20 November, 2018 07:58

Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Tuesday, November 20, 2018, which is Name Your PC Day, National Absurdity Day, National Peanut Butter Fudge Day and Universal Children’s Day. And an early Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

This Week in American Legion History:

  • Nov. 21, 1988: Pennsylvania American Legion Housing for Homeless Veterans, Inc., purchases four townhouses in Alleghany County to provide transitional residence and support for veterans who have no place to live. The program soon becomes a national model, expanding into Philadelphia in 1995, followed by Ephrata and Harrisburg. The program produces an 85 percent success rate of keeping veterans off the streets and on to decent jobs. The project, led by future American Legion National Commander Ronald F. Conley, began with a conversation in October 1987, followed by memorandums of understanding between VA and The American Legion in the summer of 1988.
  • Nov. 22, 1963: Immediately following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, World War II U.S. Navy veteran Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as president of the United States. A member of Memorial Highway American Legion Post 352 in Blanco, Texas, Johnson was a seated member of Congress on June 21, 1940, when he was appointed to serve as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Three days after Pearl Harbor, he was called to active duty and later served under Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific Theater, where he received the Silver Star. As president, Johnson would be commander-in-chief through the tumultuous early years of the Vietnam War.
  • Nov. 23, 1934: American Legion Past National Commander James Drain is appointed to serve both as the organization’s national treasurer and as national judge advocate at the same time.
  • Nov. 24, 1968: The American Legion joins forces with Indiana high school basketball coach Sam Wiley in the development and promotion of National Family Week, an effort adopted by multiple community and faith organizations to strengthen the American family at a time of increasing divorce rates.

Today in History:

  • 1945: Twenty-four high-ranking Nazis go on trial in Nuremberg, Germany, for atrocities committed during World War II.
  • On this day in 1789, New Jersey ratifies the Bill of Rights, becoming the first state to do so. New Jersey’s action was a first step toward making the first 10 amendments to the Constitution law and completing the revolutionary reforms begun by the Declaration of Independence.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

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    Washington Post: White House discusses possible Trump visit to troops in Iraq or Afghanistan
    By Josh Dawsey and Paul Sonne | November 19 at 8:36 PM
    President Trump has begun telling advisers that he may visit troops in a combat zone for the first time in his presidency, as he has come under increasing scrutiny for his treatment of military affairs and failure to visit service members deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq.
    Trump has so far declined to visit those combat regions, saying he does not want to associate himself with wars he views as failures, according to current and former advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. Current advisers said Trump is not expected to visit a war zone during the Thanksgiving break, which he will spend at his Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida.
    The president has often cast himself as a champion of the Pentagon, invoking the strength and size of the military at his campaign rallies and on Twitter. At the same time, he has frequently criticized U.S. military missions and decisions while personally attacking some former military leaders, contributing to a complicated relationship with the armed forces he commands.
    Although he signed off on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s requests to bolster the American military presence in Afghanistan and Syria and retain the footprint in Iraq, Trump isn’t a fan of U.S. military operations there.
    In meetings about a potential visit, he has described the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan as “a total shame,” according to the advisers. He also cited the long flights and potential security risks as reasons he has avoided combat-zone visits, they said.
    Questioned last week about why he has not visited American troops deployed in overseas conflicts, Trump indicated during a Fox News interview that a trip was in the works.
    “I think you will see that happen,” Trump said in the interview with Chris Wallace that aired Sunday. “There are things that are being planned. We don’t want to talk about it because of security reasons and everything else.”
    The president also repeated his erroneous contention that he was opposed to the Iraq War. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker has found that Trump initially expressed support for the invasion and did not register public objections until more than a year after the war began.
    “I think it was a tremendous mistake, should never have happened,” Trump told Wallace.
    “But this is about the soldiers, sir,” Wallace responded.
    “You’re right,” Trump said. “I don’t think anybody’s been more with the military than I have, as a president. In terms of funding, in terms of all of the things I’ve been able to get them, including the vets.”
    Trump has spoken privately about his fears over risks to his own life, according to a former senior White House official, who has discussed the issue with the president and spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about Trump’s concerns.
    “He’s never been interested in going,” the official said of Trump visiting troops in a combat zone, citing conversations with the president. “He’s afraid of those situations. He’s afraid people want to kill him.”
    Pressure for Trump to make such a visit has been building for months. Eliot Cohen, a former George W. Bush administration official and Trump critic, has raised the issue regularly in public.
    “The point is American servicemen and women are on the ground in these places,” Cohen said in an interview. “They are getting killed. I think any good leader would want to see something for themselves. And they would want to do something for the troops other than using them as props.”
    Since Trump took office, about 60 American service members have died while deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, according to Pentagon statistics, including both “hostile” and “nonhostile” deaths.
    Plans for a visit by Trump aren’t firm, several advisers said, and the president has only begun saying in recent weeks that it may need to happen. A White House spokesman declined to comment on presidential visits, citing security concerns.
    The president has come under increasing scrutiny for his behavior toward the military in recent weeks. He attacked the former head of U.S. Special Operations Command, retired Adm. William H. McRaven, on Sunday for his role in catching and killing Osama bin Laden, calling him a supporter of Hillary Clinton and saying that the al-Qaeda leader should have been caught sooner in Pakistan. McRaven responded in a statement saying he did not endorse Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.
    Trump recently skipped a cemetery service marking the end of World War I in France, citing poor weather. He also did not go to Arlington National Cemetery two days later on Veterans Day, later expressing rare regret for missing the occasion.
    “I should have done that,” he said in the Fox interview.
    Trump has sent thousands of troops to the border with Mexico in anticipation of a Central American migrant caravan in what his critics labeled a preelection stunt designed to shore up anti-immigration sentiment within his base. Mattis has described the mission as good training and necessary support for the Department of Homeland Security.
    The history of presidents visiting American troops on active deployments dates back decades and gives presidents a sense of what is happening on the ground — while sending a message to troops that the government at home appreciates their personal sacrifices.
    During the Korean War, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s pledge to go to Korea helped propel him into the presidency over Adlai Stevenson. Eisenhower followed through with a visit in 1952.
    Lyndon B. Johnson met with troops at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam in 1966, telling them he had come only to say how proud he was of what they were doing and the way they were doing it. He also visited forces there the next year.
    George H.W. Bush spent Thanksgiving with American troops in Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield in 1990 and New Year’s with troops in Somalia in 1993. His successor, Bill Clinton, visited troops in Bosnia in 1996 and spent Thanksgiving with troops in Kosovo in 1999.
    George W. Bush made a surprise Thanksgiving visit to troops in Iraq months after the invasion in 2003 and went to the country three additional times after that while president. At the time, the U.S. military footprint in the country was building, ultimately numbering about 170,000 troops in Iraq at the peak of a surge in 2007.
    Mark Hertling, a retired three-star general, helped organize the surprise visit in 2003.
    About six officers knew Bush was coming, he said, recounting how the president flew into the international airport in the wee hours of the morning and stayed hidden until the troops were in a large mess hall. Bush later served turkey and received resounding applause.
    “The troops in the field need to know their efforts are not being wasted,” Hertling said. “It shows [that] the government and the people have their back.”
    The troop presence in Afghanistan grew during the first half of the Obama administration, reaching a peak of about 100,000 in 2011. President Barack Obama visited the country four times as president, most recently in 2014, and made one trip to Iraq shortly after his first inauguration, meeting with American forces each time. He had previously visited the combat zones in both countries as a U.S. senator.
    Trump’s advisers say his lack of a visit does not represent a lack of interest in or disrespect for the military. There are military figures in his administration that he admires, his advisers say: Gen. Mark Milley, the chief of staff of the Army, and retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, a former White House adviser who now works for Vice President Pence.
    The president was persuaded to sign a spending bill that he did not like by aides who brought him lists of military equipment the money would buy — even down to the specific planes and ships, current and former White House aides said.
    Trump frequently touts the strength of the U.S. military at his political rallies, having signed off on a $716 billion budget for the Pentagon this year that included the largest base budget in adjusted terms since World War II.
    Current and former aides said Trump is somber when making military decisions and has expressed concern about troops dying on his watch. They also note that Trump has visited domestic military bases and visited troops while overseas, such as a stop in Japan last fall, while also bringing military visitors into the Oval Office.
    “I have never heard him show any sort of disrespect toward the military in private,” said one former senior administration official. “Any time you go anywhere with him in the military, he is overwhelmingly popular.”
    According to current and former aides, Trump was shaken after visiting Dover Air Force Base shortly after his inauguration to receive the remains of a Navy SEAL killed in Yemen, his first trip to meet a grieving family. He has not returned since.
    The president, who attacked a Gold Star family on the campaign trail in 2016, has shown little interest in some of the minutiae of the military and regularly complains about the headaches involved in its entanglements around the world, aides said.
    For most of Trump’s tenure, a trip to Iraq or Afghanistan would have carried real security challenges and political complications, U.S. officials said.
    Iraq was heading into elections during the president’s first year in office, and a visit by Trump around the time of the controversy over Trump’s travel ban affecting Muslim-majority countries could have further complicated efforts by the U.S.-backed prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, to secure reelection in May.
    In Afghanistan, the security situation has deteriorated. In September 2017, Mattis was the target of a failed rocket attack at Kabul airport. A month later, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a secret visit to Afghanistan but didn’t leave Bagram air base, in part owing to security concerns.
    Still, if the president wanted to visit American troops deployed to one of the countries, U.S. military officials would find a way to organize the trip as they have done in the past, according to officials familiar with the matter. He could easily stop at Bagram for a few hours as Tillerson did, they said.
    Hertling said he remembered a visit by the late senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) to Iraq in the worst days of the conflict, and McCain wanted to go to Mosul despite heavy fighting. The military blanched.
    “We wanted to take him anywhere but Mosul,” Hertling said. “He found out about it and wanted to go there. So we went.”

    Stars and Stripes: Border troops in Texas finish laying razor wire, Pentagon expects to send most home by Dec. 15
    By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES | Published: November 19, 2018
    WASHINGTON – The roughly 5,800 active-duty troops sent to locations along the U.S.-Mexico border ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections will spend Thanksgiving in Texas, Arizona, and California, but they are expected to return home in time for Christmas, Pentagon officials said Monday.
    The troops supporting the operation assisting U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents once known as Faithful Patriot are expected to return to their home stations by Dec. 15, said Army Col. Rob Manning, a Defense Department spokesman. He indicated the Pentagon did not expect to deploy more troops to the border region “unless directed otherwise.”
    In fact, Manning announced some servicemembers could return home before Dec. 15 as they complete their work stringing coiled razor wire and emplacing other temporary barriers at locations on and near the southern border.
    “The bottom line is that our numbers will be commensurate with the capabilities that … CBP is requesting,” he said.
    But the troops are expected to remain in place at least through this week. The Pentagon is sending an untold amount of traditional Thanksgiving meals to troops supporting the border operation, Manning told reporters at the Pentagon.
    Some of their tasks have been completed already. As of Friday, the 2,800 active-duty troops supporting CBP operations in Texas had finished their mission of “hardening” immigration entry points in the Brownsville area at the state’s most southern tip. However, Manning could not say Monday whether those troops would remain in Texas or be shifted to other locations along the U.S.-Mexico border.
    In addition to the 2,800 troops in Texas, there were 1,500 active-duty troops operating in both California and Arizona. To date, the troops had installed 2,714 meters of razor wire obstacles in Arizona and another 4,145 meters of razor wire in California, Manning said.
    The colonel shared the statistics as some from the group of Central American migrants in the so-called caravan arrived in Tijuana in recent days on Mexico’s border with California. The group of asylum seekers was a regular pre-election target of President Donald Trump, who described it as an invasion. However, the troops that Trump sent to the border ahead of the caravan’s arrival have had no interactions with the migrants and are not expected to in the future, officials have said repeatedly.
    With the mission apparently in its final weeks, the Pentagon has not released an estimated cost of the deployment. Manning said Monday that the Defense Department, which will cover the expense for the mission, would not provide an estimated cost until it has completed its accounting.
    Each of the nearly 60 military units and teams deployed to the border is tracking its own expenses, Manning said. He said the Pentagon would factor all of those units’ costs into its final assessment, and it would make that possible only at that time.
    “We are committed to providing you a real cost and not a forecasted cost,” he said. “… We don’t have a final cost that we feel confident sharing publicly.”

    Military Times: New research could lead to disability benefits for Vietnam veterans with high blood pressure
    By: Leo Shane III | 18 hours ago
    WASHINGTON — New research linking veterans’ high blood pressure with wartime exposure to chemical defoliants could dramatically expand federal disability benefits for tens of thousands of Vietnam-era troops.
    The findings, from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, conclude that “sufficient evidence” exists linking hypertension and related illnesses in veterans to Agent Orange and other defoliants used in Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea in the 1960s and 1970s.
    They recommend adding the condition to the list of 14 presumptive diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure, a group that includes Hodgkin’s Disease, prostate cancer and Parkinson’s Disease. That’s an upgrade from past research that showed a possible but not conclusive link between the toxic exposures and high blood pressure problems later in life.
    If Veterans Affairs officials follow through with the recommendation, it could open up new or additional disability benefits to thousands of aging veterans who served in those areas and who are now struggling with heart problems.
    Veterans who struggle with high blood pressure issues are eligible for health care at VA facilities. But the illness is eligible for disability benefits in only select cases.
    Adding an illness to VA’s presumptive list means that veterans applying for disability benefits need not prove that their sickness is directly connected to their time in service. Instead, they only need show that they served in areas where the defoliant was used and that they now suffer from the diseases.
    That’s a significant difference, since proving direct exposure and clear health links can be nearly impossible for ailing veterans searching for decades-old paper records.
    A change in the designation of hypertension by VA could also add significant new costs to the department’s disability payout expenses.
    In 2010, when then Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki expanded the list of presumptive illnesses for Agent Orange exposure to include ischemic heart disease and Parkinson’s, the department estimated additional costs of more than $42 billion over a decade.
    It’s unclear how many veterans suffer from high blood pressure and would be eligible for disability payments if the change is made. In a statement, VA spokesman Curt Cashour said the department “is in the process of evaluating this report and appreciates the work” of the group.
    Regardless the cost, officials from the Veterans of Foreign Wars are already calling for VA officials to move ahead with adding hypertension to the list.
    “There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Agent Orange made veterans sick, it made their children sick, and it brought pain and suffering and premature death to many,” VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence said in a statement. “Even though it’s been a half century since they were exposed, the results of that exposure is something they continue to live with daily.”
    Over the last year, advocates for “blue water” Navy veterans — sailors who served in ships off the coastline of Vietnam — have been fighting with department officials over a decision to deny them presumptive status in Agent Orange related claims.
    VA officials have insisted that scientific evidence does not exist linking their illnesses to exposure to the defoliant miles away from the Vietnam mainland.
    The new study is available at the National Academies Press website.

    Associated Press: New memorial for troops killed in combat is damaged just days after it was dedicated
    By: The Associated Press | 15 hours ago
    CARSON CITY, Nev. — A memorial honoring 895 Nevada residents who have died in wars and conflicts dating to the Civil War has been damaged days after its dedication.
    The Nevada Appeal reports the Battle Born Memorial on the Capitol grounds suffered cosmetic damage last week just three days after Gov. Brian Sandoval dedicated it. Construction was finished just before the Nov. 9 dedication, which was timed for the Veterans Day weekend.
    The damage was reportedly caused by four teens, two riding BMX bicycles and two on Razor scooters. It includes cracks to three slabs of the black granite platform that stretches the length of the memorial.
    Police say the juvenile suspects were recorded on video cameras located between the memorial and the Supreme Court building.
    Authorities have not said if any arrests have been made.

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Fort Leonard Wood’s first female commander wants women to know what’s possible when serving in the military
    By: Jesse Bogan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP | 15 hours ago
    FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The hallway leading to the commander’s office is adorned with 40 framed pictures, arranged like a long arrow pointing forward, of the men in uniform who have led this sprawling post in the Ozarks.
    Bucking the trend, the latest photo added to the wall is of Army Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, the first woman to lead Fort Leonard Wood since it opened in 1941. She’s also one of few African-Americans to do so.
    "I don’t consider either of those an obstacle," said Martin, 53. "I would like to think that the Army has chosen me to be in the positions I am in because I am the most qualified."
    Still, she agreed to share her story because she wants young women to know what’s possible in the military, which has become more inclusive, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
    "My wish, my desire is that at some point in our history there won’t be a ‘first woman’ doing anything, it will just be somebody doing something, you know just like ‘Maj. Gen. Martin is the commander of Fort Leonard Wood,’" she said. "I don’t even really like talking about myself, but it’s such a necessity to hear the story of women being successful for our future generations."
    Of 1.3 million active duty troops, nearly 17 percent of them are women, up from 15 percent in 2001. While that needle hasn’t moved much, the number of women is expected to increase following the December 2015 announcement to lift remaining restrictions on women serving in combat roles. As more women serve in combat, there will likely be more female brass.
    There were recently 71 generals and admirals serving in the active duty military who were women, or 7.5 percent of the total, 939. Martin said the discrepancy hasn’t affected policy and procedures.
    "We’ve had women in leadership positions for a long time, so I am not aware of any policy that would change because a woman is in charge," she said.
    That doesn’t mean there haven’t been hardships. Martin recalled an incident early in her 30-year-career when a male officer told her as a young lieutenant that he wouldn’t take orders from a female.
    "Now my company commander took care of that, and he’s subsequently out of the Army," Martin said of the encounter. "But I gotta tell you, I have never heard that in the last 25 years. The culture of the Army is so much more accepting of all people."
    The ongoing war in Afghanistan has been a 17-year proving ground for performance. Leaders have also spoken up about inclusion. In 2016, Eric Fanning became the first openly gay secretary of the Army. Three years prior, as more jobs opened for women service members, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said: “In life, as we all know, there are no guarantees of success. Not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier. But everyone is entitled to a chance.”
    Gender integration of the armed services started in earnest in the 1970s, said John McManus, a Missouri University of Science and Technology professor in Rolla who has written 12 books on military history. He compared the move to President Harry S. Truman’s 1948 executive order to desegregate the military, which tapped into “previously excluded reservoirs of human talent, especially for leadership.”
    "The gender integration of the 1970s led to much the same trend line, albeit with plenty of accompanying tension and strife," McManus said. "In that sense, once the armed forces began to tolerate and even promote the idea of female recruitment, it became probable, though not necessarily inevitable, that women would eventually assume leadership roles. In the bigger picture, the following decades led many Americans in and out of the military to understand the obvious truth that such qualities as courage, competence, and fine leadership are not unique to one gender."
    One of the highest-ranking women in the Army today is Lt. Gen. Gwendolyn Bingham, assistant chief of staff for installation management.
    "I don’t look at my challenges any differently than those that confront both men and women," Bingham said in a prepared statement from the Pentagon. "Attitudes of those you encounter are relevant across a wide spectrum of daily opportunities and obstacles. I will always ‘see the glass half full’ rather than empty. Daily living is what you make it — it begins with a positive attitude and flows from there."
    Bingham recently promoted Martin to her second star.
    Her promotion "comes at an exciting time when the Army continues to enable readiness across the globe while modernizing its capabilities," Bingham said. "No doubt, TEAM Leonard Wood plays a significant role in enabling the readiness of our men and women."
    Martin was raised in Yorktown, Virginia, just north of Newport News. She was one of six children raised by her single mother, who worked as a nursing assistant, and a network of family in the area.
    "We are a very close family that kind of raised each other," Martin said. "There was no ‘run out and play right away after school.’ (It was) ‘do your chores and homework.’"
    Two of her older brothers were in the Army, one was a drill sergeant, the other a recruiter. She initially went to Old Dominion University on a field hockey scholarship. She gave that up and joined Army ROTC, which she said paid for school, pushed her to be physically fit and part of a team and graduate with a degree in criminal justice.
    After a short stint in the Virginia Army National Guard, she joined the active duty Army as an officer and rose through the ranks of the Military Police Corps. Along the way, she deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and picked up a master’s degree from the Army War College.
    She’s been commander of criminal investigations for a brigade based in Germany, chief of investigations for the Army inspector general and a top leader of Army recruiting efforts. She came to Fort Leonard Wood in 2017 to be commandant of the Military Police School.
    Now, as commander of the entire 60,000-acre post, Martin is responsible for one of four locations in the country where Army recruits do basic training. It’s also home to three schools: chemical, engineer and military police. In all, more than 80,000 service members pass through each year, including from other countries.
    While training is the main mission, Martin said a priority over the next two years is to ensure the hospital is modernized. She said $100 million in government funding was previously approved for the project.
    "I want to spearhead and champion and make sure that stays on track to support our military members and their family members here at Fort Leonard Wood," she said.
    Martin, who is married to a retired Marine officer and has one son in college, said she also wants to make Fort Leonard Wood more accessible by bringing in bigger passenger airplanes.
    Until that happens, she’s outlawed the unofficial name of the post: "Fort Lost in the Woods."
    “It’s not lost here,” she said with a smile. “You know how beautiful it is in the Ozarks. If you could just get people here, and it be reasonably pretty easy to get here, you’d never call it Fort Lost in the Woods again.”

    Associated Press: Woman in alleged homeless Marine veteran scam duped by boyfriend, says attorney
    By: The Associated Press | 8 hours ago
    TRENTON, N.J. — A woman charged with scamming GoFundMe donors out of more than $400,000 with a fake story about a homeless veteran was duped by her former boyfriend and genuinely thought she was helping the man, her attorney said Monday.
    James Gerrow told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that Mark D’Amico was “calling the shots” in the alleged scheme that resulted in criminal charges last week against Katelyn McClure, D’Amico and homeless Marine Johnny Bobbitt.
    The criminal complaint alleges the three concocted a feel-good story about the couple reaching out to help Bobbitt after he gave McClure his last $20 when her car ran out of gas in Philadelphia last year. Then McClure and D’Amico allegedly spent all the money on luxury items and casino trips.
    "People have to understand that this was an abusive relationship. Mr. D’Amico was the one behind this and he was the one calling all the shots," Gerrow said. "She didn’t understand or appreciate that this may very well be a crime."
    It was unclear which attorney currently represents D’Amico. An attorney who was representing the couple last week declined to comment Monday on Gerrow’s allegations.
    McClure and D’Amico are charged with conspiracy and theft by deception. Bobbitt also is charged.
    Less than an hour after the couple set up the page to solicit donations, McClure sent a text message to a friend acknowledging the story was "completely made up," prosecutors said last week.
    "Ok so wait the gas part is completely made up, but the guy isn’t," said Scott Coffina, the prosecutor of Burlington County in New Jersey, quoting the text message at a news conference Thursday. "I had to make something up to make people feel bad. So shush about the made up stuff."
    Prosecutors began investigating months ago after Bobbitt claimed he wasn’t getting the money that had been raised on his behalf. He later sued the couple.

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19 November, 2018 06:51

Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Monday, November 19, 2018, which is “Have a Bad Day” Day, International Men’s Day, Women’s Entrepreneurship Day and National Blow Bagpipes Day.

Today in American Legion History:

  • Nov. 19, 1927: Howard College defeats Birmingham-Southern College 9-0 in the first football game at Legion Field, named for The American Legion, in Birmingham, Ala. The 21,000-seat stadium, built in one year at a cost of $439,000, draws 16,800 spectators to its inaugural game. Over the years, through multiple expansions, it today seats 71,594, and has been used as a soccer stadium, concert venue and as the site of the Drum Corps International World Championships. Drum Corps International, for high school drum and bugle corps competitors, and Drum Corps Associates for adult participants, which was co-founded by American Legion Past National Vice Commander Dr. Almo “Doc” Sebastianelli, evolved from earlier American Legion drum and bugle corps programs.

Today in History:

  • On November 19, 1863, at the dedication of a military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln delivers one of the most memorable speeches in American history. In just 272 words, Lincoln brilliantly and movingly reminded a war-weary public why the Union had to fight, and win, the Civil War.
  • For action this date in 1967, Chaplain (Major) Charles Watters of the 173rd Airborne Brigade is awarded the Medal of Honor. Chaplain Watters was serving with the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry when it conducted an attack against North Vietnamese forces entrenched on Hill 875 during the Battle of Dak To. The Catholic priest from New Jersey moved among the paratroopers during the intense fighting, giving encouragement and first aid to the wounded. At least six times he left the defensive perimeter with total disregard regard for his own personal safety to retrieve casualties and take them for medical attention. Once he was satisfied that all of the wounded were inside the perimeter, he busied himself helping the medics, applying bandages, and providing spiritual strength and support. According to reports filed by survivors of the battle, Father Watters was on his knees giving last rites to a dying soldier when an American bomber accidentally dropped a 500-pound bomb onto the group of paratroopers. Father Watters was killed instantly. He was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor on November 4, 1969, in a ceremony at the White House.
  • On this day in 1776, Congress pleads for the states to send more soldiers to serve in the Continental Army, reminding them “how indispensable it is to the common safety, that they pursue the most immediate and vigorous measures to furnish their respective quotas of Troops for the new Army, as the time of service for which the present Army was enlisted, is so near expiring.”

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

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    Washington Post: Trump’s attack on retired admiral who led bin Laden raid escalates a war of words
    By Paul Sonne and Philip Rucker | November 18 at 7:54 PM
    President Trump has long put the American military at the center of his presidential brand, tapping retired officers to serve as advisers, touting increases in defense spending, and citing support from troops and veterans as a sign of his success.
    But the commander in chief has risked alienating parts of the military community by escalating a fight with one of its most revered members, retired Adm. William H. McRaven, amid other recent remarks and decisions that have fanned controversy in the ranks and among some who served.
    In an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Trump went after McRaven, the retired Navy SEAL and Special Operations commander who oversaw the killing of Osama bin Laden and the capture of Saddam Hussein during his 37 years in the U.S. military.
    Trump derided McRaven as a “Hillary Clinton fan” and an “Obama backer” before suggesting that the four-star admiral, who recently left his post as chancellor of the University of Texas amid a battle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, should have caught bin Laden faster.
    “Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that, wouldn’t it have been nice?” the president said. “You know, living — think of this — living in Pakistan, beautifully in Pakistan, in what I guess they considered a nice mansion, I don’t know, I’ve seen nicer. But living in Pakistan right next to the military academy, everybody in Pakistan knew he was there.”
    The comments escalated a war of words that began last year when McRaven called Trump’s description of the news media as the “enemy of the people” the greatest threat to American democracy he had ever seen.
    This past summer, McRaven went to bat for John Brennan, defending the former CIA director as a man of integrity in an article in The Washington Post, after Trump revoked Brennan’s security clearance.
    In a rare moment of political candor, McRaven wrote that Trump, instead of putting others above himself and setting an example as president, had “embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.”
    In a statement initially released to CNN and confirmed by The Post, McRaven said he didn’t back Clinton or anyone else in the 2016 presidential election and was a fan of Barack Obama and George W. Bush, both of whom he worked for while in uniform.
    “I admire all presidents, regardless of their political party, who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the nation together in challenging times,” McRaven said.
    Former CIA deputy director Michael Morrell pointed out on Twitter that McRaven’s forces had nothing to do with locating bin Laden. Morrell said it was the CIA that did the “finding” and McRaven’s forces that did the “getting,” moving out within days of receiving the order.
    The president’s remarks about McRaven came amid broader questions about Trump’s relationship with military matters.
    During a recent trip to France, the president didn’t attend a ceremony commemorating the centenary of World War I because of the rain, with the White House saying his helicopter couldn’t fly in the inclement weather and a motorcade would have caused too much traffic. Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended the ceremony.
    Trump didn’t visit Arlington National Cemetery to mark Veterans Day this year because he was traveling home from France and didn’t go to the ceremony or hold any public events to honor U.S. veterans on the Monday holiday.
    Trump admitted he should have gone to Arlington National Cemetery to mark Veterans Day.
    “I should have done that,” Trump told Wallace. “I was extremely busy on calls for the country. We did a lot of calling, as you know.”
    Trump recently has signaled discontent with the top retired generals serving in his administration, raising questions about whether he is souring on the military brass in his orbit. Earlier this year, he derided Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as “sort of a Democrat.” In Sunday’s interview, he said that there are things Kelly does that he doesn’t like and that at some point he will move on from the chief of staff position.
    The comments followed the president’s decision to thrust the American military into the center of a political maelstrom ahead of the midterm elections by sending thousands of troops to the border with Mexico in what critics labeled a political stunt to fire up anti-immigrant sentiment among his base.
    Trump said the move was a necessary measure to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection prepare for the “invasion” of thousands of migrants who he said, without evidence, included “unknown Middle Easterners” and “bad people.”
    Ahead of the election, Trump said he was sending as many as 10,000 to 15,000 troops to the border, but the military said last week that the number of active-duty troops deployed in fact had peaked at about 5,900. An additional 2,000 members of the National Guard have been there since April.
    Although Mattis defended the deployment as necessary support for the Department of Homeland Security and good training for troops, other members of the military community took offense at what they saw as a wasteful politicization of the armed forces.
    Trump’s suggestion that soldiers would shoot migrants who threw rocks at them prompted retired Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to tag the mission as wasteful, while clarifying that men and women in uniform wouldn’t use disproportionate force.
    Trump, who attended New York Military Academy but avoided serving in the Vietnam War through draft deferments, also answered questions Sunday about why he hadn’t visited American troops serving in combat zones in Iraq or Afghanistan.
    “I think you will see that happen,” Trump said. “There are things that are being planned.”
    But former and current administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, didn’t recall hearing about the possibility of Trump visiting troops in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria during his first year and a half in office. An attempt to visit the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea in late 2017 was scuttled by bad weather.
    Trump has also been a vocal advocate of withdrawing from the conflicts where American troops are deployed abroad, but Mattis and other national security officials have persuaded him to stay the course in Syria and Afghanistan.
    When Wallace pointed out during Sunday’s interview that Trump hadn’t visited troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, the president was quick to note that he opposed the war in Iraq, although it’s unclear if he ever voiced that opposition before the 2003 invasion.
    “But this is about the soldiers, sir,” Wallace said.
    “You’re right,” Trump replied. He promised to make a visit despite his “unbelievably busy schedule . . . on top of which you have these phony witch hunts.”
    Monetary support for the military has long been at the heart of Trump’s political messaging.
    When former first lady Michelle Obama said in a newly released book that she couldn’t forgive Trump for loud and reckless innuendos about her husband’s birthplace that endangered her family, Trump quickly shot back that he couldn’t forgive his immediate predecessor for “what he did to our military.”
    Years of budget caps damaged the American military’s preparedness, according to the Pentagon, which says the consistent funding during the first two years of the Trump administration has helped assuage problems with training, maintenance, personnel and equipment.
    In August, Trump signed a $716 billion defense bill, including a $639 billion baseline budget that was the nation’s largest in adjusted terms since World War II, a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops and critical investments in equipment maintenance. The overall defense budget, which includes active operations, was higher in the Bush and Obama years during the surge in Iraq.
    In recent weeks, however, the Trump administration has signaled that budgetary largesse for the military that characterized the president’s first two years in office is unlikely to continue.
    After the federal deficit jumped by 17 percent in part in response to last year’s Republican-led tax cut, Trump ordered government agencies to slash their budgets for the coming year by about 5 percent, which would amount to a roughly $33 billion reduction for the military.

    Defense News: Services to deliver proposed budgets Monday. What will they cut?
    By: Aaron Mehta | 2 days ago
    WASHINGTON — With the Pentagon scrambling to meet a surprise order from President Donald Trump to cut the FY20 budget request from $733 billion to $700 billion, department planners are moving quickly to gather their options
    According to Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, the military services will be delivering their preliminary options for cuts to his budget team on Monday. Those will be worked internal at OSD before being briefed up to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and potentially the White House, the week after Thanksgiving.
    “What I want the president to understand when we bring [the budget] forward is, what are those tradeoffs?” Shanahan told reporters Thursday at the Pentagon. “Either you get reduced capacity, get lower quantities of procurement, a changed modernization.
    “Those are the things that he needs to have. An awareness of what that number really translates to in terms of, you know, performance here at the department,” Shanahan added.
    “By Monday we’ll have a better feel for which trades the of services want to make, whether it’s end-strength, or capability or capacity. And then we’ll have to look at, you know, how much we suck up the in discretionary cut for, like, the fourth estate,” he said.
    The deputy acknowledged modifying “quantities” of things being procured would be one option, but avoided specifics, noting “I don’t want to say ‘tanks’ and I don’t want to say ‘combat vehicles,’ because then everybody who builds one of those thinks that’s something that’s an imminent decision.”
    He also said changes to end strength for the services is being considered.
    Asked what OSD would seek to protect from cuts, Shanahan emphasized the burgeoning cyber, space and hypersonics. He also said he had just recently finished a technical review of the Army’s modernization plan and would seek to protect a “number of the priorities” from that document.
    The FY20 budget will be the first following the guidance laid out in the National Defense Strategy, as well as having inputs from the Nuclear Posture Review and the as-of-yet unreleased Missile Defense Review. Officials from the department have described the document as being a “strategy driven budget,” with Shanahan saying late last year that the FY20 request would be the Pentagon’s “masterpiece.”
    Asked if he still felt that way, Shanahan smiled and said again “It’ll be a masterpiece,” even with the smaller than expected budget total, adding “I think in the end we’ll end up in a good spot, but there’s going to be a lot of, you know, back and forth and work.
    However, a recently released report from a Congressional panel warned that the Pentagon is under resourced to be able to carry out the NDS as is, let alone if it takes a bigger cut.

    Washington Post: Where ex-soldiers have socialized, they will soon find affordable housing
    By Patricia Sullivan | November 17
    A leak from the kitchen imperils a room where card players and potential pool sharks still occasionally congregate. The concrete-block walls exhale seven decades of cigar and cigarette smoke. The basement bar, built to accommodate more than two dozen, is never full — “On a good day, I might have five or six customers,” bartender Doris McNeil said.
    So the Legion’s board decided it was time to sell the building, located on 1.4 grassy acres close to George Mason University in Arlington, Va. Developers pitched high-end, high-rise condos and housing for law students at nearby George Mason University.
    But the old soldiers, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen decided to sell to a local affordable housing agency, drawn to the possibility of a modernized Legion post that will be built as part of the project and of providing much-needed apartments for struggling vets.
    It is an approach much like the one taken by religious organizations in the past dozen years to convert under-used space into low-cost housing in return for a new, smaller worship space and the moral satisfaction that they are living their faith.
    The sale of American Legion Post 139, however — which will result in 160 new apartments, half set aside for military veterans — may be the first collaboration between a veterans organization and an affordable housing agency, experts say.
    “I have not come across a similar project,” said Deborah Burkhardt, who is on the board of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans and founded the national “Bring them HOMES” initiative. Given the thousands of such facilities nationwide, she said, “This could be an example others follow.”
    Addressing the need
    The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing paid about $6 million for the Legion post’s site along Washington Boulevard. It plans to replace the building with a seven-story structure, using $3 million it still has to raise from donors, a $20.5 million mortgage from the state, almost $10 million from the county’s revolving affordable housing loan funds and an expected $34 million in tax credits. The total cost of the project is expected to reach $72 million by the time it opens in 2020.
    The Legion post will create a new headquarters on the first floor. In an effort to draw in younger veterans, the post will include computer labs and rooms for counseling and medical screening. The bar will be drastically downsized. Smoking will be banned.
    The set-aside apartments could benefit veterans like Cyndi Bendt, 68, who left the Army as a lieutenant in 1978 and found herself homeless in Northern Virginia decades later, after years of teaching and counseling on Indian reservations in New Mexico and Arizona.
    She mostly lived in her truck, until the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network found her an apartment in an APAH complex in 2015.
    “I was thrilled there were three locks — one on the main door and two on my apartment door — because I had not felt safe for some time,” Bendt said in a recent interview. “To have a toilet that flushes and a hot-water shower? And then they brought me a new, queen-size bed! All I could say was thank you, God.”
    An estimated 400 veterans in the region are homeless, Veterans Data Central reports say.
    Legion officials say there is also a significant need for housing for vets who get out of the service and discover their civilian salaries are inadequate for paying rent in the high-cost Washington area.
    In addition, currently enlisted personnel based at Arlington’s own Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, many of whom now commute long distances to find affordable neighborhoods, will qualify for the new apartments if they have served a minimum number of years, APAH chief executive Nina Janopaul said.
    Finding land to build affordable residential complexes, even with significant taxpayer help, is extremely difficult in expensive urban areas. That is why the trend of churches, synagogues and other faith-based groups working with affordable housing developers has become so important.
    About 30 houses of worship in the Mid-Atlantic region are working with Enterprise Community Partners, which helps finance and plan affordable housing, company Vice President David Bowers said. Civic groups like the American Legion, which has 222 posts in Virginia alone, could be a similar source of land, he said.
    ‘Depressing, dirty and dark’
    After Bob Romano was installed as commander of Post 139 in 2014, his wife told him she would never go back into that building again.
    “The downstairs is still a smoke-filled, raunchy, smelly place,” Romano said. “Our membership is very old. . . . When I looked at the budget, I said, ‘In five years, we’re not going to be here.’ ”
    Of the 300 people on the membership rolls, half do not live in the area anymore, post leaders say. A dance group rents the upstairs ballroom each night. The commercial kitchen is rented to a lobster truck entrepreneur.
    It was festive and cheery on Veterans Day, as several dozen vets and their families gathered to eat and listen to the “Arlingtones” barbershop chorus sing World War I-era songs.
    “I’m not sentimental about this building, probably because I don’t spend much time here,” said Gary Wagner, who comes to the post once or twice a year.
    Roger O’Dell, 82, who had lunch and a beer with his friend Jim Sheehan, 75, declared the affordable housing project “a great idea. I’m all for it.”
    “This post is about dead,” he said. “Downstairs is depressing, dirty and dark, full of old guys like me.”
    The time for a large Legion post had passed, he and others at the long buffet tables agreed, especially because young veterans have either opted not to join or formed their own service-specific groups.
    “All the posts are losing members,” said Leroy Nance, historian of Dorie Miller American Legion Post 194, which has seen membership fall from 85 to 50. The post, named for an African American war hero, meets at a community center in South Arlington and is exploring whether to rent space from Post 139 once the new complex is built.
    Ben Sims, 94, sat at a table wearing his American Legion campaign cap. He said he believes he is Post 139’s last living World War II veteran. When the current building went up in the early 1950s, Sims was on the post’s board.
    It was a different world back then, he said, and everyone had to make their own entertainment.
    “We had Christmas parties and one big fellow who played Santa Claus,” he recalled. “The ladies’ auxiliary would wrap up presents, and we’d always have a big feed.”
    For him, the idea of a new building evokes mixed emotions.
    “I feel like the World War I veterans, who didn’t understand when we went to build this,” he said. “We didn’t need their guidance; we were busting out of the old place. We were real proud of this place . . . but I’m sure [the current board members] are doing what they think we should do.”

    Military Times: Court allows class-action suit against Navy over ‘bad paper’ discharges
    By: Leo Shane III | 2 days ago
    WASHINGTON — Veterans forced from the Navy and Marine Corps for what they say were undiagnosed mental health problems will be able move ahead with a class-action lawsuit against the military asking for denied benefits, a federal court ruled Thursday.
    The move could affect thousands of so-called “bad paper” veterans who allege Defense Department officials unjustly ended their careers rather than deal with their military-related injuries.
    “This decision is a victory for the tens of thousands of military veterans suffering from service-connected PTSD and TBI who are denied the support of VA resources because of an unfair discharge status,” Tyson Manker, an Iraq War veteran and plaintiff in the case, said in a statement Friday.
    He called the court’s favorable ruling “further evidence of the Department of Defense’s disgraceful violation of the legal rights of the men and women who have served their country.”
    The issue of improper military dismissals has grown in prominence in recent years as studies show that veterans with limited access to military benefits face greater rates of homelessness and suicide.
    Veterans covered in the new lawsuit’s class would have little or no access to Veterans Affairs health care services, education benefits or other support resources because of their less-than-honorable discharge status.
    However, many of those veterans argue that the infractions that led to the end of their military careers were linked to undiagnosed post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, or other service-related mental health problems. They have argued that if supervisors properly treated those issues, they may still be serving today.
    Between 20 and 30 percent of troops who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have dealt with post-traumatic stress, according to Defense Department estimates.
    The new ruling will allow veterans advocates an easier path in demanding relief from the Navy, the service’s review boards and other related agencies.
    Last year, Pentagon officials ordered that those review boards use more discretion in evaluating veterans’ discharge status appeals when those cases involved “conditions resulting from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, sexual assault or sexual harassment.”
    Officials have said the goal is to make sure missed medical problems don’t result in lost benefits or support services. But advocates for those veterans say those corrections remain slow and erratic.
    The National Veterans Council for Legal Redress, which is party to the lawsuit, said that in 2017, while more than half of cases to come before the Army and Air Force review boards were granted discharge upgrades, only 16 percent of cases before the Navy board received the same consideration.
    That has raised concerns from both advocates and the federal court that authorized the class action.
    More information on the lawsuit is available through the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic, which is also involved in the suit.

    Defense News: Saving America’s military edge will take money — and new ideas, Dunford says
    By: Joe Gould | 1 day ago
    HALIFAX, Canada — The U.S. military needs Congress to provide sustained defense spending to maintain its eroding military edge against Russia and China — but also needs to start innovating, its top uniformed officer said Saturday.
    Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford’s remarks at the Halifax International Security Forum came days after a National Defense Strategy Commission report concluded the U.S. would, “struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia.”
    Citing that report, Dunford said whoever is in his job in 2023 and beyond will be at a disadvantage — “if we don’t change the trajectory we have been on, if we don’t have sustained, predictable, accurate levels of funding, if we don’t look carefully at the areas where we are challenged — in space, in cyberspace, in the maritime domain.”
    Dunford offered some caveats: U.S. alliances would provide a decisive advantage in any major conflict. The U.S. would not lose a war with Russia or China, but such a war would be lengthy. And the U.S. has the edge today.
    With an eye toward Russian and Chinese technological advancements, the 2020 budget will invest heavily in research and development, in line with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ priorities, Dunford said, to strike a “balance” with traditional capabilities like ships and manned aircraft.
    Asked if U.S. defense spending’s growth is economically sustainable, Dunford said, “I reject where economically we can’t be competitive.”
    “It isn’t just a question of money, it’s a question of money, technology, ideas and doing things in totally disruptive ways,” he said, adding: “We can’t buy our way out of many of the challenges we have, we have to think our way out of them.”
    The Pentagon has identified the 14 technological areas where Russia and China are investing, projected where they will be in 2025 and which technological areas require investment from the U.S. and its allies, Dunford said.
    Yet the Pentagon has had some hiccups in attempts to partner with Silicon Valley innovators. Asked about Google’s recent abandonment of Project Maven, a Pentagon project involving using machine learning to distinguish people and objects in drone videos, Dunford hit back.
    “Without highlighting any specific company, I have a hard time with companies that are working very hard to engage the market inside of China — where intellectual property is shared with the Chinese, which is synonymous with sharing it with the Chinese military — and don’t want to work with the U.S. military,” Dunford said.
    “We are the good guys, and the people in this room that stand for democracy are the good guys, and the relationships the military has had with industry go back to World War II,” Dunford said.
    The remarks, especially on defense spending, are sure to echo to Washington ahead of a fiscal 2020 defense budget season. Downward pressure is expected from the Democratic-led House, and the White House has already ordered a budget cut for national defense, from a planned $733 billion to $700 billion.
    Earlier this month, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton called the national debt “a threat to the society” and said Pentagon spending will “flatten out” in the near term.
    The U.S. defense industry has pushed back against potential cuts. Citing the National Defense Strategy Commission’s report, defense hawks in Congress have, too.
    Earlier this week, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said defense funding needs to be able to “undertake essential nuclear and conventional modernization while rectifying readiness shortfalls.”
    “That is why I believe the $733 billion defense budget originally proposed by President Trump for fiscal year 2020 should be considered a floor, not a ceiling, for funding our troops,” Inhofe said in a statement.
    Last year, Mattis and Dunford testified to lawmakers that defense spending needed to increase 3 to 5 percent, year over year, to restore the U.S. military’s competitive advantage.
    Speaking at Halifax on Saturday, Dunford parried a question about whether the White House-ordered cut would mean strategic insolvency, saying, “It’s not that simple.”
    “Various levels of resources can be accommodated if there is a path of predictability that allows us to make sound investments over five or seven years,” Dunford said.

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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.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

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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.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

* Includes comment from TAL.
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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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