Newswatch

Take a look at the latest veteran news from California and beyond.

MONDAY

Nick Bonanno in VASecret VA nursing home ratings hide poor quality care from the public

USA TODAY — World War II veteran Rosario “Russ” Bonanno was facing worsening dementia when his family brought him last year to the Department of Veterans Affairs nursing home in Bedford, Massachusetts. He had been in assisted living, but after six years, some family members thought he needed more specialized care. Within days after Bonanno arrived, his son Nick said the 93-year-old was “dazed, confused, disheveled” as staff began medicating him. He wasn’t the only resident who looked drugged. “Everyone looks like a zombie,” Nick said.

Calif. VA clerk accused of stealing identity of 1,000+ veterans

AMERICAN MILITARY NEWS — A Veterans Affairs clerk was arrested last week for allegedly stealing private information from more than 1,000 veterans. The personal information of more than 1,000 veterans was found during a traffic stop of the VA clerk at the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach, California. “While performing routine patrols on the campus of the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center, VA law enforcement came across a personal vehicle with what appeared to be commercial license plates attached,” according to a Veterans Affairs news release. “After running the plates and the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), officers determined the attached plates did not belong to the vehicle and initiated a traffic stop.”

VA San DiegoProsecutor: Doc hired by VA sexually assaulted four female patients

SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE — Four female patients from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs were sexually assaulted by an Oceanside physician who was arrested on Wednesday, authorities say. Out on a $150,000 bond, Dr. Edgar Manzanera is slated to be arraigned on Wednesday afternoon in California Superior Court’s North County Regional Center in Vista on four separate felony counts of sexually penetrating the women with a foreign object. A physician contracted by VA to review pension disability claims, Manzanera also is accused of violating the state’s professional code for health providers by allegedly making sexual contact with his patients.

Veterans LegalOrange County opened their hearts to help Veterans Legal Institute, raising a record-breaking $91,068 in only 24 hours

ORANGE COUNTY BREEZE — Veterans Legal Institute and 10 fellow nonprofits partnered with the Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) to host Stand and Salute, a Giving Day to honor OC veterans and military families, on June 14. The 24-hour online effort raised $91,068 with the participation of more than 280 donors for local organizations providing resources and support to local veterans and military families. The 11 participating organizations included 211 Orange County, Bob Hope USO, Easter Seals, Honoring Our Fallen, Lestonnac Free Clinic, Patriots and Paws, Strength in Support, Strong Families Strong Children, Support the Enlisted Project (STEP), Veterans Legal Institute and Zero8hundred.

Long Beach Veterans Affairs nursing home receives 5-star rating

ORANGE COUNTY BREEZE — The Tibor Rubin Veterans Affairs Medical Center announced that its nursing home received 5-stars as part of its annual performance rating. Tibor Rubin VAMC’s announcement comes after VA extended its unprecedented 18-month record of transparency disclosures by making public for the first time its annual nursing home ratings for every facility in the country. View the ratings here. The data show that, overall, VA’s nursing home system – composed of more than 130 community living centers – compares closely with private sector nursing homes, even though the department on average cares for sicker patients in its nursing homes than do private facilities.

FRIDAY

Nicole EllisRedding woman named California’s caregiver of the year

ACTION NEWS NOW — In the month of June Action News Now has been covering Elder Abuse Awareness Month. In Redding one outstanding caregiver is recognized by the California Assisted Living Association as Caregiver of the year. This is Nicole Ellis and the California Assisted Living Association is honoring her as Caregiver of the Year. Nicole works at Veterans Home of California on Knighton Road in Redding.

Army seeks ‘highly qualified’ retirees to fill recruiter, instructor roles

STARS AND STRIPES — The Army is looking for a few good retirees to rejoin the service. The Training and Doctrine Command announced Thursday it is seeking 150 “highly qualified” retirees with experience as recruiters or instructors to return to active duty for two years to fill gaps left by the ebb and flow of recent troop levels. During the lean years of budget cuts, the Army reduced its troop levels, but now finds itself in an upswing. The 2018 budget calls for an increase of 7,500 active-duty soldiers, with 4,000 more for the next year. Because of this fluctuation “there are existing shortages that interested retirees can help mitigate,” said Megan Reed, TRADOC spokeswoman.

Team RubiconMarine veteran, Team Rubicon co-founder to receive Pat Tillman Award for Service

MARINE TIMES — On July 18, former Wisconsin Badger and Marine sergeant Jake Wood will be awarded the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 26th annual ESPYS in Los Angeles, according to ESPN. Wood’s selection as the recipient of the award was announced via Twitter ahead of the awards show by the ESPYS. As a teenage offensive lineman, Wood was in the midst of his first season as a Wisconsin Badger in 2001 when the Twin Towers fell on Sept. 11.

New VA Undersecretary for benefits sworn in and ready to serve veterans

VA.GOV — Paul Lawrence, Ph.D., was sworn in as VA’s new undersecretary for benefits on June 12. As undersecretary, he will oversee and lead the Veterans Benefits Administration in administering VA’s programs that provide financial and other forms of assistance to Veterans, their dependents and survivors. “I am honored and humbled to be able to help serve our nation’s Veterans,” Lawrence said. “We are indebted to them for their sacrifices, and owe them nothing less than to ensure they get the benefits they have earned.” Growing up in a military family, Lawrence learned early the honor and respect due to our nation’s Veterans. He served in the U.S. Army, where the former captain graduated from the Airborne School.

Tribute Mosaic at Mather Veterans VillageFlag day at Mather Veterans Village

CBS SACRAMENTO — A place veterans call home is getting some unique touches added to it. Mather Veterans Village in Rancho Cordova recently unveiled new mosaics murals by local artist Robin Moyher.

 

Troops to teachers brings veterans into classrooms

FOX NEWS — From leading battalions to teaching in classrooms, a program is aiming to help soldiers succeed in civilian life as teachers. US Army veteran Frank Contreras is an Arizona teacher who found his role as a mentor to youth through the Department of Defense’s new program.

Veteran meetingNext month, military spouses on the move can claim a free year of LinkedIn Premium

MILITARY TIMES — Military spouses will have free access to LinkedIn Premium for one year after making a permanent change-of-station move, under a new partnership between LinkedIn and the Defense Department. The program goes live next month on a date to be determined; spouses can visit this link for details, including how to register to receive updates on registration. (Troops and veterans can visit this link to sign up for their free premium access).  The cost of the service is normally $29.99 a month or $299 if purchased a full year up front, said Marquise McCoy, a LinkedIn spokesman. The cost of that premium access will be covered by LinkedIn.

Colleges react to drop in veteran enrollment

KPCC — Federal data shows that veteran enrollment in colleges dropped four percent but some Southern California colleges are going ahead with expansion plans for their veterans centers.

Lisa DanielsUnsung heroes: Educator, news producer, photojournalist, historian, educator, entrepreneur, Lisa Daniels

ABC 10 — Lisa Daniels is an educator, news producer, photojournalist, historian, educator, entrepreneur, and proud mother of two amazing children. She is also the Executive Director of the Unsung Heroes Living History Project, a nonprofit organization that strives to preserve the legacy of African American veterans. Daniels’ interest in military history was sparked after learning her grandmother was a “Riveter” on the USS Franklin Roosevelt at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Program auctioning hand-crafted flags to help veterans

NBC BAY AREA — A retired United States Air Force colonel with Northern California ties is taking advantage of Flag Day to push forward a new way to offer help to veterans. Chris Stricklin, who works with the Warriors Heart Foundation, said the program is raffling and auctioning two hand-crafted flags in order to raise money. Those behind the program assist veterans in coping with PTSD and mental health issues. They say one specific activity that helps veterans is creating handmade flags.

THURSDAY

Dept. of VAVA hospitals across the country have more than 3,000 unwanted jobs

STARS AND STRIPES — Thousands of jobs at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country remain vacant because VA leaders contend they can’t find qualified candidates who want them, an agency report released Thursday revealed. Directors for 140 VA hospitals reported a total of 3,068 staff vacancies that they are struggling to fill because of a severe shortage of candidates, according to an annual VA Office of Inspector General report on staffing problems.

Flag Day facts: 10 things you didn’t know about the American flag

FOX NEWS — In honor of Flag Day, we’ve decided to take a break from our normal Flag Day traditions (i.e., taking any excuse to eat red, white or blue candies) to gain a better appreciation of Old Glory herself. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of fun facts surrounding the Stars and Stripes — but most of the coolest stuff isn’t found in any of our history books. A lot of it is interesting, some of it is surprising, and the one tidbit about “Gilligan’s Island” is downright haunting.

Marine Corps service‘I proudly served my country’: Advocates unveil new Veteran’s Creed

MILITARY TIMES — In an effort to promote public service and camaraderie among former servicemembers, advocates unveiled a new “Veteran’s Creed” on Thursday designed to provide a familiar mantra as they navigate civilian life. The eight-point creed is backed by a host of well-known veterans groups — among them the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Wounded Warrior Project — and is set to be heavily promoted at events and conventions throughout the summer.

The Moving Wall travels to Bloomington, community honors Vietnam veterans

INLAND EMPIRE NEWS — 58,318. That is the number of veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War, all of whose names are eternally etched on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. and the half-size touring replica that arrived in Bloomington’s Ayala Park on Thursday where it remained until Monday, June 11. Opening ceremonies for the Moving Wall took place Friday morning at the park that is home to the city’s Veterans Monument.

TrumpIt’s not very likely that parents of Korean War veterans asked Trump to repatriate their children

WASHINGTON POST — One of the pledges that President Trump says he extracted from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their summit earlier this week was a commitment to repatriate the remains of U.S. troops soldiers killed during the Korean War. There are more than 7,700 Americans still considered missing in action from that conflict, the vast majority of them Army soldiers whose remains are presumably still on Korean soil. There are unaccounted-for Korean War service members from every state in the union, including 593 from California, 515 from Trump’s home state of New York and one, Army Pvt. John Baptist Lockwood, from Alaska.

American Legion endorses Thompson’s Mare Island Cemetery bill

LAKE COUNTY NEWS — Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) has announced that The American Legion has endorsed his bill to transfer control of the Mare Island Cemetery in Vallejo to the Department of Veterans Affairs so it can be maintained for future generations.  The American Legion is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization with over two million members at 13,000 posts across the globe.

San Francisco urges Congress to honor Chinese American WWII veterans

XINHUANET.COM — San Francisco is joining a national effort to support two Congressional bills to award Chinese American World War II veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal. The city’s board of supervisors unanimously passed a resolution late Tuesday, calling on the U.S. Congress to expeditiously pass the two bills. The bills, which were introduced to the House of Representatives and the Senate in May 2017, have been stalled at respective committees ever since.

WEDNESDAY

Veterans HomesVA discloses rankings of 133 nursing homes

STARS AND STRIPES — The Department of Veterans Affairs revealed its internal rankings of 133 VA nursing homes nationwide, allowing veterans and their families to see where their local facilities land in a one-to-five rating system. The VA posted the performance ratings onto its website Tuesday and said it would update the information annually. The document lists nursing homes by the VA system with which they are associated. It shows one-to-five star ratings for staffing and quality, as well as ratings based on unannounced on-site surveys to each nursing home. Finally, each facility is given an overall rating.

Trump, Kim commit to recovering Korean War remains

STARS AND STRIPES — President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un committed Tuesday to recovering the remains of servicemembers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War. The agreement was one of four points included on the final document signed by the two leaders as they wrapped up their historic summit in Singapore. During a news conference Tuesday, Trump said he received “countless calls and letters” from family members asking for help obtaining remains. He brought up the issue with Kim at the “very last minute,” he said.

Manchin with TrumpWhite House considered Manchin to lead Veterans Affairs after Jackson withdrew his nomination

WASHINGTON POST — Senior White House officials were in serious discussions with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) this spring to gauge his interest in joining President Trump’s Cabinet as Veterans Affairs secretary after presidential physician Ronny L. Jackson’s nomination imploded, according to several people with knowledge of the discussions.  The White House wooed Manchin, 70, in hopes of clearing the way for Republicans to win his seat in the heavily pro-Trump state, concerned the conservative Democrat was popular enough back home to retain his seat despite the president’s high poll numbers in West Virginia.

Post-9/11 GI Bill usage dropped sharply. Cause for concern?

MILITARY TIMES REBOOT CAMP — The number of Post-9/11 GI Bill users fell significantly in fiscal 2017 – the first time this has ever happened in the benefit’s nearly 10-year history, federal data shows. About 4 percent fewer veterans or dependents used the GI Bill at U.S. schools last fiscal year, a 34,000 student drop, according to the most recent annual figures provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

BulletsCourt ruling could mean huge windfall for thousands of reservists

MILITARY TIMES — Tens of thousands of military reservists may be eligible for extra vacation or nearly a month’s worth of pay from federal departments due to a recent court ruling concerning their past mobilizations. The government’s bill for the windfall could stretch into the hundreds of millions of dollars, but few individuals eligible for the extra benefits have thus far pursued them. Advocates think that’s because the ramifications of the court ruling aren’t well known, despite their widespread potential impact.

600 female veterans expected to attend Virginia summit

ASSOCIATED PRESS — More than 600 people are expected to attend the fifth annual Virginia Women Veterans Summit this week. Virginia has one of the largest populations of female veterans in the U.S., with the state now home to more than 100,000. The state Department of Veterans Services will host the summit Thursday and Friday at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center in Alexandria. The summit will include nationally-known speakers and discussion group leaders on a wide variety of subjects of interest to female veterans and active duty service women transitioning to civilian life.

VA Medical CenterOpinion: Veterans helping veterans — why peer support should be expanded

ROLL CALL — “You mean it gets better?” a female veteran asks Olga, a certified peer specialist working at the Department of Veterans Affairs. For the last decade, Olga has served as an integral part of the VA’s peer specialist program in Dallas. After going through the dizzying process herself as an Army veteran, she wondered how other veterans experiencing severe mental health episodes were managing to get the care they needed.

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia’s LGBT veteran memorial bill clears first hurdle in CA Senate

IMPERIAL VALLEY NEWS — Today, the Senate Governmental Organization Committee voted to approve Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia’s (D-Coachella) legislative proposal designating Cathedral City’s LGBT Veteran Memorial as the state’s official LGBT Veteran Memorial. AB 2439 would make California the first state to dedicate a memorial recognizing the service of LGBT veterans. Thomas “Tom” Swann Hernandez a nationally recognized veteran and gay rights advocate, who spearheaded the initial push to dedicate the memorial in 2001, joined Assemblymember Garcia to provide supportive testimony before the committee.

OC Cemetery signsNew plans for an OC veterans cemetery?

VOICE OF OC — Irvine City Councilman Jeff Lalloway said Monday he will ask the City Council to approve Orange County’s first veterans cemetery in its original site near the center of the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro after voters overwhelmingly rejected a land swap that would have moved it to strawberry fields near the 5 and 405 freeways. But Mayor Don Wagner said in a phone interview Monday that Supervisor Todd Spitzer has been working on a new site, but it isn’t in Irvine.

VA and PsychArmor Institute offer online suicide prevention training

LAKE COUNTY NEWS — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, in collaboration with PsychArmor Institute, a national nonprofit that provides online education and support to Americans who work with, live with or care for military service members, veterans and their families, recently launched an online suicide-prevention training video, titled “SAVE.” “SAVE” is designed to equip anyone who interacts with veterans to demonstrate care, support and compassion when talking with a veteran who could be at risk for suicide.

Patriots Luncheon announces veteran honorees

THE SANTA CLARITA SIGNAL — The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce has announced its honorees for the eighth annual Patriots Luncheon: Aracely Jimenez, U.S. Army – Operation Iraqi Freedom, George Lindstrom, U.S. Marine Corps – Vietnam, Thailand, Tchicaya Missamou, U.S. Marine Corps – Operation Iraqi Freedom, Jose Montenegro, U.S. Army – Operation Iraqi Freedom, Dee Nance, U.S. Army, National Guard – Vietnam, Richard J. Ramsey, U.S. Navy – World War II and Dennis Ray Witzel, U.S. Army – Vietnam. The honorees were nominated by chamber members and local residents, and selected by a committee of veterans and business leaders, including CalVet Secretary Vito Imbasciani.

Dixon Vets HouseSolano-Napa Habitat for Humanity, Genentech prep Dixon site for future veterans home

THE REPORTER — Construction is moving along on a Solano-Napa Habitat for Humanity project that will provide permanent housing for six homeless veterans in Dixon. Habitat and a dozen volunteers from Genentech in Vacaville were busy Tuesday morning pulling out stubborn weeds, completing construction fencing and starting to lay out the wooden frame of the six-bedroom, three-bathroom Craftsman style house at 250 Jackson St.

FRIDAY

Tabora Gardens 1Long-planned development for seniors and vets opens in Northern California

AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE — Perseverance was the special ingredient behind the 85-unit Tabora Gardens Senior Apartments in Antioch, Calif. Sticking with the project for more than a decade, Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA) recently opened the long-anticipated development for seniors earning between 20% and 50% of the area median income. Thirty-four of the initial residents are veterans. It was a long haul as the development team worked to assemble the necessary funding for the approximately $33.7 million development. The project originally started out as a federal Sec. 202 development, but the deal had to be restructured when funding for that program was cut.

Burn pits soldierAs burn pit problems linger, advocates worry VA and DoD are moving too slow

MILITARY TIMES — Advocates for veterans exposed to toxic smoke from burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan say federal response to the problem is too slow, too incomplete and sadly too late for thousands of troops succumbing to fatal diseases. That’s despite more than a decade of research into the health effects and lawsuits over troops’ exposure to burning contaminants. “When I went to the doctor and complained about chest pains, she told me ‘Well, you’re too young to have any type of chest complications,’” said Carlos Fuentes, director of VFW’s National Legislative Service and a Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in 2009.

David Douglas Duncan, acclaimed combat photographer from WWII through Vietnam, dies at 102

STARS AND STRIPES — To photograph the U.S. assault on Okinawa, a World War II battle so fierce it was remembered as a “typhoon of steel,” Larry Wetheringtonlay suspended under the wing of a P-38 fighter plane. Duncan, a combat photographer with the Marines, was sealed inside a cramped, acrylic-tipped tank designed to transport wounded troops. His camera in one hand, he kept a towel in the other to wipe sweat and condensation from the glass, allowing him to capture the precise moment at which Marine bombers dropped napalm on Japanese pillboxes.

Military death payoutsWhy wait? Advocates push fix for threat to military death payouts

MILITARY TIMES — The government isn’t headed for another shutdown this summer, but advocates want action now to make sure military families aren’t hurt the next time a budget impasse arises. In advance of work later this week on the fiscal 2019 defense appropriations bill, supporters are again pushing a measure to ensure death gratuity payouts are sent to the families of fallen troops even during a government shutdown. The issue briefly drew headlines during the three-day shutdown earlier this year, when the families of two U.S. soldiers killed in a helicopter crash had to wait several days for the emergency funding to arrive because Pentagon officials weren’t allowed to process them while lawmakers squabbled over re-opening federal operations.

Senators back even bigger boost for next year’s VA budget

MILITARY TIMES — Senate appropriators on Tuesday backed an increase for the Veterans Affairs budget even larger than the boost outlined in President Donald Trump’s request earlier this year, a move that would push the department’s funding closer to the $200 billion mark. The proposed $86.4 billion in discretionary spending for the department in fiscal 2019, approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee’s veterans panel, is 5.7 percent above VA’s fiscal 2018 budget and about $1.1 billion more than what the White House and House lawmakers are eyeing.

Veterans Resource Center in Long BeachVeterans Resource Center opening at Long Beach Public Library

SIGNAL TRIBUNE — The Long Beach Public Library will launch the Veterans Resource Center on Saturday, June 9, at 10:30am, at the main library, 101 Pacific Ave. Open to the public, the center is a space equipped with a dedicated computer for veteran resources, private study rooms and a collection of materials to assist veterans and their families, which include the California Veterans Resource Book from CalVet, reference materials regarding veterans’ benefits and other fiction and nonfiction books and DVDs. The community can check out materials with a Long Beach Public Library card, although a library card is not required to use the space or to utilize materials in the library.

THURSDAY

Trump disavows parts of new VA reform law hours after praising it

MILITARY TIMES — Hours after praising a new veterans reform bill as a historic step forward for the country, President Donald Trump announced he intends to ignore significant sections of the legislation because he sees them as infringing on executive branch authority. The move came just as Veterans Affairs officials issued a statement praising Congress and the White House for working together on the measure. Lawmakers said that administration officials have been repeatedly consulted through the process, and signed off on the bill language before it passed both chambers last month.

Burn pits imageTired of inaction, lawmakers, families plead for action on burn pits

STARS AND STRIPES — The Department of Veterans Affairs said Thursday it could take several years to complete research that could prove veterans’ long-term illnesses were caused by exposure to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. That proof could mean easier access to health care and disability compensation for thousands of veterans and their families. Ralph Erickson, the VA’s chief consultant for post-deployment health, told members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that the VA is working on six studies and is trying to grow a registry created in 2014 to gather data from servicemembers exposed to burn pits.

$52B funding for Veterans Affairs includes sweeping overhaul

LAS VEGAS REVIEW JOURNAL — Sweeping legislation to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, fund improved programs that serve millions of vets nationwide, including roughly 300,000 in Nevada, was signed into law Wednesday by President Donald Trump. The president signed the $52 billion bipartisan bill during a Rose Garden ceremony attended by lawmakers and representatives of veterans groups that supported the legislation and the overhaul of the veteran health care system.

Veteran sleepingVets face many challenges when they return home, finding a job shouldn’t be one of them

THE HILL — Long before I was commissioned as an Army Second Lieutenant in 1974, I knew that I would someday serve in the military. My father served in the Marine Corps during World War II, and his sense of duty was passed down to me. The military has always been a part of my life, and even now, as a civilian, it still very much is. Over the course of my 31-year career in the Army, I had the opportunity to serve alongside many brave men and women and experienced some incredible, life-changing events, including spending a memorable 4th of July in Red Square in the 1990s and being in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Major overhaul of the VA in future due to Trump legislation

KJZZ 91.5 — One day after the Inspector General’s Office issued a report highly critical of the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, President Trump signed legislation on Wednesday, paving the way for a major overhaul of the VA and expanding access for veterans to VA-funded health care in the private sector. For more on the bill and the current state of the Phoenix VA, The Show was joined by Nikki Wentling, who covers veterans for Stars and Stripes.

Veterans and potSanta Cruz veterans ready for VA to change stance on pot

KAZU 90.3 — On a Monday night in Live Oak’s grange hall, Seth Smith stands before a room full of veterans sitting in folding chairs.  They range in age and distance traveled to get here.  Some are local.  Others drove three to four hours. This is the monthly meeting of the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance’s Compassion Program.  Veterans gather to learn about local veterans’ services, talk to others who are self-medicating with marijuana and pick up a voucher for free cannabis at the SCVA’s dispensary.

2 Irvine measures failing after primary; Cypress and Westminster voters OK local measures

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER — Wednesday, Irvine voters’ apparent rejection of Measure B reverses a council decision that allowed a veterans cemetery to be built on a property just south of the Great Park. City leaders, veterans and residents have been fighting for several years over which of two properties should be home to the county’s first military resting place. A majority of the council supported using former strawberry fields near the 5 and 405 freeways interchange, while some residents and veterans preferred land on the Great Park’s northern border.

Kern County VeteransHistoric armed forces uniform display to be unveiled Wednesday at veterans services department

ABC 23 BAKERSFIELD — The Kern County Veterans Department will be unveiling the newest historical Armed Forces uniform display on Wednesday. The unveiling will happen at the department at 1120 Golden State Avenue at 2:00 p.m. The glass-encased kiosk holds 8 uniforms that have been donated by veterans, their families and local veteran organizations.

Always veterans first

VENTURA COUNTY STAR — The USA is the land of the free due to a select group of heroes who suffered life and death for us — and continue to do so. America is not free because they sat on their hands and waited it out. They died. We live on. But somehow we have allowed popular political issues such as illegal immigration, divide-and-conquer strategies, the poor vs. rich rather than good vs. evil, supplant American patriotism and the value of human lives sacrificed.

WEDNESDAY

Trump and troopsTrump to sign veterans health bill as White House works against bipartisan plan to fund it

WASHINGTON POST — President Trump is preparing to sign a sweeping new law Wednesday aimed at expanding veterans’ access to private-sector health care. But behind the scenes his administration is fighting a bipartisan Senate effort to fund the legislation. The VA Mission Act authorizes new health care programs for veterans, but the bill does not reserve federal money to pay for those programs. A group of powerful Senate committee chairmen aims to remedy that by amending a separate measure to pay for the new $50 billion law, saying that adding the funds is the best way to ensure the new programs give veterans access to medical care.

OCR CemeteryIrvine voters didn’t like city’s plan for veterans cemetery location

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER — Opposition took an early lead Tuesday in voting on the city of Irvine’s land swap to build Orange County’s first veterans cemetery on former strawberry fields near 5 and 405 freeways interchange. There remains some mail-in, provisional and other votes to be tallied later this week, but the margin at the end of Tuesday night’s vote counting was pretty wide and the measure appears to have failed. If Measure B were to pass, the cemetery would go on a 125-acre property the city received through an exchange with developer FivePoint Communities, which is building homes around the Great Park.

This university is officially waiving tuition for the children of fallen troops

TASK & PURPOSE — Starting this fall, the University of Memphis will waive tuition costs for children of fallen service members using the Folds of Honor scholarship fund. One of the largest colleges in Tennessee, UM’s tuition sits around $9,700 annually, but the college will become the first in the country to accept the $5,000 Folds of Honor scholarship in lieu of full tuition payment, according to Commercial Appeal, which broke the news May 27.

Trump Launches Revamp of Veterans’ Health Care. Can a Rudderless VA Carry It Out?

WALL STREET JOURNAL — President Donald Trump signed into law Wednesday a sweeping measure to revamp the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health-care system, which will likely change the way veterans get care in the private sector and will empower the VA secretary to make major administrative changes. But the VA secretary who helped craft the bill was recently fired by Mr. Trump, and the president hasn’t formally nominated a successor.

BabyCommentary: Female troops, veterans deserve comprehensive care for infertility issues

MILITARY TIMES — “I tried to get in vitro fertilization and I couldn’t afford it. That’s the only reason we do not have a child today.” “Women are strongly urged to forgo a family until later in their career so if I wanted to get contraception I could. When I wanted to get pregnant, I was on my own. There are programs for maternity care but there is nothing to assist you when you need to pursue a family via IVF.” “I did not even know the options for infertility treatment were available.”

Songwriting‘Why him and not me?’ Songwriting to mend invisible wounds of war

KPCC — Joshua Geartz joined the Army after high school. It was 1999, he had some uncles who served, and he thought, “college wasn’t for me,” Geartz said. Fast-forward a few years to Geartz driving a truck on his last night of deployment in Iraq. “My vehicle was hit with a roadside bomb which left me with a brain injury and some spinal cord damage,” he said. “Now I typically rely on a wheelchair. I’m not wheelchair-bound. But it makes things difficult.”

AFGE: GAO report highlights the ‘perils’ of the ‘failing’ Choice Program for veterans

PR NEWSWIRE — In a Government Accountability Office report released yesterday, investigators found that veterans in the Choice program are often waiting longer to receive their care and are being forced into a system that lacks accountability and oversight. The GAO report, “Veterans Choice Program: Improvements Needed to Address Access-Related Challenges as VA Plans Consolidation of its Community Care Programs,” analyzed 5,000 Choice authorizations from July through September 2016 and found that the average veteran receiving care outside of the VA waited 51 days to be seen by a medical professional – and “could potentially wait up to 70 calendar days for care,” according to the report.

TUESDAY

Heath PhillipsMore vets who are coping with PTSD from sexual assaults get honorable discharges

NPR — Sexual assault is still a major issue for the military. Reports rose by 10 percent last year, though there is some discussion about whether that is an increase in the number of assaults or an increased willingness of troops to come forward and report them. That would be an improvement because victims of rape in the military often face retaliation, sometimes even a less than honorable discharge from the military. Among those veterans there is another number that is going up: the people getting their records corrected to show they served honorably.

Veterans in VA’s ‘Choice’ program waiting up to 70 days for care, GAO says

WASHINGTON TIMES — Many patients using the Department of Veterans Affairs’ “Choice” program to avoid long waits at government medical centers still face delays of two months or longer before seeing a doctor, the Government Accountability Office reported Monday. Veterans in the private-care Choice program can face waits of up to 70 days to receive care, the researchers found after looking at a wide sampling of cases from 2016.

Trump and doctorDefense officials open investigation into drinking, drug allegations against White House doctor

MILITARY TIMES — Defense Department officials have opened a formal investigation into the conduct of former White House physician Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, following allegations of unprofessional behavior during his bid to become Veterans Affairs secretary earlier this year. Jackson, a 23-year naval officer who still works in the White House Medical Office, has kept a low-profile since withdrawing from consideration for the Cabinet-level post in late April.

VA faces scrutiny as it gears up for health overhaul

ROLL CALL — The Department of Veterans Affairs will face heavy scrutiny as it implements a major overhaul to its health care programs that President Donald Trump is expected to sign into law this week. The bill, which moved through both chambers by wide bipartisan margins, would combine the VA’s seven programs for private medical care into one to streamline and simplify costs and access for veterans. The legislation would also extend the so-called Veterans Choice Program for one year, allowing veterans to seek care outside the VA under certain circumstances in the meantime.

Ben CarsonVets’ advocates push homeless agenda in D.C.

WASHINGTON INFORMER — About 700 service providers converged last week on a Northwest hotel for a conference on how to combat homelessness among veterans, one of the nation’s most complex problems. The National Council of Homeless Veterans, a nonprofit, organized the May 30-June 1 conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, which focused on veteran-specific programs, policies and procedures. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates about 40,000 veterans experienced homelessness on a daily basis.

VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals resolves record number of claims to date for FY 2018

LAKE COUNTY NEWS — Underscoring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ pledge to reduce the wait time for those appealing disability benefits claims, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, as of May 27, has signed more than 53,650 decisions to date in fiscal year 2018, which is approximately 86 percent more than the 28,839 decisions signed through the same period last year. The board is currently on track to meet and exceed its FY 2018 total goal of reviewing a historic 81,000 appeals by Sept. 30, 2018.

70 yo veteran earns diplomaCalifornia veteran gets his high school diploma 70 years later

KTIV NBC 9 — Kelly Crowell says,”It’s going to be a lot of fun walking with the kids. I practiced with them this afternoon and they’re all really, really nice kids. They really are.” 72 years after leaving high school to join the navy 90-year-old Kelly Crowell is finally getting his diploma. Kelly says,”It’s exciting to be with the kids and be in what do you call it? Show business, show business.”

Wounded OC vets walk for America

PATCH — A dozen wounded veterans — six Americans and six Britons — plan to walk from Anaheim to Irvine Monday on the third day of the Walking With The Wounded’s Walk of America. The group walked approximately 20 miles from Long Beach to Newport Beach on Sunday. The 14-week, 1,000-mile walk began Saturday with the group walking from the Dockweiler Youth Center in Playa Del Rey to the Battleship Iowa, which is docked at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro.

MONDAY

Heart rate monitorVA facilities too far away? A new pilot program allows veterans to use private urgent care instead

KPCC — Getting veterans the medical care they need quickly and efficiently has been a political goal in Washington for years. Last week Congress passed a bill to streamline the VA’s community care programs, including Veterans Choice, which lets veterans use private medical care if the VA is too far away or wait times are too long. The VA Mission Act is awaiting President Trump’s signature.

Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva releases state’s first artist rendering of Orange County veteran cemetery at strawberry fields site

A65.ASMDC.ORG — Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, (D – Orange County) releases the newly completed artist rendering for the Orange County veteran cemetery master plan for the Strawberry Field site at El Toro Marine Base. The study was started after the City of Irvine originally voted to transfer 125 acres of land to the California Department of Veteran Affairs in September. Nonetheless, arguments as to the merits of this new site, over the previous ARDA site have ensued by the Irvine City Council. Construction costs are generally the same for both sites located on the El Toro Marine Base. The difference is the removal of over $30 million for the demolition, and removal of debris and pollution that came with the previous airfield construction on the ARDA site.

Vietnam Veterans treatmentThe Health 202: This is going to be the next VA secretary’s first big task

SAN FRANCISCO GATE — A weighty task awaits Robert Wilkie upon his likely installation as Veterans Affairs secretary: Spelling out the precise details of a hefty new law making it easier for military veterans to access private medical care. Congress passed the VA Mission Act last week to try to ease the burden on military hospitals and clinics, which lack capacity to treat a huge influx of aging Vietnam-era veterans and younger service members returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One-third of veterans get government-paid care in private settings under the 2014 Choice Act, but that program has been heavily criticized as being too unwieldy and bureaucratic.

2 Camp Pendleton Marines rescue four people clinging to tree limb above Kern River

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER — Two Marines — accustomed to staying calm in chaos — this week used their military training to save four people clinging to a tree limb while dangling over the rushing Kern River. Pfc. Dustin Reed and Lance Cpl. Andrew Lucas, mechanics with the 1st Marine Logistics Group, 1st Maintenance Battalion at Camp Pendleton, were relaxing at Hart Memorial Park, a county park along the Kern River near Bakersfield on Tuesday, May 29, when they heard people screaming from the upper part of the river.

homelessveteran1500Veteran homelessness in LA has dropped by 18 percent

KPCC — The latest homelessness figures are out from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority – and for veterans, there’s some good news. There are now 18 percent fewer homeless vets – 3,910, down from 4,800 in 2017, an 18 percent drop. It’s a relief after the big spike in homeless veterans last year  – when the number jumped 57 percent – that served as a wakeup call for elected officials and advocates in Los Angeles County.

Report: Vets still face long waits with VA Choice program

MILITARY TIMES — Patients using the Veterans Affairs Choice program to avoid long wait times at department medical centers may still face months-long delays before seeing a doctor, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office released Monday. And researchers say recently passed reforms to VA’s community care programs won’t fix those lengthy waits without dramatic improvements in data collection and monitoring of those outside care appointments.

Va Customer ExperienceVA improves in national customer experience index results

BLOGS.VA.GOV — According to Forrester’s US 2018 Customer Experience (CX) Index based on 47 experience drivers, VA is one of two federal agencies that has improved their customer experience in the past year. “VA took a mature, methodical approach to improving customer experience and it’s paid off, ”said  Rick Parrish,  Forrester’s principal analyst and keynote speaker at Forrester’s Transform Government CX From The Outside In conference. More than 300 government leaders and customer experience professionals attended the event. VA’s approach follows the President’s Management Agenda, which lays out a long-term vision for modernizing the federal government in key areas that will improve the ability of agencies to deliver mission outcomes, provide excellent service, and effectively steward taxpayer dollars on behalf of the American people.

Pentagon watchdog opens investigation into allegations against Ronny L. Jackson

WASHINGTON POST — The Pentagon’s investigative watchdog has initiated a probe into U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, the White House military physician who withdrew from consideration as President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs amid allegations of improper conduct. The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, which investigates possible wrongdoing at by the Pentagon and its staff, confirmed in a statement Monday that it recently initiated a probe into Jackson. A spokesman declined to go into detail about the scope or character of the probe.

Camp Pendleton memorialCamp Pendleton Unveils Incredible Vietnam Memorial Dedicated to 2,706 Heroes KIA

THE WESTERN JOURNAL — A new Vietnam War memorial was dedicated at Camp Pendleton in California on Monday, recognizing the ultimate sacrifice made by over 2,700 U.S. Marines. The 5th Marine Regiment deployed to Vietnam as the war effort was ramping up in 1966 and remained in the country for the next five years, engaging in some of the conflict’s fiercest battles. The Fighting 5th lost a total of 2,706 Marines during the war and their names all appear on the marble walls of the new memorial.

Pets and Vets: The hunt for a few good dogs

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS — Laramie is about to take perhaps the most important tests of her young life, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. The 4-year-old with golden brown eyes and a wide smile is moving from person to person, captivating hearts as she goes. Pass today and her entire life will change. Laramie is one of scores of rescue dogs tested each year for their suitability to become service animals for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological disabilities.

Kelli’s Heroes: Contact federal officials, condition of cemetery is disgraceful

THE REPORTER — The Mare Island Naval Cemetery (MINC) is the oldest military cemetery on the west coast. It is the final resting place for some 800 of our countries heroes who have served since the War of 1812. It is designated as a National Historic Landmark, where three Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, James Cooney, William Halford, and Alexander Parker are buried. As some of you may remember Mare island was closed during the 1993 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and the United States Navy relinquished control of the cemetery in 1996 to the City of Vallejo. The federal government did not provide any funding to restore the cemetery to its honorable condition nor any support for its immense ongoing maintenance.

JC Oberst: Two exhibits honoring veterans come to Ventura County this month

VENTURA COUNTY STAR — The Ventura County Government Center in Ventura will be the site of two traveling veteran memorials this month.  The first is “The Moving Wall.” The Vietnam Veterans of Ventura County will host this half-size replica of the Washington, D.C., version of the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

Woman Air Force PilotSouthern California Soaring Academy helps disabled veterans take flight

ABC7 — On a crisp, clear day, a bus pulled up into a dirt parking lot, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. One by one, a group of disabled veterans got off the bus at Crystal Airport in llano. The vets get off and were excited about what laid ahead – a few minutes of airborne adventure where they’d be free, if only for a little while, from their disabilities. “I’m looking forward to it, definitely” one of the veterans said.

Finding her voice with other veterans

SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE — As a former Marine herself, Shara French wants other women to feel and know how important their stories and voices are. As a member of the Veterans Writing Group of San Diego County for the past seven years, she’s been able to learn that lesson herself. “I don’t have a specific role in the group, however, I consider myself a strong female voice, often injecting a military woman’s perspective,” she says of the group, which works to help its members become more skilled and expressive writers while also creating an environment that’s supportive of their experiences in the military. “Being a part of this group has helped me share my experience with other veterans and strengthen my voice.”

FRIDAY

VA says money for Choice program will last until Trump signs funding bill

STARS AND STRIPES — The Department of Veterans Affairs has long claimed a key health care program could run out of money by May 31 if lawmakers did not rush to pass new legislation to fund the VA. But the date came and went this week without President Donald Trump signing the new VA Mission Act and the Veterans Choice Program is still solvent. Former acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, now the expected nominee to lead the agency, told Congress in early May that the Choice program would be depleted as early as May 31. The program pays for veterans to receive health care from private medical facilities when they can’t get an appointment at a VA facility.

Homeless Vets work for a livingDrop in LA’s homeless vets may signal good news nationwide

MILITARY TIMES — Los Angeles County officials saw a sharp drop in the number of homeless veterans during their annual survey earlier this year, good news that experts hope indicates the nationwide number of veterans battling housing problems is back on the decline. The announcement came at this week’s National Coalition for Homeless Veterans conference, where hundreds of veterans advocates from across the country, including the California county, gathered to collaborate on ways to better assist homeless veterans.

Trump taps O’Rourke as acting VA secretary ahead of Wilkie confirmation

POLITICO — President Donald Trump has tapped longtime Veterans Affairs official Peter O’Rourke as the agency’s acting secretary, the White House announced Wednesday, a move that comes ahead of the confirmation hearing of VA secretary-designate Robert Wilkie. O’Rourke, who previously served as chief of staff for the agency and as its executive director for the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, took on the role effective Tuesday, the White House office of the press secretary announced in a statement.

VA Deputy BowmanRetiring VA deputy Bowman says agency is ‘not broken’

STARS AND STRIPES — The retiring deputy secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs on Friday reassured homeless veteran advocates about the agency’s future in his final public speech, trying to dispel worries about the leadership changes the VA has recently undergone. Thomas Bowman, a longtime VA employee and the second in command at the agency since August, is retiring June 15. The VA made the announcement Tuesday, at the same time Robert Wilkie, the expected nominee for VA secretary, stepped down as acting secretary to comply with federal statutes. VA Chief of Staff Peter O’Rourke, a former member of President Donald Trump’s transition team who arrived at the VA in 2017, temporarily took over leadership of the department as Wilkie awaits confirmation.

White House finalizes plan to stem suicides among recently separated troops

MILITARY TIMES — White House officials on Thursday finalized their promised interagency plan for suicide prevention among veterans and military members, pledging an expansion of outreach and peer support services across a range of government departments. The move includes bolstering the Defense Department’s Military One Source program to include access to mental health resources and other support services for a year after troops leave the service. It also sets a goal of a 20 percent reduction in suicides among troops and veterans by 2025, in keeping with broader administration targets for the nation’s mental health.

1027_NWS_OCR-L-CEMDEDICATION-01.JPGOPINION: Honor veterans by voting yes on Irvine’s Measure B

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER — This past Memorial Day weekend, so many of my neighbors put out their American flags to honor those who have fallen in service to our country, whose sacrifices allowed us to barbecue and enjoy the beautiful sunny day. A small but beautiful gesture of unity in a country that is so deeply divided. It made me feel hope for veterans and their families who live in our community that maybe this June, voters in Irvine will draw from that same patriotic place and give veterans what they’ve been working to accomplish for nearly 20 years — a veterans cemetery in Orange County.

Measure to allow military families to participate in rideshare economy, passes CA State Senate

ORANGE COUNTY BREEZE — The State Senate unanimously approved a measure by Fullerton Senator Josh Newman that would allow military families who relocate to California to drive for Transportation Network Companies, like Lyft and Uber, with a valid out-of-state driver’s license. Currently, TNC drivers in California must possess a California driver’s license, creating obstacles for military families who wish to participate in the rideshare economy.

Vietnam Veterans treatmentWhite House approves VA plan to offer mental health care for transitioning servicemembers

STARS AND STRIPES — The White House approved a plan for three federal agencies to provide more mental health services to servicemembers transitioning from the military, a population at increased risk for suicide, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced Thursday. In January, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that required the VA, Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security to develop a plan by March 9 on how to provide mental health care seamlessly to new veterans and implement that plan within 180 days.

These four military dogs just received the nation’s highest honor

MILITARY TIMES — Four veterans were honored with Medal of Courage awards on Capitol Hill on May 22. They didn’t give any speeches, but not just because they were humble — the four vets are retired military working dogs. The American Humane Lois Pope K-9 Medal of Courage is the highest honor for military dogs that displayed extraordinary valor and service to their country.

Camp Pendleton marines2 Camp Pendleton Marines rescue four people clinging to tree limb above Kern River

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER — Two Marines — accustomed to staying calm in chaos — this week used their military training to save four people clinging to a tree limb while dangling over the rushing Kern River. Pfc. Dustin Reed and Lance Cpl. Andrew Lucas, mechanics with the 1st Marine Logistics Group, 1st Maintenance Battalion at Camp Pendleton, were relaxing at Hart Memorial Park, a county park along the Kern River near Bakersfield on Tuesday, May 29, when they heard people screaming from the upper part of the river.

Largest gun control organization in US looks to veterans for support, advice

STARS AND STRIPES — Since the mass killing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., more veterans are bucking their pro-gun stereotype and calling for gun reform, citing their combat experience and firearm expertise as reasons why their opinions should carry weight. The movement spread in February from veterans posting on Twitter and writing commentaries in major news publications to a loose coalition formed under the title Vets for Gun Reform. When more than one million people across the country rallied against gun violence at the March for Our Lives this spring, some veterans grouped together to join the protests.

Veteran at GartnerHow a veteran rose through the ranks of corporate America

TASK & PURPOSE — The average person may think there are several, drastic differences between military life and corporate America. Yes, there are aspects of both lives that are drastically different, but the common thread of leadership bridges them both. Upon day one of military boot camp, the basic tenets of military life such as loyalty, duty, respect, service, honor, integrity and courage, are drilled into a recruit or officer candidate’s psyche. Many of those qualities are eagerly sought after in corporate America.

Why the HUD secretary says the increase in homeless veterans is concerning

AIR FORCE TIMES — Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson says he is concerned by the nationwide rise in homeless veterans last year, but not pessimistic. “We’re not happy about it, but we recognize what is going on,” he said in an interview with Military Times on Wednesday. “I don’t want to lose sight that numbers continue to go down in the rest of the country. In places where I have visited, they are begging for (veterans). There are jobs, there is housing. But it’s hard to get people to move. So we need to come up with local solutions.”

2018’s best and worst states for military retirees

WALLETHUB — Retirement is typically viewed as the end of the line — a time for rest, relaxation and the pursuit of interests long ago put on the back burner. But the story is far different for military retirees who must deal with the trials of reassimilation into civilian life. For starters, the average officer is only 45 years old — 42 for nondisability enlisted personnel — upon retirement from service. Many of those who reenter the job market face tough challenges during the transition while others struggle with more difficult problems, such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, disability and homelessness.

Army combat medicsCombat veterans push for gun reform: ‘This isn’t right’

STARS AND STRIPES — Not long ago, Army veteran Dennis Magnasco would respond with frustration when he saw his more liberal friends publicly call for gun reform. They weren’t experts on the weapons that they wanted banned, he thought. They didn’t understand the nuances. That all changed Oct. 1, 2017, when a shooter used semi-automatic rifles modified with bump-fire stocks to kill 58 people at a music festival in Las Vegas. Magnasco listened to audio of the shooting. The sound of the gunfire transported him back to his time as a combat medic. It took him back to Afghanistan.

Hundreds turn out for Supervisor Lovingood’s 5th annual Veterans Resource Fair

VICTOR VALLEY NEWS — High Desert veterans of all age groups turned out in force Thursday, May 31 for Supervisor Lovingood’s fifth annual Veterans Resource Fair. One veteran who served in Vietnam received information on getting checked out for possible health effects from Agent Orange exposure. Another who served in the National Guard discovered for the first time that he does, indeed, qualify as a veteran. Some vets received free health checkups from the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center mobile clinic.

Dublin’s street banners pay homage to local veterans

PATCH — Fifteen new street banners in Dublin honor local veterans and active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces. The banners recently debuted and will be up through Veterans Day, according to the City of Dublin. City officials said each banner is sponsored by a community member or group as a tribute to a current or retired service member living in Dublin. Councilwoman Janine Thalblum, who is U.S. Army veteran, and the late Don Biddle, who also served in the U.S. Army, are among those being honored this year.

Vietnam 50 yearsVietnam’s 50th year commemorated at cemetery

KERN VALLEY SUN — Presentations given at the Memorial Day service on May 28 at the Kern River Valley Cemetery were festive in color and song, solemn in tone, and informative about the many ways veterans and their families can be honored throughout the entire year.

WEDNESDAY

VA Choice program won’t run out of money this week

MILITARY TIMES — Patients using the Veterans Affairs Choice program for medical care won’t see appointments interrupted in the next two weeks, even if it takes the White House a few extra days to sign new funding for the service into law. VA officials repeatedly warned this month that up to 30,000 appointments a day could be canceled or delayed if new funding for the four-year-old community care program wasn’t finalized by May 31. The program allows veterans who face significant wait times or travel for VA care to instead visit a private doctor at taxpayer expense.

ecstasy-mdmaWatchdog: VA cuts opioid prescription rate by 41 percent in past 5 years

STARS AND STRIPES — A government watchdog reported Tuesday that the Department of Veterans Affairs has slashed its opioid prescription rate, concluding roughly 267,000 fewer veterans receive opioids in 2018 than did five years ago. The report confirms recent assertions from the VA that amid a nationwide opioid epidemic in which veterans are disproportionately affected, its initiatives are producing positive results.

Big changes for VA’s leadership

MILITARY TIMES — The White House named Peter O’Rourke as acting Veterans Affairs secretary after Robert Wilkie stepped down from the post to begin his formal confirmation process for the department’s permanent top job. The move had been expected since President Donald Trump announced on May 18 that he was nominating Wilkie, the Pentagon’s top personnel and readiness official, for the vacant VA secretary job.

Trump on troop payTrump issues orders aimed at weakening civil-service protections

STARS AND STRIPES — President Donald Trump is using recent changes at the Department of Veterans Affairs as a blueprint to make it easier to fire employees across the federal government. Trump signed three executive orders Friday afternoon that aim to limit union activity, shorten the amount of time it takes to fire federal workers and encourage agencies to fire employees, instead of merely disciplining them.

A day of gratitude and heaviness at Yountville veterans home

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT — Outside the black iron gates and white columns that border the hillside cemetery, they gathered to remember. Beneath white canopies and outstretched oaks, residents, family and friends met Monday at the Veterans Home of California at Yountville, sharing a Memorial Day ceremony featuring expressions of gratitude, music and military solemnity. The day honored those who had given their lives in military service to their country. But speakers also urged listeners to remember veterans still living for their sacrifices.

Memorial Day 2018 in YountvillePhotos: Memorial Day in Yountville

NAPA VALLEY REGISTER — The Veterans Home of California remembered America’s deceased service members during its annual Memorial Day ceremony at its Yountville cemetery. C.J. Bertagna played taps at the gate of the Veterans Home of California cemetery in Yountville, toward the end of the home’s annual observance of Memorial day to honor America’s war dead.

CalVet Secretary to be named SCV Chamber Honorary Chair during Patriots Luncheon

SANTA CLARITA SIGNAL — Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs Dr. Vito Imbasciani will serve as the Honorary Chair of the 8th annual SCV Chamber of Commerce Patriots Luncheon, according to a news release. “We are honored to have Secretary Imbasciani as Honorary Chair,” said Troy Hooper, Chairman of the Board. “Secretary Imbasciani has a long history of what he has accomplished through his tenure as Secretary. The Santa Clarita Valley business community works hard to thank our veterans and we’re proud to salute them every year.”

Trump and WilkieVA leadership shuffle: Secretary steps down, chief of staff moves up, deputy retires

STARS AND STRIPES — Robert Wilkie, who served as acting secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs for two months and is the expected nominee for the full-time job, will step down from his temporary post during his Senate confirmation process, the VA announced Wednesday. VA Chief of Staff Peter O’Rourke was chosen to lead the agency in the interim. Deputy Secretary Thomas Bowman, the second in command at the VA who was previously bypassed for the job of acting secretary, will retire effective June 15. Bowman will continue to serve as a “consultant,” the VA said.

This women’s memorial honors millions of ‘sisters in arms’

PBS.ORG — For the 3 million women who have served in the U.S. military, there’s a growing effort to highlight and register their place in history. Going back to the American Revolution, they have held a variety of roles, and are now the fastest-growing group of veterans. Judy Woodruff reports on the Women in Military Service for America Memorial’s work to gather and commemorate their names, photos and stories.

President TrumpTrump on Memorial Day: Those who died ‘would be very happy and proud’ of the US today

WASHINGTON EXAMINER — President Trump said on Memorial Day that the service members who died for the U.S. would be “very happy and proud” at the state of the nation they fought to protect. “Happy Memorial Day! Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today,” Trump tweeted. “Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for Blacks and Hispanics EVER (& women in 18years), rebuilding our Military and so much more. Nice!

Veterans honored with flower drop in Palm Springs

KESQ NEWS 3 — This afternoon, a B-25 Bomber in the sky above Palm Springs showered the valley floor with thousands of red and white carnations as a salute to our fallen heroes.  “To see the flowers come down that puts a thing in your heart when you see those come down,” said Tom McNunn, a local veteran. Hundreds of people braved triple-digit temps. Veterans we talked to said it’s worth it to come out and be honored.

Veterans Art - LA TimesArt gives a lifeline to help veterans cope with traumatic memories

LA TIMES — As part of a Marine Corps K team sent to the front lines since Vietnam, Sgt. Mike Dowling and his military dog, Rex, ventured into Baghdad streets to sniff out suicide bombers, improvised explosive devices and weapons caches. In 2010, he was given a new assignment: working with wounded veterans at the Naval Medical Center San Diego who had lost limbs, suffered severe burns or had lost their sight. He also tracked down veterans who had lapsed into substance abuse or were suicidal.

A day of remembrance in the nation’s capital

STARS AND STRIPES — As dawn broke over the nation’s capital, hundreds of men and women, from all walks of life, were readying monuments to wars past and present scattered across the city. On this day – Memorial Day – ceremonies held by and hosted for veterans from every major American conflict are held. Some are somber, like the wreath-laying ceremony at the National World War II Memorial. Others, like the raucous parade that runs down the street that separates the White House and the Washington Monument, are more joyous affairs.

Vietnam Veterans MemorialVeterans’ group fights Pentagon to get 74 sailors added to Vietnam Veterans Memorial

WASHINGTON TIMES — Nearly 49 years after surviving a maritime collision that claimed the lives of 74 fellow sailors, Steve Kraus remains locked in a bitter battle with the Pentagon over how those Vietnam-era casualties should be honored — and he finally may be on the verge of a major breakthrough thanks to renewed efforts on Capitol Hill. Mr. Kraus, 72, president of the USS Frank E. Evans Association, has for the past 15 years helped lead the push urging the Defense Department to add the names of the 74 sailors – each of whom had been deployed to Vietnam and taken part in military action there – to Washington’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Trump just presented this retired Navy SEAL with the Medal of Honor for his 2002 actions in Afghanistan

NAVY TIMES — Retired Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt Slabinski was awarded the nation’s highest military honor 16 years, 2 months, 20 days after the action that prompted the award, one that President Donald Trump dubbed “The Battle of Robert’s Ridge.” Trump placed the medal around Slabinski’s neck at a White House ceremony May 24 in front of a packed room full of guests, which included other of Medal of Honor recipients, as well as seven teammates of Slabinski’s who were with him in Afghanistan in the early morning hours of March 4, 2002.

Annual Memorial Day ceremony at Veteran’s Cemetery

KRCR TV — People gathered at the Northern California Veterans Cemetery Monday night to remember those who paid the ultimate price in service of the country. The keynote speaker for the event was retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Jerry Ellis. KRCR’s Chief Photographer Adam McAllister was there and spoke with U.S., Navy “Seabee” veteran, Rob Burroughs.

Memorial Day at CCCVCCalifornia Central Coast Veterans Cemetery holds inaugural Memorial Day ceremony

MONTEREY HERALD — The Epic Flag rode across the country on the back of a motorcycle, flew over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery and at last has made it back home. The large U.S. flag flew over the California Central Coast Veterans Cemetery in its inaugural Memorial Day ceremony Monday morning. “We had to fight a lot of battles to make this happen,” state Assemblymember Anna Caballero said of the cemetery.

The California military cemetery that became a national shame

SACRAMENTO BEE — As on every Memorial Day, small flags will be placed next to neat, respectful rows of headstones at military cemeteries across America. Neat and respectful is not how you would describe Mare Island Naval Cemetery – a forsaken plot of hallowed ground that fell between the cracks of Pentagon base closings and the city of Vallejo’s bankruptcy.

Support grows for ecstasy-assisted psychotherapy to treat PTSD

MILITARY.COM — Study results published Tuesday show MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, was effective in reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder for some veterans — boosting evidence to make the psychedelic drug an approved treatment. The study, conducted by clinical investigator Michael Mithoefer and sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, was published in The Lancet, a peer-reviewed journal. It was one of six MAPS-sponsored studies during their Phase 2 trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.

VA Choice eye examMassive veterans policy bill heads to Trump’s desk, but results will take time

MILITARY TIMES — A sweeping $52 billion veterans legislative package finalized by the Senate Wednesday will have wide-ranging effects on service members of every generation and their family members, but most of the impact won’t be seen until years from now. That’s because most provisions of the measure — which include overhauling the Department of Veterans Affairs community care programs and expanding caregiver benefits to older veterans — will take months or years to put in place.

A Memorial Day message from CalVet’s Secretary

SIERRA SUN TIMES — On Monday, we honor the memory of all the men women who died in service to our nation. Watch this video message from CalVet Secretary Dr. Vito Imbasciani Californians will have many opportunities to pay their respects at events held throughout the state. From the 129th Annual Memorial Day Ceremony at the Los Angeles National Cemetery to the Reading of the Names in Sacramento on May 27, you can find many more events on our CalVet calendar.

MONDAY

VA-HISTORY-051818.600x400Why the VA became a lightning rod for controversy

CNBC — Veterans care in America gets a pretty bad rap. While the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is rooted in noble intentions, it has been plagued with controversy for years. The VA has faced reports of excessive and contradictory spending, allegations of inadequate health care, a massive backlog of benefits claims and a secretary position that nobody can seem to hold down.

Wilkie’s VA nomination raises more short-term department leadership questions

MILITARY TIMES — Now that President Donald Trump has announced Robert Wilkie as his pick for the next permanent secretary of Veterans Affairs, the immediate leadership question facing the department is who the next acting VA secretary will be. On Friday, during an unrelated event at the White House, President Donald Trump announced that he would tap Wilkie — the department’s interim head for the last 51 days — for the vacant Cabinet post. The timing of the announcement seemed to shock Wilkie, who had been among a short list of candidates for the post.

New apartment complex for homeless veterans opens in Fresno

ABC 30 — Marla Danny is about to move into a new apartment. She’s a U.S Navy Veteran, a mechanic who served at Naval Air Station Lemoore. But when her husband, also a Navy veteran, passed away she says her life fell apart. “Dove deeper into the drug scene. Did that for 20 years, and then I was just was tired of it, just tired of living on the streets. Been living on the streets for five years in Tulare and Visalia.”

Entertainer Bob HopeWorld War II museum’s Bob Hope exhibit opens Friday

MILITARY TIMES — The National World War II Museum is about to open a new exhibit about comedian Bob Hope and his performances for American troops serving around the world. The exhibit includes wartime correspondence between Hope and service members, and World War II-era relics engraved to Hope. It also includes never-published or displayed photos taken by a military photographer, wartime films from his travels, Hollywood Victory Caravan photos and scrapbooks, an interactive display and an original 10-minute documentary. The museum also is hosting free showings of classic movies Bob Hope made from 1939 to 1955.

82nd Airborne modifies memorial service rules after online backlash

MILITARY TIMES — The 82nd Airborne Division has changed course just weeks after deciding to allow commanders to choose an alternate, pared down memorial service for paratroopers who die by suicide.“The 82nd Airborne Division recently received a lot of feedback on our division’s policy for memorial ceremonies,” said Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, the division spokesman, in a statement to Army Times. “After careful consideration and consultation with specialists in this field of work, we will modify our memorial ceremony policy.”

Redding Fire EvacuationsRedding retirement home ready for wildfire season

KRCR NEWS — Last year hurricanes and wildfires ripped through the country. With it came devastating images of people stuck in retirement homes or evacuated from them. The Veterans Home of California in Redding sits on acres of vegetation but as wildfire season approaches, the residents and staff are not worried. Resident Michael Vancleemput said he enjoys the Veterans Home so much, it’s worth going to war for.

Point: True VA privatization would save veterans

INSIDE SOURCES — Privatizing the Department of Veterans Affairs is an untapped opportunity for bipartisan cooperation that would advance both the Right’s goal of using market competition to improve veterans benefits and the Left’s goal of preventing troops from getting injured or killed in unnecessary wars. Military compensation includes an implicit promise that Uncle Sam will care for veterans who became disabled or sick as a result of their service. The VA administers those benefits, including providing medical care directly to veterans through the Veterans Health Administration, a fully government-owned and operated health system.

LA Veterans Art CrewLights, sound, stage: how Shakespeare is equipping veterans with work skills at the West LA VA

KPCC — In June, the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles (SCLA) is returning to the Japanese Garden on the West LA VA campus for a production of Henry IV. The program beginning June 5 marks a return to the campus after a four-year hiatus. But before Tom Hanks takes the stage as Sir John Falstaff, dozens of military veterans are training behind-the-scenes with technical theater experts to bring the show to life. On Friday, a team of veterans was assembling metal scaffolding for stadium seating in the outdoor theater, preparing for 600 audience members to gather in this wooded area of the VA grounds. They’d already poured work into the garden itself, which needed some TLC after a few years of neglect.

Many Mansions expands, improves affordable housing stock in Ventura County

VENTURA COUNTY STAR — Due to many renovations on existing properties and projects in development, Many Mansions officials say 2017 was a banner year for the nonprofit that started in 1979 to provide homes and services for Ventura County families in need. Rick Schroeder, president of the organization, said that last year was the most ambitious year to date, laying the groundwork for 2018-19.

Vet to Vets: Perks for a service connected condition

NAPA VALLEY REGISTER — People who served in the military (aka veterans) with a current medical or mental health condition that can be connected to their military service can have that condition “service connected” by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Once connected, the VA can provide treatment at no cost and possibly provide a monthly tax-free compensation depending on the severity of that condition. There are other benefits that can come into play, and many vets are not aware of these perks.

Distinguished CrossVietnam War veteran to get Distinguished Service Cross for heroism

ARMY TIMES — A Tucson man who served in the U.S. Army and fought in the Vietnam War will be presented the nation’s second-highest military award during a ceremony Tuesday at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista. Army officials say Frank Crary is getting the Distinguished Service Cross for his extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty during combat in 1966,when Crary served as a rifleman in a reconnaissance platoon in the 1st Cavalry Division.

Vietnam veterans ride from California to Las Cruces

KVIA — Hundreds of bikers have joined the Run For Wall, a support caravan for Vietnam Veterans riding all the way from Ontario California to Washington DC, stopping in Las Cruces along the way. It’s a ride with many meanings, organizers say, from bringing support to vets and remembering prisoners of war.

State to defend California law allowing life-ending drugs

WXPI — Betsy Davis threw herself a party before becoming one of the first people to use a California law allowing her to take her own life in 2016. Her sister and other advocates fear others won’t have the same choice after a Riverside County judge threw out the law Tuesday because he said it was unconstitutionally approved by the Legislature. Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia ruled lawmakers illegally passed the law during a special session devoted to other topics.

Nathan FletcherVeterans charity created by Nathan Fletcher raised and spent more than $1 million, report shows

SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE — Nathan Fletcher was a far better fundraiser than mayoral candidate. In the years following his two failed campaigns for the San Diego Mayor’s Office, Fletcher collected more than $1 million to fight depression and suicide among the nation’s war veterans, according to an unaudited report published by the Three Wise Men Veterans Foundation.

Calendar for Memorial Day weekend May 25-28

LA TIMES — Memorial Day weekend is a time to reflect on war, peace and the sacrifices of America’s veterans. You can also explore Mexican American culture, art fairs, food festivals and the world of wild horses.

Kern County Vets BuildingVolunteers spruce up Kern County Veterans office, feed local vets

BAKERSFIELD.COM — Keller Williams Realty CEO Larry Burkey called it a RED Day army as dozens of volunteer employees scraped surfaces, painted and spruced up the Kern County Veterans Service Department on Thursday morning. The company dedicates the second Thursday of every May to community service. That’s when they go out into their local neighborhoods and communities around the world to give something back. They call it RED Day, which stands for “renew, energize and donate.”

Wrightwood to again honor vets: Memorial Day ceremony will be held at 11 a.m.

VICTORVILLE DAILY PRESS — The community of Wrightwood will again host its annual Memorial Day Ceremony on Monday, May 28, this year honoring military members serving through America’s longest war, the Global War on Terror. Wrightwood’s Veteran Memorial Association members feel that military service to their country in peace and war through the years is our overriding commitment, but those serving presently and veterans who have served during this protracted period need to be recognized.

 

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