18 April, 2019 06:59

Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, April 18, 2019, which is Maundy Thursday, Adult Autism Awareness Day, International Amateur Radio Day, National D.A.R.E. Day, Newspaper Columnists’ Day, and National Lineman Appreciation Day.
NOTE: The American Legion National HQ will be closed Friday. Have a Happy Easter weekend.

Today & Tomorrow in American Legion History:

  • April 18, 1941: Future U.S. Sen. Frank Church of Boise, Idaho, wins The American Legion National Oratorical Contest in Charleston, S.C. For his top-judged oration, “The American Way of Life,” he receives a $4,000 scholarship. Church goes on to serve in the Army during World War II and attends Stanford University where he receives his law degree. He would go on to serve more than 30 years in the U.S. Senate, including his final two years, 1979-81, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
  • April 18, 1999: Kevin Sladek of San Marco, Texas, wins The American Legion National Oratorical Contest less than a year after his election as president of Boys Nation, only the second young man to have reached the top in both programs. Alan Keyes, also of Texas, did it in 1967.
  • April 18, 2016: The U.S. Postal Service issues the 20th Forever Stamp in its “legends of Hollywood” series. Featured on the stamp is Shirley Temple, “honorary colonel” and official “little sister” of Hollywood Post 43, who later, as Shirley Temple Black, was a distinguished State Department diplomat and U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia and to Ghana. A Post 43 color guard opens the ceremony at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles to unveil her stamp.
  • April 19, 1961: World War II veteran Howard Anderson, commander of American Legion Post 1 in Havana, Cuba, is executed by a firing squad after a so-called “show trial” by the Castro regime. American Legion National Commander William R. Burke interrupts an official visit to the Department of New York to fly to Miami to lead approximately 2,500 Legionnaires in a memorial service for Anderson.

Today in History:

  • 1906: At 5:13 a.m., an earthquake estimated at close to 8.0 on the Richter scale strikes San Francisco, California, killing an estimated 3,000 people as it topples numerous buildings. The quake was caused by a slip of the San Andreas Fault over a segment about 275 miles long, and shock waves could be felt from southern Oregon down to Los Angeles.
  • 1983: The U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, is almost completely destroyed by a car-bomb explosion that kills 63 people, including the suicide bomber and 17 Americans. The terrorist attack was carried out in protest of the U.S. military presence in Lebanon.
  • 1945: During World War II, journalist Ernie Pyle, America’s most popular war correspondent, is killed by Japanese machine-gun fire on the island of Ie Shima in the Pacific.
  • 1942: On this day in 1942, 16 American B-25 bombers, launched from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet 650 miles east of Japan and commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, attack the Japanese mainland.


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    Military Times: Will the benefits for ‘blue water’ Vietnam veterans be settled soon?
    By: Leo Shane III | 19 hours ago
    The fate of disability benefits for “blue water” Vietnam veterans will be among the key topics lawmakers tackle when they return from their district break at the end of the month.
    In January, a federal court ruled that the Department of Veterans Affairs for years has used faulty reasoning to deny disability benefits to veterans who served in ships off the waters of Vietnam. VA officials had argued that extending the benefits to an additional 90,000 veterans would cost as much as $5 billion over 10 years, a figure that advocates have disputed.
    This week, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., announced plans to reinforce that ruling and establish a permanent fix for those veterans, who claim exposure to cancer-causing chemical defoliants has caused a host of rare cancers and respiratory illnesses.
    Already the chairman and ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee have introduced similar plans, and that House panel is preparing for an expansive hearing on the topic early next month.
    The Department of Justice has until the end of the month to appeal the ruling, but VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has advised against doing so.
    “Even though the court has ruled that the VA must provide these benefits, there is no guarantee it will happen,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “Congress must create a permanent legislative fix.”
    Lawmakers came close to passing a bill doing that last year, but the measure was blocked on the Senate floor in the final days of December. Gillibrand and Daines said Congress needs to act now to ensure that any VA response to the court ruling isn’t crafted too narrowly, again blocking aging veterans from receiving their deserved payouts.
    The “blue water” veterans problem centers on the idea of presumptive benefits claims. Because of the heavy use of chemical defoliants (like Agent Orange) during the Vietnam War, VA assumes any veteran who served on the ground there and later contracts an illness that could be related to toxic exposure should be presumed to have a service-connected health condition.
    That significantly reduces the paperwork and wait for disability benefits, worth up to several thousand dollars a month.
    Under current department rules, the “blue water” veterans — individuals who served in ships up to 12 miles off the coast who never made landfall — can receive medical care for their illnesses through VA.
    But to receive disability benefits, they must provide scientific proof that their ailments are directly connected to toxic exposure while on duty. Advocates have said that, given the time that has passed since the war, obtaining such proof is impossible and unfair.
    So while a veteran who served on the shoreline could receive disability payouts after contracting maladies like Parkinson’s Disease or prostate cancer, another vet who served on a ship a few miles away would have to provide evidence of direct contact with hazardous chemicals to receive any payouts. Supporters have said such successful claims are rare.
    Earlier this month, Wilkie said he was already working with lawmakers on possible future plans for awarding the benefits, and how to pay for them. John Wells, retired Navy commander and the executive director of group which filed the lawsuit, Military-Veterans Advocacy, has said he is in conversations with VA leaders about those issues as well.
    The House hearing is expected to touch on the costs — estimated by Congress at $1.1 billion over 10 years, although the court ruling changes how Congress must account for those expenses — and other eligibility questions. The full House chamber could vote on a compromise plan in May.
    Daines called quick action on the issue a “common sense” move to help veterans who served honorably. Gillibrand said she is hopeful the Senate can act quickly on the issue.

    Stars & Stripes: New legislation would recognize nine more diseases caused by Agent Orange
    By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES | Published: April 17, 2019
    WASHINGTON — A group of lawmakers introduced legislation that would add nine more diseases to a list of conditions presumed to be caused by the chemical herbicide Agent Orange, giving veterans who suffer from them a fast-track to Department of Veterans Affairs disability compensation and health care.
    The Keeping Our Promises Act, introduced last week, adds prostate cancer, bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, hypertension, stroke, early-onset peripheral neuropathy, AL amyoloidosis, ischemic heart disease and Parkinson-like syndromes to a list of diseases presumed to be caused by Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War.
    Researchers with the National Academy of Medicine released findings in November that there was “suggestive” evidence that eight of the diseases could be caused by Agent Orange. For hypertension, researchers found that “sufficient” evidence exists.
    “American heroes affected by Agent Orange deserve the peace of mind knowing that the federal government recognizes the existing link between their exposure and illness,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., one of eight lawmakers who banded together to introduce the legislation.
    VA experts have begun a “formal, deliberative review” of the National Academy of Medicine’s latest report, VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour said Tuesday. The review is expected to be complete in the summer, at which time the agency will make recommendations about presumptive conditions, he said.
    During a Senate hearing March 26, Richard Stone, the executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, guessed the review would be complete within 90 days.
    “We’re working our way through that right now,” Stone said of the national academy report.
    Recommendations would be sent to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, who would choose when – and whether – to act on them.
    The VA previously recommended that some of the conditions be added. After the last National Academy of Medicine report in 2016, the VA took 20 months before it sent recommendations to the White House that bladder cancer, hypertension, hyperthyroidism and Parkinson’s-like tremors be added to the list.
    The recommendation hasn’t made it past the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. Last year, VA officials told the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that the Office of Management and Budget is waiting for results of ongoing mortality and morbidity studies, which could provide more evidence of a connection between the diseases and Agent Orange.
    On Tuesday, Cashour said some of those results will be published as early as mid-2019.
    But some lawmakers don’t want to wait on the executive process.
    Fitzpatrick, along with Reps. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., Scott Tipton, R-Colo., Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., Brendan Boyle, D-Penn., and Mike Thompson, D-Calif., are trying to use a legislative route.
    Boyle estimated it would help tens of thousands of Vietnam War veterans.
    “This bipartisan legislation makes good on that promise by ensuring all servicemembers exposed to these herbicides and chemicals as a part of their military service get the health care they need,” Boyle said in a statement. “Not one more servicemember should be forced to suffer in this way without the best care our federal government has to offer.”
    The bill is likely to face an uphill battle in Congress, where veterans and advocates have fought for years to prove toxic exposures and secure VA benefits.
    Attempts failed in Congress last year to approve benefits for “blue water” Navy veterans – sailors who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam and argue they were exposed to Agent Orange. The veterans could be close to getting VA benefits, but the victory was won in court, not Congress.
    The VA opposed the legislative effort to approve benefits for blue water Navy veterans, citing high costs and insufficient scientific evidence. The agency has not yet issued an opinion on the Keeping Our Promises Act.

    Military.com: VA Looks to Create Artificial Organs, Even Bones, With 3D Printing
    17 Apr 2019 | Military.com | By Patricia Kime
    A veteran at a VA medical center had been diagnosed with a tumor in his one remaining kidney. Facing possible dialysis for the rest of his life, the former service member was anxious about surgery and wondered whether he should risk removal of the mass.
    Confused by the CT scans of his diseased organ, the veteran faced difficulty making a decision about the potentially life-altering procedure. But his VA surgeon had another option: the doctor loaded the medical imagery into a 3D printer, which used the information to build an exact replica of the patient’s kidney, tumor included. Using the model, the doctor could walk the veteran through the surgery, step-by-step. Then, once the veteran agreed to the surgery, the doctor followed the exact plan in the operating room.
    "[3D printing] is a total game-changer," said Dr. Beth Ripley, a radiologist at VA Medical Center Puget Sound and chair of the Veterans Health Administration’s 3D Printing Advisory Committee. "Often [technology] pushes us further away from our patients … this technology is allowing our VA staff to really come close to the patient."
    VA has launched an aggressive campaign to put 3D printers in many of its medical centers. The initiative aims to improve patient care by aiding surgical planning, crafting assistive medical devices and prosthetic limbs and eventually, creating bones and organs for transplant.
    The department has more than 100 printers at 23 medical centers, up from just three in 2017. And it has plans to expand to even more, making it a leader in the effort to adapt 3D printing for medical use nationwide, where fewer than 100 academic and private health facilities — mainly at research universities — use 3D printing, according to Ripley.
    "VA remains at the forefront of innovative work in 3D printing by expanding our expertise across VA," Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a release. "Through this growing virtual network, VA continues to help define how 3D printing technology will be used broadly in medicine for the benefit of patients."
    While models may be the most obvious use for 3D printers, which create three-dimensional solid objects by layering various materials slice-by-slice, bottom-up, VA scientists are also looking to bioprinting — using the technology to create replacement tissues and organs — to treat diseases.
    VA Ann Arbor Healthcare Systems in Michigan currently is working on creating an artificial lung that could be utilized while a patient waits for a lung transplant or needs help breathing during recovery from a respiratory illness.
    The 3D artificial lungs would replicate the structure and size of the blood vessels and would be constructed of substances that would be more compatible with the human body, reducing immune response.
    According to a VA release, the technology could eventually have long-term applications, such as providing replacement lungs. "This exciting project is the latest in a long string of incredible research and medical advancements developed by researchers over the years," Wilkie said.
    Other bioprinting initiatives at VA include creating vascularized bones. Ripley said that while the biologics printing is at least eight to 10 years away, VA plans to complete installation of the technology and train staff within the next two years; grow its ability to print prosthetics and other devices using advanced materials such as titanium in the next three to five years; and then, hopefully, be able to start implementing its development of human body parts within a decade.
    The technology can also help occupational therapists build devices to improve veterans’ mobility and create orthotics that can be made and fitted in a day.
    In one case, an occupational therapist at Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, designed a specialized device that enabled a veteran to balance a pool cue at a billiards table, despite having lost an arm in combat.
    "He was a world-class pool player … he could start to play pool again with just one hand. That is so cool," Ripley said.
    All this work is made possible, in part, through a partnership with GE Healthcare that provides software and work stations for the initiative while VA provides feedback on its medical needs and use of printers.
    "We have a very comprehensive program that we are building throughout VA to make sure we are using 3D-printing technologies to the fullest," Ripley said.
    The VA’s 3D Printing Center of Excellence falls under what VA calls its VHA Innovation Ecosystem, which encompasses programs that aim to identify best practices at VA medical centers and push them out across the VA’s health system.
    Ripley did not say how much the buildout of the printing network is costing VA, but she said printers, which come in seven different types, range from $3,000 for a basic printer that builds with simple plastics to $300,000 for one that can print with different colors and materials and up to $1 million for a titanium metal printer.
    She said VA does not have a titanium printer — yet.
    "Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland] has titanium printers … and we talk with them. But we have [one] is in our three- to five-year plan, so stay tuned," Ripley said.
    She said for radiologists and physicians using the technology, it’s an exciting time to be at VA.
    "This is happening through a specific program that encourages frontline staff to bring their best ideas forward … What you see with 3D printing is that the decision of what gets made is happening on the frontlines. These are people that are caring for patients every day, interacting with patients every day, seeing what they need. 3D printing allows them to become innovators at the bedside," she said.

    Associated Press: North Korea test-fires a new tactical guided weapon
    By: Foster Klug, The Associated Press and Kim Tong-Hyung, The Associated Press | 12 hours ago
    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said it test-fired a new type of “tactical guided weapon” in an announcement Thursday that was possibly an attempt to register displeasure with the deadlock in nuclear talks with the United States without causing those coveted negotiations to collapse.
    Leader Kim Jong Un observed the unspecified weapon being fired Wednesday by the Academy of Defense Science, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said. Kim was reported to have said "the development of the weapon system serves as an event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People’s Army."
    The Associated Press could not independently verify North Korea’s claim, and it wasn’t immediately clear what had been tested.
    It is likely not, however, a banned ballistic missile test, which would jeopardize the diplomatic talks meant to provide the North with concessions in return for disarmament. A South Korean analyst said the North’s media report indicates it could have been a new type of cruise missile. A possible clue is that one of the lower level officials mentioned in the North’s report on the test — Pak Jong Chon — is known as an artillery official.
    The test comes during an apparent deadlock in nuclear disarmament talks after the failed summit in Hanoi between Kim and President Donald Trump earlier this year. Some in Seoul worry the North will turn back to actions seen as provocative by outsiders as a way to force Washington to drop its hardline negotiating stance and grant the North’s demand for a removal of crushing international sanctions. A string of increasingly powerful weapons tests in 2017 and Trump’s response of “fire and fury” had many fearing war before the North shifted to diplomacy.
    But, as that diplomacy stalls, there have been fresh reports of new activity at a North Korean missile research center and long-range rocket site where Pyongyang is believed to build missiles targeting the U.S. mainland. North Korean media said Wednesday that Kim guided a flight drill of combat pilots from an air force and anti-aircraft unit tasked with defending the capital Pyongyang from an attack.
    During a speech at his rubber-stamp parliament Friday, Kim set the year’s end as a deadline for Washington to offer mutually acceptable terms for an agreement to salvage diplomacy.
    Kim Dong-yub, an analyst from Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said North Korea’s descriptions of the test show the weapon is possibly a newly developed cruise missile. The North’s report said the "tactical guided weapon" successfully tested in a "peculiar mode of guiding flight" and demonstrated the ability to deliver a "powerful warhead."
    The North said Thursday that Kim mounted an observation post to learn about the test-fire of the weapon and to guide the test-fire.
    This is the first known time Kim has observed the testing of a newly developed weapon system since last November, when North Korean media said he observed the successful test of an unspecified "newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon." Some observers have been expecting North Korea to orchestrate "low-level provocations," like artillery or short-range missile tests, to register its anger over the way nuclear negotiations were going.
    The analyst in Seoul, Kim Dong-yub, who is a former South Korean military official, said it wasn’t yet clear whether the North conducted an advanced test of the same weapon Kim Jong Un observed in November or tested something different.
    The White House said it was aware of the report and had no comment. The Pentagon also said it was aware but had no information to provide at this point.
    A U.S. official familiar with monitoring operations said that neither U.S. Strategic Command nor NORAD observed any weapons test. That rules out tests that go high into the atmosphere, such as a ballistic missile, but does not rule out tests at lower altitudes.
    After the animosity of 2017, last year saw a stunning turn to diplomacy, culminating in the first-ever summit between Washington and Pyongyang in Singapore, and then the Hanoi talks this year. North Korea has suspended nuclear and long-range rocket tests, and the North and South Korean leaders have met three times. But there are growing worries that the progress could be killed by mismatched demands between Washington and Pyongyang over sanctions relief and disarmament.
    Washington says it won’t allow the North’s desired sanctions relief until the nation commits to verifiably relinquishing his nuclear facilities, weapons and missiles. Kim has shown no signs that he’s willing to give away an arsenal he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.

    Associated Press: Military service academies begin to follow transgender ban
    By: The Associated Press | 13 hours ago
    ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The elite academies that educate officers for the nation’s armed forces have begun to implement the Trump administration’s ban on transgender service members.
    The U.S. Naval Academy will ban people who are transgender from attending the school, beginning with the 2020 school year. The Defense Department confirmed that change to the Capital Gazette newspaper on Monday. The school in Annapolis, Maryland, currently accepts transgender students and retains midshipmen who transition to another gender.
    The administration’s new policy took effect last week, stripping transgender troops of rights to serve openly and denying servicemen and women medical care if they choose to transition to another gender.
    The Obama administration had lifted restrictions on transgender service members in 2016, allowing them to serve openly and covered gender affirmation surgery.
    A current Naval Academy student, Midshipman Regan Kibby, is one of six service members suing the Trump administration over its ban.
    The U.S. Coast Guard has also implemented the new policy. It states on its website that the new policy took effect April 12.
    Coast Guard Academy spokesman David Santos confirmed in an email Wednesday that the policy change applies to the school in New London, Connecticut. A lengthy explanation on the Coast Guard’s website states that past medical treatment, such as gender-reassignment surgery or hormone therapy, may disqualify future applicants from joining up.
    The Trump administration’s new policy also bars future applicants who’ve been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition that can apply to people who identify as another gender and experience distress. Doctors say counseling, hormone therapy or surgery can lessen the anxiety.
    There are some exceptions for people who’ve been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. For instance, someone can join the Coast Guard if their doctor says they can demonstrate three years of "stability in his/her biological sex immediately before applying to serve." The Defense Department says transgender people can serve if they remain in their "biological sex."
    The administration’s policy calls for troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria to be medically evaluated before they are discharged to see if they qualify as having a disability. Otherwise gender dysphoria can be considered a "condition that interferes with military service" like sleepwalking, bed wetting, motion sickness and personality disorders.
    The American Medical Association has blasted the administration’s transgender policy for military service. It told The Associated Press last week that the new policy and its wording mischaracterize transgender people as having a “deficiency.”
    The Defense Department said its use of the words "deficiencies" is military lingo for when an individual fails to meet standards to maintain a lethal force. It is not a reference to gender dysphoria, a condition of extreme distress from not identifying with one’s biological gender, Lt. Col. Carla Gleason said.
    An estimated 14,700 troops identify as transgender. An organization that represents transgender service members said several are attending each academy, although many haven’t come out.
    "The policy turns off access to some of our best and brightest, and that’s not what our country needs to win future wars," said B Fram, communications director for Service Members, Partners and Allies for Respect and Tolerance for All, or SPARTA.
    The nation has five service academies. They include the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
    The Air Force Academy will conform with Defense Department policy when admitting future cadets, said Lt. Col. Tracy Bunko, an academy spokeswoman.
    That means transgender people can serve "in their biological sex" if they meet Defense Department standards for that sex, she said. People who have had cross-sex hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery or genital reconstruction surgery are disqualified.
    People with a history of gender dysphoria cannot be admitted unless they meet certain conditions, including having no dysphoria in the previous three years, Bunko said.
    The Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The Merchant Marine is part of the Maritime Administration, which is within the U.S. Department of Transportation.

    Air Force Times: For Doolittle Raider Dick Cole, a grand farewell planned on Thursday
    By: Stephen Losey | 12 hours ago
    Top Air Force commanders, elected officials, and civic leaders will be among the many expected to pay their last respects to Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, the final surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders, at his memorial service at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Texas on Thursday.
    The memorial service will begin at 3 p.m. local Texas time (4 p.m. Eastern time) today, at the base’s Hangar 41, on the 77th anniversary of the audacious bomber raid on mainland Japan during World War II. Eighty U.S. Army Air Forces airmen, including Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle and his co-pilot Cole, flew 16 modified B-25B Mitchell bombers from an aircraft carrier to strike Japan, rallying American morale a few months after Pearl Harbor.
    Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein will be among the dignitaries attending Cole’s service. Air Education and Training Command said that current and former commanders of major Air Force commands have also been invited.
    Hundreds of airmen will line the main entrance at Randolph to salute the Cole family as they enter the base. The service will also include a fly-by, a missing man formation, and the display of several static aircraft.
    The ceremony will be streamed online at AirForceTimes.com.

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The American Legion: Notre Dame is ‘Gift to Humanity’

(INDIANAPOLIS, April 17, 2019) — American Legion National Commander Brett P. Reistad expressed his condolences to the people of France in a statement issued today following the recent fire at Notre Dame cathedral.
“On behalf of the entire American Legion Family, I offer condolences to the people of France for the tragic fire that engulfed Notre Dame cathedral,” Reistad said. “The American Legion was founded in Paris. We still maintain an American Legion presence there. We will always have a strong connection to the nation that aided us during our revolution and has been a strong ally ever since. For eight centuries Notre Dame has been France’s gift to humanity. We are grateful for the brave firefighters who prevented this precious landmark from becoming a total loss. In June, I will visit France to participate in D-Day observances. I plan to personally convey my condolences to the many French officials and citizens that I will meet during my visit to that great country. Let there be no doubt that this nation that has seen so much destruction over two world wars will rebuild this magnificent structure.”
With a current membership of almost 2 million wartime veterans, The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through nearly 13,000 posts across the nation.

John B. Raughter
Deputy Director, Media Relations
Phone: (317) 630-1350 Fax: (317) 630-1368

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17 April, 2019 07:12

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Wednesday, April 17, 2019 which is Holy Wednesday, Ellis Island Family History Day, National Kickball Day and Blah, Blah, Blah Day.
This Day in History:

  • 1970: With the world anxiously watching, Apollo 13, a U.S. lunar spacecraft that suffered a severe malfunction on its journey to the moon, safely returns to Earth. On April 11, the third manned lunar landing mission was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying astronauts James A. Lovell, John L. Swigert, and Fred W. Haise. The mission was headed for a landing on the Fra Mauro highlands of the moon. However, two days into the mission, disaster struck 200,000 miles from Earth when oxygen tank No. 2 blew up in the spacecraft. Swigert reported to mission control on Earth, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here,” and it was discovered that the normal supply of oxygen, electricity, light, and water had been disrupted. The landing mission was aborted, and the astronauts and controllers on Earth scrambled to come up with emergency procedures. The crippled spacecraft continued to the moon, circled it, and began a long, cold journey back to Earth.
  • President John F. Kennedy waits for word on the success of a covert plan to overthrow Cuba’s government on this day in 1961. Kennedy had authorized Operation Zapata, the attempt to overthrow Cuba’s communist leader, Fidel Castro, on April 15. The failed coup became what many have called the worst foreign-policy decision of Kennedy’s administration.
  • 1975: Khmer Rouge troops capture Phnom Penh and government forces surrender. The war between government troops and the communist insurgents had been raging since March 1970, when Lt. Gen. Lon Nol had ousted Prince Norodom Sihanouk in a bloodless coup and proclaimed the establishment of the Khmer Republic.
  • On April 17, 1790, American statesman, printer, scientist, and writer Benjamin Franklin dies in Philadelphia at age 84. Born in Boston in 1706, Franklin became at 12 years old an apprentice to his half brother James, a printer and publisher. He learned the printing trade and in 1723 went to Philadelphia to work after a dispute with his brother. After a sojourn in London, he started a printing and publishing press with a friend in 1728. In 1729, the company won a contract to publish Pennsylvania’s paper currency and also began publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette, which was regarded as one of the better colonial newspapers. From 1732 to 1757, he wrote and published Poor Richard’s Almanack, an instructive and humorous periodical in which Franklin coined such practical American proverbs as “God helps those who help themselves” and “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”


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Defense One: New VA Whistleblower Protection Office Is Under Investigation for Retaliating Against Whistleblowers
By Eric Katz Senior Correspondent, Government Executive Read bio
April 16, 2019
"You don’t want to come forward," one whistleblower said. "People are afraid."
The Veterans Affairs Department’s watchdog is investigating a new office created by President Trump early in his administration that was designed to protect whistleblowers from reprisal but is now facing allegations of aiding retaliation against them.
VA’s Office of Inspector General is leading the investigation from its new Office of Special Reviews, which the IG created to conduct “prompt reviews of significant events” and examine allegations of senior VA employee misconduct, an IG spokesman said. The new IG office is looking into activities at the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection as part of an ongoing review of the implementation of the 2017 law that created OAWP.
Trump created OAWP by executive order in 2017 and later codified it when he signed the 2017 VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act into law. The office was mostly celebrated, with advocates hopeful that the focus on the rights and protections for whistleblowers would reverse a culture infamous for intimidation and reprisal. That optimism has largely soured, however, leading to hotline tips to the inspector general and bipartisan scrutiny from Congress.
“There has been considerable interest by some members of Congress and other stakeholders in this effort,” said Mike Nacincik, the IG spokesman, who said he could not comment further on ongoing work.
President Trump has frequently touted the law as one of his signature legislative achievements, focusing primarily on the reforms it made to expedite the disciplinary process for VA employees. But Trump also spoke of the promises on which skeptics now say the law has failed to deliver: “This bill protects whistleblowers who do the right thing,” Trump said. “We want to reward, cherish, and promote the many dedicated employees at the VA.”
Government Executive spoke to several VA employees who expressed frustration or anger toward OAWP, three of whom have already been interviewed by IG investigators. They described feeling betrayed or neglected by an office they believed was going to help them but ended up doing the opposite. They said they have shared information with the investigators, including documentation of alleged reprisal.
Curt Cashour, a VA spokesman, said the department “welcomes the inspector general’s oversight,” but defended it against most allegations. He acknowledged that the office experienced some growing pains, but said it has “evolved over time, refining and improving its policies and practices along the way.”
What Whistleblowers Are Telling Investigators
“It’s a crooked system where literally the fox is guarding the hen house,” said Jay DeNofrio.
DeNofrio, an administrative officer at a VA facility in Altoona, Pa., had prior experience as a whistleblower before OAWP was created—years ago, he disclosed information about a doctor he said was losing mental capacity and putting veterans at risk—so he thought he understood the investigative process that takes place after employees make disclosures to investigators. OAWP, however, was the first body he’d ever worked with that coordinated with VA headquarters to find blemishes on his own record after he reported wrongdoing, he said. Investigators questioned his coworkers, telling them DeNofrio does not “walk on water” just because he is a protected whistleblower and encouraged them to immediately report “any instances of poor behavior,” according to transcripts of those conversations obtained through records requests and provided to Government Executive.
DeNofrio said IG investigators took the allegations against OAWP seriously and called their review “high profile” and “high priority.”
Dan Martin, a chief engineer at VA’s Northern Indiana Health Care System, said OAWP failed to protect him when his case came before it. Martin said in 2016 he discovered contracting violations related to a non-functioning water filtration system, but when he reported the problems to superiors he was stripped of his responsibilities and sent to work in an office without heat or air conditioning. The VA inspector general launched an investigation into the contracting practices, and asked Martin to surreptitiously record conversations with procurement officers, Martin said.
It was not until OAWP got involved in the case that Martin’s supervisors became aware of that cooperation. When OAWP allegedly shared that information with leadership at his facility, Martin said his supervisors “had no choice but to shut me down” so he could no longer send recordings about the supervisors’ “very inappropriate relationships with contractors” to investigators in the OIG.
“OAWP set me up,” said Martin, who initially felt far more optimistic about OAWP’s capacity to help his cause. “They incentivized [my facility] to go after me.”
Martin is also fighting his case through the Merit Systems Protection Board. During that process, VA’s Office of General Counsel came to Martin and his attorneys asking for certain information about the case. The attorneys representing Martin told the lawyers in the Office of General Counsel they would only hand the information over during discovery. Shortly after rejecting the request, Martin said, OAWP followed up to ask for the same information.
“Some of them are so crooked they swallow nails and spit up corkscrews,” Martin said.
‘They Turned on Whistleblowers’
The alleged collaboration between the Office of General Counsel and OAWP has troubled observers. Tom Devine, legal director at the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower advocacy group, said his initial excitement about OAWP has been dampened by “structural developments,” including what he called veto power the department’s general counsel has over the whistleblower protection office.
This would appear to be in violation of the 2017 law that permanently authorized OAWP, which prohibits the office from existing “as an element of the Office of General Counsel” and its leadership from reporting to OGC. Cashour said it was false to suggest that the Office of General Counsel exercises veto power over whistleblower claims, but acknowledged OAWP and OGC do coordinate.
“OAWP has a collaborative working relationship with OGC, but OAWP retains final decision making authority on all OAWP matters,” Cashour said.
Rebecca Jones, policy counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, said the office can likely not completely fix its issues while it remains an “internal clearinghouse” for whistleblowers rather than a truly independent office. Jones praised the IG for investigating the alleged retaliation.
“I wish it hadn’t come to this,” she said.
Devine praised some of OAWP’s early accomplishments, such as delaying VA’s disciplinary decisions that involved alleged reprisal and the hiring of high-profile whistleblower Brandon Coleman as a liaison between whistleblowers and the office. Coleman even established a mentoring program to help assist victims of retaliation, but it has since been shut down.
“They didn’t have the teeth to enforce their good deeds,” said Devine, who has significantly curbed his cooperation with OAWP. “They turned on whistleblowers.”
‘You Don’t Want to Come Forward’
A third VA employee, who requested anonymity to protect his ongoing cases, recently informed IG investigators about what he alleged is OAWP’s betrayal of trust and subsequent inactivity. The employee made an initial whistleblower disclosure in early 2017 that was bounced around to several offices within VA. He subsequently was removed from his position as a technician and is now relegated to “brain-dead work,” he said.
He contacted OAWP about the alleged reprisal later that year. During his interactions with the whistleblower office, he turned over sensitive information about his hospital that a colleague had provided—the OAWP investigator was the only individual with whom he shared the information. Days later, the employee said, the colleague was “chewed out” by leaders at the facility for sharing the information. To the employee, it felt like OAWP had betrayed him, he told Government Executive.
The employee said he then experienced 21 months of “radio silence.” He recently spoke with OIG about his negative experiences with OAWP. A few days later, the employee said he unexpectedly heard from the OAWP investigators. He said he is now “very, very cautious” in his interactions with OAWP.
“It scares you,” he said. “You don’t want to come forward. People are afraid.”
Tonya Van, formerly a doctor a VA facility in San Antonio, also became a whistleblower after disclosing to a supervisor that a doctor at her facility was giving incorrect diagnoses. She filed a complaint with OAWP after she alleged her supervisor made her work life so miserable she was forced to resign. But she quickly became disenchanted with the office due to lack of communication, she said. She tried to follow up with OAWP but never heard back. The office eventually closed out her case, though it later contacted her about opening a second investigation. She said she has “no idea” what the results of either investigation were.
Van alleged that her supervisors’ reprisal against her took the form of accusations of using foul language in the workplace. Martin, the Northern Indiana employee, said he faced an investigation for similar accusations.
Changes and Cautious Optimism
Cashour, the VA spokesman, said OAWP does not provide “detailed information related to the specific outcome of an investigation to employees” due to privacy concerns. He added that the office has revised its policies to disclose more information to claimants, including when an investigation has been closed and if claims of retaliation were substantiated.
Multiple VA employees criticized this practice, calling it counterintuitive that VA would claim privacy concerns over investigations that the employees themselves requested.
Cashour said OAWP has changed other practices after a draft of a June 2018 Government Accountability Office report faulted the office for its investigatory practices, including allowing officials accused of retaliation to be directly involved in the inquiries in which they are named. VA told GAO it would not end its practice of “referring cases of misconduct back to facilities and program offices where the misconduct occurred.” However, Cashour said OAWP now informs employees upfront when their matters will be referred elsewhere for review. To protect whistleblowers, he said, OAWP now allows employees “to either opt-out of the disclosure or withhold the release of their name.”
In August 2018, however, when Van had an in-person interview with OAWP investigators, she and her attorney were still alleging retaliation by OAWP. While asking about Van’s allegations, an OAWP investigator told Van she could be penalized for violating a prior settlement with VA by asking a former colleague to write a recommendation. Her attorney said Deirdre Weiss, the OAWP employee, was ignoring the intent of that prior agreement.
“The bottom line is that, as accountability investigators, where we see possible wrongdoing we cannot look the other way just because somebody is a complainant, okay,” said Weiss, according to a transcript of the proceedings.
Last year, before his office formally launched an official investigation into the practices of OAWP, VA Inspector General Michael Missal became part of a public spat with then acting Secretary Peter O’Rourke over documents housed within the office. The IG requested access to information on the cases filed with OAWP, but O’Rourke refused to comply. They aired their grievances through a series of public letters, which included O’Rourke harshly reminding Missal that the IG served as the secretary’s subordinate. Congress ultimately intervened by emphasizing in a spending bill that the IG had the right to any and all documents it requested.
O’Rourke had previously served as the first head of OAWP, a period in which many of the complaints against the office originated. Current VA Secretary Robert Wilkie reportedly asked O’Rourke to resign last year after determining he was doing little work as a senior advisor.
OAWP is still a small office, employing just 96 workers—28 of whom are investigators—for a workforce of 380,000. Its employees receive standardized training in investigative techniques, both internally and from outside experts such as those at the Homeland Security Department and the Office of Special Counsel.
The office is now headed by Tammy Bonzanto, who previously served as an investigator on the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Her tenure has received mixed reviews. DeNofrio, for example, is still concerned by what he calls her lack of transparency. Other observers are cautiously optimistic that her leadership could get the office back to its original mission.
“We’re confident they have good-faith leadership now,” said GAP’s Devine. “The question is how much professional freedom she’ll have.”
Marine Corps Times: Marine vet running Boston Marathon to honor fallen comrades completes race crawling across finish line

By: Shawn Snow   18 hours ago
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A viral video from Monday’s Boston Marathon shows Marine veteran Micah Herndon crawling across the finish line to complete his race after suffering from severe leg cramps.
The 31-year-old Marine vet told the Record-Courierthat he entered the Boston Marathon in honor of three comrades who lost their lives in an IED explosion in Afghanistan in 2010.
It was an IED explosion he survived.
“Survivor’s guilt, it’s real,” Herndon told The Washington Post. “I definitely have it because I was the lead machine-gunner on that convoy and I didn’t see that bomb that was buried. I live with that every day.”
A veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Herndon deployed in 2010 to Marjah, Afghanistan, with the “Lava Dogs,” a nickname for 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, headquartered out of Hawaii, the Record-Courier reported.
During that deployment, Herndon’s unit struck three IEDs, the first one claimed the lives of two friends Mark Juarez and Matthew Ballard, and a British journalist Rupert Hamer, according to the Record-Courier.
The third strike tore through Herndon’s Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, launching him from the the gunner’s turret and knocking him unconscious, the Record-Courier reported.
Herndon said he now finds solace in running.
“I went from being in a war zone one day to trying to live a normal life the next day. We were going on three or more missions a day, constantly on guard and when I got back home, I was still in that mode. I never will be able to get over it, I don’t think, but I am coping. I am trying to get rid of the demons," Herndon told the Record-Courier.
During the race, Herndon wore the names of the three who lost their lives in the Afghanistan IED blast on the his shoes, according to a Facebook photo.
According to race statistics, Herndon completed the Boston Marathon in three hours and 38 minutes and finished 11,334 overall.
“There’s a reason why I’m here,” he told the Post. “I’m just trying to find out what that reason is for.”

Military.com: Trump Vetoes Measure to End US Involvement in Yemen War

17 Apr 2019
The Associated Press | By Deb Riechmann
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump vetoed a resolution passed by Congress to end U.S. military assistance in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.
The veto — the second in Trump’s presidency — was expected, and Congress lacks the votes to override it. But passing the never-before-used war powers resolution was viewed as a milestone for lawmakers, who have shown a renewed willingness to assert their war-making authority after letting it atrophy for decades under presidents from both parties.
"This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future," Trump wrote in explaining his Tuesday veto.
Congress has grown uneasy with Trump’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia as he tries to further isolate Iran, a regional rival.
Many lawmakers also criticized the president for not condemning Saudi Arabia for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi who lived in the United States and had written critically about the kingdom. Khashoggi went into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October and never came out. Intelligence agencies said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the killing.
The U.S. provides billions of dollars of arms to the Saudi-led coalition fighting against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen. Members of Congress have expressed concern about the thousands of civilians killed in coalition airstrikes since the conflict began in 2014. The fighting in the Arab world’s poorest country also has left millions suffering from food and medical care shortages and has pushed the country to the brink of famine.
Trump said the measure was unnecessary because, except for counterterrorism operations against Islamic State militants and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the United States is not engaged in hostilities in or affecting Yemen.
He said there are no U.S. military personnel in Yemen accompanying the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthis, although he acknowledged that the U.S. has provided limited support to the coalition, including intelligence sharing, logistics support and — until recently — in-flight refueling of non-U.S. aircraft.
The president also said that the measure would harm bilateral relations and interferes with his constitutional power as commander in chief.
He said the U.S. is providing the support to protect the safety of more than 80,000 Americans who live in certain areas of the coalition countries subject to Houthi attacks from Yemen.
"Houthis, supported by Iran, have used missiles, armed drones and explosive boats to attack civilian and military targets in those coalition countries, including areas frequented by American citizens, such as the airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia," Trump said. "In addition, the conflict in Yemen represents a ‘cheap’ and inexpensive way for Iran to cause trouble for the United States and for our ally, Saudi Arabia."
House approval of the resolution came earlier this month on a 247-175 vote. The Senate vote last month was 54-46.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement Tuesday night saying: "The conflict in Yemen is a horrific humanitarian crisis that challenges the conscience of the entire world. Yet the president has cynically chosen to contravene a bipartisan, bicameral vote of the Congress and perpetuate America’s shameful involvement in this heartbreaking crisis."
Pelosi added: "This conflict must end, now. The House of Representatives calls on the president to put peace before politics, and work with us to advance an enduring solution to end this crisis and save lives."
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Trump’s veto "shows the world he is determined to keep aiding a Saudi-backed war that has killed thousands of civilians and pushed millions more to the brink of starvation."
Kaine accused Trump of turning a blind eye to Khashoggi’s killing and the jailing of women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia.
"I hope my colleagues will show we won’t tolerate the Trump administration’s deference to Saudi Arabia at the expense of American security interests by voting to override this veto," Kaine said.
The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, acknowledged the dire situation in Yemen for civilians, but spoke out in opposition to the measure when it was passed. McCaul said it was an abuse of the War Powers Resolution and predicted it could disrupt U.S. security cooperation agreements with more than 100 countries.
David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian aid group, said, "This veto by President Trump is morally wrong and strategically wrongheaded. It sets back the hopes for respite for the Yemeni people, and leaves the U.S. upholding a failed strategy."
Trump issued his first veto last month on legislation related to immigration. Trump had declared a national emergency so he could use more money to construct a border wall. Congress voted to block the emergency declaration, and the president vetoed that measure.
Bloomberg: Poland and U.S. Closing In on Deal to Build ‘Fort Trump,’ Sources Say
Jennifer Jacobs
Justin Sink
Nick Wadhams Marek Strzelecki
‎April‎ ‎16‎, ‎2019‎ ‎12‎:‎14‎ ‎PM
Poland is nearing a deal with the U.S. to establish an American military base in the former Communist bloc country, according to people familiar with the matter — an outpost the Poles see as a deterrent to Russian aggression and that the Kremlin would likely consider a provocation.
If a deal is reached, President Donald Trump is considering traveling to Poland in the fall, in part to commemorate the agreement. But it’s unclear whether he fully supports the idea, even after he said during a September meeting with Polish President Andrzsej Duda that the U.S. was looking “very seriously” at establishing a base. Duda, who joked that it could be named “Fort Trump,” remains committed to contribute $2 billion for its construction.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki planned to visit Washington this week to discuss the proposal with Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, but his trip was postponed, according to two people familiar with the matter. He’s traveling to Chicago and New York instead.
Trump has often criticized NATO allies for not spending enough toward their own defense, and he’s considered demanding that countries hosting U.S. forces pay the full cost of the bases, plus as much as a 50 percent premium for the privilege, according to people familiar with the matter. But the American president has an affinity for Poland, a NATO member whose government has repeatedly clashed with European Union leaders in Brussels over rule-of-law issues. Duda has employed Trump-style anti-migrant and nationalist rhetoric.
Trump stopped in Warsaw in July 2017 to deliver a speech before attending a Group of 20 summit in Hamburg.
U.S. Rotation
The U.S. now rotates about 4,000 troops in and out of Poland. Rather than immediately begin constructing a base, that arrangement could be bolstered, according to a person familiar with the White House’s thinking. Polish and U.S. officials now don’t want an eventual base to be named “Fort Trump,” according to a person familiar with the discussions.
All of the people asked not to be identified because the issue concerns national security.
The plan is now being considered in what’s known as an inter-agency process led by the Defense Department with input from Bolton, the national security adviser, the people said.
“The United States and Poland are engaged in ongoing discussions on the status of forces, and we have nothing to announce at this time,” Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said in an email.
A spokesman for Duda said that talks are progressing but declined to comment further. One person familiar with the matter described the outstanding issues as largely technical matters, such as how many more U.S. troops would be sent to Poland, where precisely they’d be located and what equipment they’d bring with them.
Earlier: NATO’s Muted 70th Birthday Overshadowed by Skeptic-in-Chief
Polish leaders have been eager to increase the U.S. presence in their country and have asked American officials for the permanent stationing of a a full Army brigade. Like many eastern European states, the Poles grew more wary of Russian territorial aspirations after the Kremlin annexed Crimea from neighboring Ukraine in 2014.
Crimea Experience
After the Crimea episode, the U.S. and allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization established a constant, but fluctuating, rotation of troops in Poland. The Poles have argued for a permanent, costlier plan, including a headquarters.
Polish officials raised the subject when Vice President Mike Pence visited the country in February, according to a person familiar with the talks.
The idea of permanently stationing U.S. troops in Poland could prompt opposition from European allies chagrined by the country’s turn toward autocracy, including a revamping of the judiciary that critics say would subordinate courts to politicians.
And some U.S. critics have said the permanent stationing of American forces in Poland would be a disincentive for additional defense spending by NATO members. Poland says it already meets the NATO goal of spending 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense.
Military Times: Iran labels all US forces in Middle East ‘terrorists’
By: The Associated Press   22 hours ago
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s lawmakers on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill labeling U.S. forces in the Middle East as terrorist, a day after the U.S. terrorism designation for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard formally took effect, state TV reported.
Defense Minister Gen. Amir Hatami introduced the bill authorizing the government to act firmly in response to “terrorist actions” by U.S. forces. It demands authorities use “legal, political and diplomatic” measures to neutralize the American move, without elaborating.
The U.S. move aims at "thwarting Iran’s influence," and shows that America’s longstanding sanctions against Iran have become ineffective, Hatami told lawmakers.
During the debate, some hard-liner lawmakers had demanded listing the entire U.S. Army and security forces as terrorist.
The TV report said 204 lawmakers approved the bill, out of 207 present at the session in the 290-seat chamber.
Two lawmakers voted against the bill and one abstained.
However, it remains unclear how the bill’s passage in parliament would affect the Guard’s activities in the Persian Gulf, where the U.S. Navy has in the past accused Iranian patrol boats of harassing American warships.
The Revolutionary Guard has forces and wields influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and is in charge of Iranian missiles that have U.S. bases in their range.
The Guard’s designation — the first-ever for an entire division of another government — adds another layer of sanctions to the powerful paramilitary force and makes it a crime under U.S. jurisdiction to provide it with material support.
Depending on how broadly "material support" is interpreted, the designation may complicate U.S. diplomatic and military cooperation with certain third-country officials, notably in Iraq and Lebanon, who deal with the Guard.
President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the designation with great fanfare last week.

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Upcoming The Arizona American Legion College April 26-28, 2019

There is still time to apply to attend The Arizona American Legion College to be held at Post #1 in Phoenix, Arizona, beginning at 10AM on Friday, April 26, 2019, and concluding on Sunday, April 28, 2019 typically by Noon.

Authorized attendees should plan to arrive to Post #1 on Friday Morning by 9:30AM to complete any further registration tasks if any, and depart end of the training after 12:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 28th. Any housing for you, required by distance or personal preference is nearby and is the responsibility of you/your Post as mutually agreed before you attend.

Here is the link to the application form. Be sure to get it endorsed in the proper area by someone who knows you.



16 April, 2019 08:30

From our friend, Minneapolis Legionnaire and Department Adjutant, Randy Tesdahl;

First and foremost Thank you VA…You are making a difference.

However, I ask …..that the VA share also in this effort to celebrate the GI Bill…..The real origin and the story behind the GI Bill being drafted.…..And how the final vote went down.

If you ask the majority of those that use the GI Bill since 911 how it came about, they will tell you that It is the Army GI Bill or the National Guard GI Bill or the Airforce Collage Fund….Or that the VA created it to help veterans, which in your VA Video you add to that thought process of those using the GI Bill, by saying We; as though the VA created the GI Bill and made improvements on it over the years….

Then everyone asks……..Why are no veterans joining the VSOs??????

Because no one tells our Troops or our Veterans that it is the VSOs that pushed for the creation of the their benefits, care, and to assure a strong National Security. This is not a Criticism of The VA or DOD Just a request to share and to promote an awareness of the origin of the things that this generation of veterans has.

It was The American Legion that wrote the Original GI Bill

It was The American Legion that Lobbied for the Passage of the GI Bill

It was The American Legion that sent someone to speak with a Senator at his home, that was Ill and was a critical vote on the GI Bill

It was The American Legion that flew that Senator to DC to Make the Vote.

It was The American Legion that lobbied for increases in the GI Bill when it had dwindled to the state of the Vietnam Era, then the VEEP, and Montgomery GI Bill.

It IS The American Legion’s original drafter that the newest version is named after, a GI Bill that now expands to family members and makes it a lifetime benefit for some.

I and many feel strongly, that without VSOs there would not be a VA nor will it remain strong and vibrant without the VSOs as a support system.

It was The American Legion that lead the efforts to create the original VB that went onto become the VA.

It is the VSOs that pushed for the creation of Severely Disabled Insurance …Many Vietnam Amputees could have used those funds.

It is the VSOs that constantly push for improvements in the VA….We are your strongest supporters and can be your harshest critics…. but in the end it is all for the betterment of services to our veterans.

It was the VSOs that pushed for continued annual funding of the VA so it doesn’t end up unfunded in years with budget disputes by politicians.

It is the VSOs that Push for increased funding of the VA….More facilities, more Drs., Nurses, Better equipment………Better record keeping……More Salary budget to pay expensive Medical Specialists to work in the VA in remote areas of the country.

It’s the VSOs that come to the table to provide our lawmakers information from the ground level on how to best provide healthcare to veterans all across the nation in rural areas.

It is the VSOs that pushed for treatment to those exposed to the Herbicide Agent Orange….and The Gulf War syndrome, Burn Pits and atomic exposure, polluted drinking waters at military installations.

It is the VSOs that push to assure that PTSD and TBIs are continually researched and studied so as to provide the very best care to our veterans.

It is the VSOs that pushed to increase the VET Centers for Mental Healthcare to veterans in our local communities.

It is the VSOs that push to assure that those with impending bad discharges receive the most comprehensive medical reviews before sending them out that their issues that caused the impending bad discharge are not related to their military service. And If they are related to their service that they receive the appropriate care and the Appropriate discharge or retirement review.

It is the VSOs that push for the improvements in the VA as in the VA Accountability Act…

It is the VSOs that save the VA and Federal Govt. millions of dollars every year thru donations and volunteers hours in VA facilities all across the Nation.

It is the VSOs that push for expansion of benefits offered thru the VA in relation to Service Connected injuries and ailments and the funding to support them.

It is the VSOs that fight for the VA to streamline its claims process and to be sure they get the funds to hire the needed Manpower to do so.

It is the VSOs the fought for better reintegration of those returning from war….Improvements in TAP and the creation of Beyond The Yellow Ribbon programs as well as Family Assistance Centers, and Outreach programs. All are ways to help find those veterans and troops in need of VA services.

It is the VSOs that push for Veterans Employment and Training programs…..

It is the VSOs that push for Licensure and certification credit from your military service be applied to civilian credentialing.

It is the VSOs that assure that there are networks of Veteran Service OFFICERS to help veterans free of change with their claims and benefits.

It is the VSOs that provide transportation for veterans to and from their appointments at VA facilities….

It is the VSOs that make sure that collages don’t abuse Their GI Bill funding by requiring veterans to take unneeded classes that could be accredited by military training or experience, by pushing for legislation to protect the GI Bill.

Would the VA have the means to continue on, if all of the volunteer drivers, wheel chair pushers, runner, helpers, and financial donations all of a sudden were to stop today?

Today’s troops nor most veterans know the real origin of their benefits and the driving force behind getting and maintaining a strong national defense…..…and the VA, and DOD seem to be comfortable in not telling anyone…..

Do we just wait until the VSOs have no members…No one to volunteer at the VA…No one to assure veterans benefits are protected and expanded to keep up with technology and the cost of living…No VSOs to lobby congress to fully fund VA to fully staff the needed claims professionals to do the VAs work. …..

Back to the GI Bill……………..VA please tell the entire story…….The services the VA provides and oversees, in MOST cases are NOT created BY THE VA.

Want to help more people join the VSOs? (Which in turn will help the VA)………Tell them where their Veterans VA benefits really come from……AND LETS START TELLING THE TROOPS………….Who lobbies congress to take care of DOD for good pay, equipment , manning levels, weapons, better body armor, keeping Bases Open and improving training facilities?…….. THE VSOs

It seems to me that both VA and DOD would benefit greatly if they helped tell those in receipt of the benefits and improvements where they come from. ..

VA and DOD……Please tell “The Rest Of The Story”.

From: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs [mailto:veteransaffairs]
Sent: Monday, April 15, 2019 10:33 AM
To: rtesdahl
Subject: VA invites Veterans to tell their GI Bill stories in celebration of bills 75th anniversary

Media Advisory

VA invites Veterans to tell their GI Bill stories in celebration of bill’s 75th anniversary

WHAT: June 2019 marks the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) 75th Anniversary of the GI Bill,which established education benefits, affordable home loans and expanded access to medical care for Veterans. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the GI Bill, was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 22, 1944.

Since 1944, VA has:

  • Paid about $400 billion in education benefits to 25 million beneficiaries.
  • Guaranteed more than 24 million home loans.

WHO: To celebrate this milestone, Veterans from all generations — World War II to the Post-9/11 era and other GI Bill beneficiaries — are invited to share a video telling their personal stories. The submission instructions are simple for uploading.

WHEN AND WHERE: Veterans may submit videos up to June 22. Some may appear on VA’s websiteand could be featured on VA’s social media channels.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Please inform Veterans in your community about the “My GI Bill Story” video project. You may also consider developing stories of how the GI Bill impacted communities through education benefits to Veterans or contributed to increased homeownership.