Take a look at the latest veteran news from California and beyond.
CBN NEWS — President Donald Trump presented Marine Sgt. Maj. John L. Canley with the Medal of Honor during a White House ceremony Wednesday afternoon. The president spoke about how Canley repeatedly risked his life to rescue fellow Marines during the Vietnam War. “On several occasions, despite his own wounds, he rushed across the fire-swept terrain to carry wounded Marines to safety,” President Trump said.
LEGION.ORG — Membership eligibility in The American Legion is determined by Congress through the establishment of specific dates of declared hostilities in which U.S. military personnel were activated. Since its founding in 1919, membership in The American Legion has been open to veterans of World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Lebanon/Grenada, Panama and Gulf War/War on Terrorism.
WALL STREET JOURNAL — Kris Goldsmith’s campaign to get Facebook Inc. to close fake accounts targeting U.S. veterans started with a simple search. He was seeking last year to gauge the popularity of the Facebook page for his employer, Vietnam Veterans of America. The first listing was an impostor account called “Vietnam Vets of America” that had stolen his group’s logo and had more than twice as many followers. Mr. Goldsmith, a 33-year-old Army veteran, sent Facebook what he thought was a straightforward request to take down the bogus page. At first, Facebook told him to try to work it out with the authors of the fake page, whom he was never able to track down. Then, after two months, Facebook deleted it.
STARS AND STRIPES — One year ago, Vietnam Veterans of America discovered a Facebook page was using its name to spread disinformation to nearly 200,000 followers. Facebook disabled the site at VVA’s request, citing violations to intellectual property. The incident sparked an effort at VVA, a congressionally chartered veterans service organization, to find more social media pages that target veterans and servicemembers with sensationalized news and hyper-partisan political content.
MILITARY TIMES — Peter Jackson is most known for bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” Middle Earth universe to life in movie franchises that grossed nearly $6 billion in total box office revenue. But now, the director has turned his attention to preserving the fading memories of World War I by using innovative production techniques to enhance and colorize almost 100 hours of original footage Jackson obtained from the Imperial War Museum in England.
SIERRA SUN TIMES — On behalf of all Californians, Governor Brown and First Lady Anne Gust Brown honor California Air National Guard Lt. Col. Seth “Jethro” Nehring, who bravely gave his life in service to our state and nation. The Governor and First Lady extend their deepest condolences to his family and friends at this difficult time. In memorial, Governor Brown ordered that flags be flown at half-staff over the State Capitol. Lt. Col. Nehring’s family will receive a letter of condolence from the Governor.
STARS AND STRIPES — Former Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Monday that President Donald Trump’s lack of concern over details and signature extemporaneous style enabled him to usher change quickly at the VA during his year in the job. “President Trump doesn’t want to spend a huge amount of time wanting to review the details. He’s someone who reacts according to his belief system,” said Shulkin, who was fired via a Trump tweet in March. “Having a loose management style in the White House was actually something that worked well for me. I came, I presented ideas to the president, and he said, ‘That sounds like a good thing to do for veterans, let’s do it.’”
MILITARY TIMES — After Bob Simonovich’s post-traumatic stress disorder left him anxious around large groups, loud noises and unpredictable environments, he was unsure what type of career he’d be able to handle in his post-military life. So his therapists lined up a job for him with a baseball team. “I loved baseball my whole life,” said Simonovich, a former Army staff sergeant injured in a bomb blast in Iraq 11 years ago. “But when I got back, I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to go to a game again. The crowds, the fireworks, it’s just something I didn’t think I’d be able to do. “When I could go back there, it meant everything to me.”
BEYOND CHRON — As a Vietnam veteran who served in the Marines between 1968 and 1972, I am all too familiar with the wounds of war Suzanne Gordon describes in her excellent new book. Like so many people who served in Vietnam, I live with PTSD, health issues from Agent Orange exposure, the skeletal wear and tear from lugging heavy packs in the jungle for 18 months, and hearing loss—much luckier than many, unluckier than some. I know how hard it was to get Congress and the VA to recognize these—and other—wounds of war. Thanks to veterans’ efforts over many decades, veterans have benefited from what the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has done to address them.
KRON 4 NEWS — It’s an organization committed to helping homeless veterans in San Francisco for the past 40 years. After receiving that help, one formerly homeless soldier is now back on the street, but this time, he is helping others. Sixty-year-old Winston Nicholas is playing his five-piece drum set inside of his studio apartment at the veterans commons building in San Francisco. As a young man in his early 20s, he took a break from serving up drum beats to join up and serve his country.
STARS AND STRIPES — Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie has yet to share documentation that some lawmakers suspect could link agency officials to three members of President Donald Trump’s club in Palm Beach, Fla., who were reported to have major influence over veterans policies. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, requested the information following a ProPublica investigation in August that revealed a trio of wealthy Mar-a-Lago members with no U.S. military experience were effectively running the VA in secret. The report prompted widespread outcry from Democrats and veterans organizations.
TASK & PURPOSE — Netflix’s upcoming Medal of Honor, set to debut on Nov. 9, chronicles the extraordinary lives and deeds of eight service members awarded the nation’s highest commendation for valor. At first glance, it looks like a gut-punch of a documentary series, replete with visceral combat scenes and war stories recalled in painful detail. But the show seems to be just as much about the men who earned the medal as it is the medal itself.
VENTURA COUNTY STAR — More than 50 wounded veterans and supporters will be ending their 400-mile ride from Santa Cruz to Ventura on Friday. The five-day ride, called the UnitedHealthcare California Challenge, benefits Project Hero, a nonprofit that helps veterans and first responders affected by injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. The event is designed to show how cycling can benefit rehabilitation efforts.
KSBY 6 — Participants of the California Coastal Challenge rode their bikes through San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach on Wednesday as a part of a “Project Hero Campaign.” Everyone cycling is either a veteran or a first responder who is currently going through therapy or mentoring. One of the reasons the veterans participate in the bicycling challenge is to show that support is always available for those who need it.
REDDING RECORD SEARCHLIGHT — Nearly $300,00 to help 60 veterans in Redding and Shasta County pay their rent has been awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. That’s an increase from last year for both regions. The two federal agencies provide the rental assistance under the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH). Under the partnership, HUD provides rental assistance, while the VA provides veterans with clinical and case management and support services.
VA.ORG — Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released its figures on employment vacancies as of June 30, as mandated each quarter under the recently passed MISSION Act. VA reported the following vacancies: 45,239 overall vacancies at the department, out of a total of 419,353 full-time authorized and budgeted positions.
MILITARY TIMES — Melissa Bryant said the 5,520 flags placed along the National Mall Wednesday to illustrate the toll of veteran suicide this year alone were more than just a visual reminder of the scope of the problem. “When we came out here this morning to plant these flags, every one of us had a friend or family member in mind,” said Bryant, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Some of us standing here could have been one of these flags, but for an intervention.”
MILITARY TIMES REBOOT CAMP — President Donald Trump on Wednesday donated his second quarter salary to a new Small Business Administration initiative to help veteran entrepreneurs, the second time this year he has given money to federal veterans initiatives, according to the White House. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced the donation at a White House briefing on Wednesday. Linda McMahon, head of the Small Business Administration, accepted the $100,000 check, saying the funds “would be put to good use.”
STARS AND STRIPES — The Department of Veterans Affairs released the newest performance ratings Wednesday for each of its 146 hospitals, citing improvements in the past year at some of its lowest-performing facilities. The fiscal 2018 ratings include nine one-star hospitals, the lowest possible, down from 14 hospitals that received one-star ratings in 2017. The ratings indicate each hospital’s quality of care and are based on data such as death rates, patient satisfaction and efficiency. In years past, the VA had withheld the data from the public. In 2016, the performance ratings were released under pressure that followed a USA Today investigation.
MILITARY TIMES — Veterans Affairs officials announced Tuesday that TriWest Health Care Alliance will take over nationwide operations for the department’s main community care programs despite concerns raised last month about overpayments to the company. For the last five years, operations for the department’s primary two outside care programs — Patient-Centered Community Care and Veterans Choice Program — had been operated by TriWest and Health Net Federal Services.
KEYT 3 NEWS — The Veteran Success Center at Allan Hancock Community College is receiving nearly $200,000 in grant money through the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. The college was one of 29 community colleges in the state to receive a total of $4.9 million in funding for veterans centers. Student veterans are excited about getting an extra hand.
ROI-NJ — Former Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David Shulkin returned to New Jersey on Tuesday evening to discuss his work at the VA, and commend New Jersey on some of its efforts in the health care space. He was the keynote speaker, preceded by his former White House colleague and now commissioner of health in New Jersey, Dr. Shereef Elnahal, at an event hosted by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey in Woodbridge. One of the most notable things Shulkin achieved during his time in the VA was an attempt to compromise between the wants of those screaming for privatization and those that believed in a single-payer system.
USA TODAY — Radiology technologist Jeff Dettbarn said he knew something was wrong at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, when a patient arrived in February 2017 for a CT scan, but the doctor’s order for it had been canceled. “To have a patient show up for a scan and not have an order – you’re like, ‘What the heck is going on?’ ” he told USA TODAY in an interview.
MILITARY TIMES — The backlog of requests to upgrade military discharges is getting attention from lawmakers who are considering combining the armed services’ three separate review boards into a single one. But service leaders say forming one Defense Department appeals panel may not produce any better results, given the complex and often case-specific issues surrounding veterans applications for upgrades.
MILITARY CONNECTION — When discussing military deployment, many often think of two scenarios – the best case and the worst case. Less discussed, however, is the event that a soldier will come home missing a piece of him or herself. While nothing can truly undo the experiences of combat and bodily harm, prosthetic advances are improving every day to help make soldiers feel physically complete again. The road from the first peg legs and hand hooks to the computerized prosthetic leg began nearly 3,000 years ago. From the ancient Egyptians through the middle Ages to present-day conflicts in the Middle East, there has been a constant evolution that has led to the highly individualized fitting and casting of today’s devices.
KCRA 3 NEWS — Sunday was Gold Star Mother’s Day, a day to honor the moms of fallen service members. In Granite Bay, there was also a special tribute for veterans and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice as the Rotary Club held a dedication ceremony of its “Walk of Honor” flag project.
MILITARY TIMES — The men of Operational Detachment-Alpha 3336 knew it was going to be a harrowing day before they ever set foot in the Shok Valley on April 6, 2008, on a mission in Afghanistan’s remote, and at times impenetrable, Nuristan province to capture a high-value target with the Hezebela Islami Gulbadin insurgent group. It was cold, there was snow on the ground, the drop zone was a raging river, and as the helicopter sliced through cloud cover, it became clear to the Green Berets that there were more threats in the mountains above than they had accounted for.
NAVY TIMES — Few Americans these days can readily recall what happened on Oct. 23, 1983. Ed Brown can never forget. Standing on the shaded side of the Friendly’s Express on Blythe Island Highway to escape Wednesday’s midmorning heat, Brown took a moment to explain why we all should remember. “It was a peacekeeping mission, but we became a target,” Brown said. “We were subject to one of the first terrorist attacks on Americans.”
WE ARE THE MIGHTY — Last year, TrueCar teamed up with DAV (Disabled American Veterans) to put on the DrivenToDrive program and awarded U.S. Army Veteran and Special Forces medic Major Peter Way the keys to a new, adapted van at the closing ceremony of Team Red White & Blue’s Old Glory Relay on Veteran’s Day. In May, 2018, they did it again, awarding ret. U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Goodrich a new 2018 Honda Ridgeline. Goodrich is a veteran of the Iraq War, during which he sustained traumatic brain and leg injuries. After traveling the long road to reovery, he dedicated his life to helping other veterans through the use of art therapy — and the DriventoDrive program gave him the perfect tool for the job.
BAKERSFIELD.COM — After years of delays, local military veterans and their families learned Tuesday the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic on Westwind Drive in Bakersfield will be replaced with a new $40 million, state-of-the-art facility. In a press conference convened at his Bakersfield office, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, flanked by veterans, veteran advocates and local politicians, announced that a new clinic will be built in northwest Bakersfield, near Olive and Knudsen drives.
VISALIA TIMES — It’s been about 40 years since Visalian Berry Dunlap has been on a trip with just he and his father. The last time, when he was 12 years old, the two took Cliff Dunlap’s 1942 Piper J-3 Cub aircraft to California City. There, they camped overnight.
SIERRA SUN TIMES — The California Community Colleges Board of Governors approved $8.5 million in grant funding this month to expand and bolster Veterans Resource Centers throughout California’s community colleges. Currently, more than 90 of the 114 California community college campuses have a Veterans Resource Center dedicated to providing veterans and active duty service members with tools they may need for academic success, and support as they transition from a military environment to an academic setting.
LAKE COUNTY NEWS — This week, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is commemorating Gold Star Families Remembrance Week, designated to honor families affected by the loss of a service member who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. Beginning this week (Sept. 23-29) and over the coming months, commemoration plaques to pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives and the families they left behind are being placed at VA national cemeteries across the country.
MILITARY TIMES — The suicide rate among all veterans decreased slightly but the rate among young veterans increased dramatically in the latest figures released by the Department of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday. The research, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, comes a day before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee is scheduled to question department officials over progress with suicide prevention efforts and shows mixed results from those programs.
STARS AND STRIPES — New Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie insisted Wednesday he’s not taking cues from three members of President Donald Trump’s club in Palm Beach, Fla., now known as the “Mar-a-Lago Crowd.” Shortly after Wilkie was confirmed as secretary in June, news reports revealed a trio of wealthy Mar-a-Lago members had been exerting major influence over Trump’s veterans policies. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, questioned Wilkie about it Wednesday during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing.
MILITARY TIMES — Less than two months into his term leading the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Robert Wilkie insists the department is finally on the right track. “We have a full organizational tree of people I’ve been able to bring in, including the chief of staff and a new acting deputy. … I’m very happy the institution has calmed down,” he said at an appearance on Capitol Hill Wednesday. “I believe it’s a no-partisan institution, and I’m going to do my best to make sure that people feel good about working at VA. I think it’s very different.”
MILITARY TIMES REBOOT CAMP — It’s nearly October, and the fall semester at colleges across the country is already in full swing. Yet because of technical problems, hundreds of thousands of GI Bill users are still receiving the wrong amount of money for their housing stipends. Under the Forever GI Bill, signed into law by President Trump last year, the VA was supposed to change the way it calculates monthly housing stipends for students attending classes at a location other than their school’s main campus, starting Aug. 1. Payments were also supposed to reflect the same 2018 rate that an active-duty E-5 with dependents would receive for housing.
ABC 7 NEWS — Ralph Tillman is a veteran himself. Yet, he admits to taking cash bribes for more than a decade — $286,000 — money that could have gone toward helping Southern California veterans. “There’s no excuse for what I did,” Tillman said in court at his sentencing Monday. He apologized to his family and employees of the Veterans Administration. The former VA contract officer was immediately taken into custody by U.S. marshals to begin serving five months in federal prison, to be followed by five months of home detention and a year of supervised release.
LAKE COUNTY NEWS — On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs released national and state-level findings from its most recent analysis of veteran suicide data, from 2005 to 2016. The analysis is part of VA’s ongoing examination of non-veteran and veteran death records that is being used to evaluate and improve VA’s Suicide Prevention Program. “Suicide prevention remains VA’s highest clinical priority. One life lost to suicide is one too many,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.
MILITARY TIMES — Military retirees eligible for the new dental and vision coverage — as well as active duty families eligible for the new vision benefit — can start researching their options in earnest now, with the release of new rates for 2019. The enrollment period for coverage under the Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Program, or FEDVIP, is Nov. 12 to Dec. 10, but the time to start comparisons is now, said Kathy Beasley, director of government relations, health affairs, for the Military Officers Association of America.
MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY — In the U.S. military, the term “stand down” refers to a temporary stop in fighting, maybe for a truce. Retired Army colonel and mental health counselor Tom Griffin lived another interpretation. “Way back in Vietnam,” he writes by email, “it was when we came in from [combat in] the jungle to a safe area and got hot food, haircuts, medical, dental. We got to stand down.”
XINHUA — California legislators are calling on U.S. Congress to expedite the passage of two bills to recognize the service of Chinese American veterans who fought in World War II, said two California State Assembly members on Wednesday. “As a proud grandson of a Chinese American World War II veteran, I urge Congress to fully support H.R. 2358 and S. 1050,” said California Assembly Member Evan Low at a press conference.
BENZINGA — An award of $500,000 from the Home Depot Foundation will help support construction of affordable housing for formerly homeless veterans in Orange County. Santa Ana Veteran’s Village will combine high quality housing with comprehensive onsite services for formerly homeless veteran residents, together with a rich mix of veteran’s service organizations. The approximately 39,980 square foot, three–story, new construction community will provide 76 affordable apartments and 5,000 square feet of multipurpose space including resident services, recreation, meeting rooms, staff and community partner offices.
STARS AND STRIPES — A government watchdog determined a Department of Veterans Affairs mental health unit in Minneapolis didn’t follow VA policies before discharging an Iraq War veteran who committed suicide in the facility’s parking lot less than 24 hours later. The Office of Inspector General reported Tuesday that VA staff didn’t collaborate on a discharge plan for the veteran, didn’t ensure the veteran had a follow-up appointment about newly prescribed antidepressants, and didn’t adequately document whether they had access to firearms. Though the VA failed in several areas, inspectors said they couldn’t determine whether the mistakes directly led to the veteran’s suicide.
NPR — Guiding her cart down an aisle of a Virginia grocery store, Leigh Michel attracts more attention than the average shopper. “Do you know where the dog food is?” one man asks her. This kind of attention makes her uneasy. “No, I don’t,” Michel answers. “Sorry.” The man assumes Michel would know the answer because her service dog, an English black Labrador named Lizzy, is walking at her side.
LAIST — A site has been chosen for another one of Mayor Garcetti’s bridge housing facilities, part of his push to get new temporary housing built for the homeless in each of Los Angeles’ 15 council districts. This project is specifically for homeless veterans, and it’ll be on the West L.A. Department of Veterans Affairs campus in Brentwood.
TASK & PURPOSE — Retired Marine Sgt. Maj. John Canley will receive the Medal of Honor for his heroism in Vietnam during the Battle of Hue City, the White House announced Tuesday. Then-Gunnery Sgt. Canley “fought off multiple enemy attacks as his company moved along a highway toward Hue City to relieve friendly forces who were surrounded,” read a statement from the White House. “On several occasions, despite his own wounds, he rushed across fire-swept terrain to carry wounded Marines to safety.”
WE ARE THE MIGHTY — For many of us, one of the hardest parts of service is hanging up the uniform for the last time. After spending an entire career learning the ins-and-outs of war, you’re being thrown into the lion’s den that is the civilian workforce and, for once, you feel unprepared. But veterans have tools that civilian employers are beginning to recognize: Our undying drive for success, a willingness to get our hands dirty, and a natural ability to lead.
KERN VALLEY SUN — Finding a way to reduce or eliminate the homeless population in the Kern River Valley (KRV) is a complex undertaking. A solution to the problem is critical for the homeless whose lives are in danger the longer they are without shelter, and it is a priority for KRV residents who feel unsafe when approached by strangers wandering in their neighborhoods.
STARS AND STRIPES — It’s been 75 years since Willis “Buddy” Clark Jr. joined the Boy Scouts of America, but the former Marine is still roughing it with kids young enough to be his great grandsons. On Saturday, the 87-year-old Korean War veteran was given a medal celebrating his three quarters of a century with the Scouts by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2485 in Angeles City, Philippines.
PATCH — Councilman Mike Bonin introduced a motion Tuesday seeking funding for the city’s portion of a temporary homeless shelter to be located on the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration campus. Under a partnership, the city and county of Los Angeles will split the cost of the construction of the $5 million facility, and the Department of Veterans Affairs will provide on-site services.
KRCR TV — A special unveiling ceremony took place at Simpson University Tuesday for veterans and community members in the Northstate. The Simpson University Memorial Garden unveiling was a gift from the graduating class of 2018 to the University. The memorial garden is complete with a garden, plaques, bricks, roses and a bench.
STARS AND STRIPES — Robert Wilkie is slated to appear before lawmakers this week for the first time since he took over as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs two months ago. The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee scheduled a hearing, “State of the VA: a 60 Day Report,” for Wednesday afternoon, where senators are expected to ask Wilkie about his plans for implementing several major, congressionally mandated reforms.
MILITARY TIMES — Veterans Affairs officials said department health care facilities in North Carolina escaped relatively unscathed from the damaging winds and rains of Hurricane Florence last weekend, and could be fully reopened in coming days. But first, the floodwaters have to recede. “The issue for us right now is all the water flowing around our sites,” said James Laterza, director of the Fayetteville VA Medical Center in North Carolina. “Some of our staff live across rivers that are flooded, some of the roads still aren’t open. We don’t want to do anything that would be unsafe.”
STARS AND STRIPES — “They sent us out there to die.” That’s how an American veteran recently recalled his time at one of Japan’s most notorious Prisoner of War camps. The old soldier’s recollection of the Cabanatuan POW camp was retold to former servicemembers and supporters who gathered there Saturday for POW/MIA Recognition Day.
MILITARY CONNECTION — The Second Lady of the United States, Karen Pence, is using her new cachet to call around on behalf of military spouses, looking to help them overcome the challenges that come with being wed to active-duty service members. The vice president’s wife has announced a new campaign that allows military spouses be reimbursed by the federal government for licensing or certification renewal costs. She sees these spousal challenges as key to military readiness. Unhappy spouses lead to unhappy service members who eventually will quit. Mrs. Pence wants to elevate, encourage and thank military spouses.
MILITARY TIMES — Ashley Kolfage met her husband-to-be, Brian, when she was working as a hostess at a Chili’s in the small west Texas city of San Angelo. The two quickly became friends, but before any romance could take hold, Brian deployed to Iraq, where, on Sept. 11, 2004, he became the most severely wounded airman to survive any war in U.S. history after a 107mm enemy rocket landed just three feet away as he walked to get a drink of water.
SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE — A former U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs contract officer who had been accused of accepting $286,000 in bribes from a parking lot operator at the VA’s West Los Angeles campus was sentenced Monday to five months in federal prison. Ralph J. Tillman, who spent 14 years with the VA, pleaded guilty to tax fraud and making a false statement to the VA inspector general. Tillman’s voice broke as he apologized to his family, the veterans agency and his former employees for his role in the bribery scheme.
VENTURA COUNTY STAR — Relationship advice. Getting a tattoo overseas. The effectiveness of various bait. When you’re on a boat for nine hours with close friends and perfect strangers, the conversations can go all over the place. But on an expedition like this one with Anglers Anonymous of America, talk always circles back to fish.
SAN LUIS OBISPO TRIBUNE — If you’ve recently strolled through downtown San Luis Obispo in the afternoon or Pismo Beach in the evening, you’ve probably seen or heard Jon Akeman. He’s the guy with long white hair, a patriotic bandana, guitar strapped over his shoulder and harmonica braced around his neck. Known to locals as Dr. Jon the Citizen, Akeman, 73, serenades pedestrians with classic songs by Bob Dylan, Neil Young or the Eagles.
MILITARY TIMES — In what is expected to be Congress’ final full week of hearings before the November election, lawmakers will tackle a host of defense and veterans issues as the ongoing battle over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh drags on. The Senate Armed Services and Senate Foreign Relations Committees will try and advance their own nominees this week, with the former panel’s list including the new head of U.S. Southern Command and a new commander for U.S. Forces Korea.
TASK & PURPOSE — A 25th Infantry Division soldier and an Army medic whose dog tag was recovered are the first two Korean War identifications to be made from 55 sets of remains turned over to the United States by the North in July, officials said Thursday. One of those soldiers, Pfc. William Hoover Jones, who was 19 when he died, was part of a segregated African-American unit within the Hawaii division that suffered the effects of racial prejudice — in addition to the equipment and training shortfalls that followed the Army as a whole into Korea.
NEW YORK TIMES — Every new grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery starts off here in Barre, Vt., at Granite Industries of Vermont. Over the weekend, giant, automated diamond-tipped saws ran continuously, cutting six-to-20-ton blocks of Danby marble into gleaming white slabs. Now, on Monday, Robert McCallum clocked in at 6 a.m. for a day’s work of “making stones.” He retired from the United States Army Reserve seven years ago as a staff sergeant and is one of three American veterans on the job here. The company makes 3,500 to 4,000 headstones a year for Arlington — a steady line of business in a town that has seen its stonework fortunes decline over time.
MILITARY TIMES — The fight over extending benefits to “blue water” veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam is now pitting former Veterans Affairs secretaries against each other, adding to the confusion over Congress’ next steps. Last week, four former VA secretaries — Anthony Principi, Jim Nicholson, James Peake and Bob McDonald — wrote to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee urging lawmakers not to grant presumptive illness status to roughly 90,000 blue water veterans who claim exposure to the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, saying there is insufficient proof for their cases.
23 ABC BAKERSFIELD — Covey Avenue in Oildale is where organizers hope to break ground and build tiny homes for homeless veterans. Tim Terrio, President of Terrio Therapy and Health Through Wellness INC. said that social media is the driving force behind his new project for veterans.
MILITARY TIMES — Michael Rodriguez doesn’t know what the national Global War on Terror memorial will look like, but he’s confident about where it should be. “I believe it needs to be on the National Mall,” said Rodriguez, president of the memorial’s foundation. “In a lot of ways, this has already become a forgotten war. We need that national reminder.” The Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation is about to launch a multi-month outreach project discussing the size, scope and meaning behind the planned tribute, authorized by Congress in 2017.
TOWNHALL — One of the most frequently repeated mantras of President Trump’s 2016 campaign was “drain the swamp,” and perhaps no federal agency better epitomizes the swamp these days than the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA has been plagued by a seemingly endless number of scandals, the most recent of which – involving improper use of taxpayer money for personal travel – led the president to fire VA Secretary David Shulkin earlier this year. And, as has become tradition at the VA, Shulkin’s successor, Robert Wilkie, has inherited the task of cleaning up quite a mess.
OMAHA WORLD-HERALD — The Strategic Air Command air crews who flew the B-47 loved it, and feared it. The Air Force’s first jet-powered bomber allowed SAC commander Gen. Curtis LeMay to build a formidable nuclear force during the 1950s. He used the planes for reconnaissance missions and electronic warfare jamming, too. SAC veterans believe that they prevented World War III.
STARS AND STRIPES — A former contracting official for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Los Angeles has been sentenced to five months in prison for lying to investigators when he denied taking bribes as part of a $13 million fraud scheme. City News Service reports Monday that Frank Tillman will also serve five months home detention.
BAKERSFIELD NOW — Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2801 into law Thursday. The new law clarifies that veterans’ memorials are afforded special protection against vandalism under the California Penal Code and Military and Veterans Code. The Kern Veterans Memorial on Truxtun Avenue was damaged on June 3. Bakersfield Police are investigating the incident as possible vandalism.
MILITARY TIMES — President Donald Trump signed the Department of Veterans Affairs fiscal 2019 budget into law on Friday, giving the department a funding boost of more than 6 percent and pushing the agency’s total spending over $200 billion for the first time. The president finalized the bill at a ceremony held in the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center, surrounded by federal officials and local veterans. He praised the massive spending measure as another promise kept by his administration.
HOUSTON CHRONICLE — Brandon and Max are in basic training. At their “base,” they run through drills and demonstrate discipline in following the routine. Brandon knows his buddy has his back — even if that buddy is walking their journey on four legs. Brandon Gray is an Army veteran born in Houston and raised in the Sugar Land/Richmond area. Maximus is a 3-year-old German Shepherd-Siberian Husky mix born and raised in California. The mission: to provide each other with stability and companionship — and to ease Gray’s post-traumatic stress.
KCAL 9 — An Army veteran is back home in California after being deported to Mexico in 2010. “I’m so happy to be back home,” Army specialist Fabian Rebolledo told reporters, after returning home to Azusa Wednesday. Rebolledo served at Fort Bragg and as deployed to Kosovo in 1999 to work as a peacekeeper, retrieving bodies of Kosovan villagers who had been killed by Serbian forces. After being discharged, he returned to California and had a son.
NOOZHAWK — With the seventh annual Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down a month away, organizers have put out a plea for services and supplies they still need, including donations of new clothing and hair stylists willing to volunteer their time. The event offers a wide assortment of services and assistance to veterans, especially those who are homeless, and will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Santa Maria Fairpark. Homeless veterans receive hot food, showers, clothing, hygiene items and medical examinations.
NEWSWEEK — You know that racist flag? The one that supposedly honors history but actually spreads a pernicious myth? And is useful only to venal right-wing politicians who wish to exploit hatred by calling it heritage? It’s past time to pull it down. Oh, wait. You thought I was referring to the Confederate flag. Actually, I’m talking about the POW/MIA flag.
ABC 10 — IRON MOUNTAIN — The Iron Mountain VA Medical Center is hosting a Woman Veterans Healthcare Training Conference at Bay College. 70 participants from all over the region came to get training not only for women’s health, but for women veterans. After 9/11 more and more females started entering in the military. The VA Medical Center serves thirteen hundred female veterans.
STARS AND STRIPES — About 340,000 students attending school using the GI Bill received slightly smaller housing payments in August than they’re eligible for under federal law, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Monthly housing allowances help student veterans pay for their housing costs, utilities and food. Veterans who started the 2018-2019 school year last month received incorrect payments caused by delays at the VA Office of Information and Technology with complying to new rules on how stipends are calculated.
MILITARY.COM — Five low-performing Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals have improved enough in the past six months to no longer qualify as high risk, the VA announced Tuesday. The VA hospitals in Dublin, Ga.; Harlingen, Texas; Roseburg, Ore., Nashville and Denver were removed from high-risk status based on new performance statistics released Tuesday.
MILITARY.COM — When Ann Mills-Griffiths sent out her regular National League of POW/MIA Families newsletter this month, she included an announcement that Navy Cmdr. James B. Mills, missing in Vietnam since 1966, had been recovered, his remains positively identified by the Pentagon. She did not mention that he was her own brother. “DPAA [Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency] announced on 8/24/18 that CDR James B. Mills, USNR, CA, was accounted for on 8/20/18,” Mills-Griffiths’ simple announcement read.
TASK & PURPOSE — “The VA is a broken system that does not care about veterans and does nothing to help them.” This is a common quote I’ve heard countless people say throughout my life. But the truth is that many people proclaiming this have never set foot inside a Veterans Affairs administration building, let alone even served.
MILITARY TIMES — The veterans of American Legion Post 204 ― the “Service Girls” ― as they’re known in their Pacific Northwest home, are speaking out about the American Legion’s membership policies, which currently exclude the spouses of female veterans in every branch of their organization. The former commander of Post 204 and 35-year Army veteran Carrol Stripling is getting ready to file a third resolution with the American Legion since 2015. Her first two resolutions were denied. Stripling said the denials were representative of a culture that hasn’t always respected the needs of female vets.
TASK & PURPOSE/MILITARY.COM — Capt. Trey Gregory was one of the first 10 Marines to race toward a burning senior-living facility in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday — and the teamwork he saw there is enough to get him choked up. From junior enlisted Marines to the base commanding officer, the response was a display of level-headed professionalism and duty for the neighbors of Marine Barracks Washington, he told Military.com.
FRESNO BEE — For all of the disagreements over how best to solve the affordable housing crisis, most Californians can agree that the problem ultimately stems from a shortage of housing. Developers should be building 180,000 units every year just to keep up with population growth, but over the past decade, the state has averaged less than half of that. That’s why voters should jump at the chance to approve Propositions 1 and 2 on the Nov. 6 ballot. Both statewide measures come with a promise of more housing for those Californians who need it most.
BUSINESS INSIDER — As 2015 drew to a close, Ty Smith was in a dark place. The death of his sister, post-traumatic stress disorder from his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and an uncertain future led to him questioning who he was or what he wanted from life. Smith was an active duty SEAL also enrolled at the University of Southern California’s Master of Business for Veterans (MBV) program, and was on his way to both retiring from the SEALs and graduating that following May. When he returned to school after a few weeks off, a personal assessment questionnaire assigned in class forced him to reckon with who he was before and during his 20 years in the Navy, and who he was going to be.
TASK & PURPOSE — There may not be a better feeling as an enlisted troop than leaving the base for the last time, waltzing off into the sunset with your newly minted DD-214 to take on the world. For some, that means using that sweet, sweet G.I. Bill to pay for a college degree that will guide your transition back into the world of civilians; for many, that means choosing from one of several veteran-friendly colleges.
TASK & PURPOSE — The Medal of Honor Convention is currently taking place in Annapolis, Md., and it has brought together the youngest and oldest living Marine recipients of our nation’s highest award for battlefield heroism in a photograph of epic proportions. In a post on Twitter on Thursday, retired Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, 28, said that he was “beyond humbled and honored” upon meeting with retired Marine Chief Warrant Officer-4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, 94, at the conference.
MERCY HOUSING — Because the veterans who will be living at Colma Veterans Village are transitioning from homelessness, they will be moving to their new homes without many basic necessities of their own. With support from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, a philanthropic organization started by craigslist founder Craig Newmark, MHC will purchase household furniture as well as bedding, bath and kitchen supplies for each of the 65 new residents of Colma Veterans Village. This will help to ensure that each arrives at a home that is a welcoming living space, ready for them to begin their new life.
ORANGE COUNTY DAILY BREEZE — A major hurdle to placing a temporary homeless shelter on a San Pedro parking lot was cleared this week when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that allows unused Caltrans land in Los Angeles and San Jose to be used for homeless shelters or programs. Under the bill, cities will be able to lease up to 10 parcels each of unused Caltrans land for $1 a month. How many such Caltrans parcels there are in Los Angeles isn’t clear, but a spokesman for the 15th Council District office said there probably “several” throughout the city.
LAKE COUNTY NEWS — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it is ready to hire an additional 50 veterans justice outreach specialists following President Trump’s signing on Monday of the Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act of 2018, a new law shoring up support services to veterans impacted by the justice system. The law requires VA, within one year of enactment, to hire 50 additional veterans justice outreach, or VJO, specialists and place them at eligible VA medical centers; the VJO specialists will, either exclusively or in addition to other duties, serve as part of a justice team in a veterans treatment court or other veteran-focused court.
TASK & PURPOSE — The Education Center at the Wall, set to open its doors in 2020, would be the latest historical showpiece on the National Mall, 25,000 square feet of exhibition space dedicated to the memory of the Vietnam War, clad in Italian glass and jutting steel, occupying five acres of coveted Washington real estate. Mandated by Congress to be visible only from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial — and just enough to “satisfy its purpose” without “disrupting the landscape” — the center would be accessible by a flight of stairs guiding visitors into a warren of galleries replete with an array of museum exhibits and multimedia installations examining our troubled involvement in Southeast Asia. Those exhibits would tell the story of the war as it was experienced both at home and on the battlefield, from myriad perspectives.
NEXTGOV — The office created to ensure health record interoperability between the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments will cripple the agencies’ latest multibillion-dollar overhaul efforts if it doesn’t change its role, according to a congressional watchdog. “Based on the [Interagency Program Office]’s past history, I think it’s evident they never had the clout to mediate and resolve issues between VA and DOD as it relates to interoperability,” Carol Harris, director of IT acquisition management issues at the Government Accountability Office, said Thursday. “If the IPO continues the way it’s operating today, we are going to continue to have dysfunction moving forward.”
NEWS MEDICAL LIFE SCIENCES — A recent major shift in practice by the Veterans Health Administration (VA) now means that complementary and integrative health (CIH) therapies such as meditation, yoga and acupuncture are increasingly being offered to VA patients as non-drug approaches for pain management and related conditions, says Elizabeth Evans, an epidemiology researcher in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
SAN BERNARDINO SUN — Sherwin Sanchez woke up Friday, Sept. 14, feeling familiarly uneasy. In a few hours, strangers and new friends from Fontana nonprofit Knock Knock Angels and AMVETS Post 77 in Loma Linda would be inside his family’s San Bernardino apartment, assembling new, donated furniture from Ashley HomeStore’s West Covina location and the community at-large.