August 13 Veterans News

August 13 Veterans News

Veterans news updatePOW/MIA flag isn’t ‘racist hate’, it’s support for vets and families (Newsweek)
Opinion: “Giving the benefit of doubt as to the origin of the headline for Mr. Pearlstein’s article in the Washington Spectator, picked up by Newsweek, the best one can say is that the assertion our POW/MIA flag reflects “racist hate” is unsupported and unsupportable. The purpose appears to be a blatant attempt to generate interest in Mr. Perlstein’s latest book focused on trite, outdated political theories, overcome by events that have transpired over the past four decades. Setting aside the race-baiting headline and its purpose, the “opinions” written to dismiss the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) accounting mission as “mythology” seem intended to build on similar unsubstantiated assertions by another political author from the past, peddling similar political opinions, H. Bruce Franklin in his 1992 book, M.I.A., or, Mythmaking in America. Clearly, neither author sought to understand the solid foundation upon which the League’s expectations were established. Those who took the time and made the effort, both in Washington, DC, and in Hanoi, knew the importance. Following relatively feeble US attention post-war, the National League of POW/MIA Families, supported by our Nation’s major national Veteran organizations, worked to sustain public interest in and support for the principles most Americans hold dear—standing behind those who serve our country—including making every reasonable effort to return them to their families and our country—alive or dead.”

VA drops subpoena for whistleblower info (The Hill)
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ inspector general (OIG) is dropping its push to force a watchdog to hand over information it got from whistleblowers. In a letter to the group, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Deputy VA Inspector General Linda Halliday said that she has “decided not to enforce the subpoena.” “I believe that both POGO and the OIG have common goals to protect whistleblowers’ identities and hold VA officials accountable,” she said in the letter, which was released by Sen. Mark Kirk’s (R-Ill.) office on Wednesday. “My goal moving forward is to ensure the OIG has rooted out all the schemes and inappropriate practices that have potential to delay vital services to veterans.” Then-Acting VA Inspector General Richard Griffin issued the subpoena against POGO last year, in the wake of a countrywide scandal where VA officials were accused of manipulating data to hide how long veterans had been waiting for a medical appointment. The subpoena asked for “all records that POGO has received from current or former employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans, and other individuals or entities relating in any way to wait times, access to care, and/or patient scheduling issues at the Phoenix, Arizona VA Health Care System and any other VA medical facility.” But POGO refused to comply, suggesting in a letter to the VA inspector general’s office that doing so would undermine the organization and its sources, some of whom suggested they feared retaliation.

McCain defends record on vets from Trump (The Hill)
Sen. John McCain defended himself on Wednesday after claims from 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump that the Arizona Republican has failed his fellow American veterans.  “John McCain and the establishment in Washington have treated the vets so badly,” Trump said Tuesday evening on Fox News’ “Hannity.”  “He’s been, you know, one of the people in charge, and he’s done a very poor job,” he added. And last month, Trump said McCain was “not a war hero” just because he was captured while serving in the Vietnam War. McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released a “Fact-check” statement listing things he has done on veterans issues, to combat the “false attack” by Trump. “As Ronald Reagan used to say, ‘facts are stubborn things,’ and Senator McCain’s long history of working on behalf of his fellow veterans is clear,” the statement said. In the last year alone, McCain authored two bills that were made into law — one that allowed veterans to seek healthcare at private facilities, among other reforms, and another that strengthened military suicide prevention programs. The statement also listed endorsements of McCain from veteran service organizations and statements that blasted Trump’s comments. It also included awards and recognitions McCain has received from groups including the Veterans of Foreign War, the American Legion and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

The unasked question at the Fox presidential debate (The Hill)
Commentary by Ed Timperlake, former assistant secretary at the VA from 1989-92: “The dust from the first Fox News presidential debate is starting to settle so hopefully America can begin to focus on the strengths and weakness of the Republicans who want to be the next commander-in-chief of our country. Unfortunately, moderators Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace did not live up to the trust and confidence they wished to instill in the process. The fact that many in the media are applauding their shallow, superficial lines of inquiry is testimony to the intellectual dry rot that passes for journalism today. Of all the questions asked, nobody on the entire Fox production team thought of the 22 million American veterans who are being ill-served by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). No nation can ever repay the cost of war but America has developed the world’s best support network for veterans. Unfortunately, that safety net has been torn apart by a greedy criminal element that has cheated and gamed the system for their own benefit, leaving forgotten veterans and conscientious VA employees adrift in their wake. As the VA’s first assistant secretary for Congressional and Public Affairs in 1989 I entered a new Cabinet department filled with some of the most caring professionals I have ever met. They remain the rule today but all too often find themselves under attack by a relatively small number of criminals at VA who have gone unpunished for their actions that have led to secret waiting lists for healthcare and improper use of opiates, among other medical transgressions. So why wasn’t there one Fox debate question about VA? It took an anonymous viewer, smarter and more perceptive than everyone at Fox, to even mention veterans. When the issue did surface, Kelly bizarrely asked the question in terms of God and veterans. For future reference, let me help Fox frame this simple question: “What will you do, as president, to bring accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs?”

Former supervisor on Colorado VA hospital project subpoenaed in Ohio (The Denver Post)
The national supervisor of the bungled Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Aurora gave confidential construction planning documents to a VA employee in Cleveland who now faces a corruption conviction for passing the information on to a contractor, court documents show. Chris Kyrgos, the VA’s former national acquisition director, has been subpoenaed to testify in the trial of Mark Farmer, an architect accused by federal prosecutors of paying a former high-ranking VA official in Cleveland for the sensitive construction information. Farmer, 55, of Arlington, Va., is on trial in Akron, Ohio, on charges of conspiracy, racketeering, embezzlement, theft of public money, mail fraud and wire fraud. He is accused of conspiring with former VA official William Montague from 2010 through 2013. Montague was head of the Cleveland VA Medical Center from 1995 through 2010 and acting director of the Dayton VA Medical Center from March 2011 though December 2011. Prosecutors say Montague had a side consulting business he named the “House of Montague.” Montague was able to obtain from Kyrgos confidential construction planning documents he then sold to Farmer, federal prosecutors state. Prosecutors said Montague obtained the information without disclosing to VA employees his true reasons for requesting the records and information. He also did not disclose he was sharing the information with a contractor, according to the government. The documents Kyrgos provided included a construction monitoring report, a schedule of engineer staffing on VA projects and information on energy upgrades to existing facilities, court documents show.The documents helped Farmer’s firm, CannonDesign, to win the design work for a new VA hospital in West Los Angeles, according to prosecutors.

VA secretary pays tribute to WWII Alaska Native militia (Military Times)
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald paid tribute Wednesday to those who served in the Alaska Territorial Guard during World War II. McDonald addressed seven surviving members of the largely Native citizens militia during a ceremony in the northwest Alaska town of Kotzebue. Representatives of the event say the veterans attending the ceremony came from Kotzebue and three Alaska Native villages. In his brief speech, McDonald said he had met earlier with each member attending. He also presented them with Department of Veterans Affairs “challenge coins.” McDonald said the coins are a military tradition to present to soldiers for deeds well done. “This is my way of recognizing every one of the ATG members, thanking them for their service to our country,” he said. Alaska was still 17 years away from statehood when the 6,400-member militia was formed in 1942 to defend the vast territory from the threat of Japanese invasion. The unit was activated after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and points along Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. The volunteer militia members, nicknamed Uncle Sam’s Men and Eskimo Scouts, stepped in to watch over the 586,000-square-mile territory, which was vulnerable to further attack with the Alaska National Guard already pressed into federal service. The militia disbanded with little fanfare in March 1947. Members of the militia weren’t formally recognized by the Army at U.S. military veterans until 2004.

Veterans’ hotline celebrates new lease on life (
Every year, thousands of soldiers from around the world call a New Jersey peer hotline looking for help. They have financial or marital problems. Some are suicidal. The line is always answered – seven days a week, 24 hours a day – by a veteran trained to handle a minor issue or a potential life-threatening crisis. The Vets4Warriors program, founded at Rutgers University in 2011, has been touted as a national model of connecting veterans and family members in need with a trusting voice on the other end of the line. The program suddenly faced uncertainty after the Pentagon stripped funding from it in a cost-cutting move. The hotline was set to shut down Friday, putting about 40 employees out of work. State lawmakers, however, intervened, recently putting $8 million in special funding in the state budget to keep the program operating for another year, as well as to improve health-care access for veterans and expand a program for homeless veterans. Officials said they plan to seek private funding in the future for the hotline. At a news conference in Mount Holly on Wednesday, lawmakers and local military affairs organizations said the program helps meet a crucial need by providing support and mental-health counseling for veterans, especially those returning from combat duty. “New Jersey has a very proud history of providing services and looking out for our veterans,” State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) said. “We had to fight for them. We have an obligation.” New Jersey has 437,600 veterans, according to census data. Burlington and Ocean Counties, home to military bases, have the largest concentration of veterans, about 84,000.

Idaho lawmaker claims VA will claim gun-owning veteran competent (KREM-Spokane)
Idaho state representative Heather Scott said the Veterans Affairs examiner will declare the veteran they were going to seize guns from competent. Veteran John Arnold said he received a letter July 30 stating the VA was planning to seize his guns. VA representatives said paperwork had been filed stating Arnold was incompetent to manage his own finances, and thus they decided his guns should be taken away. He had suffered a stroke in January, which may have been the reason that paperwork was filed. Arnold said this paperwork had been filed in error and he was completely competent to handle both his finances and his guns. “Somebody else makes an error, and they cause you grief, they should fix it. And that’s all I want, is that stuff to get fixed,” said Arnold. A VA representative was scheduled to examine Arnold’s home on August 7. Community members along with two state representatives, including Scott, showed up at Arnold’s house that day to support his rights to keep the gun. The examiner did not show up to the house that day. Arnold appealed the decision to remove his guns. Representative Heather Scott posted a photo on Facebook Tuesday that stated Arnold had met with the examiner and he told Arnold he was competent to manage his own finances. Scott went on to say the original doctor said Arnold has made “dramatic improvement” in his condition. VA spokespeople did not confirm this, however, a Salt Lake City representative said Arnold is “on the right path to show he is competent.” Scott said all the paperwork still has to be processed and that it is still illegal for Arnold to purchase or transport any guns.

Virginia veteran recounts WWII’s ‘last raid’ over Japan (
Saturday marks the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender that ended World War II. As everyone knows, that followed the historic atomic bombings of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, and Nagasaki on Aug. 9. Many don’t realize that those weren’t the final U.S. air campaigns of the war. Even days after the Nagasaki blast, Japan had yet to raise the white flag, despite President Harry S. Truman’s Aug. 7 threat of “a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.” So on Aug. 14, U.S. forces in the Mariana Islands launched “The Last Raid.” In it, 800 Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers, supported by 200 fighters, flew roughly 3,000 miles round-trip to drop about 8 million more pounds of ordnance on Japan, blasting scores of targets all over the country. Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. Dallas Bowman was there, piloting one of those bombers. The Virginia native was raised in Augusta County, where he had a long and successful career working for car dealerships. He and his wife Jane, who died in 2013, moved to Roanoke in 2006, to be closer to their two daughters. He’s 92, but easily could pass for 15 years younger. His voice is strong, and he appears surprisingly spry for someone cruising toward 100. Only Bowman’s eyes have failed him. He’s legally blind, and needs the help of a magnifying instrument to read. But his memory is clear, and in recent months he’s recounted his story in public, first to the Roanoke 8th Air Force Fellowship, a group that meets monthly at The Roanoker Restaurant, and later to a pilot’s club at Roanoke Country Club. “The Last Raid” was a surprise to Bowman and his military colleagues stationed in the Marianas, a little more than 1,400 miles south of Japan. “We had just dropped the [second atomic] bomb on Nagasaki, but the Japanese did not respond,” Bowman recalled. On Saipan, where he was stationed, and on the neighboring islands of Tinian and Guam, the rank and file had heard scant rumors of the devastation the big bombs had wrought. Expectations were high that the war was over. “It was just word of mouth. There was no TV back then. No personal radios,” Bowman told me. “The only thing we got was word of mouth, by telephone and short-wave radio.”