Congress dishonors veterans by dodging debate over actions against Islamic State (Washington Post)
Commentary: “If Congress got what it deserved, the Capitol Dome would never have been permitted to be the backdrop for Tuesday’s Concert for Valor on the Mall honoring Veterans Day. Why? The 535 lawmakers who work there have cravenly dodged their constitutional responsibility to make the tough decision about whether President Obama is right to lead the country into war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. What a contrast with the courage of the men and women in uniform justly celebrated on the Mall. They were willing to face death for their country. Capitol politicians won’t risk political inconvenience. Senators as politically different as Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) agree that Obama is launching airstrikes and other offensive military operations in the Middle East without legal authority. Many constitutional scholars share that view. But Congress didn’t want to vote on the matter before the midterm elections, so it took a pass.”
Alabama man’s anti-veteran rant goes viral; he says family receiving death threats (AL.com)
An Anniston man whose family owns a firearms business said his family has received as many as 20 death threats after comments he made about veterans “fighting and killing for profit” went viral. Michael Schuette said he has been up the entire night answering calls from veterans around the country, trying to explain his comments. “I do understand my comment was very harsh. I sometimes say controversial things but I’ve never had anything like this,” he said. “I took my anger out on the victims of the whole thing. I’m mad at the system that puts our kids out there to die.” Schuette posted his controversial comments on Facebook on Tuesday, which was Veterans Day. He has since removed the post, but it read, “OK, for my yearly Veterans Day speech…to all vets…you are NOT hero’s. You got paid to learn how to fight and kill for profit. You “Served” your leader…You followed the rules and made it out of whatever country you terrorized alive…You got a check and a holiday. YOU NEVER FOUGHT FOR ANY OF MY FREEDOMS!!!!! You fought for corporate interests…You never sacrificed for this country…You did so for your government owners…You did nothing for American citizens…YOU WANNT MEET HERO’s???? Well, shake hands with CIVILIAN EMTs, nurses, firefighters, lawyers and anyone in the ACLU…Please feel free to add some more hero’s below but Veterans are you NOT American hero’s.”
Marine’s unit lost 20 members in Afghanistan, another 20 to suicide at home (KHOU-Houston)
A Marine veteran who lost 20 members of his battalion in Afghanistan is searching for answers and searching for help after losing 20 more to suicide after they came home. “Nobody expected to deal with it 20 times,” said Sgt. Will Rollins, now a deputy with the Montgomery County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office. “We’ve lost 20 Marines, 20 men in combat and we’re now up to 20 on suicide. I just don’t think that should be a number that’s even close to each other.” Rollins, 31, deployed to Afghanistan with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines in 2008. An ambush battle in Dowlatabad ended with two fellow Marines dead and Rollins receiving the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for gallantry in battle, for knocking out a machine gun nest and helping save the remaining members in his unit.
Mental health providers not well prepared to care for military veterans, study finds (Science Codex)
Most community-based mental health providers are not well prepared to take care of the special needs of military veterans and their families, according to a new study by the RAND Corporation that was commissioned by United Health Foundation in collaboration with the Military Officers Association of America. The exploratory report, based on a survey of mental health providers nationally, found few community-based providers met criteria for military cultural competency or used evidence-based approaches to treat problems commonly seen among veterans. “Our findings suggest that community-based mental health providers are not as well prepared as they need to be to address the needs of veterans and their families,” said Terri Tanielian, the study’s lead author and a senior social research analyst at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “There is a need for increased training among community-based providers in high quality treatment techniques for PTSD and other disorders that are more common among veterans.” Although the Department of Defense and Veterans Health Administration in recent years have increased employment of mental health professionals, many veterans may seek services from practitioners in the civilian sector, often because they are located closer to their homes. In addition, policymakers have expanded veterans’ access to community-based health providers as a way to meet demands, given capacity constraints in the VA health system.
American Legion’s new director decries harassment in military, VA problems (Stars & Stripes)
When a homeless female veteran went to the American Legion’s first Veterans Benefits Center last month in Los Angeles with documents that said she had suffered a sexual trauma in the military, she was able to share her story with the high-ranking female leader of the veterans group. She spoke to Verna Jones, the American Legion’s new executive director and the first woman to lead the organization in its nearly 100-year history. She is also believed to be the first African American director. Jones, 49, a lawyer and Army veteran, said she was proud that she was able to offer her experience to a fellow female veteran. Women are one of the fastest-growing segments of the military population, she said. “What I bring is that personal touch, that personal experience,” she said, adding that she once waited 15 hours for a bed at the Washington VA medical center because there weren’t any beds for women. The center recently opened a pavilion for women.
Veterans die waiting to collect VA benefits (Allentown Morning Call)
When World War II veteran Norman Carty died last December in an assisted living home in Bethlehem, the government profited. It didn’t have to pay $8,660 the Department of Veterans Affairs owed him. He had been waiting for the money for six months, and the VA wouldn’t release it to his estate. “Why do we lose the benefits because they dragged their feet?” said Carty’s daughter, Linda Tocket of Bethlehem Township, Pa. The VA hadn’t paid Carty, 87, because it considered him incapable of managing his money and in need of a fiduciary. The VA’s process to appoint a fiduciary continues to take far too long.
Google launches career site to attract veterans (USA Today)
Google unveiled a new website on Tuesday hoping to lure military veterans to work at the tech giant. The Veterans hubs is an extension of Google’s career page, offering information on available jobs and how military service can translate to working at the company. “We’re very intersted in hiring veterans,” says Carrie Laureno of Google Creative Labs. “We know that veterans are very successful when they come to work at Google. We want to hire more of them.” For those veterans who don’t want to work at Google, there are still resources available to aid the transition, including virtual classes and a tool to format resumes.
I’m not dead, Wisconsin veteran tells VA (Wisconsin State Journal)
Kenneth C. Brunner wants the government to know it is dead wrong, because he is alive and well in Madison. The 81-year-old Army veteran said he was surprised to read a letter from the U.S. Veterans Benefits Administration stating that he was dead. The letter, dated Nov. 4 and addressed to Brunner’s wife, Julie, arrived at his East Side home Monday afternoon, Brunner said. “It said I was dead and not to cash any more checks,” Brunner said, his voice strong, clear and a little indignant. “I read that and I said holy …” By Tuesday, Brunner had built up a head of steam and tried to call the agency to deliver a few choice words, but it was closed for Veterans Day. The letter said Brunner’s wife was entitled to cash the check issued for the month in which he died, but no others that might have been issued. It promised $300 to help cover the cost of the funeral. “We are sorry to learn about the death of KENNETH BRUNNER and extend to you our deepest sympathy,” the letter says. “We understand that the transition period following the death of a loved one is difficult and we wish to offer our assistance and our appreciation for the honorable service of KENNETH BRUNNER.” Brunner said he receives monthly disability checks of $901 because of serious injuries he suffered in 1955 when he was an Army specialist building airstrips on a Texas Air Force base.
VA fires Western Pa. director following Legionnaires’ outbreak (Pittsburgh Tribune Review)
The Department of Veterans Affairs has dismissed the director of its Pittsburgh-area hospitals following a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. VA headquarters in Washington announced Thursday the firing of Terry Gerigk Wolf, whom the department suspended with pay in June. Its Office of Accountability Review recommended her dismissal on Oct. 3 after investigating how she handled the outbreak, which killed at least six patients and sickened at least 16 others at VA campuses in Oakland and O’Hara. The office found Wolf engaged in “conduct unbecoming of a senior executive.” Federal reviewers also found evidence to uphold claims of wasteful spending, according to a VA statement Thursday morning. Wolf appealed the dismissal recommendation but could not be reached for comment Thursday morning. “This removal action underscores VA’s commitment to hold leaders accountable and get veterans the care they need,” the VA said in the statement.