VMF Caucus News

VMF December 2022 Newsletter

Masthead

December 2022

Newsletter

VOL. 2, NO. 9

To view in PDF, click here

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

“The American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us. On ‘We the People’ who seek a more perfect Union.—President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Inaugural Address, January 20, 2021


Editor’s Message —

Greetings! Hope you encouraged all your Georgia acquaintances to get those ballots in for the run off election! EVERY VOTE DOES COUNT!

It is time to reflect on a tumultuous year and the possibilities that lie ahead for us to contribute to a More Perfect Union even in the face of adversity. What will we do to bring back civility and make sure that Veterans are not forgotten? There were quite a few impressive Veteran bills in the 117th Congress but most of them just seemed to sit in a committee waiting for Godot! Time to mobilize and frequently contact your Representatives and Senators whose main goal as U.S. government employees is supposed to be to serve the American people.

Since Democrats will soon not be in charge of the House, by only the slightest of margins, the iconic Nancy Pelosi decided to pass on the leadership torch, so that the Party can renew its efforts to serve the American people. Another huge change will be the departure of Dr. Fauci who will be stepping down from his government positions in December. 

Fauci gives final briefing after 50 years in government

We are inching along with climate change initiatives!

Did the world make progress on climate change? Here's what was decided at global talks

There are efforts everyone can make because each of us has something to contribute to our wonderful country. Why not start with the National Endowment for the Humanities Tapestry initiative and then A More Perfect Union? It is time to plan ahead to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the  Declaration of Independence in 2026!

Applications are open for Creative Forces Community Engagement Grants. Grants support community-based Arts Programming for Military-Connected Individuals Nationwide. Creative Forces®: NEA Military Healing Arts Network Applications are now open. The deadline to apply is Thursday, January 19, 2023. 

Check the American Tapestry initiative that contains newly launched National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant programs that explore the three themes of “Strengthening Our Democracy,” “Advancing Equity for All,” and “Addressing Our Changing Climate”:

*Dangers & Opportunities of Technology: Perspectives from the Humanities (Application deadline: February 2, 2023.)

*Cultural and Community Resilience Program A new NEH grant program that supports efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change and health crises on communities while safeguarding their cultural resources, as outlined in the Biden-Harris administration’s Justice40 initiative. (Application deadline: January 12, 2023)   

*Climate Smart: Humanities Organizations  (Application deadline: January 17, 2023)   

*Public Impact Projects at Smaller Organizations  (Funding opportunity to launch in 2023.)

American Tapestry also incorporates NEH’s A More Perfect Union initiative which supports the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 2026 by funding projects to help everyone understand the beginnings of our country. 

A More Perfect Union builds on NEH’s efforts over the past six decades to promote American history and will emphasize the critical role the humanities play in our nation. 

Organize your groups and decide on Veteran related themes, so all those who have served and continue to serve are represented! Application deadlines are approaching quickly!

In the spirit of the season, a reminder that members of the Military, Veterans, and Gold-Star families and senior citizens are eligible for FREE park passes that provide access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas including the national parks. Take advantage of these programs. Free Lifetime Passes to U.S. National Parks for Veterans and Gold Star Families.

Give yourself a holiday gift at the behest of Dr. Fauci!

"My message -- and my final message, maybe the final message I give you from this podium -- is that please for your own safety, for that of your family, get your updated COVID-19 shot as soon as you're eligible to protect yourself, your family and your community"                                              –Dr. Anthony Fauci

We thank everyone who has supported the mission of the VMF Caucus and those that have collaborated with us to spread the word. We look forward to continued collaboration since the DNC believes in a strong military!

Have a healthy, happy, Democratic New Year. Keep hope alive!

Terese Sarno

Editor

Please join our caucus to show your support for the U.S. military!  

 


 

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A Proclamation on National Veterans And Military Families Month, 2022

From The White House

OCTOBER 31, 2022

A Proclamation on National Veterans And Military Families Month, 2022

This month, our Nation honors the strength and sacrifices of the families, caregivers, and survivors of our veterans and our current service members.  They may not wear uniforms, but their service is essential to our national security and the character of our Nation.  We owe them a debt of gratitude that we can never fully repay.

     Constant tours, deployments, and rotations are difficult for our military families.  Jill and I have personally experienced the anxious pride that parents feel seeing their child in uniform.  We have marveled at the devotion of military families and their resilience to uproot their lives every few years and move to new communities.  We honor the stalwart courage and resolve of veteran families caring for their loved ones when their service in uniform concludes.  We grieve alongside families of the fallen who have lost a piece of their soul.  That is why I take so seriously the sacred obligation to prepare and equip our service members when we send them into harm’s way and to care for them and their families when they return home.

     Since coming to office, I have signed into law important expansions of services and benefits to support our veterans and their families, improved VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances through the PACT Act, and made historic reforms to the military justice system that will enhance safety and protections for service members and their families impacted by sexual assault and domestic violence.  The First Lady’s Joining Forces initiative is helping military spouses find jobs, connecting military children with better education, and helping to ensure that military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors have what they need to thrive.  My Administration has also released a comprehensive public health strategy to reduce military and veteran suicides, which will guide our efforts to stand with families and protect the lives of our Nation’s heroes.

     To be a veteran or a service member is to have endured and survived challenges most Americans will never know.  To be the family of one of those proud patriots is to sacrifice more for our country than most Americans will ever give.  During National Veterans and Military Families Month, we pay homage to the unrelenting bravery and dedication of all who wear the uniform and to the unwavering love and support of all who serve alongside them.  Families who put their lives on hold so our military can hold the line represent the best of America, and we will always remember what they do for our Nation.

     NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2022 as National Veterans and Military Families Month.  I call upon the people of the United States to honor veterans and military families with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

     IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-seventh.

                               PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

 

Original statement on the White House website: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2022/10/31/a-proclamation-on-national-veterans-and-military-families-month-2022/


VMF November 2022 Newsletter

Masthead

November 2022

Newsletter

Vol. 2, No. 8

To view in PDF, click here

Honoring_All_Who_Served_Veterans_Day_2022.jpeg

The 2022 Veterans Day Poster Contest Winner

"For generations, millions of Americans have answered the call to serve -- taking the sacred oath to defend and preserve our Nation's ideals of liberty and democracy. These patriots represent the best of us. On Veterans Day, we honor their service, dedication, and valor and are forever grateful for their sacrifice.” — President Joe Biden

 

The Ultimate Veteran's Day Quiz!


Editor’s Message —

Greetings. November 11th Veterans Day is a time we set aside to honor our Veterans. In these volatile times, Veterans'  contributions to our American Way of Life are even more evident. The VMF Caucus this year is participating in the National Bells of Peace remembrance (see details below) sponsored by The Doughboys Foundation and we invite every one of our DA members as well as all your acquaintances to participate! Knowing it is often difficult to participate in an event, we are bringing the celebration to you, no matter where you are!  You do not need to visit a national cemetery or attend an official  program ( but if you have these possibilities, please do!). Everyone, wherever you are on 11/11 at 11 am local time can participate by ringing a bell and if you do not have a bell, you can download the Bells of Peace App and have it ring automatically from your smart device! You can do this alone or with some friends! Take photos of your commemoration and send them to us, so we can document this wonderful event! You can also share your participation on social media using the hashtag #bellsofpeace.

Can we count on you? How incredible it would be to have 100% participation!

Terese Sarno

Editor

 

ABOUT #BELLS OF PEACE 2022

Toll “Bells of Peace” on 11/11 at 11am local time, and honor all those who served and sacrificed in WWI. Bells of Peace is a U.S. national "bell tolling" remembrance created in collaboration with the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (SHGTUS) to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the World War I Armistice, November 11, 2018. The Doughboy Foundation has since promoted it as an annual remembrance of those who served in WWI and of the moment when the guns fell silent, and bells tolled on the Western Front… on the 11th day of the 11th month, at the 11th hour in 1918, after four years of brutal combat.

"No Bells? No Problem!" A great solution is the free Bells of Peace Participation APP that can be used right off your smartphone, with a group of phones or from your phone using a public address system.  The App is available for iOS and Android smartphones. Go to the Bells of Peace Participation App page to learn more.

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Please join our caucus to show your support for the U.S. military!


 

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VMF October 2022 Newsletter

Masthead

October 2022

Newsletter

Vol. 2, No. 7

To view in PDF, click here

"MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards…
Backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy. 
No right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.

President Joe Biden

Absentee Voting Week - 1 to 8 October 2022


Editor’s Message —

Greetings. With the proliferation of false claims regarding election integrity, many states instituted new voting restrictions that have effectively hindered the right to vote for many U.S. citizens. In Florida, for example, voters are faced with very serious barriers when requesting absentee ballots.  Congress has yet to pass new voting rights legislation so some states passed their own legislation to ensure voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots. 

When signing the John. R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York, Governor Kathy Hochul proclaimed  "At a time when the very foundation of our democracy is under threat, New York is leading the nation with new laws protecting the fundamental right to vote...we honor the work of the late Congressman John Lewis and activists like Medgar Evers as we make meaningful changes to our laws that enfranchise voters and ensure the voices of the people are heard in our democracy. Where the federal government fails to act, New York will continue to step up and lead the way: we did it with abortion protections, we did it with gun safety reforms, and I'm so proud to say we are doing it again with voting rights." 

Voting rights are important and Congress needs to pass new nationwide legislation.  Citizens need to be encouraged to vote by making Election Day a national holiday and making voting much easier. Standing in long lines for hours after traveling many miles by public buses to a voting location or extreme requirements for submitting  absentee ballots  make exercising our right to vote very onerous. Don't you cringe when you think of the Georgia law that prohibits people from giving water to voters standing in long lines under the hot sun waiting to vote? What can you do about this?

Vote for candidates who will protect our rights!

Terese Sarno

Editor

Your Vote Is Your Voice

"People make their voices heard with their vote. We hold an inauguration to ensure a peaceful transition of power, and those of us lucky enough to serve work as hard as we can for as long as we can, as long as the people choose to keep us here. And once our time is up, we move on… 

As much as some folks might want us to believe that story has lost some of its shine — that division and discrimination and everything else might've dimmed its light — I still know, deep in my heart, that what we share, as my husband continues to say, is so much bigger than what we don't. Our democracy is so much stronger than our differences."  

–Michelle Obama, 7 September 2022, The White House


Please join our caucus to show your support of the U.S. military!

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9/11 Remembrance Memorial, A Powerful Reminder of Unity

On September 11, 2022, an online memorial and safe discussion place took place over Zoom for Democrats Abroad members to reflect on the 9/11 tragedy from twenty-one years ago in which thousands of lives were lost in terrorist attacks which resulted in 3,000 lives having perished in New York City, the District of Columbia, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The event was hosted by the DA Global Disabilities Caucus and the DA Global Veterans and Military Families (VMF) Caucus. 

Several slides were displayed which offered various ways for persons to become involved in annual 9/11 memorials, including VMF-provided slides on resources available for veterans, military families, first responders, and other Americans wishing to communicate thoughts over 9/11 and possible concerns over depression.

Kee Evans, Chair of both Democrats Abroad Guatemala and the Global VMF Caucus, offered her response to the online get-together. "Knowing that everyone is busy with getting out the vote of Americans abroad and other daily responsibilities, I was pleased so many people took time out of their busy lives to join us on this day of remembrance. I hope next year there's an even larger turnout for Patriot Day as we stick to our promise to 'never forget' September 11th and what it means."

The memorial event included a moment of silence to honor the innocent victims of 9/11, the first responders, the survivors and those affected by family and loved ones lost to the events. It also included a poem by a VMF member, listening to a beautiful rendition of 'America, the Beautiful,' and an open conversation for DA members to share their experiences and reflections from that fateful day in American history. A significant point shared by one member was the importance of staying unified during times of crises, and how Americans strive to work together when it comes to defeating terrorism, prioritizing national security, and lifting the spirits of our families and loved ones.

A sample of the slides presented and photos taken from the event can be seen below.
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VMF September 2022 Newsletter

Masthead

September 2022

Newsletter

Vol. 2, No. 6

To view in PDF, click here

"This fall, we must elect more senators and representatives who will codify a woman's right to choose into federal law. We need to elect more state leaders to protect this right at the local level. We need to restore the protections of Roe as law of the land.”

— PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN


Editor’s Message —

Greetings! With Constitution Week and Constitution Day in September, what better time to delve into the U.S. Constitution since some recent Supreme Court decisions have adversely affected our lives. We are providing you with information to use when you write to your Senators, Representatives, Governors, and Mayors. In looking at some of the quotes from our founding fathers, it appears that they foresaw that changes would need to be made, which is totally understandable because how could documents from the 18th century not undergo revisions to deal with situations in the 21st century? As all organizations refresh operating procedures when new leaders are elected or appointed, why shouldn’t the U.S. government do the same? Is it really a good idea, with the rapid changes that now take place in our society, to have people in lifetime positions that sometimes could easily cover a span of 40 years? The Constitution has no minimum or maximum age for Supreme Court Justices. William O. Douglas, appointed at age 40, retired 36 years, 7 months, and 8 days later! 

Citizens are reacting to the recent Supreme Court decisions as evidenced by the surprise abortion backlash in the Kansas election. AR-15 weapons continue to create major disasters. Some say "We need these weapons because we want to be effective against the government if it becomes tyrannical. That's part of our Second Amendment right.” Is it?

“We need leaders to support removing more barriers to voting, not trying to silence the people. The strength of our democracy and our country depends on eligible voters casting their ballot and selecting their leaders."

– Office of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf

What can you do to change the current anti-citizen situation? VOTE!

We need more elected officials at every level who support the rights of citizens. We need more U.S. Senators, Representatives, Governors, and Justices who want to safeguard the rights we have had for years and who will support new laws that will improve our lives. Use your VOTE to change what has happened this year in the Supreme Court. 

Vote in the 2022 Federal elections and in your local state elections! Urge your friends and colleagues to vote. Every member of Democrats Abroad needs to participate! If you have not yet requested your absentee ballot, what are you waiting for? Vote From Abroad!

In closing, we need your help! This is your Newsletter and we would like to focus on topics that interest you. Please take this short survey and tell us what you think! 

Terese Sarno

Editor

Every Vote Counts


Michelle Obama Urges People To Check Voter Registration Status

(N.B. This was shared July 31st so it is much less than 100 days to the midterm elections!)


Please join our caucus to show your support of the U.S. military!


 

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President Biden Delivers Remarks and Signs the PACT Act of 2022

The long-awaited PACT Act will expand Veteran Affairs health care for personnel impacted by burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also  includes benefits for those affected by water contamination at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.


VMF Caucus Interview w/ Former U.S. Army Officer Facing G.I. Bill Barrier Through VA

Democrats Abroad's Global Veterans and Military Families Caucus spoke with Christian Pierce, a student veteran in Europe who previously served as a Captain in the U.S. Army. Like many veterans studying abroad, Christian faced a major problem when trying to utilize his earned G.I. Bill educational benefits. But first, a quick background on using the G.I. Bill.

For 77 years, America’s veterans have been able to use G.I. Bill benefits to further their education after leaving the Armed Forces. Veterans have used this vital benefit to learn how to open and run businesses, become doctors and lawyers, learn important trade skills, and much more. For the entire history of this benefit, veterans have been able to freely use their benefits at whatever legitimate institution of higher learning they wanted -- until now.

During the Trump Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) made changes to the program approval process for universities to participate in the GI Bill program. For a foreign university to receive tuition payments from VA, the university must open a bank account with a U.S. financial institution and successfully obtain a U.S. Employer Identification Number through the IRS. VA calls this a "mere formality," but as student veterans abroad have come to find out, this is a critical barrier to paying for their education and thus have been left with no choice but to burn through their savings or drop out of school. This extra burden on overseas universities is unnecessary. After being questioned by Congress, VA admitted that the requirement is solely due to their legacy electronic payment system, which cannot process payments to foreign financial institutions. We maintain that this is an unacceptable reason to deny veterans their earned education benefits.

Have a listen to Christian detail his situation. We are in contact with several other veterans and military family members abroad who, sadly, have similar stories, which is why the 117th Congress must urgently fix this problem. Veterans earned their education benefits by sacrificing years of their lives and their health to serve in the United States Armed Forces. We cannot abide by veterans losing access to their earned benefits simply because of where they reside or where they would like to receive an education. Many overseas veterans have been unable to utilize their benefits because of these changes, and some have seen their G.I. Bill benefits expire. At the same time, they have waited for VA to approve their academic programs. Congress and VA must address this issue.

 

 

What can we do? Contact your U.S. Senators and the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs to tell them to pass H.R. 7375 immediately. This legislation would require VA to update its electronic payment system within 90 days of enactment to be able to process payments to foreign financial institutions. This would solve many problems for overseas-based student veterans. We believe this podcast interview will enlighten many listeners, and we encourage you to share it with other Americans to urge them to contact their Senators as well.

 


VMF Caucus Responds to Senate’s Failure to Advance PACT Act

ANTIGUA, Guatemala—Upon the United States Senate’s failure earlier this week to vote for cloture during debate on a toxic exposure bill which would help an estimated 3.5 million veterans in getting the care they need and deserve, Democrats Abroad’s Global Veterans and Military Families (VMF) Caucus leadership team expressed outrage in response.
The bill in question, S. 3373 (formerly H.R. 3967), the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022, or “PACT Act,” is a bipartisan and bicameral agreement which would enable a presumption of service-connection for veterans’ illnesses and injuries directly related to respiratory inhalation of toxic burn pits, exposure to dangerous radiation stemming from the Cold War, covering our military’s Agent Orange victims who fought in Laos and Cambodia, and other locations.

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VMF August 2022 Newsletter

Masthead

August 2022

Newsletter

Vol. 2, No. 5

To view in PDF, click here

Just as we did in the presidential election of 2020, we will make sure you know who we are. If you stand against our students, we will stand against you. If you vote against our educators, we will vote against you. This November, if you get in the way of our progress toward a more just nation, we will get in the way of your election.

Becky Pringle, National Education Association President

 

Editor’s Message —

Greetings! We have all been brought up believing that youth holds the future in their hands and that a good education is the basis for a successful democracy. The new law in Arizona that removes the bachelor's degree requirement for teachers is another step by the far right to dismantle public education. They also make it difficult for teachers to do their jobs since they are challenging many of the books used in advanced courses, especially those by authors of color. Teachers inevitably face challenges and are compelled to provide alternatives.

That Arizona, with the lowest teacher salaries in the U.S., has thrown teaching credentials out the window is horrifying. The Network for Public Education has alerted us to what is going on! Apparently, the Governor of Arizona as well as governors of some other states have no knowledge of the teaching profession although during the pandemic, parents understood how difficult it is to be a teacher when they were in charge of home schooling their children. The Arizona Governor has no idea what it takes to be a successful teacher and he is now allowing untrained college students to teach. This mentality is emphasized by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee who allowed Larry Arnn, his key education advisor, president of Hillsdale College and its charter school chain, to say that teachers “are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges” and that “anyone can teach.” Those anti-unionists now have the teaching profession on their hit list. (Sick of the Teachers: Time for Reform)

Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers President, commented about certification in Arizona: “It’s very dangerous. It’s a good and dangerous example of the disrespect for knowledge in this country. They would never, ever do this about airline pilots. They would never do this about engineers. They would never do this about doctors. They would never do this about lawyers. But frankly, they are fearful about teachers actually teaching critical thinking, actually having knowledge. It’s antithetical to having an educated citizenry.”

Call To Action!

What do we do? We contact our Governors to urge them to support high standards for our students at all levels. Only certified teachers should be entrusted with the education of our students. Stop the radical right from dismantling our public education system. Public tax money should be for public education, not charter schools or religious schools no matter what the Supreme Court has declared. Church and state should be separated. The far right does not seem to care about this part of the Constitution.

Email and Tweet Your Governor Now! Students need quality public schools and public schools need professionally trained teachers.

Terese Sarno, Editor

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Please join our caucus to show your support of the U.S. military!


 

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