VIETNAM VETERAN’S REMAINS RETURNED HOME — KPLC — SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) — After more than 50 years, a fallen American soldier was welcomed home to the ArkLaTex Thursday evening.
The family of Staff Sgt. Mercedes Salinas was able to get closure after the sergeant’s plane went down during the Vietnam War.
“It’s been 50 years and I think it’s very important,” said his son Dominic Salinas.
Dominic was just 10-years-old when his father’s plane went down while on a mission over South Vietnam in December of 1965. He says his sister, Veronique Canterbury (Lloyd), was 15-years-old at the time.
“I remember going fishing with him and cub scouts and activities like that,” said Dominic.
Only part of Sergeant Salinas’ remains were recovered in 1974 and identified 5 years later in 1979. Those remains where laid to rest at the Arlington National Cemetery.
Now, thanks to new DNA testing, more of his remains have been identified and have made their way back home. They landed at the TAC Airport in Shreveport just before 5 p.m. Thursday.
“It’s incredible. I’ve been having emails and texts and calls from people,” said his son Dominic.
Some of those supporters have been the Patriot Guard Riders. They showed up to pay their respects and escort Staff Sgt. Salinas.
Louis McGinty, the captain rider with the Patriot Guard Riders, said, “It’s a small part, it’s a small job we can do to show our support and our gratitude for the sacrifice that he and his family made.”
Staff Sgt. Salinas was taken back to Hill Crest Memorial Park and Funeral Home Thursday night and he will be entombed next to his wife. There will be a funeral service with full military honors at 10 a.m. Saturday.
MARINES: IDENTITIES OF IWO JIMA FLAG RAISERS WERE MISTAKEN — AP — DES MOINES, Iowa — The Marine Corps says one of the six men long identified in an iconic World War II photograph showing the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima was actually not in the image.
The Marines announced Thursday that an investigation launched after questions were raised by two amateur historians determined that a previously unknown Marine was in the picture shot by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal during a horrific battle on the tiny island.
A panel found that Private First Class Harold Schultz, of Detroit, was in the photo and that Navy Pharmacist’s Mate 2nd Class John Bradley wasn’t in the image. Bradley had participated in an earlier flag-raising on Mount Suribachi.
The Marines began a review after being contacted by researchers working on a Smithsonian Channel documentary.
FROM TRAGEDY TO TRIUMPH: WOUNDED VET HONORED WITH CUSTOM HOME — FOX NEWS — A new report from the Department of Veterans Affairs said hospitals in Texas manipulated patient appointment-scheduling data last year. Staffers at the Houston-area VA clinics improperly cancelled more than 200 patient appointments and rescheduled them to conceal patient wait times, in some cases, delaying them more than three months, the report revealed.
One organization has been at the forefront of ensuring that Veterans receive the proper care and support they rightfully deserve. Building Homes for Heroes is committed to rebuilding lives of the heroic men and women who have been injured while serving their country.
The non-profit organization provides mortgage-free custom homes that meet the needs of American service members who selflessly served the nation.
In an exclusive interview with FOX Business Network’s Countdown to the Closing Bell, retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kirstie Ennis said she finds the VA Inspector General’s report “disappointing and disheartening.”
VET GROUPS UNITING TO OPPOSE PRIVATIZED CARE, DEFEND VA — MILITARY ADVANTAGE BLOG — The nation’s leading veteran services organizations are rallying behind the Department of Veterans Affairs and its beleaguered health care system, touting the experience of staff, the breadth of services and its holistic approach to care delivery that they argue the private sector cannot match.
The VSOs are warning of politicians and groups with agendas that constantly criticize VA health care, refuse to acknowledge reforms and thus advance a camouflaged campaign to dismantle VA health care. They also say it is time to better educate their own members on actions being taken to improve to the healthcare system that millions of veterans rely upon.
The rally of vet groups is taking shape informally for now. It’s no coincidence that it occurs amid a presidential campaign, and with the congressionally chartered Commission on Care days away from releasing its report on modernizing veterans’ health services over the next 20 years.
Last March, seven of the 15 health advisors appointed to the commission backed a “strawman” proposal that would shut down all VA medical centers and outpatient services, and have their six million patients a year get medical care in the private sector.
NURSE WHO STOLE PAINKILLER FROM DYING VETS SENT TO PRISON — LEDGER-ENQUIRER — ALBANY, N.Y. | A 31-year-old nurse has been sentenced to seven years in prison after admitting he stole pain medication intended for hospice patients at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Albany.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office says Nathan Baum of East Greenbush pleaded guilty in February to stealing the addictive painkiller oxycodone in 2014. Prosecutors say Baum removed oxycodone from at least 25 syringes and replaced it with haloperidol, an anti-psychotic medication that doesn’t relieve pain.
Baum’s actions were discovered when his supervisor noticed he was slurring his speech and showing other symptoms of narcotic abuse.
At Baum’s sentencing in federal court on Wednesday, family members of some of the hospice patients spoke of the pain and suffering he inflicted on dying military veterans.
LAST-MINUTE SENATE FIGHT SNARES REPEAL OF VA FERTILITY TREATMENT BAN — MILCOM — WASHINGTON — Congress was poised Thursday to lift a 24-year ban on wounded veterans receiving fertility treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs following a landmark agreement between the House and Senate.
But repeal of the ban, which would be a hard-fought victory for thousands of veterans hoping to start families, was still in danger of fizzling during a final Senate vote due to political wrangling over an attached plan to fight the Zika virus.
Lawmakers from both chambers agreed to a final VA budget bill for 2017 that lifts restrictions on in vitro fertilization – the culmination of years of work by advocates in Congress. The treatment is provided to troops by the Defense Department but was banned in 1992 at the VA due to concerns among conservatives over discarded embryos.
Now, even supporters of the measure might vote against the final agreement in the Senate due to what they consider are “poison pill” riders attached to the budget bill at the last moment. The House gave its final approval Wednesday.
7 PALO ALTO VA WORKERS SENTENCED IN VETERANS AFFAIRS BRIBERY SCHEME — KPIX — PALO ALTO — A bribery scandal at the Palo Alto VA Hospital has snared several workers accused of taking money and gifts while awarding lucrative contracts.
The last of seven defendants in a federal criminal case was sentenced in the bribery scheme that took away from taxpayers and veterans.
“It’s quite deplorable if you ask me,” Peter Norris said.
Norris is not only a veteran, but works at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, where many of the bribes took place.
“It’s unfortunate because they make it look nice on the outside – get new buildings, statues, but on the inside the interior it’s you know, it’s crumbling,” Norris said.
According to federal court documents, a VA contracting officer promised certain contractors multi-million dollar deals in exchange for money, trips, and gifts.
SENATE BILL WOULD REQUIRE VA TO STOP USING SSNS — FCW — Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) has introduced legislation that would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to stop using veterans’ Social Security numbers as identifiers in its information systems.
The Veterans’ Identity Theft Protection Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), was drafted in response to the leak of hundreds of veterans’ Social Security numbers in Wisconsin.
“Our veterans should never be put at risk of identity theft with information that they have entrusted to the VA,” Baldwin said in a statement.
The bill would apply to veterans who submit new benefit claims within two years of its enactment, and it would apply to all veterans within five years.
Such a shift is no small task. Since the Vietnam War, the VA has required veterans to provide their Social Security numbers as a way to identify them, and the department estimated in 2014 that there are 22 million veterans nationwide.
“As you can imagine, a shift like this would be a huge undertaking, so to hear at least encouraging signs from the secretary is helpful,” Baldwin told FCW in March.
The bill does permit an exception if a veteran’s Social Security number is required to access or transfer information from outside the VA’s purview.
SENATOR PUSHES FOR ACTION ON VA ACCOUNTABILITY REFORMS — GOV EXEC — The head of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee is pushing for a floor vote on major legislation that would limit the rights of senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Department to appeal their removal.
Less than a week after the department announced that it would no longer use the expedited authority in a 2014 law to fire senior executives because of constitutional concerns, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., urged his colleagues to support the Veterans First Act, and help bring it to the floor for an immediate up-or-down vote. The legislation, crafted by Isakson and the panel’s ranking member Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., would take away the rights of VA senior executives to appeal major disciplinary actions, including firing, to the independent Merit Systems Protection Board. Instead, under the bill, affected senior executives would have the opportunity to appeal adverse actions to an internal department review board, giving the VA secretary more authority over removals, suspensions and demotions.
“This is the only piece of reform legislation moving through Congress today that can withstand the current constitutional scrutiny that the VA relied on in abandoning its expedited firing authority,” Isakson wrote in the June 21 letter. “With the VA now using only the accountability authorities that proved inadequate in the past, the need for these reforms is more urgent than ever.”
MILITARY VETERANS CONVERGE ON DETROIT FOR SERVICE PROJECTS — OAKLAND PRESS — DETROIT (AP) — A few dozen U.S. military veterans and reservists are heading to Detroit in a mass deployment to perform service projects at city parks and schools.
They are part of The Mission Continues, a St. Louis-based nonprofit that connects veterans with volunteer work to ease the post-military transition. They will begin arriving this week from around the country and remain through June 29.
Last summer, thousands of youth participated in service projects in Detroit as part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Youth Gathering.
“There are lots of challenges in a lot of cities,” said Laura L’Esperance, a senior vice president in communications with The Mission Continues. “In Detroit, there seems to be an energy and an attitude. It feels like a city where people are willing to come together and get things done.”
MICHIGAN VETERAN: MEDAL OF HONOR BELONGS TO HELICOPTER CREW — AP — YPSILANTI, Mich. — A Vietnam War helicopter pilot recently selected to receive the Medal of Honor said Thursday he didn’t hesitate to volunteer leading an airborne rescue mission that saved the lives of dozens of troops despite the prospect of coming under intense enemy fire.
“There wasn’t any decision to be made. We simply were going to go and pick them up,” Charles Kettles told reporters inside a Michigan National Guard building in his hometown of Ypsilanti.
It was announced this week that the 86-year-old retired lieutenant colonel will receive the nation’s highest military honor for valor from President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony on July 18. Kettles was an Army major who led several helicopter trips to rescue wounded soldiers pinned down by enemy fire on May 15, 1967, near the district of Duc Pho in Vietnam.
“It’s certainly a great honor, but nothing will upstage the fact that we got 44 men out of there,” Kettles said during the news conference Thursday. “That award belongs to some 74 helicopter crew members each of which were requested to do their job. They did that and then some.”
The Army credits Kettles with helping to save the lives of 40 troops and four members of Kettles’ unit. As part of an effort to rescue the final eight troops still on the ground, Kettles flew into the landing zone without gunship, artillery or tactical aircraft support.
VIETNAM WALL OPENED WITH NATIVE AMERICAN CEREMONY — ABC — MARQUETTE — The Vietnam Memorial Wall in Marquette had its welcoming ceremony earlier this evening.
A Native American tribute ceremony was held in front of the wall. The wall was smudged by members of a Native American tribe along with the help of Vietnam Veterans. The smudging ceremony is performed to remove negative energy and restore balance.
During the time of the Vietnam war, a great number of Native Americans volunteered to serve their country in the war. The ceremony was performed to thank the Veterans for their sacrifice and welcome them to the wall.
“All the Veterans on the wall have fought for our freedom, for what we have today and there’s still more out there fighting for our freedom on a daily basis and they’re dying for a cause, for our freedom” said a Marine Corps. Veteran.
AANP & VETERAN GROUPS CALL FOR STREAMLINED ACCESS TO VETERANS’ HEALTH CARE — PR NEWSWIRE — The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) today was joined by representatives from key veteran groups in calling for swift adoption of a recent proposal by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to streamline access to health care for veterans. Nearly 5,000 nurse practitioners are gathered in San Antonio, Texas for AANP’s 2016 National Conference, which will address a variety of important issues, including a plan to increase veterans’ access to care. The VA’s proposed rule would grant veterans direct access to the high-quality care provided by advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), including the 4,800 nurse practitioners (NPs) working for the VA, and reduce wait times.
“Veterans support the VA’s efforts to provide our nation’s heroes with direct access to high-quality nurse practitioner care in the VA system,” said Dr. Cindy Cooke, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP, AANP president. “Today, veterans needlessly wait far too long to receive the health care they need and deserve.”
On May 25, the VA opened the 60-day public comment period on a proposed regulation that would give veterans direct access to high quality primary care delivered by NPs at VA facilities. NPs are already authorized to work at this level in 21 states and the District of Columbia, with outcomes equivalent to or better than those of their physician counterparts.
FEDERAL CONTRACTORS’VETERANS HIRING BENCHMARK DOWN TO 6.9 PERCENT — BLOOMBERG — The new 6.9 percent hiring benchmark for protected veterans announced by the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is the lowest yet under the revised regulations for the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act, an attorney said June 20.
“It continues to inch down,” said Lynn Clements, director of regulatory affairs at Berkshire Associates Inc., a Maryland-based human resources consulting firm.
Each year, the OFCCP updates its VEVRAA Benchmark Database, the hiring benchmark for protected veterans that is based on the national percentage of veterans in the workforce, she said at the Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference and Exposition.
TOP 10 FASTEST GROWING JOBS IN IT AND ENGINEERING — MILCOM — Many veterans who consider going to college are advised to study engineering or computer science. You may have been assigned a job in the military that could fall under these fields, and because of the troubleshooting skills and initiative you have developed during your service, you’ll find that quite a few jobs in these industries that you are well-suited for.
To help guide you on your journey into the civilian work force, here are the 10 fastest growing jobs in IT and engineering, as laid out by www.CIO.com. The data comes from CareerCast, PayScale, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
HAROLD SCHULTZ IDENTIFIED AS IWO JIMA FLAG-BEARER AFTER THREE-MONTH INVESTIGATION — WASHINGTON TIMES — For over 70 years, the image of six Marines raising the U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi, high above the beaches and jungles of Iwo Jima, stood an icon to generations of Americans to the struggle, sacrifice and ultimate victory over Japan in World War II.
It was likely no different for the family of Pfc. 1st Class Harold Schultz, a young Marine who decades earlier also fought on that Pacific island dot, the site of some of the war’s bloodiest fighting in which 26,000 Marines were wounded or killed over a month in the spring of 1945.
But it wasn’t until Thursday that Schultz’s relatives were told officially that their family played a much bigger role than they, or the Marine Corps and Pentagon, had known in producing that Pulitzer Prize-winning image that came to define the American wartime experience in the Pacific.
After a three-month investigation into the Iwo Jima photograph, ordered by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, service officials determined that Schultz was the sixth of the original flag-bearers, not Navy Corpsman John Bradley, as The Associated Press initially reported and had become official history since.
The other five men high atop Suribachi on that February morning were Cpls. Harlon Block, Rene Gagnon and Ira Hayes, Pfc. Franklin Sousley and Sgt. Michael Strank.