American Legion Daily News Clips 4.8.20

Good morning from the home office of your favorite second-string news clips compiler. It’s Wednesday, April 8, 2020, and Seavey and his podcast co-hosts Jeff Daly and Ashley Gorbulja-Maldonado are working on the next episode of our Tango Alpha Lima podcast this morning. You can listen—and watch!—episodes of the podcast at legion.org/tangoalphalima. It’s worth your time when you’re done binging Tiger King.
These seem like appropriate lyrics for the day:

When I get to heaven, I’m gonna shake God’s hand
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand
Then I’m gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band
Check into a swell hotel; ain’t the afterlife grand?

And then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
‘Cause this old man is goin’ to town

RIP, John Prine.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  • Stars & Stripes: mseavey with “Remove” in the subject line. If you have received this from someone who forwarded it and would like to be added, email mseavey.

    Stars & Stripes: Acting Navy Secretary Modly resigns amid USS Theodore Roosevelt controversy

    By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES | Published: April 7, 2020

    WASHINGTON — Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned Tuesday amid mounting criticism for his disparaging comments about the commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt who he fired over a leaked letter requesting aid for the coronavirus outbreak aboard the ship.

    Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday in a statement that he had accepted Modly’s resignation.

    “He resigned on his own accord, putting the Navy and the sailors above self so that the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and the Navy as an institution, can move forward,” Esper said.

    Acting Army Undersecretary James McPherson has been appointed as the acting Navy secretary.

    During President Donald Trump’s daily coronavirus news briefing at the White House, he said he played no role in Modly’s resignation, despite telling reporters a day before that he might intervene in the dispute regarding Crozier’s removal.

    Esper is now considering “what to do” with Crozier and looking for a solution within regular Navy channels, Trump said.

    Modly’s resignation comes after calls from several Democrat lawmakers asking Esper to fire the Navy secretary for comments that he made about Capt. Brett Crozier to the Roosevelt crew, saying Crozier was “too naïve or too stupid to be the commanding officer of a ship like this.”

    “Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly’s remarks to the crew show that he is in no way fit to lead our Navy through this trying time. [Defense] Secretary [Mark] Esper should immediately fire him,” Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., a Navy veteran, said in a statement.

    Modly announced Crozier’s firing Thursday at the Pentagon after the letter that the captain emailed requesting immediate assistance for the aircraft carrier’s virus outbreak was published two days earlier in the San Francisco Chronicle.

    The Roosevelt has 230 positive cases of the coronavirus as of Tuesday, according to the Navy.

    Modly traveled to the Roosevelt, now in port in Guam, where he disparaged the fired captain in a speech to the crew of nearly 5,000 sailors, according to a recording of his remarks leaked Monday.

    Modly initially defended his words Monday, but hours later issued an apology saying he did not think Crozier is naïve or stupid.

    “I believe, precisely because he is not naive and stupid, that he sent his alarming email with the intention of getting it into the public domain in an effort to draw public attention to the situation on his ship. I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused,” he said in his apology statement.

    Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, supported Modly’s resignation.

    “It is my understanding that acting Secretary Modly removed Capt. Crozier against the advice of senior Navy uniformed leadership and without completion of a proper investigation,” he said Tuesday in a prepared statement. “Also troubling was the manner in which [he] addressed the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt and made disparaging comments about their former commander, Capt. Crozier.”

    McPherson, a retired admiral who served for 26 years, is a “smart, capable, and professional leader who will restore confidence and stability in the Navy during these challenging times,” Esper said in his statement.

    Modly had been the acting Navy secretary since November when former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was fired by Esper for loss of confidence due to his handling of the case of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, who was accused of committing war crimes. Gallagher was acquitted of murder but found guilty of posing in a photo with the dead body of an Islamic State fighter.

    In March, President Donald Trump nominated U.S. ambassador to Norway, Kenneth Braithwaite, to be the 77th Navy secretary. Braithwaite is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, serving in the Navy and then the Navy Reserve for 27 years before retiring in 2011.

    Military Times: Veteran Affairs coronavirus cases top 3,000 nationwide, deaths near 150

    Leo Shane III | 13 hours ago

    Since Veterans Affairs leaders reported the first death of a VA patient from coronavirus in mid-March, the number of positive cases — and fatalities — in the department’s health system has risen dramatically.

    As of April 7, there have been 144 patients who have died from the illness. That number increased by 19 from the day before. On March 30, the total was less than 20.

    VA officials have offered only partial details of the deaths, but until this weekend all of the fatalities had been among patients aged 50 or older. Officials from the New Orleans VA Medical Center, one of the hardest hit in the country by the illness, announced that a patient in his or her 40s died there on Sunday. No other information was given.

    Across all VA sites, 3,038 patients in VA care have tested positive for the fast-spreading virus. That’s about 11 percent of all of the cases tested by the department, and has nearly tripled in the last 10 days.

    Officials also said any veteran with symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath should contact their local VA facility before visiting to determine their next steps.

    In a statement, department leaders have promised “an aggressive public health response to protect and care for veterans, their families, health care providers, and staff in the face of this emerging health risk.”

    That includes work with the CDC and the possibility of accepting some non-veteran patients at VA medical centers to provide relief to overtaxed local health care systems.

    On Sunday, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie announced during a White House briefing that he would open about 1,500 beds nationwide to communities in need of extra resources, despite the increasing coronavirus numbers within the VA health system.

    “The 400,000 men and women of the Department of Veterans Affairs are in this fight.,” he said. “We are in the fight not only for the nine and a half million veterans who are part of our service, but we are in the fight for the people of the United States.”

    VA officials have said that opening those areas to non-veteran patients will not hurt delivery of care to any veterans who need it.

    Stars & Stripes: Disabled veterans could get left out of stimulus money, lawmakers warn

    By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES | Published: April 7, 2020

    WASHINGTON — Dozens of lawmakers and advocates are concerned that a “significant” number of disabled veterans and surviving family members will never receive the direct payments Congress approved as part of a sweeping bill to support Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Their concern is for disabled or low-income veterans and surviving family members who receive monthly compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs but don’t normally file tax returns or benefit from Social Security.

    The Internal Revenue Service is using the addresses or direct deposit information on file from Americans’ 2018 or 2019 tax returns to send the stimulus checks. For some, the VA payments are their only income. Those payments are not taxable, so the IRS lacks payment information for many veterans and families — potentially millions, advocates said.

    “Unfortunately, this approach will leave out a significant number of people who have little or no income and are not required to file a federal tax return, including many seriously disabled veterans and their survivors,” reads a letter from 12 veterans organizations to government leaders. “While there may be logistical or even legal obstacles to overcome, it is critically important that you and your departments work together to prevent potentially millions of disabled veterans and their survivors from losing this financial support.”

    Congress approved a $2 trillion stimulus package March 27. The bill, intended to jolt the economy, includes direct payments to Americans, expanded unemployment benefits, loans to small businesses and a lending program for companies hurt by the pandemic.

    The legislation provides direct payments of $1,200 to many Americans. The payments will decrease for Americans earning more than $75,000, and payments end for individuals making more than $99,000. Married couples that collectively earn up to $150,000 will receive payments of $2,400. Families will receive an additional $500 per child.

    In an attempt to ensure disabled veterans and family members get their checks, 41 senators and three congressmen sent letters, urging the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Treasury Department and the IRS to collaborate. The letters went to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie; Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin; Andrew Saul, commissioner of the Social Security Administration; and Charles Rettig, commissioner of the IRS.

    The senators said they want the payments to go to veterans automatically, without requiring them to file tax returns.

    “Treasury should not require people with disabilities, low-income seniors and veterans to file a form to receive stimulus payments when the federal government already has the information it needs,” the senators wrote.

    Government and elected officials already found a solution for Social Security recipients who don’t normally file tax returns. Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul said the IRS would use direct deposit information from his agency to send those Americans their checks.

    “Regrettably, the law did not include a similar provision for disabled veterans or their survivors, so unless new action is taken. … These nonfilers will only receive a recovery rebate if they file a tax return,” the veterans organizations wrote.

    Disabled American Veterans, The American Legion, AMVETS, Military Officers Association of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America, the Fleet Reserve Association, Wounded Warrior Project, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Blinded Veterans Association signed the letter.

    Filing a tax return would be a significant burden for many of those affected “especially during this health emergency,” the groups wrote.

    They want the VA to provide the IRS with a list of VA beneficiaries don’t work and don’t receive Social Security, along with their direct deposit information.

    One of the names on that list would be Mark Gomez, a Marine Corps veteran in Fresno, Calif., whose only income is his monthly VA disability payment. Gomez, 46, has kidney disease and is unable to work. He’s been self-isolating during the pandemic, leaving the house only for dialysis treatment, he said.

    "I want to be included, if everyone else is,” Gomez said. “I figured they rushed it – they didn’t dot the I’s and cross the T’s, but it’s kind of ridiculous if they’re not going to fix it now.”

    For Gomez, the $1,200 check would be a needed boost.

    “It would guarantee that I’m going to eat during this lockdown period,” he said.

    The Treasury Department was expected to send the first stimulus payments in the next two weeks.

    Military Times: DARPA has a crappy new idea to help soldiers

    Aaron Mehta | 10 hours ago

    Some might argue that DARPA has flushed plenty of cash down the toilet over the years, but the agency’s newest project hopefully won’t stink.

    On Tuesday, DARPA pushed out an announcement of a new program known as ADAPTER (Advanced Acclimation and Protection Tool for Environmental Readiness), which aims to create a biological human “travel adaptor” to mitigate the worst effects of traveling abroad: number one, a lack of sleep caused by time change, and number two, the infamous traveler’s diarrhea.

    The agency wants to develop a “a transient, non-genetic means of extending and enhancing war fighter readiness,” which will both quickly acclimate the sleep cycle to new time zones and eliminate the bacteria behind diarrhea.

    “The goal of the ADAPTER program is to produce the therapies within the body itself. ADAPTER will manage a war fighter’s circadian rhythm, halving the time to reestablish normal sleep after a disruption such as jet lag or shift lag,” Paul Sheehan, the program manager, said in an agency announcement.

    “It will also provide safe food and water by eliminating in vivo the top five bacterial sources of traveler’s diarrhea. Both will enhance the health and mobility of warfighters.”

    It may seem a laughing matter, but the Pentagon can’t afford to be loose with the stomach health of its forces.

    A study of 15,459 individuals who served in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003-2004 found that majorities (76.8 percent in Iraq and 54.4 percent in Afghanistan) suffered diarrhea while abroad, with 40 percent of those cases requiring medical attention.

    A 2005 study, meanwhile, looked at 4,348 members of the military deployed to the same two countries, and found that for 45 percent of those afflicted with diarrhea, job performance decreased for three days.

    Additionally, diarrhea contributed to 62 percent of subjects seeking medical care at least once. Thirty-one percent required intravenous rehydration. And for 17 percent of subjects, “diarrhea resulted in confinement to bed for a median of 2 days, causing an estimated 3.7 days of complete work loss per 100 person-months.”

    Details of the ADPTER program are fluid, pending a release on beta.SAM.gov, but the agency has experience with runs of biological programs.