Letter from Mel Latham

Mel sent this email to all registered members to bring us up to speed on upcoming meetings and provide more details on what’s going on with the chapter.

Good Morning VHPAWA

I have several things to pass on in this email.

  1. Auburn and Veterans Day: There has been a lot of activity in the past month regarding use of the helicopter for the Veterans Day Parade. The truck that we have used from the Olympia Air Museum was in for more repairs, and then it was deadlined. So it’s out for good. We had a second truck lined up but then the owner/driver had medical needs and had to drop out. And finally, I wish to extend a big thanks to my son. Chad has a new Dodge truck with the kind of hitch that we need and he says he’ll be happy to haul the helicopter. We met Pat Staeheli at Olympia Aviation Museum Saturday and sized things up. We’re good to go and will see you in Auburn on Saturday, November 10th. Pat is sending out the formal notice.
  2. I have also been in contact with Famous Dave’s in Everett for our February Meeting. Their address is:

Famous Dave’s 1206 SE Everett Mall Way, Everett, WA 98208, Saturday, February 16th from 1030 to 1300. We are looking forward to a lunch at the Everett Famous Dave’s just like the one we normally enjoy in Tacoma.

Our Everett Meeting will be the first meeting of our 2019 calendar year. After our opening activities and greetings, our next item of business will be the Election of Officers. Please give this some thought as we move toward 2019.

That’s all for now. Here are the Minutes from our Spokane Meeting:

Washington State VHPA Meeting September 15, 2018

Meeting opened at 10:30 AM by Mel Latham.

2018/2019 Officers:

President:              Mel Latham

Vice-President:      Dave Swanson

Treasurer:             John Schafer

Secretary:              Bob Salling (Pat Staeheli is filling in as secretary).

Webmaster:           Rick Walker and Bill Vaughn are our Webmasters.

Rick’s email is: BLACKDAWGSWP@hotmail.com.

Bill’s email is: billva@betav.com

Members at Large:
Senior: Hal Thornton
Mid-term: Alex Broman
Junior: Doug Decker

All members present Saluted the Flag and Recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

Opening Prayer by Chaplain Pat Staeheli.

RIP: A celebration of life for Dick Bradley was held Thursday, Sept. 13, beginning at 2:00 p.m. at Mountain View Memorial Park in Lakewood, WA. Richard Craig Bradley was born and raised in Auburn, New York and resided in Fox Island WA. Dick passed away peacefully at the age of 71. Dick was an army aviator for 24 years including two tours in Vietnam. In January 1979 Dick was hired by a small airline named Alaska Airlines. He began his civilian career as an engineer on the Boeing 727. Dick made Captain in four years and flew for Alaska for a total of 28 years racking up over 32,000 hours.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations for local cancer care and research to South Sound Care Foundation, P.O. Box 1314 Tacoma, WA 98401-1314 or southsoundcarefoundation.org .

Reading of June’s Minutes at Olympia Airport:

Note: Our Secretary from the Famous Dave’s meeting was not present at Olympia. We are still missing February’s Minutes. Once they are found, I will send them out to our membership.

Treasurer’s Report, John Schafer: &17,322 with $1,417.84 income. We have 136 members, 80 current and 56 life. All finances are up to date.

A question was asked about what our finances were based on. John detailed our income and investments, including what we have in our Chapter Store. And income coming in from membership. John also mentioned that he was also serving as the Treasurer for our National VHPA.

Introduction of members. We introduced ourselves with a brief description of our Aviation background.

Old Business:

I got an email from Al Major in Bellingham who asks:

Thanks for the email. Unfortunately, I’m not able to attend this one.  I asked three different members about car-pooling, and they all said they weren’t going either.  I live in Bellingham, so the drive makes for a long day.

Which brings up another point.  When is there going to be a meeting on the north end?  If you are missing members, and have lapsed members, I suspect part of the reason may be this obsession with having meetings in Tacoma and Olympia.  A cursory look at the roster shows a significant number of VHPA members reside north of Seattle.

I replied:

I agree, and yes, I’ll make it a business topic Saturday. I recall that we had a meeting on Whidbey Island and took a tour of the Naval Air Facility a number of years ago. I also have an old Army Pilot (now Marine) friend out by Fort Eby State Park. Might be able to get him involved if we have a meeting up your way… I will look into it and give you, well, all of us, some feedback.

I like the Marysville area – I was involved in the Oso landslide recovery effort and spent three weeks up there. I’ll see what I can come up with.

In a general discussion, it was decided that I would pass this on in our minutes and that we would further discuss the following two options.

1) Would be that we rotate our February meeting from Famous Dave’s to a place up near Marysville. The Tulalip Casino comes to mind, but there are other places to consider as well.

2) Would be that we add another meeting in late April up in Marysville, again with the same locations mentioned above.

I have had at least eight members contact me over this and all of them have responded with a yes. With that in mind, I have contacted the Tulalip Casino about meeting space and meals.

Other Old Business: None.

New Business:

1) We have had several occasions where we might have been able to haul the Helicopter out for a public appearance if it weren’t for a faulty truck. And now I hear that the owner of the truck is reluctant to loan it out.

It has been suggested by John Schafer that our Chapter is able to assist a few members with the purchase/installation of a hitch that can be used to haul the Helicopter. John, would you talk about this as you see fit?

John replied that we need at least two people from our Chapter who may be interested in taking on the towing responsibility. We have enough funds to cover a gooseneck hitch install of roughly $1,000. If you are interested, give John a call or send him an email. We would like to have this in place so that we can haul the helicopter up to Auburn for the Veteran’s Day Parade.

2) Passing on Joe Kline Helicopter Prints: I was contacted several weeks ago by John Hayes who served as an LRRP in K Company, 75th Ranger Battalion in the 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam. A friend of his had left him with five Joe Kline Helicopter Prints and he didn’t have room for them and wanted to know if we would like them. I assured him that we would find a home for them in our Aviation community.

Here’s what I propose: I would like to keep one print to hang on a wall at my VFW in Tacoma. And I would like the remaining four prints to go to the four corners of our State; one to go to a member from Seattle and points north, one to a member on the east side of the Cascades, one to go to a member from Olympia and points south and one to a member who lives west of Puget Sound. I’ll bring the prints with me to Spokane for you to view and to pass out.

West Side: Rick Thomas randsthomas@comcast.net from Aberdeen, Jack Salm johnsalmjr@gmail.com from Bainbridge Island.

Rick won the card cut.

East Side: Dave Eck Sr. dave@oakstreetfinancial.com from Moses Lake, Guy Hankins from Spokane and John Johnston also from Spokane.

Guy Hankins won the card cut.

North Side: Steve Lodwig stevelodwig@gmail.com; Al Major almajor2nd@gmail.com from Bellingham.

Both Steve and Al wanted one for the Eagles Aerie in Stanwood so Steve selected his choice for the haul home.

South Side: Dennis Nicks dwnicks@comcast.net from Olympia. Dennis was our sole South Side member. He plans to donate his print to the Olympia VFW.

3) John Shafer and Steve Lodwig talked about going to Arlington for the unveiling of the Vietnam helicopter pilot and crew member memorial. They both described the event as inspiring.

Auburn Veterans Day Meeting:

Our next meeting will be in Auburn at the Veterans Day Parade on Saturday, November 10th at 10:00 AM. Details on our location in the parade will be posted in an upcoming email unless Pat Staeheli has an update for us.

February Meeting at Famous Dave’s in Everett:

As you may recall from New Business above, I have been looking at several places north of Seattle to conduct a meeting. I’ve also looked at our costs in adding a meeting in April but had to rule that out because of available cash. So here’s what I propose: That we continue with our February meeting at Famous Dave’s, but move it from Tacoma to Everett in 2019. This would not be a permanent move, but an every-other-year thing. We would be back in Tacoma in 2020, etc. The Famous Dave’s address (and date) in Everett is:

Famous Dave’s 1206 SE Everett Mall Way, Everett, WA 98208, Saturday, February 16th.

For discussion: The idea of moving back and forth from Tacoma to Everett was welcomed by all members present. And when you include the positive email that has come in, it was decided that we would give this a try.

Our meetings was closed in Prayer by: Pat Staeheli.

All members Saluted the Flag in Retreat.

Respectfully Submitted:

Mel Latham 360.890.1798 mclatham84@hotmail.com


Congresswoman DelBene Honors Vets

I was one of about sixty Vietnam War veterans honored by Congresswoman DelBene on Friday, November 10th, the day before Veterans Day. I spoke to one of the speakers, Major General Bret D. who served with my unit, the 7/17 Air Cavalry. He was kind enough to give me a transcript of his Veteran’s Day 2017 Speech.

The ceremony was part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ 50-year commemoration of the Vietnam War, which saw more than 2.7 million Americans serve. “Thank you for your service to our nation, we salute you,” DelBene said to the crowd, many of whom were veterans wearing service hats.
Other speakers included Maj. Gen. Bret D. Daugherty, who commands the state’s Army and Air National Guard forces.

The Redmond Reporter ran a brief story about the ceremony–it appeared on the front page of their November 17th issue and on their website.  The following is an excerpt from that source.

Growing up, Daugherty said he saw images of soldiers returning from the war. Veterans Day is an opportunity to thank soldiers and celebrate those who survived wars and conflicts, he said. “I believe that we owe a special thanks to those of you that served in the Vietnam War.” Only 6 percent of Americans are veterans, Daugherty said.

Soldiers don’t choose to go to war, but Daugherty said they answer the call of duty. “America is protected by ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things with their lives,” he said. Even after their time with the military, Daugherty said their service continues by being active citizens and participants in society.

Francisco F. Ivarra, president of the Washington State Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America, addressed the crowd. Ivarra said he recently talked with an author who was documenting the stories of Vietnam veterans to be housed in the Library of Congress. He said this, along with other recognition, is important to him and other veterans of the war. “We did our part, we did what we were asked to do and we didn’t say no,” Ivarra said. His organization has made inroads for veterans by helping them get services and access to help and assistance over past decades.

The final speaker, Dr. Bill Couser, a Vietnam veteran who received a Purple Heart, said there were acts of heroism made by ordinary Americans all throughout the war. “We took care of ourselves, we took care of each other,” he said.

Following the speakers, Ivarra called the names of the veterans in the crowd as they were presented with a commemorative pin for their service in Vietnam.

After the ceremony, DelBene again thanked the veterans for their service, and said one veteran in the ceremony said this was only the second time anyone had thanked them for it.

Quoting from a Redmond Reporter article, it goes on to say,

“The Vietnam War started in 1955 after decades of the country being colonized by various countries and partitioned, beginning with the French Empire in the mid and late 1800s.By the late 1960s, America became heavily involved in the war in opposition to the forces in North Vietnam, which wanted to unify the country under a communist system.

More than 58,000 Americans were killed in the conflict, as well as millions more combatants and civilians on both sides. The war faced backlash in the U.S. and many American soldiers who returned faced social stigma. According to the Vietnam Veterans of America website, when soldiers returned from Vietnam, the U.S. government did not make taking care of them a priority. This didn’t begin to change until 1978, when a group of veteran activists formed the organization and began petitioning Congress for funding, services, and recognition. ”

There are more than 200,000 veterans in Washington state who served in the Vietnam war.

VA Compensation Claims

Jerry Mellick <jerrymelli@gmail.com> sent me this summary of a talk he gave  to the VHPAWA meeting in Spokane. Here is the (edited) verison.

As you will remember, one of our East Side members, John Johnson, asked me to give a short talk on using the VA Health Care System in addition to the VA Health Disability System at our meeting last Saturday.  Later, he asked me to see if I could have it posted to our Web Page so it is always available.  T

The biggest thing is that the two elements of the VA don’t play with each other.  Being some percentage of Disabled doesn’t necessarily translate to being in the Health care system. I was perfectly happy with my health care using Medicare and Tricare for Life and I pushed back at the VA in their runs at me to get me enrolled at the Spokane VA Hospital. Finally, a VA rep in Orlando, who had a booth at our VN Pilots Reunion some years back, asked me to give him 15 minutes.  To make a long story short, the VA is really looking for “healthy” Veterans like me (I’d been giving helicopter rides when he talked to me).  He explained that the VA receives a dollar amount for every Veteran that is enrolled in the Health Care System and when (healthy) guys like us are enrolled and don’t need treatment, they can use the funds for the veterans who need a lot of help.

It is a simple process and there is NO requirement to use the VA if you don’t want to.  Although they are on the leading edge if you need to obtaining quality glasses and hearing aids.

The requirement is to take a physical once a year.  It was a very comprehensive oral history and exam.  At my first one, they offered up a lot of stuff, but I didn’t need that.

Since I’m a Type II Diabetic, they have been seeing me twice a year to check my condition subject to availability.  Beyond that, I don’t have any contact with them.

Like I said Saturday, initially, I thought I was doing them a favor, getting an additional physical each year and that was it.  Then I realized that given the condition of Medicare funding and the frailty of Tricare, I’d actually positioned myself pretty well if things went to hell in the current healthcare world.  If sometime downstream I had to depend only on the VA, I didn’t want to have some issues and be trying to get enrolled in their system.

You can just go out to your local VA facility and get enrolled, at least when I did it, that is how it worked.  Once enrolled, they scheduled me for a physical.

Hope this makes sense.


PS: in my searching, I found my letter to my Army buddies on the CRSC and CRDP programs that each of our services provide.  Here is the paper I wrote on this.  I get about $400 a month from the Army for CRSC and it offsets some of the $700 a month the Army takes from my Retirement pay for my VA Disability.  It is worth looking into.  Each Service manages the program.  In addition, when I applied, I got a $18,000 back pay check too.

http://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary/disability/crsc.html   is the pertinent DFAS web site.

Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) is a program that was created for disability and non-disability military retirees with combat-related disabilities.  It is a tax-free entitlement that you will be paid each month along with any retired pay you may already be receiving.  The form for this is DD Form 2860 and the address is on the form.

Somewhere I read that the purpose of the CRSC was to offset the deduction of military retired pay due to the award of the VA Disability Pay, but I cannot not find that reference.

There are two programs:  Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) and Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay (CRDP).  Both are programs created by Congress to allow eligible military retirees to receive monthly entitlements in addition to retired pay.

CRSC is a special compensation for combat-related disabilities.  It is non-taxable, and retirees must apply to their Branch of Service to receive it.

CRDP is a restoration of retired pay for retirees with service-connected disabilities.  It is taxed in the same manner as your retired pay, and it is normally considered taxable income. No application is required. Eligible retirees receive CRDP automatically.

The criteria for both of these programs are spelled out at the site I provided up above and others at that location.  Based on the criteria spelled out there, I could only apply for the CRSC.

I stumbled on to this by accident back in March.  Actually, the Army sent me info about these programs in the past, and due to my thinking, I didn’t qualify for either, given the words Combat Related.  Consequently, each time I looked into it, I didn’t do anything about it.

In early March that year, I was at the local VA Vet Center that is set up in Spokane to assist veterans with a variety of things.  In addition to support groups, counseling, job hunting etc, it is also staffed with volunteers from the Order of the Purple Heart, VFW, American Legion etc to help with VA Disability claims.  Apparently, the VA puts more credibility into claims from Soldiers who go through and designate someone like the VFW to act in their behalf.

I went in to ask for assistance on finding an address to send a request for an upgrade consideration to the VA Disability system as I couldn’t find one.  Since I’m grounded due to my need to take insulin for my Type II Diabetes which I already had a rating of 10% for due to my VN service and Agent Orange exposure, I decided to ask for an upgrade as I’d been advised that Insulin usage results in a higher rating.

While I was there, getting set up with the VFW counselor, another counselor handed me a form about this CRSC/CRDP program.  I told the gentleman that I didn’t feel I qualified for either given that I didn’t have any “Combat” related issues, just service connected.  He pointed out that there was a section on the form for Agent Orange issues, and given it was March and I had my flight jacket on, the gentlemen said rather forcefully: “Fill out the damn form Colonel”.

Given the rather forceful (and appropriate) advice :-), I applied in early March with the Army at Ft. Knox, and got approval within about 45 days and got my first monthly check on July 1st.  The award letter gave me 10% award for Type II Diabetes based on exposure to Agent Orange and 10% for Tinnitus based on Military Service.  It also said that the award was effective May 2008.

Initially, when I got the money in my checking account from DFAS, I didn’t know if this was a monthly check or the total, so I went to “MyPay” and it was made clear to me that it was a monthly pay.  It also said if any retroactive pay was due, it would be paid in 30 to 60 days.  In August of that year, I received from the Army a check for nearly $18,000.  Not sure how that computes based on the monthly stipend and the retroactive date, but I don’t care.

As of now, this is all I know on this subject.


If you are receiving a VA stipend for Service connected disabilities, and your award is less than 50%, I believe that you will find a like amount being deducted from your US Army Retired pay.  I had to sign a waiver of my retired pay, and I thought that the waiver was mandatory to have a VA disability claim.  At least that is what I was told at my Retirement out processing when I signed the waiver form.  However, I know of no one, with a VA rating below 50%, that this isn’t the case for.

Not sure what the military retirement status is of all of the folks on my military email list, so I’ll qualify this note right off the bat so you can discard it if you don’t fall into the following categories:

  • Military Retiree and are entitled to and/or receiving military retired pay;
  • Be rated at least 10 percent by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA;
  • And have waived your VA pay from your retired pay.

I recently applied for, and received, Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) from the US Army, both in the form of a tax free monthly stipend, and a tax free retroactive lump sum payment.