NY Metro Vets- December 2006 Newsletter

December 1, 2006 | Other News, Things to Do


This Newsletter Includes the Following Articles:
· VA Appoints New Members to Committee on Women Veterans
· New York Blinded Veterans to Get 3.3% Annuity COLA
· AMVETS Veterans Symposium Report Released
· DD-214’s Now Online
· VA CLEP Reimbursement (College Credit Exams)
· Military College Credit
· Santa Claus Season Opens for NORAD
· Marines, Sailors Now Accepting “Toys for Tots”
· Discovery Times Channel Documentary
· VA CARES Update
· December Events
· My Final Thoughts

NEW MEMBERS APPOINTED TO ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON WOMEN VETERANS: Six new members have been appointed to the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), an expert panel that advises VA on issues and programs affecting women veterans.

Established in 1983, the advisory committee makes recommendations to the VA secretary for administrative and legislative changes. The committee members are appointed to one, two, or three-year terms.

The new committee members include Velma Hart, from Upper Marlboro, Md.; Marlene R. Kramel from Pineville, La.; The Honorable Mary Antoinette (Toni) Lawrie, from St. Petersburg, Fla.; The Honorable Brenda L. Moore, from Getzville, N.Y.; Celia R. Szelwach, from Bradenton, Fla.; and Joanna Truitt, from West River, Md.

Second only to elderly veterans, women veterans are the fastest growing segment of the veteran population. There are approximately 1.7 million women veterans. They comprise 7 percent of the total veteran population and nearly 5 percent of all veterans who use VA health care services. VA estimates that by 2020 women veterans will comprise 10 percent of the veteran population.

VA has women veterans’ program managers at VA medical centers and women veterans’ coordinators at VA regional offices to assist women veterans with health and benefits issues.

Membership VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans

* Shirley Ann Quarles, (Chair), McCormick, S.C. Colonel, Army Nurse Corps; currently a professor at Medical College of Georgia’s School of Nursing.

* Gwen M. Diehl, Taylorville, Ill. A retired Army sergeant first class; currently staff assistant to the deputy director for operations for the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

* Velma Hart, Upper Marlboro, Md. A former Army Reserve sergeant; currently national finance director/CFO for AMVETS.

* Kathleen Janoski, Pittsburgh, Penn. A retired Navy chief petty officer; currently working in private industry and active in several civic and military organizations.

* Marlene Kramel, Pineville, La. A former Army nurse with service in Vietnam; retired psychiatric nurse and women veterans program manager with the VA medical center in Alexandria, La.

* Mary Antoinette (Tonie) Lawrie, St. Petersburg, Fla. A former Air Force Nurse Corps captain with service in Vietnam; retired as coordinator of the women veterans health program at the VA medical center in Bay Pines. Former Commissioner for the State of Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.

* Pamela Luce, Shelbyville, Ky. A retired Army first sergeant; currently women veteran’s coordinator for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and benefits branch manager for the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs.

* Brenda Moore, Getzville, N.Y. Served in the Women’s Army Corps; currently a professor in the Department of Sociology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Former commissioner of the American Battle Monuments Commission and former member of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS).

* Jacqueline Morgan, Seattle, Wash. A retired Air Force Medical Corps colonel and retired physician.

* Lupe Saldana, Fairfax Station, Va. A Marine Corps veteran and retired from the federal government.

* Sara A. Sellers, Johnson City, Tenn. A retired Air Force master sergeant; former member of DACOWITS and former commissioner of The American Battle Monuments Commission.

* Celia Szelwach, Bradenton, Fla. Graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. A former Army captain; currently self-employed.

* Joanna Truitt, West River, Md. Served in several leadership positions in institutions of higher education; currently serves as the D.C. director of the American Legion Auxiliary.

* Virgil L. Walker, Oklahoma City, Okla. A veteran of the Oklahoma Air National Guard; currently employed in private industry. [Source: VA PR, 22 Nov 06]

NEW YORK BLINDED VETERANS TO GET 3.3% ANNUITY COLA: New York State Blind Annuitants will receive a 3.3-percent cost of living adjustment to the benefit in 2007, announced George P. Basher, director of the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs.
The monthly benefit for annuitants will rise from $89 to $91.94, according to Director Basher, who explained that the cost of living adjustment (COLA), by law, reflects the annual increase given for compensation and pension benefits administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The New York State Blind Annuity was established in 1913. Eligibility for the benefit requires the veteran to be a visually impaired resident of the state, who served in the military during wartime, and who was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

Under the law, legal blindness is defined as a vision impairment of 20/200 or less in the better eye with spectacle correction, or where there is a restriction of vision to an angle of 20 degrees or less.

Surviving spouses of deceased annuitants are eligible to continue receiving the benefit if they do not remarry and continue to reside in New York State. The Division of Veterans’ Affairs administers the annuity benefit, which serves more than 4,400 legally blind veterans and surviving spouses. The increase will be reflected in benefits paid in January 2007.
For the location of a local counseling office call toll-free 1-888-VETS NYS or check the Division’s web site at www.veterans.state.ny.us. [Source: NYDVA website, 27 Nov 06]

AMVETS VETERANS SYMPOSIUM REPORT RELEASED: Hundreds of veterans, active duty military, family members, government, business and educational leaders met in Chicago in October to discuss and recommend opportunities to improve America’s veteran’s benefits system. The results of the work completed at the National Symposium for the Needs of Young Veterans have been released in a report that is available at:

www.amvets.org/Assets/pdfs/Amvets_Symposium_Report_FINAL.pdf. [Source: Military.com, 20 Nov 06]

DD-214’s NOW ONLINE: The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) has provided the following website for veterans to gain access to their DD-214’s online:


This may be particularly helpful when a veteran needs a copy of his DD-214 for employment purposes. NPRC is working to make it easier for veterans with computers and Internet access to obtain copies of documents from their military files. Military veterans and the next of kin of deceased former military members may now use a new online military personnel records system to request documents. Other individuals with a need for documents must still complete the Standard Form 180, which can be downloaded from the online web site. Because the requester will be asked to supply all information essential for NPRC to process the request, delays that normally occur when NPRC has to ask veterans for additional information will be minimized. The new web-based application was designed to provide better service on these requests by eliminating the records center’s mailroom processing time. [Source: NPRC]

VA CLEP REIMBURSEMENT: Military veterans can now receive full reimbursement for CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) testing fees, thanks to a recently implemented law that enhances veterans’ educational benefits. The Veterans Administration will reimburse veterans for the $60 dollar CLEP examination fee as well as test-center administration fees. CLEP has been a critical part of the education services program for active-duty servicemembers since 1974. This new funding option provides continuity in benefits for those transitioning out of the military.

Nearly 3,000 colleges and universities grant credit or advanced standing based on CLEP exam performance. By earning satisfactory scores on CLEP exams, veterans earn college credit in subject areas they have already mastered as a result of training or independent learning. Earning credit by exam saves a significant amount of time as veterans avoid taking courses in subject areas for which they already have knowledge. Veterans earning credit can make the most of their GI Bill tuition benefit by applying those funds towards needed coursework.

The 90-minute CLEP exams are administered on computers at 1,300 college test centers across the country. Veterans will receive their scores immediately after the completion of the exam. CLEP exams are offered in 34 subjects ranging from English Composition to U.S. History, Spanish, and College Algebra. Since the program’s inception in 1967, more than 6 million CLEP exams have been taken. For more information about CLEP and the benefits available to veterans, visit: www.collegeboard/clepveterans. [Source: Military.com, 27 Nov 06]

MILITARY COLLEGE CREDIT: Thanks to the American Council on Education (ACE) you can take academic credit for most of the military training and experience you have received, including Basic Training (boot camp). In fact ACE has evaluated military schools, correspondence courses, and occupations to determine their value in academic credit since 1942. To learn how to apply ACE credits, visit: http://education.military.com/timesaving-programs/get-credit-you-deserve.

Remember: Some schools may choose not to recognize the ACE recommendations for ME credits, and may choose not to grant any credit for your military experience. That is why it is critical to shop around for the fully accredited school that will give you the credit you deserve. Most importantly, get started as soon as you can; the longer you delay, the further away your goals will be. [Source: Military.com, 27 Nov 06]

SANTA CLAUS SEASON OPENS FOR NORAD: The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has launched its annual tracking of Saint Nick on his journey around the globe. On November 19, 2006, NORAD’s website: www.noradsanta.org dedicated to the annual event was activated.

The site features interactive games as well as information describing how NORAD tracks Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve beginning at 0200 MST (0400 EST and 0900 Greenwich Mean Time) the site will feature a minute by minute update on Santa’s travels. All information will be available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. This is the 51st year NORAD has tracked Santa Claus.

The program began in 1955 after a child in Colorado Springs, Colo. Accidentally dialed NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command, and asked about Santa’s whereabouts. Last year the web site received more than 900 million hits from 204 countries and territories worldwide. [Source: Navy Times, 16 Nov 06]

MARINES, SAILORS NOW ACCEPTING DONATIONS FOR “TOYS FOR TOT’S: Marines and Sailors around the world are working together during the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) “Toys for Tots” 2006 campaign, underway from now until Dec. 18 in all 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. For more information, including finding your local Toys for Tots campaign office, visit the Toys for Tots Foundation website at: www.toysfortots.org. [Source: Military.com, 27 Nov 06]

DISCOVERY TIMES CHANNEL DOCUMENTARY: In November 2006, more than 50 veterans of the U.S. armed forces from around the country were vying for seats in Congress. At no other time in history have so many veterans run for national office at the same time. The award-winning filmmaking team of Brent and Craig Renaud (OFF TO WAR) follow five of these veterans as they criss-cross their districts asking constituents for their vote. TAKING THE HILL tells the story of a group of veterans, most with no prior political experience or aspirations, who have chosen political action as a means to further answer the call of service to their country. The two-hour world premiere of TAKING THE HILL will air on the Discovery Times Channel on December 12, 2006, at 9:00 PM ET/PT.

Beginning in February 2006, when U.S. Army veteran Mike Lyon brought together the veteran candidates in Washington, D.C., in a loose coalition called the Band of Brothers 2006, the Renaud brothers have followed the candidates as they travel throughout their home states: Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. Although most of the veterans considered themselves politically independent or in some cases Republican, during their active military careers, they have come together this year to run as Democrats.

From Eric Massa, a retired Navy commander in rural New York State; to Rick Bolanos, a Purple Heart recipient in Vietnam; to Tammy Duckworth, an Army captain who lost both her legs when a grenade hit her helicopter in Iraq, this documentary will follow the stories of these veterans as they head into their respective political battles.

Having spent much of their working lives in the military, these veterans do not have personal wealth to fund their campaigns, nor do they have the political connections it takes to easily raise the vast amounts of money necessary to compete politically at the national level.

TAKING THE HILL is about a group of outsiders fighting political battles and motivated by a desire to serve their country — not by going to war this time, but by going to Washington.

TAKING THE HILL is produced by Downtown Community Television (DCTV) for the Discovery Times Channel. Brent Renaud and Craig Renaud direct and produce for DCTV. Diana Sperrazza is executive producer for the Discovery Times Channel; Jon Alpert is executive producer for DCTV. {Source: George Weber, 29 Nov 06]

VA CARES UPDATE: As I posted on NYMetroVets last week, there seems to be a lot of discussion concerning the land re-use for St. Albans among the elected officials in the St. Alban’s area. For those of you who did not read the article, it is at:


From reading this article, coming across other articles and discussing it with people in the know, I can tell you that Congressman Meeks only had 15 people at this meeting with at least (only) one veteran. This is unacceptable! It seems that the city and the elected officials already have multiple plans for the property and yet the Local Advisory Panel (in September 2005) voted to limit reuse to veterans-related endeavors which would not include a public school.

I truly believe that the Mayor, Rep. Meeks and others are putting the cart before the horse. The LAP and the VA, along with the veterans community need to come up with what St. Albans will eventually become. I wonder if Rep. Meeks and the other elected officials who represent the area know that there is an outpatient substance-abuse treatment on the St. Albans campus. Does anyone believe it will be compatible with a school or community center?

What we know is that the fourth-round CARES hearing is supposed to take place sometime in late January but that it may be delayed because of what is going on behind the scenes between the Bloomberg administration, who is pushing for the school against others who favor assisted-living housing.

The bottom line is that if we veterans, especially those who live in the area do not stand up and voice what veterans want, the elected officials will get Secretary Nicholson to go along with what they want and we will lose everything. To the elected officials, including the Mayor – SLOW DOWN! Let the LAP do its job and lets figure out what we need FIRST – then come back to the community issues. Once again, the information for St. Albans is at:


I will keep you posted on any further developments and thanks again to Jerry Alperstein!

DECEMBER EVENTS IN NYC: The following is a list of events that are taking place throughout the five boro’s during the month of December. This list is not all inclusive and other events may be taking place throughout the city. Please pass this on to others.

December 5, 2006 – The Marine Corps Reserve Association (MCRA) Chapter 84: General Carl Day Chapter is having a Traditional Sardi’s Christmas-Chanukah Egg Nog Party from 7:15 PM until ??. The location is 234 West 44th Street. There will be a Cash Bar, Hors D’Oeuvres, Complimentary Egg Nog (Plain and Spiked). Please note that some members choose to have dinner in Sardi’s Dining Room afterwards. You can call Sardi’s for dinner reservations at (212) 727-4371. Mention that you are with us. For more information, please contact Alexander Pas at (917) 572-1560.

December 18, 2006 – The Manhattan Vet Center is hosting its Annual Holiday Party from 2 PM until 6 PM. There will be Food, Beverage and Music. All Veterans, Families and Friends are welcome! The Manhattan Vet Center is located at 32 Broadway, 2nd Floor, Suite 200.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Well, November has come and gone and what a month it was. I would like to add my congratulations to EVERYONE who received an award or recognition this past month (and there were many of you). I hope that you all had a wonderful Veterans Day and an even better Thanksgiving. Now, with the final month of the year upon us, let me be the first (I hope) to wish you all a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy Kwanzaa and a Merry Christmas.

I was looking at what I wrote last year and once again this year has been a roller coaster but while we have had some highs, we have taken a number of lows. We lost a number of individuals this year that were fighters for the veteran’s community and the community itself seems to be going through a sort of malaise. As I said last year, it really is (past) time for the veteran’s community to become more pro-active in what we want and expect from our local leaders. With our country at war and our servicemen and women coming home, there are many issues that need to be address and we are just not seeing the leadership that is urgently needed. It’s easy to give a speech and say “we support the troops” – it’s a lot harder to actually show that support.

As I started writing this piece, I thought about writing a sort of “state of the city” within the veteran’s community but I decided to leave that for another day. There is much to write and I will need time to complete that task.

So that’s it for now. As always, please pass on this newsletter to others. If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at: bjoe7@hotmail.com. So take care, please have a safe and wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year! Until next month…

Joseph Bello, NYC Veterans Advocate