American Veteran News 04.27.16

VA HOLDS ABUSIVE VA EMPLOYEE ACCOUNTABLE — DISABLEDVETERANS.ORG — Two VA employees tied to an incident of patient abuse at Tomah VA were finally held accountable, according to Public Affairs Officer Matthew Gowan.

Last week, I reported on a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) release related an incident of alleged patient abuse at Tomah VA. That abuse was confirmed last Thanksgiving but the agency was slow to release the records and video of the incident.

SEE IT: Video Of Patient Abuse At Tomah VA

The VA employee who assaulted the veteran was removed from service and forced to resign. The other VA employee who witnessed the abuse but failed to report it. Luckily, the whole incident was captured on video.

Gowan reported that the employee who committed the abuse “tendered resignation” while the agency “took steps to separate the employee from federal service.”

The other employee was reportedly suspended for two business weeks (10 days) without pay. This may well be a first and great example of a VA employee being penalized for not becoming a whistleblower.

If true, this would be a good step in a great new direction for the agency, especially at Tomah VA.


OUR DISAPPEARING WORLD WAR II VETERANS: WHO TELLS THEIR STORIES? — HUFFINGTON POST — My father would be 97 years old on May 12th. I lost him five years ago and, during those five years, over 1 million more World War II veterans have passed away. Fewer than 700,000 WWII veterans are alive today, and we are losing them at a rate of about 450 a day. Soon they will be gone, along with so many of their first hand stories of courage, survival, and sacrifice. I tell one story here.

My father, William A. Cotter, enlisted in the United States Army Air Corp. in August 1942. He was then 23 years old and had been working as a plumber in his father’s plumbing business since he was 16. After enlisting, he flew 17 bombing missions over Germany as a tail gunner on B-17s. But on February 8, 1943, during his 17th mission, his plane suffered a fatal hit by enemy artillery. Wounded by shrapnel, he was forced to parachute out of the burning plane into the night sky and was captured immediately when he landed on the ground in Dortmund, Germany.


A VALOR THIEF LIVED IN THE FORT BRAGG BARRACKS FOR MONTHS BEFORE ANYONE NOTICED — MILCOM — Valor thieves are some of the most obnoxious wannabes on the planet, but at least they’re easy to spot. With all the militaries’ peculiar rules and jargon, most stolen valor culprits are quickly outed by a misplaced uniform ribbon or a slip of the tongue.

Which makes it all the more amazing that one likely survived for months on an active duty post while living in special operations barracks and surrounded by actual soldiers. And, he was conducting room inspections and signing out keys to others while he did it. He was only caught after being arrested for DUI.


ALLEGED CIVILIAN FOUND IN FORT BRAGG BARRACKS MISSES COURT DATE — STARS & STRIPES — LILLINGTON (Tribune News Service) — Triston Marquell Chase, who is allegedly the civilian Fort Bragg officials found living in the barracks of 3rd Special Forces Group late last year, did not appear in Harnett County court Tuesday morning on six felony charges.

Chase, 20, was scheduled to appear in Superior Court on charges of financial card theft, identify theft, larceny of a firearm, breaking and entering, larceny after breaking and entering and possession of stolen goods. His lawyer, Allen Lytch, did not return a request for comment Tuesday morning.

The Harnett County Clerk of Court’s Office was unable to determine late Tuesday if a warrant had been issued for his arrest.


THESE VIETNAM MARINES REUNITED AFTER 50 YEARS TO RECREATE IMAGE OF BROTHERHOOD — T&P — In 1966, four Marines took a group photo right before shipping off to Vietnam. Five decades later, they took it again.

It’s a story as old as war itself. A young man leaves home for the military. He trains for war. He goes to war. He fights, kills, suffers. And through it all, he forges some of the strongest bonds of his life. Then, if he’s lucky, he returns home, and those friendships, like the war itself, fade in the rearview.

On a recent Saturday morning, four Marine veterans convened on a Florida beach to honor a friendship forged during the Vietnam War. Bob Falk, Dennis Puleo, Tom Hanks, and Bob DeVenezia hadn’t seen each other in nearly 50 years. Their mission: to recreate a photo they’d taken together right before shipping off to the jungles of southeast Asia.


HOUSE SET TO LIMIT PAID TIME OFF FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES UNDER INVESTIGATION — WASHINGTON POST — Federal agencies could no longer put employees on indefinite paid leave while investigating them for misconduct or poor performance under a bill set for a House floor vote as soon as Tuesday.

The measure is one of many seeking to limit “administrative leave” following investigations finding that agencies had used that form of leave routinely to keep employees off the job, although with full pay and benefits, for months — and in some cases a year or more.

The bill would limit such leave to 14 days; if an investigation were not finished by then, the employee generally would have to return to work. If the agency decided that the employee would pose certain risks, even if assigned to different duties or to telecommuting, the leave could be extended for additional 30-day periods, with reports to Congress required each time.


NEW TOOL LAUNCHES TO IMPROVE THE BENEFITS CLAIM APPEALS PROCESS AT THE VA — VA — Today, we are celebrating the nationwide launch of Caseflow Certification, the first of many tools that will begin to improve the processing of benefit claim appeals at VA.

Last summer, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals reached out to the Digital Service at VA to assess the disability claim appeals process. We found a familiar sight to anyone who has worked in government?—?a burdensome medley of antiquated technology, manual processes, and overbearing laws and policies.

This is a story about how the Digital Service is partnering with the incredibly dedicated team at the Board to replace this legacy system at the VA. It’s a story of policy, technology, and human-centered design.


NEW U.S. MILITARY CASUALTIES: VETS SICKENED BY BASE BURN PITS, INCLUDING FARGO WOMAN — INFORUM — ST. PAUL – Melissa Gillett recalls the sickly sweet, nearly vomit-inducing smell during her runs around Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, where she served as a member of the Minnesota National Guard.

The revolting odor emanated from a large “burn pit,” one of many the U.S. military has used over the years in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places to dispose of trash, chemicals and more.

Gillett did her best to avoid the burn pit’s smoke, steering clear if she couldn’t peer through it, but she said she breathed it in pretty much nonstop during her six-month tour of duty in late 2009 and early 2010.

And now the 29-year-old Fargo woman is sick, very sick.


MOUTH MOBILE MAKES A PIT-STOP IN ALBANY FOR VETERANS IN NEED OF DENTAL CARE — ABC — ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Aspen Dental is on a mission to make sure our country’s veterans are getting the dental care they deserve. The company’s “Mouth Mobile” was parked on the Empire State Plaza Monday doing just that.

The 42-foot-long “Mouth Mobile” is a fully-equipped dental office on wheels. Aspen’s “healthy mouth movement” helped more than 4,000 veterans across the country receive nearly $3 million worth of free dental care last year alone. People like navy veteran Eric Torres of Albany who had some fillings replaced.

“There are no words to express my gratitude for people that help people on a day-to-day basis like this,” said Eric Torres, navy veteran.


ANGRY VETERANS WANT CHANGES FROM VA — KKTV — Wait times at VA clinics and hospitals are way too long. It’s well documented, and the problem still hasn’t been fixed, at least here in Southern Colorado.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ most recent report, the wait times for the Colorado Springs clinic were the highest in the state for the number of veterans they treat.

More than 27 percent of patients were forced to wait more than 30 days for their appointments. In Pueblo, about 20 percent were forced to wait more than a month.

It’s these reoccurring problems that have veterans and lawmakers fed up and fired up.


GETTING APPROVED FOR THE VA LOAN YOU WANT — MILCOM — When exploring your VA home loan option, there are several important moving parts. First, your eligibility for the VA home loan must be determined evidenced by your certificate of eligibility, obtained from the VA. You must also have established a credit history and provide your VA lender with a credit report that shows you have the minimum credit score needed to qualify for a VA loan.

You will also provide proof you can afford the new monthly payments associated with your VA mortgage program with copies of your most recent pay check stubs, W2 forms and federal income tax returns. Sometimes though, your loan amount seems out of reach and you can’t qualify. Are there some things you can do to help you get the loan amount you want?


AFGHANISTAN VETERAN HELPS RESETTLE INTERPRETERS IN US — S&S — Matt Zeller is still here because of his Afghan interpreter.

The former Army captain is alive because an Afghan he didn’t know risked his life to shoot and kill two insurgents who were sneaking up on Zeller in the midst of withering rifle fire.

“I’m sitting here talking to right now because my translator saved my life,” Zeller said. “I’m on borrowed time.”

That interpreter was Janis Shinwari and the incident sparked a deep friendship that led Zeller to help Shinwari immigrate to the United States when the interpreter’s work with Americans made him a prime Taliban target. When Shinwari arrived at Dulles airport with his wife and two small children, Zeller was there to greet him.


A UNIVERSITY, VETERANS AND $35 MILLION FRAUD ALLEGATION — INSIDE HIGHER ED — Federal authorities last week charged a Pennsylvania man with creating a scheme that resulted in $35 million in fraudulent payments for the education of veterans, NJ.com reported. The man’s company told veterans that they were being educated by faculty members at Caldwell University, a private institution in New Jersey, when the veterans were actually enrolled in ED4MIL, an unaccredited online and correspondence program. The complaint charges that a former associate dean, who left Caldwell to work for ED4MIL, helped get the university to sign on to a collaboration. And the federal charges say that another university employee signed off on the deal, knowing that the university’s faculty members wouldn’t be doing the teaching.


DEPORTED VETERANS FIGHT TO RETURN ‘HOME’ FROM MEXICO — KCCI — TIJUANA, Mexico (CNN) —In a strip mall on a dusty street, a group of U.S. military veterans gather. Like any group of old soldiers, they joke, swap stories and keep each others’ spirits up. But they aren’t in Texas or California. This isn’t a local VFW. This is Tijuana, Mexico a place most of these men barely knew before being banished here.

These veterans consider the United States home. Mexico is not the country they swore to protect before shipping off to boot camp.

The gathering place is called the Deported Veterans Support House or “The Bunker.” It’s a safe house for deported veterans founded by a deported U.S. veteran in 2013. That veteran, Hector Barajas, was brought to the United States from Mexico by his parents when he was seven years old in 1984. He grew up in Compton, California and like many kids, he dreamed of being a soldier.


VA AGREES WORKERS CAN ENGAGE IN ARMED ROBBERIES IF IT’S ON THEIR OWN TIME — DAILY CALLER — Earlier this year we talked about the strange case of Elizabeth Rivera, a VA worker in Puerto Rico who was dismissed from her government job with the VA because of missing too much time at work. Her reason for poor attendance was rather unique, given that she had been in jail for participating in an armed robbery. Never ones to allow a little thing like that to stand in the way of secure government employment, her union appealed the ruling and had her promptly reinstated at her position with back pay.

While this tale sounds like something out of an episode of Seinfeld, it’s not only true, but became even more twisted when the uncomfortable subject came up during some hearings in Congress. VA Undersecretary for Health David Shulkin was called in to provide some testimony to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and seemed a bit confused about her status, claiming at first that Rivera was no longer employed with the United States government. Upon further questioning he conceded that he didn’t know for sure and would get back to them.


KEY REPUBLICAN LAWMAKER: VA SHIFTING DIRECTORS ‘ONLY RAISES MORE QUESTIONS’ — WASHINGTON EXAMINER — The Department of Veterans Affairs appointed four senior leaders at facilities in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, though most are transfers and not promotions, the agency said Tuesday. The moves were quickly attacked by lawmakers outraged by the agency’s years of scandals.

“At VA, we are constantly seeking ways to improve, and these personnel moves make us better across the board,” VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David J. Shulkin said in a statement. “Each individual is a proven leader who will be a strong advocate for veterans.”

But House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller told the Washington Examiner that shuffling officials among facilities does not end the need for reform.

To THE VETERANS VOICE

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