VA Urges National and Local Partners to Act Now to End Veteran Homelessness

Robert A. McDonald, Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Secretary. (File Photo/Custer Free Press

VA Urges National and Local Partners to Act Now to End Veteran Homelessness

Secretary announces 30-day effort to prioritize available resources to support and house homeless Veterans

January 5, 2017

WASHINGTON – Robert A. McDonald, Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Secretary today announced a concentrated 30-day effort by VA staff and partners to house as many homeless Veterans in their communities as possible. To accomplish this, Secretary McDonald charged VA’s network of federal, local and nongovernmental partners to target available housing and supportive services to the nation’s most vulnerable Veterans.
Secretary McDonald made the announcement from Los Angeles, the city with the most homeless Veterans last year, during a forum with community leaders. Since 2010, ongoing efforts to assist Veterans who lack stable housing have resulted in a 47-percent reduction in homelessness among Veterans. Between 2015 and 2016 alone, Veteran homelessness decreased by 17 percent – four times the previous year’s decline. While these statistics indicate that the efforts of VA and its partners are producing successful outcomes for many Veterans, more must be done to accelerate progress.

“We have made significant progress in dramatically reducing homelessness among Veterans in recent years, but we know there is more to be done,” Secretary McDonald said. “For the next 30-days – during a time of year when temperatures in many parts of the country can become dangerously cold – I challenge VA and all of our partners to strategically target available resources to help our nation’s homeless Veterans. Together, we can find where the needs are greatest among Veterans in each community and ensure that every Veteran has access to safe, permanent housing.”

The 30-day surge comes from a best practice Secretary McDonald observed in Tampa, Florida, where local housing officials hosted a one-day event to find homes for as many homeless Veterans as they could. Tampa officials called this Operation Reveille, referencing the French term for a bugle call to action. VA officials have adopted the term.

Operation Reveille builds on the all-in, surge concept VA uses during its homeless stand downs, which provide homeless Veterans with a one-stop shop for medical care, support services and needed clothing and toiletries. For a list of when VA medical centers are holding stand downs, click here.

From prioritizing unsheltered Veterans for immediate placement into safe housing, to organizing homeless stand downs and rapid rehousing events in their communities, there are many actions VA staff and partners can take to help Veterans quickly exit homelessness.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) remains committed to the goal of ending Veteran homelessness. Homelessness among Veterans continues to decline, with unprecedented investments and partnerships with federal, state, local and non-governmental partners leading to a 47% decrease in the number of homeless Veterans since 2010. Secretary Robert McDonald has charged VA to accelerate efforts to end Veteran homeless. We believe that with focused effort, we can continue the steep decline in the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness. There is a short window of opportunity, and we seek to engage all of our federal, state and local partners to rally around the goal to end Veteran homelessness. The 2017 Point-inTime counts will take place at the end of January, 2017. We propose the following targeted strategies for use by communities to accelerate their progress in ending Veteran homelessness.

1. Permanent Housing: Our goal is to increase the number of Veterans moving from the streets into permanent housing over the next 60 days. Specific strategies include:
 Fully utilize all HUD-VASH vouchers through enhanced VAMC and PHA processes.
 Ensure that project-based housing units for Veterans are filled.
 Increase the rate of permanent housing placements from VA’s HCHV Contract Residential Services and GPD programs.
 Maximize the rate of rapid re-housing in the SSVF Program.

2. The Right Services at the Right Time: Our goal is to take unsheltered and chronically homeless Veterans off the streets, and ensure that those who do enter the homeless response systems in our communities need that level of service. Specific strategies include:
 Ensure that Veterans are appropriately targeted for HUD-VASH.
 Prioritizing unsheltered Veterans for immediate placement into safe housing.
 Target VA’s residential services only for those Veterans who are literally homeless or at imminent risk.

3. Maximize VA Resources: VA is committed to ensuring staffing and bed resources are available to support this effort. These strategies include:
 Ramp up VA staff to support this effort.
 Ensure full utilization of residential program beds.

4. Community Engagement: Partnerships are critical to continued success. Strategies include:
 Engage landlords and developers in targeting units to Veterans.
 Engage Community Veteran Engagement Boards.
 Participate in Operation Reveille, taking Veterans off the streets immediately.
 Plan and Participate in PIT counts to ensure that Veterans are accurately identified and housed rapidly upon identification.

To learn more about VA programs and services that support homeless and at-risk Veterans, visit A fact sheet on VA’s work to end Veteran homelessness is available here. A fact sheet on VA’s work to end Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles is here.


42 Medal of Honor Recipients Will Attend Veterans Inaugural Ball – Salute to Heroes

Medal of Honor

WASHINGTON – The American Legion and the Veterans Inaugural Committee will pay tribute to 42 Medal of Honor recipients and newly sworn in President Donald Trump during the Veterans Inaugural Ball – Salute to Heroes on January 20, 2017. The evening will feature a special performance by Rascal Flatts lead vocalist Gary LeVox, joined by songwriters Neil Thrasher and Wendell Mobley, presented by Songs for Sound.

“The Price is Right” host and comedian Drew Carey, who served in the Marine Corps Reserves, will emcee the event at the Renaissance Washington DC, Downtown Hotel. Since 1953, at the request of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Veterans Inaugural Ball – Salute to Heroes has provided an opportunity for the newly sworn in commander in chief to personally pay tribute to Medal of Honor recipients.

Guests at the Veterans Inaugural Ball will also include senior military officers, elected and government officials, celebrities, corporate citizens and other members of the Armed Forces. LeVox is participating in the evening’s events as part of his support of Songs for Sound, a supporter of The American Legion that works to enrich the lives of veterans through hearing loss detection and treatment.

“The American Legion is honored to lead the efforts for the Veterans Inaugural Ball – Salute to Heroes,” said Charles E. Schmidt, National Commander, The American Legion. “We are humbled to have 42 Medal of Honor recipients in attendance to celebrate the peaceful transition of governmental power on Inauguration Day. To have entertainers like Gary LeVox and Drew Carey is very exciting for everyone.”

American Airlines is the premier corporate sponsor for the event, joined by UPS which is sponsoring the dinner. The ball is hosted by The American Legion and organized by the Veterans Inaugural Committee. The committee is comprised of 15 congressionally chartered veterans service organizations including The American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Blinded Veterans Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the US, The Congressional Medal of Honor Society, AMVETS, The Retired Enlisted Association, Disabled American Veterans, Marine Corps League, Non Commissioned Officers Association, Reserve Officers Association, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, and American Ex-Prisoners of War. More information about the Veterans Inaugural Ball – Salute to Heroes can be found at

About The American Legion
With a current membership of 2.2 million wartime veterans, The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 13,000 posts across the nation.

VA Study Finds EEG Can Help Tell Apart PTSD & Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

December 20,2016

WASHINGTON – A recent VA study points to a possible breakthrough in differentiating between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), otherwise known as a concussion.

The two disorders often carry similar symptoms, such as irritability, restlessness, hypersensitivity to stimulation, memory loss, fatigue and dizziness. Scientists have tried to distinguish between mTBI and PTSD in hopes of improving treatment options for Veterans, but many symptom-based studies have been inconclusive because the chronic effects of the two conditions are so similar. If someone is rating high on an mTBI scale, for example, that person may also rate high for PTSD symptoms.

The researchers used electroencephalogram, or EEG, a test that measures electrical activity in the brain. The size and direction of the brain waves can signal abnormalities.

Analyzing a large set of EEGs given to military personnel from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the researchers saw patterns of activity at different locations on the scalp for mTBI and PTSD. They saw brain waves moving slowly in opposite directions, likely coming from separate places in the brain.

The researchers emphasize that these effects don’t pinpoint a region in the brain where the disorders differ. Rather, they show a pattern that distinguishes the disorders when the EEG results are averaged among a large group.

“When you’re looking at an EEG, you can’t easily tell where in the brain signals associated with TBI and PTSD are coming from,” said Laura Manning Franke, Ph.D., the study’s lead researcher and research psychologist at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia. “You get kind of a coarse measure – left, right, anterior, posterior. We had a different distribution, which suggests that different parts of the brain are involved. In order to determine what patterns are tracking their TBI and PTSD, you need an average to do that,” Franke added.

The study linked mTBI with increases in low-frequency waves, especially in the prefrontal and right temporal regions of the brain, and PTSD with decreases in low-frequency waves, notably in the right temporoparietal region.

The differences in the levels of the waves may explain some of the symptoms of the two disorders, suggesting a decline in responsiveness for someone with mTBI, for example, and more anxiety for someone with PTSD.

Franke also noted that more low-frequency power has also been linked to cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and less low-frequency power to problems such as drug addiction. Additionally, spotting distinct patterns of mTBI and PTSD in separate parts of the brain is key for two reasons: the possibility these conditions can be confused with each other is reduced. That can help improve diagnosis and treatment and the patterns show that electrical activity appears to be affected long after combat-related mTBI, suggesting long-term changes in neural communication, the signaling between cells in the nervous system. “That could help, in part, explain the reason for persistent problems.”

The study included 147 active-duty service members or Veterans who had been exposed to blasts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of those, 115 had mTBI, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of all traumatic brain injuries. Forty of the participants had PTSD, and 35 had both conditions.

Despite the new findings, Franke and her team believe more work is needed to better explain the differences in the patterns of both conditions in the brain’s electrical activity. Researchers need to analyze the differences in scans from larger numbers of patients.

Meanwhile, though, she said she hopes the research will play a role in helping medical professionals better diagnose someone’s condition through an individual EEG—whether that person has PTSD, a brain injury, or a combination of the two.

“That’s the holy grail,” said Franke. “We want to use the EEG to differentiate the problems, but also to predict recovery and be able to measure how people are doing in a more biological way than just measuring symptoms, although those are still relevant. But symptoms are also problematic because they’re influenced by so many things that aren’t the disease that we’re interested in.”

For more information about VA research on PTSD and TBI, visit Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. Information about Franke’s study may be found at the International Journal of Psychophysiology

VA Grants Full Practice Authority to Advance Practice Registered Nurses

VA Grants Full Practice Authority to Advance Practice Registered Nurses

Decision Follows Federal Register Notice That Netted More Than 200,000 Comments

December 14, 2016

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it is amending provider regulations to permit full practice authority to three roles of VA advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) to practice to the full extent of their education, training, and certification, regardless of State restrictions that limit such full practice authority, except for applicable State restrictions on the authority to prescribe and administer controlled substances, when such APRNs are acting within the scope of their VA employment.

“Advanced practice registered nurses are valuable members of VA’s health care system,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David J. Shulkin. “Amending this regulation increases our capacity to provide timely, efficient, effective and safe primary care, aids VA in making the most efficient use of APRN staff capabilities, and provides a degree of much needed experience to alleviate the current access challenges that are affecting VA.”

In May 2016, VA announced its intentions, through a proposed rule, to grant full practice authority to four APRN roles.  Though VA does have some localized issues, we do not have immediate and broad access challenges in the area of anesthesia care across the full VA health care system that require full practice authority for all Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs).  Therefore, VA will not finalize the provision including CRNAs in the final rule as one of the APRN roles that may be granted full practice authority at this time. VA will request comment on the question of whether there are current anesthesia care access issues for particular states or VA facilities and whether permitting CRNAs to practice to the full extent of their advanced authority would resolve these issues.

APRNs are clinicians with advanced degrees and training who provide primary, acute and specialty health care services; they complete masters, post-masters or doctoral degrees. There are four APRN roles: Certified Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, and Certified Nurse Midwife.

“CRNAs provide an invaluable service to our Veterans,” Under Secretary for Health Shulkin continued. “Though CRNAs will not be included in VA’s full practice authority under this final rule, we are requesting comments on whether there are access issues or other unconsidered circumstances that might warrant their inclusion in a future rulemaking.  In the meantime, we owe it to Veterans to increase access to care in areas where we know we have immediate and broad access challenges.”

All VA APRNs are required to obtain and maintain current national certification.

The final rulemaking establishes professional qualifications an individual must possess to be appointed as an APRN within VA, establishes the criteria under which VA may grant full practice authority to an APRN and defines the scope of full practice authority for each of the three roles of APRN. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists will not be included in VA’s full practice authority under this final rule.

VA is the nation’s largest employer of nurses; as of July 2016 its workforce of approximately 93,500 nurses (RNs, LPNs, NAs) includes approximately 5,769 APRNs

For more information about openings for nurses or other health care positions at VA, visit

VA Announces Funding Opportunity for Community Partners Working to End Veteran Homelessness

WASHINGTON – Building on President Obama’s commitment to end Veteran homelessness, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is announcing the availability of funding for non-profit organizations and other groups that serve Veterans through VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program.  The SSVF program assists very low-income Veteran families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.  These SSVF grants are available to current grantees seeking renewals and make new funding available for eight high-need communities.

VA relies on strong, targeted collaborations in key areas at federal and local levels and engages community partners to develop innovative and forward-thinking solutions that can lead to scalable and replicable models of service.  SSVF grantees currently operate in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam, working within their communities to end or prevent homelessness among Veteran families.

“One of the things you learn in the Army is you never leave a soldier behind,” said Secretary McDonald. “Unfortunately, we’ve left some people behind, and they’re our homeless Veterans.  VA is committed to achieving the goal of ending Veteran homelessness, and we won’t rest until every homeless Veteran has a place to call home.”

SSVF grantees typically serve Veterans with incomes below 30 percent of the area median income.  Grantees must follow the housing first approach, which centers on permanently housing homeless Veterans quickly without preconditions and providing supportive services as needed. Additional SSVF requirements are that grantees engage in outreach to find and serve Veterans in need, provide Veterans with case management, and assist them in obtaining VA and other public benefits.  SSVF served nearly 150,000 Veterans and their family members in fiscal year 2016.  As a result of these and other efforts, Veteran homelessness is down significantly since the launch of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness in 2010.  Since 2010, homelessness among Veterans had dropped by 47 percent.

For more information about VA’s homeless programs, visit  The Federal Register notice of funding availability may be found at: The application deadline is February 3, 2017 at 4p.m. EST.

New Regulation Decreases Cost of Outpatient Medication Copay for Most Veterans

Washington – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is amending its regulation on copayments for Veterans’ outpatient medications for non-service connected conditions. VA currently charges non-exempt Veterans either $8 or $9 for each 30-day or less supply of outpatient medication, and under current regulations, a calculation based on the medication of the Medical Consumer Price Index (CPI-P) would be used to determine the copayment amount in future years.

“Switching to a tiered system continues to keep outpatient medication costs low for Veterans,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David J. Shulkin. “Reducing their out-of-pocket costs encourages greater adherence to prescribed outpatient medications and reduces the risk of fragmented care that results when multiple pharmacies are used; another way that VA is providing better service to Veterans.”

This new regulation eliminates the formula used to calculate future rate increases and establishes three classes of outpatient medications identified as Tier 1, Preferred Generics; Tier 2, Non-Preferred Generics including over-the-counter medications; and Tier 3, Brand Name. Copayment amounts for each tier would be fixed and vary depending upon the class of outpatient medication in the tier.

These copayment amounts will be effective February 27, 2017:

$5 for a 30-day or less supply – Tier 1 outpatient medication

$8 for a 30-day or less supply – Tier 2 outpatient medication

$11 for a 30-day or less supply – Tier 3 outpatient medication

These changes apply to Veterans without a service-connected condition, or Veterans with a disability rated less than 50 percent who are receiving outpatient treatment for a non-service connected condition, and whose annual income exceeds the limit set by law. Medication copayments do not apply to former Prisoners of War, catastrophically disabled Veterans, or those covered by other exceptions as set by law.

Copayments stop each calendar year for Veterans in Priority Groups 2-8 once a $700 cap is reached.

More information on the new tiered medication copayment can be found here.

Governor Asks For Flags At Half-Staff In Remembrance of John Glenn

Governor Asks For Flags At Half-Staff In Remembrance of John Glenn

PIERRE, S.D. – The White House has issued a proclamation to honor the life of John Glenn.

President Obama calls for the flag of the United States to be displayed at half-staff, and he has invited governors of the United States to join in the observance.

At the President’s request, Gov. Dennis Daugaard asks that all flags in the state be flown at half-staff to honor John Glenn, starting immediately, until the day of his interment.



VA Letter to the Editor of USA Today Addressing Alleged Secret List


Letter to the Editor of USA Today, Dated December 8, 2016

For more than a month we have been working with a USA Today reporter on a story looking closely at our internal quality improvement tool called Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning (SAIL) and the rankings it uses to help our facilities improve. The story posted online last night completely missed the point of this remarkable and helpful improvement process and serves only to mislead and confuse Veterans and the American public.
There simply is no “secret” list.  We publish the SAIL data regularly.  The relative ratings – using one to five stars – are not published but are used only to help us focus on improving care.  The relative ratings are used by our Veterans Health Administration and all of the facilities as tools to improve. SAIL is the most powerful and positive tool we have.
Relative ratings are not the equivalent of the weekly NFL standings. It is possible for a hospital to improve and still not climb. Since the ratings are relative, during rating periods organizations will receive ratings, one to five stars, even if every facility improves.  To be clear, no VA medical facility is bad or failing. 
Even more simply put, this internal process keeps VA from the “everyone gets a blue ribbon” syndrome. It may be counterintuitive to the uninformed, but it works.  The great stay great, the good get better.
What concerns all of us at VA is that USA TODAY has a consistent narrative of negativity in their news of VA. We have participated in editorial boards and spent hundreds of hours over the years to explain complex issues and provide data to USA TODAY reporters.  Nonetheless, the outstanding and historic progress VA has made in transformation over the past two years is consistently ignored by USA Today.
The transformation of VA, the nation’s largest civilian agency is a big news story.
We have done our best to tell the truth about VA’s story of change – of creating a culture of continuous improvement and transparency, of measuring the right data that best capture health care quality and access, and how we use these measurements to deploy national resources to those facilities that need help and assist medical centers before their rankings drop. Others have helped to tell our story, like Harvard Business School in their most recent case study that was most complimentary.
USA Today’s use of the word “secret” in the headline is egregious hyperbole. It is clear that its intent is to have entertainment value to draw in readers. It is a disservice to those same readers because it immediately creates the image that one-star facilities, in particular, are substandard. We accept – and even relish – that because we are a government department, we are held to a higher standard for reporting to our Veterans.  We have our fair share of challenges, yet VA remains one of the top medical providers in the country. Over 80% of Veterans are satisfied with their care and VA leads the way in many areas of medicine. Our employees, many of whom are Veterans themselves, work incredibly hard to provide Veterans the care and services they deserve.
USA TODAY has the right to publish as desired but in this case the paper is simply getting it wrong. Further, gathering and formatting a story for multiple papers in your chain to simply fill in the blanks – while convenient – is insufficient reason to cause unwarranted distress to our nation’s Veterans, could dissuade Veterans from coming to VA for care, and ultimately produce bad Veteran outcomes. They deserve better than that.

Rounds, Klobuchar Urge VA Compliance with 2010 ECFA Law that Protects Veterans from Exorbitant ER Bills

December 9, 2016

Washington, DC – Led by U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), 22 senators, including six from the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, wrote to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald to urge him to comply with the Emergency Care Fairness Act (ECFA). The ECFA was enacted in 2010 and directed the VA to cover veterans with private health insurance when that insurance doesn’t cover the full amount of non-VA emergency care. Yet since 2010, the VA has not complied with the law, denying hundreds of thousands of veterans’ reimbursement claims for emergency care.

Earlier this year, a federal court ordered the VA to write regulations that comply with the ECFA. In addition to urging the VA to comply with the law, the senators also requested that the agency fix its mistake and re-open all previously denied claims.

“Congress’s clear intent in passing the ECFA was to expand veteran eligibility for reimbursement for emergency treatment furnished to veterans in non-department facilities,” wrote the senators. “Specifically, congressional intent was to require the VA to act as a secondary payer for emergency treatment costs not covered by the veteran’s third-party insurance. It is evident that the VA has ignored congressional intent. Most troubling is the fact that those who are most affected by the VA’s non-compliance with the ECFA are our elderly veterans, many of whom are living on fixed incomes and have limited resources to pay medical bills.”

In addition to Rounds and Klobuchar, the letter was signed by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). The letter is supported by The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Full text of the letter is below:

The Honorable Robert McDonald
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20420

Dear Secretary McDonald:

We write today to express our support for the Veterans Emergency Care Fairness Act of 2009 (ECFA). Six years after enactment of the ECFA, our nation’s veterans continue to bear the burden of emergency treatment costs not covered by veterans’ third-party insurance. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) continued denial of these claims is deeply troubling.

Congress’s clear intent in passing the ECFA was to expand veteran eligibility for reimbursement for emergency treatment furnished to veterans in non-department facilities. Specifically, congressional intent was to require the VA to act as a secondary payer for emergency treatment costs not covered by the veteran’s third-party insurance. It is evident that the VA has ignored congressional intent. Most troubling is the fact that those who are most affected by the VA’s non-compliance with the ECFA are our elderly veterans, many of whom are living on fixed incomes and have limited resources to pay medical bills. Often, these veterans find themselves dealing with collection agencies as a result of emergency care received in the community. This potentially increases stress for these veterans, causes them to lose faith in the VA and keeps them from seeking future medical attention out of fear of acquiring additional medical bills for which they would be financially responsible. 

As you are aware, on April 8, 2016, in the case of “Staab v. Secretary McDonald,” the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims  agreed with the appellant’s contention that the VA’s application of 38 U.S.C. § 1725 frustrates the intent of Congress to reimburse veterans who are not wholly covered by a health-plan contract or other third-party recourse. In its decision, the court ruled that “Congress clearly intended that the VA be responsible for the cost of the emergency treatment which exceeds the amount payable or paid by the third-party insurer.” The court further found the VA’s regulations regarding the ECFA to be invalid and wholly inconsistent with the statute. As a result, the court ruled that 38 C.F.R.     § 17.1002(f) is held invalid and directed it to be set aside.

Based upon this ruling, we strongly urge you to bring the VA into compliance with P.L. 111-137 and to amend any policy, regulation or other barrier that results in denial of veterans’ claims for reimbursement for non-department emergency care.  We further urge you to re-open all previous claims of veterans that were denied because of the VA’s non-compliance with congressional intent and the law. 

Thank you for your attention to our concerns regarding this important issue. We look forward to working closely with you to fully serve the veterans of our great nation. 


National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day – Custer Senior Center


President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation
December 8, 1941

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire

The following excerpts are from a prepared speech read by Ken Irwin, Custer County Veterans Agent ,speaking at the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Ceremony in the Custer Senior Center Wednesday, December 7, 2016.

“Most of the witnesses are no longer with us but the legacy of the men and women who defended Pearl Harbor on that day of infamy will always remain. It was a day that that defined America and changed the world forever”.

“Service, sacrifice and valor were demonstrated by American heros at unprecedented levels and foreshadowed the trials, toughness and grit that epitomized the Greatest Generation during the Second World War”.

“Thoses who did not perish during the attack were not just veterans of battle. They were survivors of an unprovoked and unexpected massive killing spree”.

“So many are gone now. The more than 2,400 men, women and children who died the day of the attack, would be joined by thousands of others in the in the seven and a half decades since. As those able to provide first hand accounts leave the ranks of the living, it is up to us to keep the their legacies alive”.



Ken Irwin, Custer County Veterans Agent ,speaking at the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Ceremony in the Custer Senior Center Wednesday, December 7, 2016. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press


The Marine Dress Blues of WW11 veteran MSgt. Allen M. Kline – Guadalcanal – 1942, Solomon Islands 1943, South Pacific Theatre – 1943-1944 on display at the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Ceremony in the Custer Senior Center Wednesday, December 7, 2016. Photo: Herb Ryan/ Custer Free Press


Custer VFW Post #3442 Commander Darold “DD” Couch listens to Pearl Harbor Remembrance remarks by Ken Irwin, Custer County Veterans Agent , at the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Ceremony in the Custer Senior Center Wednesday, December 7, 2016. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press