has been signed into law by Governor George E. Pataki, extending New York State veterans benefits to veterans previously not eligible for them.

The new starting date for wartime service during the Vietnam War is February 28, 1961 with the ending date of the wartime period remaining as May 7, 1975. New York State had previously recognized Dec. 22, 1961 as the starting date.

Eligibility for many New York State veterans’ benefits requires the veteran to have served during a defined period of war or hostility. Expanding the wartime period by nearly 10 months will offer eligibility to those who served on active duty at some point during that previously unrecognized wartime period for such benefits as real property tax exemption and Civil Service credits for appointment to competitive positions.

For federal benefits administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Vietnam War time period is generally August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975. The VA, however, does offer certain benefits to those who served “in country” beginning on February 28, 1961. [Source: NYS DVA]

NYS HEALTH DEPT. VET CLEARING HOUSE:
The New York State Department of Health has established a Veterans Health Information Clearing House to provide a list of resources for veterans and their families seeking health care information. The Clearing House also provides resources for health care providers. This Clearing House provides links and phone numbers for a wide variety of federal, state and other health care resources that may be of assistance to veterans and providers seeking information on illnesses that may be service connected and facilities that may be able to provide health care services. There are also resources listed that can assist veterans seeking information about their eligibility for veteran’s benefits. The sites web address is: http://www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/veterans/index.htm [Source: NY State Health Department]

GUIDE FOR PARENTS OF DEPLOYED SOLDIERS: If you have a child or know of a family who has a son or daughter about to deploy overseas, please take a look at this 64-page manual available on the internet at: www.ausa.org/pdfdocs/yoursoldier.pdf. “Your Soldier, Your Army: A Parents Guide” was written by Vicki Cody, wife of Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody and mother of two sons who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. [Source: Nassau County VSA]

VETERANS & SERVICE MEMBERS RIGHTS WEBSITE: U.S .Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez announced on August 14 the launch of a new website designed to safeguard the civilian employment rights, voting rights and financial security of members of the Armed Services and Veterans. The web site: www.servicemembers.gov is a partnership between the Justice Department and other federal agencies that oversee these protections.

The web site offers information and resources about the rights service members and veterans have under the Uniform Service Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, the Uniform and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act and the Service Members Civil Relief Act. The site will serve as a “one stop shop” for servicemembers and veterans and will provide useful information and links to services provided by the Justice Department and other federal agencies. The site also answers commonly asked questions involving rights and protections. The site also provides contact information and directions to file complaints with the Justice Department and other federal agencies, which will investigate and prosecute possible civil rights violations. [Source: US Newswire, 14 Aug 06]

24 YEAR AGENT ORANGE STUDY ENDING: Government health advisers debated what should be done with data and other material generated by a 24-year federal study of the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange.

The study involving thousands of Air Force veterans who served during the Vietnam War is set to end at the end of September, at least partially closing another chapter on the war.

Congress has designated the Medical Follow-up Agency, an agency of the independent Institute of Medicine, as the future custodian of the study material. Legislation authorizing the transfer is pending in the House and Senate.

The ”Ranch Hand” study, named for the Agent Orange spraying operation in Vietnam, ends Sept. 30. It has found elevated risk for diabetes among ”Ranch Handers,” but no clear link to cancer. The study included about 3,000 people — 1,000 ”Ranch Handers” along with 2,000 other Air Force personnel who were not involved in the spraying of the defoliant Agent Orange.

The U.S. military sprayed some 11 million gallons of the defoliant over the jungles of southern and central Vietnam to expose enemy supply lines, sanctuaries and bases from 1962 to 1971. Airmen were exposed to Agent Orange during spraying flights, while loading the chemical onto the aircraft and while performing maintenance on the aircraft and the equipment for spraying.

Agent Orange contains dioxin, a cancer-causing by product that has been linked to medical ailments in both U.S. war veterans and their Vietnamese counterparts. A report earlier this year by the Institute of Medicine stressed the future research of the study data and biological specimens to researchers and scientists. Besides the Medical Follow-up Agency, that report also suggested research institutions in Boston and Seattle as possible custodians of the material. [Source: AP, 7 Sept 06]

POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY: In every generation, members of our Armed Forces have answered the call of service in our Nation’s hour of need. These patriots have defended our freedom and way of life, triumphed over brutal enemies, and answered the prayers of millions. On September 15, 2006 we honor the Americans who have been prisoners of war and recognize them for enduring unimaginable hardships while serving in military conflicts around the globe. We also remember those who remain unaccounted for and ask for God’s special blessing on their families. Our Nation will not forget these heroes, and we will not stop searching for our service members who are missing in action. For more information on POW/MIA Recognition Day, please visit: http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/powday/index.htm.

AMERICAN LEGION NY METS OUTING: The American Legion will be having an outing at Shea Stadium on Sunday afternoon, September 10th as the NY Mets play the Los Angeles Dodgers starting at 1:15 PM.

Last year we had over 300 Legion, Auxiliary, and SAL members, their family and friends, join us for the game and a WWII 60th anniversary pre game tribute on the field. The Mets have again graciously invited us to provide a color guard and large American Flag presentation for this occasion. We hope on a Sunday afternoon to have Posts and County organizations from across the metropolitan area join us so that we can have 500 members of the American Legion family, their families and friends on hand. Post 50 is very pleased to learn that State Commander James Casey and Sons of American Legion Commander Albert Deichler both plan to join us for the event.

(If available) Individual tickets can be purchased online with orders credited to our group by visiting www.nymets.com. Go to Group Tickets and proceed to the Online Group Ticket Window.
Sign-in ID: LEGION (all caps) – Password: METS (all caps)

We invite our American Legion friends as well as members of other veteran’s groups from New York City, Long Island, NJ and CT to participate with us and enjoy the day as a group. Questions about individual tickets can be directed to Post 50’s Bob McLaughlin USMC at 914-738-5137 or Legion Post 50 Commander Phil Perrorazio at 914-813-0607.

The Mets expect a large crowd at Shea Stadium on September 10th; so if you are interested, act quickly! Thank you for all that you do for our veterans and our active duty servicemen and women.

BROADWAY TO BAGHDAD FUNDRAISER: Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is planning a huge HBO and Theater fundraiser in New York City on Tuesday, October 17, 2006.

The “Broadway to Baghdad” event is a live USO style show with special event performances, patriotic pageantry and an awards ceremony at HBO’s New York Studio Theater. At the conclusion, attendees will be escorted to the new Broadway musical “The Time’s, They Are A-Changin’,” based on Bob Dylan’s music and co-produced by the award winning choreographer Twyla Tharp (“Movin Out”)

This event is to raise funds for the VVA Service Officer Program. Please get behind this worthwhile program to help support the Service Officer Program. If you have any questions and/or would like more information, please contact Pat Gualtieri at (212) 693-1476 or e-mail him at PatUWVC@aol.com.

UPCOMING EVENTS: The following is a list of events that are taking place during the month of September/October. This list is not all inclusive and other events may be taking place throughout the city. Please pass on to others and if you have any events you would like posted, please get them to me.

September 11, 2006 - Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Center’s World Trade Center Healing Services invites all residents, workers, responders, school personnel and members of the community to join us for our Open House Day of Healing from 12 PM to 6 PM.

Our open house will serve as a drop-in center offering stress management services and counseling to restore calm and provide respite as we remember the day and continue to move forward, together. In addition to counseling, our Open House services will include ear acupuncture, chair massage, energy work, sound healing and hypnosis – all well established in the management of stress. Feel free to drop by for an informal chat, for refreshments, and to learn more about our additional ongoing services that are offered at no charge. We are located at 170 Broadway (Maiden Lane), Suite 1208. Take the A, C, J, M, Z, 2,3,4, and 5 to Broadway/Nassau/Fulton St. For more information, please call (212) 346-2582.

September 25, 2006 - The City Council’s Civil Service & Labor and Veterans Committee will be having a joint hearing in the Council Chambers – City Hall at 1 PM concerning Oversight – The Operation Enduring Freedom Extended Benefits Package. The topic will be: Res. 399 – A Resolution calling upon the Mayor of the City of New York to exclude the value of housing and food when calculating military pay pursuant to the Operation Enduring Freedom Extended Benefits Package.

October 1, 2006– Nam-Knights of America M/C Tri-Boro Chapter Five Boro Run – NYC Salute of Veterans: We invite you to join us in NYC’s largest police escorted Tri-borough motorcade honoring American Veterans of all wars. The Assembly Area will at Midland Beach in Staten Island starting at 9 AM. Departure time is 11 AM. There will intermediate stops at: The Borden Avenue Veterans Residence (BAVR), the Bronx VAMC and the USS Intrepid. The concluding ceremony honoring all Veterans and to show support for our troops will be at Manhattan’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza at 55 Water Street. Donations are gratefully accepted – attitudes are not! Helmets required by law! For more information contact: Joe “T” (718) 389-3962; e-mail: Tmannkmc@aol.com (Brooklyn & Staten Island); Tommy (917) 577-0292; e-mail: Tlove6869@aol.com (Bronx & Manhattan); Phil (718) 830-0733; e-mail: Sqd26@aol.com (Queens and Long Island).

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Well, with summer at an end I hope that everyone had a happy and safe summer. I once again did some traveling and had a wonderful time meeting new people and seeing some new things.

Looking back, the past 8 months have been like a wild roller coaster ride, with many highs and a few lows. As I had said at the beginning of the year, I believe that the time has come for the Veterans community to be more aggressive in what we want and expect from our local elected officials. I tried to do that by holding a Veteran’s Press Conference and Rally on the steps of City Hall in July after the Mayor and the City Council abandoned us in the city budget. As I continue to say, we have many issues here and we are not seeing the leadership that is urgently needed to address these issues.

Moving on, a few weeks ago I thanked several individuals who were instrumental in helping to save the Manhattan and Brooklyn VA Hospitals. I would also like to thank each and every one of you who took any action in helping to save the hospitals. Whether you signed a postcard, made a call, spoke to an elected official, testified, etc. you stood up and fought for something you believed in. So thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Lastly, if you have an event that you would like posted in the newsletter, please get it to me ASAP. My e-mail address is: bjoe7@hotmail.com and the NY Metro Vets site can be reached at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NYMetroVets/. As always, please pass this newsletter on to others and let me know what you think. I look forward to reading your e-mails. So take care and don’t forget that Primary Day is September 12th – make your vote count! Until next month….

Joseph A. Bello, NYC Veterans Advocate