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VA News

Patrick Air Force Base gets Space Force designation, which could lead to name change

Patrick AFB

 

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - A Central Florida Air Force Base will be a part of the newly created U.S. Space Force.

The Space Force was created Friday when President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law. It’s the first new service since the U.S. Air Force came into being in 1947.

"The law states that Air Force Space Command will be re-designated the United States Space Force, that will happen immediately," Gen. John Raymond, the commander of US Space Command and Air Force Space Command, told reporters at the Pentagon Friday.

Raymond said that the 16,000 active duty airmen and civilians currently in the Air Force Space Command will be assigned to the new United States Space Force, though officials made clear those personnel will not actually become members of the Space Force and will remain in the Air Force for the time being.

During a question and answer session with reporters on Friday, Raymond was asked which existing bases will house space units.

He named Peterson Air Force Base, Buckley Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base, Vandenberg Air Force Base and Patrick Air Force Base, which is located in Brevard County.

Reporter: Do you have any plans to maybe rename some of the Air Force bases that are currently space-focused?

Raymond: We do have a plan to rename the -- the principal Air Force bases that -- that house space units to be space bases. That will occur in -- in the months ahead and we'll plan that appropriately.

Reporter: So they'll be called, like, Patrick Space Base now?

Raymond: Could be. We'll work it out. Okay.

Leaders of the 45th Space Wing of Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, who are now part of this change, shared comments in a Facebook video.

"Effective immediately, consider yourselves airmen assigned to the United States Space Force. Now that might create some questions and trust me, we also have some questions, No matter what, we’re always Sharks,” Chief MSgt. Scott J. King, Command Chief of the 45thSpace Wing said.

"I can tell you, the 45th space wing will continue to do its mission of assured access to space," 45th Space Wing Commander, Brig. Gen. Douglas A. Schiess said.

Dale Ketcham, a VP for Space Florida, says for what is at stake, the move for Patrick Airforce Base to be a part of the Space Force is an important and essential one.

"We rely as a country and our economy and our national security, more on space assets than any other country and our adversaries are aware of that, if they take out our satellites --- You've blinded the United States," Ketcham said.

What could this change look like for some of the personnel, like the 45th Space Wing?

"It will become Patrick Space Force Base and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, assuming they don't change those names. I don't think it would be a huge change because both Patrick and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the missions that they serve now won't change dramatically. I think the creation of space force is a recognition of the fact that what they do is that important and eventually we'll get new uniforms and some other cosmetic things," Ketcham said.

Ketcham says ultimately this will lay the foundation and preparation for what the future could hold when it comes to conflicts involving space.

“It’s not likely that we’re going to see soldiers and airmen and spacemen in space fighting, hostilities at least not for quite some time. This will be there first iteration I would imagine where it will be, if there are actual hostilities up there, it’ll be entirely robotic, autonomous satellites, throwing stuff at one another and shooting. Right now, it’s more conceptual, somebody may be able to pull of something up there, we don’t know yet, we may be able to do it and they’re not telling us…but the plan is to prepare for that,” Ketcham said.

So far, the plan for the new space force is to have about 16,000 Air Force active duty and civilian personnel.

The creation of the US Space force, the 6th branch of the military, was part of the signing of a $738 billion-dollar defense bill.

Source

The first independent air force — 100 years before the Space Force

John Gurdons F.2b Fighter

 

A century before President Trump announced the creation of a U.S. Space Force, another new military force was leaving the Earth. The Royal Air Force came into existence 100 years ago, on what might seem an inauspicious date, April Fool's Day, 1918.

On that morning, my grandfather, John Everard Gurdon, flew on the RAF's first ever patrol, hunting Luftwaffe aircraft in the skies over northern France. When he returned to his base at Vert-Galant, his fellow men of the 22 Squadron gathered in front of Gurdon's Bristol F.2b fighter for a memorial photograph. The result (above) is in the Imperial War Museum now, and copies are all over the place.

Gurdon turned out to be good at this work. He went on to become one of the air aces of World War I, shooting down 28 German aircraft and winning the Distinguished Flying Cross. (Fighter flying became a short family tradition, for my father, Philip Gurdon, flew Spitfires in World War II, a fact that used occasionally to make complete strangers go gaga with admiration.)

But back to 1918 and today. The RAF had previously been the Royal Flying Corps, part of the British Army. But as aircraft became more sophisticated, and control of the skies became more and more important over the battlefield, an independent force equal to the army and navy was a logical step. Details of America's Space Force can be debated at another time, but the events of 100 years ago in northern Europe are a persuasive example of how military forces must adjust to new technology to ensure national security.

The proximate occasion of my writing this post today is not, however, Trump's decision to create a Space Force. It is, rather, the fact that John Gurdon's first and most successful book, Over and Above, is back in print 99 years after it was first published in 1919, and is now on sale in the U.S. (Grub Street, 182 pages, $16). It is a lightly fictionalized account of the author's four or five months of fighting. The style is typical of the boys' adventure genre of those days, with lots of boarding school slang and bravado.

But the scenes are also harrowing when you realize they were not really fiction at all. Gurdon's friends were shot down in flames, fell from their aircraft during dog fights, and suffered heavily from post-traumatic stress, as Gurdon did. On one occasion, a bullet shot through his windscreen at face height and smashed his arm; fortunately, he was at that moment leaning down to free a rudder pedal that had jammed. In August 1918, exploding anti-aircraft fire from the ground concussed Gurdon, and it ended his war. He was sent back to England, and he put down his experiences in Over and Above.

I remember vaguely that, as a boy, I heard an account of Gurdon shooting down an observation balloon. The anecdote had not greatly impressed me; a vast dirigible seemed both easy to hit and defenseless when in the machine gun sights of an incoming fighter. But in Over and Above, the drama of that incident, its danger, and its almost mad fighting fury come alive, and I look back now amazed at what men of action will do, and also at my own juvenile insouciance.

So, this is a shameless plug for the book, and to be clear, it won't earn me a penny.

Source

101-Year-Old WWII Vet Commissions Grandson Into Air Force: 'One of the Best Days of My Life'

101 Year Old WWII Vet

 

Graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy is already an exciting milestone, but for one class of 2019 cadets, the ceremony served as a touching multi-generational event.

Walter Kloc, a 101-year-old WWII Veteran traveled some 1,500 miles from Amherst, New York, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to commission his grandson, Joseph Kloc, as an officer in the Air Force on Wednesday, May 29, according to CNN and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“This is what it’s all about … Walter received a standing ovation, and everyone in the room was gifted with a memory they’ll never forget,” Air Force officials wrote in a Facebook post alongside photos of the grandfather and grandson sharing the special moments.

Joseph shared the pictures in his own Facebook post, writing, “Probably one of the best days of my life.”

Walter was a bombardier and pilot for the Army Air Forces more than 70 years ago, CNN reported. He traveled to Colorado with his son and Joseph’s father, William Kloc, according to NBC affiliate WGRZ. Ahead of the event, Walter’s wife, Virginia, told WGRZ that he was “absolutely thrilled and excited” to be part of the graduation ceremony.

“I’m so excited for him,” William told the station of his son. “He’s fulfilling his dream, and he was so excited that his grandfather … World War II, Air Force, bombardier, pilot, could come and commission him.”

Walter was raised in Michigan and worked for General Motors after the war, WGRZ reported.

Source

Guam EPA: Andersen Air Force Base violates Guam environmental law

Andersen AFB 001

 

The Guam Environmental Protection Agency issued a violation notice to Andersen Air Force Base Northwest Field Facility after finding non-approved chemicals used for treating water.

According to the notice, Guam EPA charged with the responsibility of implementing the Guam Pesticides Act, found there was a possible misuse of a product to disinfect water for distribution.

On Dec. 28, 2018, a routine sanitary survey inspection was conducted on a water storage tank on Northwest Field and Guam EPA staff discovered a different form of chlorination from what was approved by Guam EPA was installed, the notice stated.

A review by Guam EPA's Pesticides Enforcement Program found the product is a pesticide and is used only for swimming pools, per the product labeling. Guam EPA imposed a $750 administrative penalty.

Andersen responds

Andersen in a release said it used Pool Time chlorination tabs to sanitize a half-million-gallon drinking water tank that serviced the facilities on Northwest Field; however, Guam EPA classifies the tablets as a pesticide and when this became known, the use of the tablets was immediately ceased.

The Northwest Field water tank provides water to Northwest Field only. It doesn't provide water to any other part of Andersen Air Force Base, the release stated.

Although Andersen received the notices of violation for the Northwest Field water tank, at no time was the water deemed unsafe to drink. Both Guam EPA and Andersen concluded that the use of the Pool Time chlorination tabs wouldn't result in any adverse health effects, the release stated.

A public notice explaining what had happened was sent to people who may have been exposed to the drinking water, the release stated

Andersen conducts routine analysis of its water supply and at no point was it deemed unsafe, the release stated, and the base fully cooperated with Guam EPA. Military representatives met with Guam EPA on Feb. 7 to discuss the actions required by the notice of violation and committed to paying the appropriate fines, the release stated.

The $750 fine is in the final process of being paid and the $1,700 fine is still being discussed with Guam EPA as there is no record/proof of exactly when the tabs were used, the release stated.

Personnel involved in operating and maintaining the water systems have been disciplined/counseled and additional training accomplished, the release stated, and new standard operating procedures have been put in place, requiring regular internal inspections of all systems with environmental permits and notifications to environmental experts when primary methods of chlorination are inoperable.

Source

Exclusive: Air Force to push Congress for military housing tenant bill of rights

AF Push Congress

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Aiming to grant military families far greater say to challenge hazardous housing, the U.S. Air Force told Reuters Monday it will push Congress to enact a tenant bill of rights allowing families the power to withhold rent or break leases to escape unsafe conditions.

The proposed measure, outlined in an interview at the Pentagon by Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff David L. Goldfein, follows complaints from military families who say they are often powerless to challenge private industry landlords when they encounter dangerous mold, lead paint and vermin infestations.

“Clearly there are areas where we have issues,” Goldfein said.

Added Secretary Wilson: “That could put a little more leverage into the hands of the renters.”

The Air Force push adds to a drumbeat of reforms to emerge in recent weeks following a Reuters series, Ambushed at Home, that documented shoddy housing conditions at bases nationwide and described how military families are often empowered with fewer rights than civilian tenants.

Read the series Ambushed at Home at www.reut.rs/2t1Y2UA

Wilson said the Air Force is actively working with the Army and Navy to push a tenant bill of rights that would give military families a stronger hand in housing disputes. She wants to strengthen the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a law that includes active duty housing protections. As one example, Wilson proposed expanding the act to allow base families to end their lease or withhold rent if their landlords fail to correct health and safety problems.

Beyond that effort, she said wing commanders of each U.S. Air Force base have been directed to inspect all 50,000 privatized family housing units in the force’s portfolio by March 1. She cited housing breakdowns at Air Force bases including Tinker in Oklahoma, Maxwell in Alabama, MacDill in Florida and Keesler in Mississippi.

In addition, she said, the inspector general’s office will launch a review of how Air Force bases respond to housing health and safety complaints.

Last week, the U.S. Army vowed to renegotiate its housing contracts with private real estate firms, test homes for toxins and hold its own commanders responsible for protecting residents. And on Friday, the Army issued a letter directing senior commanders to conduct inspections of all housing within the next 30 days.

The military action plans follow a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this month in which members of Congress sharply questioned private industry landlords and Defense Department leaders over conditions at U.S. bases.

Wilson said the Air Force is also considering working with Congress to renegotiate its contracts with housing companies to allow the service to withhold all incentive fees from low-performing landlords.

Source

Army Veteran to become first living recipient of Medal of Honor for war in Iraq

David Bellavia 001

 

The White House announced on Monday that former Army Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia will become the first living Medal of Honor recipient for the war in Iraq for his heroism during the second battle of Fallujah in November 2004. The five previous Medals of Honor in the Iraq War were handed out posthumously and Bellavia's award is an upgrade from the Silver Star he had previously received .

President Trump will present the award to Bellavia at a White House ceremony on June 25.

A few years ago, the Pentagon began a blanket review of all valor awards to see if they should be upgraded.

Bellavia is being honored for his heroism on Nov. 10, 2004 when he was a squad leader in Operation Phantom Fury, an American offensive on the western Iraqi city of Fallujah an Iraqi insurgent stronghold.

The Army Veteran is credited with saving his entire squad that day after being pinned down by enemy fire coming from a block of houses.

"He quickly exchanged an M16 rifle for an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, entered the house where his squad was trapped, and engaged insurgents, providing cover fire so that he and his fellow soldiers could exit safely," said a White House statement announcing his award.

When an armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle could not fire directly into the house, Bellavia re-entered the house armed only with an M16, and attacked insurgents who had been firing rocket-propelled grenades.

"He proceeded to kill one insurgent and wound another, who then ran to another part of the house," said a White House statement announcing his award. "Then-Staff Sergeant Bellavia was soon engaged by another insurgent rushing down the stairs when the previously wounded insurgent reemerged to engage him as well." Bellavia was able to return fire and killed both attackers.

"He then took enemy fire from an insurgent who had appeared from a closet across the room. He pursued him up the stairs and killed him," said the statement.

Bellavia then to the roof "where he engaged and wounded a fifth insurgent, who fell from the roof of the building."

For his heroism, Bellavia was awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third highest award for valor; the Distinguished Service Cross is the nation's second highest. His award is being upgraded to the Medal of Honor as part of the Pentagon's three-year review of valor awards for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that was prompted by concerns that acts of heroism were not being appropriately honored.

David Bellavia enlisted in the United States Army in 1999 and after serving in Kosovo, he deployed to Iraq in 2004 with Company A, Task Force 2-2, 1st Infantry Division.

Since leaving the Army in August 2005 Bellavia has been active in Veterans advocacy groups and philanthropic organizations.

Bellavia is also the host of a radio talk show for WBEN in Buffalo, New York.

On Monday morning, Bellavia told his listeners the news of his award was "not really registering."

"I'm going to see guys I haven't seen in 15 years. I'm going to think about them. I'm going to just think about the guys we lost the most," said Bellavia. "It just brings you right back.

"One guy gets attention, but none of that's possible without the work of, you know, 25 guys that nobody talks about," he said. "And in this fight, in this circumstance, it was just a group of guys that were out-gunned, and we -- we fought our way through it together."

"This award is our award, and they're, we all consider it something that we did together," he added.

Source

Soldiers: Disgraceful housing conditions at Texas Army post

Fort Hood Housing

 

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) - Soldiers and their spouses have told Army leaders at Fort Hood of disgraceful housing at the Central Texas post that includes mold and lead paint along with other problems.

Families living at the post detailed their frustrations with housing during a meeting Thursday that the Austin American-Statesman reports came about a week after a congressional hearing that exposed longstanding problems at privatized housing complexes.

Thousands of homes at Fort Hood are owned by the Australian firm Lend Lease, and the U.S. government oversees 141 barracks that house 18,000 soldiers.

Lawmakers have set aside nearly $300 million to renovate 24 barracks but U.S. Rep. Roger Williams and others have expressed concern that the money could be siphoned away as part of President Donald Trump's emergency declaration to fund a border wall.

Source

What You Need to Know About VA Dependent Benefits

Dependent Benefits

 

It is very important for Veterans to know about all of the benefits that they may be eligible for. Today, we will discuss benefits for a Veteran’s dependents offered by the VA. There are monthly dependent benefits, educational benefits, and even medical benefits that may be available to eligible Veterans.

Who Qualifies As a Dependent?

Eligible Veterans can add their dependents to their monthly disability compensation. An eligible Veteran is one who is already eligible for VA disability compensation and must have a combined disability rating of at least 30 percent. This monthly benefit will increase a Veteran’s monthly disability compensation. For VA purposes, a dependent is defined as a family member who relies on the Veteran financially and meets certain criteria. Examples of a dependent for VA purposes are as follows:

  • A Veteran’s spouse
  • Any unmarried children who are under the age of 18; or are between the age of 18 and 23 and are attending school full-time; or were disabled prior to age 18. These dependent children also include stepchildren, adopted children, and biological children.
  • A Veteran’s parents who are financially dependent upon the Veteran. This benefit is based on need and the parental relationship must first be established in order to qualify.

How Do I Add Dependents to My VA Claim?

To add a dependent to a Veteran’s claim, the correct forms must be filed. A VA Form 21-686c, Declaration of Status of Dependents is used to add a child under the age of 18 or a spouse. To add a child who is attending school full-time between the ages of 18 and 23, a VA Form 21-574, Request for Approval of School Attendance must be filed with the VA. In order to add eligible dependent parents to a Veteran’s monthly disability compensation a VA Form 21P-509, Statement of Dependency of Parents should be submitted to the VA.

Another dependent benefit is the Dependent Educational Assistance Program (DEA). This program is apart of the GI Bill and it offers education and training to eligible survivors and dependents of Veterans. In order to be eligible, the Veteran must first be permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability or the Veteran died on active duty as a result of a service-connected disability. This benefit may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. For a complete list of eligibility requirements and more information, click here.

Healthcare Benefits for Veteran’s Dependents

There are also a number of health care benefits that are available to a Veteran’s dependents. Spouses, surviving spouses, and children of a disabled Veteran may be eligible for the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). This program offers to cover the cost of some health care services and supplies. In order to be eligible, one of the following must be true:

  • The spouse of a child of a Veteran who has been rated permanently and totally disabled for a service-connected disability, or
  • The surviving spouse or child of a Veteran who died from a service-connected disability, or
  • The surviving spouse or child of a Veteran who was at the time of death rated permanently and totally disabled from a service-connected disability, or
  • The surviving spouse of or child of a service member who died in the line of duty, not due to misconduct

To find out more and how to apply for this benefit, click here.

There are many different benefits and programs available to disabled Veterans and their dependents. Our Veterans are our top priority and we believe that Veterans and their families should know about all of the benefits available to them.

Source

How Can Veterans Earn 100% VA Disability Rating?

100 Percent

 

How Can Veterans Earn a 100% Disability Rating & Maximum Compensation?

If you sustained an injury or developed a medical condition following active duty or another type of military service, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits. However, you will need to meet certain qualifications to earn maximum compensation. This process starts with earning a 100 % VA disability rating for benefits.

There are many factors that go into a VA disability rating and full-time benefits, and the application process can be complicated. This guide will break down how Veterans can earn a 100% disability rating and as many monetary benefits as possible.

How Can You Get 100% Disability Rating?

Once an eligible Veteran is granted service-connection for a disability, the next logical question is, “How much money will I receive?” The amount of compensation benefits a Veteran receives depends on the disability rating that the VA assigns.

Disability ratings range from 10% to 100%. The idea behind these ratings is that the Veteran should be compensated according to the impairment that the disability would cause to the average person’s ability to earn a living. This compensation generally comes as monthly payments.

It can be tricky to earn a 100% disability rating when a Veteran has more than one disability. Combining two or more disabilities is a complicated process in which 50% plus 50% does not equal 100% but, rather, 75%. In fact, the closer a Veteran gets to a 100 % VA disability rating, the harder it seems to be to obtain this maximum benefit. For example, once a Veteran is rated 80% disabled, each additional 10% disability only adds 2% to his total rating rather than an additional 10%. (You can use our disability calculator to better understand these numbers.)

Meeting the criteria for a 100 % VA disability benefits on the ratings schedule, or combining multiple disabilities to obtain a 100% rating, can be very difficult. Failure to meet those criteria, however, does not mean that a Veteran is not totally disabled. For this reason, the VA regulations provide for an alternate route to a total disability rating—individual unemployability.

Individual Unemployability

When a service-connected disability, or disabilities, prevents a Veteran from being able to secure and follow substantially gainful employment, he is entitled to a total disability rating based on individual unemployability (TDIU or IU). In determining whether a Veteran qualifies for TDIU, the VA should consider not only whether a Veteran is capable of getting a job but also whether he is capable of keeping a job. Any job that the Veteran is able to secure and follow must also be a job which is “substantially gainful.” In other words, the job that the Veteran is able to do must provide income which places the Veteran above the poverty level. Just keep in mind that “substantially gainful employment” does not include working in a sheltered environment such as a Veteran’s own family business or a sheltered workshop.

IU Qualification

Under the TDIU regulation, a Veteran should automatically be considered for TDIU when there is evidence that his disabilities keep him from working and he has a qualifying disability rating. Under those circumstances, the Veteran should not even have to ask to be considered for TDIU, but we find that the VA often fails to make a determination as to TDIU unless it’s specifically requested by the Veteran. It’s important to note that the VA will probably assign the date that the Veteran asks for this increased rating as the effective date for TDIU. Be aware, however, that you may be entitled to an earlier effective date if you became unable to work earlier than the date that you actually requested that entitlement.

For purposes of the VA regulations, a qualifying rating is either a single service-connected disability with a 60% rating or multiple service-connected disabilities and a total rating of 70%. This is a simplified definition of a qualifying rating as there are many exceptions to this basic rule. For example, if the Veteran injured his back and knees in a single accident, these could be considered a single disability. Similarly, if the Veteran has multiple injuries incurred in a single combat action, these, too, could be considered a single disability.

Regardless of the schedular rating that a Veteran has been assigned for his disability or disabilities, if those disabilities prevent the Veteran from earning a living wage, he is entitled to a total disability rating based on individual unemployability.

VA Compensation Benefits Rates: How Much Compensation Are You Entitled To?

Once the VA determines a Veteran’s disability rating, they will then calculate their specific VA disability compensation. This is the total monetary amount that you would receive as Veterans benefits. There are several factors that determine this compensation.

When a single Veteran with no dependents has only one service-connected disability, it’s fairly easy to figure out the appropriate amount of benefits according to the VA’s Compensation Benefits Rate Tables. However, the numbers may not always make sense.

For instance, a Veteran with no dependents who is 100% disabled currently receives $2,673 according to the Rate Tables (at the time of this writing). A Veteran with a 50% disability rating, however, receives only $770. So, even though the Veteran with a 50% disability rating is presumed to suffer from about half of the impairment, he does not receive half of the amount of money that the 100% disabled Veteran receives—in fact, he receives only about a third.

Have VA Compensation Rates Changed?

Another issue with the current Compensation Benefits Rate Tables is that the amount of compensation benefits don’t always keep up with changes in the economy. While the cost of living continues to rise, the rates for VA benefits haven’t changed since 2009.

Again, when a Veteran suffers from two or more service-connected disabilities, they must be combined according to the VA Combined Ratings Table. Using what many Veterans refer to as “VA Math,” under the Combined Ratings Table, two 50% disability ratings do not add up to a 100% rating as most people would expect. Rather, two 50% disabilities are combined to give a Veteran a 75% disability rating ( which would then be rounded up to an 80% disability rating).

As another example, a Veteran who has two service-connected disabilities with a 50% disability rating for each is entitled only to an 80% disability rating which pays $1,427. Again, here, $1,427 is not 80% of the $2673.00 that the Veteran with a 100% disability rating receives. The Veteran with the 80% disability rating receives just over half the amount that the Veteran with the 100% VA disability rating receives.

There are several other factors that can affect total compensation, including the number of surviving family members. Veterans can receive additional benefits where they have dependent children, surviving spouses or parents. In addition, increases may be made to a Veteran’s rating if he has a disability which affects both arms or both legs. Finally, a Veteran may be eligible for additional compensation benefits called Special Monthly Compensation where he has certain types of disabilities which include the loss or loss of use of a part of the body.

Many factors affect the VA benefits that a Veteran receives, so it’s important to seek help with your disability claim. An experienced law firm can help you navigate your disability rating and compensation, so you can secure as many benefits as possible.

Source

DoD answers top 10 questions on expanded commissary, exchange, MWR access

DoD Answers

 

The Defense Department recently announced expanded commissary, military service exchange and MWR access Jan. 1 and established a standard for physical access to military installations. Below are the top 10 questions Veterans have asked the Defense Department about the expanded access. For more information on expanded access, call Military One Source at 1-800-342-9647.

Q1. How do I get access if I have a 0 percent service-connected condition, but my income is too high to get a Veteran Health Identification Card?

A1. Veterans who have received a Health Eligibility Center Form H623A that states they have been placed in VA health care priority group 8E may bring this form paired with an acceptable credential like a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or a U.S. passport for installation and privilege access.

Q2. If I’ve got a DoD-issued identification card because I’m retired, a Medal of Honor recipient, or have a 100 percent VA-documented disability or unemployability rating, do I also need to have a Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC) to get access to DoD privileges?

A2. No.  If you are eligible for a DoD-issued retiree, Medal of Honor, or 100 percent disabled identification card, you should obtain and use the DoD-issued card to access DoD installations and privileges.  While you could use a VHIC if you had one, you would be subject to the commissary credit/debit card user fee if you paid for your commissary purchases with a commercial credit or debit card.  The commissary credit/debit card user fee is not charged to DoD-issued identification card holders.  Your DoD-issued identification card will also allow you broader morale, welfare, and recreation activity access.

Q3. How does the installation access process work for me and my guests; and if I have old felony activity on my record, will I be denied access to the installation?

A3. All newly eligible Veterans and caregivers and any guests traveling with them who are age 18 or older must stop at the visitor control center before entering an installation for the first time to verify identify, establish purpose for the visit, and undergo a basic on-the-spot background check.

  • Newly eligible Veterans must show a Veteran Health Identification Card that displays “PURPLE HEART,” “FORMER POW,” or “SERVICE CONNECTED” below the photo on the front of the card; or a Health Eligibility Center Form H623A that states the Veteran has been placed in VA health care priority group 8E, paired with an acceptable credential like a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or a U.S. passport. (DoD installations cannot accept a driver’s license that is not REAL ID-compliant as proof of identity.)
  • Newly eligible caregivers must show an eligibility letter from the VA’s Office of Community Care that lists them as the Primary Family Caregiver for an eligible Veteran under the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, paired with an acceptable credential like a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or a U.S. passport. (DoD installations cannot accept a driver’s license that is not REAL ID-compliant as proof of identity.)
  • Guests of newly eligible Veterans or caregivers who are age 18 or older must show an acceptable credential like a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or a U.S. passport. (DoD installations cannot accept a driver’s license that is not REAL (ID-compliant as proof of identity.)

If the installation has credential enrollment capability and the acceptable credential(s) used are enrollable, they can be enrolled for recurring access so that the individual(s) don’t have to stop at visitor control every time they want to visit the installation.  Even a guest’s acceptable credential can be enrolled.  It will not allow them to enter the installation without someone who is eligible to enter the installation, but it will allow them to have their credential scanned from the car when entering with an authorized individual.  This is the same process used for anyone who desires entry to an installation.

An individual may be denied access if derogatory information shows up on the background check that reflects on the integrity or character of an individual that indicates that such an individual may pose a risk to the good order, discipline, morale, or safety of a DoD installation or the resources or personnel on that installation. Examples include, but are not limited to, aspects of an individual’s criminal history or current status as wanted or as a known or appropriately suspected terrorist. There is a process for an individual with accurately identified derogatory information that prevents individuals from establishing either historic or current fitness to seek an exception due to their specific circumstances, allowing them to be granted unescorted access. DoD Components may grant unescorted access to a convicted felon, in accordance with applicable Federal, State, and local laws, after considering appropriate mitigating factors such as the nature and seriousness of the offense, the circumstances surrounding the offense, recency and frequency of the offense, the individual’s age and maturity at the time of the offense, the individual’s effort toward rehabilitation, and other factors. Under these conditions, an individual should apply directly to the installation commander requesting an exception to all allow access to the installation.

Q4. Are dependents of newly eligible Veterans and caregivers also eligible for DoD privileges?

A4. No. The Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018, only gave these privileges to specific Veterans and caregivers, not to their dependents.  Dependents may accompany eligible Veterans and caregivers as their guests, but they may not make purchases.

Q5. Why can’t all Veterans have these DoD privileges?

A5. The scope of operations on military installations is sized to take care of the needs of military members and their families.  Military operations are not funded or sized to accommodate all Veterans. Expanding access to the 4.1 million Veterans and caregivers directed by the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018 (and that number continues to grow daily), will already be a test of DoD’s capacity. Inserting another 15 million Veterans into the mix would overwhelm the system and our military members and their families would suffer for it.

Q6. Will Veterans who choose to live overseas be able to access military installations and privileges in overseas foreign countries?

A6. It depends. U.S. law doesn’t apply outside of the United States and outside of the U.S. territories and possessions. Access in overseas foreign countries is subject to applicable host-nation laws and applicable international agreements, like status of forces agreements. The function of the installation also sometimes restricts access. It is best to check with the installation you desire to visit to find out if, as a Veteran or caregiver in one of the new Veteran or caregiver categories, you will be authorized access. Chances are that if you are a retired military member living abroad and didn’t already have access as a retiree, you will not get access under any of the new categories.

Q7. Can newly eligible Veterans and caregivers bring guests to the installations and facilities?

A7. Yes. Guests will be subject to installation access procedures described in #8 above and must remain with the eligible Veteran or caregiver at all times when they are on the installation. Also, guests cannot make any purchases in commissary or exchange stores.

Q8. Which of the following MWR activities can be used?  (This is not an exhaustive list, only the most frequently asked about activities.)

A8.

AmericanForcesTravel.com: Yes.

Bowling: Yes.

Camping: Yes. Tent sites and RV parks.

Child Care: No.

Clubs: Yes.

Fishing: It depends. If lakes are operated as part of the installation park and picnic areas, no. If lakes are operated as part of the installation outdoor recreation activity, then it is at the discretion of the Military Department, subject to capacity and funding conditions.

Golf: Yes.

Gyms: No.

Libraries: No.

Lodging: Yes.   Cabins, cottages, recreation centers, resorts, and official temporary duty and permanent change of station lodging (on a space-available basis).

Movies: Yes, if there is an admission fee.  (No, if the movies are shown at no charge.)

Pools: At the discretion of the Military Department, subject to capacity and funding conditions.

Rentals: Yes.

Tickets: At the discretion of the Military Department, subject to capacity and funding conditions.

MAC flights: This is NOT an MWR, exchange, or commissary activity and access is NOT authorized.

Pharmacy: This is NOT an MWR, exchange, or commissary activity and access is NOT authorized.

USO: This is NOT a military organization.  USO is a non-Federal entity.

Q9. What conditions are required to get access to the DoD privileges?

A9. Newly eligible Veterans must meet at least one of the following conditions:

  • Purple Heart recipient
  • Former prisoner of war
  • Service-connected disability rating (between 0-90 percent)

Veterans with a 100 percent disability or unemployability rating and Veterans who are Medal of Honor recipients already have DoD privileges, so they are not newly eligible.

Veterans include former members of any of the uniformed services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, U.S. Public Health Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

Newly eligible caregivers must be the individual assessed, approved, and designated as the Primary Family Caregiver for an eligible Veteran under the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.

In addition to meeting one of the above conditions, newly eligible Veterans and caregivers must possess the specific documentation that DoD will accept as proof of identity and eligibility for access:

  • Veterans must possess a Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC) that displays “PURPLE HEART,” “FORMER POW,” or “SERVICE CONNECTED” below the photo on the front of the card. If an eligible Veteran is not eligible to obtain a VHIC, the VA Health Eligibility Center Form H623A indicating placement in VA health care priority group 8E, paired with an acceptable credential, like a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or U.S. passport, will be accepted. For information on enrolling in VA health care, visit www.va.gov/healthbenefits/enroll or call 1-877-222-VETS (8387) Monday through Friday 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Eastern time.
  • Caregivers must possess an eligibility letter from the VA Office of Community Care that lists them as the Primary Family Caregiver for an eligible Veteran under the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, paired with an acceptable credential like a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or a U.S. passport.

Q10. Can anyone with a Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC) get these privileges?

A10. No. Only Veterans with a VHIC that displays “PURPLE HEART,” “FORMER POW,” or “SERVICE CONNECTED” will be authorized the new privileges. Veterans may be able to use a VHIC that doesn’t contain one of these markings to access an installation with a medical facility if they have an appointment there, but if the VHIC does not display “PURPLE HEART,” “FORMER POW,” or “SERVICE CONNECTED,” they will not have access to commissaries, exchanges, or morale, welfare, and recreation facilities.

Learn more about the VHIC requirement and how you can get one here.

Download the Expanded Access at Commissaries, Exchanges and Recreation Facilities fact sheet here.

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