24 April, 2019 13:20

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Wednesday, April 24, 2019 which is Administrative Specialists Day, International Guide Dog Day, National Pigs in a Blanket Day and New Kids on the Block Day. (They aren’t as new as they once were, the NKotB average 48 years old.)

This Day in History:

· On this day in 1916, on Easter Monday in Dublin, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a secret organization of Irish nationalists led by Patrick Pearse, launches the so-called Easter Rebellion, an armed uprising against British rule. Assisted by militant Irish socialists under James Connolly, Pearse and his fellow Republicans rioted and attacked British provincial government headquarters across Dublin and seized the Irish capital’s General Post Office. Following these successes, they proclaimed the independence of Ireland, which had been under the repressive thumb of the United Kingdom for centuries, and by the next morning were in control of much of the city. Later that day, however, British authorities launched a counteroffensive, and by April 29 the uprising had been crushed. Nevertheless, the Easter Rebellion is considered a significant marker on the road to establishing an independent Irish republic.

[Bonus Music Track for above:
Young Dubliners Foggy Dew.
]

· On April 24, 1980, an ill-fated military operation to rescue the 52 American hostages held in Tehran ends with eight U.S. servicemen dead and no hostages rescued. With the Iran Hostage Crisis stretching into its sixth month and all diplomatic appeals to the Iranian government ending in failure, President Jimmy Carter ordered the military mission as a last ditch attempt to save the hostages. During the operation, three of eight helicopters failed, crippling the crucial airborne plans. The mission was then canceled at the staging area in Iran, but during the withdrawal one of the retreating helicopters collided with one of six C-130 transport planes, killing eight soldiers and injuring five. The next day, a somber Jimmy Carter gave a press conference in which he took full responsibility for the tragedy. The hostages were not released for another 270 days.

· President Harry Truman learns the full details of the Manhattan Project, in which scientists are attempting to create the first atomic bomb, on this day in 1945. The information thrust upon Truman a momentous decision: whether or not to use the world’s first weapon of mass destruction.

· 1967: At a news conference in Washington, Gen. William Westmoreland, senior U.S. commander in South Vietnam, causes controversy by saying that the enemy had “gained support in the United States that gives him hope that he can win politically that which he cannot win militarily.” Though he said that, “Ninety-five percent of the people were behind the United States effort in Vietnam,” he asserted that the American soldiers in Vietnam were “dismayed, and so am I, by recent unpatriotic acts at home.” This criticism of the antiwar movement was not received well by many in and out of the antiwar movement, who believed it was both their right and responsibility to speak out against the war.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

· Military.com: Utah Man Pushes for Census to Include Veterans Question

· USA Today: Trump administration appeals ruling finding that the male-only draft is unconstitutional

· T&P: Trump’s tax cut was a disaster for some Gold Star families, but it’s a symptom of a larger problem

· Stripes: Army may need bigger retirement plan perk to sustain officer experience levels, study says

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Military.com: Utah Man Pushes for Census to Include Veterans Question

[Editor’s Note:

RESOLVED, By The American Legion in National Convention assembled in Cincinnati, Ohio, August 30, 31, September 1, 2016, That The American Legion strongly support any legislation that mandates the U.S. Census Bureau to include veteran,
National Guard and Reserve data on any future census.

Resolution No. 378: United States Census to Include Veterans Information]

22 Apr 2019

The Associated Press

OGDEN, Utah — The former head of the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs is pushing for the U.S. census to include a question about veterans next year.

Terry Schow, a Vietnam veteran, wants the 2020 census to ask about veteran status so the state can have a more accurate count of people with military service, the Standard-Examiner reported Saturday.

"It’s really just one question: Are you a veteran?" Schow said.

The Census Bureau pulled the veteran status question from the questionnaire in 2010, according to the agency. The bureau continues to collect data on veterans through three smaller surveys: the American Community Survey, the Current Population Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation.

These surveys only go to a portion of the population, Schow said. The American Community Survey, the largest of the three, is sent out to about 3.5 million people each year.

Current counts of veterans from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau are likely missing a significant number of people, Schow said.

The department lists about 152,000 veterans in Utah while the bureau says the state has about 144,000. A state database indicates Utah has about 180,000 veterans, Schow said.

The VA uses census data to determine spending on veteran housing, hospitals and assistance programs, Schow said.

Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop sent a letter to the bureau’s director earlier this month, asking for the veterans question to be included.

"I believe this small change will have a big impact on our ability to take care of our nation’s heroes and the proper allocation of resources for veterans cemeteries and homes," Bishop wrote.

USA Today: Trump administration appeals ruling finding that the male-only draft is unconstitutional

Gregory Korte, USA TODAY Published 12:24 p.m. ET April 23, 2019 | Updated 3:49 p.m. ET April 23, 2019

The Trump administration has moved to defend the male-only military draft, appealing a federal court ruling that Selective Service registration is unconstitutional because it discriminates based on sex.

The appeal on Monday comes as the plaintiffs in the case step up their legal efforts to force the government to either force women to register for the draft or to eliminate mandatory draft registration entirely.

The case is in an unusual posture because U.S. District Judge Gray Miller declared the current system unconstitutional in February but didn’t require the Selective Service System to change it. So the agency is continuing to require registrations from men while forbidding women from registering.

Ruling: With women in combat roles, a federal court rules male-only draft unconstitutional

So the plaintiffs – two men who say they’re more likely to go to war because women are excluded from the draft-eligible pool – have asked the Houston judge to expand that ruling with an injunction ordering Selective Service to put men and women on an equal footing.

But the Justice Department says ordering women to register for the draft is "particularly problematic."

"It would impose draft registration on all eligible American women by judicial fiat before Congress has considered how to address the matter," argued Justice Department lawyer Michael Gerardi. "No party before this court represents the interests of those who would be impacted by this change."

Congress has been debating the issue since President Jimmy Carter restored draft registration in 1980. Carter asked Congress to include women, but Congress refused – and in 1983 the Supreme Court held that the all-male draft was constitutional because only men could serve in key combat roles.

But after the Pentagon opened all positions in the military to women, Congress created the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service to study the future of the draft and women’s role in it. The commission will hold a series of hearings Wednesday and Thursday in Washington on whether military draft registration should be expanded or eliminated.

T&P: Trump’s tax cut was a disaster for some Gold Star families, but it’s a symptom of a larger problem

James Clark

April 23, 2019 at 11:26 AM

For some, tax season brings a small boon in the form of a refund. For others it can be a source of stress.

But Theresa Jones sees it as an annual reminder of her husband, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Landon Jones, who was killed in a helicopter crash on Sept. 22, 2013.

Since then, Jones and her two sons, ages 5 and 11, have received monthly compensation in the form of survivor benefits — one allotment through the Department of Defense is taxable, and another through the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is not taxed.

For the past several years she’s had to pay roughly $1,150 in taxes on her sons’ benefits. This year, it was $5,400.

"My kids are owing the government back money, that the government gave them, because their dad died, and my kids have to pay it back," Jones told Task & Purpose. "And every year this comes around and it’s just this reminder of this tragedy, and it’s literally like throwing salt in the wound."

Military widows and widowers who put their benefits in their child’s name saw a significant spike in their taxes this year. To make matters worse, Jones, along with three other military widows who spoke with Task & Purpose, said they were not aware how much their taxes would increase and were unable to budget or otherwise prepare for the hike in cost.

"It was a very hard pill to swallow, that they’re even taxed; that they have to give money back in general, as kids," said Jones, who provided Task & Purpose with copies of her tax documents for 2018 and 2017. "I’ve been sitting here for four days trying to figure out why it’s so much more."

"I looked at it and realized this is going to be something that’s going to happen every year so this is going to have to be calculated into the monthly budget now," Jones continued. "If it’s going to be $400 a month, that’s like a car payment. That’s something that I’m going to have to take into account every year."

The increase was due to a change with the "Kiddie Tax" under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in December 2017. Previously, survivors benefits that were allocated to the children of a fallen service member were taxed at the parent’s rate. Under the new tax code, those benefits are instead treated the same as a trust or estate, which means they can be taxed at a rate as high as 37%, and that threshold is reached faster than it did before.

While the change in the tax code may have had an immediate financial impact on Gold Star families this year, it may be a consequence of a more pervasive problem with how survivors benefits are classified and paid out.

Just the tip of the iceberg

Though the change in the tax code has had a direct impact on Gold Star families this tax season, some advocates argue that it’s a symptom of a larger issue: A rule against concurrent receipt or "double dipping," which bars recipients from getting two simultaneous types of federal monetary benefits.

Beyond the Service Members Group Life Insurance policy, which provides a one-time lump-sum payment up to $400,000 to a beneficiary if the service member elected to pay into it, there are two different types of survivor benefits for military spouses and children.

There’s the Department of Veterans Affairs Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), which provides roughly $1,300 per month to a surviving spouse, regardless of the service members’ grade or length of service, and is not taxed, nor is it transferable.

And then there’s the Survivor Benefits Plan (SBP), a Department of Defense insurance annuity that varies in amount depending on the service member’s rank, and is based on 55% of projected retired pay with 30 years of service.

Because recipients can’t double dip, the VA benefit and the military benefit are offset — meaning that if a survivor chooses to put both the VA benefit and the DoD benefit in their name, then they’ll see a $1 reduction in their SBP for every $1 they receive from their DIC plan. This dollar for dollar offset in survivors benefits has become known as the Widow’s Tax.

This offset typically means that survivors are left with just the VA benefit, which tends to be higher, and is roughly $15,800 a year. As of last year 65,255 military widows and widowers were subjected to this offset, according to a fact sheet provided by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a non-profit that advocates for and provides support to military families who lost a loved one.

To get around the Widow’s Tax, survivors can put their SBP in their child’s name, and for years, it was a reliable workaround to ensure that military spouses with children who lost a loved one could actually take home the benefits they were entitled to. But even that fix has pitfalls: If a parent puts their military survivors benefits in their child’s name, those benefits disappear when the child turns 18, or 22 if he or she is a full-time student. Additionally, if a survivor remarries, then he or she forfeits their VA benefit.

This has forced Gold Star families to make tough financial decisions on how they’ll allocate their benefits, whether they’ll remarry, and what will happen as their kids grow up.

‘It’s a survivor’s benefit. It’s not a tax shelter for us’

Cheryl Lankford, whose husband U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Lankford, Sr. died in Iraq on Sept. 22, 2007, told Task & Purpose that she saw her taxes for her 14-year-old son’s survivor benefits increase from roughly $100 and $200 dollars per year to about $2,500 this year.

"I heard rumors that this year we were gonna be paying a little bit more, especially after the news broke that the taxes have changed and there may be a bit of an increase," Lankford told Task & Purpose. "I had no idea it would be quite that much money. That was a shocker for me"

It was the same for Jessica Braden-Rogers. For the last seven years since her husband, Army Capt. Michael Braden, died on April 18, 2012 while deployed to Afghanistan, Braden-Rogers has paid roughly $1,100 in taxes for her son’s benefits. This year she said it jumped to $4,600.

"None of us knew any of this until we all started filing our taxes and had such a significant increase in our tax burden," said Braden-Rogers, who has since remarried and no longer receives the VA benefit. "We’ve always had a tax burden, but for me, quadrupling the tax burden of a Gold Star child is completely unfair. It’s cruel. I mean why would you tax a nine year old?"

When Jessica Johns started seeing comments on social media about how the tax code may impact Gold Star families like hers — Johns’ husband, Army 1st Lt. Jonathan Rozier was killed in Iraq in 2003 — she told Task & Purpose she thought the reactions may have been overblown. Then she did her taxes, too.

Like Braden-Rogers, Johns has also remarried and subsequently lost her VA survivor benefits. Her 16-year-old son Justin, however, still receives the military’s Survivor Benefit Plan, and now those benefits are being taxed at a higher rate than ever before.

Last year Johns paid around $400 in taxes for her son’s benefits. This year she claims to have paid almost $3,000.

"I kind of was in denial," Johns told Task & Purpose. "I mean I was shocked first of all and then I started to get mad ’cause I’m like, well first of all, the name of the annuity is Survivor Benefit Plans so I don’t understand why they tax it in the first place, but if they are going to tax it, why are they all of a sudden taxing like we are trying to shelter money in our kid’s names so that we don’t get taxed on it?"

"It just made absolutely no sense to me at all," Johns continued. "That’s really what they’re doing and they’re taxing it like we are rich people and pushing some of our income into our children’s names so that we can shelter that from having to pay a higher tax bracket for us, but that’s not what we are doing. It’s a survivor’s benefit. It’s not a tax shelter for us."

The unexpected tax increase has led to some tough choices for the survivors who spoke with Task & Purpose: Cancelled vacations and trips; no summer camp for the kids; a tighter budget year-round; and a monthly, if not weekly re-assessment of finances as parents struggle to pay this year’s taxes and plan for next year.

And then there’s the impact it has on their families that goes beyond the financial burden the tax hike has imposed.

"It was heavy on my heart when I realized that my son receives this money because his dad died," Lankford said, speaking of her son Jonathan. "Now we feel like it’s a challenge for us because he’s a child, he’s paying taxes, but he’s paying taxes on the money that was left for him because of his father’s service."

"That’s a lot for a kiddo to take in," Lankford continued. "He’s not unaware, and most of our kids are not unaware of what’s happening around them. They know what’s going on. And at the same time, we want to provide for them, we want to shelter them from these things, but it’s important as surviving spouses that we come together and we help Congress understand how important it is to our families and to our well-being, that this can change. This needs to change. It needs to be changed soon."

Repealing the offset could end the tax issue

"In layman’s terms, surviving spouses are having to give their benefits to their children in order to receive all of the benefits they have earned," Ashlynne Haycock, the deputy director of policy and legislation for TAPS told Task & Purpose.

"The tax code isn’t the issue," said Haycock, the Widow’s Tax is.

Under the new tax code "those benefits are being taxed at an astronomical rate," Haycock explained. "If we end the offset, those benefits will be reassigned back to the spouses, so they’ll get all of the benefits they have earned, and we won’t have this tax issue going forward."

Advocates like Haycock argue that the military’s Survivor Benefits Plan and the VA’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation are two separate benefits that come from different pots — SBP is an insurance annuity, and DIC is a VA benefit — and so shouldn’t count against each other.

Currently, two bills aimed at removing the offset from survivors benefits have been introduced to the House and Senate; the Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act of 2019, sponsored by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.); and the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act sponsored by Reps. Joe Wilson, (R-S.C.) and John Yarmuth, (D-Ky.).

Even with bills to remove the offset introduced the House and Senate, survivors like Johns, Braden-Rogers, Lankford, and Jones are left to deal with the fallout of this year’s tax season on their own.

"A lot of us as military widows, many of us didn’t have jobs, didn’t have careers, when our spouses were killed, because we had followed our husbands around," Jones, who works part-time in real estate, in between going to college and caring for her sons, told Task & Purpose.

"Now you’re a single parent and you’re trying to be there for your kids, and they’ve already lost one parent and you’ve got to go to work all day long, and you’re trying to balance this," Jones continued. "It’s so hard, and it’s so exhausting. How am I going to pay for this… What am I going to do when this child turns 18 and all this drops off. Am I going to have to sell my house, are we going to have to move?"

Stripes: Army may need bigger retirement plan perk to sustain officer experience levels, study says

By ERIK SLAVIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 23, 2019

The Army may need to pay officers a much larger midcareer incentive under the new blended retirement system if it wants to retain the same mix of experience it has now, a service-commissioned report said.

To keep them on active duty for at least 20 years, officers headed toward the 12-year mark in service may on average need as much as eight months of salary as continuation pay, a new incentive that does not exist under the Army’s legacy retirement plan, according to a Rand Corp. report published earlier this month.

The study comes as the Army moves away from its legacy retirement system, which pays a larger guaranteed amount to soldiers after at least 20 years of service, to a blended system that pays out after less time served and matches more of a soldier’s contributions to a retirement account.

Servicemembers who were in uniform prior to 2018 were grandfathered into the legacy retirement system, but those with fewer than 12 years of service, or reservists with less than 4,320 retirement points, can opt into the blended system.

Moving to the blended system creates uncertainty for the Army over future costs, outflows from active duty to the reserve component and “whether the experience mix of the Army would change in a way that no longer meets Army readiness requirements,” the Rand report stated.

The Army must offer a minimum of 2.5 months of basic pay to active duty soldiers and a half-month of pay to Reserve and National Guard soldiers as continuation pay, if they are participating in the blended retirement system.

The minimums would sustain enlisted retention at current rates, the study said.

The Rand simulations show that the blended system would improve Reserve and National Guard participation among officers at minimum continuation pay rates, “but at the cost of substantially lower retention of midcareer [regular Army] officers.”

Under one scenario that leaves continuation pay at their minimums, fewer active duty officers complete 20 years of service; meanwhile, officer participation in the Reserve and the National Guard rise by 7.2% and 2.1%, respectively.

To keep current levels of retention and experience, an active duty major with 12 years of service would need to be offered about $140,000 in continuation pay, rather than the minimum of $17,633, the study concluded. Under an optimized scenario, Reserve officers would be offered about two months’ salary and National Guard officers would receive a full month of pay, rather than the half-month minimums.

The study assumed that the continuation pay would be paid at 12 years of service, though the law allows the Army to pay as early as the eighth year of service.

While the added continuation pay would cost the Army more in the short-term, over time the service would save money because opt-in rates into the more cost-effective blended system would be higher, the study said.

The blended system pays out a smaller pension than the legacy plan, which pays soldiers who serve at least 20 years a set amount based on their time in service and highest three years of base pay. Reservist retirement is earned based on a system that awards points for activity in uniform.

However, in addition to the new continuation pay benefit, the blended system’s Thrift Savings Plan contributions vest after two years and allow contributions up to 5% of basic pay with a 4% match.

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Senate Bill 785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act

FYI All! Thank you DAV!

dav_dava_bigger.png

Jon Tester (MT), introduced S. 785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act to improve eligibility and access to transitioning service members and veterans to federal programs such as transitional assistance programs and health care, including mental health care, to reduce suicide rates and improve mental health among veterans.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mental health program experienced tremendous growth (86%) between 2005 and 2017. Troops returning from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan required mental health care services including treatment for PTSD, substance use disorders, depression, and anxiety. During this time VA also identified an upward trend in suicides among veterans. Homelessness and unemployment were considered contributing factors, particularly for some subgroups in the veterans’ population such as women and minorities.

The bill would:

  • Improve access to transition services for veterans by extending VA health care eligibility to a year after discharge from military service;
  • Create a grant program to help veterans obtain employment and help identify the many non-profit programs available to veterans in their communities;
  • Create a new suicide prevention program to include new grant programs designed to reach veterans at risk of suicide who are not obtaining VA mental health care;
  • Help facilitate post-traumatic growth services through community partners;
  • Encourage peer support by organizing education and awareness of Buddy Checks;
  • Require VA to track and report on goals and objectives in its suicide prevention plan and direct the Government Accountability Office to evaluate VA’s case management program for veterans at high risk of suicide;
  • Require VA to update guidelines on suicide prevention including using gender-specific risk factors and treatment options
  • Require VA to create treatment guidelines for trauma comorbid with chronic pain and substance abuse; and
  • Require certain oversight reports and improve authorities to assist in recruiting mental health providers and increasing veterans’ access to telehealth.

The following resolutions lead DAV to strongly support this bill. DAV Resolution No. 293 supports program improvement and enhanced resources for VA Mental Health Programs, emphasizing the importance of timely access to mental health and readjustment services for transitioning service members. DAV Resolution No. 304 urges Congress to monitor programs in place to assist those service members transitioning to civilian life with access to appropriate federal programs.

Please contact your Senators to ask them to support this comprehensive bill to support our nation’s veterans.

Convention “Higher Fee at the Gate”

Another reminder about Department Convention Registration.

Please find the form and submit before deadline.

As usual, $10.00 per person advance registration.

NEW, if you don’t register until the day of arrival, it is now $20.00

Thanks Everyone! To answer as asked at least once. No, we are not trying to make more money, if everyone registers in advance. We don’t make one cent more than that. Blessings all!

http://azlegion.org/wp-content/legionnaire/2019/Legion_Registration_2019.pdf

23 April, 2019 06:41

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Tuesday, April 23, 2019 which is International Nose Picking Day, Movie Theatre Day, Slay A Dragon Day and German Beer Day. (It’s actually like 20 holidays today for some reason.)
[No history today as I need to get these out, I will make up for it tomorrow.]

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

If you wish to be removed from this email list, kindly email me at mseavey with “Remove from Daily Clips” in the subject line. If you have received this from someone who forwarded it and would like to be added, email me at mseavey and I will promptly add you to the list, that you might get the daily American Legion News.

U.S. Mint Video: American Legion Commemorative Coin
Apr 20, 2019 | U.S. Mint, video
[Video at link above.]
Chief Engraver Joe Menna and Sculptor-Engravers Michael Gaudioso and Phebe Hemphill discuss their work on the 2019 American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program.
Watch the video on YouTube →.
NYT: The Military Wants Better Tests for PTSD. Speech Analysis Could Be the Answer.

By Dave Philipps

  • April 22, 2019

Post-traumatic stress disorder has long been one of the hardest mental health problems to diagnose because some patients try to hide symptoms while others exaggerate them. But a new voice analysis technique may be able to take the guesswork out of identifying the disorder using the same technology now used to dial home hands-free or order pizza on a smart speaker.
A team of researchers at New York University School of Medicine, working with SRI International, the nonprofit research institute that developed the smartphone assistant Siri, has created an algorithm that can analyze patient interviews, sort through tens of thousands of variables in their speech and identify minute auditory markers of PTSD that are otherwise imperceptible to the human ear, then make a diagnosis.
The results, published online on Monday in the journal Depression and Anxiety, show the algorithm was able to narrow down the 40,500 speech characteristics of a group of patients — like the tension in the larynx and the timing in the flick in the tongue — to just 18 relevant indicators that together could be used to diagnose PTSD. Based on those 18 speech clues, the algorithm was able to correctly identify patients with PTSD 89 percent of the time.
“They were not the speech features we thought,” said Dr. Charles Marmar, a psychiatry professor at N.Y.U. and one of the authors of the paper. “We thought the telling features would reflect agitated speech. In point of fact, when we saw the data, the features are flatter, more atonal speech. We were capturing the numbness that is so typical of PTSD patients.” As the process is refined, speech pattern analysis could become a widely used biomarker for objectively identifying the disorder, he said.

For many it can’t come too soon. The Department of Defense, which funded the study, has been on the hunt for a reliable biomarker for the disorder for more than a decade. Fueled by military dollars, research teams across the country have worked to develop brain scans, blood tests and other objective measures that might take some of the uncertainty out of diagnosing PTSD.
The most common method currently used for identifying PTSD relies largely on a subjective process in which patients answer questions about symptoms and clinicians make a judgment. That works well when patients report symptoms accurately, Marmar said, but — consciously or not — patients are notoriously unreliable.
Some active-duty troops, police officers and firefighters downplay symptoms because they fear being sidelined, or don’t want to admit weakness. Others seeking compensation for PTSD caused by the job may exaggerate symptoms to increase their payout. Complicating matters even more, disorders including insomnia and anxiety share many symptoms with PTSD, and the biases of clinicians doing assessments can sometimes shape diagnoses.
At the Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD claims have tripled in recent years and now make up more than a fifth of all benefits claims, causing some in Congress and the department to question the accuracy of the diagnosis method. It is a common frustration across psychiatry, said Craig Bryan, a former Air Force psychologist and Iraq war veteran who now runs the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah. “On active duty, I was always worried patients were lying to me because they are afraid of what was going to happen if they admitted they were having issues,” Bryan said. “Speech analysis could potentially solve that problem.”
Bryan, who was not involved in the N.Y.U. research, said his clinic participated in a separate study funded by the Defense Department focused on a voice biomarker that delivered similarly strong results. Those results were published in February. He said speech analysis was just one of a number of objective methods for diagnosing PTSD, including testing blood or saliva for stress hormones, that are on the cusp of being reliable enough to use in a clinical setting. “The advantage of voice analysis is that you don’t need a needle, you don’t need a lab,” he said. “Potentially, all you might need is a smartphone.”
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The N.Y.U. study looked at 129 male military veterans all around 32 years old who had significant exposure to combat, screening out any who also had other disorders that might complicate the study, such as depression or alcohol abuse. Researchers conducted a traditional structured interview, known as a Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale, or CAPS, to identify 52 veterans with PTSD and 77 without.
Researchers recorded each interview, then fed the audio recordings through the speech analysis software at SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif. For five years a team of scientists there has been developing speech software that can understand not only what people say, but also what emotions are expressed in how they say it. The team deconstructed the interviews into 40,526 objective speech-based features that documented tone, variation, pacing and annunciation. This same process is used to help automated customer service programs respond to irate customers.
The data was sent back to New York, where Eugene Laska, a statistician in the psychiatry department at N.Y.U., fed it through an artificial intelligence program that searched repeatedly through the thousands of features until it learned which ones best distinguished the patients with PTSD. In the end it settled on just 18.
Patients with PTSD tended to speak in flatter speech, with less articulation of the tongue and lips and a more monotonous tone, the researchers reported. “We’ve known for a long time that you can tell how someone is doing from their voice. You don’t have to be a doctor to know when someone is feeling down,” Laska said. “But this could take some of the fuzziness out of the process, and help clinicians make better decisions.”
Rather than replace traditional diagnostic interviews, he said, potential biomarkers would most likely become a tool to help psychologists make difficult calls. The results of the study are encouraging, and can be built on to create more sophisticated screening tools, said Rachael Yehuda, director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, but she cautioned that in its current form, the algorithm may be of limited practical use.
Many patients with PTSD arrive at the psychologist’s office with a host of other disorders, including depression and substance abuse, and it is unclear how well speech analysis would fare under more complicated real-life circumstances, Yehuda said. Also unclear is whether the signals identified by the algorithm are caused by PTSD or pre-existing conditions that make patients more vulnerable to the disorder, she said.
“We should be enthusiastic but sober,” she added. “This is an important effort. But mental health conditions are complicated and I suspect there is more work to be done.”
Marmar agreed that the technology will need more work before it can be deployed to the field, but said his team hoped to eventually apply for approval by the Food and Drug Administration. “The advantage of this approach is it’s noninvasive and it will become low cost, and easy to perform,” he said. “In theory, we could use this assessment on troops anywhere in the world.”

Washington Examiner: US military rules under review after soldiers surrendered pistol to Mexican troops on American soil
by Anna Giaritelli
| April 22, 2019 09:42 PM
A senior defense official says the Pentagon is reviewing how U.S. soldiers responded during an incident this month in which a Mexican troops detained and disarmed Americans on Texas soil.
The standoff between two U.S. soldiers and as many as six Mexican military officials on April 13 is believed to be the first of its kind, according to the senior defense official from Northern Command, or NORTHCOM. "This is the first incident that we’re aware of that the two militaries came together," the official told the Washington Examiner.
Two Army soldiers from Washington state were sitting in an unmarked Customs and Border Protection vehicle south of the U.S. barrier but north of the international boundary near Clint, Texas, when Mexican troops moved in on them.
The Mexican soldiers, each carrying FX-05 Xiuhcoatl rifles, detained, disarmed, and questioned the U.S. troops. One soldier’s Beretta M9 service pistol was taken from him and temporarily confiscated.
The Pentagon is now investigating the incident, which the official said "will help us modify any instructions that we’re giving the troops" about how to deal with such a situation.
Troops deployed to the U.S.-Mexico boundary go through joint readiness staging, or training on how to handle dangerous situations in the area. The official said he could not recall anything similar to last Saturday’s encounter having taken place during a previous active-duty troop deployment.
No official protocol exists for how to navigate a run-in with a foreign military, but the senior official said the soldiers were trained to "de-escalate" the situation. By surrendering at least one gun, they followed existing protocol, though it left them unarmed.
The NORTHCOM official also defended the U.S. soldiers being in the location. The pair had been assigned by Customs and Border Protection to be at those coordinates on the U.S. side of the border. The two soldiers were one of 150 teams serving on mobile surveillance missions who had been assigned that specific location to stake out and monitor surveillance feeds.
Mexican soldiers spotted the pair and did not recognize their unmarked vehicle. The U.S. troops did not recognize the unmarked truck. There was mutual confusion about why either party was at that location.
"That area of the border is kind of confusing," a second NORTHCOM official told the Examiner. "It may have been difficult for them [Mexican forces] to know if they didn’t know the area as well or were new or something. I don’t think — it definitely wasn’t trying to overtake the U.S."
Much of the physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border does not sit on the international boundary and is located a few dozen to a few hundred feet north of it.
In areas such as southwestern Arizona and eastern Texas, rivers serve as the official border, but in other regions, it can be more difficult to determine the official line in the sand.
The language barrier further complicated the situation. "There was a U.S. Army soldier that was one of the two that spoke Spanish. That was about when they came to realize they were Mexican military," the official said.
Military Times: Victims of military medical mistakes to tell their stories at congressional hearing seeking legal fixes
By: Leo Shane III16 hours ago
House lawmakers will hear directly from the victims of military medical mistakes next week in a hearing looking at whether Congress should consider changing the rules regarding malpractice casesagainst the Department of Defense.
Among those scheduled to testify at the hearing on April 30 are Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal, a Green Beret fighting stage four lung cancer because of Army doctors errors, and the widow of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dean Patrick Witt, who was left in a vegetative state after a botched appendectomy surgery.
Natalie Khawam, an attorney for Stayskal, said the 37-year-old father of two is in considerable pain daily but will appear before the House Armed Services Committee to “show that there needs to be accountability for these doctors.”
At issue is a 1950 Supreme Court decision called the Feres doctrine which lower courts have cited repeatedly to block troops from claiming medical malpractice damages for actions related to their military service.
Defense advocates have argued that changing the precedent would prompt a flood of frivolous lawsuits against the military. But critics of the doctrine say the ruling has been applied far beyond issues of troops facing war-related injuries or on-duty accidents, and deprived military families of compensation for negligence and carelessness.
In Stayskal’s case, Army doctors overlooked a tumor in lungs in early 2017, allowing it to grow rapidly in ensuing months. By the time his cancer was properly diagnosed, doctors told him they could not treat the illness, and gave him only a few months to live.
Khawam, who runs the Whistleblower Law Firm, said his family has been unable to sue for damages and to censure the military doctors involved because of the Feres doctrine. The same mistakes in a civilian hospital would face no such legal obstacles.
“ISIS couldn’t kill this guy, but our medical system is,” Khawam said.
In Witt’s case, a nurse inserted a breathing tube into his esophagus instead of his airway, depriving his brain of oxygen. The nurse surrendered her medical license, but the family was blocked from receiving any damages because of the Feres doctrine.
Military officials did not return requests for comment on the malpractice accusations.
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have said they want a fix to that complete shutdown of legal cases against problematic military physicians. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and chairwoman of the House Armed Services personnel subcommittee, has said the issue is one of her top legislative priorities for this year.
Also scheduled to testify at the hearing are former Air Force Judge Advocate Rebecca Lipe and Dwight Stirling, chief executive officer of the Center for Law and Military Policy.
The hearing will begin at 2 p.m. on April 30 and will be streamed online at the committee’s web site.
Stripes: Merit over seniority: Army revamping 50-year-old centralized promotion board

By CHAD GARLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 22, 2019
The Army will revamp its centralized promotion board processes over the next few years to focus on advancing senior noncommissioned officers on merit, not time served.

Gone will be annual sequenced promotion lists and the “P” status for promotable NCOs, to be replaced by quarterly forecasts and monthly selection processes for sergeant and above.

Officials also plan to expand the use of merit-based rankings for other uses beyond the promotion process, such as for identifying subpar soldiers for separation, the Army said in a directive published earlier this month.

The changes are aimed at “promoting the right people at the right time,” the service’s top enlisted soldier said in a statement last week. The first changes will take effect this year with the master sergeant promotion board but are slated to be implemented across the NCO corps in the next three to four years.

“This is the first major overhaul to our enlisted centralized promotion board in the 50 years we’ve conducted them,” said Sgt. Major of the Army Dan Dailey, as quoted in the statement. “We will see a number of benefits with these changes, but the most important one will be the impact to readiness.”

The new system is expected to ensure retention of the “most talented” NCOs, said Dailey, who began efforts to revise the process two years ago.

“This change now truly rewards the most qualified soldiers who are seeking advancement instead of simply promoting people based on seniority,” he said.

The current system, which dates back to 1969, relies on long-range projections of soldiers leaving the force, sometimes created 24 months in advance, which has at times resulted in surpluses of promotable soldiers, said Gerald Purcell, an Army personnel official and retired sergeant major responsible for integrating NCO professional development policies. The new system is meant to fix such inefficiencies, he said.

“We are creating a process that reacts to emerging requirements and it stops us from creating skill and grade imbalances,” he said, adding that it is expected to prevent promotion stagnation or the need to separate soldiers because there are too many at a particular rank.

The new system will identify soldiers who are “fully qualified” for promotion in each grade and occupational specialty, and then sequence them for promotion using a system that takes skills, knowledge and behavior into account. The current system sequences promotions using time-based measures, which Purcell said can fail to reward or recognize deserving candidates with less seniority.

Merit-based sequence numbers are expected for all ranks sometime this year.

In the next few months, soldiers should be able to privately check their standing on the list, known as an order of merit list, or OML, on the Army Career Tracker website. This year, OML standings will be used for command sergeant major and sergeant major eligibility but will eventually be used for promotion in all other NCO ranks.

The OML standings will also be used for things like scheduling professional military education, assignment to developmental positions and retention decisions, said the new directive, signed by Army Secretary Mark T. Esper on April 4.

Beginning next year, the standings are expected to assist with assignment and training decisions, the Army said in a statement last week. The service will also begin notifying soldiers if they fail to qualify for promotion by not completing the mandatory Structured Self-Development or Distributed Leaders Course.

After a soldier is identified as not qualified for a second time — in 2021 at the earliest — a mandatory separation date will be set for six months in the future. The soldier will be allowed to retire, if eligible, or will be involuntarily separated.

Quarterly promotion forecasts and monthly promotions for all NCO ranks are also slated to be in place by the end of 2021 — soldiers would be notified of their selection for promotion on the 15th of the month, with an effective promotion date on the first of the following month.

The first separations for soldiers who fail to meet qualifications twice are also expected to begin that same year, which will allow the Army to eliminate time-in-service limits for each rank.
“We are calling this a talent management effort,” Purcell said. “There is a place for everybody in the Army as long as you are performing.”

garland.chad
Twitter: @chadgarland

Military.com: Appeals Court Rejects Chelsea Manning’s Effort to Leave Jail

22 Apr 2019
The Associated Press | By Matthew Barakat
FALLS CHURCH, Va. — A federal appeals court on Monday rejected a bid by former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to be released from jail for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating Wikileaks.
The three-paragraph, unanimous decision from a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond rejects both Manning’s argument that she was erroneously found in civil contempt of court and her request for bail while the contempt decision is litigated.
Manning has been jailed at the Alexandria Detention Center since March 8 after refusing to testify to the Wikileaks grand jury.
Since her incarceration, criminal charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange have been unsealed and U.S. officials have requested his extradition . Manning’s lawyers argued that her testimony is unnecessary in part because Assange has already been charged.
Manning served seven years in a military prison for leaking a trove of military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks before then-President Barack Obama commuted the remainder of her 35-year sentence.
Manning’s lawyers also argued that she told authorities everything she knew during her court-martial investigation and that her incarceration was unnecessarily cruel because the jail is unable to provide adequate medical care in connection with gender-reassignment surgery Manning underwent.
Prosecutors responded that they believe Manning, who was granted immunity for her grand jury testimony, may have more to say about her interactions with Wikileaks than has been previously disclosed, and that Manning is out of line for disrupting the grand-jury process simply on her speculation that she is being singled out for harassment. They also say that the jail has gone out of its way to accommodate her medical needs.
Prosecutors have called Manning’s leak to Wikileaks one of the largest compromises of classified information in U.S. history.
Monday’s opinion was issued by judges Allyson Duncan, a George W. Bush appointee; Paul Niemayer, a George H.W. Bush appointee; and Robert King, a Bill Clinton appointee.
Manning’s lawyer said she expected to issue a statement later Monday.
Under the terms of the judge’s contempt finding, Manning will remain jailed until she agrees to testify or until the grand jury’s term is concluded. That date is unknown.

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Sports Sponsorship by American Legion Posts

Does anyone in our department sponsor any youth sports other than baseball, soccer and wrestling?

If so, please let me know what post/sport.

Thanks, in advance, for your help.
Angel
hdqtrs@azlegion.org