American Veteran News 06.23.16



ONE OF TWO REMAINING AIRMEN WHO FLEW IN WORLD WAR II ‘DOOLITTLE RAID’ DIES — FOX — One of the last two surviving members of the Doolittle Raiders — who bombed Japan in an attack that stunned that nation and boosted U.S. morale — has died in Montana, his family said.

Retired Staff Sgt. David Jonathan Thatcher died Wednesday in a Missoula hospital. He was 94. He suffered a stroke on Sunday, Thatcher’s son Jeff told the Missoulian newspaper.

Thatcher’s death leaves Retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole of Comfort, Texas, as the only living airman from among 80 who took off from an aircraft carrier on 16 B-25 bombers to target factory areas and military installations in Japan on April 18, 1942. Afterward, the planes headed for airfields in mainland China, realizing they would run out of fuel, according to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The mission lifted American spirits five months after Pearl Harbor was bombed and forced the Japanese to spend resources defending their home islands.

Thatcher was engineer-gunner aboard the plane nicknamed “The Ruptured Duck.”



HOW HOUSTON VA CLINICS MANIPULATED CANCELLATIONS TO IMPROVE OPTICS — TOWNHALL — A new report from the Office of Audits and Evaluations finds that former employees at the Houston-based Veterans Affairs clinics manipulated wait times and appointment cancellations as a way to save face. Documents reveal that employees improperly recorded clinic cancellations as patient cancellations and severely understated wait times.

We identified 223 appointments incorrectly recorded as patient cancellations during the July 2014 through June 2015 time frame. Of the 223 appointment cancellations, staff rescheduled 94 appointments (42 percent) beyond 30 days. For these 94 appointments, veterans encountered an average 81-day wait, which was 78 days longer than shown in the electronic scheduling system. We found that wait times were understated about 66 days for 50 appointments (22 percent) when they were initially scheduled.

Local VA officials insisted these misreported cancellations were the result of faulty software and that it wasn’t “intentional” – claims the audit office pushed back on in its report, notes The Houston Chronicle.



AIR FORCE VET ALLEGES MENTIONING ‘GOD’ IS THE REASON FOR HIS ASSAULT — T&P — Oscar Rodriguez claims that religion led to his forcible removal from a retirement ceremony.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has directed the Air Force Inspector General to conduct an independent investigation into an April incident at Travis Air Force Base, California, may incur lawsuit from a former career enlisted airman, an Air Force spokesperson has told Task & Purpose.

Oscar Rodriguez, a 33-year Air Force veteran, is demanding an apology or he will sue his former branch after being forcibly removed from a retirement ceremony on April 3, 2016.

A demand letter sent by lawyers with the First Liberty Institute to two Air Force commanders on behalf of Rodriguez claims that Master Sgt. Charles Roberson asked him to speak during the flag-folding portion of his retirement ceremony from the 749th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, after seeing him give a speech at another retirement ceremony one month earlier.

According to the demand letter, the squadron’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Michael Sovitsky, was familiar with the speech Rodriquez had given at previous ceremonies and its references to “God” and did not want him attending or participating in Roberson’s ceremony for this specific reason.



VETERAN EMPLOYMENT & ‘ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK’ — MILCOM — Season four of women’s prison drama series Orange is the New Black has just gone live on Netflix and some of us at Military.com noticed a curious conversation in Episode 2 (“Power Suit”). There’s a scene that features the prison’s new private corporate management team discussing ways to solve Litchfield’s overcrowding and staffing issues. Someone suggests that military veterans might make good corrections officers.



WAIT TIMES MANIPULATED AT HOUSTON-AREA VA CLINICS — VIRGINIAN-PILOT — HOUSTON (AP) — Staff at Houston-area Veterans Affairs facilities improperly manipulated wait times for Texas veterans wishing to make a medical appointment, according to a federal report released Monday.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General said more than 200 appointments were incorrectly recorded for the year that ended in June 2015. Two former scheduling supervisors and a current director of two VA clinics instructed staff to incorrectly record cancellations as being canceled by the patient, the report shows.

Veterans in many instances then encountered average wait times of nearly three months when the appointments were rescheduled.

“These issues have continued despite the Veterans Health Administration … having identified similar issues during a May and June 2014 system-wide review of access,” according to the report. “These conditions persisted because of a lack of effective training and oversight.”

Federal inspectors also determined that wait times for other veterans were understated by more than two months.



AFGE UNION ON ROPES OVER VETERANS CHOICE — DISABLED VETERANS — The AFGE union at Tomah VA is holding a rally to scare off competition and stave off the impending erosion of union control of VA under Veterans Choice.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 0007 has scheduled a rally for Thursday at 1:00 PM called “Rally to Strengthen the VA and Keep Our Promise to Veterans.”

I can think of a couple of immediate questions.

What promise was not fulfilled before that the union believes it can fix now? What kind of strengthening do they propose? And since the union basically controlled VA with its monopoly before, how did they allow the problems to persist?

Ever since Veterans Choice was signed into law and funded, AFGE leadership has attacked the program. The irony here is that the only reason Veterans Choice was created is because union members committed widespread fraud and veterans died as a result.



NEW MENTAL HEALTH CLINIC AIMS TO HELP VETERANS STRUGGLING WITH COMING HOME — KERA — In 2004, Steve Papania was patrolling Kirkuk, Iraq, as a rifleman in the U.S. Army. He’d enlisted immediately after 9/11.

“We did a lot of raids, where we were kicking doors in and arresting people. We’d come into contact with [improvised explosive devices]. We’d have somebody shooting through the door at you, while you were trying to get inside,” Papania said. “It would put you in these weird situations where you were just in a constant state of alert.”

Papania left the military in fall 2005 and came home to North Texas. He’s originally from Rowlett. Like many soldiers, Papania had a difficult time with the transition back to everyday life.

“A year ago, you had a sense of purpose and you had a mission, and you were going through these sort of intense things in your life, and then you get home, and you have people who are more concerned about things that to you don’t really seem that important.”

When he got out of the army, he worked in the grocery section of a big box retailer while he was going to school, and a woman berated him because there weren’t anymore green beans.



AS IF PTSD, CTE, AND MORAL INJURY WEREN’T ENOUGH — FPF — Throughout history, it’s been obvious that soldiers returning home from war are changed men. From being silent to just “different,” soldiers have been suffering what’s been variously called, in the last 200 years, “soldier’s heart,” “shell shock,” “war neuroses,” and, more recently, post-traumatic stress syndrome. Sometimes, PTSD is a result of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a form of dementia caused by degenerative brain tissue and characterized by deep depression, failing memory, and rage.

In April, at CNN, veteran Shane Garcie talks about the concussions he experienced.

“… there’s so many. There’s so many,” says Garcie. “There are so many reasons for the jarrings, for the beatings. Not just IEDs, not just car bombs, not just in a firefight or grenades going off.”

“Think about it, you know. Iraq doesn’t have the best roads,” Garcie continues. “And you hit that bump and your head — it smacks the turret. Rollovers are severe because of the canals.”

Turns out that, as if PTSD and CTE weren’t enough, yet another syndrome causes the same symptoms. In the New York Times, Robert Worth reports that “soldiers exposed to blasts often had memory and focus problems that did not go away and that seemed distinct from battlefield trauma.”



US MILITARY VETS TO TRAIN WILDLIFE RANGERS IN SOUTH AFRICA — AP — JOHANNESBURG — A group of American military veterans with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan plans to train rangers at some private wildlife areas in South Africa, where poachers have killed large numbers of rhinos for their horns.

The small conservation group called Vetpaw previously operated in Tanzania, which ordered the group to leave last year, partly because of a video in which a member talked about killing poachers.

Ryan Tate, a former U.S. Marine and head of Vetpaw, said Tuesday that the member didn’t speak for Vetpaw and that he has sought to “rebrand” the organization.

Tate and Shea Peaton, a U.S. Navy veteran, have spent about a month in South Africa, assessing security needs in several wildlife parks. Training will include marksmanship, field medicine and maneuvering at night, Tate said.

“People are desperate and want to try anything and everything that they can,” he said, referring to operators of private wildlife areas that lack the resources that some state-run parks receive.



VETERANS GET THEIR DIPLOMAS DECADES AFTER LEAVING HIGH SCHOOL FOR WAR — NJ.COM — BUTLER — Graduation-blue cap on his head, Joseph Fiorilla wondered if the diploma he was about to receive would lead to a pay-raise.

The 81-year-old Fiorilla joked with family members that, as a soon to be high school graduate, he would love a boost in income, however small.

On Tuesday, Fiorilla was one of 10 veterans who were awarded diplomas at the Butler High School graduation ceremony, more than a half a century after most of them left school to serve in the armed forces.

“This is really crazy, I never anticipated this,” said Joseph’s wife, Marilyn Fiorilla, a 1955 graduate of Butler High. “Although he didn’t graduate, he worked hard all his life and I’m proud of him.”



VIETNAM ERA VETERANS SOUGHT FOR HONOR FLIGHT TRIPS TO WASHINGTON, D.C. — MOUNT VERNON NEWS — Having provided thousands of World War II and Korean War veterans with a day of celebration, Honor Flight Columbus is seeking applications from those who served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War years. That time period is February 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975.

The first flight of this transition into a new era of heroes will be for Purple Heart recipients on October 22. This is the last flight for 2016. Veterans who have been awarded the Purple Heart medal should apply soon for this one-day trip to Washington, D.C.

Beginning in April of 2017, all Vietnam era veterans who apply will be included on regular flights. Applications and detailed information about the program are available at www.HonorFlightColumbus.Org or by calling the office at 614-284-4987.

“The mission of our many volunteers is to honor our senior veterans with a trip to the nation’s capital to visit their war memorials at no cost to them,” said Jim Downing, Honor Flight Columbus president. Since 2007, the non-profit group has taken more than 4,400 World War II and Korean Veterans on this trip of celebration and reflection.



THE IMPORTANCE OF FINANCIAL LITERACY FOR VETERANS — MILCOM — According to a recent survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), veterans are almost twice as likely to have debt carried over from month to month (58%) than civilians (just 34%). Nearly the same percentage of veterans (55%) believe they are ill-prepared for a financial emergency. Is this because veterans are poor and/or uneducated? No.

When comparing civilian pay to military pay, there isn’t a clear winner in all comparisons. And veterans are actually more likely to have completed high school and are more likely to have completed some college or obtained an associate’s degree than civilians.

So what is missing? Why are veterans feeling more financial pain than civilians? It’s because of a lack of financial literacy, which should be considered “need to know” for anyone returning home from service. The following article will help you get things on the right track.



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