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I've been waiting to see this day for 15 years -- and in some ways, my whole life.

I've loved history ever since I was a little boy. Growing up in the oppressive shadow of Jim Crow, my teachers would ask me to cut out photographs I found in magazines and newspapers of Rosa Parks, George Washington Carver, and other marchers for justice. I read about Booker T. Washington, reveled in the sounds of the Jubilee Singers, and prayed for a King to reach the mountaintop.

To me, history is the foundation of a powerful legacy, and it is important to tell the stories of the millions of black men and women, boys and girls, who labored and sacrificed, and continue the struggle, to build this great nation.

When I learned of the decades-long effort to establish a national museum dedicated to preserving that too often untold story, I readily joined the effort. Every session of Congress for 15 years, I introduced a bill to create this national museum.

While the journey has been long, today the history of African Americans will finally take its place on the National Mall next to the monuments to Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson -- exactly where it belongs.

It is important that the National Museum of African American History and Culture tells the unvarnished truth of America's history -- a story that speaks to the soul of our nation, but one few Americans know.

It's a reminder that 400 years of history can't be buried; its lessons must be learned. By bringing the uncomfortable parts of our past out of the shadows, we can better understand what divides us and seek to heal those problems through our unity.

If we look at the glass-topped casket that displayed the brutalized body of Emmett Till and hear his story, we may better understand the exasperation and anger Americans feel today over the deaths of Trayvon Martin or Tamir Rice.

If we see that an everyday leather wallet is what's left of Harry T. Moore -- a man who fought for the right to vote and died in a bombing meant to silence his activism on Christmas Day in 1951 -- perhaps we will see why so many are fighting to protect any encroachment on that most sacred right today.

And as we look at the exhibit dedicated to an African American who now leads the free world from a White House built by black slaves, we can better understand the unshakeable optimism that has defined his belief that -- with dedicated work and a little good trouble -- we can help create a society that is more fair and more just, which benefits all Americans.

This museum casts a light on some of the most inspiring -- and uniquely American -- heroes who were denied equal rights but often laid down their lives to defend this nation in every generation. Often they profited least from the struggle they were willing to die for because they believed that the promises of true democracy should belong to us all, equally and without question.

I hope you will join me and President Obama for the opening ceremony of the National Museum of African American History and Culture today at 10:00 am ET.

When you hear about the heroes memorialized in its halls, you may discover the depths of the invincible American spirit. As we learn and confront this history together, we can begin to build one inclusive, and truly democratic family -- the American family.

Rep. John Lewis








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News Releases

Graphic saying New VA Secretary to Announce VA-Bob Woodruff Foundation Partnership - Department of Veterans Affairs’ Secretary Robert A. McDonald this evening will announce a partnership with the Bob Woodruff Foundation to further advance VA’s outreach to Veterans through deeper and more innovative local and community partnerships. VA will capitalize on BWF’s strength and contacts to find unique ways to connect Veterans, transitioning Servicemembers and their families with resources right where they live. The partnership with BWF is one of many strategic alliances VA is forming and is an integral goal of the MyVA initiative, the largest reorganization in VA’s history which reorients VA around the needs of Veterans. (11/10/15)

Graphic saying New VA and PenFed Foundation Work Together to Prevent Veteran Homelessness - The Department of Veterans Affairs is teaming up with the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation (PenFed Foundation) to strengthen efforts to prevent Veteran homelessness. This new partnership will expand the PenFed Foundation’s existing Military Heroes Fund Emergency Assistance Program to include all Veterans. Previously, the program was available only to Veterans of the Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) conflicts. (11/9/15)

Graphic saying New VA partners with YMCA of the USA to support Veterans - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) have refreshed and expanded their partnership to promote and enhance the health and well-being of Veterans and their families. (11/6/15)

Graphic saying New VA Convenes Commission for the Selection of Next Under Secretary for Benefits - The Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today he is convening a commission, which will serve to make recommendations to the President for the appointment of VA's next Under Secretary for Benefits (USB). (11/5/15)

Graphic saying New VA Launches Hepatitis C–Advanced Liver Disease Disparities Dashboard - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is stepping up its efforts to accelerate treatment for Veterans with hepatitis C and advanced liver disease (ALD) through the creation of a Hepatitis C–ALD dashboard. The dashboard works by using a set of criteria, including age, gender, geography, service era along with and race and ethnicity, to distinguish Veteran groups at highest risk for ALD as a result of hepatitis C. (11/3/15)

Elks Pledge Four Million Dollars to End Veteran Homelessness - The Department of Veterans Affairs is strengthening community and non-profit partnerships to better serve Veterans. The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America today announced that it has committed $4 million over a 4-year period to help end Veteran homelessness. (10/14/15)

National Creative Arts Festival in North Carolina Showcases Veterans’ Artistry - The Durham VA Medical Center in North Carolina will host more than 100 Veterans from across the country for the 2015 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. The festival runs Oct. 12 through Oct. 18. (10/9/15)

VA’s Million Veteran Program hits 400K Milestone - The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Million Veteran Program (MVP) has enrolled its 400,000th Veteran volunteer, squarely putting it on track to become one of the world’s largest medical databases, linking genetic, clinical, lifestyle and military-exposure information, with the goal of learning more about the role of genes in health and disease. (10/8/15)

VA Announces Expansion of Veterans Economic Communities Initiative - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced the expansion of a program aimed at increasing education and employment opportunities to America’s Veterans to an additional to 25 new communities. The Veterans Economic Communities Initiative (VECI) brings together local and national partners to coordinate services for Veterans, Servicemembers and military families. (9/30/15)

VA Announces $12.8 Million in funding to Help the Homeless - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald today announced $12.8 million in renewal funding through the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program to 20 community agencies that currently provide transitional housing with supportive services for homeless Veterans under the Transition in Place (TIP) model. (9/29/15)

VA Announces $4 Million in Funding to Help the Homeless - WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald announced the award of $4 million in renewal funding offered through the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program to 21 community agencies that currently provide enhanced services for homeless Veterans with special needs. (9/24/15)

VA Secretary Robert McDonald to Meet With First-Ever All Female Honor Flight Participants - VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald will speak to more than 140 Veterans who are in Washington D.C. as part of the first-ever all female Honor Flight. Honor Flights transport our nation’s Veterans to Washington D.C. to visit and reflect at the memorials built to honor their service. The flight arriving on September 22 is comprised of 70 female World War II Veterans and 70 post-9/11 era female Veterans. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs will provide remarks during a short ceremony at the Women in Military Service Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery to honor these Veterans. (9/21/15)

VA Awards $8 Million in Adaptive Sport Grants to Aid Disabled Veterans - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald today announced the awarding of up to $8 million in grants to eligible recipients with experience managing largescale adaptive sports programs for disabled Veterans and disabled Servicemembers of the Armed Forces. The grant recipients may use these funds for planning, developing, managing and implementing adaptive sports programs. (9/15/15)

VA Awards Local Grants to Prevent and End Homelessness - Thousands of very low-income Veteran families around the nation, who are permanently housed or transitioning to permanent housing, will continue to have access to crucial services with the renewal of approximately $300 million in grants under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. (9/14/15)

VA More Than Triples Volunteers in Facilities Nationwide through Summer of Service - The Department of Veterans Affairs today announced that the 2015 Summer of Service initiative, which launched in May, has exceeded the goals set for community volunteers serving Veterans and the development of new partnerships to reach Veterans and their family members. VA’s Summer of Service mobilized approximately 300,000 citizens across the country to honor the nation’s sacred commitment to caring for Veterans. (9/9/15)

The 9th National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic - Sailing




The recently released fall 2015 issue of Post-9/11 Vet features important updates for Veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn. Inside you’ll find the latest information on the Burn Pit Registry, exposure to chemical warfare agents, health research, and more. Start reading at www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/publications/oef-oif-ond/post-9-11-vet-fall-2015/index.asp.

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Update on GI Bill In-State Tuition; Section 702 of the Choice Act

Colleagues and Fellow Veterans,

We’d like to update you on the tremendous progress implementing our piece of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (“the Choice Act”) – specifically, the provision affecting students using the Post-9/11 GI Bill® and Montgomery GI Bill. 

Section 702 of the Choice Act requires VA to disapprove programs at public colleges for Post-9/11 GI Bill and MGIB benefits that don’t provide the resident-rate tuition and fee charges to covered individuals.  The disapproval applies to any terms beginning after July 1, 2015.  This change affects thousands of Post-9/11 GI Bill and MGIB – AD students.  To remain approved for VA’s GI Bill programs, schools must charge in-state tuition and fee amounts to those covered by this law. 
When we last wrote about this in May, we indicated that Secretary McDonald decided to exercise his waiver authority and grant more time for states and territories to comply.

Today we’re pleased to report that 45 states and several territories comply with the law and have begun charging covered individuals up to the resident-rate for tuition and fees at public schools.

This means that nearly 5,000 public schools, covering nearly 93% of the GI Bill student population, are participating. Now, that doesn’t mean that all of their students will qualify; the school still has to verify that someone is a covered individual. But it does demonstrate the breadth and depth of the progress we’ve made thanks to your support.  

This effort took energy and support from so many people and organizations, and I’m proud of how we worked together for the greater good of the Veteran community. I especially want to thank our SAA colleagues for ensuring their respective legislative bodies or education commissions took the necessary steps to comply.

Other states have delegated the compliance decision to their respective schools …you can see which ones at the link below. 

The remaining few non-compliant states and territories have until December 31, 2015, to comply, thanks to the Secretary’s waiver. All of them have indicated they intend to comply.

Our work isn’t done yet, but we are so close. We won’t stop until every state and territory complies, and we’ll continue to update you on our progress.

You can read more about the resident-rate requirements of the Choice Act by visiting our website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/702.asp. There you can also track the latest compliance status by state, territory, and school on our map.

As always, we thank you for all you do every day to assist this deserving community.


Curtis L. Coy
Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity
Veterans Benefits Administration
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

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You can send us a secure email that will usually be answered within 48 hours. You can also search for answers to frequently asked questions and register to be notified of any updates to the information. This contact method is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can also be utilized worldwide. Click here to enter the "Ask A Question" site or here to review our frequently asked questions.

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