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Shaft notes

• Kudos to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel who recently announced that the proposed military decoration that honors drone pilots and cyberwarriors, the Distinguished Warfare Medal, has been cancelled and will be replaced by a distinguishing device that can be affixed to previously awarded medals.

Mr. Hagel halted production of the medal on April 5 and directed Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey to conduct a review of its ranking.

• Rep. Mike Michaud, a Maine Democrat and the ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, has issued the following statement on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announcement that it will expedite claims for veterans who have waited a year or longer for compensation decisions:

“The announcement today by Secretary [Eric K.] Shinseki and Undersecretary [Allison A.] Hickey shows that the VA is serious about reducing the backlog and is willing to put forward new ideas to get it done. I remain firm in my support of the VA, and these leaders. We have a way to go on solving the backlog, but I believe we will get there if Congress, the VA, the unions and veteran support organizations work together.

“Today’s announcement is a positive interim solution that should result in the oldest claims receiving more timely decisions. It will not resolve the systematic challenges that face VA in the current processing model. VA needs to continue moving forward with the new processing model. We all need to look for the best efficiencies in the process and evaluate policies that drive the process.”

• Across the nation, veterans are preparing for the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games. The games, representing the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world, are presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Paralyzed Veterans of America. More than 500 veterans from across the United States, Puerto Rico and Great Britain are expected to compete in the event, taking place July 13-18, 2013, in Tampa, Fla.

“The National Veterans Wheelchair Games provide an incredible opportunity for veterans who have been training and competing all year to showcase their talents on the world’s stage,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “VA is committed to world-class care for our nation’s veterans, and we encourage them to use adaptive sports as a key component of their physical rehabilitation. These athletes, more so than anyone, know the healing power of competition and camaraderie that this event provides.”

The games are open to all U.S. military veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, neurological conditions, amputations or other mobility impairments. The 33rd Games will be co-hosted by the James A. Haley VA Medical Center and the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Florida Gulf Coast Chapter.

“Participating in the games is a truly life-changing experience for seriously injured veterans of every generation,” said Bill Lawson, U.S. Army veteran and the national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “Please take a moment to tell disabled veterans in your neighborhood about the games. Encourage them to get involved. We can’t wait to welcome them to the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Tampa this summer.”

Competitive events will take place at the Tampa Convention Center, Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, Pin Chasers Bowling Lanes, Clearwater Long Center, Raymond James Stadium, Silver Dollar Shooter’s Club, Jefferson High School, Hillsborough Community College and the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The 33rd Games will include competitions in 18 different events such as swimming, basketball, table tennis, archery and wheelchair slalom, which is a timed obstacle course. The athletes compete in all events against others with similar athletic ability, competitive experience or age.

In addition to the competitions and the opening and closing ceremonies, the games will include a “Kids Day at the Games” on Monday, July 15, at Jefferson High School. Local children with disabilities will have the opportunity to interact with the athletes, participate in sporting events and watch the veterans compete.

The public is invited to attend any of the sports competitions throughout the week of the Games, and admission is free. Up-to-date information is available on the official National Veterans Wheelchair Games website, www.wheelchairgames.va.gov.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.