American Veteran News 05.23.16

WHICH DEPENDENTS ARE ELIGIBLE FOR CHAPTER 35 BENEFITS? — VISALIA TIMES-DELTA — This week I’ll provide information about a benefit available for veterans’ dependents: The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program, also known as the Chapter 35 benefit program.

The program provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of certain veterans. Under the program, dependents can receive up to 45 months of educational benefits, which may be used for degree or certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training; it can apply to correspondence courses for veterans’ spouses. Under certain conditions, remedial, deficiency, and refresher courses may also be approved. For more information, go to the Veterans Administration (VA) website at www.va.gov and select the Dependents’ Educational Assistance link under Veteran Services.

So, who is eligible for these benefits? If you are the son, daughter, stepchild, adopted child, or spouse of a veteran (or in some cases, a servicemember) who:



NBAA, OTHERS URGE SENATE COMMITTEE TO OPPOSE VA FLIGHT TRAINING BENEFIT CAPS — NBAA — Applauding its leadership and long-time support of veterans, NBAA and nine other aviation industry associations have urged the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs to continue supporting veterans’ use of “their hard-earned benefits for flight training,” by opposing any proposal that would cap those benefits as it considers the Veterans First Act.

“This training enables veterans to pursue a well-paying civilian career with good long-term prospects in either the fixed- or rotary-wing aviation industry,” the May 17 letter states. “This is important not only to our veterans, but also assists our nation in meeting the burgeoning shortage of qualified pilots. With this well-deserved assistance, veterans can fill the cockpits of tomorrow’s police and firefighting helicopters, air ambulances, charter and corporate aircraft and commercial airliners.”



VETERANS STILL ENDURE LONG WAITS EVEN AFTER CONGRESS IMPLEMENTS $10 BILLION FIX — BELLEVIEW NEWS-DEMOCRAT — National Public Radio and its member stations have spent the past several months reporting on problems besetting the Veterans Administration’s $10 billion Veterans Choice program, which was created by Congress two years ago to squash long wait times veterans were encountering when going to see a doctor.

Congress and Department of Veterans Affairs officials are in the middle of overhauling the program. According to NPR, here are some of the big problems:
Mike Fitzgerald

The VA’s most recent data show compared with last year, there are now 70,000 more appointments that kept a veteran waiting at least a month to get care.

A March General Accounting Office report shows the Choice program had little impact on getting veterans to see a primary care physician in 30 days.

Thousands of veterans referred to the program are returning to the VA for care — sometimes because the program couldn’t find a doctor for them, and for 28,287 vets, because the private doctor they were told to see was too far away, according to data NPR obtained from the VA.

The GAO tells NPR that the VA’s claims process is so backed up that the VA could easily spend more money this year on interest for late payments than Medicare does, even though Medicare processes hundreds of billions of dollars more in claims.



RELIGIOUS LIBERTY BATTLES IN HOUSE ON MILITARY AND VETERANS LEGISLATION — NRB — Religious liberty was on the battlefield in the U.S. House of Representatives this week during consideration of two annual bills – the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act (MilCon-VA). In the first bill, House Republicans successfully preserved a religious freedom provision, and, in the second, another attempt to nullify that language was narrowly turned back.

During consideration of NDAA (H.R. 4909) in the House Armed Services Committee last month, Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) successfully attached an amendment intended to clarify that faith-based organizations that contracted or received grants from the government maintained longstanding religious freedom employment rights. These had been made uncertain after President Obama issued an executive order in 2014 requiring federal contractors to recognize new rights based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” similar to a bill known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that had failed repeatedly in Congress. Unfortunately, despite pleas even from those who were core faith outreach leaders in his own presidential campaigns, President Obama at that time declined to offer any specific religious liberty protection in his order.



UNSPOKEN, BUT UNDERSTOOD: VIETNAM VETERANS FIND CAMARADERIE AT SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS — THE FREDERICK NEWS-POST — David Curtis didn’t serve in Vietnam to come home and be called a “baby killer.”

Curtis, a Frederick resident, was in the Marine Corps and fought in the Vietnam War. He said so much vitriol was directed toward Vietnam veterans when they returned home, many didn’t want to be identified.

“When I got out, the last thing you would do was wear your uniform,” Curtis said. He was spat on, he said, and was called a “baby killer” upon his return to the U.S.

Robert Dozier, a Brunswick resident, returned home from his 11 months in Vietnam with the U.S. Army in 1969 to a country divided over the war.

“It was not a popular war,” Dozier said. “People didn’t appreciate us. So we kind of accepted it … and went into our shells.”

He recalled a recent celebration for a family member’s graduation from basic training with the U.S. Air Force.



MANY HONOR PATRIOT GRAVE OF REVOLUTIONARY WAR VETERAN — WLFI — CARROLL COUNTY, Ind. — Many came together to honor the Patriot Grave of Revolutionary War veteran Nathaniel Farmer in Carroll County Saturday.

Descendants from Farmer spoke at his cemetery and expressed the epic details of his life and his importance to our country.

“This is our first group of veterans,” said George Frantz, William Henry Harrison Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution president. “These are the men and the women who gave us our freedom and started this.”

Farmer was part of the Maryland Regiment and enlisted in 1778. Farmer even fought side by side with George Washington.

Farmer made a life for himself in Indiana, and now his descendants are proud of their history.



CONGRESS WARMING TO IDEA OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA FOR VETERANS — AP — DENVER – Congress is showing an increased willingness to let VA doctors talk to veterans about medical marijuana in states where it’s legal, although final approval is far from certain.

The House approved a measure this week that would let Veterans Affairs Department doctors help their patients sign up for state medical marijuana programs, something the VA now prohibits.

“I’m certainly open to it,” Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican and former Marine from pot-friendly Colorado, said Friday.

A Senate committee approved a similar measure last month but the full Senate hasn’t voted.

Medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia, but pot remains illegal under federal law. Arguments for medical marijuana are getting a warmer reception from lawmakers amid nationwide concerns about overuse and abuse of prescription painkillers and psychotropic drugs.



NEBRASKA VIETNAM COMBAT VETERANS FLIGHT — NORTH PLATTE BULLETIN — The manifest is complete with 500 veterans for the June 6 Vietnam Combat Veterans Flight, organizer Bill Williams announced Friday.

It will be the largest group of Vietnam veterans from any one state to ever visit Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C.

Veterans from nearly 200 Nebraska communities will travel with their comrades to visit the Wall, possibly triggering memories they have pushed into the recesses of their minds for 40-plus years, williams said.

Jim Knotts, the president and CEO of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in Washington, D.C. will emcee a brief ceremony at the Vietnam Wall at 11 a.m. on June 6. The day will also include stops at the Korean War, World War II, Iwo Jima, Air Force memorials, and at Arlington National Cemetery for the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns, Williams said.

Peter Smith, a Vietnam combat veteran from Australia, will accompany the American veterans from Omaha. Smith represents the Returned Services League (RSL) and will be met by RADM Steve Gilmore, representing the Australian Embassy. Australia was a key ally in the Vietnam War.

The flight will be preceded by a pre-flight dinner, to which the public is invited while seats last. Tickets are $50 each (open seating) or, a reserved table for eight is $500.



GOP CALLS ON OBAMA TO PRIORITIZE VA — THE HILL — The vice chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Saturday called on the Obama administration to do more to fight inefficiency in the Veteran Affairs’ Department.

In the Republican Party’s weekly address, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) delivered a message to the country’s veterans.

“America is what she is because of you,” he said. “We are free because of you. You have borne the battle, and we have vowed to take care of you and yours.”

“I only wish that your government always lived up to this promise,” he continued. “It has been nearly two years since VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned amid a series of scandals. At the time, the president said — and I quote — ‘the number one priority is making sure that problems get fixed.’”

Bilirakis questioned whether the VA was a high enough priority for the Obama administration, noting that the agency is still plagued with issues.

“Despite receiving more authority to clean up the bureaucracy, the VA has held almost no one accountable for manipulating wait times,” he said. “Meanwhile, some of the same people responsible for these problems received bonuses as if nothing happened. That’s unacceptable as far as I’m concerned.”

“To you, these are life and death issues. But too often at the VA, it is business as usual,” Bilirakis added.

The Florida congressman went on to detail legislative efforts to address the VA, noting that the House passed a measure to fund the agency this week. The legislation prohibits certain VA executives from receiving bonuses.

“Because we can’t throw money at the problem all the time, OK?” he said. “It won’t go away just doing that. We need real and meaningful reforms at the VA.”

“And we need President Obama to keep his word to you, and make it his top priority to fix the problems at the VA,” he added.



HOUSE GOP AIMS TO HOLD VA ACCOUNTABLE TWO YEARS LATER — WASHINGTON EXAMINER — Florida Rep. Gus Bilirakis outlined Saturday steps House Republicans have taken to hold the Department of Veterans’ Affairs accountable for internal reforms it had promised, but has failed to follow through with in the wake of the 2014 scandal.

“Despite receiving more funding, the VA is still taking too long to process claims. Wait times are actually worse,” Bilikrakis said in the GOP weekly address. “Despite receiving more authority to clean up the bureaucracy, the VA has held almost no one accountable for manipulating wait times. Meanwhile, some of the same people responsible for these problems received bonuses as if nothing happened.”



82ND SOLDIERS, VETERANS GATHER TO CELEBRATE ALL AMERICAN WEEK — FAY OBSERVER — Bill Bauer will be the first to admit it: He didn’t used to appreciate All American Week, the annual Fort Bragg spectacle that is a celebration of all things 82nd Airborne Division.

As a sergeant major, Bauer was just too busy during the action-packed week before Memorial Day.

From Monday morning’s run to Thursday’s review, Bauer had to make sure his soldiers were where they needed to be.

But these days, Bauer no longer has to stand with his helmet on at Pike Field or anywhere else for that matter.

As executive director of the 82nd Airborne Division Association, he’s learned just what sort of impact All American Week has on the hundreds of veteran paratroopers who attend each year.

“I don’t think I really appreciated how much was going on with the veterans,” Bauer said of his time on active duty. “But to know you stood where they stood, oh yeah, you get excited.”



WASHINGTON WORLD WAR II VETERAN, 98, TELLS HIS STORY — THE CHRONICLE —

MOSES LAKE (AP) — Cesar Mijares is a genuine American hero. Although he disputes that. “Never mind hero,” he said.

Okay – except that Cesar Mijares, who’s going to be 98 years of age soon, fought in the first desperate campaigns of World War II in the Pacific, survived the brutal Bataan Death March and an equally brutal captivity. Once he was released it took him a year to recover – and once he was well and went home to the Philippine island of Negros, he joined the resistance army fighting the Japanese.

Mijares lives in Seattle, but he’s a frequent visitor at the Moses Lake home of his daughter and son-in-law, Babette and David Sparks, the Columbia Basin Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1TnAC2A).

Mijares was one of millions of young men all around the world whose lives went in a far different direction than they planned. He was 23 years of age, a brand-new college graduate, and planned a career in banking, he said. But there was a lot going on in the world in 1941, and it was about to affect the Philippines.



SEBASTIAN JUNGER’S TAKE ON PTSD — WALL STREET JOURNAL — One of the tools of journalism, and perhaps life in general, is the ability to create a bond by discovering what you and the person standing in front of you have in common.

However, that wasn’t my modus operandi when I got together with Sebastian Junger, the best-selling author of “The Perfect Storm” who also, along with the late Tim Hetherington, created the Oscar-nominated documentary “Restrepo,” on the Afghanistan War.

We met at The Half King, a pub on far West 23rd Street where Mr. Junger is a co-owner.

Actually, I was more than happy reveling in our differences. Mr. Junger has earned an excellent living chasing risk. I do my best to avoid it.

His new book, “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging,” which comes out of decades of reporting from war zones, argues counterintuitively that the society American soldiers return to does more to cause post-traumatic stress disorder than combat does.

“PTSD is a disorder of transition,” he said.



LAST U.S. COMBAT FLAG FROM VIETNAM WAR UP FOR AUCTION — FOX NEWS — The last American combat flag from the Vietnam War is being put up for auction.

War hero Army Col. Chester Bailey McCoid took the large flag with him when he became the last ground force soldier to leave the South Vietnam port city of Da Nang on March 29, 1973, a month before the fall of Saigon, the Washington Examiner reports.

The flag is being sold by the Maryland auctioneer Alexander Historical Auctions, according to the news outlet. The live and online auction of the flag and other historic mementos is slated for this week on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The auction comes as President Obama arrived in Vietnam Sunday for a three-day visit aimed at boosting economic and defense ties with the former U.S. enemy.



WW II BATTLE FLAG UNITES GRANDDAUGHTER OF US MARINE AND GREAT-NIECE OF JAPANESE SOLDIER — FOX NEWS — New York was the meeting place this month for two women whose grandfather and great-uncle met as enemies on a World War II battlefield in the South Pacific.

Kelly Cowin, 34, of Riverton, Utah, and Ayaka Sano, 34, of Toyko, Japan, became connected through the tragedy of war — and a Japanese battle flag, according to The Journal News.

The flag belonged to Sano’s great-uncle, Fujio Kawasaki, the paper reported.

Mortally wounded during fighting on Guam in 1944, the 19-year-old Kawasaki held the flag out to another 19-year-old, Marine Gil McCormack and Cowin’s grandfather, according to the paper.

McCormack, the lone survivor of his 30-man unit on Guam, kept the flag, stashed in the attic, haunted by Kawasaki’s death.



TRUMP RAISED $1.5 MILLION LESS FOR VETS THAN STATED — THE HILL — Businessman Donald Trump reportedly raised $1.5 million less for veteran groups at a televised fundraiser than the Republican presidential candidate declared early this year.

“We just cracked $6 million, right? Six million,” Trump said during the Jan. 28 event in Des Moines, Iowa, which was organized to compete with a GOP debate that night he skipped.
However, The Washington Post reports that Trump’s campaign says that in reality the fundraiser drew $4.5 million, three-quarters of what the candidate repeatedly said it netted.

Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told the newspaper that some of Trump’s wealthy acquaintances backed out and ended up giving nothing for the groups.

Lewandowski said Trump has followed through on his pledge to give $1 million, though the aide said he didn’t know if that was included as part of the $4.5 million figure.

At least $3.1 million has been donated to veterans’ groups, according to reporting by the Post.



U.S. CHARGES EX-MARINE IN BILKING VETS IN HEDGE FUND FRAUD — PRIVATE WEALTH — Federal prosecutors in Chicago unveiled a criminal fraud charge against an Illinois man who authorities say masqueraded as a successful hedge fund manager, using his status as a former Marine to entice military veterans to invest with him.

Clayton Cohn, 29, caused 37 investors to invest more than $1.8 million with his firm, Marketaction Capital Management LLC, from 2010 to 2013, and lost more than $1.5 million of that sum, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon in Chicago said on Thursday.

Cohn is scheduled to be arraigned on May 26, and could face up to 20 years in prison after being charged with wire fraud.



SURVIVING A WWII U-BOAT ATTACK IN ‘SO CLOSE TO HOME’ — MILCOM — This week marks the 74th anniversary of the May 19,1942 sinking of the freighter Heredia by a German U-boat in the Gulf of Mexico, forty miles off the coast of New Orleans. Michael J. Tougias and Alison O’Leary’s new book So Close to Home combines the story of an American family’s survival after being cast into the sea with the diary of the German U-boat Commander Erich Würdmann to give a unique perspective on the almost-forgotten threat of Nazi boats in American waters during World War II.

Ray “Sonny” Downs was eight years old when he almost drowned. He went on to become a college basketball start at the University of Texas (setting scoring records that even Kevin Durant couldn’t surpass) and was drafted by the St. Louis Hawks, but passed on pro sports to pursue a career in insurance in finance. He talks about his WWII experience in the video below.



VA LOAN CLOSING COSTS: AN ADDED BENEFIT — MILCOM — Besides the advantage of requiring no down payment for qualified VA borrowers, there’s also a distinct advantage for the borrower regarding closing costs. The veteran is limited to the types of closing costs that may be paid, helping the veteran save money at the closing table. But if there are costs associated with a VA mortgage and the veteran isn’t allowed to pay for them, who does?



HRW: SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS BEING WRONGFULLY DISCHARGED FROM US MILITARY — JURIST — Thousands of victims of sexual assault in the US Military have been unfairly discharged, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] report [text] Thursday. The 128-page report, the result of a 28-month investigation with the support of Protect Our Defenders [advocacy website], found [press release] that many victims were discharged for a variety of mental health reasons that made them ineligible for benefits. According to the report, these “other than honorable” discharges impact the service members’ health care, employment, child custody, disability payments and burial rights among other areas. “Bad paper,” a term for an “other than honorable” discharge, has been correlated with high rates of suicide, homelessness and imprisonment. Furthermore, the report notes that under US law, service members are unable to sue the military for harm suffered and the Boards for Correction of Military Records and Discharge Review Boards are often overwhelmed with cases. Due to this, over 90 percent of claims are rejected with no opportunity for review and little to no judicial oversight. HRW urged Congress to create a right to a hearing before the Boards for Correction of Military Records, make this information more available to the public, and create a committee to study the standards for granting relief and determine procedure.



To THE VETERANS VOICE

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