26 August, 2019 06:42

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Monday, August 26, 2019 which is Musical Yoga Day, National Toilet Paper Day, National Dog Day and Make Your Own Luck Day.
*slow blinks* “Make Your Own Luck Day?” Here in Indianapolis, 2 days after Captain Andrew leaves the field of Battle? I’m not going to do it, it’s just too easy. (Plus all my readers from Indiana would boo me.)
This Day in Legion History:

  • Aug. 26, 1982: The American Legion, at its national convention in Chicago, presents a check for $1 million to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, making it the single largest contributor to the monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The road to its dedication is rough and complicated. Following congressional authorization to raise funds for the memorial on two acres of National Park property in Washington, D.C., the design of Yale architecture student Maya Ying Lin, 23, is chosen twice by two separate panels of judges. Her design, announced as the winner on May 6, 1981, however, had been met with vocal and influential criticism, followed by an initial refusal by the Department of Interior to break ground. The stalled project led The American Legion to call a meeting with Secretary of the Interior James Watt and launch a letter-writing campaign seeking President Reagan’s intervention. The Legion is ultimately credited for ending the government impasse over the design, which finally leads to groundbreaking.
  • Aug. 26, 2014: The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund grows by a record-breaking $1 million at the national convention in Charlotte, N.C. The American Legion Riders raise more than $435,000 for the fund on its largest Legacy Run ever, attracting more than 600 riders. An additional $510,000 is presented from the convention floor, and American Legion Charities adds $53,000 to exceed $1 million. Among the local posts donating to the record-breaking year is Converse, Texas, Post 32 with a contribution of $32,000.

This Day in History:

  • 1346: During the Hundred Years War, King Edward III’s English army annihilates a French force under King Philip VI at the Battle of Crecy in Normandy. The battle, which saw an early use of the deadly longbow by the English, is regarded as one of the most decisive in history.
  • 1968: As the Democratic National Convention gets underway in Chicago, thousands of antiwar demonstrators take to Chicago’s streets to protest the Vietnam War and its support by the top Democratic presidential candidate, Vice President Hubert Humphrey. During the four-day convention, the most violent in U.S. history, police and National Guardsmen clashed with protesters outside the International Amphitheater, and hundreds of people, including innocent bystanders, were beaten by the Chicago police. The violence even spilled into the convention hall, as guards roughed up delegates and members of the press, including CBS News correspondent Mike Wallace, who was punched in the face. On August 29, Humphrey secured the nomination and the convention ended.


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Great Falls Tribune: Judge deems courtroom lies an act of stolen valor
Andrea Fisher, anfisherPublished 5:51 p.m. MT Nov. 9, 2016 | Updated 10:08 p.m. MT Nov. 9, 2016
A local judge ordered a Cascade County man to complete community service and pay a fine for lying to the court about serving in the military in order to gain entrance into the Veterans Treatment Court.
Ryan Patrick Morris was originally charged with burglary and theft for allegedly stealing a television from an off-limits storage area at his rental property in April.
District Judge Greg Pinski, who presides over Veterans Court, found Morris to be in contempt of court Wednesday for the false statements he made during the court during the progress of that case.
“You stated you served in the military,” Pinski said, “that has not been verified.”
Morris admitted he made false statements to the court.
“I’d like to offer my deepest apology to any veterans out there that I’ve disrespected,” Morris said.
According to court documents, Morris told the court he was a veteran during his first court appearance in May. He elaborated during a subsequent hearing on Sept. 28 before Pinski.
The judge read back Morris’ statements from hearing transcripts, verifying that Morris told the court, “I’ve done seven combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Records show Morris also said he suffered from combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder and had a hip replacement after being injured by an improvised explosive device, or IED. He indicated he wanted to take care of the charges against him as quickly as possible, according to records.
During the September hearing, Pinski told Morris, who was out on bond, to meet with the Veterans Court coordinator about admission to the program, however, the following day Morris was accused of violating bail conditions by carrying a firearm and consuming alcohol.
Court transcripts show he made an initial appearance after the alleged violations and said, “I’m a seven-time combat vet, special teams operator. I was actually at the Mayor’s Challenge. I’m actually on the outreach team for any homeless vets with Mayor Kelly.”
Records also show Morris refused to sign a release for the court to obtain an official service record. Morris’ father contacted the Veterans Court coordinator in October to say that his son never served in the military, though he tried several times, and that Morris previously lied about being a veteran in Georgia.
In addition to qualifying as contempt of court, Pinski ruled the false statements were also a matter of stolen valor. He noted the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 classifies falsifying military service to gain any sort of benefit, though the court did not have the power to bring federal charges against Morris.
Pinski said the disrespect Morris showed the court “pales in comparison” to the disrespect he showed the 441 Montana service members killed in the line of duty since the Korean War.
The judge ordered Morris pay a $500 fine and serve 30 days in jail, though he suspended the jail time and ordered Morris serve 441 hours of community service with a veteran service organization within one year — one hour for each of the fallen Montanans he mentioned.
Pinski further ordered Morris to notify the organization that his performing community service because he committed an act of stolen valor.
Morris is currently being held on $20,000 bail for the alleged bail violations, though the defendant sent a note directly to Pinski requesting his contempt hearing be held in early October to allow him to help his wife care for their newborn son in the wake of her scheduled cancer surgery.
The underlying burglary and theft case is still pending.
KRTV: Two men sentenced in Great Falls for "stolen valor"

Judge placed unique requirements on their sentences.
Posted: 5:27 PM, Aug 23, 2019
By: Lindsie Hiatt-MTN News
GREAT FALLS — On Friday, two men in Great Falls were sentenced for crimes committed while pretending to be military veterans.
Judge Greg Pinski placed some unique requirements on their sentences.
Ryan Morris and Troy Nelson both claimed to be military veterans in an effort to receive lesser sentences and be eligible to enter Judge Pinski’s Veterans Treatment Court.
During Friday’s proceedings, Judge Pinski made it clear that their dishonesty and acts of stealing valor will not be tolerated.
Pinski made Morris and Nelson watch a video of a stolen valor suspect being confronted by a member of the armed forces.
Judge Pinski then read the names of Montanans who have died while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Morris, who was convicted of burglary, was sentenced to 10 years in prison with three of the years suspended. Nelson received five years in prison with two years suspended for a conviction of criminal possession of dangerous drugs.
When they complete their prison terms, they then must complete Judge Pinski’s additional requirements before they can be considered for parole.
Both men must wear a sign at the Montana Veterans Memorial during each Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremony while they are under court supervision; the signs will read: I AM A LIAR. I AM NOT A VETERAN. I STOLE VALOR. I DISHONORED ALL VETERANS.
In addition, they will be required to complete the following:
– Hand-write the names of all 6,756 Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan wars
– Hand-write the obituaries of the 40 Montanans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan wars
– Write letters of apology to the following organizations: American Legion, AmVets, Disabled American Veterans, the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Vietnam Veterans of America
– 441 hours of community service
The Hill: VA officials labeled recommendations from Mar-a-Lago members ‘ridiculous’: report
Staffers at the Department of Veterans Affairs blasted policy recommendations from members of President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club as “ridiculous,” accordingto documents released by a Washington, D.C. governmental ethics watchdog.
In more than 300 pages of emails obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) through a Freedom of Information Act request, career VA officials expressed frustration about having to entertain suggestions from Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, attorney Marc Sherman and Palm Beach-area doctor Bruce Moskowitz.
In one email, a senior department official tells staffers Sherman does not “understand the context of government nor does he understand the [app
development] contract,” and that due to his presence, those involved in the process are “talking past each other.”
Another email, responding to an official questioning how they should address “ridiculous” questions, advised the official, “They are coming from POTUS friend/doctor … Handle sensitively and with facts.”
"To me the session tomorrow is just a grin and bear it session. I will have my listening hat on for two hours," another email says in reference to an upcoming meeting with two of the men.
The three’s influence on the VA was already publicly known, with a 2018 Pro Publica investigation finding they lobbied for increased use of private-sector services within the VA.
The three have denied they influenced policy beyond giving advice, telling Pro Publica, "While we were always willing to share our thoughts, we did not make or implement any type of policy, possess any authority over agency decisions, or direct government officials to take any actions.”
However, emails obtained by CREW show widespread confusion at the VA about the three men’s level of authority.
“He is a White House advisor. I don’t know much about him other than he is important,” one official says of Moskowitz in the emails.
The Hill has reached out to the VA and the White House for comment.

Military.com: After Mandate from Congress, VA Opens Research Center for Burn Pit-Related Illnesses

23 Aug 2019
Military.com | By Patricia Kime
The Department of Veterans Affairs is increasing its focus on health conditions linked to burn pits and other airborne pollution in combat zones, establishing a "center of excellence" to better understand the extent of related illnesses and treatments for affected veterans.
The new Airborne Hazards and Burn Pits Center of Excellence was stood up in May at the VA’s War-Related Illness and Injury Study Center, or WRIISC, in East Orange, New Jersey. The office will specialize in clinical and translational research, as well as forging partnerships with researchers, physicians and others currently working to support veterans with burn pit-related diseases.
According to Dr. Anays Sotolongo, the center’s director, the facility’s mission is multipronged: It will work to understand the health consequences of airborne environmental exposures, provide health evaluations for difficult-to-diagnose patients, build a network of specialized clinicians across the country, and facilitate research.
"We are forming collaborative partnerships with the Department of Defense, with academic partners and others to better understand the spectrum of diseases, health outcomes and treatments … and we want to serve as a resource for providers seeing veterans all over the country," Sotolongo told Military.com.
The center was created last September by Congress as part of the legislation that funds the VA. It builds on an existing center of excellence — the Airborne Hazards Center of Excellence — and includes $10 million in additional funds over the next year to study burn pit-related health conditions.
When fully manned, the center will have at least 18 employees, including pulmonologists, occupational medicine physicians, technologists, researchers and more, Sotolongo said. An in-house analyst will study data contained in the VA Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, which contains information from 173,000 veterans who served in the Middle East starting with the first Gulf War and Afghanistan and Djibouti after Sept. 11, 2001.
Burn pits were used in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere to dispose of waste generated by the deployment of millions of troops. Items including household trash, hospital waste, plastic bottles and drums, furniture, lithium ion batteries, computer parts, animal carcasses, insecticide-soaked tents and uniforms were burned in large open pits.
At their peak, burn pits numbered 22 in Iraq and 251 in Afghanistan. Nine remain in operation.
Service members who lived and worked at or near the pits described developing illnesses, including asthma, bronchitis and skin infections, shortly after landing in theater.
Later, returning service members reported continuing health problems, including asthma and difficulties taking deep breaths. A number have been diagnosed with a rare lung condition called constrictive bronchiolitis, while some have other heart and lung conditions thought to be related to burn pits.
The new center of excellence will focus on cardiopulmonary conditions thought to be linked to burn pits, Sotolongo said, adding that lung and heart problems make up the highest number of symptom complaints in the burn pit registry.
"We’re focusing on that. It’s sort of our low-hanging fruit," she said.
Respiratory issues, however, are far from the only conditions burn pits may have caused. Many troops have developed cancers — some rare — they believe are related to exposure. In 2006, Air Force Lt. Col. Darrin Curtis, a bioenvironmental flight commander at Joint Base Balad in Iraq, said a number of cancer-causing agents, such as benzene, formaldehyde and xylene, were released into the air from the pits.
"We have to start somewhere so we decided to start with cardio-pulmonary. But Phase Two, absolutely, we are looking to assess cancer risk, any sort of cognitive dysfunction. Veterans are saying they are having issues with processing and whether that’s related to burn pits, we will be looking at that as well," Sotolongo said.
While Congress created the center by legislative fiat, the center actually grew out of the work of the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC), which conducts comprehensive, four-day evaluations of the VA’s most complex deployment-health cases, Sotolongo said.
Veterans coming to the center often reported that they had chronic breathing issues, couldn’t catch their breath or had no energy after returning home from overseas. Physicians at the WRIISC focused on pulmonary conditions long before the center of excellence was established, she said.
"We would like veterans to know that we are listening to them, that we will be including their voices as we evolve. We understand the veterans have been experiencing many of these symptoms for a while, but we are a new center and … we will be listening to what they have to say," Sotolongo said. "Our research and our clinical exploration is really guided by their voices."
The WRIISC sees veteran patients by referral from their VA primary care and specialty physicians and also provides consultations to veterans through their home VA medical centers.
More information on the Airborne Hazards and Burn Pits Center of Excellence and the WRIISC, can be found on their websites.

Reuters: U.S., Taliban deal will not stop attacks on Afghan forces, Taliban say
Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Jibran Ahmed
U.S. and Taliban officials have been negotiating in Qatar since last year on an agreement centered on the withdrawal of U.S. forces, and an end to their longest-ever war, in exchange for a Taliban guarantee that international militant groups will not plot from Afghan soil.
U.S. negotiators have been pressing the Taliban to agree to so-called intra-Afghan talks, meaning with the Kabul government and a ceasefire, but a senior Taliban official said that would not happen.
“We will continue our fight against the Afghan government and seize power by force,” said the Taliban commander on condition of anonymity.
U.S. President Donald Trump is impatient to get U.S. forces out of Afghanistan and end the 18-year war that was launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
But there are fears among Afghan officials and U.S. national security aides that a U.S. troop withdrawal could see Afghanistan plunged into a new round of civil war that could herald a return of Taliban rule and international militants, including Islamic State, finding a refuge.
Another Taliban commander, who also declined to be identified, said a deal was expected to be signed this week under which U.S. forces will stop attacking the Taliban and the militants would end their fight against the U.S. troops.
Under the pact, the United States would also cease supporting the Afghan government, the Taliban officials said.
“The Americans will not come to the assistance of the Afghan government and its forces in their fight against us,” the first Taliban official said.
U.S. officials involved in the negotiations were not available for comment.
The U.S. special envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been pressing the Taliban to make a commitment to power-sharing talks with the government and to announce a ceasefire.
The Taliban, fighting to expel foreign forces and re-establish a theocratic Islamic state since their ouster in October 2001, have refused to talk to the government, denouncing it as a U.S. puppet although they have raised the possibility of negotiations after the deal on the U.S. withdrawal is struck.
The militants now control more territory than they have since 2001 and the war has ground into a stalemate with casualties rising among civilians as well as combatants.
Some 14,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, training and advising Afghan forces and conducting counterinsurgency operations. About 6,000 troops from NATO allies and partner countries also help train Afghan forces.
There has been no let-up in the fighting over the past year despite the talks. The United States had not stopped conducting air strikes and helping Afghan forces to destroy camps run by the Taliban and Islamic State fighters, a U.S. official said.
Two diplomatic sources with knowledge of the ninth round of talks in Qatar said they expected an agreement to be finalised this week, enabling the U.S. to pull out about 50% of its forces.
An end to the fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces would have to be negotiated separately, they said.
“A ceasefire between the Afghan forces and the Taliban requires a separate agreement and deliberations are yet to begin,” said one diplomat who has been monitoring the negotiations in Qatar.
“The U.S.-Taliban agreement will stop U.S. from conducting air strikes on the Taliban, and the Taliban will stop insider attacks on the U.S. and other foreign soldiers,” the diplomat said.
One Western diplomat said preparations were being made for talks between the rival Afghan sides in Norway. A group of at least 30 Afghans had been identified by the government and its allies to talk to the Taliban.
Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban political office in Doha, said negotiations have gone on late into Sunday.
The two sides would meet again later on Monday after internal talks in the morning, Shaheen said.
“Our meeting with the U.S. team will resume in the early evening,” he said.
Most issues had been resolved but a formal agreement had yet to be concluded, he said.

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