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This page was last updated: October 23, 2018
This page was last updated: October 23, 2018

November &December 2018


President: Jim Stafford 970-243-3303
  1st VP: Bud Johnson 970-249-0891
2nd VP: Heinz Park (970) 930 2188 
Sec/Trea: Chuck Watkins 970-434-0868

Jr. PP: Rich Reno 970-241-5000
 Heinz Park (970) 930 2188 
Bill Buvinger (970) 263-9183
Chuck Watkins (970) 434-0868
Jim Stafford (970) 243-3303
Joe Bertram (970) 434-5358
Master-At-Arms: Joe Bertram (970) 434-5358
Chaplain: Rich Reno (970) 241-5000
Website: http://www.frabr244.homestead.com

President’s Message:

    ​Shipmates as we start the Fall season the Branch has several very important things coming up. Especially important is our duty to be sure we vote in the upcoming midterm election; so be sure you all are registered to vote and ensure your eligible family members and others are going to go to the polls and vote also as this is a very important time to do this. Also please communicate with your representatives and congressmen about those initiatives that are pending concerning our veterans and military issues. 
    To make our efforts more effective we need to recruit more members for our Branch and the FRA. For those who have not attended the Branch meetings, we would really like to have you participate and provide us with your ideas on how we can better serve our members and our Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. 
November will see the Branch participate in the local (Grand Junction) annual Veterans Day Parade with a float using the CWASDC trailer along with VFW Post 3981 participating as well. Come join us as we help recognize our fellow veterans!
    December we will be having our combined Thanksgiving Christmas dinner see details in this newsletter.
Yours in Protection Loyalty and Service 
Jim Stafford President FRA Branch 244 

Secretary Notes:
    Fall is upon us. We hope that you all had a safe and enjoyable summer, even though it was hot and dry.
    In late August our Branch was invited to participate in a "Vietnam Veteran's Memorial" celebration hosted by Mesa County.  Several of our Branch members attended and were presented a proclamation of appreciation from the Mesa County Commissioners.  We were allowed to set up a table for recruiting new members into the FRA.  Pictured below is Shipmates Watkins and Reno attending the table.

    Activities in the month of November include the Veteran’s Day Parade and the U.S. Marine Corps Birthday. We will meet at approximately the same place we have before, 8th and Rood, to decorate the float at 1300 (1:00 PM). The parade will kick-off at 1400 (2:00 PM) with the parade route going from 8th Street to Main Street and down Main to 3rd Street. We have invited the Grand Valley Quilts of Valor members to join us on the float. We will return to where we started to remove the decorations etc. Please wear your new white FRA shirt and black (dark) trousers and FRA hat. Or, if you can still wiggle your way in to your uniform wear it. Any suggestions on how to setup the sound system will be greatly appreciated.
    December will find us celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with a dinner at Mi Mexico Restaurant on 12 December at 1300 (1:00 PM). Bring your wife/significant other for a wonderful meal and fellowship.
Here is wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving and a Very Merry Christmas with family and friends.

​Yours in
Loyalty, Protection and Service
Chuck Watkins 

Chairman – Americanism-Patriotism Contest:
    I have distributed essay information to 6 different schools so far. I'm hoping for better participation this year. My wife and I just returned from our ships reunion in Savannah Georgia. I can say we had a great time, seeing old shipmates. Brought home a model of my ship, that is 48" long. See you all at next meeting. God Bless you all.
Richard Reno


Important Dates to Remember:
10 Nov U.S. Marine Corps 243rd Birthday
10 Nov Annual Veteran’s Day and Parade
13-14 Nov Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
22 Nov Thanksgiving Day
28 Nov Navy Chaplain Corps 243rd Birthday
7 Dec Japan Attacked Pearl Harbor 1941
8 Dec JAG Corps established 1967
10-24 Dec Evacuation of Hungnam
18 Dec Navy River Patrol Force, “Operation Game Warden” begins in Vietnam
21 Dec Congress created Navy Medal of Honor for Sailors and Marines
.25 Dec Christmas Day
31 Dec New Year’s Eve

Important Events:
10 Nov U.S. Marine Corps Birthday
10 Nov Annual Veteran’s Day and Parade
14 Nov Branch 244 Monthly Meeting
12 Dec Branch Dinner instead of monthly meeting

Branch 244 Shipmate Birthdays: A Happy Birthday to members who have a birthday in November or December– Shipmates Richard Hiatt, Marvin Hoover, Claire Veeech, Jack F. Harwood Jr., Lee Hessinger Douglas Yancey, Brian Bade, Ralph Bickel and Louis Drost.  Happy Birthday Shipmates.

Branch 244 Shipmate/s due to renew: Joe Bertram, Richard Hiatt, Timothy Johnson and Richard Reno..

Branch 244 Shipmate/s Membership Renewals: Gerald Rose, Chuck Watkins, Charles F. Johnson, Jr., and John Nelson.  Thank You shipmates for renewing your membership!

VA Slow in Providing Housing Benefits for Post-911 GI Bill Beneficiaries
    A recent media report from NBC News indicates that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is unable to pay housing benefits under the Post-911 GI Bill in a timely manner. Many student veterans did not get their housing stipends for September and October. The VA claims the problem currently stems from an IT problem caused by changes to the law when President Trump signed the Forever GI Act in 2017. New standards for calculating housing stipends were to be implemented on August 1, 2018, but it caused "severe critical errors" during testing that "resulted in incorrect payments," VA spokesman Terrence Hayes said in the NBC News interview.
    The agency claims that in some cases a few veterans have been paid too much but most have received too little or nothing at all. The VA is as late as two months on payments, forcing potentially thousands of former service members into financial difficulty. NBC News claims they spoke to 10 veterans who had to borrow money from family and/or take out loans to make housing payments. One frustrated student veteran said "You can count on us to serve, but we can't count on the VA to make a deadline."
VA Extends and Expands Contract with TriWest for Community Care
    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it has reached an agreement with TriWest Health Care Alliance (TriWest) on a one-year extension of its current coverage of the Patient-Centered Community Care (PC3) and Veterans Choice Program (VCP).
    The department also announced it has reached an agreement with TriWest that will expand TriWest's services to all regions across the country under this program. 
    The expansion of TriWest's role will ensure access to community care where needed until the next generation of community care contracts are awarded and implemented.
    "TriWest has worked collaboratively with the VA from the start of the Veterans Choice Program to address implementation challenges and to improve the program to better serve Veterans," said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. "Extending the time and reach of our partnership with TriWest will ensure Veterans get the care they need while the department transitions to delivering care under the MISSION Act next year."
    Separately, the department has reached an agreement with Health Net Federal Services (HNFS) on the PC3 and VCP closeout plan and associated contract modification. Under this modification, VA and HNFS will continue to partner to ensure a seamless transition of care and services, so Veterans continue to get the care they need. 
    Finally, the VA has extended its current dialysis contracts for six months with multiple partners, until March 31, 2019. The VA will issue a Request for Proposal in October 2018 for the replacement contracts, with ultimate contract awards anticipated in the Spring of 2019.
CFPB Provides Service Members a Website for Financial Assistance 
    The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, Office of Service Members Affairs recently launched a new website to assist service members in different financial stages. It is an interactive, story driven learning tool titled "Misadventures in Money Management." Currently the stages that one can choose from include active duty, those in the delayed entry program and those in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. CFPB is also developing story lines for service member families and civilians. These story lines will vary from something as basic as establishing a line of credit to the more extreme, being responsible for saving mankind from a zombie apocalypse based upon their characters' financial decisions. The consequences of their decisions may be exaggerated but the lessons learned can be extremely valuable. To visit the website, go online.  
Happy Birthday Navy!!!!
    October 13, 2018, marks the 243rd anniversary of the United States Navy that traces its origins to the Continental Navy, established by the Continental Congress on 13 October 1775 to fight in America's war for independence. The Continental Navy numbered some 50 ships over the course of the war, with approximately 20 warships active at its maximum strength.
    The Constitution of the United States ratified in 1789, empowered Congress "to provide and maintain a navy." Acting on this authority, Congress ordered the construction and manning of six frigates in 1794, and the War Department administered naval affairs from that year until Congress established the Department of the Navy on 30 April 1798.
FRA Participates in Roundtable Discussion of Mandatory National Service
    Director of Legislative Policy John Davis participated in a roundtable discussion with the Commission on Military, National and Public Service. This Commission was created with a broad, aspirational mandate: to develop ideas that will foster a greater ethos of military, national and public service among Americans of all ages. The 11-member, bipartisan commission was created by Congress on September 19, 2017 and launched in January 2018. The commission plans to release an interim report in early 2019 that will be available to the public, Congress and the President. It will outline issues and summarize the commission's work to date. A final report will be published, complete with policy recommendations and legislative proposals, by March 2020. 
    FRA will continue to work with and monitor the work of the Commission. FRA will provide questions regarding mandatory service that will be included in FRA's annual online survey.  
President Appoints Four Additional Judges to VA's Board of Veterans' Appeals 
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that President Trump recently approved the appointment of four new Veterans Law Judges to VA's Board of Veterans' Appeals. 
    "Bringing on additional judges means the Board will be better staffed to conduct hearings and decide appeals properly in a timely manner," said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. "Combined with procedural changes under the Appeals Modernization and Improvement Act of 2017 (AMA) and the hiring of more than 200 additional board attorneys, this translates into better and faster service for veterans." 
    Veteran's law judges are presidential appointees and go through a thorough vetting process. After an initial screening, the chairman of the board recommends a list of candidates to the Secretary of the VA. If agreed to, the list of selectees is forwarded to the White House for final approval. Once approved, the selectees are notified by the chairman and officially sworn in. The following Veterans Law Judges assumed their roles October 14, 2018: Lauren Cryan, Evan Deichert, William Donnelly and Cynthia Skow. 
    In fiscal year 2018, the Board issued an historic 85,288 decisions to veterans—61.6 percent more than 2017. Expanding the roster of Veterans Law Judges will allow the Board to continue issuing more decisions for veterans, as VA prepares for full implementation of the AMA. This law transforms a complex appeals process into one that is simplified, timely and transparent by providing veterans with increased choice and control. The AMA was legislation supported by FRA and will go into effect on February 14, 2019. 
    For more information about the Board and its progress on appeals modernization, go online.
VA and DoD Leaders Commit to Aligned EHR System Rollout
    The Secretaries of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Defense (DoD) signed a joint statement pledging their two departments will align their plans, strategies and structures as they roll out a new Electronic Health Records (EHR) system that will allow the VA and DoD to seamlessly share patient data.  
    Signed by Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, the joint statement reinforces both departments' commitment to ensuring the successful transition. "The joint statement between DoD and VA represents tangible evidence of our commitment to change how we deliver veteran-focused, provider-friendly care," said Wilkie. "The new EHR system will be interoperable with DoD, while also improving VA's ability to collaborate and share information with community care providers. This will ease the burden on service members as they transition from military careers and will be supported by multiple medical providers throughout their lives."
    VA signed a contract with Cerner Corp. May 17 to replace VA's 40-year-old legacy Veterans Integrated System Technology Architecture (VistA) health care records technology over the next 10 years with the new Cerner system, which is in the pilot phase at DoD. Collaborating with DoD will ensure the VA: understands the challenges encountered as DoD deploys its EHR system called Military Health System Genesis (MHS GENESIS); adapts an approach by applying lessons learned to anticipate and mitigate known issues; assesses prospective efficiencies to help deploy faster; and delivers an EHR that is fully interoperable.
    "We are committed to partnering with the VA to support the lifetime care of our Service members, Veterans and their families," said Mattis. "This modern electronic health record will ensure those who serve our nation have quality health care as they transition from Service member to Veteran. "

    "The EHR will give health care providers a full picture of patient medical history, driving better clinical outcomes," said Wilkie. "It will also help us identify Veterans proactively who are at higher risk for issues, such as opioid addiction and suicide, so health care providers can intervene earlier and save lives." It has been a long-standing goal of FRA to support adequate funding for DoD and VA health care resource sharing in delivering seamless, cost effective, quality services to our wounded warriors.
Marine Receives MOH from President
    President Trump recently presented retired Marine Sergeant Major John Canley the Medal of Honor for his heroic service during the Vietnam conflict in the campaign to take back Hue City during the 1968 Tet offensive. When their commanding officer was seriously injured, Canley, the company gunnery sergeant at the time, took command and led his men through what would become one of the bloodiest battles during the Vietnam War. Canley repeatedly exposed himself to enemy machine gun fire to reach wounded Marines, while disregarding his own wounds.  
    Earlier this year, President Trump signed a bill (H.R.4641) sponsored by Rep. Julia Brownley (Calif.) that waived the five-year deadline for presenting the Medal of Honor, to allow Sergeant Major Canley to receive the MOH.

In Loyalty, Protection and Service
Chuck Watkins
BR 244 Secretary/Treasurer