Time to renew your CVO Individual / Organizational Membership

Thank you for your continued support of CVO. Your membership in the Coalition has been an important part of our work. We hope you will renew your membership in 2014. CVO Individual / Organizational Membership runs on a calendar-year basis. Organizational memberships are just $50 and for that, you get one member representative. Individuals memberships are only $10.

CVO formally requests that your organization renew its membership for 2014. You can now make a payment online at the membership link or Mail your organization’s check or money order with basic organizational information and the name and personal information (name, address, phone and email) of your Representative to CVO as soon as possible at:

CVO
1658 N Milwaukee Ave, #365
Chicago, IL 60647

Our members are the very backbone of the Coalition and we thank each and every one of you for signing up and helping make CVO the organization that it is.

Omnibus Addresses Disabled Vets’ Pensions; Others Left Hanging

Barbara Mikulski (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In a partial solution to a nagging Pentagon problem, disabled military veterans will have cuts to their pensions restored as part of the omnibus spending bill introduced Monday evening.

“We came up with the fix for the disability and the survivor part, which is a down payment while they get ready to do comprehensive reform and get ready to do the presidential commission,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikul­ski said ahead of the bill’s release Monday. “So we made a down payment for the neediest, which were the disabled of working age and the survivors.”

Pension changes that were made for other veterans in last year’s budget agreement will be addressed later this year by the Senate Armed Services Committee and other panels.

The reductions to disabled veterans’ pensions were part of a larger cut included in the budget deal reached by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan last month. The provision would decrease the annual cost-of-living adjustment for working-age military retirees by a total of 1 percent over 10 years.

The inclusion of disabled veterans has drawn strong criticism from veterans’ groups, members of Congress in both parties, and even Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Ryan and Murray quickly backed away from the inclusion of veterans who retired for medical reasons, referring to it as a mistake.

The move to reverse cuts for disabled military retirees as part of the omnibus spending bill addresses less than a tenth of the original cut of approximately $6 billion. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., estimated that a provision to eliminate the COLA cuts for disabled vets, coupled with a reversal of the decrease in annuities for military survivors, would cost approximately $593 million.

“So you still have got the vast majority of people who served their country, have been receiving payments or expect payments, receiving quite a bit of reductions,” Sessions said.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte also spoke out Monday against a handful of defense-related cuts in the budget agreement, including the decrease in the cost-of-living adjustment for veterans who retired due to injury.

“The more I press the Pentagon for answers, the more I learn how egregious the military benefit cuts are in the budget deal,” the New Hampshire Republican said. “The cost-of-living adjustment cuts unfairly shortchange military retirees, military survivors, and the combat-injured to pay for more Washington spending.”

Ayotte is one of a handful of senators seeking to link a repeal of the military pension cuts to a three-month extension of long-term unemployment insurance. The measure would be paid for “within the budget window,” Ayotte and other senators said in a joint release.

Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, who led an effort by Republican senators to attach an amendment reversing the cuts to the budget agreement but were ultimately unsuccessful, said the decision to reverse the pension cuts for disabled veterans would not keep him from voting for the appropriations bill.

“It may take a little steam out of our effort, but I just think it is so unfair to change the rules for veterans who have already completed their part of the bargain that I think eventually sometime in the next year or so, get the whole thing corrected,” Wicker said.

Congress has plenty of options for rolling back the majority of the cuts. Members have filed about a dozen bills in less than a month to restore the COLA funding in its entirety.

Some, including a proposal by Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., push for an outright repeal of the cuts. Others, including Rep. Dan Maffei, D-N.Y., and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., are seeking to offset funding to reverse the cuts by closing a tax loophole used by offshore corporations.

Gen. Ray Odierno, the chief of staff for the Army, said last week that he has “not thought about it being linked to anything else,” when asked at the National Press Club about Rep. Darrell Issa’s proposal to tie the funds to changes in the postal system.

“It’s time for us to look at pay and compensation.… I believe if we continue on the path that we’re on, that we’ll have to reduce our end strength even more,” he added.

His comments are similar to those made by Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey, who both declined last month to say where the Defense Department will recommend cuts from their budget for the 2015 fiscal year, or if that could include compensation.

The two Defense officials backed the budget agreement, pitting them against veterans’ groups, including the Military Coalition and the Military Officers Association of America, which continue to lobby lawmakers to restore the full $6 billion in cuts.

And senators don’t expect to let the issue go. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said members will push to repeal the full cuts “until we get it fixed,” adding that he hopes a solution will be found by the November elections.

But the issue could stretch beyond that. The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, which was supposed to have recommended changes to the military’s compensation and retirement system by May, had its deadline extended until February 2015. And the Senate Armed Service Committee plans to review all changes to military pensions before the cuts go into effect in December 2015.

Sarah Mimms contributed

This article appears in the January 14, 2014, edition of NJ Daily as Disabled Vets’ Pensions Addressed; Others Left Hanging.

State of the Coalition by Bruce E. Parry, CVO Chair

Coalition of Veterans Organizations
State of the Coalition
Bruce E. Parry, CVO Chair
January 17, 2014

CVO Action Program

CVO was involved in a number of important actions in 2013. We’ve had a great success and look forward to more action and more success in the future. The most notable was undoubtedly our role in holding a Leadership Meeting that led to support of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Cook County (VACCC) and an increase in its budget. We began by calling for a meeting of veterans leaders—a Leadership Meeting—at Montford Point Marine Association on October 19th. It was attended by numerous leaders from various organizations that came together for the first time. The discussion was wide-ranging, including the fight for veterans health care benefits, the fight to end veteran homelessness, the fight for full equality of men and women’s health care in the VA and the struggle for peace in our time.

 

The galvanizing discussion, however, was about the cuts to the budget of the VACCC. The meeting decided to take action to get the Cook County Board of Commissioners to increase the VACCC budget. We took action. The following Monday—just 2 days later—a group from the Leadership Meeting met in the County Building for a Press Conference and action. The group met with the staff from President Toni Preckwinkle’s office. She saw our material. We met with Commissioner Garcia, who put in the amendment to increase the VACCC budget. Later, Budget Committee Chair John Daley called the CVO Chair.

 

We reassembled a week later to testify at the Budget Committee hearing. The hearing began with recognition by Commissioner Daley. I testified as CVO Chair. The Commissioners questioned me for about 10 minutes; they had said nothing to other presenters. We met with the staff of Commissioners Garcia and Reyes who were helpful in charting our course.

 

The amendment to increase the VACCC budget passed. The budget was increased significantly, but more is needed for staffing and to aid the neediest veterans. We followed up with the Commissioners. Many recognize that CVO and the Leadership Meeting attendees were key to getting the budget increased. It was a great victory and one we have to follow up on.

 

Other actions during the year included participation in the Memorial Day Parade in May, an annual event for CVO since our inception. In June, we participated in the Anti-Violence parade sponsored by Rev. Pfleger and St. Sabina Church. In August we had a presence at the Warrior Summit in Soldier Field. In September, we participated in the Montford Point Resource Fair and in a back-to-school action with Englewood High School. Since the VACCC action, we have participated in two events sponsored by Cook County Commissioners. We have been sponsors, with member organizations, of a number of other events.

 

Outreach

 

While we participated in a number of events during the year, not all are equal in effective outreach. In the case of the events where we had a table and sign-in forms, we have followed up with those who signed up. The response has been mediocre at best.

 

On the other hand, the action to increase the VACCC budget gave us publicity throughout the veteran community. This is important, and it points out a direction for the future.

 

The parades have also not been very effective as outreach. At one point (years ago) we handed out CVO literature during the parade, but never got a response as a result. While I think we should continue to participate in parades, it is more for internal motivation—to get members out doing things—than for outreach purposes.

 

The annual fundraiser continues to be our best outreach to the broader community. We get more non- members who have contributed to CVO through the fundraiser than any other event we participate in.

 

Work of the Homelessness Committee has also been effective in getting our name our to the health care and homeless services community. We had an event in 2012 at Weiss that was particularly effective as outreach.

 

We need to consolidate our efforts to have a newsletter. We have been working on this for a while, and I believe we have enough photos, but we need more articles and we need someone to actually put together physical copies to be mailed out. These will be—and already have to some degree been—posted on our website, Facebook page, etc. But we need more volunteers to work on this. It’s easy, fun and a way members can really contribute.

 

We need to make special note of our website, our Facebook page, our Twitter account and our general web presence. This is largely the work of our Webmaster, Joe Kerwer, who pretty much only comes out for the Memorial Day Parade, so many of you don’t know him. Nevertheless, for a very small fee, he has built us into an excellent and recognized web presence. We need to publicize this important resource more than we have, particularly the Jobs Tab, which is a place that veterans can search for work with little hassle. Besides all the necessary CVO information, we have also posted lots of factoids and other information—like the DD 214 Discharge Codes—that veterans seek. We need to continue to improve our website, ensuring each committee uses it for its work.

 

We need to work through the Organizational Members. As a coalition, we too often depend on individuals. Organizations need to send representatives to CVO and they need to get their organizations involved in CVO activities.

 

Committees

 

The Homelessness Committee has been the most active of our program committees. We have a number of members who are very interested in the struggle to end homelessness. This has been reflected in a lot of activity around this program. We need to formalize the CVO participation and the committee aspect of this work. So far, it’s been pretty ad hoc and word of mouth. The committee needs to meet as a committee in order to consolidate CVO’s work in this important arena.

 

The Veterans Affairs Committee is responsible for carrying out the CVO programs on two points: universal health care for veterans without further payment of any kind, and presumptive benefits to end the backlog. An unfortunate series of personal disruptions and resignations have gutted the committee and it has not met in some time. Once again, we need members to step up. At one time, these programs were the core of the CVO program. It distinguishes us from many other veterans’ organizations. We need to develop materials and start getting vocal on these important issues.

 

The Veterans Against Violence Committee sort of falls in the middle. We participated in the parade and in another community affair with a local high school. Nevertheless, the committee has not met and/or charted out a program of action for CVO. We need to consolidate this work and move forward. Many veterans—and non-veterans—are moved by this issue.

 

Our work on women’s issues as CVO is non-existent. All the work is being done by NWVU. We need to get a committee together to spell out a CVO program of full equality of women and men veterans’ health care and benefits.

 

Membership

 

Our membership is not bad. We have thirteen solid members and another which will probably not renew. We were weak in collecting Organizational Membership dues last year due to the resignation of the Membership Coordinator. We have a new volunteer in that position now, so 2014 is looking stronger in that area. We were also weak in collecting Individual Membership. We only had a dozen paying individual members last year. Again, we hope to do better this year.

 

We probably need to make changes in the Bylaws to adjust both when Executive Committee elections are held and the terms of membership, which is currently on a calendar year basis.

 

The real value in membership, however, is the core of reliable cadre we have who do the work. These are the members of the Executive Committee and the other members who serve on committees, show up at events to support CVO, and do the work of the organization. Without them, we wouldn’t have an organization. Their efforts are too little recognized, something I hope the Awards Program we a proposing will help rectify.

 

What we need to do now is to broaden our membership outward. We need to bring friends and acquaintances—and their organizations—to meetings and encourage them to get involved. We need to grow. This is the only way we will survive into the future as a viable organization.

 

Fundraising

 

We have done well with fundraising to this point. The aspects of our fundraising have included the annual fundraising luncheon or dinner, the collection of Organizational and Individual Dues, the sale of “Carson’s Coupons” or other such materials, donations from generous CVO supporters, and regular “pass the hat” collections at CVO meetings. Each has played a part in keeping us afloat and we have kept a healthy balance in our bank accounts for years now. With a new Fundraising Committee being formed, we will need to build on the lessons of the past and continue to raise money. It’s not something many of us like to do, but it is a crucial part of organization building.

 

Succession

 

Without rotating leadership, CVO will not be able to continue on. We have had a stable core of leaders who have served for years on the Executive Committee. We need to start having regular rotation of members in the various officer positions. We need to have members volunteer to be on committees and to become committee chairs. These positions do not take skill; they take commitment to CVO. We build the skills by doing them. And no one has to do them alone. We have committee members and the Executive Committee to help teach and guide the committees in their work. Please volunteer!

 

In this light, this is my last year as Coalition Chair. We on the Executive Committee have no intention of letting this transition harm CVO. We need to find people who are willing to be trained to be the Chair. We can even solicit resumés. I have also handled the Treasury; we need someone in this role as well, someone who can be trusted and who can take care of the detailed accounting and reporting that goes along with being Treasurer. Again, this isn’t hard; it merely requires commitment and training. You provide the commitment, we’ll provide the training.

 

It is only through this process of rotation, of new people stepping up, of people transitioning through different positions and taking on different challenges that we can preserve CVO (or any other organization, for that matter). This is a way of letting people know that their contributions are not only appreciated, but can lead to advancement and greater contributions. Rotation prevents burn-out and keeps ideas and programs fresh. New people bring new perspectives, new strengths that can go into building a more vibrant, living CVO.

 

The Future of CVO

 

“CVO is a group of individuals and member organizations whose purpose is to advocate for and educate veterans and the public on issues that impact veterans and their families.” That is the CVO Mission. We need to bear it in mind as we move forward. We are an advocacy organization. Most of our member organizations are service organizations. We need to remember that CVO was created to do what its member organizations could not, and that is advocacy. We should not get pulled into doing what their missions are, but rather keep our orientation clear.

 

We must also be clear that any organization that tries to do everything, does nothing. There are more ideas of what to do—and needs—than any single organization can accomplish. We need to focus. Decide what we’re going to do and stay focused on that. We have five Strategic Issues now. More would be dangerous. We hardly have the resources to carry out the programs we have.

 

On the other hand, we need to have an action agenda that involves organizations and individuals in activity. The actions around the VACCC, the 2007 trip to Washington, the 248 House, and even the Town Hall meetings we have held have done that. We need to do more actions that build on our stated program. We need to identify what people can do and let them do that. We need more activities where people just need to show up. Of course, we need people to write, to donate, to organize this or that activity, to maintain the website, etc. But most people will volunteer to show up, and we need activities for people to do that outside the regular meetings.

 

And—as said under Membership—we need to grow. If we do not bring in new people and move them into leadership positions, we will wither. We need members to go out, particularly to Iraq and Afghanistan vets and get them to participate in CVO. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and Student Veterans of America (SVA) are hotbeds of veteran activists. We need to reach out to them and show them why they need CVO.

 

CVO’s future is in the hands of its membership. The issues facing veterans and their families are not going away; they are becoming more acute. There are veterans on the streets. The backlog is about one million, health care is still unaffordable for many veterans and Americans. There is a lot of work to do and we are in a position to do it. Let’s build CVO!

Message from the Judge Mathis

For Immediate Release
January 1st 2014

The Judge Mathis For The Coalition Of Veterans Organizations
Www.coalitionofvets.org

In order to create over 2000 jobs for veterans in the  (cwt ) compensated work therapy/ transitional employment Program for the 169 VA facilities nationwide www.cwt.va.gov; this information is for the veteran friendly Employers who need to know about the public law 93– 112 where section 504 of the rehabilitation act of 1973.

The law requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide qualified individuals with disabilities an equal Opportunity to benefit from the full range of employment and related opportunities that is available to others. The law prohibits discrimination for both male and female veterans in the recruiting, hiring, promotions, training, Pay, social activities and other privileges of employment.

The law requires that employers make reasonable Accommodations to the known physical limitations of qualified individuals with disabilities, Innovative Assistive Technology devices such as the telepresence robots they are covered under the law which help to make trained Veterans highly employable in retail, Manufacturing and most other product and service industries across the Country. Let it be known also that work opportunity tax credit is now available to employers that hire and retain Veterans and individuals of other target groups with significant barriers to employment.

Enforcement of the public law section 504 rehabilitation law 93-112 for large and small businesses and including Government agencies it starts with the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division 950 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. Disability Rights Section (NYAV) Washington DC 20530.The Justice Department they really like all businesses that help veterans to use their skills toward new careers For both employment and enjoyment says

 American Legion Member Virgil Mathis Jr.

 Contact virgilmathis32@yahoo.com

(312) 221-7963

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CVO January 18 2014 Meeting Photos

Photos by Hurley Green III

Re-elected Directors: Taalibdin Shabazz, Director, Bruce Parry, Chair, Darryl Howard, Legislative Director and Connie Edwards, Recording Secretary.

Left is Natalie Cramer of the Blue Star Family Platoon. CVO Endorsed their drive for a Blue Star License Plate for families with members serving in the military. The right is Natalie Cramer with Bruce Parry, CVO Chair.

Photos by Curtis “Kojo” Morrow

Natalie Cramer of the Blue Star Family Platoon with Bruce Parry, CVO Chair, displaying a mock-up of the Illinois license plate they hope to sponsor for Blue Star Families.

Charles "Smudge Coleman holding the plaque CVO presented him with CVO Co-Founders Rochelle Crump and David Rogers.

The re-elected CVO Executive Committee members with the Chair: Taalibdin Shabazz, Director; Bruce Parry, Chair; Darryl Howard, Legislative Director; Connie Edwards, Recording Secretary.

Connie Edwards, CVO Recording Secretary addresses the January 18th CVO meeting at Montford Point.

An impromptu picture of "Smudge" Coleman with the plaque presented to him by CVO. From the left: Connie Edwards, Recording Secretary; Bruce Parry, Chair; Charles, "Smudge" Coleman; Rochelle Crump, Co-Chair

Chicago Park District Offers Free Programs To U.S. Veterans & Active Military

Mondays & Thursdays, starting Jan. 6, 2014 – Feb. 20, 2014
Free Art Classes for Veterans & Active Military at Mount Greenwood Park, 3721 W. 111th St.
, 312.745.1958.

Ten week Monday and Thursday afternoon art classes at Mount Greenwood Park beginning Jan. 6 for veterans and active military to develop and create with charcoal, ink, markers and paint on canvas and paper. Each art class is free of charge, and all materials will be provided for classes. Veterans should bring a copy of their DD214. Registration begins Dec. 1.

Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014
Free Archery Classes for Veterans & Active Military at Palmer Park, 201 W. 111th St.
, 312.745.1958 or 312.745.2062

Thursday evening archery class at Palmer Park for veterans and active military to learn basic archery skills in marksmanship, safety and various shooting styles. All classes take place 6-8pm and are free of charge; all equipment will be provided for this indoor program. Veterans should bring a copy of their DD214. Registration begins Dec. 1.

Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014
Free Veterans Resource Fair series: Hamlin Park, 3035 N. Hoyne Ave.
, 312.745.1958

The Veterans Resource Fair series aims to connect military veterans and their families to benefits in areas such as disabilities, education, employment, family and children services, housing, legal and mental health services. Veterans should bring a copy of their DD214 to the resource fairs. The fair takes place 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Saturday, April 12, 2014
Free Veterans Resource Fair series: Armour Square Park, 3309 S. Shields Ave.
, 312.745.1958

The Veterans Resource Fair series aims to connect military veterans and their families to benefits in areas such as disabilities, education, employment, family and children services, housing, legal and mental health services. Veterans should bring a copy of their DD214 to the resource fairs. The fair takes place 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

For more information about veterans programing and the resource fair series, please contact Modie Lavin of the Chicago Park District at 312.745.1958 or modwene.lavin@chicagoparkdistrict.com

For more information on the Chicago Park District, visit www.chicagoparkdistrict.com or call 312-742-7529.