9 May, 2019 07:09

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, May 9, 2019 which is Tear the Tags Off the Mattress Day, National Moscato Day, Hurray for Buttons Day and Lost Sock Memorial Day.
This Day in Legion History:

  • May 9, 1951: A 21-year-old combat veteran of the Korean War is denied admission into the Tucson, Ariz., VA Hospital because, as the director tells the media and American Legion members who take up the veteran’s cause, “no returned veteran from Korea is eligible for hospital benefits unless he has been discharged from the service because of a duty disability.” This nationally publicized story leads National Commander Erle Cocke, Jr., to call on Congress to expand VA health-care services, disability benefits and pensions to veterans of the Korean War to an equal footing as those received by World War II veterans. A joint resolution to that effect is swiftly passed and signed into law May 11, 1951.

This Day in History:
1671: In London, Thomas Blood, an Irish adventurer better known as “Captain Blood,” is captured attempting to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.
Blood, a Parliamentarian during the English Civil War, was deprived of his estate in Ireland with the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660. In 1663, he put himself at the head of a plot to seize Dublin Castle from supporters of King Charles II, but the plot was discovered and his accomplices executed. He escaped capture. In 1671, he hatched a bizarre plan to steal the new Crown Jewels, which had been refashioned by Charles II because most of the original jewels were melted down after Charles I’s execution in 1649.
On May 9, 1671, Blood, disguised as a priest, managed to convince the Jewel House keeper to hand over his pistols. Blood’s three accomplices then emerged from the shadows, and together they forced their way into the Jewel House. However, they were caught in the act when the keeper’s son showed up unexpectedly, and an alarm went out to the Tower guard. One man shoved the Royal Orb down his breeches while Blood flattened the Crown with a mallet and tried to run off with it. The Tower guards apprehended and arrested all four of the perpetrators, and Blood was brought before the king. Charles was so impressed with Blood’s audacity that, far from punishing him, he restored his estates in Ireland and made him a member of his court with an annual pension.
Captain Blood became a colorful celebrity all across the kingdom, and when he died in 1680 his body had to be exhumed in order to persuade the public that he was actually dead.


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The Hill: Joint Chiefs chair floats longer military presence in Afghanistan

By Ellen Mitchell – 05/08/19 03:00 PM EDT 97
The United States will need U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future to act as a counterterrorism force until all insurgency is removed, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday.
Gen. Joseph Dunford told lawmakers at the Capitol that the United States will “need to maintain a counterterrorism presence as long as an insurgency continues in Afghanistan.”
The United States is in the midst of peace talks with the Taliban to negotiate an end to the nearly 18-year war.
The Trump administration hopes negotiations will lead to a withdrawal of U.S. troops in exchange for the Taliban agreeing to not harbor terrorist organizations that could threaten U.S. security, though the talks appeared to stall in recent weeks and have been met with bipartisan skepticism on Capitol Hill.
Dunford said there are still 20 extremist groups in the Afghanistan region, and “a handful” have said they want to attack the United States.
“I don’t think anybody would want to withdraw our forces from Afghanistan or the broader Middle East more than me,” Dunford told Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) during a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing.
“But I will share with you the advice that I’ve provided now to two presidents … It’s my judgment today based on the threat from South Asia, that we need to continue to put pressure on those terrorist groups or they’ll pose a threat to the United States.
“I know it’s frustrating to you and the American people for us to be there for such a long period of time," he continued. "It’s just my judgment right now that the conditions for a complete withdrawal aren’t there.”
Dunford noted that about 15,000 American and 7,000 NATO forces still remain in the country and that “there are the conditions for continuing to decrease U.S. presence in the region as we have and increase the responsibility of, in this case, the Afghan forces to provide security for themselves.”
Udall had questioned Dunford and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on whether they anticipated U.S. forces coming home from Afghanistan anytime soon.
Shanahan replied that the Trump administration’s current policy remains the South Asia strategy, which President Trump unveiled in August 2017.
“Our best chance for peace, and this is probably the best in 40 years, is taking place right now,” Shanahan said. “I would say our policy is to fight and talk. We’re fighting the Taliban, to pressure them into reduction of violence. I think we’re making progress.”
Dunford, meanwhile, said he’s “realistic” about current peace negotiations, and believes “it is the first time in many, many years where we have some opportunity now to pursue a peaceful resolution to the war in Afghanistan.”

Stripes: Veteran suicide, ‘blue water’ benefits among topics addressed in 18 bills OK’d by House panel


WASHINGTON – The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs sent 18 bills to the full House Wednesday, including legislation to address veteran suicides, create a fourth administration at the Department of Veterans Affairs and extend benefits to “Blue Water” Navy veterans.

The hearing marked the first time that the committee has met during this congressional session to advance legislation. It remained uncertain Wednesday when the bills might be scheduled for votes on the House floor.

“The 18 bills we have before us today represent considerable time and hard work by members of this committee on both sides of the aisle,” said Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., the committee chairman.

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., the ranking Republican on the committee, voted in favor of the bills but cautioned Takano against advancing legislation in the future without including methods to pay for them.

“Several of the bills on today’s agenda have preliminary scores from the Congressional Budget Office that include millions of dollars in discretionary spending costs,” Roe said. “Given the number of worthy proposals competing for limited tax dollars, I believe it is incumbent upon this committee to do the hard work of prioritizing which proposals provide the most bang for the buck of our veterans.”

Some of the bills approved Wednesday were:

• H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which extends benefits to veterans who served offshore on ships during the Vietnam War and have fought for years to prove they were exposed to the chemical herbicide Agent Orange. To help pay for the benefits, the bill increases fees for nondisabled veterans who apply through the VA home loan program. The bill would also extend benefits to veterans who served in or near the demilitarized zone of the Korean Peninsula beginning Sept. 1, 1967 and require the VA to identify U.S. military bases in Thailand where Agent Orange was used.

• H.R. 2340, FIGHT Veterans Suicide Act, which requires the VA to notify Congress of suicides and suicide attempts at VA campuses within seven days. The VA must also provide medical and housing information about the veterans, as well as an explanation of their most recent encounters with VA employees. The bill was introduced after three veterans died by suicide at VA facilities in five days in April.

• H.R. 2333, Support for Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act, which requires the comptroller general of the United States to review the responsibilities, workload and vacancy rates of VA suicide prevention coordinators and submit a report to Congress after one year.

• H.R. 2045, VET OPP Act, which creates a fourth administration within the VA dedicated solely to veterans’ transition into education and employment. The VA is made up of three administrations: the National Cemetery Administration, the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration. The bill would add the Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration and a new senior official to lead it.

Three bills that aim to increase veterans’ access to medical marijuana were omitted from the hearing Wednesday after originally being listed for consideration. Committee staff said the bills were withdrawn in order to solicit more feedback.

The bills would prohibit the VA from denying veterans benefits because of their participation in state marijuana programs, authorize VA health care providers to recommend veterans for state marijuana programs and direct the VA secretary to carry out a clinical trial of the effects of marijuana on chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.

During a hearing last week, VA representatives voiced their opposition to the measures, citing the Drug Enforcement Agency’s listing of marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

Military.com: VA May Have Incorrect Addresses for 25,000 Veterans

8 May 2019
Military.com | By Jim Absher
The Department of Veterans Affairs has notified veterans in several states that the address the agency has on file for them may have been incorrectly changed.
In social media postings and press releases, the VA has stated that both the Veterans Health Administration and Veterans Benefits Administration have "detected inconsistencies with how veterans’ permanent mailing addresses are being updated and stored at VHA medical facilities and shared with the national enrollment system."
The postings urge all veterans to verify that the information the VA has on file for them is correct. To do this, veterans should go to www.va.gov/change-address and verify that their mailing and home addresses, phone number and email information are all correct.
If you don’t have an online account, the webpage will let you create one. If you are unable to do so, you can call the VA at 877-222-8387 to speak with a live person to check out the info the department has on file for you. You can also visit a local VA office for assistance.
Updating your address will affect the information the VA has for:

  • VA health care (including prescriptions, appointment reminders, lab and test results, and other communications)
  • Disability compensation
  • Pension benefits
  • Claims and appeals
  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E)

It will not update the mailing address the VA uses for:

  • GI Bill benefits
  • Home loans
  • Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
  • Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance
  • The Foreign Medical Program

Officials say the different computer systems do not talk to each other. The change of address page above explains how to change your address for these programs.

Defense News: Democrats warn Shanahan that military activity on the border could spark legal violations
By:Joe Gould 15 hours ago
WASHINGTON ― Democratic lawmakers want the head of the Pentagon to drop plans for military personnel to directly interact with migrants on the U.S. southern border, arguing it could violate America’s long-standing separation of the military and law enforcement.
In the latest flashpoint in the military’s growing role at the border, 19 Democratic senators, including several presidential hopefuls, sent a letter to acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Wednesday urging him to revoke waivers he granted to nearly 280 of the more than 4,000 troops on the border. They also want a legal justification for “military protective activities” that President Donald Trump has authorized troops to perform.
“We urge you to revoke these waivers to prevent the continued escalation of military involvement in immigration enforcement activities and the further politicization of the use of servicemembers to inappropriately respond to a divisive domestic policy issue,” reads the letter, led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and a senior member of the Armed Services and Judiciary committees. The letter was obtained by Defense News.
Several presidential hopefuls joined the letter, including Michael Bennett, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren ― as well as the Senate Armed Services Committee’s ranking member, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
For troops on the border, the mission in support of the Department of Homeland Security has involved reinforcing barriers and providing logistics support, but typically not directly engaging with or detaining immigrants or asylum seekers.
The lawmakers targeted the Defense Department’s agreement to provide 160 personnel to transport migrants, 100 personnel to distribute meals and conduct welfare checks, and 20 military attorneys to represent DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement in immigration court and before the Board of Immigration Appeals.
The lawmakers requested legal justification for Trump’s authorization for military protective activities, which include “a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary), crowd control, temporary detention, and cursory search” if deemed necessary to protect Customs and Border Protection personnel.
Fearful that troops could breach the law, “under the pretense of humanitarian assistance,” they also request details of the training and legal guidance for border troops on the use of force and the Posse Comitatus Act, a 19th century federal law that restricts active-duty military participation in domestic law enforcement activities.
On Wednesday, Durbin grilled Shanahan before the Subcommittee on Defense, arguing that the longer the deployment goes on, the greater the risk of breaching the military-law enforcement divide.
“There will never be a blurring of the line in terms of law enforcement,” Shanahan said. “We do not provide law enforcement. Never have. Never will. Our role is to support DHS.”
Illustrating another potential overlap, Durbin asked Shanahan about visits by the Department of Health and Human Services to sites — some military — that could potentially house unaccompanied migrant children. Shanahan said military assistance there would be “turnkey,” implying that no troops would interact with the children.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., noted that the Department of Defense has made at least seven supplemental appropriations for the border missions since DHS first asked for its aid last year. Meanwhile, Durbin wanted to know why the mission wasn’t in the DoD’s fiscal 2020 budget request.
Military officials acknowledged that they are wrestling with their ever-evolving mission in the absence of a formal plan.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said he is lending DHS a two-star assistant to the Joint Chiefs who would typically work with the State Department, and number of military planners, to create an interagency planning team. They would create a plan for DoD support to DHS based on the number of migrants and DHS’ capacity.
“Although the commitment on the border hasn’t impacted our preparedness for other missions at this point, what we wanted to do was get into a more predictable mode for the requirements that the Department of Homeland Security has and do better at integrating across the government,” Dunford said. “What we’re hoping to do for the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security is have a much more predictable plan for the next couple of years."
Trump and congressional Democrats are locked in a monthslong battle over funding for his border wall proposal, which culminated in an extended partial government shutdown at the start of the year.
In February, Trump announced plans to use more than $3 billion in unspent military construction funds to advance the wall project, over the objection of Congress. Pentagon officials promised they will replace that money in future years, but lawmakers would have to approve such a move.
Generally, congressional Republicans have shown support for the border mission and Trump’s tactics in obtaining funding. However, the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and an ally of the president, indicated Wednesday he wants to the Posse Comitatus Act’s restrictions protected.
“Bottom line is our military does not engage in traditional law enforcement functions,” he said. “Providing assistance to the border patrol is fine, but our soldiers should not become border patrol agents.”
In recent weeks, Trump has called the situation on the southern U.S. border increasingly dangerous, and he publicly chafed at legal restrictions placed on troops he’s sent there.
“Our military, don’t forget, can’t act like a military would act,” Trump said in April. “Because if they got a little rough, everybody would go crazy. … They have all these horrible laws that the Democrats won’t change.”

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