WASHINGTON (Feb. 16, 2015) – Non-profit groups with a track record of helping Soldiers and their families will soon experience a more streamlined process to get them access to military installations, said Carla K. Coulson, director of Army Installation Services.
Coulson addressed the quarterly Veterans Service Organizations and Military Support Organizations, or VSO/MSO, summit, Feb. 11, at the Pentagon. About two dozen representatives from a variety of VSO/MSO were in attendance, as well as members of other non-federal entities who support Soldiers and family members.
In December, the defense secretary issued two memos directing the military services to implement additional procedures to improve access to installations for service and support organizations, she said. The Army’s executive order, or EXORD, is expected to be released in another week or so.
Installations are legally bound to provide installation access to Department of Veteran Affairs-recognized VSO/MSO entities to assist Soldiers with their Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, claims, if the senior installation commander receives and approves a written request, she said.
The EXORD would – while still requiring a written request – expedite a lot of the paperwork that often accompanies a request. The order would also facilitate better communications channels, she said. For example, the EXORD requires a single-installation point of contact for organizations.
There are many types of VA-recognized VSO/MSO organizations. Examples include the Military Officers Association of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, American Red Cross, and the Wounded Warrior Project.
NON-PROFIT, NON-FEDERAL ENTITIES
Nonprofit organizations supporting Soldiers and families, including VSO/MSOs not processing VA claims, would have similar access. In order to gain that access, such organizations may be required to provide an IRS Form 990 or other mandated documentation to establish their credentials, she said.
Examples of these organization include the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, the National Military Family Association, Operation Homefront and Blue Star Families.
Coulson said senior installation commanders will be encouraged to expedite the return of requests for all entities. In turn, those requesting access are encouraged to include multiple dates for access – if desired – in a single document, to make the paperwork easier for the commander. Also, requesters are asked to provide their own single point of contact.
One concern is adequate facilities to host VSA/MSO groups, Coulson said. It is something each installation will be reviewing.
Senior installation commanders will receive training on implementing the EXORD and also will get help from their staff judge advocates and community relations personnel in designing a plan, she said. She asked the organizations to have patience while commanders work through the new process.
Rene C. Bardorf, deputy assistant defense secretary for public affairs and public outreach, who also spoke at the summit, said that “bad actors” will still not gain access to installations.
The bottom line, Coulson said, is that access procedures will become standardized and clearer, and Soldiers will benefit from the change.