American Veteran News 07.23.16

HOOSIER HERO OPENS UP ABOUT HIS 448 DAYS SPENT AS A WORLD WAR II PRISONER OF WAR — FOX59 — BROWNSBURG, Ind. — It`s been more than 70 years since World War II ended. According to Veterans’ Affairs, more than 130,000 Americans were held prisoner. 93,000 were held in the European theater alone. One of those captured in Italy is Hoosier veteran Ray Sells.

Sells had just graduated from high school and entered the U.S. Army. Sells, an army corporal with the 141st Regiment, arrived in Italy with the 36th Infantry Division. Shortly after landing, the 141st sustained heavy losses during a battle. Hundreds of Americans were captured, including Sells.

“It was at Rapido River crossing in southern Italy this group of us made it across there. All of a sudden we were surrounded by these German soldiers,” said Sells.

He and his fellow soldiers were loaded into boxcars and sent to a stalag, a prisoner of war camp. “That`s when they transported us up from southern Italy up into Poland,” Sells explained.

Sells opened up to us about his time as a prisoner of war at his home at American Senior Communities Brownsburg Meadows Assisted Living Facility.

“They weren`t too harsh on us. I definitely had it better than those in the South Pacific. We got some fair treatment. We were not mistreated,” said Sells.

CHEYENNE VA TO CONDUCT ‘NO VETERAN DIES ALONE’ TRAINING — JOURNAL ADVOCATE — The Cheyenne Veteran Affairs Medical Center will conduct its annual “No Veteran Dies Alone” training on Thursdays, beginning Aug. 4 through Sept. 15, from 6 to 9 p.m. in the medical center’s auditorium, located at 2360 East Pershing Blvd., in Cheyenne.

Emotionally mature volunteers from all walks of life are needed for a variety of positions including program coordination, clerical support, as well as patient and family support. According to VA Chaplain Carol Carr, some volunteers will have a unique opportunity to be available during the death and dying process of our American heroes.

“Many patients, especially those with long hospitalizations or those residing in the facilities Community Living Center benefit from the regular visitation, companionship, and support of the program volunteers,” Carr said.

She said, the facilities 20-hour training program prepares volunteers in honoring veterans; meeting the emotional needs of those who would otherwise be alone at the end of life; as well as providing family members with a brief respite while keeping vigil.

Those interested in participating in this training should contact the Cheyenne VA Medical Center’s Voluntary Services at 307-778-7317 or Chaplain Services at 307-778-7377.

VETERAN AMPUTEE BERATED FOR PARKING IN A HANDICAP SPOT — T&P — Marine Corps veteran Brandon Rumbaugh lost his legs in Afghanistan, but a store employee confronted him for parking in a handicap spot.

On July 17, Marine Corps veteran Brandon Rumbaugh and his girlfriend pulled into a local GetGo convenience store in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania.

Rumbaugh lost both legs in 2009 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device while attempting to rescue a wounded member of his platoon in Afghanistan. Most people would likely agree that his decision to park in a handicap spot was justified.

But not everybody. As his girlfriend entered the store, Rumbaugh was still getting out of the car. Upon seeing his girlfriend enter the store, a customer confronted her, asking why the couple felt entitled to park in a handicap spot. So Rumbaugh came to her defense. That’s when a GetGo employee got involved.

Rumbaugh told WPXI News that the employee asked, “Why are you so upset? I’m not the reason you lost your legs. I didn’t shoot them off.”

Rumbaugh told WPXI that he was stunned by the remark and asked the employee to repeat what she said. And she did.

After the exchange, Rumbaugh went home and posted the story on his Facebook.

According to WPXI, when reached for comment, the employee didn’t deny what she had said, but she did defend her actions, suggesting that Rumbaugh was “belligerent.” As a result, Giant Eagle, GetGo’s parent company, fired the employee and issued this apology:

“At Giant Eagle, Inc., having respect for others is essential to how we serve our communities, and is a belief we insist each Team Member hold in the highest regard. The recent comments made by a former Elizabeth GetGo Team Member were completely inappropriate and entirely unacceptable, resulting in the Team Member’s termination. We once again extend our sincere apologies to Mr. Rumbaugh for his unfortunate experience.”

VETS DESERVE BETTER THAN THE VA’S PROPOSED CHANGE FOR ANESTHESIA — THE HILL — The quality of care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been the subject of news headlines across the country for more than two years now. Unfortunately, the VA is currently considering a health care proposal that would fundamentally lower the quality and safety of anesthesia care for our nation’s Veterans by removing physician anesthesiologists from oversight of anesthetic care.

The proposed policy, which was published for public comment in the Federal Register, would change how advance practice registered nurses (APRNs) deliver care at the VA and it’s getting America’s attention. With only a few days remaining until the close of the comment period, more than 95,000 people have posted comments and observers have called this federal regulatory issue one of the hottest topics in Washington.

The Federal Register is full of proposals that may seem more exciting or controversial, but I believe this issue has caught the public’s attention because people sincerely care about our nation’s Veterans and believe their health care should not be compromised.

Americans understand that it would be wrong to lower the standard of care provided to these men and women who have so bravely served our country.

Here’s the issue. The proposed policy is one way the VA is trying to improve access to care for patients. The new policy would expand the role of advanced practice registered nurses so they can act like physicians. The advanced practice nurses include nurse anesthetists, who currently work as part of a team with physician anesthesiologists. Under the new rule, physician anesthesiologists would be removed from the team and the operating room, leaving nurses to administer anesthesia and make life or death decisions that frequently occur during anesthesia.

NEW YORK MAN HELD NAVY VET, 81, CAPTIVE FOR FOUR YEARS TO STEAL HIS BENEFITS — NY DAILY NEWS — A New York man who held a Navy veteran captive for four years while he stole the veteran’s benefits was arrested Wednesday, authorities confirmed.

Perry Coniglio, 43, who allegedly beat and starved the “mentally diminished” Korean War veteran while getting high and living lavishly in an adjoining room at a miserable motel, was charged with unlawful imprisonment, grand larceny, criminal possession of a weapon, endangering an incompetent person, menacing and unlawful possession of marijuana.

The victim, 81-year-old David McClellan, who suffers from advanced dementia, was controlled “with brute force and intimidation,” Detective Joseph Cornetta told the Hudson Valley News Network.

McClellan was imprisoned in the U.S. Academy Motel in Highland Falls. The victim lived in a cramped room cluttered with rubbish and heaps of his assorted belongings. He slept on a mattress stained with mildew and a pillow covered with drops of blood, rarely bathed and was fed a bowl of cereal each day, police said.

5 THINGS WE’VE LEARNED ABOUT PTSD SINCE 9/11 — T&P — New research shows post-traumatic stress treatments are advancing, and there is hope for those suffering its effects.

There’s no need to reiterate the common platitudes about post-traumatic stress disorder that we’ve all heard before, focusing on demystifying the “invisible wounds of war.” The conversation has moved beyond that now, and post-traumatic stress is no longer being looked at as a “disorder” but as a normal reaction to abnormally stressful circumstances.

Experts have learned that it’s not necessarily a life sentence, but rather a treatable condition that can be attacked from a number of different angles. Still, while it’s an extremely positive thing that we’re collectively making an effort to move beyond outdated and damaging stereotypes, PTSD remains an undeniable challenge that creates real suffering — as anyone who has ever gone through it, or walked through it with a loved one, can attest.

After the start of the post-9/11 conflicts, the study of post-traumatic stress grew rapidly to meet the needs of returning veterans. Ph.D. and former Army Lt. Col. Glenn R. Schiraldi detailed many of these changes in a recently revised edition of “The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook: A Guide to Healing, Recovery, and Growth,” which includes detailed information on what has been learned since the beginning of the 21st century. Among these new insights are five main takeaways.

What constitutes an official diagnosis of “PTSD” has been expanded.

BILL PROVIDING DENTAL INSURANCE FOR VETS GOES TO OBAMA — DR. BICUSPID — A bill to provide dental insurance for U.S. military veterans and their eligible family members was sent on July 19 to President Barack Obama for signing after being approved by the U.S. Senate on July 13 and the U.S. House of Representatives on July 14. It will allow veterans enrolled in a health insurance plan through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to buy dental insurance at reduced rates through MetLife or Delta Dental.

The VA Dental Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2016, S. 3055, continues the current veteran dental insurance pilot program that was established by legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) in 2010. This bill expands eligibility for the program to all veterans who do not currently receive dental benefits from the VA.

“We’re supportive of all efforts to extend dental coverage to veterans, and reauthorizing this program certainly would do that,” ADA President Carol Gomez Summerhays, DDS, a third-generation Navy veteran, told “Anything that deals with the military and veterans is very important to me.”

The three-year pilot program was due to expire at the end of 2016.

VETERAN’S SUICIDE RAISES CONCERN ABOUT IOWA CITY VA CARE — IOWA CITY PRESS-CITIZEN — The death of an eastern Iowa veteran is raising concerns about reports that the Iowa City veterans hospital denied him inpatient treatment hours before his suicide, and one Iowa lawmaker is asking officials for answers.

Sgt. Brandon Ketchum, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, died by suicide in the early hours of July 8, at age 33, said his partner, Kristine Nichols. She said that, hours before his death, he sought inpatient treatment for mental health concerns at the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Health Care System.

Nichols, 33, who lived with Ketchum in Bettendorf, said he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse after serving in the U.S. Marines and the Army National Guard. She said that when he asked for a bed at the hospital, his doctor turned him away with instructions to take his medication.

Nichols said she was closely involved with Ketchum’s treatment. She said he received inpatient treatment in the past, and continued to receive medication and counseling through the VA health care system.

Nichols said Ketchum, after leaving the hospital, texted her about what happened. She said he spent the night in a house he was fixing up in Davenport. About 2 a.m., he posted on Facebook about his frustrations, she said.

DO NOT MISS YOUR CHANCE FOR A NEW VA TBI EXAMINATION — DISABLED VETERANS — Department of Veterans Affairs is sending new VA TBI examination reprocessing letters to veterans entitled to new exams due to VA’s failure to use qualified doctors.

The examination notice letters include language highlighting that veterans run the risk of a rating reduction if their traumatic brain injury (TBI) claim is reprocessed. No doubt luminary (sarcasm) Under Secretary Tom Murphy had his hand in that one. But they do get the point across.

Act now. If you do not, you lose out.

Veterans receiving the notice letters have one year to opt in for a new examination. If the qualified doctors confirm a previously undiagnosed TBI, they could be entitled to significant health care and compensation benefits.


For a little background, VA repeatedly failed to follow its own policy standards for examining veterans for disability compensation who reported TBI. As a result, many veterans were misdiagnosed due to VA using unqualified doctors.

After being outted in the press (first by me to NBC), VA Secretary Bob McDonald made an equitable relief decision to grant the nationwide re-examinations.

One of my clients was “patient zero” and we busted VA through the press starting in spring 2015. What unraveled was a huge 24,000 veteran scandal spanning almost a decade. McDonald did the right thing by announcing the equitable relief resolution.

WOMAN HOPES NEW CUBA RELATIONS WILL HELP FIND AIR FORCE VET DAD — T&P — Sherry Sullivan believes her father, Geoffrey, an Air Force vet, was shot down over Cuba 50 years ago.

Although more than 50 years have passed since Sherry Sullivan’s father went on a five-day work trip and never came home, it is still hard for her to keep from crying when she remembers him.

“Little girls love their dads. My dad, to me, was bigger than life,” Sherry Sullivan said of her father, Geoffrey Francis Sullivan, a pilot she believes was shot down over Cuba and tortured and imprisoned there for decades. “He shouldn’t be forgotten.”

Sherry Sullivan has spent 32 years actively searching for her dad, in that time accumulating about 100,000 pages of often heavily-redacted information about him. She also has filed lawsuits against various American government agencies and Cuba, and she won by default a $21 million wrongful death judgment against Cuba in 2009 in Waldo County Superior Court.

A federal court in 2012 dismissed her claim against the island nation because her lawyer was unable to verify that he had successfully notified Cuba of the judgment despite efforts to serve papers through the Swiss embassy and through Spain, the United Kingdom, Canada and other countries with which Cuba had diplomatic relations.

POLICE: MAN WHO PROMISED VETERANS HELP STOLE $500,000 — NECN — A Stafford Springs man is accused of promising to help more than a dozen veterans, then scamming them out of half a million dollars, according to state police.

John J. Simon Jr., 69, of Stafford Springs, is accused of defrauding 15 victims of $510,000 under the guise that he paying a lawyer to help them obtain Social Security benefits and money from Veterans Affairs claims.

The victims told investigators that Simon never got them their money and investigators said they were not able to find the attorney Simon claimed to be working with.

Police said the alleged scam started in June 2011 and several victims gave Simon less than $2,000, so the statute of limitations for those misdemeanor charges expired, but others gave him more than $2,000, according to court paperwork.

SAILAHEAD – HELPING TO HEAL OUR VETERANS — NORTHPORT PATCH — Next Saturday, July 30th, Centerport Yacht Club will be hosting SailAhead’s 2nd annual event “Let’s Take a Veteran Sailing”. With the support of Greenlawn American Legion Post 1244, 140 veterans and family members, mostly from Long Island, will attend this event on a fleet of at least 45 sailboats.

Our special SailAhead guest this year is Veteran George Eshleman, Director of Unified Warrior Foundation. George served in the military for several years. Last year after the tragic loss of a friend, he decided to hike the Appalachian Trail carrying the name tags of 218 veterans who ended their own lives. Much like many veterans, George has also fought the temptations of suicide.

George, like SailAhead, is focused on spreading PTSD awareness in order to work towards healing veterans and decreasing the number of suicides, which is currently at least 22 a day!

SailAhead will honor the memory of these 218 veterans by having George and the tags on the fleet’s flagship. With the approval of the families, SailAhead has duplicated the tags and will keep them at all times on one of SailAhead’s boats. The spirit of the 218 veterans will live through their name tags and will accompany SailAhead’s veterans each time our boats go out to sea.

The purposes of the event are as follows:

VETERANS’ ACTIVIST PLEADS GUILTY TO STEALING FROM FELLOW VETERAN — LONG ISLAND — Suffolk County, NY — The founder of a Suffolk County veteran’s organization today pleaded guilty to two counts of grand larceny for his theft of nearly $90,000 from a 71 year old former veteran who suffers from post- traumatic stress and dementia, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said.

State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho told the defendant, John J. Lynch of Wantagh that if Lynch is to avoid jail time, he must pay the victim back and forfeit a Porsche he registered and titled to himself but purchased with the victim’s money.

The 76 year old defendant is the founder and former executive director of Suffolk County United Veterans which operates the “John J. Lynch Veterans Men’s Shelter” in Yaphank.

“The defendant’s crimes were unconscionable,” District Attorney Spota said. “Our investigation found that he exploited a vulnerable fellow veteran who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and trying to cope with severe memory and confusion issues. From February of 2013 through February of 2014, Mr. Lynch had the victim write checks payable to him or to his business, J. Lynch Staffing, and we also found evidence that the defendant also had the victim pay his American Express bills. The total amount of money stolen is $87,260 dollars,” said Spota.

Lynch will be formally sentenced by Justice Camacho in early October on a date convenient for the victim’s family to attend.

MILITARY SHOULD EMPOWER VETS THROUGH ENTREPRENEURSHIP — STARS & STRIPES — Defense Secretary Ash Carter made waves last month when he announced two new proposals that will dramatically increase the Department of Defense’s flexibility in shaping the structure of our military. If approved, the proposals would allow more civilian workers in high-demands fields to enter the military mid-career, give the military more discretion in how they promote (or don’t promote) current servicemembers, and provide more incentives for soldiers to voluntarily leave the service before retirement. These changes are a radical departure from the military’s current approach to managing its talent, and this increased flexibility is badly needed at a time when the military is trying to adapt to changes on and off the battlefield. However, if enacted, these changes will necessarily disrupt the traditional military career path, and likely result in more servicemembers leaving the military in the middle of their career and looking for work in the private sector.

CHEROKEES HELP SMITHSONIAN PLAN NATIVE AMERICAN VETERANS MEMORIAL — NEWS ON 6 — TULSA, Oklahoma – Tribal leaders from Oklahoma are helping create a national Native American Veterans Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

There are local Native American memorials including one with an eternal flame near downtown Tulsa, but now Native American veterans will have a national memorial honoring them in Washington, D.C., something they feel, is very well deserved.

Many of those veterans filled a room at Tulsa’s Hard Rock Casino and Hotel, making sure a new national Native American veterans memorial will capture their unique warrior spirit.

“The warriors are the ones that kept the tribe fed, protected the tribe, they definitely had their place,” said Debra Wilson.

Native Americans serve in greater numbers per capita than any other ethnic group. Debra Wilson is Cherokee and served six years in the U.S. Marines. Her father, grandfather and siblings all served as well.

FORMER VETERANS AFFAIRS LABOR UNION PRESIDENT STOLE $150,000 IN CHAPTER’S FUNDS — DAILY CALLER — William Davis, a former local chapter president for the American Federation of Government Employees, was sentenced on Wednesday for embezzling $150,000 in funds. The 56 year-old New York resident will serve 15 months in prison after pleading guilty in federal court to stealing from the union.

The AFGE is the largest national labor union, representing 670,000 federal workers. Davis’ chapter, Local 1119, covers 300 employees of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Montrose, N.Y.

While serving as president, Davis “used a debit card for the Union Bank Account issued to a deceased former Union officer to make hundreds of charges and cash withdrawals for non-Union expenses,” according to the Justice Department’s report. Ironically, the AFGE’s website lists “identity theft protection” as one of its “exclusive benefits.”

In addition to swiping the card for a variety of purchases including men’s clothing and electronics at retailers such as Apple, RadioShack, Best Buy and Walmart, Davis also bought money orders, which he used to pay his monthly rent.

To mask the misuse, Davis falsified annual financial disclosure documents throughout his term as president, annotating just $7,000 of the spending.

A representative from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York told The Daily Caller that the investigation into Davis began after another union staffer discovered the abuse and reported it.

In addition to time in prison, the court ordered that Davis repay the entire $150,000.


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