24 January, 2019 06:59

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, January 24, 2019 which is Belly Laugh Day, Beer Can Appreciation Day, National Peanut Butter Day and National Lobster Thermidor Day.
This Day in Legion History:

  • Jan. 24, 1935: Child movie star Shirley Temple, 6 years old, becomes the youngest “honorary colonel” and official “little sister” of American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood. The honor is bestowed on top Hollywood performers who support the military and veterans. She is, at the time, one of the most beloved stars in America and a symbol of hope for the future during the Great Depression

This Day in History:

  • Canned beer makes its debut on this day in 1935. In partnership with the American Can Company, the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company delivered 2,000 cans of Krueger’s Finest Beer and Krueger’s Cream Ale to faithful Krueger drinkers in Richmond, Virginia. Ninety-one percent of the drinkers approved of the canned beer, driving Krueger to give the green light to further production.
  • 1965: Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, the British leader who guided Great Britain and the Allies through the crisis of World War II, dies in London at the age of 90.
  • On this day in 1781, Patriot commanders Lieutenant Colonel Light Horse Henry Lee and Brigadier General Francis Swamp Fox Marion of the South Carolina militia combine forces and conduct a raid on Georgetown, South Carolina, which is defended by 200 British soldiers.


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TAL: Legion to public: Our turn to rescue Coast Guard
Jan 23, 2019 Jan 23, 2019
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The American Legion is calling on the American public to do what the Coast Guard routinely does for others: come to the rescue.
“Members of the Coast Guard were last paid on Jan. 1. This is completely outrageous,” American Legion National Commander Brett P. Reistad said. “There are many things the American public can do. First, demand Congress immediately pass and the president sign a clean version of the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, H.R. 367. Second, help The American Legion support Coast Guard families in need by donating to The American Legion Veterans and Children Foundation. The American Legion has already awarded almost $700,000 in nonrepayable grants to junior ranking Coast Guard families in need. There are hundreds of additional requests already in the pipeline which The American Legion is trying to grant, but we have a very limited budget. So any amount that you can give would be most appreciated.”
Reistad is also calling on bill collectors to offer flexibility for members of the Coast Guard. “Due dates should be extended until the Coast Guard is paid and interests and late fees should be waived,” Reistad said. “We are hoping that the private sector, as well as public utility companies, all step up.”
In a Twitter video, Adm. Karl Schultz, the Coast Guard commandant, acknowledged the gravity of the situation. “Ultimately, I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life as servicemembers,” Schultz said.
“As a nonprofit, The American Legion is not capable of funding the entire Coast Guard payroll,” Reistad said. “But we are hoping that Americans immediately demand that Congress and the White House pay the Coast Guard. Any donations that people wish to make to the foundation will be especially appreciated at a time like this.”
WaPo: "Unacceptable": Coast Guard’s top officer criticizes lack of payment in government shutdown
By Dan Lamothe
The Washington Post
Jan 23, 2019 Updated 22 hrs ago
The Coast Guard’s top admiral said Tuesday that members of the armed forces should not be expected to shoulder the burden of the partial government shutdown, citing the "anxiety and stress" it is causing military families as their pay is withheld.
Adm. Karl Schultz, the Coast Guard commandant, said that he is heartened by the outpouring of support Coast Guard personnel have received across the country but expects more.
"Ultimately, I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life as service members," he said, speaking on a video posted to his Twitter account.
The comments marked the admiral’s most forceful remarks about the shutdown since it began 32 days ago amid a dispute over President Donald Trump’s demands for funding for a southern border wall. While the majority of the U.S. military is part of the Defense Department and has funding, the Department of Homeland Security and its agencies, including the Coast Guard, are affected by the shutdown.
About 41,000 active-duty service members and 2,100 civilians who are considered "essential personnel" are working without a paycheck under the promise they will get back pay when the shutdown is resolved, said Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a service spokesman. That situation grew more urgent Jan. 15, when service members missed a paycheck. An additional 6,000 civilians working for the service are furloughed.
Overall, about 800,000 federal workers are not receiving paychecks amid the shutdown, with nearly half furloughed.
Schultz, appearing alongside the service’s top enlisted man, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason Vanderhaden, noted that civilian employees will miss another paycheck on Friday and called it a "sobering" situation.
Senior Coast Guard officials and the American public, he said, "stand in awe" of the affected service members’ "continued dedication to duty and resilience" and that of their families.
The admiral, in keeping with the military’s tradition of not commenting directly on politics, did not blame anyone specific for the shutdown. He and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen are making their case for the service on Capitol Hill, Schultz said.
The Coast Guard has continued to carry out operations across the globe during the shutdown.
On Sunday, the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf departed from Alameda, California, with about 170 people aboard for a deployment to the Pacific that will last up to six months. The Defense Department will reimburse the service for the deployment, but Coast Guard personnel still will not be paid until the shutdown is resolved.
"The crew, like all other [Coast Guard] members, are affected by the lapse of appropriations, and are not being paid," said Lt. Cmdr. Steve Brickey, a service spokesman. "It is always difficult to deploy for months and leave behind family and loved ones. That stress is of course magnified when you add on the uncertainly of the shutdown."

Stripes: Thousands of miles from home, unpaid Coast Guard members in Japan visit food pantry for essentials

By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 24, 2019
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Servicemembers working without pay due to the government shutdown picked up donated groceries from a food pantry Thursday at the home of U.S. Forces Japan in western Tokyo.
Twenty-two Coast Guardsmen, including 15 at Yokota and seven in Singapore, aren’t being paid during the shutdown, which started more than a month ago. The impasse stems from House Democrats’ refusal to provide President Donald Trump with the billions he demands to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.
Other military branches have continued to receive paychecks, but the Coast Guard, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, not the Defense Department, has gone unfunded.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz on Wednesday publicly criticized the lack of pay.
“Ultimately, I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life as servicemembers,” he said in a video posted to his Twitter account.
Volunteer Susan Spano on Thursday showed Coast Guard members around the Yokota pantry, which is run by the Air Force Sergeants Association. She explained that they could take as many expired grocery items as they want and up to two bags of other items — one bag more than is usually allowed — each week.
Information Systems Technician 1 Joseph Brucefilled a shopping bag with free items such as bottled water, cans of pineapple, pasta sauce and sugar.
Bruce, whose wife is expecting a baby daughter, said he’s getting by so far but will be cutting into his savings if he doesn’t get paid next month.
“We’re trying to get ready for the baby and buying clothes and things,” he said. “My co-worker just had a baby, so she has been donating a lot of things for us, like a bassinette.”
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Nathan Wissmann said the Coast Guard’s mission in the Far East involves ship and port security inspections in several countries.
Coast Guard personnel have already missed a paycheck on Jan. 15 and could miss another Feb. 1.
That’s impacting people who rely on their pay to top up bank accounts, so they can meet automatic payments for recurring bills such as telephone and cable services, Wissmann said.
Military members from other service branches at Yokota have offered help and Coast Guard personnel have sought access to a mutual assistance fund that servicemembers donate to for emergencies, he said.
NYT: Trump Says He’ll Delay Speech Until After Shutdown, as Democrats Draft Border Security Plan

President Trump said on Twitter that he would give the State of the Union address once the government shutdown is over, honoring a request by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — President Trump said late Wednesday that he would deliver his State of the Union address once the federal government reopens, capping a day of brinkmanship with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who told the president that he was not welcome to deliver the speech in the House chamber while the government is partly closed.
“As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter shortly after 11 p.m., hours after he had said he would look for another venue for the speech. “I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative – I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over.”
The president’s seeming capitulation came even as House Democratic leaders said they were prepared to give him a substantial sum of money for border security — perhaps even the $5.7 billion he has requested — but not for a wall and not until he agreed to reopen the government. That figure is roughly double what Democrats had previously approved.
On the other end of the Capitol, in the Republican-controlled Senate, lawmakers prepared for crucial votes Thursday on two competing proposals — one backed by Mr. Trump and Senate Republicans, the other by Democrats — that would bring an end to the partial shutdown, though neither might garner the 60 votes necessary for passage.
On Day 33 of the longest government shutdown in history, Washington took on the air of a split-screen television. On one side was a spat between Mr. Trump and Ms. Pelosi over the president’s constitutional duty to periodically report to Congress on the state of the union. On the other, the House and Senate trudged along with their daily business, with lawmakers in both parties grasping for a way out of the shutdown stalemate.
It now seems all but certain that 800,000 federal employees who have been either furloughed or working without pay for more than a month will miss another paycheck on Friday. The best hope, people in both parties say, is that the expected failure of both bills in the Senate on Thursday will prompt bipartisan negotiations that could lead to a compromise.
Those bills take very different approaches. Mr. Trump’s bill would include $5.7 billion for the wall and extend protections to some undocumented immigrants — protections that he himself revoked — while sharply curtailing access to asylum.
The Democrats’ measure, which has been already passed by the House, would simply fund shuttered government agencies through Feb. 8, with no wall money. Responding to Mr. Trump just before midnight, Ms. Pelosi urged the president — who pledged to deliver his address in the “near future” — to accept the Democrats’ bill.
“Mr. President, I hope by saying ‘near future’ you mean you will support the House-passed package to #EndTheShutdown that the Senate will vote on tomorrow,” Ms. Pelosi wrote on Twitter. “Please accept this proposal so we can re-open government, repay our federal workers and then negotiate our differences.”

But with the House set to leave town on Thursday, it is highly unlikely that the impasse will end by Tuesday, when Mr. Trump was scheduled to deliver his address, an annual Washington ritual that usually plays out with pomp in front of both chambers of Congress, the Supreme Court, cabinet secretaries and honored guests.
For Mr. Trump, it would have been a moment to command the stage — with television cameras rolling and Ms. Pelosi stuck behind him, trying to figure out whether to grimace or nod. Now, the president is trying to paint Ms. Pelosi as a left-wing radical who canceled the address for political reasons, despite her assertion that she simply wanted to postpone, not cancel, it because of the burden it would impose on Secret Service agents working without pay.
“It’s really a shame what’s happening with the Democrats,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. “They’ve become radicalized.”
In the afternoon, Mr. Trump pledged to “do something in the alternative,” and it was not clear at the time whether he had completely given up on holding the speech in the Capitol. Some lawmakers raised the possibility that he could deliver it in the Senate chamber. But others, as well as some Trump advisers, suggested it would be better for him to issue the speech at the border or during a rally.
But ultimately, the president wrote on Twitter, he decided against an alternative site “because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber.” He added, “I look forward to giving a ‘great’ State of the Union Address in the near future!”
Mr. Trump’s actions during the shutdown have often seemed in response to criticism from allies like the conservative commentator Ann Coulter and the prime-time hosts on Fox News. The network’s first reaction to the president’s decision to delay his speech appeared to indicate trouble ahead: “Trump Blinks” read the headline atop the Fox website.
While the president is permitted on the floor of the House, he needs an invitation to speak. Ms. Pelosi had invited Mr. Trump to deliver the speech in a letter on Jan. 3, when she was sworn in as speaker. But in a second letter on Jan. 16, she warned that there were security concerns, and asked that they “work together to determine another suitable date after government has reopened,” or that Mr. Trump consider delivering it in writing.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump called Ms. Pelosi’s bluff, with a letter saying that he had checked, and that the Secret Service had no such concerns. So he said he was accepting her initial invitation. Republican lawmakers piled on. The House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, released a video on Twitter of him signing the resolution formally inviting the president to the House.
“Retweet if you agree that the State of the Union should proceed as planned,” Mr. McCarthy wrote.
But hours later, Ms. Pelosi fired back with a letter of her own, telling the president she would not pass a resolution authorizing him to come until the government had reopened.
As the two traded barbs, House Democrats passed yet another in a string of spending bills that would reopen the government; this latest one included $1.5 billion in border security and was based on measures that gained approval from both parties in the last Congress.
During a closed-door meeting with House Democrats on Wednesday morning, Ms. Pelosi urged her caucus to stay unified and not to peel off and begin negotiating with the president on his terms, which could muddle the stark differences between Mr. Trump and them on a critical issue.
She also told rank-and-file lawmakers that they should not get “too bogged down” on what legislation was being voted upon — a direct message to some of her restive centrist freshmen, who have been meeting with Republican freshmen to discuss a bipartisan path out of the shutdown. The appeal seems to have worked; as they emerged from the closed-door meeting, rank-and-file Democrats appeared united behind their leaders’ demand that the government open before border security negotiations took place.
“There’s an overwhelming consensus that this is about establishing that shutdowns are wrong,” said one centrist, Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey. “From my standpoint, and I think this is the consensus of the caucus, everything is negotiable. Border security is negotiable. Immigration policy is negotiable. Shutting down the government is not negotiable, and we’re angry about it.”
Mr. Malinowski went on: “If we give in to this tactic in any way we will validate it, and there will be no end to these shutdowns, and the people who suffer today will be suffering again and again and again. We cannot have that.”
House Democrats are also drafting their own plan for border security, which is expected to be made public in the coming days. “We are going to be talking about substantial sums of money to secure our border,” Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic leader, told reporters.
Representative James E. Clyburn, the No 3. Democrat, said separately that Democrats could back a $5.7 billion funding measure that included drones and refitted ports of entry — but no wall. That is the amount Mr. Trump has demanded for the wall he wants to build on the southwestern border.
“Using the figure the president put on the table, if his $5.7 billion is about border security, then we see ourselves fulfilling that request, only doing it with what I like to call using a smart wall,” he said.
Both Mr. Hoyer and Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, seemed to leave the door open for eventual negotiations to include talk of some kind of border barrier — so long as the government was open first.
When asked point-blank if Democrats would agree to talk about a wall, Mr. Jeffries did not say no but reiterated Democratic talking points about what the party favors: new scanning technology to detect drugs and weapons, improvements in infrastructure at ports of entry and more personnel, including more immigration judges.
Mr. Hoyer was asked whether Democrats might consider permanent protections for the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers, in exchange for “some new physical barriers.” He said it was clear that Mr. Trump would put money for a wall on the negotiating table.
“It’s clear what the president wants; it’s clear what we want,” he said. “If you have a negotiation, both parties are going to put on the table what they want.”

Military Times: Women in the military draft, or dump the system altogether? New report looks at radical options
By: Leo Shane III20 hours ago
WASHINGTON — The Selective Service System could start including women in its lists for possible future military drafts in the next few years.
Or it could also start using those lists to help fine-tune military recruitment by identifying highly-skilled high schoolers interested in public service.
Or it could disband altogether, abandoning any procedure for involuntary military service in the future.
Members of the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service charged with recommending potentially radical changes to the Selective Service System released their interim report on Wednesday, outlining a host of potentially dramatic overhauls they may recommend in coming years.
Along with including women in the draft rolls — a polarizing topic which lawmakers specifically formed the commission to explore — the report includes a number of proposals to expand the scope of national service opportunities for all Americans.
Among the ideas: Include more local volunteer opportunities in high school, simplifying the process for applying to federal jobs, better promoting federal service organizations like the Peace Corps, and using the Selective Service System to better identify recruits for the military.
Commission Chairman Joe Heck, a former Nevada congressman who served in Iraq with the Army, said no decisions on any of the proposals have been made yet. The group’s final recommendations are due to Congress and the White House in March 2020.
But he said he expects the work to yield some significant changes in the end.
“As Americans, we are ready to defend our country as needed,” he said. “But for some of our younger Americans, the draft is just something you hear discussed on TV … There is no widely held expectation for service in our country today, and we need to look at that.”
But while the commission has found broad support for some of those ideas encouraging more public service, the proposal to require women to register for a potential military draft remains controversial.
Under current law, all men between 18 and 26 are required to register with Selective Service officials in the event of a national emergency requiring military conscription. The law remains in effect even though the country has not had a military draft in more than four decades.
As all military combat jobs have been opened to women in recent years, however, several lawmakers and advocacy groups have pushed to open the Selective Service requirement to women as well.
Legislative proposals have stalled out in Congress, over both concerns with traditional family roles for women and the viability of the Selective Service System itself. The system costs about $23 million a year to maintain.
Commission Vice Chair Debra Wada said the group’s research found it remains viable, even if the idea of a future military draft is widely unpopular. Wada said she is optimistic the commission can find a middle ground on the issue of registering women, but thus far has no formal position on the idea.
The interim report is available on the commission’s web site.

Military.com: VA Now Has Shorter Wait Times Than Private Clinics, AMA Study Claims

23 Jan 2019
Military.com | By Richard Sisk
Wait times at Department of Veterans Affairshospitals and clinics have gone down significantly from recent years and are now shorter on average than those in private-sector health care, at least in big cities, according to a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Critics of the study pointed out that main contributors to the JAMA report were current and former VA executives, including Dr. David Shulkin, who was fired as VA secretary last year by President Donald Trump.
In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the JAMA report published Jan. 18 showed that the VA "has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care" since 2014, when wait-times scandals and doctored records led to the resignation of former VA Secretary and retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki.
"This study affirms that VA has made notable progress in improving access in primary care, and other key specialty care areas," Wilkie said.
The cross-sectional JAMA study of wait-time data from VA facilities and private-sector hospitals focused on primary care, dermatology, cardiology and orthopedics in 15 major metropolitan areas.
The findings were that "there was no statistically significant difference between private sector and VA mean wait times in 2014" and, in 2017, "mean wait times were statistically significantly shorter for the VA," the JAMA report said.
"In 2014 the average wait time in V.A. hospitals was 22.5 days, compared with 18.7 in the private sector," the study said, but in 2017, "mean wait time at V.A. hospitals had gone down to 17.7 days, while rising to 29.8 for private practitioners."
The study, titled "Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers," relied on wait-time data provided by the VA and calculated private-sector data from a survey conducted by a physicians’ search firm, Merritt Hawkins, using the so-called "secret shopper" method in nearly 2,000 medical offices in metropolitan areas.
"For the secret shoppers method, the research associates at MH [Merritt Hawkins] called physicians’ offices asking to be told the first available time for a new-patient appointment," the JAMA study said.
"This earliest availability was recorded as the wait time. However, the VA data record scheduled wait times, which may not reflect the earliest available appointment," the study said.
The JAMA report also noted that rural areas and follow-on care were excluded from the analysis and said that "follow-up studies are critical to analyze access to the entirety of VA health care," since nearly one-quarter of veterans live in rural areas.
The overall conclusion of the report was that "access to care within VA facilities appears to have improved between 2014 and 2017 and appears to have surpassed access in the private sector for 3 of the 4 specialties evaluated," with the exception of orthopedics.
In 2014, the VA was rocked by wait-time scandals and allegations of manipulated data at the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona. "This incident damaged the VA’s credibility and created a public perception regarding the VA health care system’s inability to see patients in a timely manner," the JAMA report said.
The VA has since worked to improve access and reduce wait times.
"There is evidence suggesting that these efforts have improved access to care, including reports that 22% of VA patients are now seen on the same day as the requested appointment," the report said. However, "Despite, these efforts, the adequacy of access to VA care remains unclear."
As a result of the 2014 scandals, the VA initiated the Choice program to expand private-care options for veterans. Last year, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the VA Mission Act to consolidate and streamline the Choice program, which has been riddled with inefficiencies.
In June, the Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that many veterans who opted for the Choice program to avoid wait times still faced delays that could stretch for months before seeing a doctor.
In response to the JAMA report, a posting on the Disabled American Veterans website came under the heading: "Veterans Affairs Spins ‘JAMA Study’ It Authored On VA Wait Times."
In addition to Shulkin, the posting noted that another contributor to the JAMA study was Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the former acting head of the Veterans Health Administration. She was replaced in July by Dr. Richard Stone as acting head of the VHA and has now taken the position at the VA of deputy under secretary for discovery, education and affiliate networks.
Stone, the former deputy surgeon general of the Army, has yet to receive Senate confirmation. The VHA has not had a permanent head since Shulkin left the position in January 2017 to become VA secretary.

Military Times: Tribal elder in viral standoff video was not a Vietnam veteran, military records show
By: Tara Copp13 hours ago
The Native American tribal elder who became the focus of a viral social media controversy over the weekend is not a Vietnam veteran, the U.S. Marine Corps confirmed Wednesday.
Nathan Phillips, 64, spent four years in the Marine Corps Reserve and left in 1976 with the rank of private, or E-1, the Marines said in a statement providing his personal releasable information.
Previously identified as Nathaniel R. Stanard, Phillips was thrust into the national spotlight after images emerged of what appeared to be a standoff at the Lincoln Memorial between him and a group of students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky.
He never deployed, but served as a refrigerator technician and anti-tank missileman; he was awarded the National Defense Service Medal the records show.
Over the weekend, images of the standoff generated immediate public outcry, with many media outlets, including this one, citing reports that Phillips was a Vietnam veteran. As fuller versions of the video of the standoff between Phillips, the high school students and a group of activists from the Black Hebrew Israelites surfaced, new questions arose about whether Phillips was a Vietnam veteran. Military Times sent a request to the Marine Corps for Phillips service record on Monday.
In past media interviews he has been described as a veteran of the Vietnam War and he had previously described himself as a “Recon ranger” who had served during “Vietnam times.”

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