FUNERAL HELD IN MISSOULA FOR WORLD WAR II DOOLITTLE RAIDER — AP — MISSOULA, Mont. — Missoula and America said goodbye Monday to a quiet hero in ground-shaking fashion.
First a B-1 Bomber from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota thundered northwest to southeast over Sunset Memorial Cemetery and the crowded grave site of David Thatcher, the penultimate Doolittle Raider from World War II.
A B-25 from Seattle, of the same vintage as the one on which a 20-year-old Thatcher served as tail gunner/engineer in the famed bombing raid over Tokyo on April 18, 1942, rumbled in from the northeast. It flew over twice, then circled the cemetery and Missoula in ever-higher spirals into the deep blue summer sky.
The flyovers were a rare honor for an enlisted man in the United States Air Force, but Staff Sgt. Thatcher, 94, was a rare man. His death in Missoula on Wednesday prompted a nation’s salute and obituaries in the New York Times and Washington Post.
Gov. Steve Bullock, a day after his first debate of the gubernatorial campaign with Greg Gianforte at Big Sky, attended funeral services and ordered flags in Montana be flown at half-staff.
“Dave signed thousands of posters and photos over the years,” son-in-law Jeff Miller of Missoula said at a memorial service at Garden City Funeral Home that drew more than 300 people. “People from all over the world sought his autograph. They wanted a part of his history, a piece of him.”
Thatcher’s death left just one of the 80 aviators who unmasked Japan’s vulnerability to aerial attacks four months after it attacked Pearl Harbor.
VA PRIVATIZATION DEBATE TO HINGE ON COMING REPORT — S&S — WASHINGTON — The coming week could be a watershed moment in the volatile debate over privatizing more health care at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
A panel created by Congress to overhaul the VA is expected to release final recommendations July 6 that are two years in the making and will likely include the option of private care for the millions of veterans who now use the federal system of hospitals and clinics.
It will come amid controversial proposals to give all veterans a card to access private doctors and to turn the VA into a not-for-profit corporation. Those efforts to push the department toward privatized care caused near universal blowback from national veterans groups. Unionized VA employees were staging opposition rallies across the country due to fears over privatization in the lead-up to the commission’s VA report.
SICK VETERAN HAVING ISSUES WITH VETERANS ADMINISTRATION — KRGV — SAN BENITO – A veteran is having problems getting assistance from the United States government.
He said he’s sick and needs help. The Veterans Administration is asking him to travel hours just to talk them about it. They want to do that in a video conference.
“I see some veterans that they really need the help. I mean I know I need the help too, but I’ve seen worse than I am,” veteran U.S. Air Force Sgt. Alfredo Lopez said.
Lopez served two years in Libya, Africa. He continues to ask for more medical benefits from the government. These are benefits, Lopez said, many veterans are searching for.
He filed his complaints and wants to appeal their decision.
“’Your back is muscle spasm, here’s some pain killers.’ ‘Awe, there’s nothing wrong with your ear.’ ‘Oh there’s nothing wrong.’ That’s all I heard – nothing’s wrong,” he said.
He got a letter to appear before a judge in a video conference. The problem is it’s in Houston. He can’t afford to travel.
PILOT PROGRAM TO STEER TRICARE USERS TO MILITARY HOSPITALS — MILCOM — A new pilot program will give some Tricare users who are admitted to a civilian hospital through the emergency room the option to transfer to a Military Treatment Facility.
Active-duty patients, meanwhile, may be ordered to make the switch.
The program, announced on Tuesday, will start July 25 and run for up to two years in at 11 Army, Air Force and Navy locations nationwide.
Officials want the moves to save both the Tricare system and beneficiaries money by switching patients out of higher-cost civilian care and into the military system, according to policy documents.
AMERICAN FLAGS DESECRATED AT RI VETERANS CEMETERY — WLNE — EXETER, R.I. — Worn American flags tossed on the ground at the Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in Exeter has many outraged.
Stan Snyzyk, who visits his father’s grave in Exeter weekly, made the unsettling discovery on Sunday. He took several photos showing American flags seemingly thrown onto the ground and piled up with trash bags behind a storage facility.
Snyzyk posted the pictures on Facebook, that post shared over five thousand times. Dozens commented about the lack of respect shown for the American flag.
“These people fought for this country,” said Snyzyk. “They shed blood, sweat and tears, for every piece of fabric in that flag. My father fought under that banner. And to see them like that is an absolute disgrace and it broke my heart.”
U.S. code dictates flags that are no longer fit for display are to be disposed of in a dignified way, preferably by burning.
Veterans Affairs director Kasim Yarn, didn’t pull any punches when addressing the issue. Yarn readily admitting his staff did not follow protocol when they stored worn flags in a pile on the ground.
“I was speechless,” said Yarn. “Procedures were not followed. These flags of honor were just not treated properly.”
Yarn says the flags were folded and burned in a formal ceremony on Monday.
“To the ocean state and our veterans all I can say is this isn’t satisfactory. I will make sure this does not happen again.”
VETERANS SHOULD ENJOY THE SAME HEALTH CARE OPTIONS AS ALL AMERICANS — NY TIMES — When Senator Bernie Sanders proposed a plan entitled “Medicare for All,” he electrified progressives who regard Medicare as the health reform benchmark. Senior citizens enrolled in Medicare enjoy the security of knowing they can receive quality care regardless of their health or financial status. They have the option to receive care from private physicians and private hospitals. They even enjoy the option of deputizing private insurers to administer their Medicare benefits.
So why does Sanders oppose giving veterans those options?
The problems with veterans’ health care were brought to the fore in 2014, when whistle blowers found that a number of Department of Veterans Affairs facilities were denying care to veterans in need, and concealing those denials to watchdogs in government.
The common sense response of most Americans — and most veterans — was simple: Give veterans who can’t get convenient care from the V.A. the option of obtaining that care from private doctors, hospitals and insurers.
A poll by Concerned Veterans for America and the Tarrance Group of more than 1,000 veterans found that 88 percent agreed that eligible veterans should be given the choice to receive medical care from any source that they themselves choose. And 95 percent agreed that it was “extremely” or “very important” to have the option to seek the best possible care, even if that care was provided by a non-V.A. facility.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS ENLISTS IBM’S WATSON IN THE WAR ON CANCER — IBM — WASHINGTON, DC – At Vice President Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Summit today, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and IBM Watson Health (NYSE: IBM) announced a public-private partnership to help doctors expand and scale access to precision medicine over the next two years for 10,000 American veterans with cancer.
IBM’s Watson for Genomics technology is expected to help in the department’s precision oncology program by providing information to help physicians identify precision treatment options for almost 30 times more patients than could be previously served.
The collaboration is expected to greatly speed up the ability of VA doctors to help identify precision treatment options for veterans. Scientists and pathologists will sequence DNA for cancer patients, then feed de-identified genetic alteration files into Watson. Watson will generate a report for physicians that identifies the likely cancer-causing mutations and possible treatment options to target those specific mutations through a comprehensive review of existing medical literature – a data-intensive process that has been time-consuming and difficult to scale in the past.
MIDDLETOWN ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICERS CARED FOR HOMELESS VETERAN IN LIFE — AND DEATH — MIDDLETOWN PRESS — For 26 years, Charlotte Chafee worked as a registered nurse before suffering a debilitating heart attack that led to the loss of her job. Soon after, the U.S. Air Force veteran silently slid into homelessness.
Middletown Animal Control Officers Gail Petras and Sgt. Nick Baboolal went above and beyond with efforts to provide Chaffee with safety and security while she lived, and with a final resting place in the State Veterans’ Cemetery after her untimely death last month.
On Monday, a small group of local veterans and residents joined Petras and two staff members from the Department of Veterans Affairs for a military burial service for Chaffee. The honor detail performed a ceremony that included the folding and presenting of the American flag to the next of kin, a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps.”
NURSES, VETERANS BACK INDEPENDENT PRACTICE FOR ADVANCED RNS — MEDSCAPE — A group of professional nursing associations and military organizations held a news briefing yesterday to throw their support behind a proposed rule by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that would permit advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) employed by the VA to practice “to the full extent of their education, training, and certification, without the clinical supervision of physicians,” according to a statement in the federal register.
The proposed rule was published on the federal register on May 25. The VA has made the proposal available for comment in an effort to increase veterans’ access to care.
To date, more than 44,000 people have submitted comments, more than six times the total number of comments submitted for previous rules, according to a release from the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA).
99-YEAR-OLD WWII VETERAN TAKES TO THE SKIES IN HONOR FLIGHT — FOX NEWS — INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — It’s been more than 60 years since Ced Fowler stepped on board a military aircraft, but recently this 99-year-old World War II veteran took a trip into the wild blue yonder.
For this retired Army Air Corp Tech Sergeant, being around a warbird is old hat.
Fowler got a special flight to honor his service during World War II.
“It triggers a lot of memories that even family members don’t get to hear often times when they get around these aircraft or they get around this era of vehicles,” said Mark Vanzant from Warbird Expo.
Fowler’s memories of his service can be recalled as if they happened yesterday.
He enlisted in 1942 and was assigned to the 314th Air Division, in Guam just 1,600 miles south of Japan. He was in charge of maintaining the radar units on the B-29 bombers in his division.
DOD PUSHES SENATE REPUBLICANS TO GUT VETERANS PREFERENCE — DISABLED VETERANS — Top DOD brass pushed Senator John McCain, chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee, to gut veterans preference for specialized, hard to fill positions.
To accomplish this, Senate Republicans put forth hiring language that would restrict veterans preference for federal jobs to only the first job. After you use it the first time, you lose it forever. So, you better pick the best job you can get. If you guess wrong, then you lose out.
I am highly suspicious of this issue since it seems to have been slipped into national defense spending without much discussion. And, the problem was relayed by high brass within DOD.
Since when do Americans believe much of anything when it leaks out of DOD like a fart in church? This was not an announcement but instead some kind of backdoor dealing.
Does anyone else smell a stinky rat in the woodpile? Since when do we trust DOD to present anything to the American public in an honorable and transparent manner?
KIRK SLAMS VA FOR IGNORING VETERANS CRISIS HOTLINE MESSAGES — WASHINGTON FREE BEACON — Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) blasted the Department of Veterans Affairs on Tuesday after investigators found that 30 percent of their text messages sent to the department’s crisis hotline for veterans went unanswered.
The Government Accountability Office conducted the review of the VA’s crisis hotline after requests from congress. The hotline, which is supposed to provide support for veterans in distress, has faced criticism from some veterans who say their phone calls have gone unanswered.
Kirk also railed against his Senate colleagues for neglecting to address the department’s issues in a VA funding bill this week. The appropriations bill was blocked by Senate Democrats due to their objections about emergency funding to address the Zika virus.
“Failing our veterans who are reaching out in their time of need is unacceptable,” said Sen. Kirk in a statement on Tuesday evening. “Yet today, instead of passing increased VA funding and more protections for whistleblowers, veterans took a backseat to partisan politics in the Senate.”
VETERAN PETITIONS TO OUST VA AGENT ORANGE DENIER — DISABLED VETERANS — One veteran started a Change.org petition to oust VA Agent Orange denier Thomas Murphy after he was promoted as acting Under Secretary for Benefits at VA.
Thomas Murphy, formerly the Director of Compensation, was just promoted to acting Under Secretary for VBA. Unfortunately for Vietnam veterans, Murphy is a documented Agent Orange denier, and based on his past decisions in contradiction of claims from scientists, burn pit veterans should also be concerned.
In response to the move that has been called “anti-veteran”, Thomas Osmond created a petition to support ousting the denier, Thomas Murphy.
Please be sure to sign the petition and get read up on the issue. I cannot figure out how our federal government has devolved to such an extent where public workers are able to actively defraud veterans of their benefits.
But that is where we are at today.
U.S. ARMY VET VIOLENTLY HARASSED BY TEENS ON UK TROLLEY — FNL — A U.S. Army veteran was hit with an onslaught of racial and xenophobic abuse from a group of British teenagers after telling them to watch their language on a trolley car.
Juan Jasso, a former soldier from Texas who has lived in the U.K. for the last 18 years, was commuting on a trolley in Manchester Tuesday morning when he asked the teenagers to stop swearing in front of children.
Instead of quieting down, however, the rowdy teens turned on Jasso, with one saying “F— get off the tram now. Don’t chat s— or get deported.”
Another teen screamed “Get back to Africa.”
LAWMAKERS PUSH TO RESTORE MEDICAL MARIJUANA LANGUAGE TO VA BILL — MILCOM — Days after lawmakers killed legislation that would have cleared Veterans Affairs doctors to discuss and make recommendations about medical marijuana to their patients, supporters are taking another swing at the proposal.
A group of 11 lawmakers are asking the House and Senate leadership to restore the language to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill. The medical marijuana provision was dropped during a conference committee review of the legislation — even though both the House and Senate backed the legislation.
“We feel the failure of the Conferees to include either provision is a drastic misfortune for veterans and is contrary to the will of both chambers as demonstrated by the strong bipartisan support for these provisions,” the supporters wrote to congressional leaders on Tuesday.