American Veteran News 04.25.16

TEXANS GIVE HOMELESS VETERAN DIGNITY OF PROPER FUNERAL — BREITBART — Texas veterans made sure that a homeless veteran received the dignity of a proper funeral. The troubled veteran had died alone.

Private First Class (PFC) Mark Anthony McCurdy served honorably from 1980 to 1982 but he died without any next of kin.

The Monitor reported that VFW posts from around the valley, the Veteran Lands Board, and the Veterans Board, made sure that McCurdy was properly honored when he was laid to rest. More than 100 veterans attended his funeral at the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery in Mission, Texas.

Veteran Lupita Perez from Elsa, Texas in Hidalgo County told The Monitor, “To think that if my son had no one.” She added, “We had to be here. We had to make this happen.” Her son is deploying this week to Wyoming.

Perez and fellow veterans from her 7473 Post were at the cemetery. Perez said, “He’s been living on the streets.” “No one knew he served for this country. It’s awful,” she said.

The Honor Guard from Israel Martinez Post 8788 helped with the ceremonial folding and presentation of the American flag. First Class McCurdy was given a proper military funeral which also included the Three-Volley Salute.

Twenty-year veteran Daniel Alvarez was reported to have clutched the folded American flag while sweat was pouring down his face. Alvarez had helped put the military funeral together.

Mike Escobedo was reported to say, “I have family.” “I’ve been to funerals with a couple people. But no one?”

Perez said as she was crying, “He dies with no one,” but continued, “But then he became rich. Today he was rich with family.”

As reported by Breitbart Texas, the Department of Veteran Affairs issued a Suicide Data Report in 2012 which reported that 22 veterans a day commit suicide. Many suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and are homeless.

SIGN UP FOR BURN PIT REGISTRY — CHRONICLE ONLINE — Did you serve in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn, Djibouti, Africa, Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm or the Southeast Asia Theater of operations after August 1990?

Do you think you may have been exposed to burn pits and other airborne hazards?

Some veterans have reported respiratory symptoms and health conditions that may be related to exposure to burn pits. The long-term health effects of exposure to burn pits and other airborne hazards are not fully understood. In an effort to better understand these health effects, the Department of Veterans Affairs has launched the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry for veterans and service members.

“While nearly 61,000 veterans and service members have joined the Burn Pit Registry since its launch nearly two years ago, this is only a small fraction of the estimated 3 million individuals who may be eligible to join this registry,” said Dr. Stephen Hunt, national director of VA’s Post-Deployment Integrated Care Initiative. “I encourage as many eligible individuals as possible to sign up for the Burn Pit Registry.”

“It provides veterans long-term follow-up for any conditions they have or could emerge down the road.”

VA MADE MISTAKE IN IMPLEMENTATION OF LAW — DES MOINES REGISTER — The editorial “Congressional ‘fix’ causes more VA problems” [April 20] is factually inaccurate. Congress didn’t add “an additional layer of bureaucracy that must be navigated by vets and federal workers.” The Veterans Administration did. The law was designed to build on the existing non-VA care program, not create a new program.

The law specifically said the VA was to do the “coordination of care” — setting up the appointments with the private provider. The VA chose to outsource everything to a private company, including the appointment process, in contradiction to the plain text of the law. Also, the VA decided to roll all existing non-VA care into the contract with the private provider network.

The VA has acknowledged to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that this was a mistake and has said it will bring the appointment process back into the VA in the near future, as was the original intent of the law. In fact, it has already started the process that will result in a new contract for a provider network with only VA employees handling appointments.

This isn’t to say Congress doesn’t mess things up. We do. In fact, there are improvements to the Veterans Choice Act working their way through Congress now. And the VA does a lot of things right, as I hear from many Iowans who have received good care at our VA facilities. But the problems described in the editorial were caused by mistakes the VA made in not implementing the law the way it was written. That needs fixing for veterans’ sake, as the VA acknowledged.

— Sen. Chuck Grassley

SUCCESSFUL TREATMENT FOR HEPATITIS C REDUCES RISK OF LIVER CANCER LATER IN VETERANS — BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE — A new study by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine found that treatment and cure of chronic hepatitis C reduce the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), especially if given early, before cirrhosis develops, and while patients are still young. The report appears in the journal Hepatology.

Chronic hepatitis C is a common and progressive liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus, a strong risk factor for HCC, the most common type of primary liver cancer.

“With the advent of new highly effective medications for treating hepatitis C, we expect to see a lot of people cured of the disease,” said Dr. Hashem El-Serag, chief of gastroenterology and hepatology at Baylor and at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center and lead author of the study. “However, we did not have good information about what happens to these people in terms of their future risks of developing HCC after cure.”

This large and definitive study involved 33,005 individuals infected with the hepatitis C virus who received treatment in Veterans Health Administration hospitals throughout the United States, and of whom 10,817 patients achieved cure. Researchers tracked their risk of developing HCC liver cancer over several years of follow-up and examined the association between several demographic and clinical features at the time of the cure with the future risk of liver cancer.

VIETNAM WAR SUMMIT AT LBJ LIBRARY BEGINS APRIL 26 — MILCOM — Two years ago, four US presidents attended an Austin civil rights summit to celebrate Lyndon B. Johnson’s role as the most consequential president on race since Abraham Lincoln. For three days this week, the LBJ Presidential Library will hold a more somber contemplation of the Vietnam War, which library director Mark Updegrove calls the “stain on his presidency.”

“Johnson said upon the dedication of this library in May of 1971, ‘It’s all here, the story of our time — with the bark off.’ He went on to say it’s there ‘for friend and foe alike,'” Updegrove said. “We’re taking him at his word.

“This summit is our effort to take an unvarnished, candid look at the Vietnam War and its lessons and legacy,” he said.

VIETNAM VET CREDITS CONGRESSMAN FOR GETTING HIM NEEDED HELP — MILCOM — For a year and a half, retired Marine Bill Carico needled the Department of Veterans Affairs for the disability back pay it owed him.

He called and wrote his congressmen and reached out to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

“I was a squeaky wheel, to say the least,” said Carico, a Stafford County resident.

Mostly, though, the Vietnam War vet was met with silence and excuses.

So when he learned about a veterans town hall meeting hosted by U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-1st, in February, he decided to show up. In attendance: Keith Wilson, director of the VA’s Roanoke office, with which he’d been battling.

FOUR MILITARY RETIREMENT PAY SURPRISES TO AVOID — MILCOM — Retiring from the military comes with many big changes, including understanding your new pay. After sitting through briefings and researching what to expect, you’re probably well prepared.

But readers tell us they still encounter some surprises after their final out date. And when it comes to money, unless it’s a big inheritance or winning the lottery, a surprise is the last thing you want.

TOP VA OFFICIAL BLASTS MEDIA COVERAGE OF SCANDALS AS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED — DAILY CALLER — At a Department of Veterans Affairs conference on compensation and pensions, Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health Richard Stone suggested Monday that media coverage of VA scandals is politically motivated, according to emails obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

In a speech he delivered Monday at the conference comprised of senior administration, Stone blasted the media for blowing up the Phoenix VA scandal beyond the actions of just a few unethical employees and suggesting wait list manipulation was a problem endemic to the entire VA health care system.

Stone pointed out the media has been relentless in attacking the VA, despite the fact that the problems the VA is suffering are problems shared by the civilian health care system in the United States.

CHALLENGE ASPEN’S SKI RETREATS HELP MILITARY VETS ADAPT — LUBBOCK ONLINE — ASPEN, Colo. — Aaron Causey flew through the air with the greatest of ease while on his monoski at Aspen Mountain.

It was clear the lips and ledges on Pump House Hill and other ski trails didn’t intimidate him. He sought them out then carved down the corduroy for another ride up the Ajax Express, the Aspen Times reported.

“I’m an adrenaline junkie, a thrill-seeker,” Causey said while taking a break for lunch at the Sundeck.

The retired U.S. Army veteran lost both legs above his knees while working on a bomb squad southwest of Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Sept. 7, 2011.

CHEROKEE NATION HONORS VETERANS IN APRIL — CHEROKEE NATION — TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation honored two World War II veterans and a Korean War veteran with the Medal of Patriotism during the April Tribal Council meeting.

Cruce Lansford, 89, of Tulsa; Lewis Sutton, 96, of Moore; and Junior Phillips, 81, of Vian, received the medal from Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden acknowledging their service to the country.

Seaman Lansford was born June 25, 1926, in Porum and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1944. Lansford attended basic training in Galveston, Texas, and was shipped to Manus Harbor in the Seeadler Islands, only seven months after they were secured from the Japanese.

Lansford was stationed on the USS Harry Lee, an amphibious ship that carried troops and landing boats to areas of conflict. Lansford helped land troops on the islands of Luzon and Iwo Jima right before the American flag was raised. Lansford was honorably discharged in 1946 and received numerous medals, ribbons and stars for his service.

VETERAN-RUN MICHIGAN FARM OPENS TRAINING PROGRAM FOR RETURNING VETERANS — NEW AMERICAN — According to a 2012 study from the Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 20 U.S. service veterans take their lives every day. And some experts contend the figure could be even higher than that. What’s more, a 2014 update to the study shows that the rates have increased among younger veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thankfully, there are people who have made it their business to try to reduce those tragic figures. One example is Mark and Jill Baker of Marion, Michigan.

The Bakers have been running the Bakers Green Acres farm in Michigan since Mark retired from the Air Force in 2004. The farm employed returning veterans, some of whom had no experience farming but who nonetheless enjoyed the work.

UNREPENTANT VA STILL BLAMES PROBLEMS ON POLITICS (I.E. REPUBLICANS) — DISABLEDVETERANS.ORG — Republicans and negative press are apparently still to blame for VA’s continued negative reputation… and not the ongoing wait-list or other scandals that continue to fester that go unresolved for years.

One insider said Dr. Richard Stone, Deputy Principal Under Secretary for Health, openly complained at a VA conference this week about the negative press surrounding the wait list scandal and claimed it was all a product of political games.

“[Stone] emphasized how operations at the VA changed after the Phoenix VAMC waitlist scandal broke in the news in August 2014. He said the media ran with that story; instead of describing the Phoenix waitlist incident as a scandal involving a few unethical VA employees, they presented it is another indication of widespread problems in the entire VA system. He noted that the VA has received constant negative coverage since that incident, even though the concerns attributed to the VA are problems endemic to the entire US healthcare system. He reported that the VA outperforms the private sector on numerous measures, but such accomplishments are never reported by the media, He said there are many who suggest that the constant maligning of the VA is politically-motivated, and he recommended that we check out articles recently published in Washington Monthly so that we can make up our own minds.

“He emphasized, again, that the environment at the VAMC changed after August 2014. Access has become major object of scrutiny. He said despite many successes–good quality of care, involvement in breakthrough research, and even the fact that more than 80% of Veterans say they are satisfied with the timeliness of services at the VA–none of these matter unless we fix access.”

Dr. Stone cited the below articles as proof of his argument:

VIETNAM WAR AIRMAN’S DEATH RE-EXAMINED AFTER DECADES OF CONTROVERSY — STARS & STRIPES — WASHINGTON — The Air Force closed the case on Sgt. Joseph Matejov when his surveillance aircraft went down at the end of the Vietnam War.

The missing airman was deemed killed in the fiery crash, and more than two decades later a group gravestone was installed at Arlington National Cemetery. A single casket containing bone fragments recovered in Laos was lowered into the ground at the 1996 funeral for Matejov and seven fellow Air Force crewmembers.

Officially, it was the end of the military’s accounting.

But the funeral did not bury the controversy over the downed aircraft, call sign Baron 52. The case’s long history is riddled with doubts and disagreements within the Pentagon, intelligence community and Congress over whether Matejov died that night in 1973.

VETERAN WHO DIED AT NORMANDY FINALLY HONORED — STARS & STRIPES — No one knows exactly how many veterans are buried in cemeteries in the Corridor without headstones or other markers of their sacrifice. On this day, however, we know there is one less.

Leonard L. Kelly, area veterans believe, may be the only Cedar Rapidian to receive mortal wounds on the beaches of Normandy during the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of World War II. He suffered for two weeks before dying, according to War Department communication with his family.

It took another five years before his body was returned to Iowa and subsequently buried in Cedar Memorial Cemetery.

What happened afterward is mostly a mystery.

RETIRED GENERAL’S NEW MISSION IS RESTORING TRUST IN WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT — STARS & STRIPES — Retired Maj. Gen. Charles Fletcher’s military career brought him to Jacksonville to help manage a global network for moving military equipment to hot spots and bases. He’s back now on a new mission with a military angle, but his task is harder to quantify.

The Wounded Warrior Project’s board picked Fletcher to step in as interim chief operating officer so he would — in the words of the board chairman — “restore trust” in the Jacksonville-based charity after scathing news reports highlighted criticism of how it spends its donors’ money. Fletcher, 66, said he didn’t expect the assignment, but he quickly accepted.

MY GREAT NEW LIFE: AIR FORCE VETERAN PROTECTS PEOPLE IN HIGH PLACES — MILITARY TIMES — When Matt Paulk was a kid growing up in rural Georgia, you could usually find him dangling from somewhere high above the ground. Whether it was the rope-lashed tree fort he and his friends built or climbing to the tippy top of the 50-foot pecan trees, he loved getting up into the high places.

That’s not to say he didn’t have a healthy fear of heights. But even at a young age, he just loved to face down those fears, even while climbing ever higher.

“When you climb to the top of a tree like that, it’s no longer a big trunk up at the top. It’s just a small branch. And it’s swaying in the breeze. I would climb up to those points and reach a place of terror, just clamped on, white knuckled.”

The trick, he says, was embracing the fear in order to overcome it.

In the years since, you could say Paulk has made a career of facing down fears. A few, in fact.


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