By: Frank McCurdy, NECman

VA & R and National Security are this article’s topics. Insight into the status of two Legion pillars hopefully will encourage interest and dialogue. The performance of the VA delivering veteran care has generally been good. This result did not happen by chance.

Your Legion membership in concert with a very effective professional National Staff has delivered. The VA has improved considerably under the direction of Secretary Shinseki. You can also credit the lobbying efforts by our National Staff for increased funding from Congress.

During the last five years, the VA budget has increased 50% to $154 billion dollars. That is a lot of money. You can measure the VA’s performance yourself. I would recommend you research the issue by accessing the VA web site at www.va.gov and our national web site at www.legion.org. There will always be problems working with the bureaucracy, but, “all in all,” an improvement in providing benefits is apparent. National Security is another story.

All four-service chiefs (Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines) have expressed concern over the cuts to military spending. At a time when we have threats from Iran, Korea, the Middle East, and the War on Terror, not to mention China, huge cuts do not seem to be the prudent approach. Hopefully, diplomacy will resolve most of our threats; however, history has taught us that a well-prepared military is an effective insurance policy. Our 2014 military budget is $520 billion dollars. To find out how the budget is allocated and why, access the budget overview on the DOD web site.

Between the DOD web site www.defense.gov, the www.legion.org and google.com, these web sites offer a great start to understanding USA priorities. I for one would like to advocate for an increased vigilance and participation in the National Security debate. After all, what is more important than protecting the USA?