Sunday, August 31, 2014

Military divorce can be a whole new battleground

When military and matrimony don't mix
By Kristi Tousignant
The (Baltimore, Md.) Daily Record/AP
Published: August 30, 2014

A move is underway to standardize custody rules for military families. The Uniform Law Commission approved language for a model Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act in July 2012. Under the model act, past deployment and "possible future" deployment cannot be used against a parent in a custody proceeding, although imminent deployment can be considered.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — For those in the armed forces, divorce can be a whole new battleground.

"It's ironic because these are trained fighters and they can find themselves in a battle they are not prepared for," said attorney Cynthia Hawkins Clark.

Although military family law cases go through civilian courts, they often present a unique set of challenges with deployments, military pensions and child custody, said Clark and Paula J. Peters, who practice at the Law Offices of Paula J. Peters P.A. in Annapolis.

And with Fort Detrick, Fort Meade, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Andrews Air Force Base, the Naval Academy and other bases in Maryland, there are many military members locally who need legal assistance, Clark and Peters said.

"I can't think of anything more satisfying," Clark said. "It's very hard not be invested in them. They are very good people."

The challenges of representing service members vary depending on whether they are on active duty or retired, attorneys said.

For active service members, the key issues often involve the couple's children. Long deployments mean long absences from that child's life, which can make it hard to get joint or shared custody.
read more here

Texas National Guardsmen Sent to Border Without Paychecks?

Texas National Guard: No evidence that soldiers have gone to food bank for help
Austin American-Statesman
By Jeremy Schwartz
Published: August 30, 2014
“Active duty soldiers being forced to turn to charities to get a meal is heartbreaking,” state Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, said in a statement. “These brave men and women have apparently been sent on a mission without accommodating for their most basic needs. We need to find immediate solutions for these hungry soldiers.”

AUSTIN, Texas (MCT) — The Texas National Guard has identified 50 soldiers deployed to the Rio Grande Valley who might be in need of financial assistance — including food help — because of a gap in receiving their first paycheck since being activated, and Texas Democrats are seizing on the issue.

But neither a local food bank nor National Guard officials said they had evidence that any soldiers have sought food assistance.

“Maybe they come in and they just don’t tell us they’re National Guard,” said Omar Ramirez, Food Bank RGV’s manager of communications and advocacy.

After Rio Grande Valley television station KGBT reported Thursday that needy troops “turned to” the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley for help, state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, the Democratic nominee for governor, said she would visit the border Saturday to deliver food for the National Guard.

“It’s disgraceful that the men and women of our National Guard deployed to protect our border are forced to go to food banks,” Davis said in a statement.

According to Lt. Col. Joanne MacGregor, a spokeswoman for the Texas National Guard, a “proactive” family assistance coordinator “contacted the Rio Grande Valley food bank to see what resources were potentially available.”

According to Guard officials, the 50 soldiers in question started their deployment to the border around Aug. 11, just after the cutoff for the next pay period, and would have to wait until Sept. 5 to receive their first paycheck. Their first week or so was spent at Camp Swift in Bastrop for training, and they received three meals a day there.
read more here

Philly VA guide to dealing with "Grouchy" Veterans

VA Head Orders Review After Oscar the Grouch Gaffe
Philadelphia Inquirer
by Tricia L. Nadolny
Aug 29, 2014

The head of the Department of Veterans Affairs has ordered a system-wide review of its training programs after a guide comparing veterans to Oscar the Grouch was used at the Philadelphia VA benefits office.

Secretary Robert McDonald apologized for the slideshow training guide and said its use has been discontinued. Unlike Diana Rubens, the director of the Philadelphia office, McDonald did not defend the materials as comparing employees, rather than veterans, to the cranky Sesame Street character who lives in a trash can.

"We apologize for the use of Oscar the Grouch in the presentation used to train employees at the Philadelphia Regional Benefits Office," McDonald said in a statement.

He said the "comparison is clearly contrary" to the VA's mission and the "kind of open culture we want in the new VA."

The training guide, reported by The Inquirer on Wednesday, was titled "What to Say to Oscar the Grouch -- Dealing With Veterans During Town Hall Claims Clinics." About a dozen of the 18 slides include pictures of the misanthropic Muppet in the can he calls home. In one, a sign reading "CRANKY" hangs from the rim.

In another, Oscar's face is flanked by the words "100% GROUCHY, DEAL WITH IT."
read more here

VA Training for "Grouchy" Veterans Using Oscar the Grouch?

Two Star General Retires Less of a Star

Army Knocks 2-Star Down to 1-Star Rank
Associated Press
by Robert Burns
Aug 27, 2014

WASHINGTON — A two-star Army general faulted for failing to properly investigate sexual assault and other accusations against a colonel on his staff will be retired at one-star rank, the Army announced Wednesday.

The decision by Army Secretary John M. McHugh comes more than a year after Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison was suspended from his duties as commander of U.S. Army forces in Japan.

His case has been cited as evidence of why sex-crime victims say they don't trust the military to protect them, despite efforts by senior Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, to make commanders accountable.

In March the Pentagon turned back an effort in Congress to strip commanders of the authority to prosecute cases, especially those related to sexual assault, and hand the job to seasoned military lawyers.

An Army inspector general's investigation report released in April said that in March 2013, when a Japanese woman accused the unidentified colonel on Harrison's staff of sexually assaulting her, Harrison waited months to report it to criminal investigators. That was a violation of Army rules.
read more here

Army Strong but Veterans Stronger Together

Veterans Sacrificed and Survived
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
August 31, 2014

PTSD did not defeat you while you were deployed. You had your brothers right by your side. PTSD doesn't have to defeat you now since your brothers are from all branches of the military family tree and we call them VETERANS! Sacrificed because you loved, lived, survived and stronger together.

Sacrifice : the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone

The top post on Wounded Times is, For Those I Love I Will Sacrifice

Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry, of 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Infantry Regiment, 1st Heavy Combat Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, who was injured in an improvised explosive device attack near Haji Ramuddin, is treated by flight medic Cpl. Amanda Mosher while being transported by medevac helicopter to the Role 3 hospital at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan on June 15, 2011. Laura Rauch/Stars and Stripes

There are a lot of current military and veterans with those words tattooed on their bodies but also engraved on their hearts.

PFC Aaron Toppen was killed in Afghanistan on June 9th at the age of 19. His pastor, Dr. Tim Harlow said this at his funeral.
"He had a tattoo on his chest that had a cross with dog tags draped across. It says, 'For those I love, I sacrifice,' an army motto. The dog tags were both his grandparents' dog tags," "I mean, that's who he was."

It is "who" they all are because no matter what some may say, it is the reason you were willing to sacrifice your lives for the sake of someone else.

In the military you are all serving this country however, you served separated by branches. Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and National Guards. It is as veterans you are stronger because you come together with others from different branches and different wars.

You sacrificed much and were willing sacrifice everything. You survived combat. That may have seemed like the hardest part of your life but all too often it was just the start of the battles you'd have to fight. The hardest one is now.

No one comes home unchanged. For Heaven's sake, you are only human and everyone changes in one way or another.

Sometimes it can make you harder, colder, bitter and quick to get angry over little things. You may think those emotions are forever, but they are not. Sometimes it can make you sadder, depressed and worth less than you were while you were doing something that became a part of you.

It is never the same for anyone and how you feel is not the same as everyone else. The thing is, when all is said and done, when the boots come off and uniform is put away, everyone you served with are a part of your life.

The veterans in your community can be a part of your life as well. Far too often new veterans feel as if they are unable to fit back in with the rest of the population and they are absolutely correct but honestly, if you feel that way, you never really fit in before military service. Thank God you didn't or you would have been like everyone else unable to love so much you were willing to die. That kind of courage and emotional strength is so rare only about 7% of the population knows what the word "veteran" means. The rest can only guess.

By yourself with civilians, it can be lonely. Joining groups with other veterans is where you learn others have walked on the same path and will show you the least dangerous direction to take plus give you some shortcuts to save you years of searching for what they already found.

If you feel that you do not deserve to be happy again, consider this very simple point. Evil people do not grieve or weep for others because all they care about is themselves. They do not suffer emotional pain, they inflict it. For the roughly 66% of veterans living without PTSD, they understand for the most part because it is hard to find anyone not changed at all. A few are total jerks and you need to be aware of that simply because they also represent a fraction of the general population. Don't waste your time with them. You will gain nothing while they rob you of the opportunity to heal.

Everyone has heard the expression "Army Strong" but Veterans are in fact stronger together.

Pensacola News Journal Reporter Blames Veterans for rise in VA claims?

You'd think by now it would be clear that most of the Vietnam veterans finally getting compensated for what military service cost them was a good thing, but then again, along comes another one more attempt to blame veterans for the rise in claims because they are greedy. This is from the Pensacola News Journal article by Tom Phipott titled "Report explains rise in VA claims" but clearly should have included a disclaimer, "interpreted by."
"A greater factor has been liberalized laws and policies on "service connected" ailments, particularly decisions to compensate Vietnam War veterans for medical conditions of aging and lifestyle because of an "association" with possible exposure to herbicides used in that war."
Phipott then added this insult.
"Another factor of growth in VA claims has been a weak labor market, CBO says, which encourages out-of-work or underemployed veterans to apply for disability compensation. Current law allows them to do so at any age and as often as they like.Indeed, laws enacted in 2000 and 2008 required VA to strengthen the help given to veterans to apply for disability benefits and substantiate claims. VA also increased outreach to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and eased PTSD diagnostic requirements."

The best way to actually address these claims is by keeping it simple. Most veterans do not file claims. 21,973,000 project veteran population but less than 4 million receive VA Compensation

The other ugly truth is that the rest of us have never managed to take care of those we send to fight our battles equal to their pre-paid debit card they carry with the VA logo.

Soldier from Fort Carson Killed Walking Across Freeway

Fort Carson soldier killed while trying to walk across Colorado Springs freeway
The Gazette
By Stephen Hobbs
Published: August 31, 2014

A 23-year-old Fort Carson soldier died after he was struck by two cars on Interstate 25 near midnight Saturday, the Colorado State Patrol said.

The man was trying to cross northbound I-25, from the southbound lane near the South Academy Boulevard exit, troopers said.

A spokesman from Fort Carson confirmed he was a soldier there, but the post declined to give other details.

His name is being withheld until next of kin are notified, troopers said.
read more here

Police searching for North Carolina missing veteran with PTSD

POLICE: USMC Vet from Hampstead missing, suffers from PTSD
WWAY News 3
Submitted by Daniel Seamans

HAMPSTEAD, NC (WWAY) -- Investigators in Pender County are searching for a missing Marine who could be in danger.
Pender County detectives say James Salvatore Kalitz, 31, of Hampstead, is missing. They say he was last seen Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Kalitz is a USMC veteran, who suffers from PTSD, seizures, depression and substance abuse. He was last seen wearing gym shorts and sneakers.

According to a family member, Kalitz left a note indicating he may hurt himself.

If seen or located please call the Pender County Sheriff's Office at (910) 259-1515.
go here for updates

Miami VA hospital accused of turning away veterans' PTSD service dogs

Veterans say Miami VA harassed them over service animals
More veterans come forward after Local 10 investigation uncovers allegations of disservice
10 News
Author: Ross Palombo, Reporter
Published On: Aug 29 2014

After a Local 10 investigation first uncovered allegations of disservice at the Miami Veterans Hospital, more veterans have come forward with complaints.

New documents obtained by Local 10 also seem to show an increase in the number of animal-related incidents this year compared to last.

"I drove over an IED," said Afghanistan veteran Dane Silva. "And boom, just like that."

Silva said he had multiple injuries to his ribs and now also suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

"I have problems in my neck, severe migraines," said veteran Alecia Golden.

Golden said she left the service with those injuries after working on weapons, like torpedoes and missiles, in the first Gulf War.
read more here

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Military Service Dog Still Patrols at Home

From Afghanistan to Anniston, military dogs get retirement fit for a hero
Anniston Star
August 30, 2014

Bill Wilson Anniston Star

When Kyle Cruse takes his German shepherd, Drako, for a walk around Oxford Lake, he has to be quick snapping on the leash. Otherwise, the shaggy, doe-eyed dog begins to methodically inspect each car in the parking lot.

“He thinks he has to sniff all the cars for bombs,” explained Cruse.

Playing in the creek or chasing his ball around the park, Drako might be mistaken for just another family pet. But this pet was trained in explosives detection and deployed to Afghanistan to work under contract for the U.S. military.

Cruse adopted him from Piper’s Rescue in March, one month after the retired working dog returned home, along with 91 of his four-legged co-workers, in an unprecedented mass transport that ended right here in Anniston.

Watching Drako’s transition from working dog to pet has been a joy for the first-time “dog father,” as Cruse calls himself. “When I first got him home, he wouldn’t come out of his kennel,” he said. “But once he understood I was the one taking care of him, he knew he was home.”
read more here

War dogs look for love after tours of duty
Randi Martin
August 30, 2014

WASHINGTON -- After their tour of duty ends and their military lives are over, some war dogs are just looking for love.

"These are working dogs," says Kristen Mauer, president of Mission K9 Rescue. "But some of them come home and they just want to retire. They‘re love bugs and just want to lie on the couch."

Mauer, whose organization works to find homes for military and contractor war dogs, says many families want to adopt these dogs.

"There (are) a lot of people out there that really love what these dogs have done and love what they stand for."

Many, Mauer says, feel that these dogs deserve a wonderful retirement.

The military dogs are owned by the Department of Defense. When their tour of duty is over and they are retired, the DoD offers the dogs to their handlers. Since the relationship is so strong, most are soon adopted and become members of the family.
read more here

Young soldier killed in Afghanistan, forever part of Illinois community

ABC 7 News
August 30, 2014

(Courtesy John Downs, Mokena village administrator)

MOKENA, Ill. (WLS) -- Residents gathered for a ceremony Saturday to officially re-name a portion of a Mokena road for fallen soldier Aaron Toppen.

Mokena and Frankfort townships re-named part of Townline Road "PFC Aaron Toppen Memorial Drive," which leads to the Toppen family's home.

Toppen was one of four service members killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan on June 9. He was 19.
read more here

Senior Pastor Dr. Tim Harlow said the young soldier died doing what he wanted to do.
"He had a tattoo on his chest that had a cross with dog tags draped across. It says, 'For those I love, I sacrifice,' an army motto. The dog tags were both his grandparents' dog tags," Harlow said. "I mean, that's who he was."

Saturday, August 30, 2014

DOD and VA still do not play nice with others

May 8, 2007

Interoperable and bidirectional electronic health data sharing with DOD.
This progress includes the development of one way and bidirectional data exchanges to support service members who are separated and retired from active duty service. In addition, the data exchanges support active duty service members and veterans who receive care from both VA and DOD health care facilities. VA's achievements in the area of electronic health data sharing with DOD directly support the efforts to seamlessly transition our service men and women as they move from DOD facilities to VA facilities and Centers of Excellence to continue their care and rehabilitation. Striving to provide world class health care to the wounded warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan remains one of VA's top priorities.

In March 2007, VA added a personal touch to seamless transition by creating 100 new Transition Patient Advocates (TPA). They are dedicated to assisting our most severely injured veterans and their families. The TPA's job is to ensure a smooth transition to VA health care facilities throughout the nation and cut through red tape for other VA benefits. Recruitment to fill the TPA positions began in March, and to date VA medical centers have hired 46 TPAs. Interviews are being conducted to fill the remaining 54 positions. Until these positions are filled, each medical center with a vacant TPA position has detailed an employee to perform that function. We believe these new patient advocates will help VA assure that no severely-injured Iraq or Afghanistan veteran falls through the cracks. VA will continue to adapt its health care system to meet the unique medical issues facing our newest generation of combat veterans while locating services closer to their homes. DOD and VA sharing electronic medical records facilitate this process.

It should be noted that sharing electronic medical records between DOD and VA is a longstanding issue, which has been the subject of several GAO reviews. Developing an electronic interface to exchange computable data between disparate systems is a highly complex undertaking. Let me assure the Committee that VA is fully committed to ongoing collaboration with DOD and the development of interoperable electronic health records. While significant and demonstrable progress has been made in our pilots with DOD, work remains to bring this commitment to system-wide fruition. VA is always mindful of the debt our Nation owes to its veterans, and our health care system is designed to fulfill that debt. To that end VA is committed to seeing through the successful development of interoperable electronic health records.

As part of our commitment to being veteran centric, we recently deployed the Veterans Tracking Application (VTA). It brings data from three sources, DOD, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) together for display on one platform creating the beginning of a truly veteran-centric patient tracking record.

Click above to read more of what was
before you read what is now.

Another problem for veterans: VA can’t get medical records from DOD
The Blaze
Pete Kasperowicz
Aug. 29, 2014

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General has released a new report saying the VA is having major problems getting medical records from the Department of Defense.

The VA itself has been shown to be a broken agency filled with systemic problems related to delays in getting veterans health care, and attempts to cover up those delays. But the VA’s OIG report indicated at the Defense Department may be contributing to the VA’s inability to deliver care promptly. read more here

Six bullets ended life of Marine Cpl. Allan DeVillena II

Police shot Marine as he drove away, witness says
The Desert Sun
Brett Kelman
August 29, 2014
During a vigil in a Palm Springs parking garage on Nov. 15, 2012, Noah Gaoiran, 9, places a candle for his cousin, Marine Cpl. Allan DeVillena II.
(Photo: Richard Lui, The Desert Sun )

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — A second witness to the fatal shooting of a Marine in southern California two years ago said that a Palm Springs police officer opened fire on the Marine's vehicle as he tried to flee.

Jawanda Terry, a member of a bachelorette party that witnessed the shooting, said in a sworn deposition that a police officer fired at a Chrysler 300 from behind, shooting three or four bullets through the rear window of the black sedan.

An instant later, Terry saw a second officer, dangling halfway out of the sedan's front-passenger window, struggling with the driver inside. The Chrysler curved to the right, then struck a concrete pillar.

Marine Cpl. Allan DeVillena II, 22, died in the driver's seat of his car, six bullet holes in his upper body. He was killed on the lowest floor of the public parking garage in downtown Palm Springs in the early morning hours of Nov. 10, 2012, the birthday of the Marine Corps. A passenger, Marine Pfc. Clinton Harris, was unhurt.
read more here

Combat PTSD, more veterans live with it than die because of it

Anniversary Dates in the Mind Calendar 
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
August 30, 2014

We moved to Florida the summer of 2004 right before the area was hit by Hurricane Charley, Francis and Jeanne. Being from New England, these hurricanes freaked out my family and friends back home. It was a great summer up there but not much fun down here.

Ten years ago and I can still remember what it was like while the wind was making my patio doors move in and out waiting for the big wind to take them out. We were lucky. Some of our neighbors were not. The whole area was mess for a long time.

Living in Florida is strange at times. We get a lot of violent thunderstorms too. Years ago a storm came through producing a tornado near my house but far enough away that all I saw was rain. I was working in the area for a church. I was told the tornado crossed over the church, took off a few roof shingles, then passed by to the next neighborhood producing this.
Seminole County, Florida authorities and National Weather Service Meteorologists are surveying the damage after a tornado struck Oviedo, Florida on Election Night. They said it appears four houses were destroyed or severely damaged, eight were moderately damaged and another 32 suffered minor structural damage. (photos courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel) WKMG-TV reports that four people were injured in the tornado. -ERIC

Two years ago in another part of Oviedo tornado warnings sounded the alarm to find a safe place to wait for the danger to pass.

Tornado Sirens: Oviedo, FL
Jeff Rancourt
December 12, 2012

Anniversaries are not always happy ones. The damage gets cleaned up. Houses get fixed or built over the old foundations. Stuff gets replaced. Memories are a different story. Some fade as the bite is softened but as August came this year it was hard to forget. Some anniversaries sneak up on you.

Somewhere in your mind there is a constant calendar running with the days and rewinding your memory.

For veterans, most of the time, they have no clue what causes them to have harder days than most other days especially when they have PTSD. It seems to happen to them at the same time of year, year after year, lasting for days. They try to figure out what set the depression off and made nightmares stronger. They try to blame it on what someone said or did in the present and most of the time they can pull that off without noticing that the next year brings the same feelings.

If they are not aware of this, it is harder and harder to deal with and push to the past.

If you know a veteran with PTSD, you can see the change coming while they cannot explain what is going on with them. If you are a veteran, it is hard for you to explain it especially if you are not aware the date is connected to a time in your life when something tragic happened.

Take a look back at the months that are hardest for you and then think back to your worst nightmares. Nightmares are connected to events even if the events in the dreams do not meet with what you actually experienced.

Your mind calendar sends out the reminder that you have to take care of something and stop trying to repress it. You need to find a way to make peace with it without forgetting people you cared about. Remember the moments before "it" happened and stop letting that last image be frozen in your mind.

Once you make peace with it, then you can clean up the future, rebuild the foundation and replace the bad memories with ones that less painful.

Some think that they should forget their past but in doing so, you would have to let go of friends you lost, lives saved and people you cared about. You mind will only allow a place for those memories to hide until they gain enough strength to pop up when you least expect them to.

There is nothing about you that cannot be healed even if you cannot be cured. The good news is that you can come out on the other side of this storm better than you were before. The better news is that while it is hard to live with Combat PTSD, more veterans live with it than die because of it.

Evicted PTSD Veteran With Service Dog Win In Court

Condo Must Pay For Causing Dog's Eviction
Courthouse News
August 29, 2014

(CN) - A condo association must pay $5,000 in damages, plus $127,000 in attorneys' fees, for insisting that a veteran with PTSD get rid of his emotional support dog, the 11th Circuit ruled.

Ajit Bhogaita is a U.S. Air Force veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after he was sexually assaulted during his military service.

In 2001, he bought a condo unit in Altamonte Springs, Florida.

The condo association prohibits keeping dogs weighing more than 25 pounds, but Bhogaita bought a dog, Kane, in 2008 that was over the weight limit.

"Bhogaita's psychiatric symptoms improved with Kane's presence, so much so that Bhogaita began to rely on the dog to help him manage his condition," according to the judgment.

When the association ordered him to get rid of Kane two years later, Bhogaita argued that the dog was an emotional support animal, and filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

After a civil trial, a jury awarded Bhogaita $5,000 in compensatory damages for the Association's refusal to accommodate his disability. The court also awarded him $127,000 in attorneys' fees.
read more here

Vietnam Veteran Healing PTSD with Sea Knight

Patriots Point helicopter brings Vietnam vet face to face with war traumas
The Post and Courier
Schuyler Kropf
Aug 30 2014
Tinley had a lot to overcome. There was survivor's guilt and most nagging on his conscience was that the body of a very close friend was taken out with him on that 1967 flight.

"The more you actually confront something, the more it helps you," said Roger Tinley, whose treatment for PTSD involves visits to the same type helicopter - a twin-rotor Sea Knight undergoing refurbishment at Patriots Point - that airlifted him to safety after being wounded in Vietnam in 1967.

The nightmare that haunts Vietnam War veteran Roger Tinley is anchored around the helicopter ride that saved his life.

On April 21, 1967, Tinley was part of a group of young Marines sent to reinforce the Que Son District of Vietnam. It was not a good day for the Americans. They faced heavy numbers of North Vietnamese and casualties ran high.

Tinley, a radio operator, was wounded by a grenade in the close-quarter fighting and spent that night helping to fend off the attacking forces as best that he and the rest of his group of Marine riflemen could.

When the shooting finally stopped, Tinley was medically evacuated on a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter, the familiar tube-shaped workhorse chopper that's carried aloft by two giant whirling rotors.

But Tinley wasn't alone on the flight out. The bodies of eight other Marines killed in the fighting were packed inside with him. "Why me?" Tinley thought to himself as the ride's only survivor.

Decades would pass until he faced the chopper again.
read more here

Friday, August 29, 2014

Veteran with H1N1 arrested at civilian hospital?

Veteran says he was arrested, kicked out of Grady Hospital
August 28, 2014

ATLANTA — A veteran claims he went to Grady Memorial Hospital with serious flu symptoms and security guards kicked him out and called police to arrest him. Grady officials say their investigation tells a very different story.

The man now plans to sue Grady Hospital for the treatment he allegedly got from security guards.

Byran Jones said he battled swine flu earlier this year.

"My whole internal system was being destroyed, which is why I couldn't hold food, I was weak, headache, nausea," Jones said.

He said it was so bad he went by ambulance to Grady Memorial Hospital.

"I was trying to catch my breath, I collapsed on the stretcher. When I collapsed on the stretcher, a guard came over told me to get up," Jones said.

Jones, an Air Force veteran said he told the guard he couldn't walk. He claimed that's when Grady guards dragged him out.

"I was punched, kicked repeatedly while I was on the ground," Jones said.

Security personnel called Atlanta police, who arrested Jones on a breach of peace charge. Days later, another hospital diagnosed Jones with H1N1 flu, also known as swine flu.
read more here

Orlando Vet Fest Brings Veterans and Robosaurus Together

Vet Fest, featuring Robosaurus, to cause road closures in downtown Orlando
August 29, 2014

ORLANDO, Fla. — Crews will shut down several downtown Orlando roads for the Vet Fest USA Street Party this weekend.

The street party was designed to raise money for veterans charities, and organizers expect thousands of people to come.

Robosaurus, the 50-foot tall transformer-looking dinosaur known for crushing cars, will appear at the event, which begins Saturday.

"We think this is going to be so much fun," said event creator Bob Snow.
read more here

Vietnam Veteran Shot, Granddaughter Arrested Among Others

Man wanted in shooting of York Co. Vietnam veteran arrested in Union
FOX Carolina
By Casey Vaughn
Posted: Aug 28, 2014

UNION, SC (AP/FOX Carolina)
Union police noticed a car parked in an area with previous vandalism but after running the tag, they said they discovered the driver was wanted in Rock Hill on an attempted murder charge.
According to the Associated Press, the victim is a disabled veteran. Wayne Whiteside served two tours in Vietnam and his home flies the Marine Corps and American flags and has other Marines regalia.
read more here

No charges for Vietnam Veteran after SWAT Standoff

No charges for Vietnam vet in DeKalb SWAT standoff
Atlantic Journal Constitution
Mike Morris and John Spink
August 28, 2014
A DeKalb SWAT standoff ended peacefully just before 7 a.m. JOHN SPINK

A Vietnam veteran will not face charges stemming from a predawn SWAT standoff in a DeKalb County neighborhood, police said.

Officers were called to a home on Black Oak Drive off Bouldercrest Road before daybreak Thursday on reports of shots being fired.

“They found a gentleman in the backyard, randomly taking shots into the wood line,” DeKalb police Capt. A.J. Andrzejewski said. “He claimed he saw some people back there.”

After officers arrived, the man ran back inside the house, firing additional shots.
read more here

Fort Lee Sgt. 1st Class Paula Walker commented on stress in 2009

Fort Lee Sgt. Paula Walker Commented On Military Stress In 2009: Why Mental Health Is Not Only A Problem On The Frontlines
Medical Daily
By Stephanie Castillo
Aug 28, 2014
In 2009, Walker was stationed at Fort Eustis (also in Virginia) when former Major Nidal Hasan, a military psychiatrist, killed 13 people and injured more than 30 on Fort Hood. U.S World News and Report referenced an archived interview Walker gave regarding the incident, in which she said, “People are people. They go through things in life. They either handle stresses in a good way or in a bad way.”

After nearly 14 years on active military duty, Sgt. 1st Class Paula Walker, 33, shot herself in the head on Fort Lee’s military base. She’d been stationed there since December 2011.

Prior to the incident, Walker was reportedly irate, throwing objects around in a room she barricaded herself in. Fort Lee was on an hour-long lockdown while negotiators tried to talk her down. Walker was rushed to the VCU Medical Center where she was pronounced dead.

The gun in question was not a military-issued weapon, which, it turns out, is not unlikely for Fort Lee. If a gun is properly registered, it is allowed on base. Otherwise, there are currently no metal detectors, according to a report from CBS 6 News.
read more here
Latest Fort Lee Suicide Part of Many

Jonathan Shay continues "missionary work" for PTSD Veterans in Town Hall

Dozens gather to join forces in battle against PTSD
by Meghan Morelli
Posted: 08.28.2014

GRAND TRAVERSE CO. -- Post-traumatic stress disorder impacts 5.2 million adults every year. On Thursday, 7 and 4 News held a Your Voice, Your Future Town Hall on PTSD at Milliken Auditorium in Traverse City.

A panel of experts discussed the causes, symptoms, effects, and treatments of PTSD.

“It’s a widespread thing especially with a lot of the troops coming home nowadays and it’s something that more people need to be educated on,” said veteran, David Graves.

One of the experts was Doctor Jonathan Shay, a former staff psychiatrist at the Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic, Boston, where his only patients were combat veterans with severe psychological injuries.
Dr. Jonathan Shay
For 20 years Jonathan Shay was a staff psychiatrist at the Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic, Boston, where his only patients were combat veterans with severe psychological injuries. He retired from clinical work in May, 2008 to devote himself full time to preventive psychiatry in military organizations—what he calls his "missionary work." He is the author of Achilles in Vietnam: Combating Trauma and the Undoing of Character (1994) and of Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming (2002). He has been a MacArthur Fellow since January. He has written and lectured on a variety of topics relating to veterans for decades and held a variety of positions with US military institutions.

Linda Fletcher was also on the panel. She is a retired Army Nurse (Lieutenant Colonel) with a Masters in Trauma Nursing who has been involved in an independent study of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for the last eight years.

Jacquelyn Kaschel, MLitt, CEIP-MH, PNH1 was another expert in attendance. She is the Executive Director of PEACE Ranch. PEACE Ranch is a center for experiential growth & learning where rescued, rehabilitated horses and licensed professionals help people dealing with a broad range of challenges including Addiction & Recovery, Behavioral & Emotional Issues, Marriage & Family Issues, Grief & Loss, PTSD & Trauma related issues.

Doctor Neil was the final panel expert at the event. He is a licensed clinical psychologist, has been in private practice for over 20 years. He has specialized in treating trauma for more than half of his career. Dr. O’Donnell uses Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and body based approaches to help those suffering from PTSD.
read more here

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Death of Fort Bragg Soldier Under Investigation

Fort Bragg soldier found dead on post
August 28, 2014

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — An 82nd Airborne paratrooper was found dead on post Saturday from a gunshot wound, the military announced Wednesday.

Sgt. Adam Gilliam, 28, of Morristown, Tenn., was a cavalry scout in B Troop, 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

Military officials did not say whether the gunshot wound was self-inflicted or not.
read more here

People raise thousands "Get Wet for a Vet"

"Get Wet for a Vet" raises $15K for homeless veterans
WSBT-TV Report
Aug 27, 2014

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Veterans sleeping on the street down 40 percent

Number Of Homeless Vets Sleeping On Street Drops Nearly 40 Percent In 4 Years
The Huffington Post
By Robbie Couch
Posted: 08/27/2014

Thousands of homeless veterans have found stable housing in recent years, thanks to federal, state and local initiatives combating the crisis.

According to a press release issued Tuesday by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), data collected from the annual Point-in-Time Count showed there were 49,933 homeless veterans in the U.S. in January, reflecting a 33 percent decline since 2010. The data also revealed a nearly 40 percent drop in the number of veterans sleeping on the street.

The decline continues a downward trend: Last November, the VA announced a 24 percent reduction in veteran homelessness over the previous three years.
read more here

Marine Justin Kuhel has 850 more miles to go

Man walks across U.S. for veteran causes
Albuquerque Journal
Charles D. Brunt
Journal Staff Writer
August 28, 2014
Marine veteran Justin Kuhel, who has completed nearly 2,000 miles of his 2,700-mile journey from Camp Lejeune, N.C., to Camp Pendleton, Calif., chats with 98-year-old Bataan Death March survivor Ralph Rodriguez on Wednesday at the New Mexico Veterans’ Memorial. Rodriguez was among about 75 people who welcomed Kuhel to Albuquerque.
(Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Only 850 miles and about $50,000 to go before Marine veteran Justin Kuhel, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, reaches his goal of walking across America to raise $100,000 for two charities that help veterans.

“I decided a couple of weeks ago that if I don’t reach my ($100,000) goal, I’ll just turn around and walk back until I make it,” Kuhel said Wednesday as he prepared to continue his March Across America.

After visiting with a group of supporters at Tramway and Central – which included a local chapter of the Blue Star Mothers, the New Mexico Patriot Guard Riders and a vintage six-wheel-drive military vehicle known as a Gama Goat – the 26-year-old veteran marched briskly down Central en route to the New Mexico Veterans’ Memorial.

Passers-by along Central and Louisiana cheered and honked as Kuhel passed by. He smiled and waved, occasionally handing out pamphlets explaining what he was up to.

Accompanied by a city police escort and a small parade of supporters, the Clintonville, Ohio, native said he left Camp Lejeune, N.C., on May 23 and plans to arrive at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in late September or early October. That’s 2,753 miles, give or take.

When he started at Central and Tramway about noon Wednesday, he had walked 1,923 miles.

“I walk about 23 miles a day,” he said. “The (support van) picks me up at the end of the day, takes me wherever we’re staying, then drops me right back where I left off the next morning.”
read more here

Soldier killed in Afghanistan on Third Tour

Family remembers soldier killed in Afghanistan staff
Published: August 27, 2014

Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew I. Leggett, 39, died during combat in Kabul on Aug. 20.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew I. Leggett, 39, died during combat in Kabul on Aug. 20.

The family of an Army paratrooper who was killed in action in Afghanistan last week has released a statement.

The Department of Defense said Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew I. Leggett died during combat in Kabul on Aug. 20. The 39-year-old was assigned to the headquarters battalion of the 18th Airborne Corps.

Leggett enlisted in the Army in May 1995 and had been based at Fort Bragg since 2012. He served three combat tours and was the recipient of numerous awards and decorations, including a Bronze Star Medal with one oak leaf cluster and a Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat.

His mother, Thea Marie Kurtz, is from Ruskin.
Here is the family's statement:
“LET'S GET IT ON” was Matthew's favorite saying when he was on motorcycle rides with his brother Ben or participating in online racing forums. Matthew (Matt) was born in Wabasha, Minnesota on October 13, 1974 to Thea Kurz, of Port Edwards, Wisconsin and Thomas Leggett of Nekoosa, Wisconsin. He has two brothers, Roderick and Benjamin, as well as two nieces and a nephew. He was raised with his brothers in Pepin, Wisconsin. He spent his early childhood and early teenage summers fishing and paddling around the Mississippi river on various watercrafts.
Matt completed two previous combat tours in Iraq and was on his third combat tour in Afghanistan. He was set to retire from the United States Army in the summer of 2015. read more here

Fake PTSD Claims in New York Beyond Police Department

The case of police officers faking PTSD for financial gain goes far beyond them. Wonder if they ever thought about it or thought about what this would do to veterans? Somehow I doubt they thought about anyone else.
With Esposito's plea, 87 people have admitted guilt. They must pay $100,000 or more in restitution, and most are expected to complete community service, probation or both. A few have gotten time behind bars.

Prosecutors dropped charges last week against eight defendants, saying that information obtained after their indictments had "led to the determination that these cases cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt."

Ex-officer admits helping others feign psych problems in massive NYC disability-fraud case
Associated Press
Published August 27, 2014

NEW YORK – An accused ringleader of a sprawling disabilities fraud scheme admitted Wednesday he helped coach retired police officers and others to fake mental-health problems to get Social Security benefits.

Joseph Esposito pleaded guilty to grand larceny in a scam that prosecutors say spanned a quarter-century, involved more than 120 people and netted tens of millions of dollars. The retired officer is the top defendant, at least thus far, to admit guilt in what Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. has called a massive case of "gaming the system," sometimes through invoking the trauma of Sept. 11.

Esposito's lawyer, Brian J. Griffin, said his client "acknowledged that in his role as a disability consultant, his actions crossed both an ethical and legal line.

"For that he has taken responsibility," Griffin added.

If Esposito, 65, keeps a promise to cooperate with prosecutors, he'll be sentenced to 1 ½ to 4 ½ years in prison and $734,000 in restitution.
read more here

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act

I can tell you right now that hearts around the country are breaking for this Mom, but not for the reason you may think.
"Other mothers need to speak up like I’ve spoken up. My son wasn’t the first one to die — another mother should’ve opened her mouth. Maybe then my son would still be here.”

The problem is, many, far too many other Moms and Dads and all others grieving after suicides tied to military, even though she was not aware of them.

It hasn't just been the last few years, or the last decade. It has been decades since the first Moms, Dads, Wives and Husbands tried to do everything possible to prevent another family from suffering the way they did.

It was happening all over the country before the internet and even before I got into all of this over 30 years ago. We shared our pain, our fears and struggles, but we also shared what worked. We saved more than we lost but we lost too many along the way.

Now with the internet linking people together from around the world, we seem further away than we were in the 70's and 80's. The problem is the pain is discussed far more often than healing is.

More and more families are in fact talking about how they managed to stay together and help their veterans heal. Far from perfect but we learned by doing and living the lives of Combat PTSD Families.

This story made me cry because all of this pain should not be replacing smiles, hugs, joys and futures.

Losing more lives after combat does not make sense to any of us.
Veterans Suicide Prevention Act Honors Legacy of Thousands
Times San Diego
By Bryan Kim
AUGUST 27, 2014

Soldiers wounded in Iraq on a flight to Germany. Air Force photo

“When my son came home he was diagnosed with severe PTSD and TBI…they put him on more than 24 medications at one time. Now, somebody with severe PTSD — there’s no possible way for them to take control of medicating themselves…my son was 90 percent disabled,” she said. I was on the phone with Janine Lutz, CEO of the Lance Corporal Janos V. Lutz Live to Tell Foundation. “I think ‘we the people’ have to fight for those who fought for us. The families need to get involved. Other mothers need to speak up like I’ve spoken up. My son wasn’t the first one to die — another mother should’ve opened her mouth. Maybe then my son would still be here.”

Her son Johnny lost his battle with combat-related PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder, in January of 2013. In spite of the fact that she and thousands of others have spoken up, 22 veterans continue to die by suicide every single day. Janine has dedicated time and energy to the project of honoring them through her online PTSD Memorial Wall — hundreds of photos of veterans who’ve lost their lives in their struggle to cope with their mental anguish. Young men and women from all branches smile in their uniforms, snapshots from a better time. Families from all over America have sent her photographs and loving eulogies. Seeing them all together is a monumental and humbling experience.

Our Congress has but three working weeks left in session, but that is plenty of time to pass the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act (HR 5059). Clay Hunt was a Marine scout sniper who was discharged honorably in April 2009 after serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Initially given a disability rating of only 30% despite what he described as severe PTSD, he filed an appeal and fought our government for two years to get the benefits — including greater access to mental health care — he earned with his service. He was upgraded to 100 percent in April 2011, but it was too little, too late: he’d taken his life 5 weeks before the decision was made.
read more here

How many more bills do we need written for the dead when many more lived to share what congress ignores?

Massachusetts Air National Guard Pilot Missing After Crash


Pilot in F-15 crash was decorated combat vet
Had served as fighter squadron commander at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa
Air Force Lt. Col. Morris Fontenot, the former commander of the 67th Fighter Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, looks on at Komatsu Air Base, Japan, on Dec. 7, 2013. Fontenot was killed after the F-15 he was piloting crashed in Virginia on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014.

By Chris Carroll
Published: August 29, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Massachusetts Air National Guard has identified the decorated combat veteran killed Wednesday when the F-15C fighter he was flying slammed into a remote, heavily forested part of western Virginia.

"On behalf of the family of our fallen pilot and with a sense of profound sadness, I am sad to share that Lt. Col. Morris "Moose" Fontenot Jr., was killed tragically in Wednesday's F-15 crash," said Col. James Keefe, commander of the 104th Fighter Wing, based in Westfield, Mass. "We all continue to keep the Fontenot family in our thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time."

Fontenot served full-time as the unit’s wing inspector general, overseeing the Air Force’s inspection procedures, and as an F-15 instructor pilot with more than 17 years’ experience flying the jets, wing officials said.
read more here

Authorities comb mountains for missing pilot after Guard F-15 crash
Stars and Stripes
By Chris Carroll
Published: August 27, 2014

WASHINGTON — Military and civilian authorities searched a thickly forested, mountainous swath of western Virginia on Wednesday in hopes of finding a missing Massachusetts Air National Guard pilot whose F-15C went down en route to a maintenance depot.

The pilot’s commander said he could not confirm a report that a witness had seen the pilot eject and a parachute open.

“It’s a traumatic event for everyone here, and we’re thinking about the family and keeping our thoughts and prayers with them,” said Col. James Keefe, commander of the 104th Fighter Wing based in Westfield, Mass. “Hopefully we’ll get a good outcome.”
read more here

UK:Captain Died Because Helicopter Not Suited for Mission

British soldier died in helicopter crash in Afghanistan because aircraft was not suitable for the mission
Captain Ben Babington-Browne was killed in helicopter crash in Afghanistan
The aircraft lost visibility in a dustbowl then drifted into fence and crashed
Capt Babington-Browne was trapped when helicopter burst into flames
Inquest heard the aircraft was not the correct helicopter for the mission
Daily Mail
26 August 2014

Captain Ben Babington-Browne was said to be a 'rising star' within the British army

A helicopter which crashed on take-off in Afghanistan, killing a British soldier and two Canadian troops, was not suitable for the mission, an inquest has heard.

Captain Ben Babington-Browne, 27, was a passenger on the Canadian Griffon CH-146, which was being used as a 'taxi' from forward operating base (FOB) Mescal.

The inquest was told that as the aircraft, carrying six people, tried to take off on July 6 2009, a dust bowl was whipped up by the rotor blades, cutting visibility.

At a height of less than 10ft, the helicopter then drifted and its rotors collided with a perimeter fence in a corner of the FOB before it crashed and burst into flames.

Capt Babington-Browne, from 22 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers, had been strapped in but seated on the floor of the aircraft on take-off, with his legs dangling out.

Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander William Robley, of the UK Defence Helicopter Flying School, told the inquest that Capt Babington-Browne, of Maidstone, Kent, became trapped.
read more here

VA Training for "Grouchy" Veterans Using Oscar the Grouch?

VA training slides for interacting with veterans
Tricia L. Nadolny
Inquirer Staff Writer

Go here to look at the rest of the pictures

The beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs depicted dissatisfied veterans as Oscar the Grouch in a recent internal training guide, and some vets and VA staffers said Tuesday that they feel trashed.

The cranky Sesame Street character who lives in a garbage can was used in reference to veterans who will attend town-hall events Wednesday in Philadelphia.

"There is no time or place to make light of the current crisis that the VA is in," said Joe Davis, a national spokesman for the VFW. "And especially to insult the VA's primary customer."

The 18-page slide show on how to help veterans with their claims, presented to VA employees Friday and obtained by The Inquirer, also says veterans might be demanding and unrealistic and tells VA staffers to apologize for the "perception" of the agency.

The spokeswoman from the Philadelphia VA benefits office - which will host the town halls Wednesday at noon and 6:30 p.m. - said in a statement that the agency regretted any misunderstanding caused by the slide show.
read more here

Vietnam Veteran Faces Eviction After 13 Years

Vietnam veteran Robert Nelson faces eviction, delays at veteran housing complex Liberty Village
Long Island News 12
August 26, 2014

RONKONKOMA - A Vietnam veteran from Ronkonkoma is facing eviction from his apartment and delays in the opening of a veterans housing complex.

Robert Nelson worked as an Army chemist in the late 1960s. He says exposure to chemicals left him with a variety of medical problems including diabetes and high blood pressure.

For 13 years, Nelson has rented a one-bedroom unit at the Nob Hill Condominium complex in Ronkonkoma. The board of managers sent him a letter this year, telling him his lease would not be renewed because of noise complaints from his neighbors.
read more here

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Supportive Services for Veteran Families

SW-WRAP Awarded $3.4M for Veteran Administration Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program
Sweetwater NOW
by News Desk
August 26, 2014

GREEN RIVER – SW-WRAP, receives $1.4M for the renewal of its Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program by the U.S. Veterans Administration which has covered 48% of Wyoming since October 2013.

SW-WRAP also has received a second award in the amount of $2M for the remainder of Wyoming and an expansion into areas of Nebraska and South Dakota.

SW-WRAP’s Founder and CEO, Cathie Hughes, has been active in procuring funding to assist vulnerable populations to become self-sustaining throughout Wyoming since 2007. During the past several years she has recognized the need, and been vigorously involved in, identifying solutions to address veteran homelessness in Wyoming. In 2010, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reported that 13 percent of impoverished individual Veterans become homeless at some point during the year.

In 2009, the American Community Survey estimated that 1,356,610 Veterans lived in poverty. Additional statistics have shown that 23% of Wyoming’s homeless population are veterans.

In March 2014 Hughes applied for the renewal of the current SSVF Program project, which she initially procured in October 2013, plus an additional SSVF Project. She received notice of the multiple awards in August. SW-WRAP is the only Wyoming entity to receive the award for 2014-2015.
read more here

Two recycling plant workers killed by mortar rounds

Mortar round explodes at recycling plant, killing 2
The Associated Press
Published: August 25, 2014

GRANITE CITY, Ill. — A mortar round exploded Monday at a suburban St. Louis metal recycling plant that does business with the military, killing two people.

The explosion at Totall Metal Recycling in Granite City occurred about 6:25 a.m., police said. Totall Metal Recycling, which employs about 160 people, according to its website, does business with the military and it's not unusual for it to have items such as "military engines and ammunition casings," police chief Rich Miller said.

Bomb technicians were sweeping the site for other possible explosives Monday afternoon.

The victims, whom responders could not initially get to because of the fear of further explosions, were not immediately identified. A third person was injured and taken to a St. Louis hospital, police said, but a condition was not available.

"This corporation recycles everything you can think of, from plastics to cardboard to metals, and some of their contracts involve getting materials from the military," Miller said at a briefing for reporters near the plant Monday afternoon.
read more here

Gettysburg Soldier and Two Vietnam Soldiers, 3 New Medal of Honor Heroes

Obama to award 3 Medals of Honor
Stars and Stripes
By Jennifer Hlad
Published: August 26, 2014
3 minutes ago

President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor to two soldiers who served in Vietnam and one who distinguished himself in the battle of Gettysburg, the White House announced Tuesday.

Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins and Army Spc. 4 Donald P. Sloat will be honored Sept. 15 for their conspicuous gallantry.

Adkins deployed to Vietnam three times. During his second deployment, in March of 1966, he was a sergeant first class with Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces.

Adkins displayed "extraordinary bravery" during a sustained and vicious attack by the Vietcong from March 9 to March 12, 1966, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala. said in 2013.

Rogers spoke about Adkins' actions in asking Congress to pass a bill allowing the president to award him the Medal of Honor.
Adkins had been recommended by his command for the Medal of Honor but received a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions, which included running through exploding mortar rounds while wounded to drag several of his fellow soldiers to safety, Rogers said.

Adkins retired from the Army after serving 22 years and will travel to Washington from his home in Alabama to receive the medal, the White House said.

Sloat was a machine gunner with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, when he was killed in Vietnam in 1970.

Sloat’s squad was on a patrol near Hawk Hill Fire Base on Jan. 17, 1970 when one of the soldiers triggered a grenade booby trap in their path, the White House said. Sloat picked up the grenade, intending to throw it away, but realizing it was about to explode, instead used his body to shield three fellow soldiers from the blast, the White House said.

Sloat’s brother, William Sloat of Enid, Oklahoma, will accept the medal on his brother’s behalf.
read more here

19 new executive actions to serve the military community

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release August 26, 2014

FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces New Executive Actions to Fulfill our Promises to Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families

Today, President Obama will address the American Legion’s 96th convention and outline the five priorities the Administration is focused on to ensure we are fulfilling our promises to service members, veterans and their families: delivering the quality health care veterans have been promised; ensuring all veterans have every opportunity to pursue the American Dream; providing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with the resources our veterans deserve; protecting the dignity and rights of all veterans; and eliminating the decades-old disability claims backlog.

The President will announce 19 new executive actions to serve the military community, including new efforts to strengthen service members’ access to mental health care. The President will also highlight efforts to improve the transition between DoD and VA care for those leaving military service, and improve economic opportunity for our military families with new private-sector commitments that will make it easier to obtain mortgage interest rate reductions and reduced monthly payments – helping more of our troops save money through lower monthly payments. The President will also announce that the Administration is continuing to make significant progress toward reducing the number of veterans who suffer from homelessness. Over the past four years a third of homeless veterans, nearly 25,000, have moved off the streets, out of shelters and into housing. The President will also renew his call for community action -- asking every American to do their part to support our service members, Veterans, and their families.

All of these announcements, including the new executive actions and progress being made on existing efforts, reflect the commitment of the President and his administration to expanding opportunity for those who sacrifice so much to serve our country:our service members, veterans and their families.

Delivering the Health Care Veterans Have Been Promised

Access to Quality VA Healthcare

The President and VA are committed to ensuring that veterans have access to the timely, high-quality health care that they have earned and deserve. Over the last several months, we have seen inexcusable delays in care at some VA health care facilities. We have taken a number of steps already to change the way VA does business to ensure that this never happens again, and we will keep at it as long as it takes.

Improving Access to Care: To improve the access to care for our veterans, VA has taken several initial steps over the last several months, including: Reaching out to over a quarter million veterans to get them off waitlists and into appointments sooner and training or re-training approximately 10,000 schedulers. Additionally, VA has surged resources to the hospitals and clinics that need it most, including Phoenix. This includes deploying mobile clinics, adding more clinic hours, and recruiting additional and temporary staff members to VA medical centers nation-wide.

Accountability: As the President has made clear, those responsible for manipulating or falsifying records at VA must be held accountable. VA established an independent accountability review board to review employee actions and hold them accountable where there is misconduct. VA has proposed action to relieve several employees of their responsibilities; additional investigations continue.

Recruiting the Best Medical Professionals: This week VA will announce that it is launching a new recruiting campaign designed to help attract the best and the brightest medical professionals to work in the VA system, and to fill the shortages in health care workers, including doctors and nurses, at many VA facilities.

Electronic Health Records: Key to helping Veterans and Service members receive better, safer, and more efficient care is modernizing VA and DoD’s Electronic Health Record systems. Today, more than 5.3 million records are jointly accessible and more than 1.5 million pieces of health data are shared daily. By the end of this fiscal year, the Joint Legacy Viewer will be deployed to more DoD medical centers and every VA medical center. This viewer will allow DoD and VA providers to see nearly all of the electronic health records stored in both Departments’ systems, including doctors' notes, problem lists, and inpatient discharge summaries.

New commitment to Transparency: For the first time ever, VA is providing the public with regular, updated information on the timeliness of VA care and will continue to report regularly on quality of care on This is more information than any private hospital in the United States currently provides.

Protections for Whistleblowers: VA has reaffirmed and strengthened its commitment to protections for whistleblowers and the new leadership has been clear that retaliation against, or intimidation of, whistleblowers will not be tolerated. In addition, the VA has been working to achieve compliance with the Office of Special Counsel's whistleblower protection certification program.

Reforming VA: Over the last several months, the Administration has taken action to reform the way VA operates. The 14-day scheduling goal has been removed from employee performance plans, and Secretary McDonald is convening a panel of experts to make recommendations on new standards for access to care. We will also establish a new board of physicians to advise the Secretary on best practices for delivering timely, quality care to our veterans, and to ensure that VA care remains the best care anywhere.

Veterans Mental Health
The President will announce 19 new executive actions to improve the mental health of service members, veterans, and their families, which builds on the progress the Administration has made since the President’s 2012 (Mental Health) Executive Order. In response to the 2012 Executive Order, VA has increased its mental health staffing, expanded the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line, and enhanced its partnerships with community mental health providers; DoD and VA worked to increase suicide prevention awareness and, DoD, VA and the National Institutes of Health jointly developed the National Research Action Plan on military and veteran’s mental health to better coordinate federal research efforts. The new mental health executive actions will fall under the following six categories:

Improving Service Members’ Transition from DoD to VA and Civilian Health Care Providers: DoD will now be automatically enrolling all service members leaving military service who are receiving care for mental health conditions in the Department’s inTransition program, through which trained mental health professionals help these individuals transition to a new care team in VA. Currently, service members must be specifically referred to inTransition by their DoD provider or seek out the program on their own. Additionally, VA will implement a new policy to ensure that recently discharged service members enrolling in the VA health care system maintain accessto mental health medication prescribed by an authorized DoD provider regardless of whether the medication is currently on VA’s formulary, unless the health care provider identifies a specific safety or clinical reason to make a change.

Improving Access and Quality of Mental Health Care at DoD and VA: VA will pilot the expansion of mental health peer support to veterans being treated in primary care settings. In addition, DoD has initiated action to do what they can under its authority and will continue to work with Congress to take action to bring TRICARE, DoD’s health care coverage, up to full mental health and substance use disorder parity, meaning benefits for these conditions are generally on par with benefits for medical/surgical conditions.

Continuing our Commitment to Improve Treatments for Mental Health Conditions including PTSD. In support of the National Research Action Plan on military and veteran’s mental health, the DoD and the National Institutes of Health are launching a longitudinal project focused on the early detection of suicidality, PTSD, and long term effects of TBI, and other related issues in service members and veterans. VA is launching a $34.4 million suicide prevention study involving 1800 veterans at 29 VA hospitals. In support of the President’s BRAIN Initiative, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is announcing a new $78.9 million research program to develop minimally-invasive neurotechnologies that may help treat many diseases, including PTSD. In addition, the White House announced that this fall it will host the White House BRAIN conference, including a focus on PTSD and TBI.

Raising Awareness About Mental Health and Encouraging Individuals to Seek Help: VA and DoD are expanding their suicide prevention and mental health training for healthcare providers, chaplains, and employees who work directly with veterans.

Improving Patient Safety and Suicide Prevention: VA and DoD are taking action to provide new opportunities for servicemembers, veterans, and their families to give back unwanted medications, and thereby help reduce the opportunities for abuse. The Departments are also taking action to encourage firearm safety and reduce the risk of overdose.

Strengthening Community Resources for Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families: While all individuals can experience mental health conditions, service members, veterans, and their families may experience stressors unique to their time in the military. Understanding military culture and the experiences of service members and their families can help community providers best serve these individuals. DoD and VA will disseminate its existing military cultural competency training to 3,000 community mental health providers during FY 2015. For the full list of executive actions, click HERE.


The American Nurses Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American Nurses Association, is launching an innovative web-based PTSD Toolkit for registered nurses – all 3.1 million of them. The toolkit provides easy to access information and simulation based on gaming techniques on how to identify, assess and refer veterans suffering from PTSD.

In collaboration with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forcesinitiative, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) along with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), the American Academy of Nursing (AAN), Give an Hour, and many others will collaborate to deliver “Joining Forces Wellness Week 2014.” The week-long series of educational topics and programs will occur around Veterans Day. The cornerstone event will be a webinar focusing on military cultural competency, taking a military health history, generational differences in veterans, unique needs of guard and reserve personnel, and the needs of parents and family members of veterans.

Ensuring All Service Members Have Every Opportunity to Pursue the American Dream

President Obama will announce a new voluntary partnership with financial lenders across the country that will help deliver important financial and home loan-related protections to our military community. Congress passed the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) in 2003 to provide protections for military members as they enter active duty. Our Service women and men have earned important financial protections under the law, but too many do not exercise these important rights. But when business and government work together we can make a difference.

Banks and Mortgage Servicers Answer the President’s Call to Action: Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., CitiMortgage, Inc., Bank of America, N.A., Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, and Quicken Loans are partnering with the Administration to make it easier than ever for active duty service members to obtain mortgage interest rate reductions and reduce their monthly payments. The partnership cuts red tape where possible and establishes concrete steps to reduce the burden on service members by having participating mortgage servicers proactively identify, notify and assist in enrolling eligible service members.

Key Provisions of the Partnership

Proactive Identification of Active Duty Service Members: Under the partnership, participating servicers will proactively identify active duty personnel no less than once a quarter by querying the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), a searchable database of individuals who were or on Title 10 active duty status, against their loan portfolio, reducing the burden on the service member.

Proactive Outreach to Eligible Service Members: Participating mortgage servicers will proactively reach out to individuals that have been identified as being eligible for benefits under SCRA to notify them of their benefits. Servicers will leverage multiple marketing and communication tactics including telephone, mail, e-mail, or other reasonable forms of communication.

Simplify the Application Process: Participating mortgage servicers will work together to ease the burden of enrollment and satisfaction of the SCRA written notice requirement.

Ensure Active-Duty Military Get the Student Debt Relief They Are Entitled to: In addition to the Administration’s efforts to work with banks and mortgage servicers to ensure service members have access to the benefits they are eligible under the SCRA, the Department of Education has directed its federal student loan servicers to match their student borrower portfolios against DoD’s database to identify active-duty service members who are eligible to cap interest rates on student loans – including federal student loans -- at 6 percent and to reduce those interest rates automatically for those eligible without the need for additional paperwork. This week, the Department released additional guidance to encourage Federal Education Loan program servicers to provide for a similar streamlined process.

Ensuring Veterans Have Access to a Quality Education

Principles of Excellence: Making good on our commitment to support Student veterans, President Obama will announce that this week, VA will launch an updated version of the GI Bill® Comparison Tool and that nearly 6,000 education institutions are now meeting the goals set out in the “Principles of Excellence” (POE) Executive Order. POE ensures schools are providing meaningful cost and quality information, preventing deceptive recruiting practices, and providing high-quality academic and student support services. We know through the work of organizations like the American Council on Education, Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and Student Veterans of America that a successful student veteran is an informed student veteran. The Comparison Tool leverages many of the lessons learned from these organizations and others and makes it easier to calculate GI Bill® benefits and provides key information about college affordability and value so beneficiaries can choose the best education program to meet their needs. Since its launch in February 2014, there have been over 350,000 unique visitors to the tool. (

Operation Educate the Educators and the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children: Through First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative, all 50 States have now signed on to “Educate the Educators” with over 100 institutions of higher education committed to help train future teachers for the unique needs of military students. 50 States have also signed on to participate in the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children that helps provide consistent policies across school districts and states to help ease the transition for military connected students.


The President will announce that commitments to the 8 Keys to Veterans Success on Campus have increased to more than 1,000 community colleges and university campuses and he called on more educational institutions to join this effort. Last year, the President challenged to educational institutions to adopt best practices supporting educational success and fostering postsecondary educational opportunities for veterans. At that time, only 250 community colleges and universities had signed up.

Ensuring Veterans Have Access to Good-Paying Jobs

Economic Communities of Interest: The Administration is announcing that VA has developed specific campaign plans in 20 communities where public/private partnerships can make a significant difference in the lives of our transitioning service members, veterans and their families. These community based campaigns will last for two years and will promote awareness and use of education benefits and build veteran skill sets by expanding VA’s existing partnerships with the Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Veteran Service Organizations and federal agencies. Each campaign will kick off with a two-day hiring summit.

Making it Easier for Qualified Service Members to Earn a Commercial Driver’s License: Thanks to the local community based efforts of many, including our Veteran and Military Family Service Organizations like the American Legion and others, for the first time all 50 States and the District of Columbia, now waive the skills test for qualified service members and veterans applying for a State Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). For four years, the Administration has worked state-by-state, partnering with DoD, DoT, other Federal agencies and outside stakeholders to make it easier for military truck drivers to earn a CDL. The waiver process saves the CDL applicant time and money, making it easier to transfer the skills learned in the military to civilian life and a job. To date more than 6,000 service personnel have taken advantage of the Skills Test Waiver.

Veterans Employment Center: Earlier this year, the Administration announced the Veterans Employment Center, the first government-wide effort that brings together public and private employers with real job opportunities, and provides the military community with the tools to translate their military skills into plain language and build a profile that can be shared – in real time – with employers who have made a public commitment to hire veterans. The VEC lists over 1.5 million private and public sector jobs and consolidates over a dozen redundant sites. Employers have made commitments to hire over 150,000 individuals from the military community. The site averages over 50,000 users daily.

Veteran and Military Spouse Employment: Through the Administration’s Joining Forces initiative, businesses have trained or hired more than 540,000 veterans and military spouses. Furthermore, over 64,000 military spouses have been hired with 224 private- and public-sector partners since the program began three years ago. In addition, 48 States have removed credentialing impediments for separating service members and another 47 States are facilitating military spouse transition and licensure portability.


The President has emphasized the important role employers play in increasing economic opportunity for veterans through stable employment opportunities—not just because it’s good for veterans but because it’s good for the bottom line. He is calling for more employers and educational institutions to take on innovative veteran training partnerships. For example, corporate leaders like Blackstone have made veteran hiring a priority. Together with their portfolio company, Hilton Worldwide, they are partnering with Kendall College to develop a hotel management education and training program to provide transitioning service members and veterans on-the-job experience and an inside track to available jobs upon graduation from the program. All of this is bolstered by the veteran’s use of their GI Bill® benefits.

Protecting the Dignity and Rights of All Veterans

Ending Veteran Homelessness: President Obama will announce that the number of veterans who suffer from homelessness has dropped by a third over the past four years as nearly 25,000 veterans have moved into housing. This announcement follows the First Lady’s event in June, with HUD and VA, announcing the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. Through this Challenge, mayors, county executives, and governors are signing on to end veteran homelessness in their communities in 2015. To date, over 200 communities have signed on.


There are over 4,000 homeless women veterans in our country today. These women veterans struggle to find employment and short and long-term housing, and subsequently may be faced with the unthinkable possibility of losing their children. The VA has entered into a public-private partnership with TriWest Healthcare Alliance to connect women veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, especially those with children, to the services and benefits that lead to employment. This effort will initially focus on five cities: Seattle, WA; Phoenix, AZ; San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles, CA; and Honolulu, HI. Partnerships in each city will be established among community leaders, employers, government and non-government organizations, and committed citizens who can work together, individually and collectively to help reduce barriers to employment for homeless women veterans and connect them with employment. The President will call for more public-private partnerships to help end veteran homelessness.

Two years ago, The National Guard Bureau announced their own community based effort last year, and launched Joining Community Forces to leverage their local community foot-print and family support centers to connect Guardsmen and Reservists of all services, Veterans and military families to local community based resources. They are re-doubling their efforts, and are challenging all 54 Guard Bureaus in that effort.

Ensuring that Veterans Affairs Has the Resources to Serve Our Veterans

On August 7, 2014, the President signed into law the bipartisan Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014. At a time of crisis, our Veteran and Military Family Service Organizations called the country and Congress to action. This legislation provides VA with additional resources to improve access and quality of care for Veterans. This law will help VA hire more doctors, nurses and other medical staff, as well as to provide needed additional space and modernize VA’s hospitals and clinics. It authorizes the new Veterans Choice program, which allows eligible Veterans to choose to use non-VA care when they live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or cannot be seen by a VA doctor within a reasonable amount of time. And finally, the law will give Secretary McDonald more authority to hold senior VA leaders accountable.

Ending the Disability Claims Backlog

Disability Claims Backlog Update
Improving quality and reducing the length of time it takes to process disability claims is integral to the Administration's mission of providing the care and benefits that Veterans have earned and deserve in a timely, accurate, and compassionate manner. Through initiatives supported by President Obama, VA has decreased the backlog by more than 50 percent since its peak in March 2013. Continuing this work in 2014, VA is implementing additional changes to the Veterans Benefits Management System to increase automation and integration, system-wide. Thanks to transformation initiatives and the creative and impactful partnerships with our VSOs like the Disabled American Veterans, VFW, The Legion and others, VA is on track to meet the President’s goal and eliminate the claims backlog by completing all claims in 125 days in 2015.