9 September, 2019 08:30

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Monday, September 9, 2019 which is National Teddy Bear Day, I’m On Top Of It Day, Care Bears Share Your Care Day and National Boss/Employee Share Day. (I shared an egg McMuffin with my boss.)
This Day in History:

  • On September 9, 1776, the Continental Congress formally declares the name of the new nation to be the “United States” of America. This replaced the term “United Colonies,” which had been in general use.
  • 1971: Prisoners riot and seize control of the maximum-security Attica Correctional Facility near Buffalo, New York. Later that day, state police retook most of the prison, but 1,281 convicts occupied an exercise field called D Yard, where they held 39 prison guards and employees hostage for four days. After negotiations stalled, state police and prison officers launched a disastrous raid on September 13, in which 10 hostages and 29 inmates were killed in an indiscriminate hail of gunfire. Eighty-nine others were seriously injured.
  • On this day in 1942, a Japanese floatplane drops incendiary bombs on an Oregon state forest—the first and only air attack on the U.S. mainland in the war.
  • 1967: Sergeant Duane D. Hackney is presented with the Air Force Cross for bravery in rescuing an Air Force pilot in Vietnam. He was the first living Air Force enlisted man to receive the award, the nation’s second highest award for bravery in action.


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AP: Trump calls off secret Camp David meeting with Taliban, Afghan leaders
By: Jonathan Lemire and Deb Riechmann, The Associated Press   22 hours ago
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Saturday he canceled a secret weekend meeting at Camp David with Taliban and Afghanistan leaders after a bombing in the past week in Kabul that killed 12 people, including an American soldier, and has called off peace negotiations with the insurgent group.
Trump’s tweet was surprising because it would mean that the president was ready to host members of the Taliban at the presidential retreat in Maryland just days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. More than 2,400 U.S. troops have been killed since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to go after the Taliban, which were harboring al-Qaida leaders responsible for 9/11.
Canceling the talks also goes against Trump’s pledge to withdraw the remaining 13,000 to 14,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan and close U.S. involvement in the conflict that is closing in on 18 years.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the Trump administration’s diplomat talking to the Taliban leaders for months, has said recently that he was on the “threshold” of an agreement with the Taliban aimed at ending America’s longest war. The president, however, has been under pressure from the Afghan government and some lawmakers, including Trump supporter Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who mistrust the Taliban and think it’s too early to withdraw American forces.
“Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday,” Trump tweeted Saturday evening.
“They were coming to the United States tonight. Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations,” he wrote.
On Thursday, a Taliban car bomb exploded and killed an American soldier, a Romanian service member and 10 civilians in a busy diplomatic area near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The bombing was one of many attacks by the Taliban in recent days during U.S.-Taliban talks.
The Defense Department says Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Morovis, Puerto Rico, was killed in action when the explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was the fourth U.S. service member killed in the past two weeks in Afghanistan.
“What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn’t, they only made it worse!” Trump tweeted. “If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway. How many more decades are they willing to fight?”
It remains unclear if the U.S.-Taliban talks are over or only paused. Trump said he called off the peace negotiations after the bombing, but Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy negotiating with the Taliban, was meeting with leaders of the insurgent group in Doha, Qatar, on both Thursday and Friday.
The State Department and the White House declined to respond to requests for clarification. There was no immediate response from the Afghan government as Kabul woke up hours after Trump’s announcement.
Many in the Afghan government, which has been sidelined from the U.S.-Taliban talks, and among the Afghan people have been skeptical of the negotiations, fearing there was little if nothing in the deal to stop the Taliban from continuing its attacks against civilians. The two shattering Taliban car bombings in Kabul in the past week, which the insurgent group said targeted foreigners but killed far more civilians, renewed those fears.
Longtime Afghanistan watchers, including former U.S. officials, apparently didn’t see this twist coming. After word emerged that a Washington visit by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had been postponed, some assumed Ghani had been trying to make a last-minute effort to meet Trump to express concerns about the nearing deal.
“Whatever was the reason for inviting Taliban leaders to Camp David and whatever the real reason for pulling the plug, the peace process has been disrupted at least for the moment,” said Laurel Miller, Asia director for International Crisis Group.
“After all the violence during many months of negotiations, it’s difficult to see why last Thursday’s attack would be the sole reason for changing course. This could be a blow to the credibility of the U.S. commitment to the peace process. Hopefully it can be brought back on track because there’s no better alternative,” Miller said.

Military.com: Pentagon Suspends Mental Health Counseling Referral Services for DoD Civilians

8 Sep 2019
Military.com | By Richard Sisk
The Defense Department on Sept. 1 abruptly suspended its Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which offers referrals for hundreds of thousands in the civilian workforce for health care, mental health counseling, legal matters and other support services. And while officials say there’s an agreement in place to resume the service, it’s not clear when it will start up again.
The suspension of the program went mostly under the radar, with no public announcement from the DoD, although at least one DoD agency advised its staff that they should call 911 in an emergency while the suspension is in effect.
In a posted statement on its website, the Defense Logistics Agency said EAP services provided by Federal Occupational Health (FOH), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "were unexpectedly suspended as of 9/1/2019 while DoD is implementing new contracting mechanisms."
"DoD is working to rectify the situation and allow EAP services to resume as soon as possible. If this is a medical emergency, please call 911 or your health care service provider," the DLA statement said.
Related: Mental Health Disorders in Troops Far Below National Average
DLA officials said the alert was meant for internal staff, and questions on the suspension, the contracts and Federal Occupational Health should be directed to the DoD.
There was no immediate response from the DoD, but Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb confirmed late Friday in an emailed statement that the EAP had been suspended, and the suspension affects DoD civilians at the Pentagon, the military branches, defense agencies and DoD field activities.
The Defense Department is the government’s largest employer, with more than 700,000 civilians in the workforce worldwide.
Babb’s statement said EAP referral services, provided through an arrangement with the Department of Health and Human Services and Federal Occupational Health, would be resumed shortly, but could not say when.
The statement also suggests that a restoration of services under the current arrangement would be temporary while the DoD looks for a "long-term solution" to providing employee assistance.
"DoD’s Employee Assistance Program was previously administered through interagency agreements [with HHS]," Babb said. "Those services were temporarily suspended September 1.
"The health, safety and welfare of our civilian employees is a priority, and DoD is committed to continuing the services previously provided by the Employee Assistance Program," she added. "To minimize the disruption in service, HHS has agreed to temporarily resume Employee Assistance Program services to DoD. DoD is developing long-term solutions to provide this important support to DoD civilian employees."
A spokesman for the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 250,000 civilians at the DoD, said Thursday the union had received word from the Defense Department that the Employee Assistance Program would be resumed, but "it may take a couple of days for the services to get turned back on."
Federal Occupational Health has a unique status within the government bureaucracy and bills itself as the largest provider of occupational health services in the federal government, serving more than 360 federal agencies and reaching 1.8 million federal employees.
FOH is a "non-appropriated agency" within the Program Support Center of HHS, and as such it "operates like a business within the government and charges government agencies for the services it provides them," according to the FOH website.
FOH, through the Employee Assistance Program, offers initial assessments, short-term counseling, referrals and follow-up support services for health care, family and relationship issues, workplace problems, alcohol and drug dependence, depression and other issues that can affect job performance, according to the site.

Military.com: Two Years After Nude Photo Scandal, Marines Assess Gender Issues in the Corps

7 Sep 2019
Military.com | By Gina Harkins
New Marine Corps survey data could give leaders a glimpse into whether women and others feel protected from discrimination two years after a nude-photo scandal exposed the way some men were mistreating their female colleagues.
Marines across the ranks said their service is no better or worse than those in the civilian job sector at dealing with issues such as gender relations, freedom from harassment, discrimination and fair performance evaluation. That’s according to results from the Fiscal 2018 Exit and Milestone Longitudinal Survey (EMLS), which Marines are asked to take at different stages in their careers.
"[This was] fairly interesting given our past few years with regard to gender relations," said Maj. Kerry Hogan, the Marine Corps’ first-ever survey officer, who created the EMLS. "So this is something that we would definitely want to look at for next year and the year after to see if there’s a shift in that perception."
In 2017, top Marine Corps leaders were forced to address a troubling report about a group called Marines United that shared photos of female troops online without their permission. The scandal highlighted a disturbing trend of female Marines being disrespected by men in the ranks.
The Marine Corps also continues to grapple with having the military’s worst record of sexual assaults against women, with an incidence rate of nearly 11%.
Hogan stressed that the survey doesn’t offer a full glimpse into the command climate across the Marine Corps, but rather a snapshot of how Marines feel about certain issues at a given point in time and in their careers.
But it could indicate that Marines don’t feel leaders are doing any better than anyone else when it comes to combating the problems, despite years of reforms. Following the scandal, the Corps created a task force to identify gender-related problems leading to a breakdown in unit cohesion or good order.
Hogan said Marine officials will now keep an eye on these categories as more survey data trickles in over the coming years to see whether there’s a trend specific within certain ranks or groups of Marines.
"Is there a distinct difference in responses for males versus females would … probably [be] the first question," Hogan said. "And if not, then how about when looking at freedom from harassment or freedom from discrimination … by [groups] of ranks."
One year’s worth of data from the Exit and Milestone Longitudinal Survey isn’t going to affect policy change. Hogan said it’ll take at least three years of survey data to establish a trend.
Since fiscal 2018 was the first time Marines completed the new survey, she said the data was "very preliminary."

Stripes: Alleged American ISIS sniper indicted on terrorism charges
By J.P. LAWRENCE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 9, 2019
An American citizen who allegedly became a sniper and weapons trainer for the Islamic State in Syria has been indicted in federal court, the Justice Department said.

Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, 43, faces a possible life sentence after accusations of providing material support to ISIS and training terrorists in weaponry, said the statement released last week.

Asainov, a naturalized American citizen born in Kazakhstan, allegedly left his home in Brooklyn on a one-way flight to Istanbul, Turkey, around Christmas of 2013, according to the Justice Department.

Then, prosecutors claim Asainov entered Syria and joined ISIS as a sniper, eventually becoming an “emir” known as “Suleiman Al-Amriki” and “Suleiman Al-Kazakhi.”

Asainov taught other ISIS members how to use weapons and also tried to recruit another person from the United States to travel to Syria to join ISIS, the court filings said.

Asainov was captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and handed over to the FBI in July 2019.

“The defendant, a naturalized U.S. citizen residing in Brooklyn, turned his back on the country that took him in and joined ISIS, serving its violent ends in Syria and attempting to recruit others to its cause,” United States Attorney Donoghue said at the time.

Prosecutors say they have a treasure trove of incriminating messages, including photos of three dead fighters, received from a confidential informant working with New York police, the New York Post reported.

The messages by Asainov attempt to both cajole and threaten the informant to leave New York, come to Syria, and join ISIS.

“We will get you. You need to obey. You need to be punished you f–king [redacted]. We will find you and teach you how to behave,” he said in messages published by the New York Post.
In March, 2015, Asainov asked the informant for $2,800 to buy a rifle scope, and later sent photos of himself holding an assault rifle with a scope attachment, the statement said.

As many as 80 U.S. citizens or residents traveled to Syria or Iraq to join extremist groups since 2011. Six have been repatriated to face charges for joining ISIS, Voice of America reported.

Defense News: Defense lawmakers set aggressive schedule for NDAA
By: Joe Gould and Leo Shane III   11 hours ago
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WASHINGTON―When Congress returns to work Monday, authorizers will aim for quick passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, even though a host of differences in the separate House and Senate versions of the bill have yet to be resolved formally.
While lawmakers have been on a five-week summer recess, staff for each chamber’s armed services committees were working to resolve non-controversial issues on the massive annual defense policy measure, clearing the way for conferees to focus on more problematic policy differences when they return this week.
And even with complicated work ahead and only 13 working days in September, aides in both chambers confirmed that leaders hope to draft a compromise conference report by Sept. 19, finalize signatures to the bill by Sept. 23 and set floor votes in each chamber before the end of September.
If successful, Congress would keep alive the legislation’s 58-year streak of successful passage into law ahead of schedule. Last year the measure was finalized in August, but typically the final legislation isn’t finished until November or December.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., has pitched the bill to fellow House Democrats as a way to coalesce around a national security position and aimed for a bipartisan bill―only to have House Republicans to shun the bill en masse for the final 220-197 vote.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said before the summer recess that he believes many of the House bill’s divisive provisions will have to come out in conference so that the bill can pass in the GOP-controlled Senate. His bill passed with a bipartisan 86-8.
Here are the biggest fights to be resolved in the days ahead:
Trump’s border wall
The White House’s recent shift of $3.6 billion in military construction funds to pay for President Donald Trump’s controversial southern border wall project could end up being the largest complicating factor in negotiations ahead.
The House bill already has language barring such funding transfers in the future, and does not include money to cover the projects which lost funding in the shift. Senate Republicans do have the money in their draft and do not include any transfer language restrictions.
Given the recent outrage from congressional Democrats over the administration’s decision, finding a common path ahead on the issue will prove difficult. Smith last week blasted the money move as “stealing from military construction projects and upending years of planning and coordination in hopes that Congress would clean up the mess.” Inhofe said he supported the decision.
The nuclear arsenal
Among a range of differences on nuclear issues, the House bill bars funding for the deployment of a low-yield variant of a submarine-launched warhead called the W76-2. It would cut the entire $19.6 million Defense Department request and $10 million Energy Department request for the program.
Republicans insist prohibiting these weapons puts the U.S. at a disadvantage against Russia, while Smith, a skeptic of nuclear spending, is among critics who say the concept of a tactical nuclear weapon is too dangerous for the U.S. to indulge.
House Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., said Republicans have blown the issue out of proportion. “If you look at the W76-2, it’s such a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction [of an] overall nuclear force, it’s not even a rounding error. So to make this the be-all and end-all of our nuclear arsenal is misleading,” Cooper said during the full committee markup in June.
War authorizations
The House bill contains separate provisions which bar unauthorized use of force against Iran, repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the Iraq war, which has since been stretched to other conflicts, and bars support to the Saudi-led coalition’s military operations against the Houthis in Yemen.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have fueled fears among some congressional Democrats that the president will cross the line from tough rhetoric and into war, while Republicans argue the president needs latitude to pressure Iran into a broader Iran nuclear deal.
The Senate’s draft does not address those authorization issues, leaving Democrats and Republicans a substantial divide to bridge in the final legislation.
The military “widow’s tax”
The House authorization bill draft includes eliminating an offset problem with two separate military survivor payouts that can cost some families up to $15,000 a year. But the Senate thus far has resisted the same plan, noting the $5.7 billion price tag over the next decade.
Military advocates have made the issue their top focus in recent months, calling it an issue of fairness and honoring troops’ sacrifices. Inhofe has said publicly he is sympathetic to the idea but also has had little success getting fiscal conservatives to agree to the move.
Just getting the issue into final conference negotiations represents a victory of sorts for those outside military support groups, since the issue often gets bounced from the draft text before the negotiations begin. Now they hope they can turn that legislative momentum into a final fix.
Guantanamo prison rules
House Democrats, many of whom have long objected to continuing operations at the controversial detention facility at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, added language to their draft bill removing restrictions on transferring prisoners from the facility to mainland U.S. prisons and requires a plan to deal with ongoing legal questions surrounding the inmates there.
Republicans in both chambers have argued that the base remains a critical tool in the fight against terrorism, and inserted those restrictions in recent years to block President Barack Obama from attempting to shut down the detention center.
Now, with Congress divided, the question becomes which side is more resolute in their stance on the future of the base, and whether the impasse could be enough to undermine the entire policy bill.

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Post 135 Car Show fundraiser

Please spread the word! Thanks, angel

From: Jeri Strande, Post 135
Date: September 9, 2019 at 4:23:29 AM MST
To: Angel Juarez
Subject: Post 135 Car Show fundraiser

Angel…….attached is our flyer for our car show at the end of the month……….
appreciate if you could send it on its way to the rest of the department……….
who knows someone might want to come up to the "cool Northern Arizona"
for the day and there’s no charge to look, plus it’s only minutes south of Sedona.
Thanks Jeri

2019 CS -1 poster mk2.pdf

100th Anniversary Celebration with The American Legion

The American Legion celebrates 100 years!

Get your tickets and join the festivities!

Open to the public, come hear our accomplishments!

20190903 Centennial Flier.pdf

6 September, 2019 06:47

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Friday, September 6, 2019 which is Stillbirth Remembrance Day, Bring Your Manners to Work Day, National 401K Day, National Foodbank Day and National Read a Book Day.

This Day in History:


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D-Day Memorial hosts National Commander of the American Legion

BySiobhan McGirl |
Posted: Thu 2:22 PM, Sep 05, 2019

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) —A police-escorted line of cars drove up the hill to the National D-Day Memorial Wednesday, leading American Legion National Commander James "Bill" Oxford to a private tour of the site.

American Legion’s post in Bedford brought the newly elected National Commander, Bill Oxford, to the National D-Day Memorial Wednesday. WDBJ7 photo.
"That was a little beyond what I expected," said Oxford.
The entourage leading the commander would not be his last surprise. As soon as he stepped foot on the site of the memorial, he said he could not describe how he felt.
"There is a sacredness at this monument," said Oxford. "It is just protecting American values and remembering the Bedford Boys."
Oxford, a Vietnam veteran, has been a member of the American Legion since 1986. Last week, he was elected national commander during the organization’s 101st national convention.
Bedford just so happened to be the first place he was scheduled to visit. The National D-Day Memorial was his first stop.
"There was divine intervention here and I am serious," said Oxford. "Our job is supporting America, looking after veterans, supporting a strong national defense and supporting children and youth."
Oxford said the American Legion’s mission is similar to that of the National D-Day Memorial, making it a very fitting first stop.
"Our missions mirror each other in the work we do for veterans, recognizing veterans and particularly in teaching the next generation about service," said April Cheek-Messier, President of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation.
Oxford became emotional during his tour of the site, specifically when he learned about the small town of Bedford’s immeasurable loss.
"The sacrifice that these families made. I mean, brothers coming back and one not," Oxford said.
"It is always gratifying to see people’s reactions to the memorial," said Cheek-Messier. "I am just delighted that he was able to witness it himself."
Oxford will continue his time in Virginia with stops in Lynchburg, Richmond and Norfolk.
Copyright 2019 WDBJ. All rights reserved.
This Judge Set Some Unique Parole Conditions For 2 Men Who Lied About Military Service
When delivering the sentence, the judge said, "You’ve been nothing but disrespectful in your conduct." Do you agree with the judge’s decision and the actions they need to take?

It’s been said that a punishment should fit the crime. And in one recent case, the parole conditions one judge set for two defendants seems quite fitting indeed.
Two men recently appeared before a judge in a Montana courtroom for violating the terms of their deferred or suspended sentences in two separate, unrelated cases. This is troubling on its own, but then these men both falsely claimed military service in an attempt to be tried in Veterans Treatment Court.
Veterans Treatment Court is a specialized court for U.S. military veterans who are struggling with addiction or health problems. The defendants — Ryan Patrick Morris and Troy Allan Nelson — lied about their military background because they believed it would lead to greater leniency in their case.
When their lies were revealed, Cascade County District Judge Greg Pinski ordered the criminals to personally hand-write letters of apology to a number of veteran organizations — including the American Legion, AMVETS, the Disabled American Veterans, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Vietnam Veterans of America — as part of the terms of their eligibility for parole. In their apology letters, they must identify themselves as having lied about military service.
Additionally, the two must personally hand-write the names of all 6,756 Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the obituaries of the 40 Montanans killed in those countries.
They must also complete 441 hours of community service each, which is one hour for each of the Montana residents killed in combat since the Korean War.
And finally, every year during the suspended portions of their sentences, they must stand at the Montana Veterans Memorial (pictured below during Memorial Day observation) for eight hours on both Memorial Day and Veterans Day while wearing a placard that reads, “I am a liar. I am not a veteran. I stole valor. I have dishonored all veterans.”
“I want to make sure that my message is received loud and clear by these two defendants,” Judge Pinski said during the hearing. “You’ve been nothing but disrespectful in your conduct. You certainly have not respected the Army. You’ve not respected the veterans. You’ve not respected the court. And you haven’t respected yourselves.”
What do you think of this unusual sentence?
Want more true crime?Court TV is back in sess
VA Wrongly Denied Some Veterans’ GI Bill Benefits, Judges Rule
5 Sep 2019
Military.com | By Patricia Kime
A panel of Department of Veterans Affairs judges has ruled in favor of a veteran who petitioned to receive full education benefits under both the Montgomery and Post-9/11 GI Bills, a decision that, if allowed to stand, could expand the payout for thousands of eligible veterans.
In a decision published last month, two of three judges with the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ruled the department erred in denying a benefits claim filed by a former soldier with "split time," having served as an enlisted soldier and later returning to the service as an officer.
The veteran, identified as "BO" in the suit, served in the military during several distinct periods, from 2000 to 2002 as an enlisted soldier; from 2004 to 2005 as a member of the Army National Guard; and from 2007 to 2011 as a commissioned Army officer.
BO paid into the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) as an enlisted soldier and qualified for the maximum benefit through military service. He also was eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill through his service.
He used roughly 25 months of a maximum 36 months of his Montgomery GI Bill benefits to earn his undergraduate degree and returned to the military as an officer.
The Montgomery GI Bill dates to 1985 and is a program service members pay into that provides funds directly to those enrolled. You have the option to opt out when you join the military; otherwise, the service deducts $1,200 from your paycheck over time.
Eligibility varies, but service members must pay into it and serve three years to qualify, unless they have a specific agreement at the time they enlisted.
Then, as a veteran in May 2015, BO applied to use his Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, which he earned while he was serving as an officer. He planned to attend seminary and return to the Army as a chaplain. Accepted to Yale Divinity School, he wanted to use the generous compensation provided under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which covers tuition, books, fees and housing, to cover the cost of the Ivy League school.
Eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which was introduced in 2009, is based on length of active service since Sept. 10, 2001. Maximum benefits are realized after 36 months or more of service or for those discharged with a service-connected disability after serving 30 consecutive days.
BO argued in his application that, since he served in two different periods, he was entitled to the maximum education benefits allowed from the VA by law, which are capped at 48 months. Therefore, he believed he was entitled to 23 more months of education benefits.
Weighing BO’s claim, the VA decided that the veteran was entitled to roughly 10 more months of benefits, the difference between the 36 months entitled by the programs and the months he had already used under the Montgomery GI Bill.
On Aug. 15, two of three judges on the VA Appeals Court decided against the ruling, arguing that the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill programs do not require a veteran who has more than one separately qualifying period of service, i.e. split time, to relinquish or exhaust their MGIB program before receiving benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill program.
"Rather, they allow such a veteran to receive entitlement under both programs subject to a 26-month cap on utilization of each of the two separate programs and a 48-month cap overall," they wrote.
The veteran’s attorney, Tim McHugh, with the law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP of Richmond, Virginia, said the decision "has the potential to restore billions of dollars in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to military service members of the Post-9/11 era."
That’s because most who qualified for the Montgomery GI Bill were made to sign a form designed in December 2008 that required them to forgo their Montgomery GI Bill benefits to receive Post-9/11 benefits, he said.
However, the actual requirements, which McHugh said do not require the veteran to give up the benefits they qualify for, weren’t published until the following year.
"Over time, the VA came to believe that [the regulations written in the form] is what is required," said McHugh, an Army veteran who took the case pro bono as part of his firm’s veterans outreach program.
McHugh could not say how many veterans may be affected by the ruling but believes if a service member "served six years and three of those were Post-9/11, you should qualify for both, if you paid into the Montgomery GI Bill."
The VA can appeal the ruling to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. A VA spokeswoman declined to discuss whether the department plans to fight the decision.
"VA is aware of this decision and is reviewing," spokeswoman Susan Carter told Military.com.
In 2018, 708,069 service members or veterans received education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, while 26,441 received payments under the Montgomery GI Bill for active-duty personnel and 48,960 under the Montgomery GI Bill for reserve personnel.
How this affects those who paid into the MGIB and served after Sept. 10, 2001, remains to be determined. In the complex ruling, the majority sent the case back to the VA appeals board, ordering it to award BO 22 months of education benefits.
The decision came too late for BO to use the benefits at Yale; he had to give up his spot and will be too old to go back into the Army once he completes seminary, according to McHugh. But he still can use the benefits elsewhere.
"He missed out on an opportunity … but he pursued this for others. This guy just can’t stop serving," McHugh said of his client, who now works in counter-terrorism for the government.
Whether the ruling will apply to all veterans in similar circumstances remains to be determined by the VA, the courts and maybe Congress, McHugh added. He recommended that veterans contact their elected officials and veterans service organizations to press for clarification.
"We won’t know the full effect until we have a better idea from the VA, maybe from Congress, on how the VA is going to handle this," he said.

5 September, 2019 09:22

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, September 5, 2019 which is International Day of Charity, National Be Late For Something Day, National Cheese Pizza Day and National Shrink Day. (And also my 9th Anniversary of wedded bliss!)

This Day in Legion History:

· Sept. 5, 1919: The Senate passes legislation to grant a federal charter to The American Legion.

· Sept. 5, 2000: The American Legion presents its first “Spirit of Service” awards to active-duty military personnel who conduct volunteer community service in their off time.

This Day in History:

· On September 5, 1836, Sam Houston is elected as president of the Republic of Texas, which earned its independence from Mexico in a successful military rebellion.

· 1877: Oglala Sioux chief Crazy Horse is fatally bayoneted by a U.S. soldier after resisting confinement in a guardhouse at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. A year earlier, Crazy Horse was among the Sioux leaders who defeated George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Cavalry at the Battle of Little Bighorn in Montana Territory. The battle, in which 265 members of the Seventh Cavalry, including Custer, were killed, was the worst defeat of the U.S. Army in its long history of warfare with the Native Americans.


· Time: Exclusive: Secretary of State Pompeo Declines to Sign Risky Afghan Peace Deal

· Military Times: Here’s everything the Pentagon is putting on hold to concentrate on building the border wall

· Army Times: VA employee pleads guilty to leaking retired paratrooper and former West Virginia lawmaker’s medical records

· Military.com: Lawmakers to VA: Provide Health Care to All Veterans Made Sick by Burn Pits

· Stripes: Military bases in Florida feeling Dorian’s wrath; Georgia and the Carolinas are next

Bonus story: Intoxicated Marine breaks into home and cooks meal, tells alarmed homeowner to ‘go back to sleep’

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Time: Exclusive: Secretary of State Pompeo Declines to Sign Risky Afghan Peace Deal

By Kimberly Dozier

September 4, 2019

The U.S. is closing in on a deal with the Taliban that is designed to wind down America’s 18-year war in Afghanistan, but the best indication of how risky the pact may be is this: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is declining to sign it, according to senior U.S., Afghan and European officials.

The “agreement in principle” that U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has hammered out in nine rounds of talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar would take the first tentative steps toward peace since U.S. and allied forces deployed to Afghanistan following the attacks on 9/11, according to senior Afghan and Trump Administration officials familiar with its general terms. Defense Secretary Mark Esper was scheduled to discuss the closely held details of the deal with President Donald Trump in a Sept. 3 meeting, according to senior administration officials. If Trump approves and a deal is struck, it could begin a withdrawal of some 5,400 U.S. troops, roughly a third of the present force, from five bases within 135 days.

But the deal doesn’t ensure several crucial things, those familiar with the discussions tell TIME. It doesn’t guarantee the continued presence of U.S. counterterrorism forces to battle al Qaeda, the survival of the pro-U.S. government in Kabul, or even an end to the fighting in Afghanistan. “No one speaks with certainty. None,” said an Afghan official taking part in briefings on the deal with Khalilzad. “It is all based on hope. There is no trust. There is no history of trust. There is no evidence of honesty and sincerity from the Taliban,” and intercepted communications “show that they think they have fooled the U.S. while the U.S. believes that should the Taliban cheat, they will pay a hefty price.”

That may explain why Pompeo declined to put his name on the deal. The Taliban asked for Pompeo to sign an agreement with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the official name of the government founded by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 1996, four U.S., Afghan and European officials familiar with the discussions tell TIME. Having the Secretary of State sign such a document would amount to de facto recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political entity, and he declined to do so, the Afghan officials say.

Pompeo’s office declined to comment before publication of this story. After it was published, Pompeo said through a spokesperson that he might sign if Trump and all parties struck a deal. “There is no agreement to sign yet. If and when there is an agreement that is approved by all parties, including President Trump and if the Secretary is the appropriate signatory, he will sign it,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus emailed TIME Wednesday evening.

There are two alternatives. Khalilzad himself may sign it. Or the U.S. and the Taliban may simply issue a joint statement, supported in turn by the U.S.-backed government in Kabul and a number of other countries, including Japan, Russia and China, two Afghan sources familiar with the deliberations tell TIME.

That diplomatic sleight of hand might solve the signature problem, but it won’t do much to address the core challenges facing those who want to give peace in Afghanistan a chance after four decades of war. As it stands, the agreement would set the stage for the withdrawal of most American forces by the end of November 2020 if the Taliban do three things: open negotiations with the U.S.-backed Afghan government; reduce violence near areas U.S. forces control; and keep foreign militants out of the areas they control, according to current and former U.S., Afghan and European officials, who all spoke anonymously to describe the sensitive and fractious deliberations.

U.S. military and intelligence officers and diplomats who have served in Afghanistan worry that once a withdrawal is underway, it will be irreversible, given Trump’s promise to end the U.S. involvement in the war there, the fast-approaching 2020 U.S. elections and the absence of public support for the war. The price of peace, they fear, might include reversing much of the hard-won progress towards building a stable country over nearly two decades of war. These officials fear a roll back of civil, human and women’s rights in Afghanistan; a weakening of the national, regional and local governments; the deterioration of anti-Taliban military and law enforcement forces; and a rise in corruption.

It is “not clear whether peace is possible,” nine former high-ranking U.S. officials, including a former deputy secretary of state, warned in a Sept. 3 letter distributed by the Atlantic Council. “Secondly, there is an outcome far worse than the status quo, namely a return to the total civil war that consumed Afghanistan.”

That risk was made plain Monday, when a massive, deadly Taliban car bomb exploded in Kabul, just as Khalilzad was concluding an hour-long interview promoting the tentative peace deal to an Afghan news outlet. It was a reminder that as it now stands, the agreement does not require the extremist Islamic group to reject terrorism or stop attacking Afghan forces, officials say. The talks between the Taliban and the U.S.-backed Afghan government are expected to begin in Oslo shortly after a U.S.-Taliban agreement is finalized, officials say.

For their part, the Taliban have assured their fighters that the U.S. will withdraw all foreign troops within a little more than a year. In their communications with their rank and file, Taliban officials also go light on mentioning any “conditions” that would give the Americans the right to freeze or reverse the troop withdrawal, Afghan officials familiar with the Taliban communications tell TIME.

Taliban commanders have radioed their followers to “prepare for victory” by welcoming Afghans who sided with the Americans rather than engaging in bloody revenge, a senior Afghan official said. Senior Taliban officials have bragged to other foreign officials that all you have to do to defeat the Americans is refuse to surrender, and ultimately, the Americans will give up, a former senior U.S. official told TIME.

“The Taliban’s goals for Afghanistan have not changed,” said Bill Roggio, of the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “It seeks to eject the U.S., reestablish its Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and impose its Islamic government.”

Still, the agreement may be the best deal the U.S. and its allies can get to head off a pre-emptive pullout of U.S. troops in time for the 2020 U.S. elections. Military officials have long known they need to reduce the number of troops to a smaller, cheaper footprint to mollify U.S. policymakers tired of writing checks after 18 years of war, and a U.S. public that doesn’t understand why the troops are still there.

For Afghan officials, or at least the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, it’s a final insult and a dark turning point in relations with Washington. Publicly, Ghani has tentatively, though not officially, embraced the deal. But privately aides tell TIME that they have heard shouting matches between Ghani and Khalilzad in Kabul over the last two days, with Khalilzad telling Ghani that he’s got to accept this deal because Afghanistan is losing the war.

The disagreements range from the petty to the existential: Afghan-born Khalilzad won’t give a draft of the Taliban agreement to Ghani, the elected Afghan president, and a university classmate of Khalilzad’s, the aides say. Ghani won’t yield on holding Afghan presidential elections that are likely to hand him another five-year term, complicating the nascent Oslo talks with the Taliban.

Each man has given some quarter, with Khalilzad publicly conceding that it’s likely too late to cancel the Sept. 28 election, and Ghani agreeing to send a delegation to Oslo to start talks with the Taliban in the last week of September, just before the voting. The 15-person delegation includes three women, but the names won’t be announced until just before the talks begin, Afghan officials said.

Everyday Afghans, for their part, don’t know whom, if anyone, to trust. But they know Trump wants out, even if it means outsourcing their conflict to Afghan adversary Pakistan. As the violence continues and horror stories re-emerge of public floggings and summary executions in areas the Taliban control, a grim repeat of their puritanical decade in power until the U.S. drove them out after 9/11 for giving al Qaeda a sanctuary.

Says the Afghan official who participated in the briefings with Khalilzad: “If the U.S. decides to leave, we can’t stop them.” Who in Washington will take responsibility for the decision is another matter.

–with reporting by John Walcott/Washington

Military Times: Here’s everything the Pentagon is putting on hold to concentrate on building the border wall

By: Meghann Myers  13 hours ago

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Several schools and weapons ranges, as well as hazardous waste treatment, special operations and a host of other facilities are on the chopping block following Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s Wednesday decision to reallocate $3.6 billion in defense spending away from military construction projects in favor of helping build barriers along the US-Mexico border.

The delayed programs were chosen largely either because they were upgrades or replacements to existing facilities, a senior defense official told reporters in a Pentagon briefing Wednesday, or because their contract award dates are not scheduled for a year or more.

“What we have on the list are [recapitalization] projects, projects for which we have an existing capability that can last in a temporary way until we can get the backfill we’ve requested from Congress to complete them,” the official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said.

In total, the list included 43 projects in 23 states ― two of which had been slated for cancellation ― along with 21 in three U.S. territories and another 63 in 20 partner nations abroad.

Now, they are all delayed in favor of 11 new projects that will make up 175 miles of new or reinforced border barriers, officials announced Tuesday.

“We’ve been given a lawful order by the president to respond to this crisis on the border, and we’re doing that,” the senior official said Wednesday.

The projects are evenly divided into $1.8 billion each of US (including territories) and overseas projects.

Over a dozen of those delayed projects were slated for hurricane-ravaged areas like Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In Tyndall’s case, the senior defense official said, replacing a fire/crash rescue station was lower on the list of priorities versus the multibillion dollar rebuild of the base following last year’s Hurricane Michael.

“Timing-wise it doesn’t make sense for us to build a fire rescue station immediately when we’ve got the whole infrastructure plan to build,” the official said. “When we discussed this project, we hadn’t had that hurricane yet.”

In the case of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, their combined 13 projects are in support of Hurricane Maria relief, the official said, but are more long-term projects that wouldn’t have gotten underway until past fiscal year 2020, when the Defense Department intends to get its new border wall push off the ground.

“We’re fully committed to the recovery effort for Maria, and the projects on the list, we think, are not going to be delayed because of how far out in the future they are,” the official said.

Big-ticket items include:

· A storage facility at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, at $119 million.

· Bechtel Elementary School at Camp Mctureous, Japan, at about $95 million.

· A pier and maintenance facility in Bangor, Washington, at about $89 million.

· A storage facility at Royal Air Force Fairford, United Kingson, at $87 million.

· Spangdahlem Elementary School at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, at about $79 million.

A number of land and and air infrastructure projects in the United Kingdom, Hungary and Slovakia, part of an ongoing effort to deter Russian aggression in Europe, could also fall by the wayside in favor of the border wall.

‘No guarantees’

The Tuesday announcement created a backlash across Congress, as well as a call to provide the Pentagon that funding they have requested.

"The decision by the President to divert funding meant to support U.S. national security interests so that he can build a border wall only makes us less safe,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said in a statement addressing four projects on hold in his state. “Taking money away from our military – including funding to support critical projects here in Virginia – will mean we are less equipped to tackle threats here at home and abroad.”

Trump confirmed to reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday that Esper has spoken with members of Congress to let them know of his decision and how it would impact their states or districts.

“I think he felt good about it. He feels it is a national security problem. I do, too,” Trump told reporters. “When you have thousands of people trying to rush our country, I think that’s national security.”

Democratic lawmakers, who have refused to fund border wall projects, expressed outrage that the administration had gone around them to get a wall built, then asked for more money to fill in the gap created by the reallocation.

House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said in a Wednesday statement he regrets that the president had to use military funds for border construction.

“It is important that Congress now restore the military construction funding diverted for border security,” he said. "Failing to do so only forces our troops to pay for political discord in Washington.”

There are no guarantees, however, the official said. The Pentagon, in anticipation of this move, asked for $3.6 billion to cover these existing projects in its FY 2020 budget request, which would allow it to cover border construction and its existing plans.

“We’re very focused right now on working with Congress to get the back-fill that we’ve requested and we need,” the official said.

The hope, the official added, is that if Congress does not provide more funds, that at least for the overseas projects, the local governments will chip in.

“We have routine conversations with our allies and partners about burden-sharing in general,” the official said, and on Wednesday DoD policy officials reached out to those countries to specifically discuss the projects on the list.

“We have requested the full amount, but I think we also want to work with our partners to see if there’s burden-sharing possibilities,” the official said.

To check out all the proposed projects at risk of being delayed in the United States and its territories, click here.

For those projects overseas that are being shared with foreign governments, go here.

Army Times: VA employee pleads guilty to leaking retired paratrooper and former West Virginia lawmaker’s medical records

By: The Associated Press  21 hours ago

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A Department of Veterans Affairs employee has pleaded guilty to leaking the medical records of Richard Ojeda as the former Army major was running for Congress.

Federal prosecutors announced Tuesday that Jeffrey Miller has acknowledged accessing the medical records of six veterans when he was working for the VA’s benefits administration.

Authorities say the 39-year-old Miller took a picture of Ojeda’s records then sent the image to an unnamed acquaintance. Ojeda was elected to the West Virginia Senate in 2016 and stepped down to run for U.S. president in 2020. He dropped out of the race in January.

Ojeda says the records were distributed among high-ranking Republicans to derail his campaign for West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District in 2018. He sued the VA for documents related to the agency’s investigation of Miller.

Ojeda lost to current Rep. Carol Miller. Her spokeswoman says the congresswoman isn’t related to Jeffrey Miller and that she has never seen the medical records.

Military.com: Lawmakers to VA: Provide Health Care to All Veterans Made Sick by Burn Pits

4 Sep 2019

Military.com | By Patricia Kime

A bipartisan group of congressmen is pressuring the Department of Veterans Affairs to extend health benefits and disability compensation automatically to veterans battling illnesses thought to be caused by exposure to open-air burn pits.

Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Florida, and Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-California, have both introduced legislation that would direct the VA to study illnesses thought to be related to exposure to the toxic fumes emitted by waste disposal sites in Iraq and Afghanistan and designate any linked illnesses as presumed to be caused by exposure, thereby automatically qualifying affected veterans for VA health care and disability benefits.

Both also have signed on to support each other’s bills, while Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas; Rep. Peter King, R-New York; and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania, have thrown support behind Ruiz’s bill.

Bilirakis, who introduced the same measure in 2018, said the government needs to heed the lessons of Vietnam veterans, who fought nearly 20 years to establish a presumptive service link for exposure to Agent Orange and other toxic herbicides.

Related: After Mandate From Congress, VA Opens Research Center for Burn-Pit Related Illnesses

"It’s not a coincidence that so many of the exposed veterans are all suffering from the same diseases," Bilirakis said in a statement last month. "We saw similar patterns with veterans who had been exposed to Agent Orange in earlier wars. Sadly, many of those veterans died while the VA took decades to study the issue."

Ruiz named his bill after Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Kepner, a medic who served in Iraq in 2004 and died in 2017 of pancreatic cancer, which her family said was caused by exposure to the massive 10-acre burn pit at Balad.

Kepner left behind a nine-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son, as well as her husband, Ben Kepner.

"At the beginning of the fight, we were denied care and help from the VA, not once, but twice. When you are going through that nightmare, the last thing you want is letters from the VA saying, ‘There is nothing we can do,’" Kepner said in a statement released by Ruiz’s office.

"Jennifer Kepner was a hero who courageously battled pancreatic cancer while fighting for her fellow veterans suffering from pulmonary conditions and rare cancers linked to burn pit exposure," Ruiz said. "[Her] empathy and courage continue to inspire me in this fight for our veterans to get the health care and benefits they have earned and deserve."

Either bill would have to survive the lengthy legislative process to become law, but there is a growing lobbying effort among veterans service organizations, as well as support among members of Congress to help service members with respiratory diseases, cancer and other debilitating illnesses their physicians say were caused by environmental exposures.

The VA has not designated any illnesses as presumed to be related uniquely to service in Iraq or Afghanistan, with the exception of Gulf War veterans who served in Southwest Asia. Medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illnesses, often referred to collectively as Gulf War Syndrome, are considered service-related.

In addition, any personnel diagnosed with a chronic disease within a year of leaving active duty are encouraged to apply for disability compensation, as their illnesses are likely to be service-related, and those diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, automatically qualify for health care and benefits.

In 2011, an arm of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reviewed all existing scientific literature and available data on burn pits and occupational exposure to smoke and found that there was insufficient evidence to connect any illnesses in veterans to burn pit exposure.

The organization also found, however, that air quality and pollutant data taken and kept by the Defense Department and military services in Iraq and Afghanistan was scant or incomplete.

At their peak, the Defense Department and military contractors ran 250 burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of garbage, industrial waste, hospital discards and trash. As of March 2019, nine remained active