12 August, 2019 06:29

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Monday, August 12, 2019 which is Baseball Fans Day, National Middle Child Day, National Sewing Machine Day and VJ (or Victory) Day.
This Past Weekend in Legion History:

  • Aug. 9, 1921: The American Legion claims a major legislative victory when the federal Veterans Bureau is created from the consolidation of three agencies – the War Risk Bureau, Federal Board for Vocational Training and Public Health Service. Col. Charles R. Forbes, an acquaintance of President Warren G. Harding, is chosen to lead the Veterans Bureau at a then-handsome salary of $10,000 per year, plus expenses. Forbes’ claimed credentials and qualifications for the position are later found be inconsistent with fact.
  • Aug. 9, 1946: President Harry Truman, a life member of The American Legion, greets participants in The American Legion’s Boys Forum of National Government, a federal version of the successful Boys State programs across the country, on the final day of the event. The first forum is conducted at American University in Washington, D.C. Three years later, in 1949, the program is renamed American Legion Boys Nation.
  • Aug. 9, 1974: Gerald R. Ford, a World War II Navy veteran and member of Furniture City American Legion Post 258 in Grand Rapids, Mich., is appointed to serve as the 38th President of the United States, filling out the term of Richard M. Nixon, following his resignation.
  • Aug. 10, 1955: President Eisenhower signs into law the Reserve Forces Act of 1955, essentially the outcome of nearly 40 years of American Legion lobbying for Universal Military Training (UMT). The measure authorizes the president to call 1 million reservists up for active duty in a time of emergency and for a massive increase in personnel: nearly 3 million in the Ready Reserve and another 2 million in a Standby Reserve to go along with a nearly 2.9 million active-duty force. Seeing the law as a step in the right direction but by no means compulsory UMT, American Legion posts nationwide meet with their schools to help recruit volunteers to join the Reserves and take in the mandatory six-month military training program that came with it.


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Frederick News Post: Retired Marine joins American Legion in Frederick after waiting more than 30 years
By Hannah Himes hhimes
Aug 9, 2019
George Smith didn’t wait long to sign up at the American Legion Francis Scott Key Post 11 after President Donald Trump signed the “Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service,” or LEGION Act, into law on July 30.
Smith, who served in the Marine Corps for more than seven years, said he waited 30 years to become a member. He finally got his wish last week.
Smith is one of an estimated 400,000 veterans in Maryland who became eligible for membership with the signing of the law.
“I think it’s great,” Smith said. “It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long, long time. My wife’s been looking forward to it. A lot of my friends have been looking forward to it, too.”
In the past, the membership guidelines for the American Legion, a veterans service organization, required that someone had served at least one day of active military duty during at least one of six specific time periods.
The periods represent six war eras including World War II, the Vietnam War and the Korean War.
The LEGION Act details 12 previously unrecognized war eras that involved active U.S. military members.
These include the Cold War, the China Cold War and the Greek Civil War.
The act means that military members who served anytime after Dec. 7, 1941, are eligible for American Legion membership.
Previously, Smith, 61, didn’t qualify for membership because he entered military service just after the Vietnam War ended in 1975 and was honorably discharged just before the war in Lebanon-Grenada in 1982.
FSK Post 11 is one of five American Legion posts in Frederick County.
Smith is also an active member of the Sons of the American Legion, an organization for male descendants of veterans who were eligible for American Legion membership, and plans to be active in both groups.
“We do a lot to help the different veterans,” Smith said. “Being a veteran myself, I agree with that 100 percent and like to do whatever I can to help the veterans.”
Wayne Kaikko, past post commander and FSK Post 11 executive committee member, has worked with Smith for much of the last year and a half and has kept him up to date on his ability to become a member.
“I recruited George into the Legion,” Kaikko said. “We’ve been advocates that all veterans should be able to join the American Legion for quite some time here so I think it’s a great thing. George is ecstatic about it.”
Kaikko also said the act opens American Legion membership up to about 400,000 veterans in the state of Maryland and about 20,000 veterans in Frederick County.
David Swiderski is the FSK Post 11 centennial commander and he met Smith through the Legion Riders, a group of American Legion, Sons of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary members who like motorcycles.
He’s known Smith for about 13 years.
“It’s just a good group of veterans,” Swiderski said. “It doesn’t matter what organization you were in. There’s Coast Guardsmen here. There’s Air Force. And actually our most recent past commander was Air Force, and we just get along and do what we can to help other veterans.”
AP: Afghanistan president rejects foreign interference as US-Taliban talks advance
By: Rahim Faiez, The Associated Press and Cara Anna, The Associated Press   18 hours ago
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan’s president on Sunday rejected foreign interference as the United States and the Taliban appear to be closing in on a peace deal without the Afghan government at the table.
President Ashraf Ghani spoke during the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha and as U.S. and Taliban negotiators continue their work in the Gulf nation of Qatar, where the insurgents have a political office.
Speaking after the Eid prayers, Ghani insisted that next month’s presidential election is essential so that Afghanistan’s leader will have a powerful mandate to decide the country’s future after years of war.
"Our future cannot be decided outside, whether in the capital cities of our friends, nemeses or neighbors. The fate of Afghanistan will be decided here in this homeland," he said. "We don’t want anyone to intervene in our affairs."
U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is seeking a peace deal by Sept. 1, weeks before the vote. The two sides are expected to agree on the withdrawal of some 20,000 U.S. and NATO troops in return for Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan would not be a base for other extremist groups.
Few details have emerged, but Khalilzad and the lead Taliban negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, have been traveling in recent days to brief several countries involved in the process on the latest developments.
"I hope this is the last Eid where #Afghanistan is at war," Khalilzad said on Twitter, adding that negotiators were working toward a "lasting & honorable peace agreement and a sovereign Afghanistan which poses no threat to any other country."
The Taliban spokesman in Qatar, Suhail Shaheen, who has said a deal is expected at the end of this round of talks, also issued an Eid message expressing the hope that Afghanistan "will celebrate future Eids under the Islamic system, without occupation, under an environment of permanent peace and unity."
No major violence was reported in Afghanistan on Sunday.
The Taliban have refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, dismissing it as a U.S. puppet, and on Tuesday they declared the Sept. 28 election a "sham." They warned fellow Afghans to stay away from campaign rallies and the polls, saying such gatherings could be targeted. A day later the group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that targeted security forces in Kabul. The attack killed 14 people and wounded 145, most of them civilians.
The Taliban control roughly half of Afghanistan and are at their strongest since the U.S.-led invasion toppled their five-year-old government in 2001 after the group had harbored al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. More than 2,400 U.S. service personnel have died in Afghanistan since then.
Ghani, stung by being excluded from the peace talks, on Sunday pleaded for national unity.
"Peace is the desire of each Afghan and peace will come, there shouldn’t be any doubt about it," he said. "But we want a peace in which each Afghan has dignity. We don’t want a peace in which Afghans wouldn’t have dignity. We don’t want a peace that would cause people to leave their country. We don’t want brain drain and we don’t want investment drain."
A peace deal would be followed by intra-Afghan talks, but it is not clear whether the Taliban would agree to talk to Kabul government members in their official capacity or only as ordinary Afghans, as in the past.
The U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014. The American and allied troops that remain are conducting strikes on the Taliban and the local Islamic State affiliate, and working to train and build the Afghan military.
President Donald Trump has publicly expressed his exasperation with America’s continued involvement in Afghanistan and a desire to bring troops home.

Stripes: Taliban say latest talks on withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan have ended
By KATHY GANNON AND CARA ANNA | Associated Press | Published: August 12, 2019

KABUL, Afghanistan — The latest round of talks between the Taliban and the United States on a deal to withdraw thousands of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has ended and now both sides will consult with their leadership on the next steps, a Taliban spokesman said Monday.
The eighth round of talks in the Gulf Arab nation of Qatar concluded after midnight and was "long and useful," Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.
He made no statements on the outcome of the talks.
Last week, another Taliban spokesman had said a deal was expected to follow this round as both sides seek an end to the nearly 18-year war, America’s longest conflict.
An agreement — if reached — is expected to include Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan would not be a base for other extremist groups in the future. However, both the Islamic State group’s affiliate and al-Qaida remain active in the country. The Taliban stage near-daily attacks across Afghanistan, mainly targeting Afghan forces and government officials but also killing many civilians.
The deal also could include a cease-fire and stipulate that the Taliban would negotiate with Afghan representatives, though the insurgent group has so far refused to negotiate with Kabul representatives, dismissing the Afghan government as a U.S. puppet.
There was no immediate comment on Monday from U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who on Sunday tweeted that "I hope this is the last Eid where #Afghanistan is at war."
Sunday was the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha, which unfolded without any major violence reported in Afghanistan.
Khalilzad later added that "Many scholars believe that the deeper meaning of Eid al-Hadha is to sacrifice one’s ego. Leaders on all sides of the war in Afghanistan must take this to heart as we strive for peace."
Some in Afghanistan saw it as a response to President Ashraf Ghani, who on Sunday declared that "Our future cannot be decided outside, whether in the capital cities of our friends, nemeses or neighbors. The fate of Afghanistan will be decided here in this homeland. … We don’t want anyone to intervene in our affairs."
While Ghani insists that the upcoming Sept. 28presidential election is crucial for giving Afghanistan’s leader a powerful mandate to decide the country’s future after years of war, Khalilzad is seeking a peace deal by Sept. 1, weeks before the vote.
The Taliban control roughly half of Afghanistan and are at their strongest since the U.S.-led invasion toppled their five-year government in 2001 after the group had harbored al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. More than 2,400 U.S. service members have died in Afghanistan since then.
The U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014. The some 20,000 American and allied troops that remain are carrying out airstrikes on the Taliban and IS militants, and are working to train and build the Afghan military.
Military.com: Another Pleads Guilty in Multi-Million Dollar Scam of VA Spina Bifida Program
11 Aug 2019
Military.com | By Richard Sisk
A phony home care businessman has pleaded guilty to paying more than $1 million in bribes to a Veterans Affairs employee, who allegedly set up an elaborate scheme to defraud the VA’s benefits program for children diagnosed with spina bifida of nearly $20 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Denver.
In his guilty plea, Roland Brown, 58, of Clearwater, Florida, admitted to being long-time friends with the employee and to working with him to set up a bogus home care company called Legacy Home Health, whose purpose was to submit false claims to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The employee was not named in a news release, but Joseph Prince, who oversaw the spina bifida program from the Denver VA’s Office of Community Care, was fired last fall and later indicted in the alleged ripoff.
Brown admitted to paying $1,007,205 to Prince, and in return, Legacy Home Health received more than $3,039,000 in false claims, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said that Prince and Brown targeted the VA’s Spina Bifida Health Care Benefits Program, which pays for home care providers.
Prince allegedly told family members and friends of children living with spina bifida that they could be paid for home care services if they signed up with Brown’s company, even though they were not authorized to provide the care.
Legacy Home Health then submitted claims to the VA for $88 an hour for the home care, although the friends and family members were actually being paid $16 an hour, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. A tentative sentencing date was set for Brown in December.
The scheme with Legacy was only one of several scams on the VA allegedly pulled off by Prince, according to the federal indictment and affidavits field last year.
He allegedly set up seven companies, including one run by his wife, to submit bogus claims to the spina bifida program.
According to his indictment, companies set up by Prince took in $18.9 million of the $25.2 million that the VA paid for home health services between June 2017 and June 2018.
In addition to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the FBI, the IRS and the VA’s Office of Inspector General joined in the investigation leading to the indictment.