Compiled by Frank Matranga

On Dec. 10, the Senate passed H.R. 6416, the Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016. H.R. 6416 now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

The bill contains legislation consistent with several of DAV’s national resolutions. Highlights of the measure include provisions to:

Benefits

• Establish automatic entitlement to survivor benefit payments in certain cases;

• Streamline the Board of Veterans Appeals video hearing process; enhance the Veterans Benefit Administration’s contract medical examination process;

• Temporarily increase the number of judges presiding at Court of Appeals for Claims;

• Require continuous review of the Transition Goals Plans and Success (GPS) program, its workshops, training methodology, delivery of services, collection and analysis of course critiques and VSO involvement;

• Establish a three-year transition period for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses following the non-service-connected death of the service-disabled veteran owner, rated less than 100 percent;

• Express a sense of Congress that Oct. 5 be recognized annually as American Veteran Disabled for Life Day.

Health care

• Authorize advanced appropriations for VA’s Medical Community Care account;

• Improve access to standard immunizations for veterans;

• Provide priority services to Medal of Honor recipients within VA’s health care system;

• Establish procedures for mental health treatment for veterans who performed classified missions while on active duty;

• Provide examination and treatment by VA for emergency medical conditions and women in labor;

• Authorize several major VHA medical facility projects;

• Authorize research for descendant health conditions potentially related to veterans exposed to toxic substances during their service in the Armed Forces.

Homeless

• Expand the definition of “homeless veteran’ to authorize access to VA services and benefits to the group of veterans;

• Increase per diem payment rates for transitional housing assistance that later become permanent housing for homeless veterans;

• Establish a program to improve retention of housing by former formerly homeless veterans and veterans at risk of becoming homeless;

• Establish a National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans and Require VA to assess comprehensive service programs for homeless veterans.

We would like to thank every DAV member and supporter for their efforts over the past two years during the 114th Congress. Your work helped these legislative proposals become law and will benefit our nation’s injured and ill veterans and their families. Your participation in the 115th Congress will be equally important to ensure that DAV’s more significant and fundamental legislative proposals are brought to fruition. Work begins with the 115th Congress on January 3, 2017.

Source: David W. Riley, DAV National Commander

MIA update

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains of 12 Americans who had been missing in action from World War II and Korea.

Returning home for burial with full military honors are:

• Navy Seaman 2nd Class Floyd F. Clifford

• Navy Fireman 3rd Class Kenneth L. Holm

• Navy Yeoman 3rd Class Edmund T. Ryan

• Navy Seaman 1st Class Harold W. Roesch

• Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Byron H. Nelson was a nose gunner aboard an American B-24G. During a bombing run near Varese, Italy, on April 25, 1944, Nelson’s aircraft and two others were separated from formation due to dense clouds and later attacked by German fighters. Of the 10 crewmen, six parachuted from the aircraft and escaped capture, two parachuted and were captured by German forces, and two perished in the crash. Nelson was reported to be one of the two who perished.

• Army Air Forces Capt. Albert L. Schlegel, of Cleveland Ohio, disappeared Aug. 28, 1944, while piloting his P-51D Mustang on a ground strafing mission near Strasbourg, France. In his final communication, the fighter “ace” radioed he’d been hit by heavy anti-aircraft fire and would need to bail out.

• Army Cpl. Gerald I. Shepler was the lead scout on a reconnaissance patrol for Company K, 3rd Battalion, 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division near Hajoyang-ni, North Korea, when his patrol was ambushed by enemy forces. Shepler was unaccounted for after the mission, and the U.S. Army declared him deceased.

• Army Sgt. Homer R. Abney was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, when his unit was engaged in heavy fighting with Chinese forces on the road from Kunu-ri to Sunch’on, North Korea — later named “The Gauntlet.” After several days of fighting, his regiment declared Abney missing on Nov. 30, 1950.

• Army Cpl. James T. Mainhart served with Company I, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, part of the 31st Regimental Combat Team deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. The RCT was attacked by an overwhelming number of Chinese forces in late November, 1950. Mainhart was among 1,300 members of the RCT killed or captured in enemy territory. He was reported missing as of Nov. 30, 1950.

• Army Cpl. Edward Pool was reported missing in action on Nov. 30, 1950, while serving with 31st Heavy Mortar Company, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. His unit was part of the 31st Regimental Combat Team deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Pool could not be accounted for after several days of intense fighting.

• Army Cpl. Jules Hauterman was a medic with the Medical Platoon, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, attached to the 31st Regimental Combat Team deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. The RCT was attacked by an overwhelming number of Chinese forces in late November, 1950.

• Army Cpl. George A. Perreault was apart of Support Force 21, assigned to Headquarters Battery, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, near the Central Corridor in South Korea. While supporting Korean-led attacks on Chinese forces, they were caught in a massive Chinese counterattack on Feb. 11, 1951. Perreault was declared missing on Feb. 13, 1951.

Source: Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency

Our nation in mourning

These Veterans died on these dates:

• Alec ‘Al’ Zarek, 86, Feb. 10, 1930 — Dec. 9, 2016

A full military graveside service was performed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3154 Honor Guard for:

• Victor “Mario” Salas, 70, April 26, 1946 — Dec. 10, 2016. Salas served in the U.S. Army for two years including a tour in Vietnam. He was a life member of VFW Post 3154, American Legion Post 58 and Vietnam Veterans of America 391.

Frank Matranga, of Sonora, served in the U.S. Air Force for nearly 40 years and is a past commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3154, post commander of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 119 and is a life member of the American Legion Post 58. If you have veterans’ information, call him at 588-1926.

15980737