American Veteran News 06.27.16

FORGOTTEN VETERANS WHO DIED FINALLY GET FUNERAL CEREMONY — FOX NEWS — DENVER – Fort Logan National Cemetery honored 30 veterans whose remains have gone unclaimed with a funeral ceremony Saturday in Denver, including veterans’ whose cremated remains were left at funeral homes and others who had no next of kin.

Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, the service’s guest speaker, said remains also may go unclaimed because families forgot about them, or don’t know their relatives are eligible for a military burial.

“In my mind, (they’re) almost MIA, because they just sat there,” Edwards said. “Each of them has a story. I only wish we knew their full story.”

A crowd of about 80 people showed up. The names of the dead were read, followed by the rank, branch and war in which they served, going back as far as World War II.

Service members located the veterans’ urns on a table and declare them “present,” and a bell would ring, the Denver Post reported. The remains were marked with engraved marble plates.

Stan Paprocki, president of Chapter 1071 of the Vietnam Veterans Association, said it took the chapter more than a year to assemble the remains for the service.

He said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs helped identify the remains.

Paprocki said another 36 veterans would be honored at another service in two months.

The ceremony was part of the Missing In America Project, a national nonprofit that works with veterans groups to inter unclaimed veterans’ remains.

Jose Gonzales, a 67-year-old Vietnam veteran, said it took him a long time to heal after he returned home. After several decades, Gonzales started to go to memorial services for veterans.

“I (hadn’t) attended before because it took some 40 years to break out of that shell and honor the vets,” Gonzales said. “It’s healing to the soul, you know.”



DIRTY AND BROKEN SURGICAL TOOLS, HOLES IN STERILE WRAPPERS DOCUMENTED AT CINCY VA — WCPO — They are problems one hopes never to find in an operating room. Problems including bone-contaminated drill bits, broken or rusty surgical instruments, holes in sterile wrappers and a needle holder that arrived with a used needle still in it.

Yet these and many other events were documented hundreds of times at the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center, according to records obtained by the Scripps News Washington Bureau and WCPO.

They’re known as “quality events” and “non-conforming products” in the VA system. And they were reported in 16.27 percent of surgeries at the Cincinnati VA in its 2015 fiscal year, according to an internal document.

That’s at least 581 problems in 3,571 surgeries, or one in every six operations during that period, numbers Scripps/WCPO verified through multiple sources and internal documents.

The VA has yet to release a final report on an inquiry into problems inside the Cincinnati hospital, including concerns about sterilization. But hospital administrators have been telling employees and members of Congress that contaminated medical equipment is not an issue in Cincinnati.

That led to a dramatic exchange at an April 13 Veterans Town Hall event, presented by Scripps and WCPO at a VFW post in Sharonville.

“I just now understand that the investigations show there was no bone and nothing was wrong with the instruments,” VA Nurse Technician Scott Landrum, who said he personally witnessed some of these incidents, told the Town Hall audience that night. “I’m the person who found the instruments and what was wrong with them. How in the world can they say that? I’m the person who filled out the report. Where did those reports go?”



WITH POSTHUMOUS BOOK, VIETNAM VETERAN LEAVES BEHIND HIS STORY — SUN CURRENT — A swell of people flooded into the auditorium of the Richfield American Legion Post 435 May 25 to hear a presentation about a new book detailing its author’s first tour in the Vietnam War.

“Yes Sir, Yes Sir, 3 Bags Full!” is a two-volume book written by the late Jerry Hall, a St. Cloud native who fought in Vietnam during four separate tours between 1969 and 1974.

“This book is for anyone who is interested in history, in war or the human psyche,” said Patti Frazee, who served as a project manager and liaison. “It is a record of a point in time that affected so many men and women for the rest of their lives.”

The book was published after Hall passed away, on August 25, 2015. According to his family, the veteran died from cancer caused by exposure during the war to Agent Orange, a chemical deployed by the American military to aid fighting efforts by thinning out jungle foliage.

“Having to deal with the book all the time, sometimes it’s really exhilarating and I’m excited because I worked so hard with him on it,” said Kay Hall, Jerry Hall’s wife. “And some days I can’t do anything with it because it’s just another reminder that he’s gone.”

Frazee and Hall introduced the book at the start of the presentation Wednesday evening, accompanied by supporters including Jerry Hall’s brother Bob Hall, a Richfield resident and longtime VFW member. Bill Healey, a friend of Jerry’s and a fellow veteran featured in the book as “Father William,” read from three different sections of the book and helped answer questions about the war during a Q&A session following the reading.

Hall said the title of the book stems from a flippant response that some men in the service would mutter when given orders.

“You always got to say, ‘Yes Sir!’ and it became really irreverent,” Hall said. “So they’d go, ‘Yes Sir! Yes Sir!’ and under their breath they’d say, ‘Three bags full.’”

Jerry Hall wrote exclusively about his first tour in Vietnam in “Yes Sir, Yes Sir, 3 Bags Full!” but he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse problems for many years after the war, according to his wife.



VA MEDICAL POT GETS BOOTED FROM BUDGET BILL — STARS & STRIPES — WASHINGTON — A proposal allowing doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans appeared close to becoming law until Congress removed it this week from the agency’s annual budget bill at the last moment.

The legislation, sponsored by Oregon lawmakers, had cleared prior votes in the House and Senate but was nixed late Wednesday night during final closed-door negotiations on the VA bill. It would have lifted a prohibition on the VA recommending the drug to patients in states where it is legal.

The move was a blow to advocates of medical pot who have been trying to get the measure through a divided Congress and lowers the chances that a law might be passed this year.

“It’s outrageous that it was removed” from the annual VA budget bill, Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Sen. Jeff Merkley, both Democrats from Oregon, said in a joint statement Friday. “To add insult to injury, the legislation was released in the middle of the night, not even giving members of the House an opportunity to review the language before voting on it.

The budget bill for the VA and military construction was approved by a joint conference committee of lawmakers, which stripped the pot measure, and then it was immediately passed overnight Wednesday by the House as attention was on Democrats, who staged a sit-in on the chamber floor in an attempt to force votes on gun control.



MAN WALKS ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO BUILD AWARENESS ABOUT VETERAN CARE — OKLAHOMA GAZETTE — An American veteran is taking a trip across the country in hopes of lending a hand to his brothers in arms.

Thomas Hudson, an Air Force and Army National Guard veteran, otherwise known as The Walking Veteran, is making his way from Las Vegas to Washington one step at a time May 2-Nov. 11.

Walking from city to city, state to state, Hudson stops and meets with local officials to discuss the treatment of veterans in their communities. He also shares his testimony with veterans and civilians that he meets along the way.

Upon reaching Washington on Veteran’s Day, Hudson will meet with congressmen to discuss issues affecting veterans the most, such as alleged mistreatment by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Hudson believes the on-foot journey provides a greater experience for himself and others than it would if he traveled another way like driving. Hudson’s goal is to spread awareness of his personal experiences and mistreatments while learning from others and serving as a tool in sharing their stories.

“Some may wonder why not just ride all the way to Washington,” Hudson posted to Facebook. “That option would defeat the vision of why The Walk Across America is necessary. The answer is simple. … Attention.”



POW-MIA FAMILIES’ MEETING OVERSHADOWED BY DEPARTURE OF DPAA LEADER — STARS & STRIPES — ARLINGTON, Va. — It’s been a decades-long journey fraught with political and emotional fissures for the families gathered this week at the Hilton Crystal City to get the annual update on loved ones who went missing during the Vietnam War.

They have faced hits and misses in excavations, lost records and bureaucratic setbacks along the way.

On Thursday, as the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia held its annual meeting, they listened as officials promised to remain committed in the face of another obstacle: the sudden resignation last week of the director of the new agency charged with recovering the missing.

Michael Linnington announced Friday that he was leaving the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to become chief executive officer at the beleaguered veterans charity Wounded Warrior Project.



VETERANS’ PERSPECTIVE 66 YEARS AFTER KOREA — DAILY REPORTER — The Korean War officially began 66 years ago today. As time has marched on, the young men who served during that time have made the transition back to civilian life. However, their experiences and their memories have played a role in shaping who they are today and how they see the modern world.

While many soldiers were drafted during that time, others chose to volunteer out of a sense of duty or in hopes of a favorable assignment. Often, these men began their service when they were only 18 or 19 years old. Spencer resident John Blair was even younger when he enlisted.

“I graduated high school in 1945. I didn’t go to kindergarten so I was 17. So I had my mother go with me to the courthouse and sign for me so I could join the Navy,” Blair explained.

Nearing the end of World War II, Blair completed his basic training and signed up with the Navy Reserves. Yet, as he recalled, the military discharged all the reserves by August 1946.

“The wae was over,” he said, “So I came back home and I did go to beauty school on the GI bill. So I was way ahead of Uncle Sam at that point. I got married, started a business and what do you know? I had the call, that letter. Back to the Korean War. It was 1951. That’s how it started with me.”

Blair went on to serve two years as a ship’s barber for almost 300 sailors aboard the USS Monssen.



VETERANS GET KEYS TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN NORTH CHICAGO — CHIAGO TRIBUNE — Army veteran Brandon Dunston smiled as he received the keys to his new North Chicago home with his 10-year-old daughter by his side Friday. The keys, strung by pieces of red and blue ribbon onto an American-flag star, open the door to Dunston’s new home and will keep him from living out of his car.

Dunston said he left the Army in 2014 after serving for eight years, and he has struggled to find a stable job and residence since. He was between jobs in Arizona and thought his best option was to send his daughter to live in Milwaukee with her grandmother while he looked for a new job and lived out of his car.

Then one of his Army buddies, Joy, told him about a program in North Chicago that aimed to help homeless veterans. On Friday, Dunston, Joy and another Army veteran, Brian Roan, became the first beneficiaries of a Community Action Partnership of Lake County initiative, which was funded by AbbVie.

“I don’t cry that much, and I cried when I found out I was approved for this program because I was so happy and relieved,” Dunston said. “It’s an awesome program. It’s amazing.”



BROOKINGS ESSAY DISCUSSES PTSD AND THE CHALLENGES VETERANS FACE RETURNING TO CIVILIAN LIFE — BROOKINGS — June 27 is PTSD Awareness Day. In the latest Brookings essay, National Book Award winner and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Phil Klay explains the challenge veterans face reintegrating into civilian life, including reconciling their actions done in combat when they return home. Similarly, in a 2015 address to Brookings, U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) stated, “Our troops are doing everything we ask of them and we must ask ourselves, ‘Are we doing everything we can for them?’ and the answer I say with profound sadness is ‘we are not’.” One of the ways that Sen. McCain suggests the United States can improve care for its veterans is by expanding the treatment available for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD as defined by The Mayo Clinic is a mental health condition that’s triggered by either experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. Symptoms of PTSD may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. The PTSD Foundation of America reports that one in three returning troops are diagnosed with serious PTSD symptoms. Veterans with PTSD are more likely to be depressed, drink heavily, use drugs, and have trouble working and maintaining relationships. According to the Group for Advancement of Psychiatry, veterans of the Vietnam War who suffered from PTSD face twice as much substance abuse, divorce, and homelessness as veterans who did not have PTSD.



VA WATCHDOGS: RESULTS, RESPONSIBILITY NEEDED FOR AGENCY IT UPDATES — FEDERAL NEWS RADIO — The Veterans Affairs Department and Congress agree that care and support of veterans is a top priority, but they don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to the time and money spent on that mission.

Speaking to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Dr. David Shulkin, the undersecretary for health at VA, said he understands members’ impatience to see results in the department’s IT modernization.

“But I also want to let you all know that we are really making progress and we’re making real progress. Our top priority has been access and fixing the access crisis,” Shulkin said, highlighting that the agency is on track to close 100 percent of the VA inspector general’s IT recommendations by the end of 2017. Shulkin said there’s been a 95 percent reduction in the number of people with elevated privileges for health accounts, as well as the identification of 21 million critical vulnerabilities that when addressed “are going to make us safer.”

“This isn’t to say we should be patted on the back, but this is to say the progress is real,” Shulkin said. “We have a lot to do, I’m impatient, we’re going to continue at it.”



COMMITTEE HEARS TITUS BILL TO OVERHAUL VETERANS APPEAL PROCESS — LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL — In the fast-track effort to reduce the nation’s backlog of veterans disability claims, Nevada Rep. Dina Titus predicted in August that the Department of Veterans Affairs would “soon be facing an appeals tsunami.”

On Thursday, as the flood of appeals loomed with an estimated 460,000 cases stuck in the backlog, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on Titus’ proposal to fix the problem with a bill she has sponsored, the VA Appeals Modernization Act of 2016.

The bill aims to reform how Veterans Affairs processes appeals on rejected claims for service-connected disabilities, saving the VA more than $2.6 billion while decreasing the average wait time of more than two years.



HOUSE DROPS CONFEDERATE FLAG BAN FOR VETERANS CEMETERIES — POLITICO — A measure to bar confederate flags from cemeteries run by the Department of Veterans Affairs was removed from legislation passed by the House early Thursday.

The flag ban was added to the VA funding bill in May by a vote of 265-159, with most Republicans voting against the ban. But Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) both supported the measure. Ryan was commended for allowing a vote on the controversial measure, but has since limited what amendments can be offered on the floor.

In negotiations to reconcile the House funding measure with the Senate bill, the confederate flag provision was dropped. The bill passed the House 239-171.

Of the eight House Republicans Ryan appointed to the conference committee that ultimately stripped the measure, four had voted against the ban on the floor.



$3.6 MILLION MACHINE AT WACO VA WASTED TAXPAYERS’ MONEY — WACO TRIBUNE — The $3.6 million machine was supposed to revolutionize our understanding of traumatic brain injury and other war injuries by studying the brains of Fort Hood troops before and after deployments to Iraq.

But that never happened.

Nearly a decade after the Department of Veterans Affairs bought the once cutting-edge, mobile MRI system, internal investigators have concluded that research efforts at the VA Waco Center of Excellence represented “a waste of taxpayers’ funds” and were an example of “poor stewardship.”

In a report released Thursday, the VA’s Office of Inspector General detailed years of research inactivity at the Waco center, where officials spent more than $200,000 in annual maintenance while the MRI machine largely sat unused.



18 CRITICAL FEDERAL RESUME MISTAKES — MILCOM — A newly separated or retired military person must have a good resume to begin their next career. More than half of the military would like to land a federal position where they can continue to utilize their DOD skills and abilities, or where they can continue in public service.

Even if a veteran has 5 or 10 points due to a disability, it is important that your resume get you Qualified, if you are to take advantage of veterans’ preference programs.

The biggest problem is that a federal resume – the one-and-only application for a federal job – is not the same as a private industry resume. And the federal resume must be targeted toward a specific position in the government. Here are 18 common problems that I see when I review resumes by military and former military who are seriously applying for federal jobs. How many of the mistakes below do you have on your federal resume? Are you getting Best Qualified and Referred? If not, review this checklist by a Federal Resume guru and determine which of these common mistakes should be fixed or changed.



LAWSUIT: NAVY VET BARRED FROM THERAPY POOL BECAUSE SHE HAS HIV — TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE — PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — An Iraq War veteran in York County, Pa., has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that she was denied a type of physical therapy because she has HIV.

The woman, whose lawsuit was filed under the pseudonym Bonnie Jones, said she sought help from OSS Orthopaedic Hospital in York for chronic spine pain and limited range of motion. She said the pain resulted from wearing a bulletproof vest for an extended period.

Drayer Physical Therapy Institute, which operates physical therapy services at the hospital, and Timothy Burch, a physical therapist, also were named in the suit, filed by the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania.

The suit claims that after Jones was evaluated at the hospital last June, Burch recommended aquatic therapy, which uses the buoyancy and other properties of water to enhance treatment. He then told her he needed to check her health status before she could go in the pool. He came back a few minutes later and told her, within earshot of others, “Because of your HIV/AIDS, you’re not allowed to go in the pool. It’s our policy.”



MSSA TRAINS SERVICE MEMBERS FOR CIVILIAN TECH CAREERS — MICROSOFT — Military service members have the discipline, teamwork and problem-solving skills that the tech industry needs to fill thousands of new jobs. They have on-the-ground tactical experience with complex technology systems, along with the ability to quickly learn how to make the most of their resources. What they may not always have is the specific science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) training or certifications that are in high demand. Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) is bridging that gap, with comprehensive training and career mentorship that help prepare service members for long-term, high-paying tech careers.

MSSA is an intensive 18-week program of tech skills training, interview and resume preparation, and individual coaching from tech industry professionals, many of whom are also former service members. Five new cohorts of students are registering now and will start classes in August and September: two at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), one at Camp Pendleton, one at Fort Campbell and the first cohort to be hosted at Fort Benning. Launched in November 2013 at JBLM, MSSA is projected to expand to nine regions servicing 14 bases across the U.S. in the coming years.



FEW VETERANS EXPELLED UNDER ‘DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL’ SEEK CORRECTIONS — AP — Less than 8 percent of veterans expelled from the military under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy have applied to upgrade their discharges to honorable or strip references to their sexual orientation from their record.

In the nearly five years since the repeal of the policy that banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, fewer than 1,000 people — out of the more than 13,000 people who were expelled — have sought corrections, according to data the military provided to The Associated Press.

Many veterans simply don’t know it’s an option, said Scott Thompson, executive director of the Board for Correction of Naval Records. The boards have always existed without a lot of internal or external advertisement, he said.



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