American Veteran News 03.31.16

REPORT FINDS SHARP INCREASE IN VETERANS DENIED V.A. BENEFITS — NY TIMES — Joshua Bunn was a rifleman in one of the bloodiest valleys in Afghanistan, where his infantry unit killed hundreds of enemy fighters and lost more comrades than any other battalion in the Marine Corps in 2009.

“We were so far out in Taliban country we rarely got resupply,” Mr. Bunn, 27, said in an interview from his apartment in Jonesboro, Ark. “We just got rockets and small-arms fire every day.”

After deployment, Mr. Bunn, suicidal and haunted by nightmares, went absent without leave. The Marine Corps charged him with misconduct and gave him an other-than-honorable discharge.

As a consequence, the Department of Veterans Affairs does not technically consider Mr. Bunn a veteran and has denied him permanent heath care, disability pay and job training intended to ease his return to civilian life. According to a new report, he is one of a growing number of veterans ruled ineligible for benefits because of less-than-honorable discharges.

Former members of the military like Mr. Bunn are being refused benefits at the highest rate since the system was created at the end of World War II, the report said. More than 125,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have what are known as “bad paper” discharges that preclude them from receiving care, said the report, released Wednesday by the veterans advocacy group Swords to Plowshares.

VIETNAM VETS GATHER AT MEMORIAL WALL TO MARK WAR’S ’50TH ANNIVERSARY’ — MILCOM — It’s always hard for Vietnam combat veterans to come to the shiny black wall where the names of the war dead are inscribed on the Vietnam War Memorial, but a small group was there Tuesday as dignitaries laid a wreath to honor the sacrifice.

“I’ve got a lot of friends up there, a lot of friends, too many” whose names are listed on the wall, said Peter E. “Pete” Davis, 73, of the Blinded Veterans Association.

“Every time, it’s difficult” coming back, said the former sergeant who served with the Army’s 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1965-67.

“It’s always very emotional,” said 83-year-old Donald Hilbert, a retired Army major general from the Flatbush section of Brooklyn who served two tours in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division and was at the wall with Davis for what was billed as the “50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.”

QUESTIONS LINGER AFTER VETERAN BURNED HIMSELF ALIVE OUTSIDE N.J. VA CLINIC — NY DAILY NEWS — Questions and concerns linger after a veteran walked nine miles from his New Jersey home and burned himself alive outside a Veterans Affairs clinic.

Charles Richard Ingram III, 51, of Egg Harbor Township, died March 19, after being airlifted to the Temple Burn Center in Philadelphia, the Press of Atlantic City reports.

He doused himself in gasoline outside the outpatient clinic — part of the Wilmington VA Medical Center system — and set himself on fire.

Burns covered nearly all of the man’s body.

BURR, TILLIS LEAD EFFORT TO GET DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR CAMP LEJEUNE VETERANS WITH BLADDER CANCER — RIPON ADFVANCE — U.S. Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) recently spearheaded successful efforts to get bladder cancer added to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) list of presumptive diseases.

The VA announced on Thursday that a presumption of service connection had been established for service members suffering from bladder cancer from contaminated drinking water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Last year, the VA did not include bladder cancer on a list of eight presumptive diseases for veterans who served at Camp Lejeune. Veterans who suffer from presumptive diseases qualify for disability compensation.

“I’m glad the VA is stepping up to help the veterans who were negligently poisoned by the water at Camp Lejeune,” Burr said. “The scientific link between bladder cancer and service at Camp Lejeune is clear. I had a lot of questions for the VA when bladder cancer was not included on the initial list of presumptive diseases. This is an important step in the right direction.”

VA AWARDED $6.8B IN CONTRACTS FOR MEDICAL DISABILITY EXAMINATIONS — LEGAL READER — Today’s announcement from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a breath of fresh air from an agency that has been beset by service delivery problems in recent years. The VA awarded $6.8B in contracts for medical disability examinations in support of improving timely delivery of disability claims decisions for our nation’s Veterans. This new program is in keeping with the MyVA initiative and, according to the announcement, is “a major step forward in improving the disability examination experience for Veterans.”

Instead of being administered by two separate-but-related parts of the VA, the new 12-contract program will be consolidated under one program management effort with representation from the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The VBA and VHA used to run the program jointly with varying degrees of success that often left our Veterans dangling in the wind waiting for determinations of their claims.

VET’S GRAVESTONE LEFT BY DUMPSTER — FOX29 — PHILADELPHIA – On Tuesday, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, a time of great unrest and upheaval in America.

FOX 29’s Jeff Cole tells the story of a Vietnam veteran’s grave marker found tossed aside in a Philadelphia neighborhood, and how residents reached out to us to help, looking for a way to get the stone in the hands of the proper authorities.

Tucked behind an apartment building, near a trash container, there’s a long, white stone that marks a life.

It was the life of George Allen Bryant, who served his county in the United States Army in the long, national nightmare that was the Vietnam War.

A North Philadelphia resident told us he’s actually seen the marker here for years, but either because it was covered with debris or had been recently flipped over, he’d never noticed the inscription.

“What did you think when, for the first time, you saw that this was a military marker?” Cole asked.

“I felt really like I had to do something about it because my family served in the Marines, and the Army and the Navy,” Scott Smith said.

He says once he and others realized it was a veteran’s marker they took pictures and posted them on social media.

Smith called FOX 29 seeking help.

GOVERNMENT FACES FAST-INCREASING COSTS OF TREATING MILITARY VETERANS WITH HEPATITIS C — NBC WASHINGTON — The cost to taxpayers of treating Washington, D.C.-area military veterans suffering from hepatitis C has eclipsed $64 million per year, according to a review of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs records by the News4 I-Team.

The fast-rising cost is attributed to a cutting-edge but expensive medication the agency began dispensing last year to veterans in Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and West Virginia.

The new hepatitis C drugs, which are known as Sovaldi and Harvoni, are highly effective and less likely to cause side effects in patients, doctors and government officials said. Multiple reports estimate a full treatment of the medication costs tens of thousands of dollars per patient. Each individual pill costs an estimated $1,000, according to a report from a U.S. Senate panel.

Agency records obtained by the I-Team from regional administrators of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs show 701 patients received the treatment at the Washington DC VA Medical Center in 2015. Those records show more than 200 patients were administered the medications at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center and more than 480 patients at Maryland’s VA medical system last year. In all, the cost of treatment exceeded $64 million, which is a $50 million increase from the cost of Hepatitis C treatment in 2014.

SEN. NELSON STEPS IN AFTER VA DENIES BENEFITS FOR TAMPA BAY AREA MAN — WFLA — ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. – Joe Zambito of Zephyrhills is like many other former Marines. He was exposed to cancer-causing chemicals right here on U.S. soil. He and his wife fought a losing battle with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, that is until, he called 8 On Your Side.

“It was just a fight all the way through,” Joe said. In this fight there were no bombs or bullets, just a desperate struggle between Marines and the Department of Veterans Affairs over medical and disability benefits for exposure to toxic water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Following a series of 8 On Your Side reports that began in December, Joe and Judy Zambito finally received word they’d won the battle they’ve waged with the VA since 2012. Joe will receive 100 percent medical and disability benefits.

BE WARY OF DEPENDENCE ON VA SERVICES — INDEPENDENT RECORD — BILLINGS — U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke told veterans Tuesday to be wary of becoming overly dependent on government services and to help each other rise up.

Speaking to a small group of veterans in Billings, Zinke said as a veteran he worries about the “economic slavery” of government services and spoke specifically about the Veterans Administration.

He said veterans who need care for problems like post-traumatic stress disorder need therapy and more. They need to be working toward obtaining jobs, he said, and should be required to accomplish both.

Zinke called the issue a taboo subject in Congress, where lawmakers fear saying anything critical of veterans. He said the discussion needs to happen nonetheless.

These three approaches will build on the good habits you developed in the military as you transition from active duty.

Financial actions are especially challenging when you leave the military, but fundamentally they consist of three components:

Budgeting for today
Saving and investing for tomorrow
Protecting against unexpected risks

Think of these tasks as three as three legs of a stool: Neglecting any of them will unbalance the stool and topple your financial stability. These components evolve from active-duty service, to transitioning from the military, and finally to retirement.

JUST A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A WASP WWII FERRY PILOT — MILCOM — During World War II, Women Airforce Service Pilots (a/k/a WASPs) played a critical role in the deployment of airplanes, flying more than nine million miles in 72 different aircraft—115,000 pilot hours—for the Ferrying Division, Air Transport Command. Sarah Byrn Rickman chronicles the history in WASP of the Ferry Command: Women Pilots, Uncommon Deeds (available now from the University of North Texas Press) and shares some stories from the pilots in the list below.

PREQUALIFYING FOR A VA LOAN — MILCOM — Prequalifying for a VA loan is recommended for all eligible borrowers before they start shopping for a home. The prequalifying process provides potential borrowers with an estimate of how much monthly mortgage payment they can afford. Having a price range for house hunting can narrow down the prospects and save you time. There’s no sense in looking at a home you can’t afford. To prequalify for a VA home loan, an experienced loan professional will ask you questions about your income and credit history and may even run a quick credit report with your permission. You may also be asked for proof of military service and your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) at this time to be certain that you are eligible for a VA home loan. Be prepared to gather up other documentation such as:

THIS ARMY VET WENT FROM LOW-INCOME CHILDHOOD TO SILICON VALLEY CEO — TASK & PURPOSE — After years of hustling, Sonny Tosco worked his way to CEO thanks to his experience in the military.

Sonny Tosco, 30, knows how to hustle. It’s a skill that came in handy during his time at West Point, his six years of service as an Army operations officer, and most recently in his role as CEO of Limelight Mobile, a social platform that lets users source real-time images from anywhere in the world.

Tosco sat down with Task & Purpose to share what drives him.

His roots reach back to one of California’s many low-income immigrant families. Growing up, he knew the only way he could attend a top-tier school was through a scholarship, and that knowledge drove him to perform exceptionally well. In 2002, Tosco was accepted to West Point.


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