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Veterans Issues

Senate Sends Veterans’ Suicide Prevention Bill to President

The Senate unanimously passed the “Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act” (H.R. 203) and President Obama signed it into law in mid-February. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Walz (Minnesota), establishes an annual third-party evaluation of the VA’s mental health care and suicide prevention programs, promotes greater collaboration with community mental health resources and creates a pilot program to attract and retain department psychiatrists. The measure is also designed to combat veteran suicide by improving the quality of care at VA facilities and creating a strong base for future mental health initiatives.

FRA, along with other veterans’ service organizations, advocated for quick passage of the bill, which is named for a 28-year-old Marine who committed suicide in 2011 after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill was introduced on January 7, 2015; passed the House on January 15, passed unanimously in the Senate on February 3 and signed into law on February 12.

“This bill had many advocates — none more important than Clay Hunt’s parents — who fought tirelessly to shepherd this legislation through both houses of Congress. Today, we commend them for their work in this effort, and call on President Obama to sign this important bill into law without delay,” said Rep. Jeff Miller (Florida), Chairman House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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Flag Desecration Amendment Introduced

Rep. Steve Womack (Arkansas) has introduced a proposed constitutional amendment (H.J. Res. 9) to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States. Many brave men and women who serve and have served in the armed services feel deeply about the dignity of “Old Glory.” The physical desecration of this symbol of democracy and freedom is an affront to them and to the memory of those who died in the service to this nation.

Members are urged to use the Action Center ( to ask their representative to vote for this proposed constitutional amendment.

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The FRA Legislative Team is National Executive Director Tom Snee, Director of Legislative Programs John Davis, Assistant Director of Legislative Programs Stephen Tassin and National Veterans Service Officer Chris Slawinski.


Final Countdown

March is a critical month for our membership year, which began on April 1, 2014 and concludes on March 31, 2015. This is the last month for all our members and branches to establish and strengthen their eligibility for the various recruiting and retention awards and incentives, which are still up for grabs. Here is a list of the awards and some tips on how you can make a difference in membership.

At the upcoming 88th FRA National Convention, scheduled for October 14 –17 in Spokane, Washington, we will present the following membership awards, based on the final membership reports at the end of March:

  • The FRA 100% Awards go to all branches that maintain or increase their membership numbers during the year.

  • The Retention Incentive Awards recognize the top branch in Groups I through V that brings in the highest number of reinstated members. Each winning branch will receive a $100 award.

  • The Charles E. Lofgren Award for Branches (in Groups I through V) recognizes the highest percentage gain/no losses in branch membership.

  • The Charles E. Lofgren Award for Individuals (in Groups I through V) is presented to the shipmate who has recruited the most members.

  • The Abraham M. Rosenberg Membership Award recognizes the one branch with the highest overall gain in membership.

  • The Frank J. McPherson Memorial Award, FRA’s most prestigious individual membership award, is presented to one shipmate who exemplifies the three FRA cardinal principles of Loyalty, Protection and Service, particularly with regard to membership endeavors. This award is selected based on nominations from branches through the regions to the National Headquarters (NHQ). Nominations must be submitted to the region by June 30 and a regional representative will be selected during the each regional convention. The final nomination from each region must be received at NHQ by October 7, 2015.

For those shipmates aspiring to be top recruiters, take a look at some of the recruiting resources referenced in the January 2015 issue of FRA Today. When you meet prospective members, start a conversation about their military service and try to find some common ground with your own military experience. Find out what their concerns or needs are and explain how FRA can help them. Give a brief summary about the requirements to join and include a talk about FRA’s goals, objectives, projects and programs. Invite potential members to attend an upcoming meeting. Close the deal and ask them to join the Association and become members of the oldest Sea Service association.

Branches who desire to achieve top membership should use their monthly branch reports to contact new members and welcome them into the branch. In addition, contact current members who are due to renew, are past due with their membership fees or whose memberships have been terminated for non-payment of dues. Seek volunteers who will contact these members either by phone, e-mail, postcard, or letter. Many branch secretaries send blast e-mail messages to their branch members through the iMIS membership database and have used this method very effectively in retaining current members. Call Member Services at 1-800-FRA-1924 to learn more about using this helpful tool.

Please remember to also submit your branch’s annual Committee Reports for Americanism-Patriotism; Hospitals, Welfare and Rehabilitation; Youth Activities and Public Relations recognition at your regional conventions, in order to be considered for regional and national recognition. Honors will be presented for Shipmates of the Year in Youth Activities and Public Relations, which is an excellent way to recognize those members who are doing great things to strengthen FRA’s image and impact in local communities. Community involvement is also an excellent way to keep shipmates engaged and retain them as FRA members.

We look forward to highlighting individual and branch success stories. Share your recent recruiting and retention efforts with us by sending an e-mail to or calling 1-800-FRA-1924, ext. 123.

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Penny Collins is FRA’s Director of Membership Development and a member of FRA Branch 24 in Annapolis, Md. She can be reached at

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