TITUSVILLE — Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Legislative Director Pat Murray recently testified before the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Technology and Modernization regarding pending legislation.

Murray testified on important IT funding and transparency-related bills and expressed support for a draft bill to collect demographic data on users of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.

He said, “Having a better understanding of the veteran population utilizing VA care and benefits will help better inform how and where to direct resources.”

The VFW is grateful for the subcommittee’s attention to these issues and hopes these bills will quickly advance and become law.

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The VA is resuming over-payment notifications for new debts and debts that were paused during the COVID-19 pandemic from April 6, 2020, through Sept. 30.

Although debt collections and collections on medical co-payments restarted on Oct. 1, the VA will not begin to deduct debts from benefits payments until January 2022.

Options to request debt relief due to financial hardship will be included in debt notification letters that will be sent to veterans.

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The VA recently expanded its Veterans Legacy Memorial website by adding 93 VA grant-funded state, territorial and tribal veterans cemeteries.

This expansion includes individual pages for nearly 500,000 veterans interred at these cemeteries, providing a way to honor and remember their service. Family members and friends may submit photos and stories to be reviewed and potentially added to these pages.

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The VA has expanded flu vaccine availability to more than 70,000 in-network community providers.

Eligible veterans can now receive at no cost a standard, high dose, or preservative-free flu shot at their local VA health care facility, in-network community retail pharmacy, or an urgent care location without prior authorization.

If you are eligible, you need to present a valid, government-issued ID at a covered location.

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Here is this week’s prisoner of war and missing in action update:

• Army Air Forces Sgt. Francis W. Wiemerslage, 20, of River Grove, Illinois, was assigned to the 549th Bombardment Squadron, 385th Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force, serving in Germany. He was the ball turret gunner on a B-17G Flying Fortress bomber that was shot down during a mission over Dresden on March 2, 1945. He will be buried in his hometown on Oct. 23.

• Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Jack K. Wood, 24, of Wichita Falls, Texas, was assigned to 344th Bombardment Squadron, 98th Bombardment Group, 9th Air Force. On Aug. 1, 1943, the B-24 Liberator aircraft on which Wood was serving as a navigator crashed as a result of enemy anti-aircraft fire. He will be buried Oct. 23 in Madill, Oklahoma.

• Navy Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Harold F. Carney, 23, of New Diggings, Wisconsin, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. He will be buried on Nov. 6 in Benton, Wisconsin.

• Navy Seaman 2nd Class Charles L. Saunders, 18, of Winnie, Texas, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. He will be buried on Dec. 7 in his hometown.

• Navy Fireman 1st Class Denis H. Hiskett, 20, of Nebraska City, Nebraska, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. He will be buried on Dec. 11 in Mission Hills, California.

• Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Gabriel J. Eggud, 25, of New York, was assigned to 110th Reconnaissance Squadron, 71st Reconnaissance Group. He was piloting a P-39 Airacobra fighter over Wewak, New Guinea. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, on a date yet to be determined.

• Army Pvt. Robert J. Herynk, 27, was assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division. His unit participated in a coordinated attack against Japanese defenses on Nov. 26, 1942. Interment services are pending.

• Army Cpl. Marvin D. Actkinson, 18, was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. He was reported missing in action Dec. 2, 1950, after a fighting withdrawal near the Chosin Reservoir. Interment services are pending.

• Navy Seaman 2nd Class Joseph M. Robertson, 18, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. Interment services are pending. 

• Navy Seaman 1st Class Billy Turner, 20, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. Interment services are pending.

Charlie Castelluccio, a Titusville resident, is chaplain of northwest Pennsylvania’s 28th District of Veterans of Foreign Wars and is a member of Titusville Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5958.

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