11 June, 2019 07:20

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Tuesday, June 11, 2019 which is Corn on the Cob Day, Cousteau Day, King Kamehameha Day, and World Pet Memorial Day.
This Weekend in Legion History:

  • June 11, 1990: The U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Flag Protection Act of 1989, a legislative response passed on Oct. 28, 1989, that falls to the constitutional precedent set by the Texas v. Johnson ruling.
  • June 11, 1997: Cash grants distributed from the American Legion National Emergency Fund exceed $1 million after floods in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Minnesota and North Dakota.

This Day in History:

  • On this day in 1979, John Wayne, an iconic American film actor famous for starring in countless westerns, dies at age 72 after battling cancer for more than a decade.
  • 1986: The hit John Hughes-directed teen comedy “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” released on this day in 1986, stars a young Matthew Broderick as a popular high school student in suburban Illinois who fakes an illness in order to score a day off from school, then leads his best friend and his girlfriend on a whirlwind day through Chicago. The movie’s cast also included Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jeffrey Jones and Jennifer Grey. However, the most memorable performer may have been an automobile: the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California, a custom-built car revered by auto collectors.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

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Army Times: Medal of Honor announced for soldier who fought through three floors of insurgents in Fallujah
By: Kyle Rempfer   20 hours ago
The president will award the Medal of Honor on June 25 to a soldier who fought through a nest of insurgents during the second Battle of Fallujah in 2004, the White House officially announced Monday.
Then-Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia originally received the Silver Star for his actions, but his citation was revisited as part of a review of valor awards and determined worthy of the nation’s highest combat award.
The award will give Bellavia one of now seven Operation Iraqi Freedom Medals of Honor, and make him the only living recipient from the Iraq War.
During the battle, Bellavia single-handedly killed multiple insurgents, including one during hand-to-hand combat.
A squad leader at the time, Bellavia, now 43, was clearing a block of buildings when his platoon was pinned down on Nov. 10, 2004, in Fallujah, Iraq.
The first nine buildings were found to be unoccupied, but were filled with rockets, grenade launchers and other weapons. When Bellavia and four others entered the 10th building, they came under fire from insurgents in the house, according to his Silver Star citation.
The ensuing gun battle injured several soldiers. Bellavia switched out his M16 rifle for an M249 SAW gun and entered one room where the insurgents were located to spray it with gunfire, forcing the Jihadists to take cover and allowing the squad to move out into the street.
Other insurgents on the rooftop of the building began firing on his squad below, forcing them to seek cover in a nearby building. Bellavia then went back to the street and called in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to shell the houses before re-entering the building to assess the scene.
Upon entering, Bellavia gunned down one insurgent who was loading an RPG launcher. A second enemy fighter began firing as he ran toward the kitchen and Bellavia fired back, wounding him in the shoulder. A third insurgent then began yelling from the second floor.
Bellavia then entered the uncleared master bedroom and emptied gunfire into all the corners, at which point the wounded insurgent entered the room, yelling and firing his weapon, the citation reads. Bellavia fired back, killing the man. Bellavia was then shot at by another insurgent upstairs and the staff sergeant returned the fire, killing him as well.
“At that point, a Jihadist hiding in a wardrobe in a bedroom jumped out, firing wildly around the room and knocking over the wardrobe. As the man leaped over the bed he tripped and Sergeant Bellavia shot him several times, wounding but not killing him,” the citation reads. "Another insurgent was yelling from upstairs, and the wounded Jihadist escaped the bedroom and ran upstairs. Sergeant Bellavia pursued, but slipped on the blood-soaked stairs."
Bellavia followed the bloody tracks of the insurgent up the stairs to a room on his left. Hearing the wounded insurgent inside, he threw a fragmentary grenade into the room, which caused the insurgent to flee to the roof. Two more insurgents began yelling from the third story of the building.
Bellavia grabbed the wounded insurgent and put him in a choke hold to keep him from giving away their position.
“The wounded Jihadist then bit Sergeant Bellavia on the arm and smacked him in the face with the butt of his AK-47. In the wild scuffle that followed, Sergeant Bellavia took out his knife and slit the Jihadist’s throat,” the Silver Star citation reads. "Two other insurgents who were trying to come to their comrade’s rescue, fired at Bellavia, but he had slipped out of the room, which was now full of smoke and fire."
A final insurgent dropped from the third story to the second-story roof. Bellavia saw the fleeing man and fired at him, hitting him in the back and the legs and causing him to fall off the roof and die.
By this point, five members of the platoon had entered the house and took control of the first floor. Before they would finish off the remaining insurgent fighters, however, they were ordered to move out of the area because close air support had been called in by a nearby unit.
The White House release said that Bellavia’s actions that day rescued an entire squad, cleared an insurgent strongpoint, and saved many members of his platoon from possible death.
Bellavia originally enlisted in the Army in 1999 and served in Kosovo, before deploying to Iraq in 2004 with Company A, Task Force 2-2, 1st Infantry Division. After leaving the service on Aug. 16, 2005, he has engaged in New York state politics and continued to serve the military and veteran communities through various advocacy groups.
Bellavia now has his own daily radio talk show for WBEN in Buffalo.
Military Times: No more smoking at VA hospitals
By:Natalie Gross 18 hours ago
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The Department of Veterans Affairs is outlawing smoking, vaping and other forms of tobacco use at its health care facilities across the country in an effort to better treat and protect patients, the agency announced Monday.
“Although VA has historically permitted smoking in designated areas, there is growing evidence that smoking and exposure to secondhand and thirdhand smoke creates significant medical risks, and risks to safety and direct patient care that are inconsistent with medical requirements and limitations,” the department said in a news release.
The full ban will be implemented by October and includes cigarettes, cigars and pipes, as well as e-cigarettes.

Federal Times: Over 100 Congress members accuse the VA of anti-union behavior
By:Jessie Bur 22 hours ago
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Members of Congress weighed in on the contract negotiations between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the American Federation of Government Employees June 5, calling on the agency to improve what they say are “anti-labor policies” outlined in the new contract.
The VA proposed a new contract with AFGE May 2, which VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said would “reset” the VA’s labor management practices, which favor the unions rather than the veterans they are charged with serving.
But the 128 House representatives who signed the June 5 letter, led by Reps. Anthony Brown, D-Md., and Donald Norcross, D-N.J., contend that the new contract is designed to emulate practices that have already been overturned by a district court judge.
“We believe the VA may be acting to precipitate a breakdown in negotiations by insisting on proposals that are similar to specific provisions of executive orders 13836, 13837 and 13839. Such proposals make it appear that the VA is seeking to circumvent the order of the United States District Court that enjoined many provisions of the executive orders,” the Congress members wrote.
“Furthermore, beyond conflicts with the enjoined executive orders, we are alarmed that the VA’s initial contract proposal is a gross departure from the current contract in place between the VA and AFGE. We are concerned that these actions will have a detrimental effect on veterans depending on the VA for medical care and other vital services.”
The union itself recently held rallies against the proposed contract, decrying its strict restrictions on official time and the removal of 42 provisions from the previous contract that they say are needed to protect worker rights.
But the members of Congress worried that the proposed contract would also limit medical professionals from reporting patient-threatening violations, bar employees from filing grievances against unjust disciplinary actions and remove employee ability to challenge payroll errors.
“As such, we strongly encourage the VA to bargain with AFGE in good faith, in full accordance with the established ground rules and with the objective of improving care for our veterans,” the letter said.
According to the agency, the new contract would help to address labor shortages in the VA workforce by ensuring that current employees spend most of their man-hours focused on the jobs they were hired for, rather than on union duties such as negotiating with leadership or representing their fellow employees in grievance proceedings.
“VA appreciates the lawmakers’ views and will respond to them directly,” said VA Press Secretary Curtis Cashour in a statement.
He added that the contract changes would reduce official time use, empower supervisors, streamline the hiring and job classification process and ensure that the contract doesn’t interfere with the agency’s ability to take action under recent legislation.
But AFGE leadership argues that the changes hurt VA employees and the veterans they serve and that the contract “sets up VA employees to fail.”
If bargaining between the VA and AFGE fails to yield an acceptable contract, the two parties may be forced to go through mediation assistance to find a solution, or they can appeal to the Federal Service Impasses Panel, which has the authority to impose a contract on both parties if they cannot come to a voluntary agreement.
This article has been updated to include comments from the VA.

The Hill: House panel seeks to block Pentagon funds for border wall
By Rebecca Kheel – 06/10/19 01:00 AM EDT 336

The House Armed Services Committee’s version of the annual defense policy would prohibit using any Pentagon funding for a border wall.
The prohibition on using funds for a wall, fence or other physical barrier is one of several provisions in the Democratic-led committee’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in response to President Trump’s repeated use of the military to fulfill his campaign pledge to build a wall on the southern border.
“The majority members feel strongly that Department of Defense money should not be used for border security,” a committee staffer told reporters ahead of the bill’s release.
Overall, the House’s fiscal 2020 NDAA would authorize a $733 billion defense budget, including $633 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget, $69 billion for a war fund and $22.7 billion for Department of Energy nuclear programs.
The Trump administration proposed a $750 billion defense budget, which defense hawks say is needed to ensure the military is ready to counter Russia and China.
But Democrats are defending the $733 billion as covering all the Pentagon’s needs.
“A large chunk of that money was intended for the wall,” the committee staffer said of the $750 billion. “And we went with what the departments requirements were.”
The Pentagon’s budget request asked for $7.2 billion for the wall, money that was not included in the bill.
Trump declared a national emergency in February to be able to dip into military construction funding to build the wall without congressional approval.
The Pentagon has yet to use military construction money on the wall. But under separate executive authority, the Pentagon has moved $2.5 billion from various accounts into its counter-drug account to use for the wall.
The military also has thousands of active-duty and National Guard troops deployed to the border in a support role. Last week, it was revealed that includes painting border fencing.
Furious about the Pentagon transferring counter-drug funds without congressional approval in defiance of long-standing procedure, Democrats included in the NDAA a prohibition on reprogramming funds into the counter-drug account.
There would also be a modification of the counter-drug authority to exclude the ability to use funds on fences and walls.
On the emergency construction authority Trump used in declaring an emergency, the NDAA would place a $100 million cap for domestic uses.
The bill would also modify the authority Trump has used to deploy troops. Among the changes are requiring reimbursement from the Department of Homeland Security, certification that there is no effect on readiness and certification that contractors could not be used for the task. Deployed military personnel would also have to be performing tasks within their mission.
Though Republicans have also expressed concern about using military funding for the wall, a summary of committee ranking member Mac Thornberry’s (R-Texas) views of the NDAA called the bill “overly prescriptive with its presumptive ban on construction projects.” The restrictions, the summary argued, could “hamper the recovery of other critical infrastructure.”
Thornberry also blasted the overall $733 billion funding level, saying it does not follow the 3 to 5 percent year-over-year budget growth defense officials have testified is needed.
“The Budget Control Act set arbitrary and unrealistic spending caps on our military,” Thornberry said in a statement. “Those caps forced the Pentagon into unwise choices, deferring needed training, maintenance and modernization. These choices contributed to a lethal readiness crisis we are only now arresting. I am concerned that by imposing another insufficient and arbitrary topline, the chairman’s mark is forcing those unwise choices once again.”

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