30 April, 2019 07:08

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Tuesday, April 30, 2019 which is Adopt a Shelter Pet day, Day of the Child and Bugs Bunny day.

This Day in History:


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WDEF (CBS)-TV (Ga.) (for video: )
Dorothy Sherman

DALTON, Ga. (WDEF) – American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad made a stop at Post 112 in Dalton on Monday.
The veterans organization is celebrating 100 years.
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“It’s important for me to have a well rounded understanding of what this organization contributes to the communities, and I see a lot of that here,” Reistad said.
While this is a time of celebration for the American Legion, many veterans are dealing with serious issues.
On Monday, members of Congress held hearings on preventing veteran suicides.
“America is facing a national public health crisis. That’s the somber reality. Every day, 20 veterans, service members, reservists, and members of the National Guard die by suicide,” House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman, U.S. Rep. Mark Takano, (D) California said.
Just this month multiple veterans died by suicide at VA facilities, two in Georgia.
“We’re dealing with a bureaucracy and it’s not that easy to make changes in a bureaucracy. So it takes the community working with the veterans organizations, working with the Veterans Administration to ensure that all of the pieces of the puzzle are in place and I think that the VA understands its obligation to have something in place when a veteran gets to that point where they walk in the emergency room and say I need to talk to somebody, that they’re not sat down in a room full of people and feel as if they’re being dismissed in a time of crisis in their life,” Reistad said.
“I’m at loss for words because I can’t imagine what kind of feeling that has, they just lost all hope,” Post 112 Commander Lee Oliver said.
Oliver said that every other Wednesday they have a PTSD clinic for veterans to come and talk to a licensed psychiatrist.
“If they had that opportunity more, that would help a lot, to be able to talk to someone that can relate to what they’re talking about,” Oliver said.
Oliver said the clinic is open to any veteran.
For more information contact Post 112, 706-226-5120.
Military Times
VA privatization latest battleground for congressional rising stars
By:Leo Shane III   April 19
A pair of prominent freshman lawmakers offered sharply different views about the future of the Department of Veterans Affairs health care this week, bringing the ongoing debate over fears of department privatization to the next generation of elected leaders.
The duo — Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Republican Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw — have both built national followings since their elections last fall, and recently have sparred directly over social media concerning rhetoric surrounding Muslims and the Sept. 11 attacks.
But this week marked each legislator’s first focused entry into VA policy discussions, and their comments suggested both will make those issues a key focus in months to come — with very different positions on the issue.
In her home district on Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez took part in a rally organized by National Nurses United and other advocates who warned that current administration plans are taking the department on a path towards privatization by dramatically expanding community care eligibility for veterans.
“They’re trying to ‘fix’ the VA for pharmaceutical companies, they’re trying to ‘fix’ VA for insurance corporations, and ultimately they’re trying to ‘fix’ the VA for a for-profit health care industry that does not put people or veterans first,” she told an applauding crowd advocates who have lobbied against the changes for months.
“We have a responsibility to protect (VA). Because if there is any community that deserves Cadillac, first-class health care in the United States of America, it is our military servicemembers and veterans.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

If Congress wants to #ProtectTheVA, we shouldn’t starve it + then sell it off for parts, forcing vets into for-profit emergency rooms + to providers who aren’t used to working w/their unique medical needs.

We should fight to fully fund the VA + hire to fill its 49,000 vacancies.

Christopher Shay
Last night, @AOC broke with most of the Democratic Party and offered a fierce defense of the VA, which is being chipped away by privatization: https://www.thenation.com/article/ocasio-cortez-va-health-care-privatization/

A day later, in his home district, Crenshaw offered the opposite view during discussion held by Concerned Veterans for America. He insisted the health care moves “are in no way trying to give away VA responsibilities” but instead are helping the department evolve into a modern, more effective health care system for veterans.
“There’s a knee jerk reaction in Washington when something isn’t perfect to just add more money, add more personnel, it’ll all be OK,” he said. “That’s not true, especially with complex issues like veterans health care.”
At issue are looming changes to eligibility rules for veterans seeking medical care from private-sector doctors at taxpayer expense. Under the VA Mission Act passed last summer, new standards will be put in place this June that could nearly quadruple the number of veterans who could go outside the federal system for that care. About 600,000 veterans enrolled in VA health care are eligible for the existing community care programs. The proposed expanded standards will raise that number to between 1.5 million and 2.1 million patients, according to the department.
Supporters of the change — including CVA — have argued it amounts to providing more choices and more convenient, timely care for veterans. Opponents — including NNU — have called it a way to siphon off VA dollars to private companies, and eventually privatize the government’s responsibility to care for veterans.
Neither Crenshaw, who lost an eye while serving as a Navy SEAL in Afghanistan, nor Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive leader who has already made health care reforms a key point of her congressional focus, sit on the chamber’s veterans policy committee. Neither was in Congress last year when the Mission Act passed.

But both are poised to be key voices as the June deadline approaches, and as Democrats try to decide whether they should halt or stall the changes amid lingering concerns from their supporters.
Ocasio-Cortez argued that VA care has been unfairly maligned in recent years, a point that the nurses group and union leaders have emphasized for months. Recent studies have shown that VA wait times are lower than private-sector options and care quality generally exceeds that of outside clinics.
“The entire opening and approach that we have seen when it comes to privatization is the idea that this thing that isn’t broken, this thing that provides some of the highest quality care to our veterans, somehow needs to be fixed, optimized, tinkered with until we don’t even recognize it anymore,” she said.
“We believe some things should not be for sale in this country. Caring for our veterans should not be for sale in this country.”
Crenshaw said he has received care at four different VA facilities since his return from the war, but that too often care is inconsistent from location to location. Expanding options for veterans who face longer waits or insufficient expertise is not only a sensible step ahead, he argued, but a duty for the country.
“I need the VA to be flexible enough to send me outside for care,” he said. “This is a step in the right direction.”
The debate over the Mission Act changes will return to Capitol Hill later this month, when Crenshaw, Ocasio-Cortez and the rest of the House returns from its April legislative break.
Leaders from the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee have already demanded more information from VA on the financial impact of the changes and unfilled health care vacancies within the Veterans Health System.
That debate is also likely to shift from the committee’s hearing room to the House floor as the deadline approaches, giving Ocasio-Cortez and Crenshaw another chance to square off on VA issues.
The Washington Times
Pentagon approves 320 troops for illegal immigrant babysitting duties

By Stephen Dinan – The Washington Times – Monday, April 29, 2019
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has approved a Homeland Security request to assign 320 “personnel” to babysit illegal immigrants, driving them, feeding them and checking on their welfare, the Pentagon announced Monday.
The goal is to free up Border Patrol agents currently assigned to those duties so they can get back to patrolling the front lines.
The troops Mr. Shanahan has assigned the new duties will not be engaged in actual law enforcement and there will be Homeland Security officers present to handle actual custody of illegal immigrants, and to provide protection to the troops themselves, said Lt. Col. Jamie Davis.
He said the deployment has been approved through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, at a cost of $7.4 million.
“DoD personnel will assist in driving high-capacity CBP vehicles to transport migrants; providing administrative support, including providing heating, meal distribution and monitoring the welfare of individuals in CBP custody; and attorney support to ICE,” he said in a statement.
The Border Patrol has been overwhelmed by the surge of illegal immigrants from Central America. More than 50,000 families were caught jumping the border in March alone, shattering previous records and swamping local communities where the migrants are being released.
Agents in some hard-hit areas are spending as much as 40 percent of their time engaged in welfare checks, transporting migrants for processing, or taking them to clinics or hospitals for medical checkups.
Customs and Border Protection, which oversees border operations, has already reassigned hundreds of officers from the ports of entry to assist with those babysitting duties, forcing closure of some lanes of traffic at ports of entry where the officers were taken from.
The Defense Department personnel will provide still more manpower for the support duties.
“DoD personnel will not perform any law enforcement functions,” Lt. Col. Davis said. “In any situation that requires DoD personnel to be in proximity to migrants, DHS law enforcement personnel will be present to conduct all custodial and law enforcement functions, and provide force protection of military personnel.”
Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Military Times:Frustrations mount over lack of progress on preventing veterans’suicide
Just hours before a Capitol Hill hearing Monday on how to address the problem of veterans dying by suicide, a veteran took his own life outside the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.
Lawmakers said that the incident was a painful reminder for all the effort and funding put into suicide prevention in recent years, progress on the issue has been frustratingly inconsistent.
“Two weeks ago, three other veterans committed suicide at VA facilities in five days,” House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., said. “So far, we have seen seven this year.
“It’s clear we are not doing enough to support veterans in crisis.”
Both Democrats and Republicans in the House are pledging to try and fix that in coming months, launching a series of hearings and legislative pushes to address the lingering problem of veterans suicide.
Takano and committee ranking member Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said they are optimistic they can advance bipartisan legislation on the issue, to include more research and monitoring within VA facilities.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a press conference ahead of the hearing to highlight the new congressional focus, called the issue an “uncomfortable, urgent crisis” and promised to work closely with Republican Party leaders on finding answers.
Preventing suicides has been VA’s top clinical priority for the past two years, and lawmakers noting that spending on support programs have more than doubled since 2005. Despite that, the rate of suicide among veterans has remained steady over the last 10 years, with about 20 a day across the country.
Veterans Affairs officials have noted the uptick in veterans who have died by suicide in public spaces at department facilities — 25 in the last 18 months — does not reflect a statistically significant increase in the overall suicide problem.
“But all of us feel these losses,” said Dr. Richard Stone, acting head of the Veterans Health Administration.
Lawmakers and veterans groups expressed frustration at the department, not for their effort, but for their results.
“We must confront an uncomfortable and deeply troubling truth: VA’s current efforts and approaches to suicide prevention and mental health are not working,” said Joe Chennelly, executive director at AMVETS. “How do we know this? In the simplest of terms, the suicide numbers aren’t decreasing.”
Officials at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America lamented that “we are far from a long-term sustainable solution to address veterans suicide.”
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump announced a year-long task force review of the veterans suicide issue, engaging experts across multiple departments to find new ideas. The House effort echoes that move, but lawmakers hope to bring legislative force along with that.
Among the ideas being discussed at other committee hearings later this week: expanding eligibility for health care services, expanding research on suicides, mandating more reporting by VA on suicides on campuses and increased monitoring of prescriptions by VA doctors.
Shelli Avenevoli, deputy director at the National Institutes of Mental Health, said in recent years officials have seen successes with a host of new approaches, such as universal mental health screening for all patients and detailed follow-up plans for suicidal patients. Those ideas may also be included in coming House plans.
Takano, whose uncle — a Vietnam veteran — died by suicide decades ago, said lawmakers are open to any innovations that could help with the issue.
VA officials said they are open to the conversation, calling challenge a national problem, not just one shouldered by their staff.
They did not disclose any additional details about the Cleveland suicide, which occurred early Monday morning outside of the campus’ emergency room. Stone noted that more than 240 suicides have been prevented on the grounds of VA facilities since the start of 2017, but the idea that 25 other deaths happened “with help just a few feet away is deeply troubling.”
Veterans experiencing a mental health emergency can contact the Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1 for a VA staffer. Veterans, troops or their families members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.

Marine Commandant: You Can Have Purple Hair in Our New Cyber Force

Purple spiked hair. (Creative Commons/orchdork1008)
29 Apr 2019
Military.com | By Gina Harkins
The Marine Corps is creating a new cyber unit, the top officer said Monday, and you won’t need to meet those strict Devil Dog hair regulations to join.
The service will stand up a new cyber auxiliary, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said at the Future Security Forum 2019 in Washington.
"If anybody wants to join, you can sign up. You can have purple hair, too, but no EGA,” he said, referring to the Marines’ famous eagle, globe and anchor insignia.
Since Neller said the members of the Marine Corps’ new Cyber Auxiliary division won’t earn the coveted symbol new Marines get after completing boot camp or earning their commission, this program is likely to be strictly for civilians or veterans.
The military services have struggled to retain cyber uniformed personnel. Young enlisted troops are often attracted to lucrative six-figure salaries they can earn in the private sector.
Now, civilians could help fill the gap. It’s an idea that experts with the New America think tank, which hosted Monday’s event, have pushed.
"Today, we face the modern version of hidden attackers, who seek to undermine our security and economy; now they just use malware instead of torpedoes," Natasha Cohen and Peter W. Singerwrote in a Defense One op-ed last year. "And so too are the U.S. active and reserve military and government resources stretched too thin to meet the need."
The answer, they argued, is a civilian cybersecurity corps.
"It would create a place to recruit and identify youth into a field with a major looming talent crunch," they wrote.
Military leaders have looked for new ways to attract cyber experts. The Armyhas a direct accession program in cyber warfare, and the Marine Corps and other services have consistently offered cyber warriorssteep bonuses to re-enlist.
The Pentagon is facing more sophisticated cyber threats from potential adversaries such as Russia and China. Having a reliable, resistant and recoverable network is the No. 1 issue for the Defense Department, Neller said.
"It’s not going to be there 100 percent like it has been there the last 17 years because there has been nobody to contest it," he said. "There will be in the future."
Marines must be able to operate without high-tech equipment and gear to fire weapons or find their way around a new location because hitting your enemy’s network is likely to be a first line of attack in future warfare.
"To me, that’s going to be the first salvo of whatever competition there is," Neller said. "… [But] that fight is going on every day, every second right now."
And hopefully, he added, "we’ve done the same thing to the other guy."