American Veteran News 05.26.16

CROSS MEMORIAL FOR FALLEN VETERANS BACK UP AFTER PUBLIC OUTCRY — FOX NEWS — A Memorial Day cross display honoring fallen soldiers is back up Wednesday along a state highway in Georgia, after it was taken down last week amid controversy.

The 79 white, handmade crosses posted on public property along state Highway 92 in Hiram, Ga., were meant to represent the 79 Paulding County residents who died in America’s wars, according to town officials.

But the crosses were abruptly taken down last Friday after someone called Hiram City Hall questioning whether the soldiers were all Christian.

The moved sparked public outcry — particularly on social media — and, after a city council meeting Tuesday night, the crosses were put back in place Wednesday morning.

DAUGHTER FIGHTS FOR BETTER VA TREATMENT FOR FATHER — MILCOM — SUNBURY — Misdiagnoses, frequent delays in treatment, incompetence, and lack of communication between patient and doctors at three Veterans Administration hospitals in three states, almost led to the death of Sunbury resident Jeff Anselmo, 63, a Vietnam veteran with a heart condition, family members said.

And now his daughter Mikki Anselmo, 33, herself an Air National Guard and Army veteran, who lived through eight months of watching her father suffer, is determined to go public with her story in the hopes that “the horrible health care her father endured never happens again to another veteran.”

She is determined, with the help of U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, U.S. Representatives Tom Marino, R-10, Cogan Station, Lou Barletta, R-11, Hazleton, and Pennsylvania Rep. Lynda Schlegel-Culver, R-108, Sunbury, to testify before Congress on the problems at the V.A. that nearly killed her Dad.

WORLD WAR II VET DIES ON HIS ‘FINAL MISSION’ IN LONDON — FLORIDA TODAY — Until earlier this month, U.S. Army Air Corps veteran Melvin Rector had always regretted not having returned to the place where he served during World War II.

This year, the 94-year-old Barefoot Bay man who served as a radio operator on B-17 Flying Fortress bombers decided to return to a country he last saw in 1945: England.

It was such a milestone that the pilot of his American Airlines flight to England invited Rector to the cockpit and snapped pictures with the veteran.

“The flight attendant stopped us and said, ‘Mr. Rector, the captain would like to meet you.'” said Susan Jowers, who accompanied Rector on the trip.

On May 6 he arrived in London for a tour of World War II sights and the places he had served 71 years earlier.

SENATE COMMITTEE INSISTS IT’S NOT TRYING TO PRIVATIZE VA HEALTH CARE — FEDERAL NEWS RADIO — The future of the Veterans Affairs Department’s health care programs is still up in the air, as the Senate debates either a major overhaul or permanent extension to current legislation that lets veterans access private providers for care.

The VA has long argued it needs the authority to consolidate the seven different ways veterans can currently access health care.

The Veterans First Act, which the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee quietly passed without amendment last week, contains some provisions that would give the VA more flexibility to develop agreements with private providers and consolidate veterans’ current options. But the bill’s main author, committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), acknowledged there was more work to do.

“Please help us get the remaining few holes we have on that bill in the Senate off our bill so we can get it to the floor and pass it,” he said during a May 24 legislative hearing on the VA Choice Program and appeals process.

WOMACK CLINIC RENAMED FOR WORLD WAR II SILVER STAR RECIPIENT — MILCOM — In the weeks and months before Tuesday’s ceremony to rename the Troop and Family Medical Clinic on Fort Bragg, officials with Womack Army Medical Center searched for the family of Pvt. Kelly W. Byars.

Byars is a Salisbury native who served with the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II.

He earned a Silver Star for his heroism during Operation Market Garden. He died in Florida in 1979.

“It was hard to find much beyond the (Silver Star) citation,” said Col. Lance C. Raney, the commander of Womack.

The hospital was unable to find any of Byars’ family. So, Raney said, they would add him to one.

“Today, we’re welcoming Pvt. Byars back to our family,” Raney said, standing before the newly dubbed Pvt. Kelly W. Byars Health Clinic.

GROUPS OPPOSE PLAN TO STEER MORE VETS TO PRIVATE HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS — MILCOM — Several of the country’s largest veterans’ service organizations say Sen. John McCain’s plan to reform VA health care has merit but aren’t on board with expanding a program to steer vets to private health care providers.

Under the so-called Veterans Choice Program, those who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or who face long wait times for care can go to community health care providers.

While advocates see expanding the program as a way to provide veterans with more options, the groups — including The American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled American Veterans and Paralyzed Veterans of America — say it would lead to a fraying and shrinking of an integrated managed care system they say serves veterans best.

STUDY LOOKS AT VETERANS MOST AT RISK FOR SUICIDE ATTEMPTS — ABC NEWS — Suicide remains a substantial problem among veterans with rising rates in the past decade and higher rates than the general population, according to researchers.

A new study, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, looks at a large group of veterans and active service members to help determine timing and other factors that put them at higher risk and ways to help combat the problem.

“Deployment context is important in identifying SA [suicide attempt] risk among Army-enlisted soldiers,” the authors wrote in the study. “A life/career history perspective can assist in identifying high-risk segments of a population based on factors such as timing, environmental context and individual characteristics.”

LAWSUIT: FUNDRAISING FIRM FOR VETERANS WON’T STOP CALLING, DECIEVED DONORS — KMSP — ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a lawsuit in Hennepin County against two Michigan companies alleging they’ve misled donors in soliciting money for a veterans charity.

The state of Minnesota is suing Associated Community Services and its affiliate, Central Processing Services, which solicit donations for Foundation of American Veterans. According the lawsuit, Associated Community Services made fundraising calls to potential donors and then sent “pledge reminders” that falsely indicated that people had pledged to donate when they hadn’t. Many of the people who received fake pledge reminders were senior citizens, some on fixed incomes.

One Minnesota woman reported that Associated Community Services asked her for a donation and, when she refused, questioned whether she was “grateful for the sacrifices that disabled veterans have made for our country.” She asked to be put on a do not call list, and the caller hung up. Then, she was instructed to donate if she wanted the calls to stop.

VETERANS GROUPS OPPOSE MANCHIN AMENDMENT GIVING FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES UNFETTERED ACCESS TO MILITARY BASES — HUFFINGTON POST — Just as America’s veterans organization are coming together to demand better government protection against deceptive and abusive practices by for-profit colleges, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) seems to want to move in the opposite direction, pushing an amendment that would require the Pentagon to allow any college approved for military tuition benefits to have unrestricted access to recruit on military bases. Veterans and military groups, as well as other Senators, are now working to stop this Manchin amendment.

VETERANS GETTING HELP VIA THE COMPENSATED WORK THERAPY PROGRAM — MILCOM — Many veterans feel lost after the military. They know they provided a great service to their country while they were in the military, but they enter the civilian world and wonder where they fit, what their skills translate into in the civilian world, and sometimes even why anyone would want to hire them.

If this is you, consider the Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) Program. CWT aims to provide veterans an opportunity to gain valuable long term employment skills and also give them the resources they need for a hopeful future.

A recent VA blog highlighted CWT for the assistance the program gave to three veterans, two of which had problems with alcohol. One of these veterans, Tim, now works to help other veterans get the help they need. He helps them to understand that “It’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay when they accept help.” The biggest reward is when they, like him, return are the ones doing the helping.

The program has helped numerous veterans, and is one of many that can help you get resituated. The first step is asking for and being willing to accept help.

WWII VETERAN MADE HIS WAY HOME ON MOTORCYCLE AFTER CROSS COUNTRY TOUR — WAVY — RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — On Wednesday, a World War II veteran made his way back to Richmond after a nearly 7,000-mile journey across the country. Dr. E. Bruce Heilman has spent the last month atop his Harley-Davidson bringing attention to the 75th anniversary of the war.

“Everybody thinks I’m on a three-wheeler,” said the 89-year-old. “I’m saving that until I get old.”

Escorted by fellow veterans and law enforcement officers, Dr. Heilman was greeted with signs and American flags as he and his motorcade made their way across the Lee Bridge to the Virginia War Memorial.

FOUR MILITARY RETIREMENT PAY SURPRISES FOR SPOUSES — MILCOM — If you’ve reached the end of your service member’s military career, you’re probably really excited. No more TDYs, military moves, long training separations or sudden deployments for you.

Instead, you’re looking forward to enjoying all of those benefits, like continued health care and retirement pay, that you’ve spent 20 years earning. Life is about to get very good.

But military retirement pay and the benefits that come along with it can be complicated and confusing — and sometimes full of little-talked about surprises.

Some of them can impact the whole family, like these four military retirement pay surprises to avoid. But there are others that may only affect the military spouse.

VA WRONGLY DECLARED 4,200 VETERANS DEAD, BENEFITS RESTORED — KUSA — ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A Florida congressman says the Veterans Administration cut off the benefits of more 4,200 people nationwide after they were wrongly declared dead.

Rep. David Jolly says the people were “very much alive” and their benefits were resumed after the VA looked into their cases, which happened between 2011 and 2015.

Jolly, of Florida, raised the issue with the VA in November on behalf of a group of veterans in the Tampa Bay area.

He told The Associated Press early Wednesday that agency has since acknowledged mistakes in 4,200 cases, and that it has changed its protocols for confirming deaths. He plans to ask the VA for a new report on the issue at year’s end.

FACING CALLS FOR HIS RESIGNATION, VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY EXPRESSES ‘REGRET’ FOR DISNEYLAND COMMENTS — — BREITBART President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs expressed “regret” for comparing VA hospital wait times to the lines at Disneyland — 30 hours after making the comments during a breakfast with reporters in Washington D.C.

“If my comments Monday led any Veterans to believe that I, or the dedicated workforce I am privileged to lead, don’t take that noble mission seriously, I deeply regret that,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Republicans immediately condemned his statement but McDonald at first refused to apologize, which only fueled the controversy.

VA LOAN LIMITS FOR HIGH-COST COUNTIES — MILCOM — Updated for 2016: VA Loan Limits for High-cost Counties

The VA loan guaranty program does not impose a maximum amount that an eligible veteran may borrow using a VA loan but limits the maximum guaranty amount to $417,000 for 2016. However, if you live in one of the following counties listed below, follow the data on the chart to determine the VA’s maximum guaranty amount for a particular county. These limits apply to all loans closed January 1, 2016 and afterwards.

WOMAN INDICTED FOR ALLEGEDLY STEALING MOTHER’S VA BENEFITS — TIMES TELEGRAM — SYRACUSE — A Marcy woman was indicted Tuesday in federal court for allegedly stealing nearly $18,000 in Veterans Administration compensation benefits from her deceased mother.

Michelle Gulla, 53, was charged with theft of public money — a violation of Title 18 of the U.S. Code Section 641— which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and a term of supervised release of up to three years.

The indictment alleges that Gulla stole approximately $17,863 of Veterans Administration compensation benefits paid to her deceased mother.

VA CREATED 40,000 POSITIONS FROM 2012 TO 2015, BUT ONLY 1-IN-11 WERE FOR DOCTORS — DAILY CALLER — The Department of Veterans Affairs created 40,000 new positions from 2012 to 2015, but only one-in-11 were actually for doctors.

In other words, the VA added just 3,591 medical officers out of 39,454 positions, according to a new report released by Open The Books.

As many as 1,000 veterans died while languishing on wait lists for care in 2014. Since then, VA Secretary Robert McDonald has pledged to turn the beleaguered agency around and focus on improving veteran satisfaction. Yet on Monday, McDonald stated that because Disneyland doesn’t primarily focus on wait times for rides and instead focuses on overall satisfaction, the VA should follow suit.

His comments weren’t well-received, given that nearly 500,000 veterans are still waiting to see a doctor, and some legislators have called for his resignation.

But given the VA’s priorities, it’s unsurprising how much money it’s spent on improving veteran experience, instead of simply hiring more doctors and reducing wait times.

The VA has spent $1.7 million on “employee engagement” from 2010 to 2014. The agency spent $303 million on painters, interior designers and gardeners from 2012 to 2015.

The VA spent $751.1 million on furniture, curtains and carpets from 2010 to 2015. Many of these items came from luxury manufacturers.

The VA also decided it would be a good idea to hire 175 more lawyers and spend $99 million on public relations firms since 2012.

Employees are taking home very healthy salaries. Spending on annual salaries increased by 18.7 percent since 2012, which is 168 percent over the Consumer Price Index. The number of employees since 2012 has also increased by 12.5 percent.

A total of 19 percent of VA employees pull in more than $100,000 per year.

Yet wait times are still a disaster and an embarrassment for the VA. The inspector general found there’s a serious problem with nationwide wait time manipulation. Additionally, management and staff have hardly been punished for blatant participation in the scheme to make it appear as though veterans aren’t waiting at all for appointments.

The idea that wait times are not as important as the overall veteran experience merited major backlash. Waiting for a ride in Disneyland, known as “The Happiest Place On Earth,” is not quite the same as waiting for a doctor’s appointment.

“The American Legion agrees that the VA secretary’s analogy between Disneyland and VA wait times was an unfortunate comparison because people don’t die while waiting to go on Space Mountain,” The American Legion National Commander Dale Barnett said, according to CNN.


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