American Veteran News 07.25.16

ARMY TO KEEP INFANTRY ICON’S AWARDS UNCHANGED DESPITE ‘DISCREPANCIES’ — MILCOM — U.S. Army awards officials have decided not to amend the military records of Command Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley, despite discrepancies in the late hero’s records that cast doubt on the medals that made him a battlefield legend.

Army Human Resources Command’s review of Plumley’s records was prompted when military researcher Brian Siddall alleged that Plumley wore unauthorized combat and valor awards that exaggerated wartime achievements and elevated his status in the airborne and infantry communities.

Plumley, who died from cancer on Oct. 10, 2012 at the age of 92, was a major figure in the 1992 book, “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” co-authored by Joseph L. Galloway and retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore.

The book was a moving account of the November 1965 Battle of Ia Drang Valley in the Vietnam War and the heroic fight that 450 soldiers of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, put up against a superior force of 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers at LZ X-Ray.

The best-selling book and the Hollywood movie elevated Plumley to celebrity status long after his retirement from the Army in 1974.

Siddall, an independent researcher whose father and uncle served during World War II — the latter as a paratrooper who was killed during the D-Day invasion of Europe — leveled the allegations against Plumley after an extensive study of his service records.



IN COLORADO SPRINGS, KOREAN WAR SACRIFICES ARE REMEMBERED — THE GAZETTE — The term “forgotten war” was mentioned multiple times during a ceremony Saturday in Colorado Springs to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the Korean War armistice.

More than a dozen Korean War veterans joined Korean-Americans along with a representative of the Republic of Korea at Memorial Park east of downtown Colorado Springs to remember the war that began in June 1950. It lasted three years and claimed the lives of more than 33,000 Americans.

Deputy Consul General Chung Yoon Ho, who spoke on behalf of the government of the Republic of Korea, said his goal is to make sure that the war, which the U.S. government called a “police action” at the time, would not be forgotten.

“I owe this to Korean War veterans,” he said, noting that South Korea “almost collapsed” but has thrived as a democracy since the armistice on July 27, 1953.

Chung looked around at each of the members of Colorado Springs’ Dutch Nelsen Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association and thanked them.

“We will never forget your sacrifice and contribution,” he said.

The Korean War began June 25, 1950, when 75,000 North Korean soldiers invaded South Korea (the Republic of Korea). The invasion by the communist soldiers is considered to be the “first military action of the Cold War,” according to history.com. Within a month, U.S. troops came to the aid of their South Korean allies.



THOMAS MURPHY, VBA CHANGE DECKCHAIRS ON TITANIC, AGAIN — DISABLED VETERANS — I just received a copy of a forwarded email from his “Kahnship”, Thomas Murphy, announcing various promotions within the Veterans Benefits Administration (he’s the Genghis Kahn of white collar VA).

Murphy was recently named the new feudal overlord of benefits as Under Secretary following the removal of Danny Pummill. Contrary to current calls for Murphy to get sacked, he is instead buttressing the walls of his fortress.

“What is Pummill up to?” you may be asking. Well, his LinkedIn account says he is transitioning to the civilian sector. Last fall, he was linked to a potential fraud scheme that involved two other executives within Veterans Benefits that resulted in Allison Hickey stepping down.

Anyway, Murphy sent out this blast late Friday afternoon, likely hoping no one would notice. We did, and here is the list of Murphy’s new merry henchmen.

VBA Team,

I want to update you on the personnel changes in our senior leadership ranks. As I previously mentioned, each assignment was considered thoughtfully and with the goal to further enhance benefits delivery to better support the Department’s MyVA goals.



WHAT DOES STOLEN VALOR’S DEFINITION MEAN IN THE U.S. VETERAN’S COMMUNITY? — INQUISITOR — Stolen valor, like post-traumatic stress, is one of the most misunderstood issues in the U.S. veterans’ community. Sadly, the result is that many veterans like me have been targeted online by others claiming to be veterans with the intent of destroying our credibility, silencing us during a debate or some other malicious intent unknown to me. In my case, the argument was that I was pretending to be a veteran, and the goal was to expose me as a poser.

What does stolen valor’s definition really mean in the veterans’ community, though? For many, based on my experience, it’s anyone who is claiming to be something he or she is not, whether it’s pretending to be a veteran, wearing awards and decorations that weren’t earned, or creating some kind of scam. Most often, it’s a person who just doesn’t like you and is looking for some way to expose you as a fake and subject you to harassment and ridicule.

Since I don’t know who turned me in for stolen valor, I can only speculate as to their reasons for doing it. I can also only speculate as to why I was accused of being a traitor and compared to Bowe Bergdahl, who was taken into custody for his actions in Afghanistan. What he did resulted in the deaths of six soldiers, which, although foolish and deadly, wasn’t a treasonous act.

NewsAhead World News Forecast most recently reported on Bergdahl’s court martial and the charges he is facing. I have never faced charges in my career, and I was certainly never guilty of getting any of my fellow soldiers killed. If I had, I wouldn’t be here to write this.

Although there are some cases where those who have been accused of stolen valor are guilty, it’s important to understand first what the Stolen Valor Law is and how and what is possible under the law.



VA STILL WORKING TO PROVIDE BENEFITS FOR FORMER POWS — CALIFORNIAN — The Department of Veterans Affairs has a variety of benefits available to veterans that have experienced specific situations, including former prisoners of war. These benefits can include disability compensation, pension, education and training, health care, home loan guarantee, insurance and burial.

Former POWs are veterans who, while serving on active duty, were forcibly detained or interned in the line of duty by an enemy government, its agents or a hostile force. In the event of peacetime, if a veteran was forcibly detained or interned by a hostile government, its agents or a hostile force and the internment was comparable to wartime, they may also be considered a POW.

Since the American Revolution, more than half of a million Americans have been captured or interned as POWs, a number that does not even account for the nearly 93,000 Americans listed as lost and never recovered.

Former POWs are eligible for disability benefits for injuries and trauma endured as a result of being held captive as a member of the U.S. military. If a veteran was captured and the VA determines that the former POW’s condition is at least 10% disabling, it’s presumed to be a result of their POW experience.



INTEROPERABILITY IN ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORDS BETWEEN VA, DOD THE SUBJECT OF SENATE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING — IPWATCHDOG — In 1992, the U.S. Army began the practice of retiring health records to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) when military personnel left active service. By 1998, the other branches of the U.S. military followed suit. It’s been a rocky road since. Beginning in 1998, the VA and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) had been working on developing an integrated system for the sharing of electronic health records (EHRs) between the two agencies. This effort came to an end by February 2013 without an integrated system after $564 million had already been spent on the project. At that time, the two agencies agreed to a plan which would have them create separate EHR systems which were interoperable, allowing for the timely sharing of health records.



AIR QUALITY PROBLEM GROWING AT ATLANTA VA HOSPITAL — WSB-TV — DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — A Channel 2 investigation is still working to get to the bottom of an air quality problem at a local veterans hospital.

Despite the VA’s refusal to answer questions from Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant, several sources have told you the problem is growing.

Channel 2 Action News has been exposing problems within the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Atlanta VA for years.

In the aftermath of recent national and local scandals, VA leaders have espoused their commitment to transparency. It turned out to be a false promise this week.

“They have a bunker mentality. When they get hard questions they immediately treat it as a hostile attack on them,” said Dan Caldwell with Concerned Veterans for America.

That’s Caldwell’s take on why Atlanta VA Medical Center leaders have, for days now, refused to answer any questions on camera about an air quality issue inside the hospital we exposed this week that several sources say is still making workers sick.

“It’s not acceptable for a government agency to behave like this, and we’re not talking about classified information, we’re not talking about information here that compromises a patient’s privacy,” Caldwell said.

In a written statement, the VA said the hospital experienced an, “environmental issue in the operating suite between June 27 and July 6” and corrective measures were taken.



UNION CHALLENGES RECENT RECOMMENDATIONS ON CARE FOR VETERANS — FEDSMITH — The Department of Veterans Affairs has been under close scrutiny as a result of scandals that have plagued the agency in recent months and years. Largely as a result of these issues, Congress established the Commission on Care. This organization was created to examine veterans’ access to Department of Veterans Affairs health care and to examine how best to more effectively organize the Veterans Health Administration, locate health resources, and deliver health care to veterans during the next 20 years.

The Commission on Care has submitted its final report on health care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The report concluded:

    “[The] evidence shows that although care delivered by VA is in many ways comparable or better in clinical quality to that generally available in the private sector, it is inconsistent from facility to facility, and can be substantially compromised by problems with access, service, and poorly functioning operational systems and processes. The Commissioners also agree that America’s veterans deserve much better, that many profound deficiencies in VHA operations require urgent reform, and that America’s veterans deserve a better organized, high-performing health care system.”

In its press release, the Commission on Care concluded:



FORMER VA LABOR UNION PRESIDENT SENTENCED FOR POCKETING 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.



EL PASOAN RECALLS NAVY SERVICE IN VIETNAM — EL PASO TIMES — I am a proud, full-blooded Native American, Hopi (mother) and Navajo (father) from Arizona. I enlisted in the Navy in 1970 at age 18 after graduating from Sherman Indian High in California because I was certain I would eventually be drafted.

I decided to enlist so I could get the training I needed to be ready for war.

Before deployment, I received specialized training for six months in Jacksonville, Florida; Aberdeen, Maryland; and North Island, California, for aviation ordinance on all Navy aircraft. I also received training in weapons and survival training school before deployment.

I deployed for my first tour in 1971 and served in Bihn Thuy, Vietnam, for 12 months. I was a member of the squadron called HAL-3 Seawolves.

As an operational game warden in the Mekong Delta, I was responsible for helping riverboats who were ambushed enemy attacks. We also traveled by air all over the country, and once flew 300 miles from the base all the way to near Cambodia.

I came back to the United States in 1972 when President Nixon pulled out the U.S. military. My second deployment was in 1972-1973 on the USS Ticonderoga, protecting the Vietnam coast from Russian subs.

When I first arrived in Vietnam, I first noticed the different smells, different landscapes, all the noise from the choppers, explosions, and tracers at night.



TRUCKERS COMPETING FOR VETERANS — ARKANSAS ONLINE — Hiring veterans is a patriotic policy in any industry, but many companies — including the trucking industry — have discovered it is a good business policy as well.

Brad Vaughn, vice president of driver recruiting for Maverick Transportation, said veterans are often ideal truck drivers.

“Veterans are accustomed to being self-sufficient,” Vaughn said. “Veterans are accustomed to being away from home. Veterans are accustomed to being in a very structured environment. When you take a veteran who has been on multiple tours, being gone a week is not a big deal to them.”

Vaughn said that after analyzing Maverick’s fleet of drivers, he found many were veterans. Veterans make up 23 percent of the Fort Smith company’s employees, and Maverick regularly attends job fairs, visits bases and advertises in military publications to find more.

Maverick is not the only Arkansas trucking company to recruit veterans.



POLICE: CAREGIVERS FLEECED GUADALCANAL VETERAN, 95, OUT OF HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS — S&S — SANTA FE, N.M. (Tribune News Service) — Dennis Ferk was past due.

One day in December, a man arrived at the World War II veteran’s home to cut off his gas. Though Ferk, 95, was supposed to have plenty of money from various retirement and military benefits, he was months behind on utility bills.

Friends and Santa Fe Police Department investigators allege caregivers whose job was to help the widower with his finances instead fleeced him of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Months after a parishioner at Ferk’s church first contacted law enforcement with concerns about theft and forgery, the caregivers are long gone and wanted for arrest on felony charges filed earlier this week. Ferk has since moved out of his house to share a one-bedroom apartment in a public housing complex with his daughter, who has a disability and is his only family member in Santa Fe.



SAVE THE PRINCETON BATTLEFIELD BEFORE HALLOWED GROUND IS DESTROYED — NJ 101.5 — During my career in the U.S. Marine Corps, I have walked and studied the ground of many historic battlefields in the United States, large and small, with a perspective that comes from personal knowledge of the extreme trial of armed combat.

It is a sobering and emotional experience because, as a veteran, I identify with the soldiers who fought on these lands and the hardships they endured. And I always pay my silent respects, especially for those who died.

Earlier this year, I visited the Princeton battlefield, where after months of defeat and failure Gen. George Washington and our Continental Army finally defeated British regulars for the first time. Washington’s army had been routed at Long Island, lost New York City, lost at White Plains and suffered a devastating defeat at Fort Washington, where 3,000 patriots were captured. Four colonies had been occupied by the Redcoats.



FORMER USS PARCHE SUBMARINERS’ BEST STORIES STILL CAN’T BE TOLD — S&S — BREMERTON, Wash. (Tribune News Service) — Shared experiences aboard the Navy’s most decorated vessel drew 60 former crew members to a reunion this week, but they still can’t share their stories. Exploits aboard the spy submarine USS Parche remain classified.

“This girl was a special girl,” said Daniel Gonzalez, joining peers for a welcoming ceremony Friday morning around the sub’s preserved black sail. Colorfully marked with the boat’s many awards, it sits in front of Puget Sound Navy Museum in downtown Bremerton. Gonzalez, of Modesto, California, served two stints as a storekeeper aboard the Parche.

Commissioned in 1974, the Parche spent 30 years and 19 deployments as the United States’ top espionage sub. It reportedly tapped into the Soviet Union’s undersea military communications, recovered missile fragments from the ocean floor after test launches and performed other intelligence gathering.

The Parche earned nine Presidential Unit Citations for “extraordinary heroism against an armed enemy … under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions.” Most ships never get one. It also received an unprecedented 13 Navy Expeditionary Medals and 10 Navy Unit Commendations.



OBAMA SIGNS VA MEMORIAL OPIOID SAFETY ACT INTO LAW — MILWAUKEE COURIER — U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin released the following statement today after President Obama signed into law bipartisan VA reforms that Senator Baldwin authored in the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act (S.1641). Baldwin’s VA reforms were included in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which passed the Senate last week.

“I’m proud to have worked with the Simcakoski family to introduce these VA reforms. We earned bipartisan support in Congress and I’m very pleased President Obama has signed them into law,” said Senator Baldwin. “Our VA reforms will strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs’ opioid prescribing guidelines and put in place stronger oversight and accountability for the quality of care that we are providing our veterans. My goal is to prevent Jason’s tragedy from happening to other veterans and their families. We have made these reforms a reality and moved closer to achieving our goal of safer and more effective pain management services for our nation’s veterans.”



To THE VETERANS VOICE

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