American Veteran News 04.26.16

VA OFFICIAL ADMITTED EMPLOYEE CHARGED WITH ARMED ROBBERY STILL EMPLOYED — WFB — The Veterans Affairs undersecretary conceded Monday that he erred during a hearing Tuesday when he told lawmakers under oath that a department employee arrested for armed robbery no longer worked at the agency.

David Shulkin incorrectly testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee last Tuesday that VA employee Elizabeth Riviera was fired after spending the night in jail on aggravated robbery charges.

Shulkin corrected his claim in a statement Monday, acknowledging that Riviera was reinstated to her position after receiving a misdemeanor and probation charge “only” for allegedly acting as the driver during a 3 a.m. armed robbery.

“The employee was not convicted of armed robbery and was subsequently returned to work as a clerk at VACHS following administrative processes and court approval,” Shulkin wrote. “There was never any indication that the employee posed a risk to Veterans or VA property.”

MCCAIN: HERE’S MY PLAN TO REFORM THE VA — T&P — Veterans today are returning home to one of the most supportive environments in decades. It is a welcome achievement for our country — especially following the bitter homecoming that my fellow comrades and I were met with following the Vietnam War.

But while veterans are coming home to a nation that is committed to help them transition to civilian life through job recruitment and skills training programs, the bureaucratic system is failing in other critical areas.

First and foremost, our veterans are not receiving the quality health care they have earned and deserve. Despite enacting historic VA reform legislation more than a year ago that provided billions of dollars of funding for additional VA doctors and nurses, wait times at the VA continue to rise. Veterans who are eligible to receive the new Veteran Choice Card to visit a health care provider in their community are facing hurdles to both access and use it. For a nation that greatly values the service and sacrifice of our veterans, this is a national scandal.

LAWMAKER BLASTS VA’S FORGIVENESS OF ‘OFF-DUTY’ CRIMES — WASHINGTON EXAMINER — Department of Veterans Affairs brass frustrated a top House lawmaker for saying that employees can’t be punished for “off-duty” crimes, after initially testifying incorrectly that an employee connected to armed robbery had been fired.

“This is more proof that the federal government’s dysfunctional civil service system makes it almost impossible for VA to adequately discipline most employees, including those involved in serious crimes,” House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., told the Washington Examiner Monday. “Veterans would be much better served if top VA leaders would follow VA Under Secretary for Benefits Danny Pummill’s lead and admit that’s the case.”

Miller was responding to an update from David Shulkin, the VA undersecretary for health, who told lawmakers Friday that a VA employee in Puerto Rico had been fired after being charged in connection with armed robbery before pleading guilty to lesser charges. The employee had been fired, but she was reinstated following an appeal of that decision.

GOVERNOR SCOTT WALKER SIGNS FIVE BILLS AIMED AT IMPROVING THE LIVES OF VETERANS — FOX6 — WAUSAU/DE PERE — Governor Scott Walker on Monday, April 25th signed into law five bills that the Governor’s Office says will provide greater resources and tools for the state’s veterans — to make it easier for them to gain employment.

Walker signed three bills (Assembly Bill 693, Senate Bill 418, Senate Bill 575) into law in Wausau, at the American Legion Post 10, the Governor’s Office said in a statement.

Two bills (Senate Bill 419 and Assembly Bill 441) were signed into law in De Pere — at the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Wisconsin Headquarters.

Walker said this in the statement:

FIVE VETERAN BROTHERS PREP FOR CENTRAL VALLEY HONOR FLIGHT — KFSN — FRESNO, Calif. — Five brothers raised in the Valley will fly out to Washington D.C. to take part in the Central Valley Honor Flight.

It’s not often that you get a family of five who live in different parts of the country together, but when you do, there’s a lot of laughter and reminiscing about old times.

But their stories of brotherhood are not all fun and games, the men of the Fries family are all veterans.

“I served two years just at the end of the Korean War,” Bob said.

“World War II, Korea, I was in the service 20 years,” Donald said.

“I was in late World War II in the Marines,” Richard said.

“I was in the Merchant Marines and I was in World War II for two years,” John said.

“I was in the service for 2 years and during the Cold War,” said Harry.

The Fries brothers served their country from the Battle of the Bulge in WWII to the Vietnam War.

TELLING THEIR STORIES: STUDENTS HELP CAPTURE FLAGLER’S 13,000 VETERANS ON VIDEO — NEWS-JOURNAL — PALM COAST — Charles Valorose downplays his role when he speaks of his service during World War II. He’s quick to point out the contributions of others. But to the roomful of people recording his story, the recollections of this 98-year-old veteran of the U.S. Army are priceless.

That’s because, as a member of a rapidly disappearing generation, Valorose possesses an increasingly rare, personal glimpse of history.

And while the accounts of wartime generals and policy-makers are well documented, the same cannot be said about most ordinary veterans.

“All the World War I guys are gone now; those stories are lost forever,” said Larry Rekart, treasurer for Disabled American Veterans Chapter 86. “How many more stories are there that, because these people didn’t get the notoriety of being a leader of men or whatever, their stories aren’t told?”

VETERANS SEEK ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS TO POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS — JOHNSON COUNTY GRAPHIC — Most people can’t imagine being terrified by the sound of a fork falling and hitting the ground. They don’t understand how someone cannot sleep because the fear of recurring nightmares keeps them awake. They’ve never experienced anxiety that turns everyday tasks into impossible chores.

But for thousands of American veterans, these are just a few symptoms that can make their lives unbearable. And while millions are aware of the condition they suffer from — post-traumatic stress or PTS — few are able to grasp the severity of the condition, and medical science is a long way from understanding the neurological causes of PTS.

In the news, stories of PTS tend to focus on bureaucratic mishandling, ineffective medications that have severe side effects and the general tragedy of those who are afflicted. However, there is also a side of the story that has to do with hope, strength and love. While a single cure has not yet been discovered for PTS, there are many instances of veterans finding peace and a path to recovery through some non-conventional — and often controversial — means.

AFTER MORE THAN 13 YEARS OF DELAYS, THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS SAYS IT WILL BUILD A NEW 24,000-SQUARE-FOOT OUTPATIENT CLINIC IN LAKE CHARLES — THE REPUBLIC — LAKE CHARLES, Louisiana (AP) — After more than 13 years of delays, the Department of Veterans Affairs says it will build a new 24,000-square-foot outpatient clinic in Lake Charles.

Mayor’s Armed Forces Commission member Jim Jackson calls it a win for veterans in Southwest Louisiana.

Veterans Affairs officials recently said there were problems with the lease for the 4.5-acre site. They gave the owner until Thursday to respond.

They announced Thursday afternoon that they’ll build the clinic under the current contract.

State officials tell the American Press ( ) that indicates that the landowner provided the documents needed to continue.

GRIEVING MILITARY FAMILY SURPRISED WITH THERAPY DOG — KARE — MONTICELLO, Minn. – Even though it’s been almost 10 years, the Gold Star symbol in the window of the Moore home in Monticello is forever.

Minnesota Army National Guard soldier, Sgt. Nicholas Turcotte, 23, was killed in Iraq in December 2006 when his armored vehicle overturned in an accident during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

His younger sister, Shelby Moore, now 17, was only six when her brother was killed.

“The most prominent memories I think about sometimes is when the military men came to the door, I don’t think I understood why they were there,” said Moore. “You don’t learn just to live with in, you live in it, you are it, you are the Gold Star family, you are trying to carry on his memory and do so while trying to grieve.”

Today, Moore struggles with depression, anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) stemming from the trauma of the loss.

“Not a lot of people realize that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder doesn’t have to be if you are just in the military,” said Moore. “My therapist had suggested I look into a therapy dog.”

Her mother, Debbie Moore, has multiple sclerosis and could also benefit from a therapy or service dog.

The family’s struggles were eased with a knock on their door Monday, when Randal Thom, an Alaskan Malamute breeder from Lakefield, Minnesota made a surprise visit with an eight week old puppy, Max, wrapped in an American flag.

“Oh my gosh, thank you,” said Shelby Moore, stunned, wiping away tears.

Moore smiled as Max settled into her arms and fell asleep.

MAN WHO SCAMMED VA OUT OF $35 MILLION GOES TO COURT — T&P — A Pennsylvania man was charged with fraud in a $35 million scam that targeted veterans.

A Harrisburg, Pennsylvania man was charged on April 21 for defrauding the Post-9/11 GI Bill in a $35 million scam.

David Alvey, 49, reportedly tricked veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill into thinking they had enrolled in accredited classes at New Jersey’s Caldwell University, when they instead were taking unapproved online courses.

Alvey was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, the U.S. Department of Justice reported in a press release.

ALL TRICARE USERS TO PAY ENROLLMENT FEE UNDER CONGRESSIONAL PROPOSAL — MILCOM — All Tricare users would face annual enrollment fees in a newly-named plan under a draft proposal released today by the House Armed Services Committee.

Under the plan, users of Tricare Standard and Tricare Extra would fall into the newly-minted Tricare Preferred plan. Users would continue to be permitted to self-refer to providers, but doing so would come at a premium. Active duty family members would pay $300 for an individual or $600 for families to enroll each year, while retirees would pay $425 for an individual or $850 for families.

Beneficiaries who wish to stay on Prime can do so, but also at a cost. Active duty families would pay $180 for an individual or $360 for a family, while retirees would pay $325 for an individual or $650 for a family.

SECRETS TO VETERAN NETWORKING — MILCOM — Networking is an integral part of your job search process. Without it, you stand the chance of doubling the amount of time you spend looking for a job. And, the military has a unique and close-knit network. There are several veterans’ resources, such as the Veterans Career Network, that can help service members find jobs after they transition out of the military.

Ling Shao, a former sergeant in the Army, used her network of former service members to help re-adjust to student life while she got her undergraduate degree from MIT. She also used the veteran community to find potential job opportunities after she graduated from Harvard Business School. She credits this mentor network with helping her find her current job at Uniprise, where she currently works as a strategic client executive.

VA SECRETARY BLAMES CONGRESS FOR HEALTHCARE MESS — WASHINGTON EXAMINER — Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald on Sunday blamed Congress for creating the VA healthcare crisis in 2014, when it was discovered that the VA was systematically manipulating wait-time data to make it appear as if veterans were seeing VA doctors on a timely basis.

That discovery in 2014 forced then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign in disgrace, and prompted several investigations that found senior VA officials to be manipulating wait-time data across the country. It also led to the uncovering of other scandals, including senior officials siphoning off hundreds of thousands of dollars in moving expenses, hundreds of millions of dollars in construction cost overruns, and what many say is a program of retaliating against whistleblowers.

But in a CSPAN interview that aired Sunday, McDonald said it’s the fault of Congress for not giving the VA enough money, and said that failure led to the crisis.

“If you go back and say, what happened in 2014 that created the crisis, it was obviously a mismatch of supply and demand,” he said.

VIETNAM VETS WIN THE WEEKEND BY RECREATING PHOTO THEY TOOK 50 YEARS AGO — DAILY CALLER — Four Marine veterans reunited over the weekend to recreate a photo they took just before deploying to Vietnam 50 years ago.

According to USA Today, Bob Falk, Dennis Puleo, Tom Hanks and Bob DeVenezia all trained together at Camp Pendleton outside San Diego.

After the war, the four lifelong friends went their separate ways and eventually lost touch until five years ago when “Falk stumbled across an online memorial that Hanks created for a fallen comrade they all knew. That started a chain of events that put the four back in touch.”


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