American Veteran News 08.10.16

THIS WWII MARINE WAS KILLED IN THE PACIFIC THEATER. NOW, 72 YEARS LATER, ‘OUR BOY IS COMING HOME’ — S&S — Dale Geddes was killed in World War II during the Battle of Tarawa.

It was November 1943. He was 21 years old.

For more than 70 years, Geddes’s remains were buried on the island of Betio, where he was killed. As time passed, it looked as though they might never be found and returned to his family, according to a local newspaper report.

But in 2015, a group told authorities that it had discovered a burial site on that island in the Pacific, according to a news release from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

The remains of several U.S. Marines were recovered at that site. And DNA testing has determined that Geddes was one of them.

“Dale is finally coming home,” Linda Elliott, a grandniece of Geddes, told the Grand Island Independent. “He is coming home to his parents. I know that I speak for the family to say that we are all very happy, very privileged, to witness the wishes of Dale’s parents and Dale’s siblings. Our boy is coming home.”

Staff sergeant Kristen Duus of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency told The Post in a phone interview that Geddes’s remains were identified through DNA analysis.

“We used mitochondrial DNA, which traces the maternal line,” she said. “So that matched a niece of his.”

THE INVISIBLE WOUNDS OF WAR — WASHINGTON TIMES — On National Purple Heart Day, observed on Aug. 7, the nation paused to honor the decorated men and women wounded in combat while serving our country. But as we reflect on these noble sacrifices, Americans should remember to also recognize the veterans grappling with the invisible wounds of war who are ineligible for the Purple Heart and often overlooked or forgotten.

I should know: I was humbled to earn the Purple Heart for the bullet wounds I sustained in direct combat, while proudly serving as a U.S. Marine Corps captain during Operation Iraqi Freedom. But while these physical injuries eventually healed, my other wounds — the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — continued to haunt me.

Coming home as a civilian with PTSD was challenging and confusing. I experienced crippling depression, anxiety, night terrors and debilitating flashbacks. I grew increasingly isolated, spending day and night alone in my dark basement, self-medicating and contemplating suicide. At my lowest point, I was taking 32 medications — including a dozen narcotics — and drinking three six-packs a night to fall asleep. I had no external wounds, but inside, I felt broken.

Unfortunately, stories like mine are all too common. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that up to 20 percent of my fellow Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom veterans have PTSD. Some mental health experts suggest the percentage is much higher, citing the reluctance to seek out treatment as well as a lack of awareness about the condition, as reasons why PTSD frequently remains undiagnosed in veterans.

ILLINOIS DEDICATES MONUMENT TO PURPLE HEART RECIPIENTS — AP — SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois is honoring those who were wounded in combat with a monument in Springfield.

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency says it has dedicated a monument at the Springfield cemetery where Abraham Lincoln is buried to Purple Heart medal recipients.

Agency director Heidi Brown-McCreery says the agency hopes the memorial at Oak Ridge Cemetery that was opened Sunday will serve as reminder of the “tremendous sacrifices made by military personnel in all conflicts.”

The Purple Heart is the nation’s oldest military award. It traces its roots back to medals authorized by General George Washington in 1782 and has been awarded to nearly two million people since World War I.

The monument joins state-operated monuments honoring men and women who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

5 NEBRASKA FAMILIES RECEIVE FLAGS HONORING FALLEN SERVICEMEN — AP — OMAHA, Neb. — Five Nebraska families have received Gold Star flags honoring their loved ones who died while serving in the U.S. military.

The Omaha World-Herald reported that the Nebraska chapter of the Honor and Remember organization presented Gold Star flags to the families of Army Spc. Dustin Workman, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Keith Hanson, Army 1st Lt. Mark Noziska, and Army 1st Lt. James Moore and his brother Navy Petty Officer Gene Moore.

About 120 people attended the flag presentations, which were held in a Papillion event venue. Family members were also honored at Werner Park before an Omaha Storm Chasers baseball game.

People who have had a family member die while in the military or from an illness contracted while in service can request to receive a Gold Star flag.

“The pain is something that never goes away,” said, Kelly Hanson, Keith Hanson’s brother, who also served in the Navy. “A friend who went through the same thing told me that time doesn’t take away the pain, it just makes it less jagged.”

Kelly Hanson praised the commitment of the state’s Honor and Remember group, which has paid tribune to more than 100 families since 2012 and aims to honor 25 families this year.

COMBAT VETS NOW FIGHTING A NEW WAR: PAIN PILL ADDICTION — NJ.COM — The wars fought by this generation are different from the previous ones, and have left a different kind of disabled veteran: Lots of concussive brain injuries from homemade bombs, along with lots of Post Tramautic Stress Disorder from unpredictable combat conditions.

The combination has produced a new crop of veterans in chronic pain, while PTSD has lowered their thresholds for pain.

The result is a group of people especially vulnerable to pain pill addiction, said David Shulkin, the undersecretary of health for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Shulkin – who moved to the VA from his earlier post as the head of Morristown Medical Center – returned to the state Monday to join the U.S. Surgeon General and both New Jersey senators to talk about the crisis of opioid addiction.

How bad is the problem?

PROPOSAL WOULD BUILD TINY HOMES COMMUNITY FOR VETERANS — LAS CRUCES SUN-NEWS — LAS CRUCES – The Las Cruces City Council gave an informal thumbs-up to a proposal to create a veterans’ eco-village in the city.

The proposed development for retired military veterans could eventually include as many as 200 tiny homes, which average 186 square feet, comply with U.S. Housing and Urban Development requirements, and cost from $23,000 to $33,000 each.

Supporters presented the idea during a council work session Monday at City Hall.

Shannon Reynolds, an eco-village committee member, said in addition to housing, the community could also create micro-enterprises, such as machine shops, carpentry, organic farming, or construction of additional tiny homes, which could provide employment for previously homeless veterans.

Three potential locations were proposed by supporters.

Two of the three are on land owned by New Mexico State University: one on 50.2 acres west of the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, off of Dripping Springs Road, and the other on 29.81 acres south of Cholla Road, in the Arrowhead Research Park. Reynolds said the city and NMSU could work together to establish an eco-village if either of those locations were selected.

PURPLE HEART HOMES, STATE CREDIT UNION LEAGUES, AND CREDIT UNIONS JOIN FORCES TO HELP MILITARY VETERANS WITH HOME RENOVATIONS — PR NEWSWIRE — STATESVILLE, N.C. — Purple Heart Homes, a national public charity based in Statesville, NC, announces the kick-off of its inaugural campaign, Operation Veteran Home Renovation. The campaign is designed to engage and recruit the credit union movement to help spruce up homes that mostly older veterans own.

Credit unions have had a close relationship with all branches of the military and support veterans who sacrificed so much for the freedom we value today. So to help make life a little easier for older veterans and their caregivers, Purple Heart Homes has joined forces with the Cornerstone Credit Union League, serving approximately 500 credit unions in Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas; Georgia Credit Union Affiliates, serving 121 member credit unions; and the Southeastern Credit Union League, serving 298 credit unions in Florida and Alabama.

FILLING GAPS IN CARE FOR VETS — HEALTH NEWS DIGEST — Rush University Medical Center’s Road Home Program is providing veterans of the United States military with an innovative option for treating post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions related to their service. The program fills gaps in government-provided mental health care for veterans whose trauma-induced mental health issues might otherwise go untreated.

“There are unique challenges that the veteran population faces in seeking and obtaining mental health care,” says Michael B. Brennan, PsyD, ABPP, the Road Home Program’s associate clinical director and a captain in the Army Reserve. “When a veteran needs additional therapeutic intervention that is more than once a week and less than inpatient, 24-hour monitoring, a residential intensive outpatient program can help fill that gap in order to address the clinical needs of the veteran. The Road Home Program’s intensive outpatient program helps fill that gap.”

Brennan recently completed five years of active duty that included several months counseling soldiers hours after they were in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. He knows that for many combat veterans, psychological and emotional wounds can linger for years. Many are able to receive care at Veterans Affairs hospitals, but thousands do not.

CON JOB: USA TODAY BLOWS COVERAGE OF VA OIG WAIT TIME INVESTIGATION — DISABLED VETERANS — A recent VA OIG con job, inaccurately called an “investigation” by USA Today, found no wrongdoing when VA executives misrepresented wait times to Congress.

Congress called for an investigation to address misrepresentations made by VA executive Skye McDougall, a VA executive in charge of numerous southern California VA healthcare facilities, now head of VISN 16 (yes, she got promoted).

Her misrepresentations were later spun by Secretary Bob McDonald. Secretary Bob’s spin made the deception worse when he provided erroneous information. The series of misrepresentations prompted a CNN investigation.

OIG was apparently asked to investigate. It instead limited its investigation only to Secretary Bob McDonald to spin the scandal and to shame CNN for reporting on it.

OIG head Michael Missal orchestrated the deception in classic Richard Griffin style.

Bravo. And USA Today ate it up, hook, line and sinker.

SERVICEMEMBERS’ PUSHUPS RAISE AWARENESS OF VETERAN SUICIDE, PTSD — S&S — Servicemembers worldwide are cranking out millions of pushups and posting videos of their efforts online to raise awareness about military suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder, a campaign that has crossed over into the civilian community.

Texas-based veterans organization 22Kill is asking people to video themselves doing 22 pushups a day for 22 days and nominate others to do the same. The goal is to reach 22 million pushups in honor of the 22 U.S. veterans who commit suicide each day, says the organization’s website.

22Kill Director Jacob Schick, a Marine who suffered from PTSD after losing a leg to an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2004, said the challenge started as a fundraising effort in 2013 and went viral after a video was posted by country music star Brantley Gilbert.

Other celebrities and civilians have jumped onboard, and the challenge has spread overseas, where veterans of foreign militaries are grappling with some of the same issues as their American allies.

VA PAYS $197 MILLION IN FRAUDULENT CONTRACTOR SCHEME — DISABLED VETERANS — Three companies located in Milwaukee created a shell company scheme that fraudulently received $197 million in set-aside contracts according to federal investigators. Overall, the companies swindled $268 million in contracts between SBA and VA.

The construction contracts were intended for veteran-owned businesses and service disabled veteran-owned businesses. The fraudulent scheme basically involved placing veterans in positions of authority who were not actually present on the job site.

The companies had their VA contracts suspended once the agency became suspicious that the man running one of the companies was not the true owner. After flubbing investigators at the time, in 2012, VA reinstated the firm’s contracting privileges.

The present investigation is an example of how deserving veterans are scammed out of contract offerings by sharks willing to lie, cheat and steal. It is an old problem that VA has yet to sort out.

The shell companies were basically run by the same crew who moved a veteran in an out of the business to take advantage of contract deals they were not otherwise entitled to receive.

WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON WITH VETERAN EMPLOYMENT? — T&P — Veteran unemployment is on the decline, but it’s still difficult to know how veterans are doing in the economy long term.

After 15 years of war, there are big questions over how well the men and women who serve the country are faring after military service. The Center for a New American Security is launching a survey of veterans, HR professionals, and supervisors to figure out what’s affecting veterans’ performance in the workplace. By taking a better look at the challenges that exist for vets, we hope to find better ways to help them as they leave the military.

In response to a surge of unemployment for post-9/11 veterans, many groups launched fantastic efforts to address the problem. From the Veterans Jobs Mission to the Joining Forces initiative at the White House, both the public and private sector stepped up to the plate, seeing a moral obligation to help and that hiring veterans is smart business.

After several years of these efforts, veteran unemployment is on the decline, but it’s still difficult to know how veterans are doing in the economy long term. We don’t know if veterans are succeeding in building careers over time, the impact of how long they stay in their first job, and what the challenges are in transitioning from the military into a new company culture. The CNAS survey attempts to gather more information about veteran economic performance, to use it to shape programs aimed at recruiting veterans and keeping them employed.

VA LEVERAGES IT TO FIX SCHEDULING DEFICIENCIES — HEALTH DATA — A survey conducted by The Joint Commission finds that the Department of Veterans Affairs is making progress in improving access to healthcare for veterans, including the use of emerging technology such as a new smartphone app and enhanced website, according to the VA.

“The Joint Commission is one of the most widely respected healthcare organizations in the industry,” said David Shulkin, MD, the VA’s Under Secretary for Health. “Their analysis shows that VA as national healthcare leader is making progress in improving the care we provide to our veterans. This affirms our commitment to providing both excellent healthcare and an exceptional experience of care to all veterans served.”

According to Shulkin, the VA is modernizing its culture, processes and technological capabilities through the MyVA initiative to “put veterans first.” Earlier this year, the VA’s Veterans Health Administration established and launched MyVA Access to ensure that veterans gain more control of how they receive healthcare.

NAVY VET ADMITS HE FAKED DEATH, AGREES TO PAY FOR COAST GUARD SEARCH — SUN-SENTINEL — A Boca Raton financial adviser who faked his death last year, setting off an expensive and pointless U.S. Coast Guard rescue mission, pleaded guilty on Monday to communicating a false distress message.

Under the terms of his plea agreement, Richard Winsor Ohrn, 46, has agreed he owes $1 million in restitution for the cost of the search.

He is under court order to sell his Estuary Drive home and reveal details of all his assets to the government before he is sentenced in October. The home currently has an assessed value of $550,000, according to the county property appraiser, but has a significantly greater market value.

The maximum penalty for the offense is six years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine but Ohrn may be sentenced to probation, records show. Ohrn has been free on $1 million bond since shortly after he was charged in February.

VITALITY FOR VETERANS: SPORTS CAMP CHALLENGES, CHANGES THEM — AP — PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Marine veteran Joyce Ralph sometimes stays at home in Massachusetts instead of going for a bike ride or doing other things she likes to do. She feels too anxious because of her post-traumatic stress disorder.

Army veteran Paul Miosek sometimes feels isolated at his home in New York. No one else he knows is in a wheelchair.

The two were among a group of about 50 veterans who took part in July in the Veterans Affairs New England Summer Sports Clinic in Rhode Island. For a week, they kayaked, water skied, cycled and sailed — activities designed to get them and other veterans thinking more about what they can than can’t do.

“This gives me a chance, with my anxiety, to push myself a little further, to realize there are safe places in the world,” said Ralph, 52, of Halifax, Massachusetts.

The veterans ranged in age from their 20s to 80s. The rehabilitation clinic is open to veterans with spinal cord injuries, amputations, vision loss, mental health problems and other disabilities.

VA HOSPITAL BOUGHT $300,000 WORTH OF TVS, THEN STORED THEM — DAILY CALLER — Detroit’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital spent $311,000 on TVs that were never used and remain in storage.

The federal agency’s facility ordered the 300 TVs “because they had funds available,” which “may have violated the bona fide needs rule,” according to a new report from the department’s inspector general (IG).

Now, the TVs have sat “in storage for about 2 1/2 years. Further, warranties for the TVs expired.”

Officials were going to use the TVs for a new patient area that had not been built. In May, 2013, they met with the contractor who was planning the future stalls and agreed they would have Ethernet hookups instead of cable. A month later, VA ordered cable-powered TVs instead of Ethernet-powered sets.

“This information was not shared with the … contractor and the compatibility issue with the TVs was not discovered until November 2013 when the facility received the first shipment of TVs,” the IG said.

At that time, they decided to pay the contractor more to install cable rather than return the TVs.

But the new patient area still hasn’t been constructed.


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