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MAVO Testimony by ADJ/QM Jessie Jones

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MAVO Testimony by ADJ/QM Jessie Jones Powered By Docstoc
					                             M A VO
                     Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations

Jessie Jones            Lynn Dorrell           David Morgan           Richard A. Heigert
Chairman                Vice Chairman          Secretary/Treasurer    Legislative Chairman
5665 Windy Meadows      1 E. 10th Street       6133 Regina Rd.        3202 Elm Grove Ct.
Fulton, MO 65251        Washington, MO 63090   Cedar Hill, MO 63016   Arnold, MO 63010

                                        Testimony for

                               Joint Session House and Senate
                                    Veterans Committees
                                       2 February 2010



               Honorable Senator Crowell, Honorable Representative Day
                         And Honorable Committee Members


I want to thank you for your service to our State and to the Veterans of Missouri. Your
service is important as it honors those who have served our country. You and Governor
Nixon made significant contributions during the First Regular Session of this 95th
General Assembly. Our veteran’s homes are full and the Fort Leonard Wood Cemetery
is near completion.

My name is Jessie L. Jones, I have the honor to be the current Chairman for the Missouri
Association of Veterans Organizations (MAVO). MAVO is a coalition of twenty-two
state-wide chartered veterans’ organizations in Missouri. I am also honored to have been
elected the Adjutant and Chief Financial Officer of the Veterans of Foreign Wars,
Department of Missouri. Through our member organizations, MAVO represents 149,000
members and is an advocate representing Missouri’s nearly 590,000 Veterans.

MAVO member organizations represented here today include the Veterans of Foreign
Wars, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, The Marine Corps League, the
Military Officers Association of America, the Fleet Reserve Association, and many more
great organizations.

Many of our fellow Missouri citizens are currently deployed to fight the war on terror.
Our National Guard and Reserve units serve alongside active duty forces in a hundred
places around the world, but in particular in Iraq and Afghanistan. As we speak, plans
are for increasing the forces in Afghanistan by an additional 30,000. I know that we all
join in a prayerful wish for their safe return to their loved ones. We also must care for
them upon their return.
As in the past, the top priority for MAVO continues to be the full funding of the Missouri
Veterans Homes. Currently the Missouri Veterans Commission operates seven Missouri
Veterans Homes with an optimum occupancy level of 99% and we wish to keep it at that
level. There is currently a waiting list of approximately 1300 veterans. Our veteran’s
homes are a model for other states and second to none. We must continue to be
competitive in recruiting and retaining nursing staff in an ever competitive health care
market. Our Missouri Veterans Commission and Staff are to be commended for their
excellence in operating our veteran’s homes.

We can also be proud of our four current Veterans Cemeteries. Cemetery operations are
well managed and are an asset to our veteran communities. Costs for that program will
increase as a fifth cemetery comes to the operational phase in the near future.

For both of these programs, operational costs are increasing as inflation raises the cost of
labor, fuel, food, and supplies.

To assure funding in the future for our Veterans Homes, Cemeteries, veterans’ capital
improvement projects, the Veteran Service Officer Grant Program, and other needed
programs, a reliable continuous funding stream is needed.

MAVO organizations participated with the Missouri Veterans Commission last fall in
(21) Listening Posts conducted throughout the State. Over and over again we heard
agreement of the need for additional outreach for veterans, particularly those recently
returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Transportation to VA facilities is also a concern.

These current military members have made a significant sacrifice for us, and now it is our
duty to support them and their families. Many of them have special needs that are not met
by traditional methods.

I can tell you as a Vietnam veteran that their first motivation is to be home with their
loved ones. Secondly, they have a desire to return to their jobs to support their families.
Then they will do what they need to get their life back to normal. In the situation where
there are overriding circumstances, assistance will be necessary to get their life back to as
much normalcy as possible. This is where we need to supply the necessary support,
support that is not available by others. This is the right thing to do.

I truly believe that the Global War on Terror in some form will continue past my lifetime
and perhaps the lifetime of my children. We will continue to have military stationed
around the world and coming home in need of our assistance. For those wounded both
mentally and physically, we need to make life the best we can for them. This may come
in the form of intervention, counseling, job assistance, or even assistant living
arrangements. They are depending upon us.
All our member organizations understand the current state of the Missouri budget and
that more budget cuts may be expected in the coming budget year. All we are asking for
this year is that Veterans programs and Veterans in the state be held harmless as these
budget decisions are made. We owe the Veterans and those currently serving nothing
less.

To achieve this and accommodate those currently serving and those in need of assistance
from the VA, we must find a means to increase the Capital Improvement Trust Fund with
an emphasis on increasing the Service Officer Matching Grant. The Veterans
organizations that provide a large part of the outreach to Veterans in the state through
organizational budgets and donations have not been immune to the downturn in the
economy. Our membership and sources of revenue are declining.

FY09 (July 2008 through June 2009)

Total number of claims filed by Veterans Service Officers Grant Program = 28,643 at an
average cost per claim of $28.63

Total VA dollars brought into Missouri’s Veterans = $843,000,000.00

Grants 62% of VA dollars = $547,400,000.00

MVC 23% of VA dollars = $194,200,000.00

Total of VA dollars by Veterans Service Officers Grants and MVC = $741,600,000.00

(This is a ten fold increase over dollars received in 1999 and at a cost to the State of only
$1,000,000 dollars last year). This is federal dollars being spent in Missouri’s economy.

 ** Approximately 15% of VA claims are filed by individuals or attorneys without going
through a Veterans Service Officer. By VA statistics those individuals are not receiving
all the benefits to which they are entitled. On average they receive thousands of dollars
less per year than clients that use a Veterans Service Officer to file their claims. Part of
our goal is to reach those individuals and get them the benefits they are entitled to
receive. This could equate to millions of dollars more coming to Veterans in the State of
Missouri through increased VA benefits.

Bingo restrictions and Bingo taxes have driven many of our Posts to turn in their Bingo
license. Bingo is and has, in the past, been the only source of revenue for many Posts and
a primary source of funds to support our outreach programs. Aside from the tax issue,
current Bingo regulations require organization members working Bingo to have been a
member of the licensed organization for (2) two years to be eligible to work Bingo. This
is a great impediment to getting our newer members involved in contributing to the Post
or taking a leadership position. I’ve had VFW Posts that have been given the ultimatum,
by the regulators, of replacing their officers or turning in their Bingo License. This must
be changed if Veteran Service Organizations are to take advantage of recruiting
newer/younger veterans into leadership roles.

Representative Chris Kelly has been looking into legislation that may address these
concerns. In the 94th General Assembly, legislation was passed to increase the Veteran
Service Matching Grant fund from $750,000 to $1,000,000 dollars. Veteran Service
Organizations are still only receiving a 50/50 match on the dollars spent on outreach. A
minimum of a 75% match is needed to maintain our outreach program. Whatever
legislation that may be introduced must ensure the participating service organizations
receive an increase in the match.

In addition, MAVO supports the continued funding of the Veterans Stories program. It’s
important to families of veterans and their memory that we continue to capture the stories
of veterans in the state. It’s been said that “there is no honor without remembrance”. The
Veteran’s Stories program ensures the sacrifices of our veterans will not be forgotten.

I ask you to assist us in finding adequate funding for the outreach and support programs
so that Missouri will continue to be a model for other states. We thank you for your
service and all of us in MAVO appreciate the close working relationship with each of
you.

Thank you.

Jessie L. Jones
MAVO Chairman
5665 Windy Meadows Ln.
Fulton, MO 65251

E-mail: adj@mo.vfwwebmail.com

Home: 573-642-8333
Work: 573-636-8761
Cell: 573-826-0386

Attachment: MAVO Legislative Priorities

				
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