13 December, 2018 08:15

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, December 13, 2018 which is National Day of the Horse, National Cocoa Day, International Jewish Book Day and National Violin Day.
This Day in History:

  • Vice President Al Gore reluctantly concedes defeat to Texas Governor George W. Bush in his bid for the presidency, following weeks of legal battles over the recounting of votes in Florida, on this day in 2000.
  • After spending nine months on the run, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is captured on this day in 2003. Saddam’s downfall began on March 20, 2003, when the United States led an invasion force into Iraq to topple his government, which had controlled the country for more than 20 years.
  • On this day in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson arrives in France to take part in World War I peace negotiations and to promote his plan for a League of Nations, an international organization for resolving conflicts between nations.
  • 1937: During the Sino-Japanese War, Nanking, the capital of China, falls to Japanese forces, and the Chinese government flees to Hankow, further inland along the Yangtze River. To break the spirit of Chinese resistance, Japanese General Matsui Iwane ordered that the city of Nanking be destroyed. Much of the city was burned, and Japanese troops launched a campaign of atrocities against civilians. In what became known as the “Rape of Nanking,” the Japanese butchered an estimated 150,000 male “war prisoners,” massacred an additional 50,000 male civilians, and raped at least 20,000 women and girls of all ages, many of whom were mutilated or killed in the process.


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Stripes: As VA works to implement appeals reform, GI Bill problems cast doubts
By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 12, 2018
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs is expected to implement a new law in February that aims to shorten the time it takes veterans to appeal their claims for VA benefits – a process that can now last years.

While VA officials insist they’re on track to have the new system set up on time, some lawmakers are approaching the issue with a sense of unease brought on because of damaging problems when the VA tried to implement a new education benefit this year.

Issues with the new “Forever” GI Bill cast a pall over a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing Wednesday, where lawmakers met the VA’s confidence with skepticism.

“While we are all excited for appeals reform to rollout, it is also important for VA to understand this committee does not wish for VA to push out the new appeals system in February if it’s not truly ready,” said Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., the committee chairman. “That’s one lesson we all have learned from the Forever GI Bill.”

The VA missed an Aug. 1 deadline to implement part of the Forever GI Bill – a major expansion of veterans’ education benefits Congress approved in 2017. When the agency went to make the necessary changes, they faced critical information technology errors that resulted in thousands of veterans receiving late payments. The cost of the failures to veterans and taxpayers is not yet known.

Congress approved the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act last year and gave the agency an 18-month window to implement it. Like with the GI Bill, reforming the appeals process requires new IT capabilities.

“Appeals modernization implementation is not facing the IT challenges we’ve seen with Forever GI Bill implementation,” said VA Acting Deputy Secretary Jim Byrne. “I understand we all may be a little gun-shy about the actual execution, but in this case there is a high degree of confidence.”

Lloyd Thrower, deputy chief information officer for the VA, said it’s a “very different scenario” than with the GI Bill.

“In this instance, we’re updating two critical VA systems, and we have actually had boots on the ground working very hard long before this bill passed,” Thrower said. “And the level of requirements we had to deal with was simpler.”

The new appeals process is supposed to launch Feb. 14. It will create multiple avenues for veterans to appeal their claims for disability compensation and health care, including an option to appeal their claims with a higher-level adjudicator or directly with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

Since November 2017, the VA has allowed veterans to opt into a new process called the Rapid Appeals Modernization Plan, or RAMP, which acted as a phased approach to implementing the law. The process promised quicker VA reviews.
The VA reviewed about 75,600 appeals through RAMP in the past year and paid out $137 million in retroactive benefits from those appeals, Byrne said.

“RAMP has given us a good picture of how this is going to be implemented,” he said.

Lawmakers and advocates see the new law as an improvement of a decades-old system – one that now takes an average of six years when a veteran is forced to appeal a claim with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

“The big picture is we’re offering veterans choice and control over the appeals process that’s sort of unprecedented,” Byrne said. “We’re making it easier and user-friendly.”

The Government Accountability Office, which has been monitoring the law’s implementation, still had warnings Wednesday.

Veterans will be presented with multiple options when appealing their rejected claims. One of the risks is that too many will choose a hearing with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, said Elizabeth Curda, a director at GAO. She urged the VA to delay implementation of that option past February.

“That is the most resource-intensive option and could have implications for the ability of the board to process claims,” Curda said. “If they delay full implementation of the new process, they could allow more time to phase in the board options.”

Twitter: @nikkiwentling

Military.com: Navy SEAL Sues Roche over Malaria Drug, Claiming it Left Him Permanently Disabled
12 Dec 2018
Military.com | By Patricia Kime
A former Navy SEAL has filed a lawsuit against the company that makes the anti-malarial drug Lariam, or mefloquine, alleging that the medication left him permanently disabled after taking it while serving in Afghanistan.
Andrew Sheets and his wife, Kristie, of Cazadero, California, allege that pharmaceutical giant Hoffman-LaRoche, known as Roche, was aware that the drug caused serious neurological and psychiatric side effects and failed to warn patients of the dangers.
Sheets, who served in the U.S. Navy from 2000 to 2006, said he immediately experienced "violent and tragic nightmares" the first time he took Lariam, in 2003 during a deployment. He later developed psoriasis, extreme paranoia, hallucinations, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
"In February 2017, Mr. Sheets was finally described as permanently disabled by his treating physician because of his debilitating, Lariam-related mental disorders," court documents state.
For more than two decades, Lariam, also known by the generic name mefloquine, was distributed to troops to prevent malaria in endemic countries. At the peak of military use in 2003, nearly 50,000 prescriptions for mefloquine were written by military doctors.
In 2004, however, the Veterans Affairs Department urged doctors to refrain from prescribing it following reports of hallucinations, paranoia and psychosis in some patients who took it. In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration placed the strongest warning label of its kind on the medication; the "black box" warning informing patients of potentially dangerous and permanent side effects.
The Department of Defense had already decreased mefloquine prescriptions by the time the warning was issued. In 2009, the assistant secretary for health affairs issued a policy recommending mefloquine only be used in regions where other options weren’t effective against regional malarial strains.
According to the Sheets’ lawyer, Kevin Boyle, the case is significant because it could "vindicate the fact that many veterans are suffering from a legitimate condition" and "ensure that those who are responsible for these serious injuries are held accountable."
"It’s difficult to imagine that Roche would have subjected Lariam to any trials without observing the potential to cause serious injuries we now associated with mefloquine toxicity," Boyle said.
"Why did Roche pull the drug from the market in 2008, five years before the FDA issued the black box warning?"
Roche stopped selling Lariam in the U.S. but it is still available as a generic, mefloquine, manufactured by another company.
The suit was filed in Sonoma County, California, Superior Court. Veterans in several other countries, including Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom have filed suits against their governments or settled claims over injuries caused by the medication.
Boyle, an attorney with Panish Shea & Boyle, LLP, of Los Angeles, California, said his client is one of many veterans who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder

12 December, 2018 06:31

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Wednesday, December 12, 2018 which is Festival of Unmentionable Thoughts*, Gingerbread House Day, National Ambrosia Day, and National Poinsettia Day.
*According to what I found, “There is scant information as to what this holiday is about, apparently because whoever created it thought its details were unmentionable. Some people probably celebrate it, likely inside their own heads, without mentioning it. They probably think about taboo subjects and unmentionable thoughts.”

This Day in History:

  • 1913: Two years after it was stolen from the Louvre Museum in Paris, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece The Mona Lisa is recovered inside Italian waiter Vincenzo Peruggia’s hotel room in Florence. Peruggia had previously worked at the Louvre and had participated in the heist with a group of accomplices dressed as Louvre janitors on the morning of August 21, 1911.
  • 1937: During the battle for Nanking in the Sino-Japanese War, the U.S. gunboat Panay is attacked and sunk by Japanese warplanes in Chinese waters. The American vessel, neutral in the Chinese-Japanese conflict, was escorting U.S. evacuees and three Standard Oil barges away from Nanking, the war-torn Chinese capital on the Yangtze River. After the Panay was sunk, the Japanese fighters machine-gunned lifeboats and survivors huddling on the shore of the Yangtze. Two U.S. sailors and a civilian passenger were killed and 11 personnel seriously wounded, setting off a major crisis in U.S.-Japanese relations.
  • 1901: Italian physicist and radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi succeeds in sending the first radio transmission across the Atlantic Ocean, disproving detractors who told him that the curvature of the earth would limit transmission to 200 miles or less. The message–simply the Morse-code signal for the letter “s”–traveled more than 2,000 miles from Poldhu in Cornwall, England, to Newfoundland, Canada.


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Defense News: Pentagon claims nearly $4.4 billion in savings last year. Can it top it for FY19?
By: Aaron Mehta   15 hours ago
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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s hunt for efficiencies found $4.372 billion in savings during fiscal 2018, and has already found nearly $2 billion in savings for FY19, according to new figures revealed Tuesday.
Lisa Hershman, acting chief management officer for the Defense Department, told reporters that the FY18 savings were the result of 114 potential projects identified by the CMO’s office as areas where work could net fiscal savings. While those figures are still being vetted officially by the comptroller’s office, Hershman expressed confidence they would be confirmed.
The Pentagon has been charged by the Office of Management and Budget to find $46 billion in savings between FY19 and FY23; the department had previously tacked on the more specific goals of finding $4 billion in savings in FY18 and $6 billion in FY19.
In many cases, the money came from small projects able to collectively provide big savings, Hershman said.
“We were purchasing things like batteries and light bulbs that we would buy and we would store. So we looked at: Do we really need to do that, is there something we can move to the open market and not have to worry about inventory levels because things are readily available?”
Ending the storage of those kind of items, along with a large collection of maps, freed up inventory space five times the size of the Pentagon’s central courtyard, which led directly to savings, she said.
Those savings are then handed over to the Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation as well as the comptroller’s office, and then redistributed to the department as part of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ drive to increase funds for the Pentagon’s war-fighting mission.
That the department was able to hit its FY18 target meant Hershman’s team was “jumping up and high-fiving,” she said, before adding that she hopes “to exceed” the $6 billion target for FY19, thanks to having hit $1.7 billion in savings through just the first eight weeks of the fiscal year.
Those early FY19 savings come in part from initiatives started in FY18, such as a look at the defense business systems — IT operations, essentially — that exist within the department. Of the 300 or so systems that exist, Hershman said, a recent review found that 45 are redundant and could be eliminated for $900 million in savings.
Her office is broadly focused on four key areas for FY19: information technology, health care, the supply chain and the “fourth estate,” a term covering the headquarters staff in the department. Helping on that front are the findings of the Pentagon’s first-ever audit, which has laid out some areas to target in the coming year.
The savings were initially the project of Jay Gibson, who came in as the Pentagon’s chief management officer in February 2018. But by September, Gibson had been told he was fired and shortly afterward was told to no longer report to the Pentagon; however, he was not relieved of duty until November, creating an awkward absence for staff in the CMO office.
Asked if she was set to be nominated to officially replace Gibson, Hershman declined to comment other than to say she serves at the pleasure of the president.
Military Times: Military units to reunite for mental health support in new VA pilot to prevent suicide
By: Leo Shane III   16 hours ago
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WASHINGTON — Mental health professionals in the past have touted the benefits of veterans meeting with peers for counseling sessions to discuss trauma and prevent suicide.
Now, Veterans Affairs officials are readying to take that idea one step further: Bringing whole military units back together for treatment.
The Veterans Health Administration this week announced a new pilot program with the advocacy group The Independence Fund which will reunite troops who experienced some of the toughest combat conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan for group therapy sessions, with the hopes of using those common bonds to better work through individual post-military struggles.
“I had one guy tell me, ‘I literally went to hell with these men, so I can go on a yoga retreat or whatever you want if you think it will help them,’” said Sarah Verardo, chief executive officer of The Independence Fund. “They still want to support each other. And building on that trust is key to getting some of these veterans the help they need.”
The effort comes at a time when progress on preventing veterans suicide nationwide has remained stalled. About 20 veterans a day take their own lives, a figure that has held steady in recent years.
Most of those veterans have little or no contact with official VA programs, making outreach a key component of VA’s suicide prevention programs. Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director of the department’s suicide prevention efforts, said in a statement that programs like the new pilot dubbed Operation Resilience can help reach those who need it.
The first retreat will take place in April with members of Bravo Company, 2-508 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division — the unit where Verardo’s husband, Mike, was serving when he was severely wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan eight years ago.

Since his return, the couple has attended numerous funerals of his fellow soldiers. Some were combat deaths. Several others were suicides after the unit returned home.
“It got to the point where the only time they saw each other was funerals,” she said. “We needed to change these guys’ perspective on what it means to return home.”
Details of the first event are still being worked out, but Independence Fund officials have already heard from more than a dozen more units who want to participate in future retreats. The program will focus on groups who saw heavy casualties overseas or a significant number of suicides after they returned home.
Defense Department officials are working with VA to identify unit members and issue invites. VHA officials will handle mental health counseling presentations and interventions, and use the event as an opportunity to look for ways to better connect with all veterans.
A second event is already being planned for early summer, with another hard-hit unit. Verardo hopes to expand the program in years to come.
“These are men and women who went to war together, survived Iraq and Afghanistan,” she said. “We need to help them survive at home.”
More information on the program will be available on the Independence Fund site.
Veterans who are experiencing distress may contact the Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1 for a VA staffer. Veterans, troops or their families members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for support assistance.
Army Times: 3rd Cavalry Regiment soldiers are firing intense artillery missions into Syria with Iraqi, French allies
By: Todd South   14 hours ago
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By most official accounts, the bulk of the close fighting with ISIS militants in Iraq has been led by the Iraqis themselves.
But one place where U.S. troops get a piece of combat beyond training their partners is in providing fire support. And nowhere is that more relevant than in artillery.
Soldiers with Bravo Battery, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, part of Task Force Rifles, have been lobbing 155mm rounds across the Iraqi border at a steady pace for about three months now.
They’re sharing the firing line with their Iraqi artillery counterparts and French Army soldiers, said Col. Jonathan Byrom, task force commander and deputy director of Joint Operations Command–Iraq.
He would not disclose how many rounds the units had fired in support of the months-long mission to take out Islamic State remnants holed up in the small Syria-Iraq border town of Hajin. But he said the fire missions were “fairly intense.”
“More intense than others I’ve seen in the past,” Byrom told reporters during a videoconference call from Iraq on Tuesday. “And they’re directly contributing to the protection of the Iraqi border.”
Hajin is seen as one of the last holdouts for ISIS fighters and some leadership, which is why some officials have pointed to the three-month long battle that is still ongoing.
These missions mirror in some ways the intense artillery fire support that Marines provided for coalition fights in Raqqa, Syria, in 2017.
During a five-month period, a single Marine artillery battalion fired more rounds than any such battalion since the Vietnam War.
“They fired more rounds in five months in Raqqa, Syria, than any other Marine artillery battalion, or any Marine or Army battalion, since the Vietnam war,” Army Command Sgt. Major. John Wayne Troxell, then the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Military Times in a January media discussion.
The battalion fired 35,000 artillery rounds on ISIS targets, Troxell said.
As a reference point, for the entirety of Operation Desert Storm, all Marine and Army units combined fired an estimated 60,000 artillery rounds. A little more than half of that was fired during the 2003 Iraq invasion.
Byrom was asked if units were also using missile systems such as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. He sidestepped that direct question and referenced only the Army’s use of M777, the towed howitzer.
The French soldiers are using an artillery system that’s decades-old for them but which has inspired a new piece of firepower for U.S. artillery officials.
The French fire the CAESAR, a mobile 155mm howitzer mounted on a six-wheeled truck. It’s a self-propelled artillery piece that’s been in their arsenal since the 1990s. The U.S. Army has stuck with towed artillery systems and armored self-propelled artillery such as the Paladin system, also a 155mm.
That’s been the case for decades, until recent experimentation at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, this past year revealed some new designs potentially up for consideration to make arty more mobile.
One such piece, the aptly named “Brutus,” is a truck-mounted 155mm Howitzer cannon build by AM General, makers of the Humvee, using the Mandus Group’s “soft recoil” technology to keep the force of the blast from destroying the truck frame.
Another, shorter-range artillery system that’s been showcased multiple times to Army artillery is “The Hawkeye,” a 105mm artillery cannon mounted on the back of a Humvee. It is also made by AM General and uses the same “soft recoil” technology.
AP: US military returns 3 disputed bells taken from Philippines as spoils of war
By: Jim Gomez, The Associated Press   19 hours ago
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MANILA, Philippines — For over a century, the Bells of Balangiga have not rung in the Philippines, a silence that the president last year called “painful.” Now, the revered bells will once again be heard in the country.
Hundreds of Filipino villagers in 1901, armed with bolos and disguised as women, used one of Balangiga town’s church bells to signal the start of a massive attack that wrought one of the bloodiest single-battle losses of American occupation forces in the Philippines.
The U.S. Army brutally retaliated, reportedly killing thousands of villagers, as the Philippine-American War raged.
After the violence, the Americans took three church bells as spoils of war that Filipinos would demand for decades to be handed back.
On Tuesday, a giant U.S. Air Force cargo aircraft brought the Bells of Balangiga back to the Philippine capital in a poignant ceremony that saw U.S. defense officials and the American ambassador to Manila return the war relics 117 years after they were seized. A military brass band played the Philippine national anthem, followed by "The Star Spangled Banner."
The treaty allies then swept aside a dark episode in their long relationship with joint photographs and handshakes.
"It is my great honor to be here at this closing of a painful chapter in our history," U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim said. "Our relationship has withstood the tests of history and flourishes today."
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has said the handover is an important gesture of friendship and is in America’s national security interest. Some U.S. veterans and officials had opposed the return of the bells, calling them memorials to American war dead.
At Tuesday’s handover ceremony at a Philippine air force base, the bronze bells stood atop a red platform like silent symbols of a bygone era of hostilities, as American and Philippine flags flapped in the wind. Officials from both sides called for a minute of silence for the war dead.
The bells are revered by Filipinos as symbols of national pride, and their arrival on a U.S. C-130 plane and the ceremony were shown live on national TV. Two of the bells had been displayed for decades at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the third was with the U.S. Army in South Korea.
After being colonized by Spain for more than three centuries, the Philippines became a U.S. possession in 1898 in a new colonial era that began with the outbreak of the Philippine-American War.
American occupation troops seized the bells from a Catholic church following an attack by machete-wielding Filipino villagers, who killed 48 U.S. soldiers in Balangiga, on central Samar island off Leyte Gulf, according to Filipino historian Rolando Borrinaga.
The Americans retaliated, with a general, Jacob Smith, ordering troops to shoot villagers older than 10 and turn the island into a "howling wilderness," Borrinaga said. Thousands of villagers were reported to have been killed.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has had an antagonistic attitude toward the U.S. and has revitalized ties with China and Russia, asked Washington in his state of the nation address last year to "return them to us, this is painful for us."
"Give us back those Balangiga bells. … They are part of our national heritage," Duterte said in the speech, attended by the U.S. ambassador and other diplomats.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said at Tuesday’s ceremony that with the resolution of the issue, "It’s time for healing, it is time for closure, it is time to look ahead as two nations should with a shared history as allies."
Duterte has referred to violence by Americans in Balangiga and on southern Jolo island in the early 1900s in public criticism of the U.S. government after it raised concerns about his brutal crackdown on illegal drugs in which thousands have died.
A breakthrough on the bells issue came with an amendment to a U.S. law banning the return of war relics and memorials to foreign countries. That allowed the homecoming of the Balanggiga bells, said Lorenzana, who saw the bells last year in Wyoming, where he was notified by Mattis of the U.S. decision.
Philippine officials led by Duterte are to turn over the bells on Saturday to officials and the church in Balangiga, a small coastal town where villagers, some in tears, applauded while watching troops on TV screens pry open the wooden crates containing the bells.
"The Bells of Balangiga will once again peal, it will still remind the people of Balangiga of what happened in the town square more than a century ago," Lorenzana said. "But we would also look at that history with more understanding and acceptance."

Military.com: Military Pay Not Likely to Be Affected Under Threat of Partial Government Shutdown
11 Dec 2018
Military.com | By Richard Sisk
President Donald Trump got nowhere Tuesday with Democratic leadership on funding for what he called the "Great Wall" and threatened a partial government shutdown on Dec. 21 that — as it now stands — would not likely affect the Defense Department or military pay.
In previous budget impasses, Congress has passed emergency bills to guarantee that troops would be paid in the event of a shutdown, but there has been no movement thus far in Congress on such a measure.
Currently, a partial government shutdown could occur at midnight on Dec. 21 over the failure of Congress to pass spending bills to fund the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Interior, State, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.
The Defense Department was not in the mix, but there was no guarantee there wouldn’t be side effects for the military if negotiations on a solution continue to deteriorate.
The prospect for a quick compromise dissolved Tuesday in a testy, finger-pointing White House meeting between Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.
Vice President Mike Pence sat silently between the two sides, his head swiveling as the sides argued back and forth. Trump allowed cameras into the opening round of the meeting and it was televised on C-Span.
"If we don’t get what we want one way or the other, I am proud to shut down the government for border security. I will take the mantle, I will take the mantle of shutting down the government" to get funding for the border wall, Trump said.
The president has been demanding at least $5 billion as a downpayment on extending existing segments of the wall, but Democrats have suggested they would allot $1.3 billion.
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump suggested on Twitter that the military could build the wall if Congress failed to come up with the funding, although there was no money in the existing Defense Department budget for wall construction.
At the Pentagon, spokesman Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said there were no plans to date to have the military build sections of the wall. "However, Congress has provided options under Title 10 U.S. Code that could permit the Department of Defense to fund border barrier projects, such as in support of counter-drug operations or national emergencies" if the military were directed to do so, he said.
Trump said the active duty troops who deployed to the border just before the mid-term elections to reinforce Customs and Border Protection have done an "incredible" job at turning back the so-called "caravans" of asylum seekers. An expanded border wall would build on their accomplishments, he said.
Pelosi accused Trump of making arguments that were "frankly, devoid of fact." She challenged him to put border wall funding to a vote in the House. "There are no votes in the House a majority vote, for the wall," Pelosi said.
Trump countered that a House vote was pointless, since there would still be a lack of votes from Democrats in the Senate to get the 60 votes needed for passage.
Schumer told Trump that "we have solutions that will pass the House and the Senate," but Trump was resisting "because you can’t have your way" on the wall. "We can do border security without a wall, which is wasteful and doesn’t solve the problem," Schumer said.
"If we got $5 billion, we could do a tremendous chunk of wall," Trump responded, but he added that "it’s a tough issue because we are on very opposite sides."
There have been two brief government shutdowns previously this year. On Jan. 20, the government shut down for a weekend over immigration issues but re-opened on Jan. 23. Trump told Pelosi and Schumer "you got killed on that one," a reference to the political fallout.
There also was a second brief shutdown that began at midnight on Feb. 9 on budget matters but lasted only five hours.

11 December, 2018 06:03

The Arizona Department of Education would like to announce our 2019 Southern Arizona Education Job Fair on March 2, 2019 and our 2019 Arizona Statewide Education Job Fair on March 9, 2019. Please go to our free participation registration page to complete our registration. These annual fairs are held exclusively for K-12 Districts and Charter School in support of their recruitment efforts.

This event is designed to help schools fill certified and non-certified positions and potential candidates to connect with community partners. The following community partners are already registered to attend; they will be there to provide information about programs and resources: Arizona Public Media, AZ Commission for Postsecondary Education, Express Employment Professionals, Northern Arizona University, Pima Community College, Pima County Superintendent’s Office, University of Arizona, and Treasures 4 Teachers.

Teachers/Educators are reminded to bring copies of their resume to the Southern Arizona Job Fair. Districts and charters from Southern Arizona will be interviewing candidates and collecting resumes for at least the following open positions: teachers, paraprofessionals, administrative assistants, bus drivers, maintenance, and administrators.

We’ve included two documents to assist you in becoming certified in Arizona. The Alternative Teaching Certificate can be found certification. The Phoenix Office is open 5 days a week from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and located at 1535 W Jefferson St. Phoenix, AZ 85007. The Tucson Office is open 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. the First 3 Wednesday each month and is located at 400 W Congress St., Building 416 – 1st floor Tucson, AZ 85701

To set up a speak to visit your class/program or for additional questions, email Jay Johnson atJay.Johnson or call at 520-638-4719

Jay Johnson

Recruitment and Retention Education Specialist

Arizona Department of Education

Exceptional Student Services

400 West Congress St., Box #33

Tucson, Arizona 85701


11 December, 2018 05:58

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Tuesday, December 11, 2018 which is International Mountain Day, National Noodle Ring Day, Holiday Food Drive for Needy Animals Day, National App Day.

This Day in History:

  • 1994: In the largest Russian military offensive since the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks pour into the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya. Encountering only light resistance, Russian forces had by evening pushed to the outskirts of the Chechen capital of Grozny, where several thousand Chechen volunteers vowed a bitter fight against the Russians.
  • 1941: On this day, Adolf Hitler declares war on the United States, bringing America, which had been neutral, into the European conflict. The bombing of Pearl Harbor surprised even Germany. Although Hitler had made an oral agreement with his Axis partner Japan that Germany would join a war against the United States, he was uncertain as to how the war would be engaged. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor answered that question. On December 8, Japanese Ambassador Oshima went to German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop to nail the Germans down on a formal declaration of war against America. Von Ribbentrop stalled for time; he knew that Germany was under no obligation to do this under the terms of the Tripartite Pact, which promised help if Japan was attacked, but not if Japan was the aggressor. Von Ribbentrop feared that the addition of another antagonist, the United States, would overwhelm the German war effort.
  • 1969: Paratroopers from the U.S. Third Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, depart from Vietnam. The unit was sent to Vietnam in February 1968 as an emergency measure in response to the Communist 1968 Tet Offensive. Landing at Chu Lai, the unit was attached to the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) and given the mission of protecting the ancient capital of Hue in the region just south of the Demilitarized Zone. In September 1968, the Third Brigade was moved south to counter enemy forces around Saigon. It was assigned to the Capital Military Assistance Command and ordered to secure the western approaches to the city to prevent ground and rocket attacks against the Saigon-Tan Son Nhut airport complex.
  • On this day in 1777, General George Washington begins marching 12,000 soldiers of his Continental Army from Whitemarsh to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, for the winter. As Washington’s men began crossing the Schuylkill River, they were surprised by a regiment of several thousand British troops led by General Charles Cornwallis. Cornwallis came across the continental forces by chance as he followed General William Howe’s orders to forage for supplies in the hills outside Philadelphia.


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Stripes: Last-ditch effort to pass Blue Water Navy bill fails in Senate
By NIKKI WENTLING | Stars and Stripes | Published: December 10, 2018
WASHINGTON — A final deal to provide Department of Veterans Affairs benefits to thousands of veterans who served off the coast during the Vietnam War failed in the Senate on Monday nightwith only days remaining in the 115th Congress.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act would extend eligibility for disability compensation and health care to “Blue Water” Navy veterans – servicemembers who were aboard aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and other ships, some of whom have fought for years to prove they were exposed to Agent Orange. The dioxin-laden herbicide has been found to cause respiratory cancers, Parkinson’s disease and heart disease, as well as other conditions.
The House voted 382-0 in favor of the legislation in June. Since then, it’s been stuck in the Senate. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie voiced his opposition to the bill in September, citing cost concerns and insufficient scientific evidence. He urged lawmakers to hold off until a new study is released in 2019.
On Monday night, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., went to the Senate floor and asked for unanimous consent to pass the bill. Unanimous consent expedites approval but can be stopped if one senator objects.
Citing cost concerns, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, objected.
“On this bill, many of us have been made aware of the potential cost growth and the budgetary and operational pressures that would happen at the VA,” he said. “They’re having a lot of problems, anyway.”
Enzi said he wanted more details about how many veterans would be made eligible for benefits under the legislation and how much it would cost.
According to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would cost $1.1 billion for the next 10 years. VA officials have argued the true total would be billions more. To offset costs, the bill proposed a new fee for VA home loans – a measure some lawmakers oppose.
“There’s clearly more work to do just on figuring out the spending and administration of this and the deficit impacts this bill will have,” Enzi said on the Senate floor.
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., later criticized Enzi’s objection, arguing the same senator voted in favor of the GOP tax cuts estimated to increase the national deficit.
“I must say that it is a bit disheartening to see a bill that was passed unanimously by the House blocked by just a handful of senators over supposed fiscal concerns when those same senators voted to add trillions of dollars to the deficit last year to score a political win on the back of American taxpayers,” Walz said in a statement.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars also issued a scathing criticism of Enzi on Monday night, describing his objection as “obstruction,” and adding, “the VFW nor its members will forget this.”
Enzi’s opposition came after Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., pressured senators to approve the bill. Isakson, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has worked for months to address concerns from some of his fellow Republicans.
Enzi wasn’t the only senator with concerns. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, opposed the bill because he wanted to wait for the scientific study that the VA promised in 2019, according to a Military Update report.
Isakson rebuked requests Monday to wait for the study, saying, “This thing has been studied as long as it needs to be studied. We’ve got the best information we need to get.”
“I would just ask every member before they consider casting a ‘no’ vote, think about what you’re doing,” Isakson said. “I would ask each of you to search your heart… think about the veterans in your state and cast a vote for doing the right thing for the right people at the right time and not object to the motion.”
Following the Enzi’s objection, Gillibrand and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, scheduled a news conference for Tuesday morning to request the Senate try again to pass the bill.
Senate leadership could still bring the issue up under regular order in its remaining days. If the Senate fails to approve the bill before the end of the 115th Congress, advocates will have to start from the beginning again next year.
“We have just days before this Congress is finished and our Blue Water Navy veterans are waiting for us,” Gillibrand said. “Their families are waiting for us. Some of them are dying waiting for us."
Like Isakson and Gillibrand, Tester and Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., also spoke Monday on the Senate floor urging unanimous consent.
“I know there are some in the administration that don’t want to see us do this, but the truth is this is a cost of war,” Tester said. “It is our obligation to meet the needs of the folks who have sacrificed for this country. It’s time to step up today, folks.”
Military.com: 5 Marines Declared Dead After Service Calls Off Search for KC-130J Crew
11 Dec 2018
Stars and Stripes | By James Bolinger and Hana Kusumoto
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — The Marine Corps has ended an extensive search for five Marines missing after their KC-130J Hercules collided midair with an F/A-18 Hornet last week off Japan’s southern coast.
"After an update from the Joint Personnel Recovery Center, and a review of all available information, I have made the determination to end the search and rescue operations for the crew of our [Hercules] … and to declare that these Marine warriors are deceased," III Expeditionary Force commander Lt. Gen. Eric Smith said in a statement posted Tuesday afternoon local time to the organization’s official Facebook page.
"Every possible effort was made to recover our crew, and I hope the families of these selfless Americans will find comfort in the incredible efforts made by U.S., Japanese, and Australian forces during the search," he added.
Seven Marines were involved in the training accident, which occurred just before 2 a.m. Thursdaylocal time about 200 miles south of Muroto Cape on Shikoku Island, U.S. and Japanese officials said.
Although the crews were conducting regularly scheduled training, Marine investigators have not confirmed that aerial refueling was underway during the incident, the statement said.
The Hercules’ flight data and cockpit voice recorders have not been found, making it "premature to speculate about wreckage recovery," the statement added.
Two Marines aboard the Hornet were recovered the day of the accident. The first has been released from a hospital, while the second — Capt. Jahmar Resilard, 28 — was pronounced dead after being found by a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces ship.
The statement did not identify the five Marines, but it did say their next-of-kin had been notified.
"All of us in the Sumo family are extremely saddened following the announcement of the conclusion of search-and-rescue operations," Lt. Col. Mitchell Maury, commander of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, said in the statement. "We know this difficult decision was made after all resources were exhausted in the vigorous search for our Marines. Our thoughts are heavy, and our prayers are with all family and friends of all five aircrew."
Smith also expressed his condolences to the lost Marines’ families.
"Every member of the III MEF family mourns this loss and stands alongside the families of the fallen in this terrible moment," he said in the statement. "We remain, Semper Fidelis."
Both the Japan Self-Defense Forces and Japan Coast Guard announced Tuesday that they’d halted their search efforts at 6 a.m.
While the coast guard has stopped searching specifically for the crew members, it will keep an eye out during regular patrols of the area, a spokesman for 5th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters told Stars and Stripes on Tuesday via telephone.
The coast guard sent six of its patrol boats on Thursday and continued to send vessels until Monday, although its search team had shrunk during that time, the spokesman said.
A multinational effort to find survivors was launched that included U.S., Japanese and Australian aircraft and U.S. and Japanese ships.
III MEF has declared the incident a "Class A" mishap, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported Monday. Those involve total property damage of "$2 million or more and/or aircraft destroyed" and "fatality or permanent disability."
Marine officials said Tuesday they are still investigating the incident.
MCAS Iwakuni is home to Marine Aircraft Group 12 and the Navy‘s Carrier Air Wing 5. It is one of the Pacific’s largest air stations.
Stripes: Dartmouth study finds VA hospitals outperform others in same regions
By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 10, 2018
WASHINGTON – A new study by Dartmouth College that compares Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals with other hospitals in the same regions found VA facilities often outperform others when it comes to mortality rates and patient safety.
Researchers compared performance data at VA hospitals against non-VA facilities in 121 regions. In 14 out of 15 measures, the VA performed “significantly better” than other hospitals, according to results from the study.
“We found a surprisingly high, to me, number of cases where the VA was the best hospital in the region,” said Dr. William Weeks, who led the study. “Pretty rarely was it the worst hospital.”
Weeks initiated the research after reading multiple studies from recent years that had found VA hospitals performed better than other medical systems. He was skeptical of the research, he said, because it compared data on a national level, not by region.
He wanted to take the perspective of veterans, who might get a choice between their local VA hospitals and other hospitals close by.
Weeks is a professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and a former VA employee. He conducted the study with Alan West, who works at the White River Junction Medical Center in Vermont.
Though he used to work for the VA, Weeks said he was critical of the agency in the past. Going into the study, he thought he might find a few well-performing VA hospitals had skewed the data in previous research.
“The theory was that a few larger hospitals could be really good performers and the rest not so good,” Weeks said. “And the weight of that might make national averages look better than what might be experienced by a typical veteran. That was the premise, but we found something that was a little bit surprising.”
The researchers compared risk of death from heart failure and pneumonia at hospitals, as well as risk of blood clots, infections and wounds after surgery, among other measures.
“The primary drivers of making a decision are, ‘I don’t want to get hurt,’ and ‘I want to live through it,’” Weeks said. “That’s why we focused on these.”
With the new study, researchers are sending a message to Congress to rethink efforts to expand veterans’ health care into the private sector.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed the VA Mission Act – major reform legislation that overhauls how the VA outsources health care to the private sector.
Under the bill, the VA and Congress are supposed to work together in coming months to create new rules dictating which veterans can use private-sector care and in what situations. The aim is to provide veterans more flexibility to see doctors outside of the VA system.
“One has to wonder whether outsourcing care is the right choice if we care about veterans’ outcomes,” Weeks said. “The VA is, for the most part, doing at least as well as the private sector in a local setting, and pretty often are the best performers in that setting.”
The Atlantic: The U.S. Is Paying More Than It Bargained for in the Yemen War
The Pentagon says that “errors in accounting” mean Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have not been properly charged for refueling.
Samuel OakfordRyan Goodman
Dec 8, 2018
President Donald Trump, who repeatedly complains that the United States is paying too much for the defense of its allies, has praised Saudi Arabia for ostensibly taking on Iran in the Yemen war. It turns out, however, that U.S. taxpayers have been footing the bill for a major part of the Saudi-led campaign, possibly to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
The revelation—detailed in a Defense Department letter obtained by The Atlantic—is likely to raise further ire among senators who have grown ever-more critical of Saudi conduct in the war, which has resulted in a growing number of civilian casualties, and U.S. support for it.
Since the start of the Saudi-led intervention, in March 2015, and up until last month, the United States provided mid-air refueling for Saudi-led coalition aircraft that then flew missions related to the Yemen campaign. Getting heavy U.S. tankers into the air and carrying out this job is enormously expensive. The recipient country is required by law to pay the costs, but that isn’t what happened here. In a mea culpa of sorts, the Pentagon’s November 27 letter states that while the Defense Department “believed” Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates “had been charged for the fuel and refueling services, they in fact had not been charged adequately.” How inadequately, the Pentagon will not yet say; it is “currently calculating the correct charges,” the letter states.
On Thursday, the Pentagon confirmed the letter’s contents to The Atlantic. “Although DoD has received some reimbursement for inflight refueling assistance provided to the Saudi-led coalition (SLC), U.S. Central Command recently reviewed its records and found errors in accounting where DoD failed to charge the SLC adequately for fuel and refueling services,” Commander Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told The Atlantic.
The Pentagon’s letter says that it reached these conclusions after Senator Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, made a specific request for information.
Reed, along with seven other Democratic senators, raised the question of reimbursements in a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in March. The Pentagon’s response admitting “errors in accounting” arrived the day before a key Senate procedural vote on withdrawing U.S. support for the war effort.
“It is clear that the Department has not lived up to its obligation to keep Congress appropriately informed or its responsibility to secure timely reimbursement,” Reed told The Atlantic. “U.S.-provided aerial refueling assistance was provided to the Saudi-led coalition for more than 3.5 years, activities that likely cost tens of millions of dollars. We must ensure that U.S. taxpayers are fully reimbursed for that support.”
When asked by The Atlantic how much reimbursement DoD had received from the Saudi-led coalition, Rebarich said that “CENTCOM is still working through the calculation.” The Saudi and UAE embassies in Washington had not responded to The Atlantic’s requests for comment about any reimbursements at the time of publication.
Jeffrey Prescott, who served as senior director for Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the Gulf States on the National Security Council in Barack Obama’s administration and is now a strategic consultant to the Penn Biden Center, told The Atlantic: “This is a striking revelation. President Trump has been exceedingly transactional, even seeming to threaten to cast aside NATO if our closest allies didn’t increase their contributions. That is why it is jarring to see that the Trump administration—save for congressional and public pressure—would continue to refuel Saudi and Emirati aircraft without adequate, if any, reimbursement.”
The U.S. refueling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft has long been a source of confusion, because the military has offered differing statements about how much fuel it has provided to its coalition partners. Hill staffers have spent years trying to pin down details of the arrangements, which are carried out via “acquisition and cross-servicing agreements,” or ACSAs, essentially bilateral treaties between the United States and a partner country that allow for the provision of military and logistical support. In the November 27 letter, the Pentagon admitted that the U.S. military refueled Saudi Arabia’s aircraft for at least the first year of the war without any ACSA with the Kingdom.
In the letter, written by Principal Deputy General Counsel William S. Castle, the Pentagon suggests that Saudi Arabia was treated as a “third party” for the first year of the war, receiving fuel via the UAE, who had a separate ACSA agreement dated to 2006. Such third-party arrangements are now explicitly prohibited under the latest defense spending bill, signed into law in mid-August.
It’s unclear if Castle’s explanation was arrived at after the discovery of the accounting error. After the first year of the Yemen war, the U.S. drafted a provisional ACSA with the Saudis, but the Pentagon says that Congress was never notified because the Kingdom, even today, hasn’t “fulfilled all of its internal procedures necessary for an Agreement to enter into force.” In short, throughout the entire duration of U.S. refueling, the Pentagon admits there was never an official servicing agreement in force with Saudi Arabia.
Evidence exists that the military was, at certain levels, tracking fuel sales. Records provided by the Defense Logistics Agency this March indicated that since the start of fiscal year 2015 (October 2014), more than 7.5 million gallons of aerial refueling had been provided to the UAE, and more than 1 million gallons to the Saudis. Those figures were for all aerial refueling, not necessarily only related to operations in Yemen. Separate DLA data showed that at least some payments had been made by the UAE, though it was unclear to what degree they were tied to operations in Yemen. The Atlantic has asked the DLA whether either set of figures were affected by accounting errors. On Friday, the DLA said it was looking into those questions.
Next year, the Government Accountability Office is expected to release a report on the use of ACSAs, which may shed more light both on the way they were used in the Yemen war and countries where they’ve been employed with little scrutiny. The Senate, meanwhile, is set to vote on whether to cut off support for the coalition next week.
Military Times: Trump changes his mind again on military spending, now wants a big boost next year
By: Leo Shane III   19 hours ago
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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump this week is expected to announce plans for a dramatic boost in military spending next fiscal year, reversing course on previous pledges of a trimmed down defense budget, according to multiple news sources.
The move comes after intense lobbying from congressional Republicans and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who argued Trump’s announced $700 billion military spending plan for fiscal 2020 was not only contrary to the administration’s national security build-up but potentially dangerous for the nation.
The figure represented a significant drop from the $733 billion mark that Pentagon planners had been anticipating would be unveiled in February, as part of the president’s annual budget submission to Congress. Trump had said the reduced military spending would be paired with a 5 percent cut for all other federal spending programs, to rein in the national deficit.
But Politico reported on Sunday that following a Dec. 4 meeting with Mattis, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, Trump committed to a fiscal 2020 defense budget of at least $750 billion, a nearly 5 percent increase instead of a 2 percent cut.
The news is sure to excite defense hawks in Congress at least in the short-term. Mattis and others have argued that years of military underfunding have left readiness and modernization priorities unaddressed, and that foreign adversaries — in particular, China — have seen the declines as an opportunity to flex their own military spending might.
But numerous congressional Democrats have argued that the Pentagon budget is already too bloated compared to other domestic spending priorities. They’ll take over control of the House in January, and any final budget deal will need a sign off from Democratic leadership.
That’s key, because lawmakers need to not only negotiate a new budget figure but also reach a broader government spending deal by next fall to avoid triggering automatic spending caps put in place in 2011.
Under those rules, defense spending would drop to under $600 billion for fiscal 2020, a figure that defense leaders have labeled catastrophic.
While Republican defense lawmakers have lobbied for more military spending, they have found themselves at odds with fiscal conservatives on Capitol Hill who viewed Trump’s $700 billion figure as a reasonable pull back in federal spending.
And just days after Trump floated that figure, Office of Management and Budget head Mick Mulvaney — a past critic of out-of-control military budgets — quickly ordered Defense Department planners to start revising their budget submissions to match the lower-than-expected mark.
It’s unclear whether Pentagon planners are again revising their budget documents to match the new $750 billion figure. That work is typically finished in late December or early January, in preparation for the February release of the president’s full federal budget request.
House and Senate appropriators will debate the budget numbers through the spring and summer, in hopes of reaching a final spending agreement by the start of next fiscal year on Oct. 1.
This year was the first time in a decade that the military budget was finished before that deadline. Several other agencies, including the State Department and Department of Homeland Security, still have not had their full-year funding finalized and could be shut down next week if a deal is not reached.
Reporter Joe Gould contributed to this story.
The Stripes: Army rescinds reprimand for Niger ambush that left four dead, report says
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 10, 2018
The Army has rescinded the reprimand of a Green Beret who led troops during the deadly October 2017 ambush in Niger that left four U.S. soldiers dead, the New York Times reported.
Last week, Team 3212 leader Capt. Michael Perozeni, initially blamed for his role in planning the mission, was formally cleared, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, a more senior officer — Lt. Col. David Painter, then the battalion commander in charge of Alpha Company and Team 3212 — was issued a reprimand after initially escaping blame, according to the Dec. 7 report.

Col. Brad Moses, the commanding officer of 3rd Special Forces Group at the time, has so far received no punishment but is now under renewed scrutiny, the newspaper said.

U.S. Africa Command referred questions about punishments and accountability actions to U.S. Special Operations Command, which did not have an immediate response Monday.

The latest moves came in response to a concern expressed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that lower-ranking troops were shouldering too much of the blame. After news reports highlighted that junior officers were being singled out for punishment, Mattis summoned top military commanders. The meeting resulted in Perozeni’s reprimand being rescinded and his supervisors being subjected to fresh scrutiny, the Times reported.

U.S. Special Operations Command Africa boss Maj. Gen. Marcus Hicks already had been reprimanded in connection with the ambush for insufficient oversight of his subordinate officers. He is the highest-ranking official punished so far for the incident.

An earlier Africa Command investigation of the October ambush determined that the members of the Green Beret and Nigerien team had little experience together as a unit.

In the aftermath of the attack, there has been significant inter-command friction between Army, SOCOM and AFRICOM as well as Pentagon leadership over who should be blamed, the Times reported.
While the Times cited complaints inside the Army about AFRICOM investigating itself, the command on Monday defended its investigation.

“It is not uncommon for a higher headquarters to serve as the investigating authority for one of its component or subordinate commands,” AFRICOM spokesman Maj. Karl Wiest said in an email. “U.S. AFRICOM had the responsibility to determine the facts and circumstances related to the attack in order to recognize the valor of our soldiers and to provide answers to the families of the fallen, Congress, and the American public.

“U.S. AFRICOM also needed this information to capture lessons that we have used to further refine our approach to countering violent extremists with our partners in the region.”

Four soldiers were killed in the ambush: Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright and Sgt. La David Johnson. Most of the 11 soldiers on the team, including the four slain troops, have been nominated for valor awards that have yet to be approved.

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10 December, 2018 20:05

American Legion Meeting fully under way at Sahuaro Post 68 in Tucson. Great input for praise and areas for improvement, for Southern Arizona Veterans Administration Healthcare System at our System Worth Saving Town Hall tonight for local Veterans who appeared along with Arizona and National American Legion Officers like Edwin Thomas, Assistant Director, Health Policy in our Washington DC Office. The project includes this local collaboration locally led by Past National Commander George Cushing along with a field visit tonight by VA Directors for direct input to local VA leadership from the hospital and benefits offices.