12 October, 2018 06:25

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Friday, October 12, 2018 which is Freethought Day, National Gumbo Day, Old Farmers Day and International Moment of Frustration Scream Day.

This Day/Weekend in Legion History:

· Oct. 12, 1950: Erle Cocke, Jr., of Dawson, Ga., who was wounded three times and escaped German captivity three times during World War II – once having been shot multiple times and left for dead among the corpses of his fellow soldiers – becomes the youngest American Legion national commander. He is 29 years old when elected at the 32nd National Convention, in Los Angeles. His father, Egbert Erle Cocke, Sr., was an American Legion national vice commander in 1922 and 1923.

· Oct. 12, 2011: The redesigned American Legion office, printing and distribution center at 5745 Lee Road at Fort Harrison in Indianapolis is dedicated in memory of American Legion Past National Commander John H. Geiger of Illinois. Geiger, who led the organization in 1971 and 1972, was instrumental in the siting, architecture and construction of the 64,000-square-foot facility, which would house Emblem Sales and Information Technology divisions of the organization, as well as mass-mailing operations, membership and fundraising services. Geiger passed away Jan. 10, 2011.

· Oct. 13, 2009: The Department of Veterans Affairs announces that it will recognize three additional health conditions – ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s Disease and hairy cell leukemia – as presumptive service-connected illnesses caused by exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. More than 200,000 veterans are expected to receive benefits and treatment from VA as a result of the decision, which is based on an Institute of Medicine report. The American Legion, although pleased with the decision, continues to fight for acceptance of conditions suffered by veterans who served at sea, in the air and stateside who were exposed to Agent Orange, not only those who came into contact with it on the ground in the Vietnam War. More than a year will pass before VA’s published addition of the diseases is reviewed and approved by Congress, in late 2011.

This Day in History:

· 1492: After sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sights a Bahamian island, believing he has reached East Asia. His expedition went ashore the same day and claimed the land for Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, who sponsored his attempt to find a western ocean route to China, India, and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia.

· 2000: At 12:15 p.m. local time, a motorized rubber dinghy loaded with explosives blows a 40-by-40-foot hole in the port side of the USS Cole, a U.S. Navy destroyer that was refueling at Aden, Yemen. Seventeen sailors were killed and 38 wounded in the attack, which was carried out by two suicide terrorists alleged to be members of Saudi exile Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network.


· Military Times: Veterans, military retirees will see a 2.8 percent COLA boost for 2019

· Army Times: More doctor visits, more money: Obese soldiers may be too expensive to keep, Army study suggests

· Marine Corps Times: Broken feet and hurt shoulders: Male Marines have far more injuries than women at Infantry Officer Course

· FoxNews: Veterans are sleeping in their cars at VA medical centers

· Business Insider: Trump just met with a classic-rock legend and a missile-defense expert — and it was the same guy

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Military Times: Veterans, military retirees will see a 2.8 percent COLA boost for 2019

By: Leo Shane III   20 hours ago

WASHINGTON — Veterans receiving disability pay and military retirees will see a 2.8 percent cost-of-living boost starting in December, their largest increase in six years.

On Thursday, Social Security Administration officials announced that the cost-of-living adjustment for 2019 for their beneficiaries will be 2.8 percent, the biggest increase since 2012. Last year the increase was 2 percent, and the previous three years were only 2 percent combined.

Under current law, annual cost-of-living increases are automatic for Social Security benefits, meaning the executive branch can enact them without intervention from Congress. Certain other federal benefits, such as military retiree payouts, are also automatically boosted by that decision.

But the Social Security announcement also serves as the baseline for a host of other federal benefits calculations that do require yearly reauthorization, including Department of Veterans Affairs payouts.

Congress finalized work on the veterans benefits cost-of-living issue late last month. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed the measure into law.

The end result is a boost in disability pay, dependents compensation, clothing allowances and a handful of other veterans benefits, set to start at the beginning of January.

Earlier this week, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, R-Tenn., praised his colleagues and the White House for ensuring that veterans would not be left without the extra assistance.

“So many veterans rely on disability compensation payments to make ends meet, and this cost-of-living adjustment means that they will be able to continue to do so,” he said in a statement.

Veterans advocates have pushed for years to make the veterans COLA adjustments automatic like the military retiree payouts, but have found little legislative success.

Social Security Administration officials said more than 67 million Americans are affected by the change. The cost-of-living increases are based on current and anticipated rates of inflation.

For a veteran or military retiree receiving $1,500 a month in benefits payouts, the COLA increase equates to more than $500 extra over the course of a year.

Army Times: More doctor visits, more money: Obese soldiers may be too expensive to keep, Army study suggests

By: Tara Copp   13 hours ago

Almost one in five active duty male soldiers in 2015 was obese, and one-half were overweight.

Now, for the first time, the Army is calculating the costs of those added pounds to better understand: At what point is a soldier too expensive to keep?

Army doctor Maj. Brian Shiozawa has led this effort, analyzing the height and weight data of 429,793 active male soldiers in fiscal year 2015, then cross-referencing those records with the soldiers’ visits to military treatment facilities, TRICARE data, and inpatient and outpatient medical claims during the same time frame.

What Shiozawa found is that obese soldiers used almost double the medical resources than their normal-weight counterparts did in almost every medical category except multiple trauma — which he thinks may be an indicator that obese soldiers are not deploying to combat, where that type of medical emergency would be more likely.

Obese male soldiers went to the doctor on average 13 times that year; normal-weight soldiers went seven times a year. More time at the doctor can mean less time training, less time being deployable, and a greater financial cost to DoD resources, Shiozawa said, which increases risk to readiness, he said.

Shiozawa first presented his research last week at the Obesity Medicine Association’s fall summit in Washington, D.C.

“Are we employing them to go to the doctor, or are they fit to fight the nation’s wars?" Shiozawa said. “At what point do we say to service members, ‘You may be costing us more [than you provide to the military?]’ Maybe we need a BMI ceiling. We are spending three to four times as much to maintain you than what we get from you.”

Shiozawa, a resident at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, conducted the research on his own initiative. He was inspired to do it after serving as a battalion surgeon.

“My goal, professionally, is to become an expert on Army obesity," he said, "It’s an epidemic that is facing us.”

The risk obesity has placed on military readiness has been front and center over the last year as each service has begun to target service members who are unfit to deploy.

In the study, 19.7 percent of the almost 430,000 male soldiers reported a body mass index greater than 30, which qualifies as obese, and 51.2 percent of the total population reported a BMI between 25 and 30, qualifying as overweight. The largest percentage of obese soldiers were between the ages of 25 and 34.

“Obesity is the number one reason that disqualifies potential applicants from enlistment,” Shiozawa said. “If we can’t raise and maintain an Army, then we failed to meet our mission.”

Shiozawa found obese soldiers went to physical therapy and mental health sessions more often, and even though they made up one-fifth of the population, obese soldiers used 46 percent of the medical appointments that were billed to address related diseases, such as hypertension or diabetes.

He is still working on estimating the costs to DoD in terms of lost time and resources spent, which vary depending on what type of medical appointment was needed.

Shiozawa’s study aims to give Army leadership the data necessary to better understand the impact obesity has on the force, and give them the information needed to better understand if there’s a point that service members are too expensive to keep.

“Leaders need data to make those decisions,” Shiozawa said.

The model used in the Army study can also be used to crunch the other services’ obesity data and doctor’s visits to determine if the trends he found in the Army ring true in the Navy, Air Force and Marines, Shiozawa said.

Marine Corps Times: Broken feet and hurt shoulders: Male Marines have far more injuries than women at Infantry Officer Course

By: Shawn Snow   11 hours ago

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The Corps’ 13-week Infantry Officer Course, or IOC, has a reputation of being one of the most physically demanding courses in the Marines. Only two women have thus far successfully navigated the school.

But, despite the low graduation rate among female candidates at IOC, their male colleagues have had far more injuries over the past two years.

From June 2016 until June 2018, there were 41 reported injuries at IOC, but only one was a female Marine who sustained a bruised rib, according to data obtained by Marine Corps Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The injury rates further question a controversial study pushed by the Marine Corps in 2015 that highlighted that mixed gendered grunt squads underperformed male teams. That study also suggested female Marines might sustain higher injury rates in the infantry.

The results shed some light on the otherwise tight-lipped school that has been spotlighted in recent years over what some activist groups have perceived as unfair standards and practices that have stymied female success at the Marine schoolhouse.

As a matter of perspective, 18 women have graduated from the Army’s elite Ranger School, according to Army Times.

However, the data is less than a perfect representation of injury rates along gender lines at IOC.

Few women have even attempted the IOC course.

As of June 2018, roughly 38 women have attempted IOC, about eight have attended since the job field was open to women, and thus far, only two have graduated.

Marine Corps Times had requested nearly 10 years of data to more than adequately cover the time span women have been allowed to attend IOC.

But Marine officials said IOC only maintains data spanning two years. This means much of the data pertaining to the first group of female Marines to enter IOC is unavailable.

By April 2015, 29 women had already failed IOC as part of the Corps’ initial integration study, putting the data obtained by Marine Corps Times outside this important time period.

The data also doesn’t adequately cover injuries that may have been sustained prior to recent changes to hikes and graduation requirements implemented at IOC. Changes that may have been made to boost graduation rates but also reduce injuries at the school.

The Corps removed the Combat Endurance Test as a strict graduation requirement, lowered the number of evaluated hikes to pass IOC to three, and added a new primer course at The Basic School to better prepare incoming IOC candidates.

Participation in all nine hikes at IOC is still a requirement, the Corps merely changed which hikes are evaluated. And poor performance in any event can still be used to fail a candidate.

Marine officials contend those changes were implemented to reduce attrition rates, which soared as high as 25 percent in 2014, and to properly align the curriculum to actual standards outlined in the infantry training and readiness manual.

But the Corps also found “that the standards that were implemented at IOC were done by a local commander, you know based on his experience, but we’re breaking people … we were putting 150-160 pounds on Marines and breaking them at a very young age,” Lt. Gen. Michael G. Dana, the deputy commandant of Marine Corps Installations and Logistics, said to lawmakers in March at a readiness hearing.

Overall the biggest injury cases at IOC were 15 stress fractures of the feet, five sprains and four shoulder injuries. There were also a couple of broken feet and dislocated knees.

As a testament to the grueling nature of IOC, there were also two reported cases of rhabdomyolysis and a case of hyponatremia.

Rhabdomyolysis is a rare condition where muscle fibers break down into the bloodstream. This can happen from extreme overworking of the muscles either from someone who is out of shape and ill prepared for a physical routine, or from elite athletes who push too hard on their workouts.

The condition can result in kidney failure or death.

Hyponatremia is a result of abnormally low levels of sodium in the bloodstream that can result in muscle spasms, seizure, or coma. There are numerous causes for hyponatremia, but one of them is drinking too much water due to an intense workout.

But out of all these injuries, only one bruised rib was sustained by a female Marine at IOC.

Moreover, the Corps says none of the injuries over the two-year period resulted in a medical or administrative separation.

But, over the past ten years, two Marines were medically separated for IOC-related injuries, one in 2011 and another in 2015, according to data pulled by the Marine Corps Total Force System.

FoxNews: Veterans are sleeping in their cars at VA medical centers

By Caleb Parke | Fox News

U.S. veterans are forgoing treatment at Veterans’ Affairs clinics due to the high cost of lodging in some areas, but one group has a solution.

Billy Bryels, a retired Vietnam Veteran and double Purple Heart awardee, told Fox News he slept in his car several times because of the high hotel costs, much like several of his fellow veterans.

But today he is one of many who goes to the “Lee & Penny Anderson Defenders Lodge” located in Palo Alto, California, where veterans and their caregiver can stay in the state-of-the-art $17 million facility free of charge. He called it a God-send for veterans getting treatment.

“What are other veterans doing if they don’t have a Defender’s Lodge available to them?” Bryels asked. “I hope this kind of facility continues across the country.”

It was an idea former VA Palo Alto Health Care System Director and CEO Lisa Freeman thought of after hearing stories like Bryels’ of the veteran’s plight. Today, a hotel room runs at about $300-400/night in the area.


“We didn’t have anything,” Freeman told Fox News. “We tried several things – beds in the hospital, hotel vouchers – but the biggest thing the Defenders Lodge provided was capacity and consistency.”

The Defenders Lodge was the result of a public-private partnership between the VA and the PenFed Foundation, which raised $11 million in donations to fund the construction of the lodge. The 52 room facility can house up to 104 veterans and has a dining room, library, and private outdoor spaces. Freeman said it is full every night of the year.

The Palo Alto VA is one of five Level One Polytrauma Centers in the nation and accommodates nearly one million outpatient visits per year. It offers specialized programs such as a Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center, a Spinal Cord Injury Center, a Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center and a Traumatic Brain Injury Center.

“We have been overwhelmed by the generosity from PenFed – and the community – even with people that don’t have veterans in their family – people of whatever political stripe – they set that aside, when you’re talking about doing this for veterans, and they’re just very generous in doing so,” Freeman added.

The Defenders Lodge officially opened in 2014. The organization celebrated and honored the people who helped bring it all together Monday night, including former Secretary of State George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice.

“Our veterans deserve our nation’s support,” James Schenck, PenFed Credit Union President and CEO told Fox News. “Let’s make sure that medical emergencies don’t turn into financial emergencies, and that’s what we’re here to do.”

[Editor’s Note: Today is a somewhat slow news day, so am including this next one to round out 5 stories, largely because I find it fascinating, albeit probably
not vital for Veterans/Military news… but if someone had told me that the guitarist for the Doobie Brothers was an expert on Missiles, I wouldn’t believe it in 10,000 years. Not unlike when I learned that Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson owned the largest Salmon
hatchery in Scotland.]

Business Insider: Trump just met with a classic-rock legend and a missile-defense expert — and it was the same guy

Jeff "Skunk" Baxter has earned eight platinum records in a music career that started in the 1960s, and he has received numerous security clearances and contracting jobs since the 1980s as a self-taught expert on missile-defense and counterterrorism.

Baxter was one of many luminaries at the White House on Thursday to watch President Donald Trump sign the Music Modernization Act, which reforms copyright laws.

Unlike every other musician in the room, including Kid Rock, Baxter has built a successful second career as a defense consultant.

Baxter dropped out of college in Boston in 1969 to join a short-lived psychedelic-rock band. After that, he moved to California and become one of the original six members of Steely Dan, which he left in 1974 to join the Doobie Brothers, which he left in 1979.

Baxter has said he "fell into his second profession almost by accident."

While living in California in the 1970s, Baxter helped a neighbor dig out their house after a mudslide.

"Afterward, he invited me into his study and I saw all these pictures of airplanes and missiles on the wall — it turned out he was one of the guys who had invented the Sidewinder missile," Baxter said in a 2013 interview. "As a gift for helping him clean out his house he gave me a subscription to Aviation Week and to Jane’s Defense. It was amazing."

Baxter found the technical aspects of music and of defense, particularly missile defense, coincided.

"Technology is really neutral. It’s just a question of application," he told MTV in 2001. "For instance, if TRW came up with a new data compression algorithms for their spy satellites, I could use that same information and apply it for a musical instrument or a hard disc recording unit. So it was just a natural progression."

He immersed himself in technical journals and defense publications during the 1980s.

"The good news is that I live in America and am something of a, I guess the term is an "autodidact," he said in 2013, when asked about his formal education. "There’s so much information available. The opportunity for self-education in this country is enormous."

The big shift came in 1994.

Inspired by a friend’s work on an op-ed about NATO, Baxter sat down and punched out a five-page paper on the Aegis ship-based antiaircraft missile system, arguing it could be converted to a missile-defense system.

"One day, I don’t know what happened. I sat down at my Tandy 200 and wrote this paper about how to convert the Aegis weapon system," he said in a 2016 speech. "I have no idea. I just did it."

Baxter, who had recently retired as a reserve police officer in Los Angeles, was already in touch with California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher as an adviser. Baxter gave his paper to Rohrabacher.

"Skunk really blew my mind with that report," Rohrabacher told The Wall Street Journal in 2005. "He was talking over my head half the time, and the fact that he was a rock star who had basically learned it all on his own was mind-boggling."

Rohrabacher gave the paper to Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon, a Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee, who asked, "Is this guy from Raytheon or Boeing?" according to Baxter.

Rohrabacher replied, "No, he’s a guitar player for the Doobie Brothers."

Like Rohrabacher, Weldon was struck by Baxter’s prowess. In 1995, he nominated Baxter to chair the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense, a congressional panel.

"The next thing I knew, I was up to my teeth in national security, mostly in missile defense, but because the pointy end of the missile sometimes is not just nuclear, but chemical, biological or volumetric, I got involved in the terrorism side of things," Baxter told MTV in 2001.

The appointment to the panel "sort of opened up a door for me to end up working in the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), which then morphed into the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which then morphed into the Missile Defense Agency (MDA)," Baxter said in 2013.

He’s also worked with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and contractors like Northrup Grumman.

"We did some pretty cool stuff," Baxter said in 2016 of his work on SDI, which President Ronald Reagan first proposed in 1983. "Reagan’s plan was a bit much. It was a plan to drive the Russians nuts, and it worked. They believed what we were doing was real and spent lots of money trying to counter it."

He was also a hit at the Pentagon.

"Some of these people who are generals now were listening to my music when they were lieutenant colonels or lieutenant commanders, so there was a bond there," Baxter said in 2001. "But what they realized is that they’re looking for people who think out of the box, who approach a problem with a very different point of view because we’re talking about asymmetrical warfare here."

Military leaders brought him in to consult, regularly asking him to play the role of the enemy during war games.

"I’m told I make a very good bad guy," Baxter said in 2005. People who worked with him also told The Journal he could be a self-promoter.

Baxter has kept up his musical work. He became a sought-after session guitarist, working with acts like Dolly Parton, Rod Stewart, and Eric Clapton.

In 2004 he flew 230,000 miles to reach all his gigs. That year he also made more money from his defense work than from music.

For his part, Baxter has pointed to his creativity as his biggest asset.

"We thought turntables were for playing records until rappers began to use them as instruments, and we thought airplanes were for carrying passengers until terrorists realized they could be used as missiles," he said in 2005.

"My big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music all the time and happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at."


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