American Veteran News 06.20.16

VETERANS WHO DIED FROM AGENT ORANGE EXPOSURE HONORED AT VIETNAM WAR MEMORIAL — BREITBART — WASHINGTON, D.C. — The names of 312 Vietnam War veterans who died from exposure to Agent Orange were added to the rolls at the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial on Saturday. Family members of the deceased veterans were on hand to receive a recognition plaque and place photos of their loved ones at the base of the memorial wall of names.

The ceremony took place on the grounds of the National Mall just outside The Wall of the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial on Saturday. Family members travelled in from all over the country to participate in the event honoring their loved ones, a volunteer with the Vietnam War Memorial told Breitbart Texas on Saturday.

“We are adding 312 names to the rolls and database of Vietnam Veterans who have died,” the volunteer said. “They won’t be added to the actual wall, but their names will be recorded for posterity.”

“There are 58,315 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; names of men and women who died on the battlefield of the Vietnam War,” Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund President and CEO Jim Knotts said in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “Those men and women are honored on a daily basis by everyone who sees The Wall.”

“There are many thousands more who died as a result of the Vietnam War, but their deaths do not fit the Department of Defense criteria for inclusion on The Wall. VVMF’s In Memory program honors those veterans, many of whom came home to fight a whole new battle and never fully recovered either physically or emotionally. It is our duty to make sure their sacrifice is never forgotten,” he explained.

The Department of Defense only allows names to be added to The Wall of veterans who have died from wounds sustained during the war. They are not allowing the addition of the nearly 3,000 Vietnam War veterans who died from exposure to Agent Orange related illnesses, The Duluth News Tribune reported.

REMEMBERING THE WARS OF OUR FATHERS — T&P — Dennis Anderson reflects on his father’s job during World War II, processing and editing thousands of combat photographs.

“What did you do in the war, daddy?”

It was a question we Baby Boomers often asked our fathers — all of the millions of us whose fathers served during World War II, history’s greatest conflict, and something that in our child minds we could not even begin to grasp.

I had practically forgotten that question until I was cleaning out the garage a few weeks ago, and for the first time in my adult years, discovered a trove of documentation, illustrations, and photographs of exactly what my father did during World War II. In his records were references to the good, the bad, and the ugly of why we had to win.

My father was 31 on Dec. 7, 1941. After Pearl Harbor, he made himself available for the draft. Because of his age and his Hollywood movie-making skills, he joined a Signal Corps unit that filmed the war. The forgotten family history welled up before me like old film as I found the photos and letters of a gentle man who loved his wife, and an infant son he had yet to see, my older brother, Phillip, who was born on Christmas Day, 1944. It was a GI homecoming of the kind that you can see in William Wyler’s Best Picture Oscar classic of 1946, “The Best Years Of Our Lives.”

VOLUNTEER GROUP WORKS TO GET VETS BENEFITS — OC TODAY — The National Association for Black Veterans’ Berlin chapter continues to help an ever-increasing number of military members get access to the benefits they’ve earned. Now, the nonprofit hopes to expand its mission.

NABVETS Walk Through the Valley Chapter #0093 Commander James Briddell said the group began in 2008 when a multitude of Vietnam-era military vets from the area took part in a number of local patriotic celebrations.

“We were part of the Memorial Day parade and Veterans Day program,” he said. “We had a heart for seeing to it that other veterans knew about the different benefits that they were entitled to.”

It started with Briddell and the other veterans offering to carpool when heading to the western shore.

“As I would go to Baltimore, or some of the other members would go, we would take other veterans with us,” he said. “We would try to get them signed up with the VA so they might be able to get their healthcare. We would take veterans to the federal building and help them file for disability claims.”

LAWMAKERS BLAST VA FOR ABANDONING ‘FAST-TRACK’ FIRING AUTHORITY — MILCOM — Lawmakers are furious that Veterans Affairs Department will no longer use the fast-track system for firing employees that Congress gave it more than a year ago.

Department officials on Friday notified lawmakers they were passing on the expanded firing authority included in the VA Accountability Act of 2014. Officials haven’t yet explained the move, and the department’s record of disciplining employees under the law is unclear.

Lawmakers have repeatedly criticized VA Secretary Bob McDonald for what they say is an inability to fire problem employees, including one who returned to work after being arrested in connection with an armed robbery in Puerto Rico.

For example, Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia and chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said the decision to not use the expedited authority of accountability act is “outrageous and unconscionable.

CALIFORNIA VA WASTES $28 MILLION ON FAILED COMPUTER SYSTEM — SACREMENTO BEE — California’s state auditor has labeled yet another California government technology project an expensive failure.

The California Department of Veterans Affairs has spent nearly $28 million on a system that launched years later than planned, wastes staff time and has not been fully implemented, according to an audit released Thursday by state Auditor Elaine Howle.

The audit marks the latest in a long string of California government technology failures. The auditor previously found data security weaknesses and unsatisfactory oversight on technology projects. Additionally, a payroll system update spiraled into chaos, licensing board software was delayed, and a tax and fee system stalled.

Howle’s latest audit found the Department of Veterans Affairs started with a plan to implement a comprehensive computer system so veterans who receive rehabilitative, residential and medical services would get “consistent and integrated care” no matter which facility they visited throughout the state. The idea was approved in 2006.

VA WILL NO LONGER USE STREAMLINED PROCESS TO FIRE EMPLOYEES — WASHINGTON FREE BEACON — The Department of Veterans’ Affairs will no longer use its fast-track authorities to expedite the dismissal of senior employees following a legal challenge to the process, Capitol Hill officials said Friday.

The provision was part of the Veterans Choice Act passed in the wake of the 2014 VA wait time scandal and aimed to accelerate the appeals process for employees who had been fired to just three weeks. The process previously took multiple months.

The Military Times reported that the VA’s decision to stop using its streamlined disciplinary powers reverts the department’s accountability rules to two years ago, prior to lawmakers approving reform.

“Everyone knows VA isn’t very good at disciplining employees, but this decision calls into question whether department leaders are even interested in doing so,” Rep. Jeff Miller (R., Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said in a statement. “After all, VA is a place where egregious employee behavior, such as armed robbery participation and wait-time manipulation, is routinely tolerated.”

VA GETS THIRD NEW BENEFITS CHIEF IN LESS THAN A YEAR — MILCOM — The acting head of the Veterans Benefits Administration is retiring, leaving the position he has held since his predecessor left under a cloud in 2015.

Danny Pummill, a retired Army colonel who joined the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2010, had planned to retire in 2015 but stayed on as acting undersecretary of benefits after his predecessor resigned last October, VA said in a statement.

Allison Hickey called it quits after a long period of criticism from lawmakers and veterans organizations, most recently for allowing VA senior executives to move into jobs that they reportedly coerced others leave.

EXECUTIVE OF SHAM VETERAN-OWNED FIRM FOUND GUILTY OF $100M FRAUD — BOSTON GLOBE — A Chelmsford man who won $100 million in federal construction contracts by saying that his construction company was owned by disabled veterans was found guilty of fraud by a federal jury in Boston Wednesday.

Prosecutors said David Gorski recruited two veterans to stand in as the majority owners and top executives of his construction firm so it could win federal contracts that give preference to veteran-owned companies.

In reality, prosecutors said, Gorski controlled Legion Construction as it won numerous Army, Navy and US Department of Veterans Affairs contracts from 2006 to 2010.

Gorski paid himself salaries as high as $356,000, according to court documents, and also paid his wife — who worked full-time for the town of Chelmsford — $400 a week.

Gorski was convicted of four counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the government. He is scheduled to be sentenced in September, and could face up to 25 years in prison.

Tracy Miner, a defense attorney who represented Gorski, said her client was let down by others’ bad advice.

his is one of the rare times when the jury got it wrong,” Miner said in a statement. “The undisputed evidence showed that he consulted outside accountants and lawyers throughout and that nobody ever advised him to do anything differently.

OMITTING ARLINGTON’S CIVIL WAR VETERANS — WASHINGTON POST — Bob Kunzinger’s May 29 Local Opinions essay, “The cost of our freedom,” was a beautiful, moving tribute to the servicemen and women who died for our freedom since the country’s founding — with one glaring, inexplicable omission.

After visiting Arlington National Cemetery, he expressed appreciation for the veterans of Vietnam, Korea, World War II, World War I and the American Revolution while omitting any mention of the brave soldiers who died during the Civil War to save the United States from the forces of treason and slavery.

More Americans died in that mean conflict than all the wars he mentioned combined. Arlington Cemetery was established to honor the Union’s Civil War dead. On May 28, the American Legion solemnly recognized the more than 2,000 Civil War unknowns, as reported in “Salute to a distant war” [Metro, May 29].

This abridged understanding of history reminds us of the continuing need for education regarding the nation’s saddest and most critical conflict.

Giving Vietnam veterans their due, while we still can — BALTIMORE SUN — Nearly 50 years ago, while a war was building in Southeast Asia, I was rescued from a highway car crash in Pasadena. During a speedy ambulance ride to the hospital, the paramedic reassured me that I had only suffered a few minor breaks and bruises. While I bemoaned the appearance of two black eyes, he clutched my hand and told me he had seen far worse injuries than mine and would see more: He had served one tour in Vietnam and had volunteered to return to the battlefields there. There was only that one encounter between us; I never knew whether the soldier who showed me such kindness was fortunate enough to come home from the war a second time.

I was a college student then, torn between peace protests and loyalty to a country mired in an unpopular conflict. I knew many who served and many who tried to avoid that service. I have touched the letters of a few familiar names forever etched on an imposing wall of remembrance that stands among the nation’s monuments. As a former reporter at The Sun, I have seen the traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and spoken to those who paid tribute before it.

I watched when Maryland Public Television aired hours of interviews with Vietnam veterans over three nights last month, marking a half century since the escalation of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War; I was certain I would spot a familiar face. Eventually, they all seemed familiar. These veterans shared poignant memories of their own experiences, of lost comrades and of vitriol from those who condemned their honorable service.

COURT: DISABLED VETERAN OWNED SMALL BUSINESS BEATS VA — DISABLED VETERANS — The Supreme Court made an unsurprising ruling that Veterans Affairs must follow a law that says it “shall” follow disabled veteran owned small business rules.

Who would’a thunk it? VA needs to follow laws created by Congress? The word “shall” is not optional like the word “may” in a law? Shocking!

The case, Kingdomware Technologies v US involved a disabled US Army veteran’s company that was competing against a bigger firm with an existing preferential contract at VA. The contract was for emergency notification services.

VA apparently ignored the mandate to award the contract to the veteran owned business, which was in line with their practice to screw disabled veteran owned small businesses for years.

Not surprisingly, VA has long put veteran owned businesses at a disadvantage when they compete against larger companies already providing services through the Federal Supply Schedule. VA erroneously believed it could ignore a congressional mandate to help veteran owned business compete against non-veteran owned businesses to fulfill contract needs.

Did they really believe they could ignore the law, or did they do it because they did not believe they would get caught?

VETERANS AFFAIRS PROMISES TO DO MORE TO PREVENT SUICIDES — AP — SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — When he was 6, police caught Kindall Johnson trying to cross Sunshine Street by himself. The Marine-obsessed child had discovered the recruitment office, then located in the Elfindale Center.

His mother, Kathy Davis, seemed to enjoy sharing that memory.

“One night I’m cooking dinner and there was a knock at the door. It was two police officers and Kindall was standing there smiling,” she said. “He had bumper stickers, lanyards, pencils, pads of paper. And he goes, ‘I found this really cool place and they give you all this free stuff.'”

Johnson stayed in touch with the recruiters and never wavered on his plan to enlist.

A strong runner, Johnson was invited to train with recruits who were getting ready to ship out. He was just 15 years old.

A few days after high school graduation, he was sent to boot camp.

Five years later he died of a gunshot wound. The Marine was not killed by enemy fire.

SENATE VOTES TO SCALE BACK FEDERAL JOB PREFERENCES FOR VETERANS — STARS & STRIPES — WASHINGTON — Congress stepped this week into a sensitive issue that’s been quietly roiling the already-challenging hiring system for federal jobs: the Obama administration’s high-profile push to give preference to veterans.

The Senate version of the vast military policy bill that now heads to conference with the House would knock out one of the advantages veterans enjoy when they apply for federal work. They would continue to get a leg up over non-veterans to get a foot in the door. But once they’re in government and want to be considered for another federal post, they would no longer go to the head of the hiring queue.

The change, approved on Tuesday by the Senate as part of its annual defense policy bill, would apply across government and affect thousands of veterans and their close relatives, who also are able to jump the line over non-veterans.

It was high-level Pentagon officials who pressed Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, for a change to the veterans hiring system. These officials have expressed concern to McCain and other lawmakers that too many qualified non-veterans are getting shut out of federal jobs in deference to those who served but may not be qualified for some positions, according to committee staff.

A TRIO OF WORLD WAR II VETERANS, BEST FRIENDS, GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL 70 YEARS LATER — FNL — After 71 years, three World War II veterans who also happen to be best friends, graduated from high school together on Monday just in time for Father’s Day.

The trio of heroes walked across the stage at Abraham Lincoln High School in Los Angeles to collect their long overdue diplomas. Julian Lopez, Tony Romero and Lupe Malacate, all now 90, were drafted in 1944 to serve in World War II, forcing them to drop out of school.

Not to be outdone was Lopez’s wife, Henrietta, who joined her husband in receiving her high school diploma. Henrietta, 89, married Julian just days before he was deployed to fight in the Pacific. She too was forced to drop out of school because she was prohibited from attending because she was married.

THE TOP 10 PAYING JOBS IN THE US — MILCOM — For the latest veteran jobs postings around the country, visit the Job Search section.

What are the highest paying jobs in the U.S., based on median annual salaries? We checked with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to get the lowdown, and the top ten occupations are listed below. Some of the jobs aren’t unexpected, but some may surprise you — as it turns out, CEOs aren’t #1 on the list. See the full details on each job in the list below, and get the skinny on what it takes to qualify for the job.

WIDOWS OF VETERANS WITH PTSD WANT TO REMOVE STIGMA OF CONDITION — NWF DAILY NEWS — Although they’ve never met, Karen Biddle and Summer Frost share a bond forged in tragedy.

It’s a connection that also links them to the family of Drew Winkler, a 26-year-old Iraq War veteran from Crestview who killed himself on Memorial Day.

Like Winkler, Biddle’s and Frost’s spouses were veterans who took their own lives after years of struggling with post traumatic stress disorder. Like Winkler’s family, Biddle and Frost want people to understand how pervasive PTSD and veterans suicides are in Northwest Florida.

Biddle made a promise to her husband that she has spelled out on her forearm.

“I will tell your story,” the tattoo reads.

DELAYS KEEP SERVICE DOGS FROM VETERANS WITH PTSD — REGISTER-HERALD — WASHINGTON — Emmanuel Bernadin says he’d be dead without the service dog he calls Bronze.

Bernadin has had suicidal thoughts five or six times, once while still serving in Afghanistan, and the rest as he’s tried to deal with what he went through there.

Bronze — as in Bronze medal — goes with the El Paso, Texas, man wherever he goes. Bernadin said the French mastiff is so essential to his coping with feelings of guilt and anger, at times he’s chosen to be homeless in order to afford its food.

Despite such anecdotal evidence — and research that shows how dogs help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress — the Veterans Health Administration does not cover the thousands of dollars it costs to get and train a service dog. Critics blame the agency’s bureaucracy and a bungled study.

As a result, help is unaffordable to many, despite government estimates that 22 veterans kill themselves every day and research that connects thoughts of suicide with the post-traumatic stress suffered by nearly a third of veterans who’ve served since Sept. 11, 2001.

In a 2010 budget bill, Congress directed the Department of Veterans Affairs to study the use of service dogs. The study was supposed to have been finished in 2014, but it was suspended when dogs the agency got from a contractor had behavior problems and bit two children.

MY PROMISE TO DADDY — AMERICAN THINKER — Daddy died in January. For eight long years he struggled with Alzheimer’s. My mother and I struggled as well, me the most. My mother being too disabled to get up the stairs (due to spinal stenosis) and necessarily sleeping downstairs, I became my father’s primary caregiver.

Ever since I was little, whenever I walked into a room, Daddy would say, “That’s my Susie!” When the day came when he wondered who I was …well, it hits you right in the gut. We were lucky that he remembered who we were much of the time. But there were so many other things, things no one could prepare you for, drastic personality changes that entailed having food thrown at you, being accused of stealing things, or dangerous things — like when I found he’d gathered every jackknife he’d ever owned and hid them under his pillow in case he felt threatened by Don Quixote’s windmills.

As time passed, my own room became filled with things I’d confiscated from my father’s bedroom — Pepto Bismol, Lysol disinfectant, deodorant, and other things he would liberally apply anywhere on his body. I’d seen him through his cataract surgery, two hernia operations, and cellulitis that led to bloody infections on his legs…and ailments I can’t even remember now.

My father developed lung disease and was on oxygen. He didn’t like it and I would often find his oxygen cord tied in large knots under his bed — knots he had learned in Sea Scouts and the Navy. On two occasions he took a knife I’d given him for supper and cut his oxygen cord into tiny pieces. In short, every moment of my life became as exasperating as his.

I lost my job in 2012. It was a blessing in disguise as I realized my parents, my father especially, needed 24/7 care. At first I cashed in my entire 401k to support us, but that eventually ran out. My father’s greatest fear was being placed in a nursing home, and since he had not been forward-looking with his finances, he would necessarily be at the mercy of the cheapest nursing home available. (After my father’s lifelong career as a tool and die maker, my parents suffered an unexpected financial crises in the ‘90’s and never recovered.)

We survived with WWII VA caregiver benefits — something I discovered my father qualified for when he became housebound. Those proud stories of starting out in the Navy as a gunnery instructor on North Island at the end of WWII had finally served him properly. Sadly, by the time the benefits came through, my father was too far gone to understand that his Navy service was helping us survive, decades after he’d been honorably discharged. He would have been proud.


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