Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Friday, December 7, 2018 which is National Cotton Candy Day, International Civil Aviation Day, Letter Writing Day and National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
Today in Legion History:
[The following has been furnished by China Post 1, if you wish to have your post history included, kindly email me at any time.]
Dec. 7, 1941: Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, brings the United States into World War II. Soon, more than 150,000 members of The American Legion (World War I veterans and career officers) return to wartime service. In addition, nearly 400,000 Legionnaires serve as air-raid wardens, 300,000 as volunteer police officers and 50,000 as volunteer firefighters to fill wartime needs in their communities.
On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the British issued orders to its naval river patrol boats to surrender. The Japanese Imperial Army moved into the international community in Shanghai to secure the area and the foreign nationals who might organize an underground resistance including Past China Post 1 Commander Frank Delacy Mortimer.
Many of those captured were American Legion Post 1 members, prominent citizens within the expat community. Individuals who because of their connections in the financial, political, and information spheres, had the potential to cause trouble for the Japanese. Arrested were business leaders, retired US Navy, Army and Marine personnel, and people who had been working in intelligence community. Considered POWs with the rank of sergeant by the Japanese, 382 internees found themselves in the former barracks of the US Marine Fourth Regiment, Second battalion, at 372 Haiphong Road.
One year earlier in 1940, with uncommon foresight and anticipation of the inevitable Japanese occupation of Shanghai, and in an effort to protect the China Post’s records, then Adjutant Frank Mortimer had the records bound into volumes and hid them in a camouflaged area in the attic of his company warehouse. Unfortunately, during this period, the Japanese quartered troops in his former warehouse. Had they discovered the Post records, Frank would have certainly been executed.
During their internment, Post members led by Frank D. Mortimer and Otis Fritz kept the post alive with the distribution of Red Cross supplies and secreting mail in and out of the facility. His efforts resulted in Frank being elected as the Camp representative three consecutive years. Following the end of hostilities with the assistance of General Claire Lee Chennault, Frank D Mortimer and Otis Fitz reconstituted the post and resumed normal Post operations including clothing and feeding expats and orphaned children in the Shanghai area. General Chennault became the Executive Director, Otis Fitz was elected Commander and Frank Mortimer resumed his duties as China Post 1 Adjutant.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
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Military Times: 70 House lawmakers to Trump: Kill proposed $33 billion defense cut
By: Joe Gould 15 hours ago
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WASHINGTON — A group of 70 House lawmakers are urging President Donald Trump to stick to a planned top line of $733 billion for his fiscal 2020 defense budget request to Congress and forgo a proposed $33 billion cut.
“President Trump cannot claim he is rebuilding our military while cutting the funds necessary to do so,” said Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, and the lawmaker leading a letter to Trump made public Thursday. “We’ve seen the devastating effects on readiness when our military is forced to make arbitrary cuts as our adversaries continue to aggressively invest in their national security operations.”
Due to be sent to Trump at the end of next week, the letter is signed by only one Democrat — Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz. — which underscores the possibility of tough negotiations defense hawks will face under divided government. In essence, the lawmakers are asking Trump to start them off in stronger position as Democrats are expected to emphasize domestic spending over defense.
Turner, the chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, has led letters of this sort often in recent years to publicly add pressure to increase defense budgets. The release of this letter comes amid a flurry of activity months ahead of Trump submitting his FY20 budget request.
After signing significant defense increases into law — to $700 billion for fiscal 2018 and $716 billion for 2019 — the president has shown signs he may be wavering on a planned $733 billion defense top line. In a tweet this week, Trump called the FY19 figure, “Crazy!” after his budget office ordered the Pentagon weeks ago to prepare a $700 billion budget as an alternative to the $733 billion budget.
The new letter cites quotes Trump to himself, reminding him that upon signing the 2019 defense policy bill he bragged it was “the most significant investment in our military and our warfighters in modern history,” and pledged, “We are going to strengthen our military like never ever before and that’s what we did.”
They excerpt the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy, which also pledges, “historic investments in the United States military” and that “The whole world is lifted by America’s renewal and the reemergence of American leadership.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, HASC chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, and SASC chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., lobbied Trump toward the higher top line. The two chairmen met with Trump at the White House on Tuesday, when they associated suboptimal defense budgets of the past with Trump’s sometime foil, President Barack Obama.
The letter released Thursday claims the, “erosion of American military strength is a direct result of the Obama Administration’s sequestration.” (The 2011 Budget Control Act was passed by Congress, on a bipartisan basis, to avert a default on the U.S. debt.)
“Since sequestration went into effect, dwindling resources have negatively affected our service members and military readiness,” the letter reads. “Our military has shouldered the burden of this harmful and failed political budgetary tactic, and it has had severe consequences for our national security.”
The letter also cites National Defense Strategy Commission’s dire warnings about America’s eroding military edge.
“Cuts to defense spending will have disastrous consequences for our military readiness, as was proven by sequestration,” the letter reads. “America’s ability to defend its allies, its partners, and its own vital interests is increasingly in doubt. If the nation does not act promptly to remedy these circumstances, the consequences will be grave and lasting.”
Defense News: Inhofe ‘urging’ Trump to boost defense, sees ‘no strategic rationale’ for cuts
By: Joe Gould 19 hours ago
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Rep. Adam Smith says he can work with Sen. Inhofe and SASC
After trading barbs in interviews this week, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., says he and Sen. Jim Inhofe, the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, can work together once he steps into his role as House Armed Services chairman, despite their differences.
WASHINGTON — Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe said he used a recent two-hour White House meeting with President Donald Trump, Vice Mike President Pence and national security adviser John Bolton to urge the administration to reverse course on a planned cut to the fiscal year 2020 national defense budget.
“I’m urging the president to consider” approving a “strategy-driven budget,” he said Thursday in a speech at the National Defense University focused on his priorities for the committee. "There’s no strategic rationale for any cut” to the defense budget, which stood at $716 billion for 2019, he said.
Inhofe and HASC chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, on Wednesday, lobbied the president to reject a planned $700 billion defense budget request, ordered by the White House budget office, in favor of a rival $733 billion budget which aligns with the National Defense Strategy.
The remarks come days after Trump tweeted that the size of the FY19 defense budget he signed last year was “Crazy!” Trump said he hoped for talks soon with his Russian and Chinese counterparts to end, “what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race” — a likely reference to negotiations over theIntermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
A supporter of the president and proud conservative, Inhofe made the candid admission that, “I cringe a little,” whenever Trump tweets. He said he doesn’t blame Trump, however, for trying to get around a media that, “hates him.”
“I have to admit — confession’s good for the soul — every time I hear that a tweet is coming out, I cringe a little,” Inhofe said. “But, wouldn’t it be kind of nice if he had someone to bounce those off, change the wording maybe a little bit? But how else can he circumvent a media that hates him?”
Surrounding himself with uniformed military officers Thursday, Inhofe paired partisan jabs at the media, “liberals,” and President Obama with praise for Trump on defense spending, seating judges and the economy. Asked about rising deficits in the face of his defense spending proposal, Inhofe suggested cutting social programs and dismissed tax cuts.
As defense hawks head into a budget season marked by a divided Congress, Inhofe has launched a media blitz to amplify his message that the Pentagon’s planned $733 billion top-line is “a floor, not a ceiling” and that he wants three-to-five percent real growth in the defense budget.
Budget Control Act Looms Large
Inhofe reiterated his argument for exempting defense from the 2011 Budget Control Act’s caps, which has been a non-starter with Democrats who have fought for parity between defense and non-defense spending each year since the BCA was passed. Inhofe said he hoped to break parity for FY20.
“The top priority in this country should be defense,” he said. “People here in the military, with your orientation, know what I’m talking about. The general public doesn’t. A lot of the media’s making them believe we don’t have any threats out there, and a lot of this is a waste of money.”
Inhofe also struck some conciliatory notes towards Democrats. Inhofe expressed confidence in Congress reaching a bipartisan deal to lift budget caps for the last two years of the Budget Control Act, where caps for discretionary defense spending stand at $542 billion for FY20 and $555 billion for FY21.
After trading barbs last week with his soon-to-be counterpart at the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., Inhofe called Smith "a good man,” who he likes personally. Inhofe had swiped at Smith’s position that modernization of the nuclear triad is unaffordable, but Inhofe said Thursday, “We’re two different people with two different philosophies.”
Because a recent bipartisan National Defense Strategy Commission report ranked Russian and Chinese strides in nuclear weapons development as a top national security concern, “I think he made a mistake when he singled out nuclear modernization,” Inhofe said of Smith.
“I think it was a bad choice and I think it is one he and I can talk about,” Inhofe said. “I think we’re going to see, even though Democrats have control of the House, when it gets down to defending America, we’re going to be much closer together.”
Inhofe literally held up the commission’s report, which paints a dire picture of America’s military edge and calls for added defense spending to maintain it. Inhofe reiterated his plans to prioritize modernization spending to compete with Russia and China — which have been “busy” as the U.S. has “toyed with” nuclear modernization.
Inhofe stressed Russia’s investment in hypersonic weapons, but also touted China’s construction of islands in the South China Sea (“They are everywhere”), touted China’s presence in Africa (“It’s a very scary thing”), and he claimed China’s navy would outpace America’s in two years.
Asked why he considered China a threat when the U.S. defense strategy considers it a competitor, he said, “Anyone who has anything better than we do is a potential threat, and my job is to minimize that."
ReBoot Camp: Another for-profit college chain, popular with GI Bill users, closes suddenly
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By: Jeff Amy, The Associated Press and Collin Binkley, Associated Press 20 hours ago
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — One of the nation’s largest for-profit college chains announced Wednesday that it was abruptly closing in dozens of locations nationwide, after its accrediting agency suspended approval.
Birmingham, Alabama-based Education Corp. of America said it was closing schools operating as Virginia College, Brightwood College, Brightwood Career Institute, Ecotech Institute and Golf Academy of America in more than 70 locations in 21 states. The company said in October that it had more than 20,000 students, although more recent documents indicate the number may be closer to 15,000.
ECA schools enrolled about 4,000 students using the Post-9/11 GI Bill in fiscal 2017, the latest year for which federal data is available. A Military Times analysis of Department of Veterans Affairs data shows more than $41 million went to pay for the education of veterans at these schools.
The company, backed by investors including private equity firm Willis Stein & Partners of Chicago, is the latest in a series of for-profit colleges to close after allegations that they were loading students up with debt while not providing them with marketable skills.
In some cases, students told local news outlets Wednesday that operations ceased immediately, while in other cases students said they were told to return for meetings later.
ECA spokeswoman Diane Worthington said that at most locations, Friday would be the last day of classes, and students would get academic credit for this term. One ECA institution, New England College of Business, is not closing. The company mostly offers professional certificates in subjects like cosmetology, culinary arts and medical and dental assisting.
In a letter to students, ECA CEO Stuart Reed said the company’s impending loss of accreditation, along with added requirements from the U.S. Department of Education, made the company unable to raise more money to operate the schools while it sought to reorganize.
“It is with extreme regret that this series of recent circumstances has forced us to discontinue the operation of our schools,” Reed wrote.
In October, the company sued the U.S. Education Department seeking to maintain its federal funding, which was in jeopardy over its dire financial situation. A judge later dismissed the suit.
Court documents filed by the company said its lagging revenue left it unable to make payments on its debt or rental fees, and that it faced eviction at several campuses. ECA estimated it owed $66 million at the time. Even before then, ECA was planning to shutter 26 campuses to cut costs. Another federal judge in Georgia later granted a bankruptcy-like receivership meant to protect the company from creditors.
ECA largely blamed falling enrollment on an upswing in the economy, which left fewer adults heading to school for job skills, and on increased federal regulation of the for-profit college industry.
The sudden closure drew criticism from the U.S. Education Department, which said it had been working with the company to arrange a shut-down that gave students time to transfer.
“Instead of taking the next few months to close in an orderly fashion, ECA took the easy way out and left 19,000 students scrambling to find a way to finish the education program they started,” Liz Hill, an Education Department spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Like the recently shuttered Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute chains, Education Corporation of America was overseen by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, one of the watchdog groups the federal government appoints to ensure colleges offer a quality education.
The council, known as ACICS, wrote a Tuesday letter to Reed saying it was suspending accreditation immediately at all the institutions, citing “rapidly deteriorating financial conditions,” a failure to make required payments to the council and a wide variety of academic concerns.
ACICS was shut down by the Obama administration over allegations of lax oversight, but was later reinstated on Nov. 21 by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who found it was “substantially in compliance” with federal standards.
Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, urged DeVos to rethink her decision on ACICS after the Wednesday closure.
“We have repeatedly warned about the risks low-quality, for-profit education companies and irresponsible accreditors pose to students and taxpayers across the country,” Scott said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is another painful reminder of those risks.”
Corinthian and ITT Tech educated thousands of student veterans when they closed in 2015 and 2016, respectively, and became the impetus for a provision in the Forever GI Bill law passed last year that restores GI Bill benefits to victims of abrupt school closures.
In many cases, students and teachers were in class when they got the news about the ECA closures Wednesday. Melissa Zavala, who was studying to be a medical assistant at a San Antonio, Texas, campus of Brightwood, told KSAT-TV students were taken to an auditorium.
“The director was there and she was like, ‘I have bad news. The school is closing down,’” Zavala said. “Everyone was like, ‘What about our student loans? We’re almost done.’”
Zavala said campus officials couldn’t provide additional information and told them to look online for other colleges they could attend.
“They took our money, they shut the school down and that’s it for us,” Zavala said.
Toby Merrill, who directs the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School, said students can ask the U.S. Department of Education to cancel loans if a school closes. However, that opportunity doesn’t apply if a student transfers credits or if a school hires a successor to offer students classes to complete their programs.
(Military Times reporter Natalie Gross contributed to this story.)
Military Times: VA head defends staff in controversy over response to race riots
By: Leo Shane III 21 hours ago
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WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said he still has confidence in his top staffers’ commitment to diversity and anti-discrimination efforts after a Washington Post reportWednesday that showed opposition to department employees speaking out in the wake of racial violence in Charlottesville, Va., last year.
Wilkie called the issue “one that falls on the previous management” and said that in the five months since he has taken over the department, he has focused on moving past the tumult of the department’s leadership shakeup earlier this year.
“When I started, one of the first directives I took was on inclusion and equal opportunity, same thing as when I worked at the Pentagon,” he said at a telehealth event on Thursday morning. “I wouldn’t have anyone on the team who wasn’t dedicated to that.”
The Post report included email exchanges between Georgia Coffey, then a senior executive at VA overseeing diversity issues, and John Ullyot, VA’s top communications official, in the wake of the August 2017 riots in Charlottesville.
In the days that followed, President Donald Trump said there was “blame on both sides” for the violence, prompting questions about his attitude towards white nationalism. The VA secretary at the time, David Shulkin, condemned the incident and added that “we know that staying silent on these issues is simply not acceptable.”
Coffey at the time pushed for a forceful condemnation from senior VA leadership to the violence. Ullyot advised for a more muted statement and said employees were to “keep their personal views on the Charlottesville issue out of official VA communications.” Officials say that directive came from Shulkin, and was not designed to prevent employees from speaking out against racist activities.
In the email exchange, Ullyot backed Coffey’s plans to remind VA employees of the importance of diversity and inclusion but offered other edits to minimize what he saw as personal views encroaching on an official department statement. She rejected that approach.
VA officials told the Washington Post the issue was not one of diversity but one of department messaging and insubordination. Wilkie offered support for Ullyot on Thursday, calling him “a dedicated public servant” and adding “I don’t know the full story of what Dr. Shulkin ordered or didn’t order.”
The incident is the latest in a series of racially tinged controversies for the department and the Trump administration. In October, federal union officials demanded an investigation after a separate Washington Post report uncovered a senior VA official who prominently displayed a picture of a Ku Klux Klan leader in his office.
VA’s Office on Diversity and Inclusion has been without a permanent head since early this year, when the former head, John Fuller, retired amid concerns with the administration’s approach to the topic.
Military.com: Scientists Recommend Health Monitoring for Gulf War, Post-9/11 Vets, Offspring
6 Dec 2018
Military.com | By Patricia Kime
Researchers with the influential National Academy of Medicine have recommended that the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments track troops’ exposure to environmental toxins and monitor their — and their offspring’s — health to better understand the risks and consequences of military deployment.
In a report released Nov. 28 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, a panel of 16 scientists said they could not definitively link health issues in some 1990-1991 Gulf War and post-9/11 veterans and their families to environmental exposures, but they recommended the government and other institutions establish a health monitoring and research program to determine what health effects, if any, military deployments have on the veterans and future generations.
Nearly 700,000 service members deployed to the Persian Gulf region during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and 2.7 million have been stationed in or fought in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere since Sept. 11, 2001. Many of these veterans may have been exposed to "potentially hazardous agents and situations," the report noted, such as pesticides, solvents, chemicals and biological agents, vaccines, burn pit and oil well fire smoke, dust and depleted uranium.
To determine whether exposure to any of these substances is responsible for illnesses found in some of these veterans and their family members, the panel looked at more than 80,000 publications on reproductive and genetic effects of environmental exposures, mostly research on civilian populations exposed to the same substances, or animal studies, because research specific to military exposures is scant.
The committee largely concluded that there is insufficient evidence in the existing literature to link reproductive conditions or health problems in veterans’ offspring with the most common contaminants seen on the battlefield.
Members did note, however, that there is limited or suggestive evidence that sulfur mustard may have a negative effect on men’s reproduction, that the bacterial infection leishmaniasis may negatively affect pregnancy outcomes, and that chromium — a chemical used in paint and as an anti-corrosive — can negatively impact men’s reproduction, pregnancy outcomes and child development.
Also, the committee found sufficient evidence of an association between prenatal exposure to some pesticides and neurodevelopmental effects; prenatal exposure to particulate matter and adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as low birth weight and preterm birth; and prenatal exposure to benzene and childhood leukemia.
A health monitoring and research program would help broaden the understanding of deployment-related exposures and the long-term effects on generations, according to the report.
Establishing such a program would require "substantial resources, long-term commitment by the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments and other governmental organizations and considerable engagement by past, current, and future veterans and their families," but the contribution to science would be significant, said Dr. Kenneth Ramos, panel chair and executive director of the Center for Applied Genetics and Genomic Medicine at the University of Arizona.
"The results that arise from studying generational effects will ultimately be rewarded with new knowledge of veterans’ exposures, their reproductive health, and the health of their children and grandchildren. Importantly, the new understanding derived from these investments will be relevant to the health of all Americans now and for future generations."
By direction of Congress in 1998, the VA contracted with NASEM to conduct systematic reviews of research on associations between illnesses and serving in the Persian Gulf. The National Academies have created 11 reports on the subject, including Gulf War and Health, Generational Health Effects of Serving in the Gulf War.
In November, the National Academies also recommended that the VA study the generational exposure to dioxin in children of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
Stripes: Senator calls on VA, credit bureaus to prevent lasting consequences from GI Bill delays
By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 6, 2018
WASHINGTON – Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., on Thursday urged the Department of Veterans Affairs and major credit reporting agencies to intervene on behalf of student veterans who could experience long-term financial repercussions from not receiving their monthly housing stipends on time this semester.
Citing information technology failures, the VA missed a deadline in August to implement part of the new “Forever” GI Bill, which Congress approved last year. The issue resulted in thousands of veterans not receiving their housing stipends or facing delays. Housing stipends are used by GI Bill recipients to pay for their rent, bills, food and other living expenses.
Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, asked Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — national credit bureaus — to prevent the situation from damaging veterans’ credit scores. If they didn’t, she warned it could cause those veterans a “lifetime of hardship.”
“I think it’s going to hurt veterans for a long time,” Duckworth said. “If they’ve been kicked out of housing or made late payments, then this will affect their ability to get credit and perhaps buy a house or a car or start a business well into the future.”
The exact number of veterans affected by the delays is still unknown. The VA reported a backlog of 183,000 pending education claims in early October, and the most recent publicly available data showed the workload was 80,500 claims as of Nov. 30 – 22 percent more than the same week last year.
The VA received calls from about 1,000 veterans who experienced hardships because of the delays and had a few credible complaints from veterans facing eviction, said Robert Worley, the VA official who, until recently, led the implementation of the new GI Bill.
Navy veteran Robert Epps was one of those 1,000 hardship cases.
Epps, his wife and their two children live in Washington state, where he’s working toward an electrical engineering degree. The couple has a third child on the way.
Epps was relying on the monthly housing stipends to make ends meet, but by early October, he hadn’t received any money. To avoid eviction, he used up his savings and was forced to borrow money from family members.
After contacting his senator, Patty Murray, D-Wash., as well as the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the VA, Epps eventually got paid. Now, he’s worried the aftermath of the delays will carry into next semester.
“I still have a bunch of…late fees to deal with,” Epps wrote in an email. “Between this stress and the birth of my son, I’m all but certain on a path to have to repeat these classes.”
Duckworth is calling on the VA to pay any penalties veterans incurred because of the delayed payments, such as Epps’ late fees. In a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on Thursday, she also asked that he work with the three credit reporting agencies to fix any negative credit ratings for those veterans.
Moreover, she wants the veterans to receive what they’re still due – with interest.
“Any monies they owe veterans, they should pay with interest,” Duckworth said.
VA officials said last week that they plan to distribute retroactive payments in January to veterans harmed by the delays.
Some veterans will have to wait until after December 2019 to get all they’re legally owed. Part of the new GI Bill changed how veterans’ housing allowances are calculated — they’re now supposed to be based on where veterans take classes, rather than defaulting to their school’s main campus. The change was supposed to be made by Aug. 1, 2018, but IT problems set back implementation to Dec. 1, 2019.
After mass confusion last week about whether those students would be retroactively paid, Wilkie said the agency would pay them after December 2019.
Some Democrats, including Duckworth, still seek more clarity on the issue.
“The continued ambiguity surrounding veterans’ retroactive payments undermines veterans’ faith and confidence in the VA,” Duckworth wrote to Wilkie.
On Thursday, she described the problems as a “failure of the VA, and a failure of government.”
If the VA fails to fully pay veterans what they’re due, the VA risks losing their trust, Duckworth said.
In Epps’ case, he’s already going into next semester lacking trust in the agency.
“I’m now left with no confidence in the system,” Epps said. “Will this happen again with the next semester?”