21 March, 2019 07:25

Forwarding this from National via my cell phone, as I struggle with my individual office machine’s internet connection problems.
Blessings everyone!
Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, March 21, 2019, which is Companies That Care Day, National Common Courtesy Day, National Single Parents Day, Purim, and World Down Syndrome Day.

Today in History:

  • 1965: In the name of African-American voting rights, 3,200 civil rights demonstrators in Alabama, led by Martin Luther King Jr., begin a historic march from Selma to Montgomery, the state’s capital. Federalized Alabama National Guardsmen and FBI agents were on hand to provide safe passage for the march, which twice had been turned back by Alabama state police at Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge.
  • 1918: During World War I, the Second Battle of the Somme, the first major German offensive in more than a year, begins on the western front. After five hours of bombardment from more than 9,000 pieces of German artillery, the poorly prepared British Fifth Army was forced into retreat in France’s Somme River region. For a week, the Germans pushed toward Paris, shelling the city from a distance of some 80 miles with their “Big Bertha” cannons. However, the poorly supplied German troops soon became exhausted, and the Allies halted their advance as French artillery knocked out the German guns besieging Paris. On April 2, U.S. General John J. Pershing sent American troops down into the trenches to help repulse the German offensive. It was the first major deployment of U.S. troops in World War I.
  • On this day in 1980, President Jimmy Carter announces that the U.S. will boycott the Olympic Games scheduled to take place in Moscow that summer. The announcement came after the Soviet Union failed to comply with Carter’s February 20, 1980, deadline to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

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Military Times: Should veterans have to pay for VA’s benefits errors?
By: Leo Shane III19 hours ago
A group of Senate lawmakers is again arguing that if veterans are overpaid on benefits because of accounting errors, they shouldn’t be punished for the federal government’s mistakes.
Legislation introduced Wednesday would require changes to how the Department of Veterans Affairshandles benefit corrections, including limiting the amount they can withhold from veterans’ future payouts to cover the debt.
“It’s wrong to put the debt from the VA’s accounting mistakes on the shoulders of men and women who have served their country,” Sen. Jon Tester, ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “For some veterans, these benefits make the difference between paying monthly rent or missing payments.
“We’ve got to stop the VA from pulling the rug out from under veterans and their families.”
Under current law, VA officials can withhold 100 percent of a veteran’s monthly benefits to cover past overpayments, even if those mistakes are the fault of federal officials.
The new legislation would limit that withholding to no more than 25 percent of a monthly benefits check and put a five-year limit on the time where VA officials can recover overpayments. The measure would not wipe out all debts related to VA mistakes.
The senators said up to 200,000 overpayment notifications are sent out to veterans and their families each year.
Bill co-sponsor Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., called the moves a common-sense step in providing better customer service to veterans.
“Supporting veterans and their families by eliminating the potential for hardships caused by the VA’s errors is important to honoring our commitment to their service and sacrifice,” he said in a statement.
Lawmakers proposed similar reforms last session but saw only parts of that legislation become law. Those changes included rewriting VA policy to allow veterans to update personal information in department systems, in an effort to cut down on potential mistakes in benefits payouts.
This measure goes further, requiring VA to update its computer systems to ease that process and mandating electronic notification of debt notices, including information on how to request hardship waivers.
The legislation, called the Veterans Debt Fairness Act, has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing.

Military.com: VA to Offer New Ketamine-Based Nasal Spray for Depression

20 Mar 2019
Military.com | By Patricia Kime
The newest FDA-approved medication to treat severe depression, a nasal spray based on the anesthetic (and misused hallucinogenic party drug) ketamine, will soon be available to veterans treated within theDepartment of Veterans Affairs.
In a move that may help thousands of former service members with depression that has not improved with other treatments, VA officials announced Tuesday that the department’s doctors are now authorized to prescribe Spravato, the brand name for esketamine, a molecular variation of ketamine.
The decision to offer a drug hailed by many as a breakthrough in treatment for its speedy results — often relieving symptoms in hours and days, not weeks — shows the VA’s "commitment to seek new ways to provide the best health care available for our nation’s veterans," Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a release.
"We’re pleased to be able to expand options for Veterans with depression who have not responded to other treatments," Wilkie added.
The treatment will be available to veterans based on a physician’s assessment and only will be administered to patients who have tried at least two antidepressant medications and continue to have symptoms of major depressive disorder.
An estimated 16 million Americans have had at least one major episode of depression, and of those, 1 in 3 are considered treatment-resistant. In the veteran population of 20 million, the estimated diagnosis rate of depression is 14 percent — up to 2.8 million veterans. Between one-third and half of those veterans may be treatment-resistant.
The lack of effective medications for difficult-to-treat patients prompted the Food and Drug Administration to place esketamine on a fast track, expediting its review of the drug to ensure that it went to patent as soon as safely possible, according to administration officials.
"Controlled clinical trials that studied the safety and efficacy of this drug, along with careful review through the FDA’s drug approval process, including a robust discussion with our external advisory committees, were important in our decision to approve this treatment," said Dr. Tiffany Farchione, acting director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Division of Psychiatry Products, in a release.
As with any other medication, there are risks. Spravato carries a boxed warning for side effects that include misuse, the reason it is administered under a doctor’s supervision. The list of side effects includes sedation and blood pressure spikes and disassociation, such as feelings of physical paralysis and out-of-body experiences. It also can cause suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Acknowledging the dangers, FDA made esketamine available only through a restricted distribution system.
A veteran prescribed Spravato would inhale the nasal spray at a medical facility while under supervision of a medical provider, and would be monitored for at least two hours after receiving the dose. A typical prescription includes twice-weekly doses the first month, followed by a single dose weekly or biweekly as needed. Spravato cannot be dispensed for home use.
Spravato is made by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. It is the first major antidepressant medication to hit the market in 30 years.
Stripes: Suicide spurs VA Medical Center in Florida to review how it monitors patients

By ELIOT KLEINBERG | The (West Palm Beach, Fla.) Palm Beach Post | Published: March 20, 2019

RIVIERA BEACH (Tribune News Service) — Authorities at the VA Medical Center in Riviera Beach say they are changing the way they monitor patients after a 33-year-old man hanged himself in the center’s first in-house suicide in at least five years.

The man, whom The Palm Beach Post is not naming, died about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner confirmed.

Citing privacy laws, the VA would not identify the man nor say which branch of service he’d served in, nor when, and would not provide any details about his death.

The suicide took place 15 days after a patient opened fire in the center’s emergency room, injuring two people. The medical center, at Military Trail and Blue Heron Boulevard, has not said what safeguards, if any, it would add as a result of that incident.

It also occurred as several VA centers across the nation have had to respond to patients who have taken their own lives. The Washington Post reported in January that 19 suicides occurred on VA campuses between October 2017 and November 2018; seven of those were in parking lots.

Kenita Gordon, a spokeswoman at the Riviera Beach center, said Tuesday in an email that the center’s staff has stopped two on-campus suicide attempts in the past five years.

“Patient deaths deeply affect the entire West Palm Beach VA Medical Center staff — especially the health care team members involved with a veteran’s care. Whenever an unforeseen patient death occurs, we conduct an internal review of the case,” Gordon said in an email.

“As a result of this incident, West Palm Beach VAMC is reviewing its processes and has changed certain patient monitoring protocols,” Gordon said. She did not elaborate.
The man’s mother declined Tuesday to provide details or to comment.

Gordon said the VA is working with the Defense Department and other agencies “to deploy suicide prevention programming that supports all current and former service members — even those who do not come to VA for care.”

The agency said any veteran in distress can call the veterans crisis line anytime at 800-273-8255, Option 1.

“One life lost to suicide is one too many,” Gordon said.

AP: Trump says ISIS territory in Syria nearly eliminated
By:Deb Riechmann, The Associated Press12 hours ago
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday the last pocket of the Islamic State’s land in Syria will be liberated by U.S.-backed forces “by tonight.”
Trump has previously announced the defeat of the group, but sleeper cells of fighters have re-emerged. With no signs of fighting Wednesday, however, the long-running battle to retake the militants’ last outpost in eastern Syria appeared to have reached its conclusion.
"The caliphate is gone as of tonight," Trump said in a speech at a factory in Lima, Ohio, where military tanks are assembled.
The complete fall of Baghouz would mark the end of the Islamic State group’s self-declared caliphate, which at its height stretched across large parts of Syria and Iraq. Controlling territory gave it room to launch attacks around the world.
During his speech, Trump held up two maps of Syria — one covered in red representing territory held by the militant group when he was elected president in November 2016 and the other that had only a speck of red.
"When I took over, it was a mess. They were all over the place — all over Syria and Iraq," said Trump, who has said the U.S. will keep 400 troops in Syria indefinitely.
For the past four years, U.S.-led forces have waged a destructive campaign against the group. But even after Baghouz’s fall, ISIS maintains a scattered presence and sleeper cells that threaten a continuing insurgency.
The militants have been putting up a desperate fight, their notorious propaganda machine working even on the brink of collapse. The battle for Baghouz has dragged on for weeks and the encampment had proven a major battleground, with tents covering foxholes and underground tunnels.
The siege has also been slowed by the unexpectedly large number of civilians in Baghouz, most of them families of ISIS members. Over past weeks they have been flowing out, exhausted, hungry and often wounded. The sheer number who emerged — nearly 30,000 since early January, according to Kurdish officials — took the Syrian Democratic Forces by surprise.
Ciyager Amed, an official with the Kurdish-led SDF, said they were searching for any ISIS militants hiding in tunnels in a riverside pocket in the village of Baghouz. The SDF has not yet announced a victory over ISIS.
Associated Press journalists saw SDF soldiers loading women and children into trailer trucks on the hilltop over Baghouz — a sign that evacuations were still underway Wednesday. Black smoke was rising from the village.
On Tuesday, the SDF seized control of the encampment held by ISIS after hundreds of militants surrendered overnight, signaling the group’s collapse after months of stiff resistance.

Military Times: A government watchdog is investigating Trump’s defense secretary. Here’s why.
By:Tara Copp 15 hours ago
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The Department of Defense Inspector General announced Wednesday it had initiated an investigation into Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan over reports that he has disparaged competing defense companies to the potential benefit of his former firm, Boeing.
In a statement announcing the investigation, IG spokeswoman Dwrena Allen said the agency “decided to investigate complaints we recently received that Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan allegedly took actions to promote his former employer, Boeing, and disparage its competitors, allegedly in violation of ethics rules."
Last week, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed an ethics complaint asking the IG to investigate the claims against Shanahan, to include reports that the acting defense secretary touted Boeing’s line of aircraft over rival Lockheed Martin.
Previous news reports indicated that Shanahan has disparaged Lockheed Martin’s fighter, the F-35, and other Lockheed weapons systems in private Pentagon meetings. In January, Politico reported that Shanahan called the F-35 “f—ed up” and reportedly said Lockheed “doesn’t know how to run a program.”
“We have informed him that we have initiated this investigation,” Allen said.
Shanahan spokesman Army Col. Joseph Buccino Shanahan welcomed the review.
“Shanahan has at all times remained committed to upholding his ethics agreement filed with the DoD,” Buccino said. “This agreement ensures any matters pertaining to Boeing are handled by appropriate officials within the Pentagon to eliminate any perceived or actual conflict of interest issue with Boeing.”
In response to the investigation, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said the reports of his Boeing comments concerned her. She added that even though Shanahan had officially recused himself from any decisions involving Boeing, he may not be able to truly be objective, given his long ties to the company.
“Your decades of work for Boeing might be influencing — either intentionally or unintentionally — your behavior toward the company and its competitors, and other employees at the Department that are responsible for contracting decisions that involve Boeing,” Warren wrote, asking Shanahan to follow up with her on any additional steps he planned to take to address the perceived bias.
Shanahan, 56, worked at Boeing for more than 30 years prior to being tapped by President Donald Trump to serve as deputy secretary of defense under former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. When Mattis submitted his resignation in December, Shanahan was named by Trump as acting defense secretary.

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20 March, 2019 15:15

Veterans,

Midwestern University will offer free dental care on Saturday for veterans who are unable to afford care. You must register online or over the phone.

See details here: https://www.midwestern.edu/news_and_events/university_events/veterans_dental_day.html

Respectfully,

Nicole Baker

Public Information Officer

Arizona Dept. of Veterans’ Services

ADVS

20 March, 2019 08:58

Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Wednesday, March 20, 2019, which is the first day of spring, Alien Abduction Day, International Astrology Day, International Day of Happiness, International Earth Day, Proposal Day, Won’t You Be My Neighbor Day, and World Storytelling Day.

Today in History:

  • On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson notifies Alabama’s Governor George Wallace that he will use federal authority to call up the Alabama National Guard in order to supervise a planned civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.
  • 1995: At the height of the morning rush hour in Tokyo, Japan, five two-man terrorist teams from the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult, riding on separate subway trains, converge at the Kasumigaseki station and secretly release lethal sarin gas into the air. The terrorists then took a sarin antidote and escaped while the commuters, blinded and gasping for air, rushed to the exits. Twelve people died, and 5,500 were treated in hospitals, some in a comatose state. Most of the survivors recovered, but some victims suffered permanent damage to their eyes, lungs, and digestive systems. A United States Senate subcommittee later estimated that if the sarin gas had been disseminated more effectively at Kasumigaseki station, a hub of the Tokyo subway system, tens of thousands might have been killed.
  • 1968: Retired U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Shoup estimates that up to 800,000 men would be required just to defend South Vietnamese population centers. He further stated that the United States could only achieve military victory by invading the North, but argued that such an operation would not be worth the cost. Also on this day: The New York Times publishes excerpts from General Westmoreland’s classified end-of-year report, which indicated that the U.S. command did not believe the enemy capable of any action even approximating the Tet Offensive. This report, Shoup’s comments, and other conflicting assessments of the situation in Vietnam contributed to the growing dissatisfaction among a large segment of American society with the Vietnam War.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  • Stars & Stripes: mseaveywith “Remove” in the subject line. If you have received this from someone who forwarded it and would like to be added, email mseavey.

    Stars & Stripes: Congressmen urge FBI to investigate bots targeting veterans with fake news
    By Nikki Wentling | Stars and Stripes | Published: March 19, 2019
    WASHINGTON — Four congressmen urged the FBI on Tuesday to investigate “foreign entities” believed to be targeting servicemembers and veterans online with false information.
    Reps. Gil Cisneros, D-Calif., Don Bacon, R-Neb., Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Greg Steube, R-Fla., wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray, asking for an investigation into “suspicious” social media accounts that could be impersonating veterans service organizations.
    “Online influence and psychological operations against trusted civilian community leaders like our nation’s veterans are novel threats that demand law enforcement attention,” they wrote.
    The request for an FBI investigation follows an announcement earlier this month from the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, which launched its own review into foreign actors using “shadowy practices” to disseminate false information to veterans, servicemembers and their families.
    The committee is in a fact-finding stage and is planning to hold meetings with stakeholders about the issue.
    Cisneros, a Navy veteran, is a member of the veterans affairs committee and the House Armed Services Committee. He asked for an FBI investigation “in order to identify and dismantle these cyber threats before they cause harm,” he said.
    Vietnam Veterans of America, a congressionally chartered veterans service organization, has been looking into the issue since 2017, when it discovered a Facebook page using its name and logo. The page posted politically divisive posts and was followed by nearly 200,000 people – tens of thousands more than the official VVA page.
    Facebook Inc. disabled the page after determining it violated VVA’s intellectual property.
    Kristofer Goldsmith, associate director for policy and government affairs at VVA, has worked to shut down more fake accounts that target veterans and servicemembers with “divisive propaganda,” he said.
    Though the issue has the attention of the veterans affairs committee, Goldsmith argued earlier this month that the FBI needs to become involved to track and identify the people behind the accounts.
    “The problem is persistent, widespread, and presents a threat to the force and the veterans community,” Goldsmith said Tuesday in a statement. “We’re glad that Congressman Cisneros and the members are taking this issue seriously, and we hope that Director Wray will too. Depending on social media companies to stop bad-actors is not enough — we need to hold the people behind these fraudulent online avatars accountable.”
    A study from Oxford University in 2017 found Russian operatives used Twitter and Facebook to disseminate “junk news” to veterans and servicemembers.
    Researchers with Oxford’s Project on Computational Propaganda, which studied how Americans were affected by disinformation campaigns during the 2016 presidential election, found trolls and bots targeted military personnel and veterans with propaganda, conspiracies and hyper-partisan political content. The population of veterans and servicemembers contains “potentially influential voters and community leaders” because of the trust the public places in them, the study states.
    In their letter, the four congressmen asked Wray whether the FBI was aware of the problem and if the agency had taken any action to combat it.
    “As the federal law enforcement agency responsible for criminal and counterintelligence investigations, we respectfully request answers to our questions below about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s work to combat such predation,” the letter states.
    The Military Coalition — a group of 32 military and veterans organizations that includes VVA, as well as Veterans of Foreign Wars and Wounded Warrior Project — listed cyber protection for veterans and servicemembers as one of their policy goals. The group said it wants to encourage Congress, the departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense to investigate the online targeting of servicemembers and provide training and online protection where necessary.

    Military Times: Is anybody tracking health issues from mold and other military housing hazards?
    By: Karen Jowers | 11 hours ago
    Military family advocates are questioning whether officials are tracking and treating the health issues that are linked to their military housing rife with mold, rodent infestation, lead paint, and other issues.
    The issues with these problems in military housing started with families’ concerns about health, noted Karen Ruedisueli, deputy government relations director for the National Military Family Association. “It does seem that some families were exposed to some hazardous issues within their installation housing,” she said during a Tuesday meeting of the DoD Military Family Readiness Council.
    That association would like to see a collaboration of the Defense Health Agency with housing officials, “to make sure that families who believe they are suffering ill health effects as a result of their housing health hazards, are receiving appropriate treatment, either in the direct care system or in the civilian network of providers,” said Ruedisueli, a member of the council.
    DoD is collecting data on the health effects, said Dr. Terry Adirim, deputy assistant secretary of defense for health services policy and oversight.
    In addition, a team of DoD’s housing and environmental staff and the Defense Health Agency’s public health staff is looking at the issue to determine whether there are gaps in policies and procedures, she said, and whether a more expansive risk assessment is needed for children who are beneficiaries in the DoD health care system.
    The team is also looking at the process through which children’s toxic blood levels get reported to installation public health officials, Adirim said. Council member Dr. David Rubin, of Children’s Hospital Association, noted that if a child living on base has an elevated lead level and is living on the installation, that probably indicates a risk to other children living on the installation, too.
    DoD housing officials are also looking at their processes to make sure residents understand their options to talk to the medical team on the installation any time they have a concern about their housing, regardless of whether they live on or off the base, said Pat Coury, principal director for facilities and housing in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment. “The housing office should be helping direct them to the right people,” she said. “We want to be sure everyone understands the process.”
    Some families have reported that even after they visited their military health care providers and those providers wrote letters about the need for the problems to be fixed because of a health hazard, or the family should be moved, the housing companies didn’t act.
    But this issue is important not just to the families living in houses now with problems that could be affecting their health, but to those who lived in those houses previously, Ruedisueli said. Because military families move so frequently and the occupants of the houses change very quickly, Ruedisueli said, she asked if DoD is reaching back to families who lived there, at least fairly recently. That’s one of the issues the team is exploring, Adirim said.
    Robert McMahon, assistant secretary of defense for sustainment, told the council that defense officials are working on key efforts to address the problems long term, such as a tenant’s bill of rights which he hopes will be completed within 60 days. Among other things, that document would provide for some method of withholding rent from the private company if a tenant’s problems have not been addressed in a timely manner.
    Another effort will be to ensure there’s a tenant advocate in the military housing communities, with defined role and responsibilities.
    Military officials are also restarting command training on the issue. Previously, this was part of training for installation commanders and senior non-commissioned officers, on dealing with the program of privatized housing. “Over time, it slid off the table,” McMahon told the council.
    Families have been frustrated that there was no one to turn to on the military/government side when they couldn’t get results from their privatized housing company. The effort to address these problems long term will extend throughout the military command structure, to convey that “we have to do better,” he said.
    Executives of the privatized companies have a similar understanding, McMahon said, noting that he has met with them three times over the last 45 days, and the conversations and focus will continue.
    “I expect them to get us there," McMahon said. "If they don’t come willingly, we will get to the point that we will modify their behavior one way or another.
    “I would just as soon have them do that voluntarily, and I think that’s what will happen.”

    Military Times: VA’s caregiver program losing top official at a critical moment
    By: Leo Shane III | 18 hours ago
    The Veterans Affairs Caregiver Support Program is about to lose its top official as concerns mount about delays to a planned expansion of the benefit later this year.
    Department officials confirmed Tuesday that Meg Kabat, director of the program, will leave that post on April 3 “to pursue private-sector employment opportunities.” The move leaves another key leadership void at the department, although VA staff downplayed those concerns.
    “The National Caregiver Support Program Office is staffed by dedicated and knowledgeable employees who will ensure the efforts Meg led continue without interruption,” Veterans Health Administration Chief of Staff Larry Connell said in a statement. “VA plans to name Meg’s replacement in the near future.”
    Kabat, who has worked in the caregiver office for more than eight years, was praised for “positively impacting tens of thousands of veterans and their families” during her tenure at VA.
    But the caregiver program has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months as officials prepare for a mandated expansion of stipends to families of veterans who served before 2001. That work was supposed to start on Oct. 1, but concerns over technology shortfalls may force a postponement.
    VA officials have until that date to certify whether their new information technology system is ready to support expansion of the program. Department spokesman Curt Cashour said staff is working “to implement a new commercial-off-the-shelf IT solution” with plans for deployment in coming months.
    “VA strongly supports the expansion of its caregiver program and stands ready to work with Congress to ensure that all aspects of the law are implemented,” he said.
    The expansion could grant monthly stipends to more than 41,000 veteran families in coming years, more than doubling the current number of stipend recipients. Under legislation passed last summer, the department is scheduled to phase in the payouts over two years after the IT certification takes place.
    Veterans groups have expressed alarm over current program operations, noting that staffing and support levels for the workload today aren’t enough.
    Last August, an inspector general investigation found shortfalls in the program’s processing and monitoring procedures. Last month, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., expressed dismay that department officials have failed to address reports of improper dismissals from the program, even after VA Secretary Robert Wilkie promised to fix those past problems.
    Earlier this month, in testimony before the Senate, Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander B.J. Lawrence warned that VA officials need to move quickly on getting those fixes in place.
    “Pre-9/11 veterans should not be forced forgo the choice of staying at home with their loved ones in lieu of inpatient long-term care simply because VA is to slow to fix issues it has known about for years,” he said.
    Whether Kabat’s departure effects that effort remains to be seen. Lawmakers have expressed concerns about the large number of vacancies within department leadership in recent months, including a lack of permanent appointees for the department’s deputy secretary post and top health official.

    Military Times: Arthritis can hit troops and vets hard. Here’s how advocates want to respond.
    By: Joshua Axelrod | 16 hours ago
    As active-duty personnel and veterans feel the damaging effects of arthritis stemming from their service, advocates are pushing Congress to dedicate more money for research on potential ways to treat and prevent the disease.
    Veterans are more likely to develop arthritis than civilians, according to an October 2018 study. Other studies indicate that osteoarthritis is the second-leading cause of military discharge, behind combat wounds.
    “A lot of the progress to be made with arthritis is about prevention,” said Dr. Colin Edgerton, a former Army rheumatologist and current chair of the American College of Rheumatology’s Committee on Rheumatological Care.
    “It’s about stopping those injuries before they occur so that that person is not looking at early joint replacement surgery and disability at a point in life where they otherwise would not have had that,” he said.
    During his time in the military, Edgerton was primarily responsible for treating soldiers with musculoskeletal disorders. As part of his job, he had to judge whether soldiers with arthritis or similar degenerative issues needed to be medically discharged or not.
    “I was acutely aware of the impact that had on readiness and on the individual’s lives,” he said.
    Arthritis encompasses over 100 diseases, including mechanical (or degenerative) and inflammatory ones, the latter of which involves immune-system disorders like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, according to Edgerton.
    Service members who suffer knee injuries while deployed are at an increased risk of developing arthritis, he said. One recent study found that one in five military members with a knee injury developed radiographic arthritis before age 30.
    This can be “a real career-ender for a soldier” and lead to mobility issues earlier in their lives than expected, Edgerton said.
    “That veteran then will be looking at a knee replacement in their early 40s versus a peer in the civilian world that may not have been subjected to a mechanical injury getting a knee replacement in their 60s or 70s,” he said.
    The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs budget for fiscal-year 2019 does not specifically identify arthritis as a subject area of concern. Edgerton and the ACR want arthritis to be listed as a “line item,” meaning it would be designated as a research subject worthy of increased focus and given more funding.
    “If there was a dedicated line in that research budget for arthritis, that would go a long way toward establishing kind of a sustainable focus on arthritis, since it is such a high-impact disease in the military population,” he said.
    For perspective, the CDMRP allocated $130 million for breast cancer research in 2019.
    Arthritis was listed in the Army’s 2018 Medical Research and Material Command medical research program as an area of interest. However, arthritis research only received slightly more than $6 million in funding.
    The congressional Arthritis Caucus did issue a dear colleague letter asking that arthritis be made a line item in the 2019 CDMRP, but to no avail.
    Edgerton is hoping 2020 is finally the year Congress makes arthritis research the priority he and his organization believe it should be.
    “Just three years ago we kind of recognized that this is something that needed to be done and each year we … get more support,” he said. “So we hope this is the year that we actually get it done.”

    The Hill: Judge says Trump cannot implement transgender military policy
    BY REBECCA KHEEL – 03/19/19 05:22 PM EDT
    A federal judge on Tuesday said her injunction preventing President Trump’s transgender military policy from taking effect remains in place days after the Pentagon released a memo to implement the policy.
    In a three-page order, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia wrote that “defendants were incorrect in claiming that there was no longer an impediment to the military’s implementation of the [transgender policy] in this case.”
    Asked whether the order will affect plans to implement the policy on April 12, a Pentagon spokeswoman said the department is “consulting with the Department of Justice on next steps.”
    The spokeswoman referred further questions to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.
    Last week, acting Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist signed a memo implementing a policy that would ban most transgender people from serving in the military. The memo makes the policy effective April 12.
    The memo came roughly a week after a federal court ruled to lift the last of the injunctions preventing Trump’s policy from taking effect.
    A federal judge in Maryland ruled he had no choice but to the lift the injunction after the Supreme Court in February ruled 5-4 to lift two other injunctions.
    But the Trump administration and advocates for transgender troops continued to fight over whether a fourth injunction remained in place despite the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia’s January ruling to lift it.
    The plaintiffs in that lawsuit argued the injunction holds until they decide whether they want a rehearing in front of the appeals court’s full bench. The deadline for them to decide is March 29.
    In Tuesday’s court order, Kollar-Kotelly agreed, saying the D.C. Circuit Court’s judgment is not final until it issues a mandate after the deadline passes.
    “On October 30, 2017, this court ordered defendants to maintain the status quo as it relates to the accession and retention of transgender individuals in the military. That preliminary injunction remains in place until the D.C. Circuit issues its mandate vacating the preliminary injunction,” she wrote. “Lacking a mandate, defendants remain bound by this court’s preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo.”
    The transgender advocacy groups serving as co-counsels in the lawsuit touted Kollar-Kotelly’s order, saying it makes “crystal clear” the Trump administration cannot move forward with the policy.
    “The Trump administration cannot circumvent the judicial process just to fast track its baseless, unfair ban on transgender service members,” Jennifer Levi, the director of the Transgender Rights Project of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, said in a statement. “The dedicated transgender troops who show up every day to do their duty and serve their country deserve justice, and that includes requiring this administration to follow the ordinary rules of judicial process.”

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19 March, 2019 11:26

Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Tuesday, March 19, 2019, which is Certified Nurses Day, Let’s Laugh Day, National Chocolate Caramel Day and World Social Work Day.

Today in American Legion History:

· March 19, 1919: Lt. Col. George A. White of Oregon, who would later found The American Legion Weekly magazine, writes a letter to Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., saying the Paris Caucus had been “successful and wholesome” and was a rare opportunity for enlisted troops to openly express themselves. White would later rise to the rank of major general and command the Army’s 41st Infantry Division until his death in November 1941.

Today in History:

· On this day in 2003, the United States, along with coalition forces primarily from the United Kingdom, initiates war on Iraq.

· 1931: In an attempt to lift the state out of the hard times of the Great Depression, the Nevada state legislature votes to legalize gambling.

· 1916: Eight Curtiss “Jenny” planes of the First Aero Squadron take off from Columbus, New Mexico, in the first combat air mission in U.S. history. The First Aero Squadron, organized in 1914 after the outbreak of World War I, was on a support mission for the 7,000 U.S. troops who invaded Mexico to capture Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

· Stars & Stripes: Military bases in Nebraska battle flooding as Offutt AFB, Camp Ashland remain under water

· Military Times: Here is the Pentagon’s list of construction projects that could be cut to fund a border wall

· Associated Press: Veterans court could lose funding in immigration fight

· Associated Press: US military presence in Syria is ‘illegitimate,’ says defense minister

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Stars & Stripes: Military bases in Nebraska battle flooding as Offutt AFB, Camp Ashland remain under water

By Rose L. Thayer | Stars and Stripes | Published: March 18, 2019

Offutt Air Force Base is operating with only essential personnel and the National Guard’s Camp Ashland is completely closed as floodwaters remain high at both Nebraska bases from massive flooding over the weekend after rivers breached several levees following heavy rain and snowmelt upstream.

Military officials at the bases said Monday that they are surveying damage as they wait for the water to recede, which isn’t expected until Thursday.

Flooding began Friday at Offutt, peaked Sunday evening and flooded about one-third of the base. Overnight, the water only receded about one foot, Col. Michael Manion, commander of the 55th Wing Command, which is headquartered at Offutt, wrote on his Facebook page. He also oversees base operations.

His team at the base is now preparing its priorities for when the water recedes, focusing first on safety and then on “generation of combat power,” he wrote.

Since preparation began Friday, the colonel has chronicled online the devastating flooding that now covers much of the southeastern portion of Offutt. That area includes the majority of the aircraft hangars for the wing’s RC-135s, fixed-wing reconnaissance aircraft, said Ryan Hansen, 55th Wing spokesman. The majority were moved to higher ground on the base and eight were flown off base to a National Guard facility in Lincoln and MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.

Base officials evacuated the Base Lake, a recreational camping area, early Friday and personnel worked around the clock to fortify facilities with more than 235,000 sandbags and 460 flood barriers to minimize damage as much as possible, according to a news release on the Offutt Facebook page.

But the efforts couldn’t stop the water from overflowing. With 30 buildings flooded and one access gate blocked by water, the base, which is also home to U.S. Strategic Command, is open only to mission essential personnel. About 10,000 people work on the installation. Of those, 6,500 are active-duty servicemembers.

The flooded facilities range from the 55th Wing’s headquarters to a veterinary clinic to a 55th Maintenance Group facility that is on the edge of the flooded area. Hansen estimated the maintenance facility is flooded with water about 2 to 3 feet high, with other base facilities further east flooded worse.

No housing or barracks were flooded, Hansen said.

“It is extremely clear that we face a grand challenge,” Manion wrote Sunday with photos of the airfield’s partially flooded runway. “Our goal is to only reopen when it’s safe.”

At about 6:20 p.m. Sunday, Manion posted the water levels stayed the same for about 12 hours and were not expected to rise. However, the Army Corps of Engineers predicted the water won’t begin to recede until Thursday.

Record-setting snowfall this winter is now melting, causing water levels to rise in the Missouri and Platte rivers and Papio Creek. Offutt sits north of where the two rivers meet.

Camp Ashland, a training site, is about 25 miles west of Offutt on the Platte River and is “completely underwater,” said Spc. Lisa Crawford, spokeswoman for the Nebraska National Guard. Flooding there began Wednesday and the 225 soldiers on base taking classes were evacuated.

Over the weekend, a levee protecting the base broke and military officials have not been able to access the base and assess damage, Crawford said.

“Right now we are focusing our attention on response efforts for the rest of the state and will assess our needs at a later time,” she said.

The Nebraska National Guard has nearly 80 servicemembers conducting medical evacuations as well as air and ground rescue missions, said Master Sgt. Michael Houk, spokesman for the National Guard. Since Friday, about 43 people have been rescued. Equipment in use includes three UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters and one LUH-72A Lakota helicopter.

Ashland flooded despite updated infrastructure following catastrophic flooding in May 2015, reported the Omaha World-Herald. In response, the Guard spent about $3.7 million installing flood gates on some buildings, rebuilding others on stilts and adding additional flood-control measures.

With the water moving downstream, flooding has begun in Missouri with hundreds of homes flooding as levees are breached in the northwestern part of the state, The Associated Press reported. Military C-130 planes, designed to transport cargo or people, were evacuated last week from nearby Rosecrans Air National Guard Base in St. Joseph.

Military Times: Here is the Pentagon’s list of construction projects that could be cut to fund a border wall

By: Tara Copp | 13 hours ago

The Pentagon has released its list of military construction projects that could be cut to fund President Donald Trump’s requested border wall. The bottom line: basically every state has a project that could be delayed in order to get construction underway, but only a very specific set could actually be cut.

To tally up $6.8 billion for wall construction, the Pentagon has proposed culling unobligated spending from approved construction projects. From the list, only funds from projects that had a projected award date after Oct. 1, 2019, are eligible to be used, and it cannot include military barracks.

The list released by the Pentagon includes all unobligated projects — not all of which would be eligible to be used, based on their criteria.

See the full list of projects here.

For example, under the rules the Pentagon has established, $5.2 million for Anniston Army Depot in Alabama to build a weapons maintenance shop that was due to be awarded in March 2020 could be cut. On the other hand, $77 million for a vehicle maintenance shop at Fort Carson that was due to be awarded in June 2019 could not be cut.

The list laid out to members what their constituents had to lose, which some Democrats suggested could fuel enough opposition to be able to override President Trump’s veto last week of the National Emergency Declaration. The president’s declaration of a national emergency was what had loosened up the potential to use this military construction funding in the first place; last week both chambers voted to recall that emergency — which Trump then vetoed.

It becomes a much clearer fight though, said Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., when members see the lost spending in their districts.

“A bipartisan majority of Congress went on record in voting to rebuke this ill-conceived idea. Now that members of Congress can see the potential impact this proposal could have on projects in their home states, I hope they will take that into consideration before the vote to override the president’s veto," Reed said.

Some of the projects on the list that are at risk:

· $31 million for a mission training complex at East Camp Grafenwoehr, Germany

· $50 million for a rotary wing apron at Wheeler Army Air Field in Hawaii

· $16 million for a railcar holding area for Crane Army Ammunition Plant in Indiana

· $53 million for a UAV hangar for Kunsan Air Base in Korea

· $40 million for an information systems complex at White Sands, New Mexico

· $95 million for an engineering center at the U.S. Military Academy

Associated Press: Veterans court could lose funding in immigration fight

By ANDREW SELSKY | Associated Press | Published: March 17, 2019

EUGENE, Ore. — Three decades ago, Lori Ann Bourgeois was guarding fighter jets at an air base. After her discharge, she fell into drug addiction. She wound up living on the streets and was arrested for possession of methamphetamine.

But on a recent day, the former Air Force Security Police member walked into a Veterans Treatment Court after completing a 90-day residential drug treatment program. Two dozen fellow vets sitting on the courtroom benches applauded. A judge handed Bourgeois a special coin marking the occasion, inscribed with the words “Change Attitude, Change Thinking, Change Behavior.”

The program Bourgeois credits for pulling her out of the “black hole” of homelessness is among more than three dozen Oregon specialty courts caught in a standoff between the state and federal governments over immigration enforcement.

The Trump administration in 2017 threatened to withhold law enforcement grants from 29 cities, counties or states it viewed as having “sanctuary” policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration agents. Today, all those jurisdictions have received or been cleared to get the money, except Oregon, which is battling for the funds in federal court.

The Veterans Treatment Court in Eugene and 40 other specialty courts, including mental health and civilian drug programs, risk losing all or part of their budgets, said Michael Schmidt, executive director of Oregon’s Criminal Justice Commission, which administers the money.

The commission has managed to keep the courts funded through July, Schmidt said. Unless the Trump administration relents or is forced by court order to deliver the money, or the Oregon Legislature comes up with it, the commission must make “horrible, tough decisions” about where to make the cuts, Schmidt said.

Speaking in her small office in the Eugene courthouse, specialty courts coordinator Danielle Hanson said if the veterans court budget is cut, the vets would have to start paying for drug treatment, and they would be deprived of housing resources and travel funds to go to residential treatment facilities as far as 330 miles away. Some veterans even might be turned away.

“It would impact the program substantially,” Hanson said.

Two dozen former servicemembers, men and women, are currently going through the rigorous program that lasts a minimum of a year, and usually up to a year and a half. They must attend group sessions three times per week, come to court at least once per week — presided over by Judge Valeri Love, who acts as their commanding officer — submit to regular urinalysis tests and show progress. Graduates can have convictions cleared and can avoid prison.

“The Veterans Treatment Court creates a routine and a regimen that many vets can thrive in. It pulls them out of isolation,” said Michael Hajarizadeh, who represents the vets as a public defender. Many have post-traumatic stress disorder, but the common thread is substance abuse, said Hajarizadeh, who himself is an Army veteran of the Afghanistan war.

He said the support structure and the bond vets feel for each other make the system work.

Bourgeois looked healthy and confident and wore a radiant smile as she accepted the coin March 7 and shook Love’s hand. It was a sharp contrast to when Bourgeois was arrested in a homeless camp on Aug. 31, 2017 — her 50th birthday.

“This is my first time not being homeless in seven years,” Bourgeois said, blinking back tears behind metal-framed eyeglasses. “It is a big milestone.”

Bourgeois served in the Air Force Security Police, now called Security Forces, for four years, until 1991. A back injury resulted in dependence on prescription painkillers, escalating to other drugs.

In November, the Lane County Circuit Court entered her into the veterans court after finding her guilty of possessing meth. If she completes the program, the circuit court will discharge Bourgeois and will dismiss all proceedings against her. She had faced a year in jail.

She is on probation and staying in a house for those recovering from addiction.

“Without this, I’d still be out on the streets,” Bourgeois said. “I’m very grateful to be back and start again.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum sued President Donald Trump in November to get $4 million in grants restored from fiscal years 2017 and 2018, saying Oregon was “unlawfully deprived” of the funds. The lawsuit accuses Trump of an “unconstitutional attempt” to compel Oregon to enforce federal immigration policies.

“As we have seen, these efforts have frequently been both inhumane and dangerous,” Rosenblum said.

Furthermore, the administration is violating the separation of powers by invading Congress’ spending authority, the lawsuit says.

The Byrne grants, named for a New York City policeman killed by gang members in 1988, are the leading source of federal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions, supporting law enforcement, prosecution, indigent defense, courts, crime prevention and education.

Other courts have ruled against the U.S. Justice Department’s attempt to condition them on immigration cooperation.

In September, a federal court temporarily blocked the agency from withholding the funds for jurisdictions represented by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which filed suit in Illinois last summer. Not all went to court to get the grants. Vermont did not join any of the legal cases, instead corresponding directly with the Justice Department. Vermont officials announced earlier this month the state Department of Public Safety would be getting $2.3 million in previously blocked grants.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Joseph Hunt was among federal attorneys who filed a motion March 5 to have Oregon’s lawsuit dismissed, arguing the Trump administration has the right to require federal immigration cooperation in order for Oregon to receive the Byrne grants.

Oregon’s 1987 sanctuary state law, the nation’s first, prevents law enforcement from detaining people who are in the U.S. illegally but have not broken any other laws. Consequently, authorities in the state won’t hold those who committed crimes and finished their sentences to be picked up by federal immigration agents, unless they have warrants signed by judges.

Ronald Cooper, 81, a Marine veteran who is a veterans court mentor, has mixed emotions about the veterans court being caught in the immigration tug-of-war.

Wearing an orange garrison cap with the Marine emblem, Cooper said he voted for a November ballot measure to repeal Oregon’s sanctuary law, believing that people who are in America illegally and committed crimes should be handed over for deportation.

But he’s more forgiving of people whose only crime is being in the country illegally. He noted that those who serve in the military can be fast-tracked for citizenship.

Cooper said he wants to see veterans treatment programs expanded by the federal government, not face possible cuts.

“We’ve seen so much progress in this court,” he said.

Associated Press: US military presence in Syria is ‘illegitimate,’ says defense minister

By: Albert Aji, The Associated Press | 15 hours ago

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria’s defense minister on Monday slammed what he called the “illegitimate” U.S. military presence in his country, vowing that Damascus has a right to self-defense, while Iraq said a border crossing with Syria will open in the coming days.

Syria’s Gen. Ali Ayoub spoke during a rare joint news conference with visiting Iranian and Iraqi army commanders who have been holding meetings in the capital, Damascus.

The U.S. currently has about 2,000 troops in eastern and northern Syria and is expected to withdraw hundreds of them in the coming months.

The meeting in Damascus illustrates the strong alliance between Iran, Iraq and Syria at a time when the U.S. is seeking to isolate and increase sanctions against Iran and its regional allies.

Tehran has sent troops and Iran-backed fighters into Syria and Iraq to fight alongside government forces against Islamic militants, including the Islamic State group, which is on the verge of defeat by U.S.-backed Kurdish-led fighters in the last area under its control in eastern Syria.

"The Americans will leave Syria as they left other places, because this is an illegitimate presence and is rejected no matter what the justifications are," Ayoub said. "Syria has affirmed the necessity of the withdrawal of these forces. It is a force of occupation and violates the country’s sovereignty," he said.

After years of setbacks, Syrian government forces have been on the offensive since 2016 and have regained control of wide parts of the country thanks to Russian and Iranian support. Ayoub vowed to eventually capture the last major rebel stronghold in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Asked about reports of tension between Iranians and Russians in Syria, Ayoub strongly denied them, saying "the role of the friends and allies was important in all that has been achieved on the ground."

Iranian army commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, who arrived in Damascus on Sunday, said "Syria and Iraq have asked the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian armed forces to stand by their side and help, through advisers as well as logistical support." He added that Iranian troops had been invited by Syrian authorities and would only leave when asked by the Syrians.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency quoted Bagheri as saying that Iran, Syria and Iraq will work together to bring end to the presence of foreign forces in Syria. "The current phase has aimed at reinstating the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the departure of all forces who have been present in the country without permission" from Damascus, he said.

Bagheri added that the three countries will "continue the path" of cooperation, as they have in recent years.

The Iraqi army commander, Gen. Osman Ghanemi, did not give further details about the border crossing between Syria and Iraq, saying only that it is open in the coming days.

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Arizona American Legion Veterans/Families 100th Statewide Convention

Hello Everyone!

The Department Convention information forms and notices are now on the http://www.azlegion.org/forms/department-convention-resources-and-forms-2019 page.

There are only about 100 rooms left in our Annual Department Convention room block at The Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort for June 20-23! Please spread the word, especially to the hundreds of new members that we have this year. Veterans or Family of Veterans, if you see this and haven’t joined, it’s not too late. Please visit your community Post and inquire about membership and they can check into your eligibility. Some of them even have need of non-veteran volunteers to serve the Veterans in their community.

Convention: We realize that it’s still a bit out on the calendar but remember to book by May 29. We hope that this reminder helps get members in on our great deal. Remember that hotel is offering before and after dates for this rate. Be ready to provide your membership ID# when asked.

Remember:

· The resort fee is officially waived for us; regardless of what the website shows. Per hotel.

· Hospitality Rooms are booked directly through me; you only need to book your sleeping quarters. If you want access early for preparation, you’ll need to book the night before as well. These rooms will all be in the North wing unless you request otherwise once you arrive to claim the room.

· I’ve asked the resort to assign us to rooms in the North wing next to meeting areas when you arrive to claim your reservation. First come, first served of course.

· The Agendas are still being built. The Legion is moving some items around to avoid overlap so that officers and members can attend more, easily. Note: If the committee is meeting, you don’t need to be a member of that committee to attend and learn more. The committee reserves the right to go into executive session but, this is rare. If you would like to attend, a courtesy email is requested/not required, to the committee chair.

· SPECIAL: On Thursday morning, a special “arts” activity will be available next to our vendor area. All members are welcome to attend as space allows in the time frames they will bring. MORE information to follow once we have it. A sign up will likely be needed as the room capacity will be set. This is an opportunity that we are extending to women veterans in particular so if you know a woman veteran interested in art, please invite her. In support of her needs, she will not need to be a member to benefit from this activity. All others, as space/time permits.

· NEW: The pre-registration for members remains the same at $10 if you pre-register.

o Registration at the Credentials desk is higher. $20.00 per member. We hope that you pre-register. We are not trying to raise more money. There is simply more effective arrival if you are pre-registered. Please pre-register at the $10.00 rate.

o American Legion Riders: Your pre-registration covers all of your activity including the Annual Riders Meeting on Saturday. When your Post helps with your pre-registration be sure to remind them to mark the “Rider” space on the form that they use. If you are only able to come to the Saturday meeting and did not pre-register, please come early enough to obtain “at the gate” credentials from the Department registration table. Please pre-register. If your chapter fills out its own form(s) for its members, or you fill it for the Post, remember that a separate form is needed for Legion, or Son, or Auxiliary. Legion/Sons payment can be combined; the Auxiliary members need a separate check payable to ALA Department of Arizona. We do not use a separate Rider only form in part, to log for each Post/Squadron/Unit, exactly how many of its members are benefiting from Convention activities. Other instruction is on each form including pre-registration deadlines.

· Other details are available on the page at the link above. Convention questions to me by email please. ajuarez if you have questions from non-members please ask them to email hdqtrs so that our staff might assist.

Thanks,

Angel

Angel Juarez

State Adjutant

Arizona American Legion

(602) 264-7706 Fax (602) 264-0029

Twitter @ArizonaAdjutant

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ArizonaLegion

"Ora et labora et lege; Deus adest sine mora”. (Pray and work and read, God is there without delay)

How can you be connected? Call | Match | Learn

24/7 Support Line: 1-866-4AZ-VETS