16 November, 2018 11:48

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Friday, November 16, 2018 which is Have a Party With Your Bear Day, National Button Day, International Day For Tolerance, and National Fast Food Day. Apologies for being out for a week, I was on my annual sojourn to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for Veterans Day. If you’ve never travelled international with 3 toddlers, I don’t recommend you take it up if you don’t want constant anxiety and crying. (The kids, not you, although….)
This Weekend in Legion History:

  • Nov. 17, 1933: Through a National Executive Committee resolution, The American Legion formally opposes diplomatic recognition of the communist Soviet Union as the legal government of the people of Russia.
  • Nov. 18, 1945: At The American Legion National Convention in Chicago, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander Europe in World War II, and life member of The American Legion in Abilene, Kan., receives the organization’s prestigious Distinguished Service Medal.

This Day in History:

  • On November 16, 1532, Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish explorer and conquistador, springs a trap on the Incan emperor, Atahualpa. With fewer than 200 men against several thousand, Pizarro lures Atahualpa to a feast in the emperor’s honor and then opens fire on the unarmed Incans. Pizarro’s men massacre the Incans and capture Atahualpa, forcing him to convert to Christianity before eventually killing him.
  • 1907: Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory collectively enter the United States as Oklahoma, the 46th state. Oklahoma, with a name derived from the Choctaw Indian words okla, meaning “people,” and humma, meaning “red,” has a history of human occupation dating back 15,000 years. The first Europeans to visit the region were Spanish explorers in the 16th century, and in the 18th century the Spanish and French struggled for control of the territory. The United States acquired Oklahoma from France in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase.


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Stripes: Pentagon fails first full audit after spending hundreds of millions of dollars

By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 15, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department announced Thursday that it has completed an agency-wide audit that cost hundreds of millions of dollars and was required more than 20 years ago by Congress. It failed.

“But we never expected to pass it,” Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon.

The audit has yet to be released and the Office of Inspector General’s report on its findings is expected to be completed Thursday, according to Pentagon officials.

Since the audit began in December 2017, Shanahan said the Pentagon has received preliminary findings and has been developing plans on how to take corrective actions based on them.

Some issues revealed by the audit include inventory accuracy and complying with cybersecurity discipline, Shanahan said.

The compliance issues found in the audit are “irritating,” he said. “Some of those things frustrated me because we have a job to do, we just need to follow our procedures.”

After Shanahan’s briefing with reporters, his spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Buccino attempted to clarify the audit’s findings.

“The audit is not a ‘pass-fail’ process,” he wrote in an email. “We did not receive an “adverse” finding – the lowest possible category – in any area. We did receive findings of ‘disclaimer’ in multiple areas. Clearly more work lies ahead of us.”

Congress has required a Defense Department audit since the early the 1990s, but the federal government’s largest agency had never fully undertaken one. The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act required the department to be ready for an audit by 2017.

The Pentagon’s Chief Financial Officer David Norquist told the House Armed Services Committee in January that the audit would cost $367 million and an estimated 1,200 auditors were to look into the count, location and condition of military equipment, real property and inventory. The audit examined security vulnerabilities in the Pentagon’s business systems, validated the accuracy of personnel records such as promotions and assessed whether the department’s books and records present a true and accurate picture of financial health, he said.

The audit was “on a $2.7 trillion organization, so the fact that we did the audit is substantial,” Shanahan said.

NY Post: Homeless vet, couple allegedly made up story for GoFundMe scam
By Ben Feuerherd
The New Jersey couple who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in a viral charity campaign for a homeless man were allegedly working with the vagrant as part of an elaborate ruse, according to a new report.
Prosecutors believe that Mark D’Amico and Kate McClure conspired with homeless man Johnny Bobbitt to create their get-rich-quick scheme in 2017, NBC’s Philadelphia affiliate reported Wednesday.
The couple turned themselves in to authorities Wednesday, but Bobbitt was still at large, the news station said.
According a source who spoke to the news outlet, which said it had a copy of a criminal complaint, all three are expected to face charges of conspiracy and theft by deception for working together to create the ruse. The Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office is expected to make an announcement in the case Thursday, according to multiple reports.
Prosecutors did not immediately return a call for comment, and reps for the couple and Bobbitt were not available.
McClure, 28, and D’Amico, 39, created a GoFundMe page in November 2017, claiming homeless drug addict Bobbitt spent his last $20 to fill up McClure’s empty gas tank after her car broke down on I-95 near Philadelphia.
The charity campaign exploded, raising tens of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting donors in a matter of days — and ultimately shooting up to more than $400,000.
“It has changed my entire outlook about people, my outlook about people has skyrocketed,” McClure said of the donations at the time.
Their plan began to unravel in August of this year, when Bobbitt sued the couple, claiming they were withholding funds raised on the GoFundMe from him.
McClure and D’Amico, both of Florence Township, NJ, accused Bobbitt of being on drugs and refused to pay him until he was clean.
In September, a lawyer for the couple announced that he expected they would both be indicted for their role in the scam — but it was not known that all three of them were suspected in the plot until Wednesday.

Military Times: National Guard soldier arrested, charged with smuggling Mexican nationals into US
By: J.D. Simkins 15 hours ago
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As migration-related news coverage continues to center around U.S. troops deploying to the U.S.-Mexico border in anticipation of the migrant caravan’s long-awaited arrival, one service member has reportedly gone against the security grain by smuggling Mexican migrants into the United States.
California National Guardsman Pfc. Edward Jair Acosta-Avila was arrested Nov. 10 when his car was stopped near San Diego, California, about two miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, USA Today reported.
After pulling over Acosta-Avila’s Honda Accord, Customs and Border Protection agents apprehended five individuals, including three undocumented Mexican nationals who were discovered hiding under a blanket in the back seat.
Acosta-Avila, along with one other passenger who was identified as U.S. citizen, has been charged in federal court with human trafficking
The Guardsman, who was reportedly awaiting discharge for being absent without leave, told authorities he and the co-defendant planned to split a payment of $400 for shuttling the three men into the U.S.
The Mexican nationals told officials they “made smuggling arrangements and agreed to pay between $6,000 and $7,000 each to be smuggled into the United States,” the report said.
For now, the three men will be detained to serve as witnesses in the case, Fox 5 San Diego reported. They will later face the standard deportation process.
Acosta-Avila was reportedly not part of the U.S. border security mission, one in which an estimated 7,000 troops are expected to deploy in support of at various locations along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Stripes: Two Navy SEALs, two Marines charged in Green Beret’s death in Mali

By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 15, 2018

WASHINGTON – Military prosecutors levied a slew of charges including murder against four U.S. special operators who they accused of strangling to death a Green Beret last year while they were on a deployment in West Africa.

Two Navy SEALs and two Marine Raiders face several charges including felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, hazing and burglary in the June 2017 death of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar in Bamako, Mali, according to military charging documents released Thursday.

The names of the individuals charged in the Special Forces soldier’s death were redacted in those documents. They were identified only as a Marine gunnery sergeant and staff sergeant assigned to Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command and two Navy chief petty officers assigned to the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team 6. The Marines were based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and the SEALs in Virginia Beach.

The charges were approved Wednesday by Rear Adm. Charles Rock, the commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, following the completion of an investigation into Melgar’s death, according to the Navy. The four are scheduled to appear in court for an Article 32 preliminary hearing on Dec. 10.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service recently completed the investigation and turned it over to Rock, said Adam Stump, a spokesman for NCIS. He declined to provide additional information Thursday about the investigation that took more than one year to complete.
The charging documents provide the most detailed account to date about the alleged killing of Melgar, an incident Pentagon officials have long declined to discuss on the record other than to acknowledge the soldier’s death.

Melgar and the four accused servicemembers were assigned to a secretive special operations team operating out of Mali’s capital to help French and Malian troops target terrorist cells aligned with al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

The four servicemembers charged in the case stand accused of retrieving duct tape from a Marine quarters building before driving to the quarters shared by Navy and Army troops where they are alleged to have broken into Melgar’s bedroom while he was asleep, physically restrained him, bound him with the duct tape and strangled him to death with a chokehold.

They are also accused of conspiring to cover up Melgar’s death. The four servicemembers are accused of performing a medical procedure on the soldier’s throat to hide evidence of his fatal injuries, according to the charging documents. They also are accused of making false statements to their commanders and, later, to military investigators from the Army and Navy.

The gunnery sergeant is accused of telling Army Criminal Investigation Command officials that Melgar and another individual mutually initiated a wrestling match in Melgar’s room during which he was accidentally killed, a claim described in the charging documents as “totally false.”

The account of the Marines’ lie matches with past reporting by the New York Times, which identified the two SEALs as Petty Officer 1st Class Tony DeDolph and Chief Petty Officer Adam Matthews. The Times, citing a leaked Army preliminary investigation document, reported it was DeDolph, a former professional mixed martial arts fighter, who choked Melgar to death.

Last November, the Times and the Daily Beast reported Melgar might have learned the SEALs were involved in a money-skimming scheme. The charging documents released Thursday make no allegation the accused servicemembers were involved in any thefts.

Army Times: A female soldier has made it through the Army’s Special Forces selection
By: Meghann Myers 1 day ago
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For the first time since the Army opened its special operations jobs to women in 2016, a female soldier has completed the initial Special Forces Assessment and Selection process, a spokesman for Army Special Operations Command has confirmed to Army Times.
Several women have attempted the 24-day program, part of the Special Forces Qualification Course, since then, but none have made it to the next round.
“Recently, a female successfully completed Special Forces Assessment and Selection and was selected to attend the Special Forces Qualification Course," Lt. Col. Loren Bymer told Army Times. ”We’re proud of all the candidates who attended and were selected to continue into the qualification course in hopes of earning their Green Beret."
USASOC declined to provide the soldier’s rank or her current military occupational specialty.
“It is our policy to not release the names of our service members because Special Forces soldiers perform discrete missions upon graduation,” Bymer said.
In general, Special Forces candidates take a break from training after SFAS before moving on to the next step of the Q course. Captains might attend their designated career course, while specialists would attend the Basic Leader Course, in anticipation of a promotion to sergeant upon completing qualification.
The Q course consists of four phases and lasts about a year at least, but can take almost two years depending on a soldier’s specialty and assigned foreign language.
The Green Berets are one of the last Army communities not to have female soldiers assigned. Since the combat exemption lifted, hundreds of women have joined the infantry community, several have been assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment, and more than a dozen have earned the Ranger tab.

Defense News: Here’s what the Pentagon thinks the actual cost of a Space Force will be
By:Aaron Mehta andValerie Insinna 18 hours ago
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WASHINGTON — Since a U.S. Air Force estimate emerged in September, putting the cost of President Donald Trump’s desired Space Force at $13 billion, Pentagon officials have been pledging that the “official” cost estimate from the department will be much smaller.
Now we know by how much.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said his team’s initial estimate for the Space Force will be in the “single digits” of billions of dollars, and “could be” lower than $5 billion.
The difference in cost is significant, not just for the dollar value but as part of the broader fight over the future of the Pentagon’s space architecture.
The $13 billion figure sent waves of sticker shock through the defense community and led to accusations that the Air Force — which has been reluctant to embrace the idea of a Space Force — was hyping up costs to kill the idea.
During the Defense One conference on Thursday, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson was asked about Shanahan’s estimate and pointedly defended the figure put forward by the Air Force, saying that the $13 billion sum is needed to realize the scope of Trump’s direction to the Pentagon.
“Whatever is put forward needs to implement the president’s proposal. What we put forward was in the cost estimates to implement a standalone department," she said.
"The president is going to be making some decisions to put forward a proposal in concert with his fiscal year 20 budget proposal that will go to the Congress in February. So the cost will be really based on what are the elements in the model in that proposal, and our cost estimate that we gave to a lot of people in the Pentagon is September was the cost of a fully fledged standalone department and also a unified combatant command.”
In an exclusive interview with Defense News last month, Shanahan pledged that his cost would be “less” than the Air Force figure.
“The goal here is not to create a lot of incremental cost,” he had said. "In this department, you know with this secretary and this Congress, people in the White House, they’re not going to let us just go throw money at that.”

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15 November, 2018 05:46

Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, November 15, 2018, which is America Recycles Day, Day of the Imprisoned Writer, I Love to Write Day and the Great American Smokeout.

Today in History:

  • On this day in 1867, the first stock ticker is unveiled in New York City. The advent of the ticker ultimately revolutionized the stock market by making up-to-the-minute prices available to investors around the country. Prior to this development, information from the New York Stock Exchange, which has been around since 1792, traveled by mail or messenger.
  • After 16 months of debate, the Continental Congress, sitting in its temporary capital of York, Pennsylvania, agrees to adopt the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union on this day in 1777. Not until March 1, 1781, would the last of the 13 states, Maryland, ratify the agreement.
  • 1957: In a long and rambling interview with an American reporter, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev claims that the Soviet Union has missile superiority over the United States and challenges America to a missile “shooting match” to prove his assertion. The interview further fueled fears in the United States that the nation was falling perilously behind the Soviets in the arms race.
  • On this day in 1864, Union General William T. Sherman begins his expedition across Georgia by torching the industrial section of Atlanta and pulling away from his supply lines. For the next six weeks, Sherman’s army destroyed most of the state before capturing the Confederate seaport of Savannah, Georgia.


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USA Today: Feds find ‘blatant disregard’ for veteran safety at VA nursing home among the nation’s worst
Donovan Slack, USA TODAY, and Andrea Estes, The Boston Globe
Published 7:00 a.m. ET Nov. 14, 2018 | Updated 6:25 p.m. ET Nov. 14, 2018

BOSTON – Staffers at the Department of Veterans Affairs nursing home in Brockton, Massachusetts – rated among the worst VA nursing homes in the country – knew this spring that they were under scrutiny and that federal investigators were coming to visit, looking for signs of patient neglect.
Still, when investigators arrived, they didn’t have to look far: They found a nurse and a nurse’s aide fast asleep during their shifts. One dozed in a darkened room, the other was wrapped in a blanket in the locked cafeteria.
The sleeping staffers became a focal point of a new, scathing internal report about patient care at the facility, sparked by a nurse’s complaint that veterans were getting substandard care, according to a letter sent late last month to President Donald Trump and Congress by the agency that protects government whistleblowers.
“We have significant concern about the blatant disregard for veteran safety by the registered nurses and certified nurse assistants,” agency investigators wrote in a report about the 112-bed facility. The Brockton facility is a one-star nursing home, the lowest rating in the agency’s own quality ranking system.
VA spokeswoman Pallas Wahl said officials took “immediate corrective action,” and the employees caught sleeping no longer work there.
The problems at the Brockton nursing home are the latest to surface in a review of VA nursing home care by USA TODAY and The Boston Globe.
In June, the news organizations revealed the VA’s secret quality ratings showed that care at more than 100 VA nursing homes across the country scored worse than private nursing home averages on a majority of key quality indicators last year.
In response to questions from USA TODAY and the Globe, the VA released nursing home ratings that had been kept secret for years, potentially depriving veterans and their families of crucial health care information.
At the time, the VA said it was releasing inspection reports the agency withheld from the public for nearly a decade. Five months later, none has been released.
VA spokesman Curt Cashour told USA TODAY that the agency is working with an outside contractor to remove patient information from reports. He said the VA expects to release "publicly redacted versions of the most recent reports" around Christmas.
That’s not good enough for Leslie Roe, whose husband of 38 years walked out of a supposedly secure unit at the VA nursing home in Tuskegee, Alabama, last year and was never found.
Roe, who had Navy veteran Earl "Jim" Zook declared dead this year, wants the VA to immediately release three years’ worth of inspection reports – the standard for private-sector nursing homes whose reports are posted on a federal website, NursingHomeCompare.
"It’s just a shame the way the VA is," she said. "It can’t help Jim, but maybe it can help just one other person."
The reports can include incidents of poor care and conditions that can be a tip-off to prospective or current residents and their families about problems with staffing or neglect at a facility.
"What are they hiding? Why wouldn’t you release it?" asked Amy Leise, whose uncle, Vietnam veteran Don Ruch, suffered from malnutrition and bedsores last year at a VA nursing home in Livermore, California.
"It feels like the government is immune from accountability and responsibility, where in other settings that wouldn’t be the case," she said.
At the nursing home in Brockton, residents were, on average, more likely than residents of other VA nursing homes to deteriorate, feel serious pain or suffer from bedsores, according to agency data. They were nearly three times as likely to have bedsores than residents of private nursing homes.
Licensed practical nurse Patricia Labossiere said she complained to the Office of Special Counsel, a federal whistleblower agency, this year after supervisors in Brockton ignored her alerts.
“I am a no-nonsense nurse who took a vow to take care of patients,” said Labossiere, who quit in July. “We are there to be kind and treat others as we would want to be treated. I could not believe that this was how we treat the people that fought for our country.”
Labossiere said she saw instance after instance of poor patient care at the facility within days after she started working there last December. She told the federal whistleblower agency that nurses and aides did not empty the bedside urinals of frail veterans. Nurses failed to provide clean water at night and didn’t check on the veterans regularly, as required, she said. They often slept when they were supposed to be working.
She offered some specific examples: One patient had trouble breathing because his oxygen tank was empty. Another fell – his feeding tube got disconnected, and the liquid splashed onto the floor – and didn’t appear to have been monitored by staffers for hours.
The VA investigators did not substantiate those allegations, saying the patient with the empty oxygen tank suffered no ill effects. Investigators couldn’t confirm that the patient who fell had been neglected because the records were shredded “in accordance with the local policy.”
‘Routinely receiving substandard care’
Wahl, the VA spokeswoman, noted that the investigators “did not find evidence of veteran harm or neglect.” She said the facility’s one-star rating is undeserved and not an “accurate reflection of the quality of care delivered to our patients."
The Office of Special Counsel ordered the VA’s Office of Medical Inspector to investigate Brockton after Labossiere’s complaint. The office turned over its report in September to special counsel Henry Kerner, who sent the findings to Trump and Congress on Oct. 23.
“Because a brave whistleblower came forward, VA investigators were able to substantiate that patients at the Brockton (nursing home) were routinely receiving substandard care,” Kerner said in an emailed statement.
This is not the first time the Brockton facility has come under fire by the Office of Medical Inspector.
In 2014, a doctor at the nursing home alleged that three veterans with significant mental health issues received “inappropriate medical and mental health care.”
Two of them went years, he alleged, without appropriate treatment. A third allegedly received psychotropic drugs for more than two years against written instructions.
Investigators largely substantiated the allegations, finding that two veterans with significant psychiatric issues did not receive adequate treatment for years. They did not substantiate the allegation that a third received improper medication.

PR Newswire: VA Rates 70 Percent of its Nursing Homes as Failures
WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The national commanders of the nation’s two largest veterans organizations are demanding that Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie bring immediate attention to his nursing home program that currently has 70 percent of its 132 homes receiving failing grades by the VA’s own rating system.
The call by Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. National Commander B.J. Lawrence and American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad is in response to a series of scathing articles by two USA Today and Boston Globe reporters who documented substandard and negligent care at the VA nursing home in Brockton, Mass., which is one of 45 nursing homes that received the VA’s lowest rating of one star. Forty-seven homes received two stars, 16 homes three stars, and 15 homes four stars. Only nine nursing homes received the VA’s top five-star rating.
"While much of the media’s attention has been on the proper implementation of VA healthcare legislation, we cannot forget about 46,000 mostly senior veterans who reside in these nursing homes," said the two national commanders, who collectively speak for more than 4.6 million members and their auxiliaries.
"The media reports about sub-par care, patient neglect and safety violations at VA nursing homes are more than just disturbing," said the Legion’s national commander. "Legionnaires, our friends in the VFW, and anybody who respects veterans should be angered by this," said Reistad. "These people should not be viewed as forgotten patients in a home. These are people who in the prime of their lives risked their lives, and made enormous sacrifices on behalf of our country. America’s veterans deserve better. We not only expect VA to fix these problems immediately, but we want transparency. Those who sleep on the job and ignore the best interests of their patients need to find a different employer."
Echoing his counterpart, the VFW national commander said "These veterans earned the right to receive high quality care in a fully-staffed and well-managed facility. Their families deserve to know that their loved ones — their heroes — are not being abandoned or abused, and America needs to be reassured that the VA is honoring our nation’s promise to those who have borne the battle," said Lawrence. "The VA must improve its delivery of quality care at these facilities. It must recruit and retain only the best healthcare professionals and support staff, and it must hold all employees accountable for their actions or inactions. It is not a right but a privilege to work for America’s veterans, and anything less is unacceptable."

Military.com:Millions in Cost Overruns Hit Effort to Merge VA, Military Health Records
14 Nov 2018 | Military.com | By Richard Sisk
VA officials acknowledged Wednesday that a $16 billion project aimed at finally providing common, easily searchable electronic health records for the VA and the Department of Defense has already been hit with a $350 million cost overrun.
John Windom, executive director of the VA’s new Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization, said the original estimates for the program had not included the $350 million projected costs over 10 years for the salaries of the government employees who would work on it.
At a hearing of the new House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Technology Modernization, which was formed in July primarily to oversee the project, Windom said Congress had been forewarned that the salaries of the employees would not be included in the contract with Cerner Corp., but he was met by skepticism.
"I find it hard to believe that such a basic part of the program — government salaries — could be overlooked," said Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, the subcommittee’s chairman.
Banks said the cost overrun emerged "before any real work actually began" on the project to make health records of two huge departments compatible.
"How can that be?" he asked.
"I’m not ready to sound the alarm yet," Banks said, but added that the cost overrun increased his concerns over whether the program was feasible.
"The more I learn, the more daunting it has become," Banks said. "Some thought we could merely install the Cerner system. That apparently is not enough."
Windom said he expected efficiencies would be developed as the project proceeds to hold down future costs.
"There are going to be efficiencies gained we can’t forecast at this point," he said.
Previous attempts to mesh the electronic health record systems have either failed or been abandoned, most recently in 2013 when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki dropped an integration plan after a four-year effort and the expenditure of about $1 billion.
In the latest effort, then-acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in May awarded a $10 billion, 10-year contract to Cerner, of Kansas City, to develop an integrated electronic health record system. Related costs over the course of the contract were estimated to put the total cost at about $16 billion.
In comments at the hearing, and in his questioning of witnesses, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, chairman of the full committee, said he had warned Wilkie, who was sworn as VA Secretary in July, of pitfalls in the enormously complex task of meshing VA and DOD health records.
"If we don’t get this right, you and I need to go in the witness protection program," Roe said he told Wilkie.
Even if the VA and DOD systems could be successfully merged, "what are we going to do about outside practitioners?" Roe said.
Roe noted that about 35 percent of the veterans currently receiving VA health care have chosen to opt for private care, and that number was expected to rise under the VA Mission Act signed into law by President Donald Trump earlier this year to expand community care.
"That is a challenge, definitely," said Dr. Laura Kroupa, acting chief medical officer of the VA’s Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization. "We’re working on that."
Problems have already emerged in Seattle and Spokane, the first sites chosen by the VA for the installation of the new EHR systems, said John Short, chief technology integration officer at the newly established office.
Nearly all of the five-year-old computers in Seattle and Spokane will have to be replaced to adapt to the new system, Short told the subcommittee.

Military Times: New bill would ease GI Bill transfer rules for vets, military families, like never before
By: Natalie Gross | 20 hours ago
A new proposal would eliminate the Pentagon’s recent Post-9/11 GI Bill transfer restrictions and, for the first time in the history of the benefit, allow some vets to pass it to their family members.
Sen. Cory Booker, a prominent New Jersey Democrat, plans to introduce the Veteran Education and Transfer Extension Act in Congress this week.
“We know that our nation’s veterans face unique challenges when returning to their communities, so we have an obligation to provide them the resources they have earned and deserve,” Booker said. “Allowing veterans who eventually have dependents to transfer their education benefits would put them on equal footing with veterans who had dependents while on active duty. It’s vital that we ensure our veterans are empowered for success as civilians, and this legislation takes an important step in fulfilling that commitment.”
Booker’s bill would allow veterans who did not have dependents when they left the military to transfer the benefit should they get married or have children later in life. Under current rules, the transfer must happen while the eligible service member is still in the military.
In addition to this significant expansion of the benefit, Booker’s bill would also wipe away DoD’s controversial new transfer rules. That DoD policy would block service members who have been in the ranks for more than 16 years from transferring their GI Bill benefits to their dependents, beginning next July. The changes also eliminated certain exceptions to the rule that service members must be able to serve four more years into order to transfer their benefits — including in cases of mandatory retirement, high-year tenure or medical issues.
The new policy, which does not apply to active-duty Purple Heart recipients, has generated pushback from Congress as well as the veteran advocacy community.
DoD spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell said transferring education benefits “is directly tied to recruitment and retention."
“The recent DoD policy changes were made to better align the benefit to those purposes. If the law changes, we will modify our policies accordingly,” she said.
Booker’s VET Extension Act would also allow student veterans who are required to take remedial college courses to boost math or English skills before they can take higher-level classes to do so without eating into their 36 months of GI Bill entitlement.
“By expanding education benefits for the men and women who served in our Armed Forces, including increased eligibility for remedial courses, we are boosting both their employment rate and earning potential after graduation," he said.

Military Times: Price tag of the ‘war on terror’ will top $6 trillion soon
By: Leo Shane III | 22 hours ago
WASHINGTON — The price tag of the ongoing “war on terror” in the Middle East will likely top $6 trillion next year, and will reach $7 trillion if the conflicts continue into the early 2020s, according to a new report out Wednesday.
The annual Costs of War project report, from the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, puts the full taxpayer burden of fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria over the last 17 years at several times higher than official Defense Department estimates, because it includes increases in Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs spending, as well as new military equipment and personnel.
“Because the nation has tended to focus its attention only on direct military spending, we have often discounted the larger budgetary costs of the post-9/11 wars, and therefore underestimated their greater budgetary and economic significance,” the new report states.
Direct military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan make up nearly $1.8 trillion in costs, but researchers estimate the long-term health care of veterans from those wars could equal or surpass that figure in coming decades.
They also charge that the Defense Department’s base budget has grown more than $900 billion over the last 17 years because of increased missions, recruiting costs and service member benefits brought on by the conflicts overseas.
“High costs in war and war-related spending pose a national security concern because they are unsustainable,” study author Neta Crawford said in the report. “The public would be better served by increased transparency and by the development of a comprehensive strategy to end the wars and deal with other urgent national security priorities.”
She also blasted current U.S. national security policy as “no strategy to end the wars other than more of the same.”
About 23,000 U.S. and NATO forces are currently operating in Afghanistan in a non-combat, training-and-support role. About 14,000 of that group are American troops.
More than 4 million veterans in America today served during the Iraq and Afghanistan war era.
The full report is available on the project’s web site.

Stars and Stripes: Marijuana-PTSD study reaches target enrollment of 76 veterans
By NIKKI WENTLING | Stars and Stripes | Published: November 14, 2018
WASHINGTON — Researchers who are trying to determine whether marijuana works to treat post-traumatic stress disorder enrolled their final veteran needed for the study on Veterans Day.
The Scottsdale Research Institute in Phoenix, which is performing the study, achieved its total enrollment nearly two years after they first began recruiting veterans into the study – and eight years since the Food and Drug Administration approved it.
“A nearly 10-year saga for this PTSD-cannabis study,” lead researcher Sue Sisley wrote in an email. “Almost at [the] finish line.”
The study is the first government-approved research into marijuana’s effects on PTSD. When it’s done, Sisley aims to have a definitive answer of whether marijuana benefits people with PTSD, and if there are negative consequences.
All of the study’s participants are veterans.
Once researchers began recruiting veterans for the study in February 2017, they immediately ran into problems. By September 2017, they had screened thousands of veterans but enrolled only 26 who met the eligibility criteria.
For a while, there were concerns the study would have to broaden to include non-veterans.
At issue was the researchers’ lack of access to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix, just 20 miles from where the study is being conducted. Sisley saw potential there to find a large group of veterans who might be resistant to other PTSD treatments and looking for an alternative.
The VA said federal law restricted the agency from researching medical marijuana or referring veterans to projects involving the drug.
“Despite the refusal of the [VA] and Arizona’s public universities and hospitals to assist with recruitment for the study, the trial is on track to finish on time,” read a news release from the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which is sponsoring the research.
To enroll, veterans had to be diagnosed with chronic PTSD brought on by military service. Researchers wanted a range of ages, as well as men and women. The study needed 76 veterans to be viable.
It’s a random, controlled trial. The veterans participating are given 1.8 grams of marijuana each day of differing potencies. They choose how much to smoke, and they’re asked to keep a daily journal.
Participants visit Scottsdale Research Institute 17 times during 12 weeks, and then are scheduled for six-month follow-ups. Researchers intend to publish their findings sometime in 2019.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to finally answer the question, ‘Does cannabis help with PTSD?’ That’s our goal,” Sisley said at the start of the study in 2017. “That’s why we’ve been fighting so hard to get this underway.”
More veterans have spoken out in favor of medical marijuana in recent years. The American Legion passed a resolution supporting the study, and the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., also voiced his support for more research into the drug.
There are efforts in Congress to allow VA doctors to recommend marijuana to veterans in states where the drug is legal. Separately, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Roe, urged VA Secretary Robert Wilkie for the agency to conduct its own research into marijuana as a treatment for PTSD, chronic pain and other ailments that disproportionately affect veterans.
When asked about medical marijuana last week, Wilkie was adamant that the VA wouldn’t explore it as a potential treatment until the federal government makes marijuana legal.
“Marijuana is against the federal law,” he said Friday during an event at the National Press Club in Washington. “If the laws change and there’s medical evidence there, of course we look at that. But the law is pretty clear at the federal level.”

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from www.stripes.com

Stan Lee, WWII veteran who created of a galaxy of Marvel … https://goo.gl/images/5ojZfs

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13 November, 2018 13:29

State Commander Steve Aguirre at today’s Veterans Medical Leadership Recognition Luncheon. Taking in today’s Keynote Speaker; “Wake up, Dress u,
Show up”—
Staff Sergeant Kristopher Warren, US Marine (Retired)

Arizona Daily Star ‘Arizona Heroes of WWI’ film airs Nov. 12 in Tucson