Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, August 22, 2019 which is National Tooth Fairy Day, African American Women’s Equal Pay Day, National Bao Day and National Eat a Peach Day.
This Day in Legion History:
- Aug. 22, 1941: The U.S. Navy commissions the USS American Legion, and her World War II career begins, including landing some of the first troops at Guadalcanal, supplying a hospital, conducting rescue missions and training exercises. American Legion receives two battle stars during World War II before she is decommissioned in 1946 and sold for scrap two years later.
- Aug. 22, 2009: Harrisburg Post 472 in Houston, Texas, begins a six-year winning streak at The American Legion Nation Convention Color Guard Contest. The six-year run ties Speedway Post 500 in Indiana for most continuous national titles in the contest, which claimed it from 1993 to 1998.
This Day in History:
- 1485: In the last major battle of the War of the Roses, King Richard III is defeated and killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field by Henry Tudor, the earl of Richmond. After the battle, the royal crown, which Richard had worn into the fray, was picked out of a bush and placed on Henry’s head. His crowning as King Henry VII inaugurated the rule of the house of Tudor over England, a dynasty that would last until Queen Elizabeth’s death in 1603.
- 1992: In the second day of a standoff at Randy Weaver’s remote northern Idaho cabin atop Ruby Ridge, FBI sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi wounds Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris, and then kills Weaver’s wife, Vicki.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Military Times: Trump orders easier process to forgive disabled vets’ student loans
- Military Times: Trump orders VA to buy controversial antidepressant in an effort to stem veterans suicide
- The Hill: Trump calls on other nations to take up fight against ISIS
- Military Times: Army civilian staffer among five charged in benefits fraud scheme which stole millions from service members
- Military.com: Two More US Troops Die in Afghanistan in Deadliest Year Since 2014
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Military Times: Trump orders easier process to forgive disabled vets’ student loans
By: Leo Shane III 14 hours ago
President Donald Trump on Wednesday directed the Department of Education to find new ways to wipe out remaining student loan payments for nearly 25,000 disabled veteransfacing significant debts despite existing relief programs designed to help them.
“The debt of these disabled veterans will be entirely erased. It will be gone. They will sleep well tonight,” Trump told a crowd of veterans at the annual AMVETS convention in Louisville, Ky. “That’s hundreds of millions of dollars in student debt held by our severely wounded warriors. It is gone forever.”
Veterans who are 100 percent disabled are already eligible to have their federal student loan debt completely erased, but government officials have struggled to get all of that group to take advantage of the program.
Despite a public education campaign on the assistance over the last year by the Departments of Education and Veterans Affairs, about 25,000 veterans eligible for the program still have not signed on. Federal officials say many of those have already defaulted on federal loans, creating additional financial problems.
Earlier this year, Rep. Connor Lamb, D-Pa. and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., each sponsored legislation to make the loan forgiveness automatic, putting the impetus of clearing the debt on federal agencies instead of the veterans.
Trump’s announcement on Wednesday appears to be looking at the same idea. In a separate fact sheet put out by White House officials, they described the sign up process as “too burdensome” and said the goal of the new memorandum is to ensure “disabled veterans have their federal student loan debt discharged with minimal burdens.”
The announcement came amid a wide-ranging speech on veterans and military issues by the commander-in-chief, who touted both his administration’s work in reforming VA policies and Defense Department spending as crucial to national security.
The legislation under consideration in Congress includes loan forgiveness for federal student loans that disabled veterans take out for their children’s education. Trump did not say what the scope of his new order will entail.
White House officials said the average federal debt carried by the disabled veterans is around $30,000.
Veterans who think they may be eligible for the debt forgiveness program can visit the Department of Education web site for more information.
Military Times: Trump orders VA to buy controversial antidepressant in an effort to stem veterans suicide
By: Leo Shane III 17 hours ago
Ahead of his remarks at the AMVETS national convention on Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced he has instructed Veterans Affairs officials to make a massive purchase of the antidepressant Spravato in an effort to stem veterans suicide.
The president said the drug — developed by a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical firm Johnson & Johnson — has shown a “tremendously positive” effect in early testing and he is optimistic it can help with mental health problems in the veterans community. VA research shows that nationwide, about 20 veterans a day die by suicide.
“This is a form of a stimulant where, if someone is really in trouble from the standpoint of suicide, it can do something,” Trump said. “It’s pretty well known, it just came out. We have calls in to Johnson & Johnson now, we’ve been talking to them for two months on buying a lot of it.”
Earlier this year, the Center for Public Integrity reported that Trump was pushing VA officials for quicker adoption of Spravato — a ketamine-like drug with the formal name esketamine — in mental health treatments despite concerns from some medical experts about its effectiveness.
In June, a VA medical advisory panel declined to put the drug on its list of VA-approved medications. The move did not ban use of the drug but does require VA physicians to provide additional justification for why patients may need the medication, and mandates additional monitoring for potential side effects.
Despite that, Trump on several occasions has mentioned the drug as a potential solution for depression and suicidal thoughts. The medication is available as a nasal spray.
“Hopefully we’re getting it at a really good cost,” he said.
In recent months, Johnson & Johnson has touted the medication “a breakthrough medicine” and said they are working with VA officials to ensure broader access to it.
The president’s comments came in response to a question about the administration’s response to the problem of veterans suicide. Trump also mentioned the interagency task force he established this spring, which is scheduled to release a report early next year on new approaches and policies to help struggling veterans.
Veterans experiencing a mental health emergency can contact the Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1 for a VA staffer. Veterans, troops or family members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.
President Trump called on other countries to take up the fight against ISIS on Wednesday, the day after his secretary of State acknowledged the terrorist group is regaining strength in certain areas.
Trump singled out Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Turkey as countries that should do more to combat the Islamic State.
“At a certain point, all of these other countries where ISIS is around — they’ve been decimated by the way, badly decimated — but all of these countries are going to have to fight them, because do we want to stay there for another 19 years? I don’t think so,” Trump told reporters outside the White House.
“The United States, we’re 7,000 miles away,” Trump added.
The president’s latest remarks come one day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there are places where ISIS is becoming powerful, despite Trump having repeatedly referred to the terrorist organization as “defeated.”
“It’s complicated,” Pompeo said in an interview on “CBS This Morning.” “There’s certainly places where ISIS is more powerful today than they were three or four years ago."
“But the caliphate is gone, and their capacity to conduct external attacks has been made much more difficult. We’ve taken down a significant risk,” he continued. “Not all of it, but a significant amount. And we’re very pleased with the work we have done.”
Pompeo had been asked about a New York Times report that said ISIS is regaining strength in Iraq and Syria.
Trump has long expressed discomfort with the idea of the U.S. serving as the world’s police force.
In December, he announced he would withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria.
He was later convinced to back off a full withdrawal amid fierce bipartisan backlash and warnings that it would leave a vacuum in which ISIS could regroup, as well as leave U.S. partner Kurdish fighters vulnerable to Turkish attacks.
But the administration is still in the process of a considerable drawdown in Syria.
Trump is also hoping to withdraw from Afghanistan. His administration has been negotiating with the Taliban to that end.
Questions have risen in recent days, however, about whether negotiations with the Taliban would end the Afghan violence after ISIS’s Afghanistan branch claimed responsibility for a Saturday attack on a wedding in Kabul that killed 80 people.
In Syria, a recent inspector general report from the Pentagon, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development found the drawdown means the United States does not have the resources to monitor a refugee camp where “ISIS is likely exploiting the lack of security to enlist new members and re-engage members who have left the battlefield.”
The Trump administration has also been trying to convince countries, with little success, to repatriate citizens who joined ISIS for prosecution in their home countries. U.S.-backed forces in Syria are detaining an estimated 2,000 foreign fighters.
On Wednesday, Trump said if other countries do not take back their citizens, he will have no choice but to release them into those countries.
“If Europe doesn’t them take, I’ll have no choice but to release them into the countries from which they came, which is Germany and France and other places,” he said. “We beat them. You captured them. We’ve got thousands of them, and now, as usual, our allies say, ‘Oh, no, we don’t want them,’ even though they came from France and Germany and other places.”
Trump also appeared to rule out detaining the foreign fighters at Guantánamo Bay, alluding to cost concerns.
“So we’re going to tell them, and we’ve already told them, take these prisoners that we’ve captured because the United States is not going to put them in Guantánamo for the next 50 years and pay for it,” he said.
Military Times: Army civilian staffer among five charged in benefits fraud scheme which stole millions from service members
By:Leo Shane III 18 hours ago
A former Army civilian employee stole thousands of troops’ personal information and collected millions of dollars in fraudulent military benefits as part of an international identity theft ring, according to a new federal indictment released on Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors arrested five individuals on charges of conspiracy, theft and fraud they say targeted current and former military members by opening fake benefits and bank accounts, then routing the money through several countries to disguise the wrongdoing.
“The crimes charged today are reprehensible and will not be tolerated by the Department of Justice,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. “These defendants are alleged to have illegally defrauded some of America’s most honorable citizens, our elderly and disabled veterans and service members.”
Veterans Affairs and Defense Department officials said they are coordinating with the Justice Department to notify the individuals victimized in the crimes, some of whom may not be aware of any unusual activity with their benefits.
Both agencies also promised more details soon on steps taken to “secure military members’ information and benefits from theft and fraud.”
Federal prosecutors did not detail how many victims or how much money was stolen, but said the scheme dates back as far as 2014.
The indictment alleges that Fredrick Brown, a former civilian medical records technician with the 65th Medical Brigade at Yongsan Garrison in South Korea, took photos of medical files for thousands of service members and veterans, including their Social Security numbers, military ID numbers and current addresses.
That information was used to open up fake accounts in the military and VA online benefits systems, and reroute money to other bank accounts.
Two other U.S. citizens — Trorice Crawford and Robert Wayne Boling Jr. — were charged along with Allan Albert Kerr (an Australian citizen) and Jongmin Seok (a South Korean citizen) in the criminal ring. Boling, Kerr and Seok were arrested in the Philippines earlier this week. Crawford was arrested in San Diego, and Brown was arrested in Las Vegas.
The group also used the information to gain access to some troops’ bank accounts, siphoning cash away from them and into their own pockets. They targeted several military focused banking institutions, including the Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union and USAA.
The five men employed a network of “money mules” to help move the funds around to avoid detection. Prosecutors said evidence of all five’s connection to the fraud came to light earlier this year.
If a defendant is found guilty, wire fraud — which each of the five men were charged with — can carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Other charges in the indictment could add more time to that total.
21 Aug 2019
Military.com | By Hope Hodge Seck
Two U.S. service members were killed Wednesday in Afghanistan, military officials said, continuing what has become the deadliest year for troops in that country since the formal drawdown of combat operations in 2014.
Officials with Operation Resolute Support, the joint sustainment mission in Afghanistan, did not disclose the service branch of the troops or where they were killed. In accordance with Defense Department policy, names are withheld until 24 hours after the next of kin are notified.
To date, 77 troops have died supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the U.S. advisory and assistance mission that began after the U.S. announced the formal end of the war. This year is now the deadliest for that mission, with 12 hostile deaths and three in non-hostile circumstances, in addition to the two announced Wednesday.
It has been less than a month since Army Pfc. Brandon Jay Kreischer, 20, of Stryker, Ohio, and Spc. Michael Isaiah Nance, 24, of Chicago, both paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were killed July 29 in a reported insider attack in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan.