American Veteran News 08.05.16

TAINTED WATER AT CAMP LEJEUNE: VETERAN FIGHTS FOR DISABILITY — THE NEW HAMPSHIRE UNION LEADER — RAYMOND — On the one hand, the Department of Veterans Affairs attributes the lung disease that has sickened Terrence Mulligan to the contaminated tap water the former Marine drank while stationed at Camp Lejeune in the 1970s.

So the VA provides his medical treatment, which includes about a dozen medications, doctor appointments, an oxygen tank and a likely lung transplant.

On the other hand, the VA has told Mulligan that he shouldn’t expect the VA to compensate him anytime soon for his inability to work.

The result: The 59-year-old said he struggles to pay his bills and could eventually lose the home where he and his wife have lived for 10 years.

“I’ve been trying this for years, filling out the paperwork, sending it off, getting a rejection,” Mulligan said this week, just days after the VA rejected his latest request. “You almost get the sense they’re waiting for more people to die off.”

TEEN SAYS HE WAS FIRED FROM JACK-IN-THE-BOX FOR SERVING FREE TACOS TO VETERAN — FOX — A 19-year-old says he was fired from his job at a Jack-in-the-Box in Bakersfield, Calif. after serving an army veteran two free tacos.

Alex Mesta admitted to previously giving several cups of coffee to the regular customer, reports Fox News Edge.

“Since he’s a vet, I don’t think I should charge him for his coffee. It’s like not even a dollar for a coffee,” says Mesta.

But one night, the teen server decided to give the veteran two tacos– which retail for just $0.99. He says that the food items were leftover at the end of the day and destined to the thrown out. But Mesta’s actions were caught on store surveillance cameras—and someone from corporate wasn’t happy with what they saw.

Mesta says he was fired for his altruistic actions, with corporate claiming he had “mishandled funds.”

A Facebook post about the incident has now gone viral and many are calling for a boycott of Jack-in-the-Box.

DRUG ABUSE, MENTAL ILLNESS RISE AMONG VETERANS: VA REPORT — MILCOM — The number of Department of Veterans Affairs patients with diagnosed mental health or substance abuse issues increased between 2001 and 2014, according to a report on veteran suicide newly released by the VA.

Between 2001 and 2014, the rate of mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders climbed from 27 percent to 40 percent, the Aug. 3 report states.

Data on mental health and substance abuse were examined as part of the study, officials wrote, because those diseases are connected with a higher risk of suicide. But the study also found that the suicide rate among VA patients with those disorders decreased from 77.6 per 100,000 to 57 between 2001 and 2014 despite that correlation.

The report, the most comprehensive study yet on veteran suicide, is based on a review of Defense Department records, records from each state and data from the Centers for Disease Control, VA officials said. Highlights from the report were released in early July.

GARY SINISE FOUNDATION HOSTS WALL SIGNING AT VET’S NEW DULUTH HOME — GWINNETT DAILY POST — Four years ago, retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Cedric King would dwell on the negative impact the injuries he sustained while serving his country might have on his family.

Now, King focuses on the positive aspects as his wife, Khieda, and their daughters, Amari, 12, and Khamya, 8, get a step closer to moving into their new smart home in Duluth.

On Thursday, the family was surrounded by community leaders, family, friends and other veterans who left inspirational messages on the wooden studs of the house under construction in Sugarloaf Country Club.

The purpose of the Wall of Honor event was to allow supporters to leave a lasting imprint before the studs are covered by sheet rock.

Sponsors, donors and others involved with the project also participated. The home is expected to be ready in the next six months.

“God turned a tragic situation into something positive,” said King, who placed a Bible between the studs and read scriptures during the ceremony.


COLLEGES NEED TO BE MORE WELCOMING TO POST-9/11 VETERANS — CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION — The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the most generous educational benefit afforded to veterans since World War II and holds the potential to profoundly impact the lives of an entire generation of military families. A common narrative has been that this potential won’t be realized until for-profit colleges can be stopped from fleecing veterans out of this historic opportunity with their relentless (some say predatory) recruiting practices, paltry graduation rates, and questionable degree value.

But there is another side to this story that deserves both attention and action — not from government watchdogs but from traditional nonprofit and, yes, elite colleges and universities.

Consider that last year, post-9/11 veterans represented less than 1 percent of the total undergraduate students enrolled in the U.S. News & World Report’s top-20 colleges and universities in America. In fact, some of those top institutions count in the single digits the number of post-9/11 veterans enrolled as undergraduates. Further, last year Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, which I direct, surveyed more than 8,500 post-9/11 veterans about their experiences with and future plans for higher education, and found that the most cited barrier to their pursuit of a traditional college degree was the perception that, as veterans, they would not be “welcome” or would not “fit in” on a college campus.

THIS IS WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE FALSELY ACCUSED OF STOLEN VALOR — T&P — A Marine veteran recounts what it feels like to be wrongly accused of stolen valor.

In a July 17 episode of Reply All, a podcast by Gimlet Media about how people “shape the internet,” the show’s host, PJ Vogt, took a close look at the world of military imposters and the stolen valor movement. In particular, there’s one part of Vogt’s podcast that stands out: The story of Bob Ford, a Marine veteran falsely accused of stolen valor.

Related: Is This Stolen Valor? »

Ford served in the Marines from 1958 to 1964, when he was honorably discharged. To this day, Ford’s military service remains a point of pride.

“When you get to be 75, the fact that you can just put the uniform on is a good feeling,” Ford says in the podcast. “There you are, you’re 20 years old again. This is what you wore. I really look forward to it. I enjoy that.”

Ford wears his uniform during memorial ceremonies and at funerals for other veterans, where he plays Taps.

Last year, after attending a Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Ford stopped at a local arts festival afterward. There, he was confronted by two men, one an Army veteran and the other a police officer who was a Marine veteran like Ford, according to The Washington Post, which reported on the incident in June 2015.

— MILITARY ADVANTAGE BLOG — Two no-cost initiatives to honor the service of Reserve and National Guard members are edging forward in Congress, though final passage this year is still far from certain.

The more familiar of the two bills would bestow honorary “veteran” status on up to 200,000 Reserve and National Guard retirees who can’t now be called military veterans as defined under federal law.

A newer initiative, being pushed by Reserve Officers Association, would make many more former Reserve and Guard members who were called to active duty under support orders eligible for veteran preference in competing for federal civilian jobs. Here’s a status report on both:

Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act (HR 1384, S 743)
Every year more reserve component retirees learn to their surprise that they cannot claim to be veterans, despite part-time careers in service to the nation. These are retirees who were never ordered to active duty other than for initial training and brief periods of annual training.

In recent years the lack of veteran status for these retirees stung a bit more with every failed attempt by proponents in Congress to win for them honorary veterans status. Inevitably, it seemed, either the Senate or the House or both fumbled the initiative during a final frantic year-end rush to complete neglected work on behalf of veterans.

AMERICAN-VIETNAMESE MEMORIAL TO BE SITE FOR HEALING WOUNDS OPENED BY WAR — AUBURN REPORTER — A concrete memorial and honor wall with a sculpture at the center, benches, and the United States flag and the Vietnamese Freedom and Heritage flag snapping crisply in the wind.

With these words inscribed on the wall in English and Vietnamese: “We remember with gratitude the soldiers and allies of the United States of America and the Republic of Vietnam who fought and died for freedom and democracy in Vietnam.”

All to recognize and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, and to express thanks and appreciation for those who fought for the freedom of South Vietnam.

Last Saturday, the sun shone on the memorial’s dedication in Les Gove Park and on the more than 100 people who came to see it happen.

“Beautiful day, beautiful location, and a beautiful idea that’s now coming to fruition,” said Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus. “I can’t think of a better way to honor the men and women who so very bravely served during the Vietnam War.”

MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO STEALING FROM VA — STARS & STRIPES — A Manchester, N.H. man pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing scrap metal and tools from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Kristopher White, 25, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to 15 counts of unlawfully converting government property, all felonies, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Emily Gray Rice.

The charges are felonies because the aggregate cost or market value of the stolen items is more than $1,000. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Authorities say the thefts happened between June 8 to June 19, 2015, when White took three barrels containing scrap metal and 25 tools from the VA’s maintenance building in Manchester. The stolen items included a Miller welder and plasma cutter, inspection camera, cordless drill, tool bag, three grinders, a sawzall, four batteries, a battery charger, a skill saw, a cordless grease gun, a hammer drill and a shear; a Dewalt cordless drill; Westward socket set; hole saw kit; rigid drill, and a Makita grinder.

White sold the stolen scrap metal to a recycling business and sold 12 of the 25 stolen tools to a pawnshop, both in Manchester. According to court records, he received a total of $502.39 for the stolen goods when the items were worth $1,501.39.

White is to be sentenced at 10 a.m. on Nov. 18.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert M. Kinsella

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