1 November, 2018 09:31

Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, November 1, 2018, which is All Saints’ Day, National Author’s Day, National Go Cook For Your Pets Day and Prime Meridian Day.

Today in American Legion History:

· Nov. 1, 1921: The American Legion helps dedicate the towering Liberty Memorial in Kansas City during the organization’s third national convention. Kansas City is an early stop in the Allied Victory Tour across the United States with Gen. Ferdinand Foch of France. Joining The American Legion at the convention, the dedication ceremony and for portions of the U.S. tour, in addition to Foch, are Gens. John Pershing of the United States and Armando Diaz of Italy, as well as Adm. David Beatty of Great Britain. President Calvin Coolidge attends the ceremony in Kansas City. During its national convention there, The American Legion establishes the Distinguished Service Medal, and presents it to Foch, Diaz, Beatty, Lt. Gen. Baron Jacques of Belgium and M. Charles Bertrand of France, president of the Inter-Allied Veterans Association.

· Nov. 1, 1947: The American Legion Child Welfare Committee is elevated to commission status.

Today in History:

· On this day in 1941, President Roosevelt announces that the U.S. Coast Guard will now be under the direction of the U.S. Navy, a transition of authority usually reserved only for wartime. During peacetime, the Guard was under the direction of the Department of Treasury until 1967, when the Department of Transportation took control. But during war, it was under the control of the U.S. Navy. What made FDR’s November 1 announcement significant was that the United States was not yet at war—but more and more American ships were nevertheless becoming casualties of the European war

· 1952: The United States detonates the world’s first thermonuclear weapon, the hydrogen bomb, on Eniwetok atoll in the Pacific. The test gave the United States a short-lived advantage in the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

· Military Times: New lawsuit seeks VA compensation for veterans’ unpaid emergency room costs

· Military Times: Deployed border troops are preparing for militias stealing their gear, protester violence, documents show

· Military Times: President Trump: Border force could grow to 15,000 troops

· Associated Press: Decision on US-Korea joint exercises coming by December

· Bloomberg: Pentagon Girds for Audit Backlash That May Echo $435 Hammer Era

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Military Times:New lawsuit seeks VA compensation for veterans’ unpaid emergency room costs

By: Leo Shane III | 19 hours ago

WASHINGTON — Hundreds of thousands of veterans could be eligible for sizeable reimbursements of unpaid medical bills if a new class-action lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs is successful.

The move comes amid an eight-year fight between VA and veterans advocates over who should foot the bill for emergency medical care. It also follows a federal court ruling in August which for the first time allowed veterans to file suit against the department as a class rather than individuals.

The size of the class in the latest lawsuit has yet to be established. But officials from the National Veterans Legal Services Program, who filed the legal action, say in the last eight years more than 700,000 individuals may have incurred medical expenses that should have been covered by VA administrators.

“It is a travesty to see the VA continuing to deny these benefits to needy veterans,” said attorney Bart Stichman, executive director of NVLSP.

This is the second lawsuit the group has filed over violations of the Emergency Care Fairness Act of 2010. The first was on behalf of Air Force veteran Richard Staab, who was saddled with $48,000 in unpaid medical bills from emergency heart surgery after VA refused payment because his secondary insurance covered part of the procedure.

Department officials argued in court that the additional insurance coverage eliminated their obligation to pay for the veterans’ health care costs, even if that left individuals with hefty medical expenses.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in 2016 ruled against VA, requiring them to step in and cover those emergency costs. VA officials issued a new rule in January to comply with that decision, but said it would only cover limited emergency room costs that happened since the appeals court ruling.

But NVLSP officials say even within that limited window, the department is still refusing to cover reasonable costs of veterans who are forced to seek emergency care.

The lead plaintiff for the new lawsuit is Coast Guard veteran Amanda Wolfe, who underwent an emergency appendectomy in September 2016. The procedure was done at a hospital near her home, rather than the VA medical center three hours away.

Her private-sector health insurance covered about $20,000 in medical costs but still left her with about $2,500 in expenses. VA officials refused payment, saying those costs were her responsibility for copayments, deductibles and other private-sector fees.

Her lawyers argue that if she had risked traveling to the VA facility for surgery, or if she had opted not to get any private-sector coverage, VA would be responsible for the whole cost of the procedure. But by using private insurance for some of the costs — and saving the federal government money — she is being punished.

"This is a violation of the law,” Stichman said, adding the new VA rule amounts to “paying veterans pennies on the dollar” for their legitimate costs.

Court officials will have to determine in coming months whether the NVLSP arguments for recognition of a class of veterans eligible for damages is warranted. If so, it could be the first ever sanctioned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

In the past, VA officials have estimated they could be saddled with up to $10 billion in emergency room costs if they are forced to cover all gaps in veterans’ private-sector insurance policies, an expense that could adversely harm medical care throughout the department.

Military Times: Deployed border troops are preparing for militias stealing their gear, protester violence, documents show

By: Tara Copp | 15 hours ago

The 5,200 troops mobilizing to the U.S. southern border are headed there to deter a caravan of migrants, but some of the direct threats they are preparing for are homegrown, according to documents obtained by Military Times.

In those documents, the military is concerned about the already dangerous drug cartels that operate with impunity on both sides of the border, armed U.S. citizens taking the law into their own hands — or pilfering their gear — and far-right or far-left protesters inciting violence.

The deployment was ordered by President Donald Trump to counter a caravan of thousands of migrants who are traveling primarily by foot and aren’t expected to reach the U.S. border for weeks. The president has ratcheted up the potential threat posed by the caravan, tweeting that the caravan potentially contains terrorists, gang members and other threats.

The deployment has been questioned for its use of active-duty troops over National Guard forces, who would typically have the border security mission, and for its timing right before the Nov. 6 election.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, when questioned on the deployment Wednesday, took issue with the suggestion that it was political.

“We don’t do stunts in this department, thank you,” Mattis told reporters.

In the operations order for the mission, which was obtained by Military Times, U.S. Army North stated that the reason behind the deployment was that the level of violent drug and gang activity and the influx of illegal border crossings had reached crisis levels.

“The security of the United States is imperiled by a drastic surge of illegal drugs, dangerous gang activity and extensive illegal immigration threatens the safety of citizens and undermines the rule of law.” the order states.

In the planning documents that follow, the deploying units are cautioned against homegrown militias roaming along the U.S. southern border and violence incited by extremist groups.

From the papers, the military is preparing to defend against an “estimated 200 unregulated armed militia members currently operating along the [Southwest Border]. Reported Incidents of unregulated militias stealing National Guard equipment during deployments. They operate under the guise of citizen patrols supporting [Customs and Border Patrol] primarily between [Points of Entry].”

In addition, the planning documents said, “historically, protests occur at the various [Customs and Border Patrol points of entry]” in support of immigrants and, in some incidents, cause closures. Previous protests in support of immigration caravans or enforcement of immigration law have occurred throughout the US. Normally peaceful unless extreme right or left groups attend."

Publicly, the top commander in charge of homeland defense will only say the military does not yet have a full understanding of what threats will surface from the caravan. However, some violent acts that have taken place within the caravan and the way it has forced its way through the border between Guatemala and Mexico has raised concerns that the makeup of the population traveling differs from the past.

“We are working closely with [Customs and Border Patrol] to understand the makeup and the nature of this caravan,” said U.S. Northern Command chief Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy. “This caravan is different than what we’ve seen in the past.”

Mattis, when pressed, has tried to make this deployment of at least 5,200 active duty forces seem like business as usual.

“We are there in support of the secretary of homeland security, who needs additional military assistance. We do this following storms, we do this in support of the Department of Homeland Security. This is a different aspect of it, but that’s what we are doing,” Mattis said Wednesday.

Military Times: President Trump: Border force could grow to 15,000 troops

By: Tara Copp | 14 hours ago

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the number of troops he is sending to the U.S.-Mexico border could grow to as many as 15,000 active duty and National Guard personnel, putting the deployment on par with the military’s wartime operations in Afghanistan.

The number of troops would include the initial wave of 5,239 active duty troops, 2,100 National Guard forces already there, and another 2,000 to 3,000 on prepare-to-deploy orders. It would eclipse any previous border deployment in recent memory by administrations that have also sought to quell either violence or immigration influxes at the border.

U.S. Northern Command chief Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy told reporters Tuesday that the number of forces at the border could grow, but he did not indicate that the number may double within days.

O’Shaughnessy did not have a cost estimate on Tuesday. However, a previous deployment of 6,000 troops from 2006 to 2008 cost $1.2 billion, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has reported.

The forces are being dispatched to the border to deter two migrant caravans, each with several thousand migrants, headed to the U.S. through Mexico.

Associated Press: Decision on US-Korea joint exercises coming by December

By: Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press | 14 hours ago

WASHINGTON — The U.S. and South Korea are reviewing whether they will conduct large-scale military exercises next year and will decide before December.

South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo told reporters Wednesday at the Pentagon that if more exercises are suspended the two countries will conduct other training to mitigate the lapse. He says the review will be done by Nov. 15.

Three major joint military drills were scrapped this year as part of a broader effort to push for diplomatic progress with North Korea.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says he is not yet concerned about a loss of combat capability. He says they may have to make changes to make sure those capabilities aren’t eroded, but so far it is not a worry.

Bloomberg: Pentagon Girds for Audit Backlash That May Echo $435 Hammer Era

October 30, 2018 | Tony Capaccio & Roxana Tiron

The results of the Pentagon’s first-ever audit could generate public backlash against boosting defense spending, according to Comptroller David Norquist.

After years of congressional and public criticism, the Defense Department is conducting an audit of its more than $2.4 trillion in assets. The audit findings will be released on Nov. 15 or Nov. 16, Norquist said.

The audit is widely expected to find significant problems. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis earlier this year dared investigators to find problems and said Pentagon officials are committed to fixing them.

“The way to prevent a $435 claw hammer in the first place is the knowledge that something like that will be revealed to public scrutiny,” Steve Ellis, Vice President of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said in an e-mail. “Costs to get the Pentagon to a more fiscally transparent and accountable place will reap savings down the road.”

“I hope people understand, when you’re the team that said `hey, we’re going to go look, it’s because of our commitment to being good stewards,’” Norquist said Oct. 29 at the Professional Services Council federal budget outlook conference.

While Norquist said worry about public reaction may have been an argument to forgo an audit, he also said, from the taxpayers’ point of view, “it’s a very dangerous way to look at the world, which is — ‘they might find something that is sufficiently of a problem that it would look bad to show it.’”

“The answer is ‘if they found it, we need to fix it,’” he said.

Norquist said the audit will include “a laundry list of problems we are trying to solve.” But he said people should distinguish between accounting questions that may be raised and other types of issues. Accounting errors that relate to the production of financial statements, “which is different from our operations,’’ could produce numbers “that sound very dramatic but have zero effect on operations,’’ he said.

The Pentagon Inspector General will summarize the overall findings in a single audit, Norquist said, but the department will be broken down into 24 pieces, with each getting a stand-alone audit. “So if you work with Defense Logistics Agency, they actually have three audits,’’ he said.

The Defense Department has failed for decades to conduct a full audit. One of the Pentagon’s most outspoken critics on the topic, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), has called the agency’s failure “26 years of hard-core foot-dragging,” that “shows that internal resistance to auditing the books runs deep.”

The Pentagon was expected to spend close to $1 billion to carry out its first expansive audit and start fixing problems the auditors identify, Norquist told the House Armed Services Committee in January.

The Pentagon’s negative audit findings, and ensuing criticism, can be mitigated “to a certain extent by pointing out that the job of an audit is to find problems so they can be fixed,” Todd Harrison, a budget expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in an email. “The alternative would be to continue blindly and allow problems to persist.”

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