http://www.hbo.com/films/takingchance/ click on full schedule
will be shown on HBO, several times over next week or so starting 3/23
Sent: Saturday, March 21, 2009 3:32 PM
Subject: Taking Chance Home
Long but certainly worthy of reading.
You may have already viewed the DVD on HBO.
If not, pick up the DVD on May 12. It is most moving !!!
Taking Chance Home
The following is Marine Lieutenant Colonel Strobl's account of escorting the remains of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps. It's a long and beautifully written and it deserves to be read in it's entirety. It's about Valor, Honor and Respect.
Thanks to Jarhead Dad for sending it to me.
23 Apr 04 – The enclosed article was written by LtCol M.R. Strobl USMC who is assigned to MCCDC Quantico, VA and served as the officer who escorted the remains of PFC C. Phelps USMC from Dover AFB, DE to his home. PFC Phelps was assigned to 3d Bn, 11th Marines – an artillery unit functioning as a provisional infantry battalion during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM 2. PFC Phelps was killed in action from a gunshot wound received on 9 Apr 04 during combat operations west of Baghdad. He was buried in Dubois, WY on 17 Apr 04.
Chance Phelps was wearing his Saint Christopher medal when he was killed on Good Friday. Eight days later, I handed the medallion to his mother. I didn’t know Chance before he died. Today, I miss him.Over a year ago, I volunteered to escort the remains of Marines killed in Iraq should the need arise. The military provides a uniformed escort for all casualties to ensure they are delivered safely to the next of kin and are treated with dignity and respect along the way.
Thankfully, I hadn’t been called on to be an escort since Operation Iraqi Freedom began. The first few weeks of April, however, had been a tough month for the Marines. On the Monday after Easter I was reviewing Department of Defense press releases when I saw that a Private First Class Chance Phelps was killed in action outside of Baghdad.
The press release listed his hometown—the same town I’m from. I notified our Battalion adjutant and told him that, should the duty to escort PFC Phelps fall to our Battalion, I would take him.I didn’t hear back the rest of Monday and all day Tuesday until 1800. The Battalion duty NCO called my cell phone and said I needed to be ready to leave for Dover Air Force Base at 1900 in order to escort the remains of PFC Phelps.
Before leaving for Dover I called the major who had the task of informing Phelps’s parents of his death. The major said the funeral was going to be in Dubois, Wyoming. (It turned out that PFC Phelps only lived in my hometown for his senior year of high school.) I had never been to Wyoming and had never heard of Dubois. With two other escorts from Quantico, I got to Dover AFB at 2330 on Tuesday night.
First thing on Wednesday we reported to the mortuary at the base. In the escort
lounge there were about half a dozen Army soldiers and about an equal number of Marines waiting to meet up with “their” remains for departure. PFC Phelps was not ready, however, and I was told to come back on Thursday. Now, at Dover with nothing to do and a solemn mission ahead, I began to get depressed.I was wondering about Chance Phelps.
I didn’t know anything about him; not even what he looked like. I wondered
about his family and what it would be like to meet them. I did pushups in my room until I couldn’t do any more.On Thursday morning I reported back to the mortuary. This time there was a new group of Army escorts and a couple of the Marines who had been there Wednesday. There was also an Air Force captain there to escort his brother home to San Diego.
We received a brief covering our duties, the proper handling of the remains, the
procedures for draping a flag over a casket, and of course, the paperwork attendant to our task. We were shown pictures of the shipping container and told that each one contained, in addition to the casket, a flag. I was given an extra flag since Phelps’s parents were divorced. This way they would each get one. I didn’t like the idea of stuffing the flag into my luggage but I couldn’t see carrying a large flag, folded for presentation to the next of kin, through an airport while in my Alpha uniform.
It barely fit into my suitcase.It turned out that I was the last escort to leave on
Thursday. This meant that I repeatedly got to participate in the small ceremonies that mark all departures from the Dover AFB mortuary.Most of the remains are taken from Dover AFB by hearse to the airport in Philadelphia for air transport to their final destination. When the remains of a service member are loaded onto a hearse and ready to leave the Dover mortuary, there is an announcement made over the building’s intercom system.
With the announcement, all service members working at the mortuary,
regardless of service branch, stop work and form up along the driveway to render a slow ceremonial salute as the hearse departs. Escorts also participated in each formation until it was their time to leave.On this day there were some civilian workers doing construction on the mortuary grounds. As each hearse passed, they would stop working and place their hard hats over their hearts. This was my first sign that my mission with PFC Phelps was larger than the Marine Corps and that his family and friends were not grieving alone.
Eventually I was the last escort remaining in the lounge. The Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant in charge of the Marine liaison there came to see me. He had Chance Phelps’s personal effects. He removed each item; a large watch, a wooden cross with a lanyard, two loose dog tags, two dog tags on a chain, and a Saint Christopher medal on a silver chain.
Although we had been briefed that we might be carrying some personal effects
of the deceased, this set me aback. Holding his personal effects, I was starting to get to know Chance Phelps.Finally we were ready. I grabbed my bags and went outside. I was somewhat startled when I saw the shipping container, loaded three-quarters of the way in to the back of a black Chevy Suburban that had been modified to carry such cargo.
This was the first time I saw my “cargo” and I was surprised at how large the
shipping container was. The Master Gunnery Sergeant and I verified that the name on the container was Phelps’s then they pushed him the rest of the way in and we left. Now it was PFC Chance Phelps’s turn to receive the military—and construction workers’—honors. He was finally moving towards home.As I chatted with the driver on the hour-long trip to Philadelphia, it became clear that he considered it an honor to be able to contribute in getting Chance home.
He offered his sympathy to the family. I was glad to finally be moving yet
apprehensive about what things would be like at the airport. I didn’t want this package to be treated like ordinary cargo, but I knew that the simple logistics of moving around a box this large would have to overrule my preferences. When we got to the Northwest Airlines cargo terminal at the Philadelphia airport, the cargo handler and hearse driver pulled the shipping container onto a loading bay while I stood to the side and executed a slow salute.
Once Chance was safely in the cargo area, and I was satisfied that he would be
treated with due care and respect, the hearse driver drove me over to the passenger terminal and dropped me off.As I walked up to the ticketing counter in my uniform, a Northwest employee started to ask me if I knew how to use the automated boarding pass dispenser. Before she could finish another ticketing agent interrupted her. He told me to go straight to the counter then explained to the woman that I was a military escort.
She seemed embarrassed. The woman behind the counter already had tears in
her eyes as I was pulling out my government travel voucher. She struggled to find words but managed to express her sympathy for the family and thank me for my service. She upgraded my ticket to first class.After clearing security, I was met by another Northwest Airline employee at the gate. She told me a representative from cargo would be up to take me down to the tarmac to observe the movement and loading of PFC Phelps.
I hadn’t really told any of them what my mission was but they all knew.When the
man from the cargo crew met me, he, too, struggled for words. On the tarmac, he told me stories of his childhood as a military brat and repeatedly told me that he was sorry for my loss. I was starting to understand that, even here in Philadelphia, far away from Chance’s hometown, people were mourning with his family.
On the tarmac, the cargo crew was silent except for occasional instructions to
each other. I stood to the side and saluted as the conveyor moved Chance to the aircraft. I was relieved when he was finally settled into place. The rest of the bags were loaded and I watched them shut the cargo bay door before heading back up to board the aircraft.
One of the pilots had taken my carry-on bag himself and had it stored next to the cockpit door so he could watch it while I was on the tarmac. As I boarded the plane, I could tell immediately that the flight attendants had already been informed of my mission. They seemed a little choked up as they led me to my seat. About 45 minutes into our flight I still hadn’t spoken to anyone except to tell the first class flight attendant that I would prefer water.
I was surprised when the flight attendant from the back of the plane suddenly
appeared and leaned down to grab my hands. She said, “I want you to have this” as she pushed a small gold crucifix, with a relief of Jesus, into my hand. It was her lapel pin and it looked somewhat worn. I suspected it had been hers for quite some time. That was the only thing she said to me the entire flight. When we landed in Minneapolis, I was the first one off the plane. The pilot himself escorted me straight down the side stairs of the exit tunnel to the tarmac.
The cargo crew there already knew what was on this plane. They were
unloading some of the luggage when an Army sergeant, a fellow escort who had left Dover earlier that day, appeared next to me. His “cargo” was going to be loaded onto my plane for its continuing leg. We stood side by side in the dark and executed a slow salute as Chance was removed from the plane. The cargo crew at Minneapolis kept Phelps’s shipping case separate from all the other luggage as they waited to take us to the cargo area.
I waited with the soldier and we saluted together as his fallen comrade was
loaded onto the plane.My trip with Chance was going to be somewhat unusual in that we were going to have an overnight stopover. We had a late start out of Dover and there was just too much traveling ahead of us to continue on that day. (We still had a flight from Minneapolis to Billings, Montana, then a five-hour drive to the funeral home. That was to be followed by a 90-minute drive to Chance’s hometown.) I was concerned about leaving him overnight in the Minneapolis cargo area.
My ten-minute ride from the tarmac to the cargo holding area eased my
apprehension. Just as in Philadelphia, the cargo guys in Minneapolis were extremely respectful and seemed honored to do their part. While talking with them, I learned that the cargo supervisor for Northwest Airlines at the Minneapolis airport is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves. They called him for me and let me talk to him. Once I was satisfied that all would be okay for the night, I asked one of the cargo crew if he would take me back to the terminal so that I could catch my hotel’s shuttle.
Instead, he drove me straight to the hotel himself. At the hotel, the Lieutenant
Colonel called me and said he would personally pick me up in the morning and bring me back to the cargo area. Before leaving the airport, I had told the cargo crew that I wanted to come back to the cargo area in the morning rather than go straight to the passenger terminal.
I felt bad for leaving Chance overnight and wanted to see the shipping container
where I had left it for the night. It was fine.The Lieutenant Colonel made a few phone calls then drove me around to the passenger terminal. I was met again by a man from the cargo crew and escorted down to the tarmac. The pilot of the plane joined me as I waited for them to bring Chance from the cargo area. The pilot and I talked of his service in the Air Force and how he missed it.
I saluted as Chance was moved up the conveyor and onto the plane. It was to be a while before the luggage was to be loaded so the pilot took me up to the board the plane where I could watch the tarmac from a window. With no other passengers yet on board, I talked with the flight attendants and one of the cargo guys. He had been in the Navy and one of the attendants had been in the Air Force. Everywhere I went, people were continuing to tell me their relationship to the military. After all the baggage was aboard, I went back down to the tarmac, inspected the cargo bay, and watched them secure the door.
When we arrived at Billings, I was again the first off the plane. This time Chance’s shipping container was the first item out of the cargo hold. The funeral director had driven five hours up from Riverton, Wyoming to meet us. He shook my hand as if I had personally lost a brother. We moved Chance to a secluded cargo area. Now it was time for me to remove the shipping container and drape the flag over the casket.
I had predicted that this would choke me up but I found I was more concerned
with proper flag etiquette than the solemnity of the moment. Once the flag was in place, I stood by and saluted as Chance was loaded onto the van from the funeral home. I was thankful that we were in a small airport and the event seemed to go mostly unnoticed. I picked up my rental car and followed Chance for five hours until we reached Riverton. During the long trip I imagined how my meeting with Chance’s parents would go.
I was very nervous about that.When we finally arrived at the funeral home, I had
my first face to face meeting with the Casualty Assistance Call Officer. It had been his duty to inform the family of Chance’s death. He was on the Inspector/Instructor staff of an infantry company in Salt Lake City, Utah and I knew he had had a difficult week. Inside I gave the funeral director some of the paperwork from Dover and discussed the plan for the next day. The service was to be at 1400 in the high school gymnasium up in Dubois, population about 900, some 90 miles away. Eventually, we had covered everything.
The CACO had some items that the family wanted to be inserted into the casket
and I felt I needed to inspect Chance’s uniform to ensure everything was proper. Although it was going to be a closed casket funeral, I still wanted to ensure his uniform was squared away.Earlier in the day I wasn’t sure how I’d handle this moment. Suddenly, the casket was open and I got my first look at Chance Phelps. His uniform was immaculate—a tribute to the professionalism of the Marines at Dover.
I noticed that he wore six ribbons over his marksmanship badge; the senior one
was his Purple Heart. I had been in the Corps for over 17 years, including a combat tour, and was wearing eight ribbons. This Private First Class, with less than a year in the Corps, had already earned six. The next morning, I wore my dress blues and followed the hearse for the trip up to Dubois. This was the most difficult leg of our trip for me. I was bracing for the moment when I would meet his parents and hoping I would find the right words as I presented them with Chance’s personal effects.
We got to the high school gym about four hours before the service was to begin.
The gym floor was covered with folding chairs neatly lined in rows. There were a few townspeople making final preparations when I stood next to the hearse and saluted as Chance was moved out of the hearse. The sight of a flag-draped coffin was overwhelming to some of the ladies.We moved Chance into the gym to the place of honor. A Marine sergeant, the command representative from Chance’s battalion, met me at the gym. His eyes were watery as he relieved me of watching Chance so that I could go eat lunch and find my hotel.
At the restaurant, the table had a flier announcing Chance’s service. Dubois High School gym; two o’ clock. It also said that the family would be accepting donations so that they could buy flak vests to send to troops in Iraq.I drove back to the gym at a quarter after one. I could’ve walked—you could walk to just about anywhere in Dubois in ten minutes. I had planned to find a quiet room where I could take his things out of their pouch and untangle the chain of the Saint Christopher medal from the dog tag chains and arrange everything before his parents came in.
I had twice before removed the items from the pouch to ensure they were all
there—even though there was no chance anything could’ve fallen out. Each time, the two chains had been quite tangled. I didn’t want to be fumbling around trying to untangle them in front of his parents. Our meeting, however, didn’t go as expected.I practically bumped into Chance’s step-mom accidentally and our introductions began in the noisy hallway outside the gym. In short order I had met Chance’s step-mom and father followed by his step-dad and, at last, his mom. I didn’t know how to express to these people my sympathy for their loss and my gratitude for their sacrifice.
Now, however, they were repeatedly thanking me for bringing their son home
and for my service. I was humbled beyond words.I told them that I had some of Chance’s things and asked if we could try to find a quiet place. The five of us ended up in what appeared to be a computer lab—not what I had envisioned for this occasion. After we had arranged five chairs around a small table, I told them about our trip. I told them how, at every step, Chance was treated with respect, dignity, and honor. I told them about the staff at Dover and all the folks at Northwest Airlines.
I tried to convey how the entire Nation, from Dover to Philadelphia, to
Minneapolis, to Billings, and Riverton expressed grief and sympathy over their loss.Finally, it was time to open the pouch. The first item I happened to pull out was Chance’s large watch. It was still set to Baghdad time. Next were the lanyard and the wooden cross. Then the dog tags and the Saint Christopher medal. This time the chains were not tangled.
Once all of his items were laid out on the table, I told his mom that I had one
other item to give them. I retrieved the flight attendant’s crucifix from my pocket and told its story. I set that on the table and excused myself. When I next saw Chance’s mom, she was wearing the crucifix on her lapel.By 1400 most of the seats on the gym floor were filled and people were finding seats in the fixed bleachers high above the gym floor. There were a surprising number of people in military uniform. Many Marines had come up from Salt Lake City.
Men from various VFW posts and the Marine Corps League occupied multiple
rows of folding chairs. We all stood as Chance’s family took their seats in the front. It turned out that Chance’s sister, a Petty Officer in the Navy, worked for a Rear Admiral—the Chief of Naval Intelligence—at the Pentagon. The Admiral had brought many of the sailors on his staff with him to Dubois pay respects to Chance and support his sister. After a few songs and some words from a Navy Chaplain, the Admiral took the microphone and told us how Chance had died.
Chance was an artillery cannoneer and his unit was acting as provisional
military police outside of Baghdad. Chance had volunteered to man a .50 caliber machine gun in the turret of the leading vehicle in a convoy. The convoy came under intense fire but Chance stayed true to his post and returned fire with the big gun, covering the rest of the convoy, until he was fatally wounded.Then the commander of the local VFW post read some of the letters Chance had written home. In letters to his mom he talked of the mosquitoes and the heat. In letters to his stepfather he told of the dangers of convoy operations and of receiving fire.The service was a fitting tribute to this hero.
When it was over, we stood as the casket was wheeled out with the family
following. The casket was placed onto a horse-drawn carriage for the mile-long trip from the gym, down the main street, then up the steep hill to the cemetery. I stood alone and saluted as the carriage departed the high school. I found my car and joined Chance’s convoy.The town seemingly went from the gym to the street. All along the route, the people had lined the street and were waving small American flags.
The flags that were otherwise posted were all at half-staff. For the last quarter
mile up the hill, local boy scouts, spaced about 20 feet apart, all in uniform, held large flags. At the foot of the hill, I could look up and back and see the enormity of our procession. I wondered how many people would be at this funeral if it were in, say, Detroit or Los Angeles—probably not as many as were here in little Dubois, Wyoming.The carriage stopped about 15 yards from the grave and the military pall bearers and the family waited until the men of the VFW and Marine Corps league were formed up and school busses had arrived carrying many of the people from the procession route.
Once the entire crowd was in place, the pallbearers came to attention and
began to remove the casket from the caisson. As I had done all week, I came to attention and executed a slow ceremonial salute as Chance was being transferred from one mode of transport to another.From Dover to Philadelphia; Philadelphia to Minneapolis; Minneapolis to Billings; Billings to Riverton; and Riverton to Dubois we had been together. Now, as I watched them carry him the final 15 yards, I was choking up. I felt that, as long as he was still moving, he was somehow still alive. Then they put him down above his grave.
He had stopped moving.Although my mission had been officially complete once
I turned him over to the funeral director at the Billings airport, it was his placement at his grave that really concluded it in my mind. Now, he was home to stay and I suddenly felt at once sad, relieved, and useless.The chaplain said some words that I couldn’t hear and two Marines removed the flag from the casket and slowly folded it for presentation to his mother. When the ceremony was over, Chance’s father placed a ribbon from his service in Vietnam on Chance’s casket.
His mother approached the casket and took something from her blouse and put
it on the casket. I later saw that it was the flight attendant’s crucifix. Eventually friends of Chance’s moved closer to the grave. A young man put a can of Copenhagen on the casket and many others left flowers. Finally, we all went back to the gym for a reception. There was enough food to feed the entire population for a few days. In one corner of the gym there was a table set up with lots of pictures of Chance and some of his sports awards. People were continually approaching me and the other Marines to thank us for our service.
Almost all of them had some story to tell about their connection to the military.
About an hour into the reception, I had the impression that every man in Wyoming had, at one time or another, been in the service.It seemed like every time I saw Chance’s mom she was hugging a different well wisher. As time passed, I began to hear people laughing. We were starting to heal.After a few hours at the gym, I went back to the hotel to change out of my dress blues. The local VFW post had invited everyone over to “celebrate Chance’s life.”
The Post was on the other end of town from my hotel and the drive took less
than two minutes. The crowd was somewhat smaller than what had been at the gym but the Post was packed.Marines were playing pool at the two tables near the entrance and most of the VFW members were at the bar or around the tables in the bar area. The largest room in the Post was a banquet/dinning/dancing area and it was now called “The Chance Phelps Room.” Above the entry were two items: a large portrait of Chance in his dress blues and the Eagle, Globe, & Anchor.
In one corner of the room there was another memorial to Chance. There were
candles burning around another picture of him in his blues. On the table surrounding his photo were his Purple Heart citation and his Purple Heart medal. There was also a framed copy of an excerpt from the Congressional Record. This was an elegant tribute to Chance Phelps delivered on the floor of the United States House of Representatives by Congressman Scott McInnis of Colorado. Above it all was a television that was playing a photo montage of Chance’s life from small boy to proud Marine.
I did not buy a drink that night. As had been happening all day, indeed all week,
people were thanking me for my service and for bringing Chance home. Now, in addition to words and handshakes, they were thanking me with beer. I fell in with the men who had handled the horses and horse-drawn carriage. I learned that they had worked through the night to groom and prepare the horses for Chance’s last ride.
They were all very grateful that they were able to contribute.After a while we all
gathered in the Chance Phelps room for the formal dedication. The Post commander told us of how Chance had been so looking forward to becoming a Life Member of the VFW. Now, in the Chance Phelps Room of the Dubois, Wyoming post, he would be an eternal member. We all raised our beers and the Chance Phelps room was christened.Later, as I was walking toward the pool tables, a Staff Sergeant from the Reserve unit in Salt Lake grabbed me and said, “Sir, you gotta hear this.”
There were two other Marines with him and he told the younger one, a Lance Corporal, to tell me his story. The Staff Sergeant said the Lance Corporal was normally too shy and modest to tell it but now he’d had enough beer to overcome his usual tendencies.As the Lance Corporal started to talk, an older man joined our circle. He wore a baseball cap that indicated he had been with the 1st Marine Division in Korea. Earlier in the evening he had told me about one of his former commanding officers; a Colonel Puller.
So, there I was, standing in a circle with three Marines recently returned from
fighting with the 1st Marine Division in Iraq and one not so recently returned from fighting with the 1st Marine Division in Korea. I, who had fought with the 1st Marine Division in Kuwait, was about to gain a new insight into our Corps.The young Lance Corporal began to tell us his story. At that moment, in this circle of current and former Marines, the differences in our ages and ranks dissipated—we were all simply Marines.
His squad had been on a patrol through a city street. They had taken small arms
fire and had literally dodged an RPG round that sailed between two Marines. At one point they received fire from behind a wall and had neutralized the sniper with a SMAW round. The back blast of the SMAW, however, kicked up a substantial rock that hammered the Lance Corporal in the thigh; only missing his groin because he had reflexively turned his body sideways at the shot. Their squad had suffered some wounded and was receiving more sniper fire when suddenly he was hit in the head by an AK-47 round.
I was stunned as he told us how he felt like a baseball bat had been slammed
into his head. He had spun around and fell unconscious. When he came to, he had a severe scalp wound but his Kevlar helmet had saved his life. He continued with his unit for a few days before realizing he was suffering the effects of a severe concussion.As I stood there in the circle with the old man and the other Marines, the Staff Sergeant finished the story.
He told of how this Lance Corporal had begged and pleaded with the Battalion surgeon to let him stay with his unit. In the end, the doctor said there was just no way—he had suffered a severe and traumatic head wound and would have to be med’evaced.The Marine Corps is a special fraternity. There are moments when we are reminded of this. Interestingly, those moments don’t always happen at awards ceremonies or in dress blues at Birthday Balls. I have found, rather, that they occur at unexpected times and places: next to a loaded moving van at Camp Lejeune’s base housing, in a dirty CP tent in northern Saudi Arabia, and in a smoky VFW post in western Wyoming.
After the story was done, the Lance Corporal stepped over to the old man, put
his arm over the man’s shoulder and told him that he, the Korean War vet, was his hero. The two of them stood there with their arms over each other’s shoulders and we were all silent for a moment. When they let go, I told the Lance Corporal that there were recruits down on the yellow footprints tonight that would soon be learning his story.I was finished drinking beer and telling stories.
I found Chance’s father and shook his hand one more time. Chance’s mom had
already left and I deeply regretted not being able to tell her goodbye.I left Dubois in the morning before sunrise for my long drive back to Billings. It had been my honor to take Chance Phelps to his final post. Now he was on the high ground overlooking his town.
I miss him.
Like I said, it's a story about Valor, Honor and Respect. The town of Dubois, Northwestern Airlines, and LTC Strobl deserve our thanks, too.
Semper Fi, Corporal Phelps.
Update: Many have emailed me and asked what they can do to help our soldiers fighting this war. Here is an explanation of a current operation that I am a part of to support the Marines in Fallujah. You can make a difference in this war!
Pick up the DVD being released on May 12, 2009.
YNCS Don Harribine, USN(ret)
Saturday, March 21, 2009
http://www.hbo.com/films/takingchance/ click on full schedule
From MOAA… COLA Making Headway
This week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the consumer price index (CPI) for February. The CPI is the metric used to calculated annual cost of living adjustments (COLA) for military retired pay, Social Security and survivor annuities.
Inflation is making its way towards positive territory, but not very fast. The February CPI increased 0.5% over January’s number. That puts cumulative inflation at -4.1% since October.
This is the lowest rate of inflation in almost 40 years. Only five times since 1970 has there been a CPI swing of more than 4% in the space of five months. And this is the first time that large of a swing has been negative. Check out MOAA’s month-by-month COLA track comparison for the last three years.
If inflation is negative or flat for the entire fiscal year, there would be no COLA for retired pay or Social Security.
It is almost unheard of, not to see a pay raise, food costs are not coming down, they are still sky high and rising in many cases, for meat, potatoes, even noodles, the power companies are getting approvals to build new nuclear facilities and the state has approved a 35% increase to be phased in over the next few years here in SC, the costs of living are going up, even if for some reason they are not being seen in the CPI, in real life there is more money going out to pay normal living expenses, what am I supposed to do turn off my air conditioner for the summer? Quit feeding the grand kids? I am not happy about this, but we all may have to tighten our belts in the next year, deflation is hard........
My name is John Waltz and I was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan in a
family deeply rooted in hard work and blue-collar values. My father and
uncle taught me the real value of being an American. They both gave over 30
years at General Motors and were strong union supporters. They instilled in
me dedication, loyalty, work ethic, and a deep love for my country that led
to my joining the military even understanding I might easily end up in a war
not of my choosing.
I had the distinct honor to serve on the USS George Washington and was
directly involved in Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and
Operation Enduring Freedom. Having come home and having to fight for medical
and disability benefits I learned that most in Congress have little or no
concern sending us into war but are by far from willing to assume their
responsibility on our return. Like every other working class American we
asked for nothing more than was promised.
The fact we had to fight for our rights should be a wakeup call to every one
of us and is a key reason that I currently am a proud Democrat who believes
in doing what is truly right for all Americans. My second call to serve is
to be your next Democratic Congressman from Kentucky's Fourth District,
which the inspiration to run has come from friends and family directly
impacted by my service.
I am a simple working class married father of four who has had enough of
politics as usual. As your Member of Congress, I will not quit and will stay
in the fight to ensure America is once again safe, secure and our children
have every opportunity to savor the fruits of their labors. While I may not
necessarily have all the answers or even know all the questions, I know that
with your active help and support we can initiate the process of addressing
these important issues in clear straightforward English.
In the last election, we as a country were fortunate to restore the
presidency with a Democratic leader, but many of the same Republicans such
as my opponent support and rally for the failed policies of George Bush. It
is time we place someone in charge who not only served in our military but
who is deeply concerned with the future of our beloved nation and her
In order to reclaim Kentucky's Fourth District your gift of $25, $50, $100,
$250, $500 or $1,000 will help me raise the vital "early seed money" I need
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Paypal donations to contribute or call me personally at 859-992-0083.
I pledge to you that every day that I am in office; I will be a fighting
advocate for not only my brothers and sisters in Kentucky's Fourth District
but in America as well. Thus, my stance on the issues are not mere talking
points rather they are the torch I am going to bear as your Congressman and
is my pledge to finally put America back on her feet.
I had the distinct honor to serve on the USS George Washington and was
directly involved in Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and
Operation Enduring Freedom. After having served in the above conflicts no
veteran should have to endure what I and several other veterans went
through. I pledge to fight everyday to ensure no one who wears or has worn
the uniform of the United States endures what we and others have
experienced. No veteran should have to endure what I and thousands of
veterans went through after coming home. I pledge to fight everyday to
ensure no one who wears or has worn the uniform of the United States will
endure what others like myself have experienced.
Defense and Foreign Aid:
Stimulating our own economy must be our priority. We should be investing in
America and American interests first. I will work to eliminate ineffective
and indirect foreign aid. It should be in our highest interest as a
sovereign nation to be a guiding light of liberty but the primary sponsor of
only our own. I will rise in opposition to any further measures that will
cause our military to fight in unjust wars and under a foreign flag.
Local control of education spending is critical to provide our children with
quality schools. I will not support federal rules or funding mandates that
hamstring state and local education efforts. This will enable states to
better invest in their academic infrastructure, which would include hiring
more teachers, improving curriculum, and utilizing innovative technology
that is best suited for their particular needs.
Restoring Middle Class Success:
Making college affordable while stemming college dropout rates, demand
colleges utilize private funds and donations to drive tuition before
receiving any federal funding because the current no strings attached
funding allows the school unchecked power to increase tuition. Increase
college readiness and retention by improving K-12 education
Energy and Environment:
National security demands that America becomes energy independent as quickly
as possible. Tax credits and incentives should be expanded to move toward
alternative energies that are environmentally friendly and increased
domestic energy production so we are not held hostage by foreign oil.
Immigration: America is a sovereign nation and her borders should be
protected unconditionally. Immigration laws must be enforced uniformly and
employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants must be penalized. I will
work to end federal tax benefits for illegal immigrants.
The American tax system is broken and favors the wealthy. I will push to
simplify the tax code in a way that will provide equitable taxation for
Executive Director for Severus Worldwide
~ Founded organization in an effort to revitalize medical facilities
in Iraq, created program structure, established relationships with doctors
in Iraq to assess needs, directed fundraising efforts
Executive Vice President for Iraq War Veterans Organization
~ Led recruiting efforts, established and maintained programs for
Iraq/Afghanistan veterans, advocated on veterans behalf to the Veteran
Administration and Congress, led fight against veterans being labeled with
personality or adjustment disorders vice post-traumatic stress disorder
Kentucky Director for the Order of the Silver Rose
~ Led statewide efforts to gain awareness for veterans who have been
inflicted by Agent Orange diseases and ailments
Friday, March 20, 2009
Nazi Guard Deported to Austria
By KAREN ANN CULLOTTA
Published: March 19, 2009
An 83-year-old man who admitted that as a Nazi concentration camp guard he took part in a two-day killing spree in which 42,000 people were killed was deported to Austria Thursday from his home in Wisconsin, immigration officials said.
The former guard, Josias Kumpf, admitted that he participated in a murderous November 1943 Nazi operation that went by the code name “Aktion Erntefest” — Operation Harvest Festival — in which roughly 42,000 Jewish men, women and children were murdered at three Nazi camps in eastern Poland in two days.
Mr. Kumpf acknowledged his role was as a guard and an assassin at the Trawniki Labor Camp, where 8,000 men, women and children were shot dead in a single day, Nov. 3, 1943, Justice Department officials said.
He was removed earlier this week from his home in Racine, Wis., by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
Mr. Kumpf immigrated to the United States from Austria in 1956, and became a citizen in 1964. A spokesman for the Justice Department said officials began their efforts to deport him in 2003, when a federal lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Wisconsin to strip him of his citizenship because of his participation in war crimes. His citizenship was revoked in 2005.
“Josias Kumpf, by his own admission, stood guard with orders to shoot any surviving prisoners who attempted to escape an SS massacre that left thousands of Jews dead,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin, said in a written statement Thursday. “His court-ordered removal from the United States to Austria is another milestone in the government’s long-running effort to ensure that individuals who participated in crimes against humanity do not find sanctuary in this country.”
How many more of these old Nazi's are still hiding in plain sight here in the US? How many of the Paperclip doctors and scientists are still here and still being protected by the CIA, who enabled them to immigrate here after WW2 for the "greater good" or to keep them from faling into Russian hands and end up working for them and their Cold War era programs. The space race, CBR weapons and other such research? Will we ever know the truth?
House Veterans' Panel Approves Bill That Would Cover Emergency Treatment at Non-VA Facilities
The House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Health on Thursday by voice vote approved a bill (HR 1377) that would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide reimbursement for emergency treatment received at hospitals not affiliated with VA, CQ Today reports. The bill, sponsored by House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Chair Bob Filner (D-Calif.), would cover veterans who have private health insurance coverage but still have outstanding emergency-treatment bills. The measure does not require VA to cover veterans' copayments for emergency treatment. The subcommittee also adopted by voice vote an amendment by Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas) that would make the measure effective on the date of enactment and allow the VA secretary to provide reimbursements for emergency treatment provided at non-VA facilities at any time before the date of enactment.
In related news, the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity approved by voice vote five other bills, three of which address issues related to medical training and education for veterans:
HR 228 would establish a scholarship program for students pursuing degrees or certificates in medical studies to help people with visual impairments. The annual scholarships would be worth between $15,000 and $45,000. The bill states that the program, which would require scholarship recipients to work at a VA hospital for three years, would be "subject to the availability of appropriations";
HR 466 would bar discrimination and reprisals against people who have developed illnesses, disabilities or injuries during their military service; and
HR 1088 would require newly appointed outreach specialists for disabled veterans and veterans' employment representatives to complete a year of special training (Johnson, CQ Today, 3/19).
Iraq, Afghanistan Vets Lead Jobless Numbers
Reported by: RNS Newsroom Solutions
Friday, Mar 20, 2009 @11:05am CST
Veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq make up more than 11-percent of all Americans collecting unemployment benefits.
One in nine of the men and women who've served their country in the military find themselves on the front lines of the economic downturn.
The number comes from Labor Department economist Jim Walker who says the number of jobless vets has gone up four-percent in the past year reaching eleven-point-two-percent, far higher than the current eight-point-eight-percent rate for non veterans of the two conflicts.
"USA Today" reports unemployment among the youngest vets, those aged 20 to 24 hit 15-percent in February.
The rate is under 14-percent for non veterans in that same demographic
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Veterans for Change Fights for Presumptive Disability
by Robert O'Dowd, Staff Writer
The Veterans for Change (VFC) supports legislation to include veterans under the VA presumptive disability category who were exposed to trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) in the military and are seriously ill from diseases linked to these chemicals.
The VFC was founded in 2006 by Jim Davis, son of retired Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant (MGySgt) Lesley Davis who died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," from exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.
Davis said that the VFC supported a successful national effort to include ALS under the VA Presumptive Disability category in 2008.
Davis, President of the VFC, also said that the VFC recently prepared a draft TCE/PCE Reduction bill modeled after a previous bill (2008 TCE Reduction Act), which did not make it out of committee for a Congressional vote.
Davis indicated that he met with California Congressional staffers, and is now circulating a petition for support among veterans and others.
Copies of the petition can be obtained from the VFC by sending an email to Jim Davis at email@example.com.
According to Davis: “If the VFC legislation is signed into law with the TCE/PCE presumptive disability provision intact, veterans with illnesses linked to TCE/PCE exposure and stationed on military bases where there’s evidence of exposure to these contaminants would be eligible for VA compensation disability payments and medical care from the VA. This is not like winning the lottery, but for many disabled veterans, this would definitely help pay the bills.”
TCE is a widespread contaminant among many water systems in the U.S. A 2003 Air Force Pentagon report estimated that there were 1,400 TCE-contaminated military sites.
Military Bases Contaminated
The Marine Corps Times reported 22 military bases with TCE contaminated water in June 2007:
Air Force Plant #4 (General Dynamics) — Fort Worth, Texas
Andersen Air Force Base — Yigo, Guam
Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow — Barstow, Calif.
Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant — Hall County, Neb.
Fairchild Air Force Base (4 waste areas) — Spokane, Wash.
Lake City Army Ammunition Plant — Independence, Mo.
March Air Force Base — Riverside, Calif.
Mather Air Force Base — Mather, Calif.
McChord Air Force Base — Tacoma, Wash.
McClellan Air Force Base — McClellan AFB, Calif.
Middletown Air Field — Middletown, Pa.
Naval Air Development Center — Warminster Township, Pa.
Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant — Bedford, Mass.
Nebraska Ordnance Plant — Mead, Neb.
Norton Air Force Base — San Bernardino, Calif.
Old Roosevelt Field — Garden City, N.Y.
Otis Air National Guard Base/Camp Edward – Falmouth, Mass.
Picatinny Arsenal (U.S. Army) — Rockaway Township, N.J.
Pease Air Force Base — Portsmouth/ Newington, N.H.
Whiting Field Naval Air Station — Milton, Fla.
Wurtsmith Air Force Base — Oscoda, Mich.
New Brighton/ Arden Hills (Army) — New Brighton, Minn.
The same Marine Corps Times news story provided internet links with information on the health effects of exposure to contaminants found on these bases. The information was compiled by The Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR), a Federal agency charged with responsibility for performing public health assessments. (See: http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2007/06/marine_water_list_070625/).
Our research found that the National Priority List (EPA Superfund) contains 133 military bases. Many of these bases are contaminated with TCE/PCE and other deadly contaminants. Not everyone on these bases was exposed to these chemicals. Exposure to TCE/PCE can occur through ingestion (drinking water), inhalation, and dermal contact. (See: www. http://militarysuperfunds.blogspot.com/)
VFC Supports Presumptive Disability
According to the San Bernardino County’s Department of Veterans Affairs: “In many cases the veteran or dependent must provide a statement, preferably a medical statement, that links (nexus) the current disability with a disability incurred or worsened in service. Or, you must provide medical evidence to link a new condition to an existing service-connected disability (secondary service-connection). The nexus statement must be very clear to fit the criteria required by the VA. You need to discuss this issue with your representative, who can help you write a letter for your doctor or tell you what you need to do to get a nexus statement.” (see: hss.co.san-bernardino.ca.us/va/PDFs/10-DutytoAssist.pdf)
Davis told us that including exposure to TCE/PCE under the VA’s Presumptive Disability category eliminates the need for an expensive medical nexus statement that many veterans can’t afford.
The VA currently has four groups of veterans under the Presumptive Disability category, including former POWs, Vietnam veterans (exposed to Agent Orange); atomic veterans (exposed to ionizing radiation); and Gulf War veterans.
TCE and PCE Known Carcinogens
In Congressional testimony on TCE/PCE contamination of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in June 2007, ATSDR reported on some of the health effects of exposure to TCE/PCE.
Dr. Thomas Sinks, Deputy Director, ATSDR, stated that: “Occupational exposure to TCE may cause nervous system effects, kidney, liver and lung damage, abnormal heartbeat, coma, and possibly death. Occupational exposure to TCE also has been associated with adult cancers such as kidney cancer, liver and biliary cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
TCE in drinking water has been associated with childhood leukemia in two studies and with specific birth defects such as neural tube defects and oral clefts in one study.”
Dr. Sinks noted that: “PCE is a manufactured chemical used for dry cleaning and metal degreasing. Occupational exposure to PCE can cause dizziness, headaches, sleepiness, confusion, nausea, difficulty in speaking and walking, unconsciousness, Exposure to PCE-contaminated drinking water has been linked with adult cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, bladder cancer, and breast cancer.
Inhalation and ingestion are important routes of exposure for both TCE and PCE. Both chemicals are listed in the 11th Report on Carcinogens from the National Toxicology Program as reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established Maximum Contaminant Levels for drinking water of 5 parts per billion (ppb) for PCE in 1991 and for TCE in 1987.” (See: energycommerce.house.gov/cmte_mtgs/110-oi-hrg.061207.Sinks-Testimony.pdf)
The latency period or the time between first exposure to a cancer-causing agent and clinical recognition of the disease can be 20 years or more. For many veterans this means that there is no record of cancer in their military service medical records, requiring them to obtain an opinion from a medical expert linking their cancer to military service. The VA calls this a nexus opinion and this can cost thousands of dollars.
We called one medical doctor and toxicologist on the west coast and confirmed that a one page medical report would cost about $3,000. The doctor’s office advised the cost would go up depending upon the medical records required to be reviewed.
The rub is that seriously ill veterans, out of work, often lack the financial means to pay for these services. Without a medical nexus opinion, the VA will likely deny the veteran’s disability compensation claim.
There's a better way to repay those who served our country: Include disabled veterans exposed to TCE/PCE under the VA’s presumptive disability category. It’s the right thing to do.
For more information on the VFC, see groups.yahoo.com/group/VETERANS-FOR-CHANGE
I am all for more "presumptive disability" categories for exposures to toxic exposures for military members, including the veterans used in the Nuclear, Biological, and chemical weapons experiments that took place from 1941 thru 1975 in programs at Edgewood Arsenal, Fort Detrick, Dugway Proving Grounds, Deseret Utah, Fort Greely Alaska, Panama, and other places during the Cold War era. Much of the data is classified or was destroyed by people like Sidney Gottlieb of the CIA and it has prevented ill veterans from being able to prove exposures, these men and their widows given these obstacles should be granted "presumptive status" for cardiac, gastrointestinal, nuerological, pulmonary and other medical conditions that might be linked to the exposures they endured during service, many widows have never even been told that their spouses were used in these classified experiments.
Myself I did not learn until October 2002 that the information about the drugs and chemical weapons experiments I was used in during June thru August 1974 at Edgewood Arsenal was now public information, all except the most highly classified data. Yet the VA continues to deny any liability.
Akaka Receives VFW Congressional Award
Washington D.C., March 18, 2009- The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. presented its 2009 Congressional Award to Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) for his outstanding service to national defense, homeland security, and to veterans, servicemembers and their families.
"This award is extremely important to the VFW," said National Commander Glen M. Gardner Jr., a Vietnam veteran from Round Rock, Texas, "because it recognizes a champion in Congress who continues to fight for a strong and secure America, and for those who have worn the uniform."
The VFW Congressional Award has been presented annually since 1964 to one member of the House or Senate for significant legislative contributions on behalf of veterans and military service personnel. Past recipients include strong national security and veterans' advocates, such as Mississippi's Sen. John Stennis (D) and Rep. "Sonny" Montgomery (D), and South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond (R), among many others. Last year's award went to Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas).
Akaka, a World War II veteran of the Army Corps of Engineers, has been a staunch supporter of veterans, servicemembers and their families throughout his seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and now four terms in the U.S. Senate
The senator is the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and a senior member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management. A tirelessly supporter of servicemen and women and their families, he played a pivotal role in ensuring the new 21st Century GI Bill became law, and is responsible for major increases in VA funding, as well as marshaling through a large array of bills to improve veterans programs, benefits and entitlements. He was also instrumental in defeating recent proposals that would have restricted a veteran’s ability to receive VA compensation for service-related injuries.
"Our military, our veterans, and our families of past and present have no better friend in Congress than Senator Akaka," said Gardner. "I am honored to present the prestigious VFW national award to him."
Akaka is the second U.S. senator from Hawaii to receive the VFW Congressional Award. Fellow Sen. Daniel K. Inouye received his in 1987.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Kawika Riley (Veterans’ Affairs)
March 18, 2009 (202) 224-9126
AKAKA PRAISES OBAMA ADMINISTRATION FOR DROPPING PROPOSAL TO CHARGE VETERANS’ INSURERS FOR COMBAT INJURIES
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, called Secretary Eric Shinseki and issued the following statement today praising President Barack Obama for dropping a proposal to shift the responsibility to pay for care for service-connected injuries from the Department of Veterans Affairs to the private insurers of wounded veterans:
“I thanked Secretary Shinseki for listening to the concerns the veterans service organizations, my colleagues and I had over this proposal to charge veterans’ insurers for combat injuries. President Obama made the right decision not to move forward. Veterans’ care and benefits are a cost of war and treatment for conditions directly related to service is the responsibility of the government alone. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration to enact the President’s funding increases and targeted programs to help VA adapt to the changing needs of veterans and their families,” said Akaka.
I still have a hard time believing that the Obama Administration even floated this tril balloon, it was a bad idea, and just the thought of it is outrageuos, this is far worse than Bush trying to raise co-pay for meds from 8 to 15 dollars each. If you are hurt or have medical problems while on active duty, the last thing a veteran or their family needs is to fight with their insurance company over a medical bill that should be paid by the VA.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Pelosi: Administration Will Not Force Veterans to Use Private Insurance to Pay for Treatment of Combat-Related Injuries
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced this afternoon that the Obama Administration would not proceed with a proposal that could have forced veterans to use their private insurance to pay for the treatment of combat-related injuries.
Pelosi made the announcement at a meeting she and House Democrats hosted this afternoon in the Capitol with leaders of veterans’ service organizations, who greeted the news with a standing ovation. Below are the Speaker’s remarks.
“Good afternoon and thank you all very much for coming. Thank you for your leadership, for your service to our country, for your generosity of spirit to America’s heroes, for helping us make better policy to honor the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, both when they are in active duty and when they come home. As you know, in the military, the expression is: ‘On the battlefield, we leave no soldier behind.’ And when they come home, working with you, we will leave no veteran behind.
“Particular to today’s meeting and a subject of some conversation, I’m pleased to announce that we have some good news. Over the past several days, President Obama has listened to the genuine concerns expressed by veterans’ leaders and veterans’ service organizations regarding the option of billing service connected to veterans’ insurance companies.
“Based on the respect that President Obama has for our nation’s veterans and the principled concerns expressed by veterans’ leaders, the President has made the decision that the combat-wounded veterans should not be billed through their insurance policies for combat-related injuries. [Applause.]
“I want to thank all of you, our friends came to me from the American Legion and many of you expressed your views on this subject. You had a great champion, of course, in Chet Edwards, who is Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on veterans; the Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Bob Filner; the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Mr. Skelton, who is here; and the man who writes the budget, and he was never going to put this in the budget, I know, John Spratt.
“I want to thank them and you for making this important change. But it wasn’t just the Chairmen inside the Congress, it was our Members as well. Mr. Brad Ellsworth is here, John Hall, Tim Walz, Jim Marshall, Glenn Nye, Vic Snyder; they and so many other Members, Gene Taylor. They — and many members of the Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees and Mr. Edwards, Appropriations Committee on Veterans Issues — worked hard to make this clear so that this issue is now behind us.
“We have important work to do. Because of you, we have been able to have the biggest increases in veterans’ benefits in the history of the VA. We did that a couple years ago as soon as we took the majority. And last year, we even did one better and now, working together under the leadership of President Obama, in the budget we have even more dramatic increases to meet the needs of America’s heroes.
“So thank you all for the role that you are playing in this, and we look forward to this discussion today. Thank you all very much for joining us.”
Will Obama Go AWOL on VA Health Benefits? Article
By DAVID K. REHBEIN
If you were injured in Iraq or Afghanistan and you have not paid your
co-pay, please press 1. If you were injured during military training and
you have not yet reached your deductible, please press 2. If your family has
reached its maximum insurance benefit, please call back after you have
purchased additional coverage. Thank you for your service."
Before the leaders of other veterans groups and I met with President
Barack Obama at the White House on Monday, I believed a phone call like the one
described above unimaginable. Now it seems all too possible.
President Obama made clear during our discussion that he intends to force
private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans
with service-connected disabilities. He is trying to unfairly generate
$540 million on the backs of veterans.
The proposed requirement for private companies to reimburse the Department
of Veterans Affairs (VA) would not only be unfair, but would have an adverse
impact on service-connected disabled veterans and their families.
Depending on the severity of the medical conditions involved, maximum insurance
coverage limits could be reached through treatment of the veteran's
condition alone. That would leave the rest of the family without health-care
Currently, when veterans go to a VA hospital or related health-care
facility for treatment of a service-connected disability, they receive the care
without any billing to the veterans or the veterans' insurance. (On the
other hand, those veterans who choose the VA for the treatment of
nonservice-connected disabilities pay a co-pay, and the VA bills private
insurance companies reasonable charges.)
Perhaps nobody would be hit harder by the Obama administration's proposal
than the thousands of veterans who own small businesses. Not only will
their private insurance premiums be drastically elevated to cover
service-connected disabilities, but many will be forced to cut staff as a
result. The unemployment rate for veterans may climb even higher, as
businesses avoid hiring these heroes for fear of the impact they would
have on insurance rates.
This plan is as unfair as it is unnecessary. According to the U.S.
Constitution, it is the president and Congress who send troops in harm's
way, not the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield.
As head of the nation's largest veterans organization, I was startled by
this radical shift of position the president has taken. Last October,
candidate Obama listed several proposals he had for the VA and none of
them included billing veterans' insurance providers.
In fact, when asked how he would improve the funding formula for the VA's
health-care system, then-Sen. Obama told the American Legion Magazine, "It
starts with the president saying that if I'm budgeting for war, then I am
also budgeting for VA. If I've got a half-a-trillion-dollar Pentagon
budget, then I'd better make sure that I make some of those billions of dollars
available to care for the soldiers once they come home. It should be a
non-negotiable proposition that people are receiving the services that
they need. This is the reason I joined the Veterans Affairs Committee --
because I believe deeply in that principle."
So I ask President Obama now, for all America's veterans, where is that
principled stance today? By abandoning its responsibilities to the heroic
men and women who answered our nation's call, the federal government is
breaking a sacred promise. Moreover, it is unnecessary.
The 2.6 million member American Legion has long advocated for Medicare to
reimburse the VA for its treatment of Medicare-eligible veterans. Veterans
pay into the Medicare-system, yet they are unable to use Medicare benefits
in the VA health system, which was created specifically for them. The
Indian Health Service is successfully billing and collecting needed revenue for
both Medicare and Medicaid. We also believe that direct billing between
two federal agencies will reduce the opportunities for waste, fraud and abuse
that tend to occur when for-profit corporations enter the mix.
Our military veterans have already served this country. They have given us
their blood, sweat and devotion. Under President Obama's proposal, the
most severely wounded veterans could easily exceed their maximum insurance
benefit, leaving their family without any additional coverage. This is
hardly the thanks of a grateful nation.
Mr. Rehbein, a former U.S. Army sergeant of the Vietnam War era, is
national commander of the 2.6 million-member American Legion, the nation's largest
wartime veterans organization."
here it is, in its entirety. Feel free to pick it apart, read into it, ask questions, whatever. There's still a lot we don't know. I'm about to jump on a conference call about this. . . .
March 18, 2009 ________________________________________________
End to Stop Loss Announced
The Department of Defense announced today a comprehensive plan to eliminate the current use of Stop Loss, while retaining the authority for future use under extraordinary circumstances. This is an important step along the path in adapting the Army into an expeditionary force.
The Army Reserve and Army National Guard will mobilize units without employing Stop Loss beginning in August and September 2009, respectively. The Regular (active duty) Army will deploy its first unit without Stop Loss by January 2010.
For soldiers Stop Lossed during fiscal 2009, the department will provide a monthly payment of $500. Until the department is able to eliminate Stop Loss altogether, this payment will serve as an interim measure to help mitigate its effects.
"Stop Loss disrupts the plans of those who have served their intended obligation. As such, it is employed only when necessary to ensure minimal staffing in deploying units, when needed to ensure safe and effective unit performance," said Bill Carr, deputy under secretary of defense for military personnel policy. "It is more easily rationalized in the early stages of conflict when events are most dynamic; but tempo changes in this war have frustrated our efforts to end it altogether."
The department intends to provide Stop Loss Special Pay to eligible service members until the point of separation or retirement, to include that time spent on active duty in recovery following redeployment. Stop Loss Special Pay will begin on the date of implementation, and will take effect for those impacted on or after Oct. 1, 2008.
Stop Loss Special Pay implements the authority granted by Section 8116 of the "Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriation Act, 2009." The appropriation is available to secretaries of the military departments only to provide Special Pay during fiscal 2009.
Brandon Friedman :: DoD Stop-Loss Press Release
AKAKA ANNOUNCES CONFIRMATION HEARINGS ON VA NOMINEES GOULD AND DUCKWORTH
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has scheduled two consecutive hearings on President Barack Obama’s nominees for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). On Wednesday, April 1, 2009, the Committee will review the nominations W. Scott Gould, to be Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and L. Tammy Duckworth, to be Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. Their nominations were sent to the Senate on Wednesday, March 11 and Monday, March 16, 2009, respectively.
The hearing on Mr. Gould’s nomination begins at 9:30 a.m., immediately followed by the hearing on Ms. Duckworth. Both hearings take place in the Committee’s hearing room, Russell 412, and will be webcast live at the Committee’s website, veterans.senate.gov.
The Senate has the responsibility under the Constitution to provide advice and consent on Presidential nominees for positions within the Executive branch. As Chairman of the Committee of jurisdiction over the VA, Akaka leads the Veterans’ Affairs Committee in reviewing the President’s nominees for positions in the Department.
It's about time we veterans have been waiting for Tammy Duckworth for months, she is one of us.
VA to Build Stand-Alone Replacement Hospital in Denver
WASHINGTON (March 18, 2009) - Fulfilling President Obama's pledge to
"stand with our veterans as they face new challenges," Secretary of
Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today that the Department of
Veterans Affairs (VA) will build a stand-alone replacement hospital for
its existing facility in Denver. The new facility will be located on
the grounds of the Army's former Fitzsimons hospital in Aurora.
The new medical center will provide Denver-area Veterans with a full
range of medical, laboratory, research and counseling services,
including services for Veterans with spinal cord injuries (SCI) and
VA will also create new Health Care Centers, which provide ambulatory
care and same-day surgical services, in Colorado Springs, Colo., and
Billings, Mont. The Colorado Springs facility will be managed in
collaboration with the Department of Defense. VA also plans to add
eight new health care facilities in rural areas throughout the region.
The new medical center in Denver will include a 30-bed, state-of-the-art
SCI center providing services to Veterans throughout VA's Rocky Mountain
Network, which includes Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, plus parts
of five other states.
In Denver, 78 SCI Veterans who now receive inpatient hospital care at
other VA facilities will be able to receive their care locally, and 984
other SCI patients will no longer have to travel elsewhere for
Once the new facilities are operational, 92 percent of all Colorado
Veterans will live within a 60-minute drive of a VA primary care
provider, and 81 percent of those Veterans will live within 120 minutes
of either a VA Medical Center or a VA Health Care Center.
This year, VA expects to spend about $2.3 billion on behalf of
Colorado's 426,000 Veterans. VA operates major medical centers in
Denver and Grand Junction. Additionally, it has more than a dozen
community-based outpatient clinics throughout the state, plus four Vet
Centers and two national cemeteries.
It's about time
New Asbestos Policies Needed to Ensure Military Personnel and Worker Safety
Asbestos is a toxic mineral that has played a role in millions developing severe health ailments. Nicknamed as the “silent killer,” asbestos was widely utilized in a variety of industrial and building applications throughout the 20th century. Manufacturers and industries that used asbestos intentionally repressed evidence of its toxic qualities from workers and citizens for financial gains. Asbestos’ qualities as flame resistant, durable and inexpensive nature made it an ideal choice for many applications. Unknown too many, one of the hardest hit sectors has been the military.
Used by almost every branch in the United States military, over 300 asbestos-containing products are said to have been used by the Navy and other sectors from the 1930’s until the 1970’s. This led to hundreds of thousands of service men and women being wrongfully un-justifiably exposed to asbestos while on duty.
Evidence supporting a cover-up can be found in 1922, when the Navy issued a medical checklist demonstrating the hazardous qualities of asbestos that was hidden by manufacturers. Asbestos concerns were silenced due to the race to build the U.S. Navy fleet before the start of World War II. Sailors stationed aboard these asbestos-laden warships were often showered in asbestos dust. Many recall sleeping in bunks daily. This exposed an entire generation of civilians to this harmful substance.
Many vessels, planes, homes and buildings built prior to 1980 still may contain asbestos and pose many health risks for tradesman. Asbestos exposure has affected many trades including:
-- Power plants,
-- Demolition workers
-- Navy vessels
The frequent inhalation of airborne asbestos fibers can cause a severe lung ailment known as mesothelioma. This form of asbestos lung cancer takes the lives of thousands every year. With a latency period that lasts from 20 to 50 years, it isn’t until the later stages of progression when physicians usually are able to accurately diagnose. This also affects accurate mesothelioma prognosis for patients. Factors that affect mesothelioma life expectancy include age of diagnosis, latency period and cigarette smoking. If you believe you have been exposed to asbestos, you should meet with mesothelioma doctors who can examine and determine if there is any need for further evaluations.
In 1973, the Navy ordered an asbestos ban on new vessels, but reports suggest they violated their own ban for the next five years. Asbestos exposure still remains a threat to soldiers who are stationed in countries throughout the world. In Iraq, over $194,000 worth of asbestos was imported into the country in 2003. Soldiers not only face daily threats while performing standard military operations, but also are at risk for potential exposure because fierce desert sands and winds can carry asbestos dust for miles.
Veterans who have developed an asbestos-related illness have found themselves in a difficult place. Due to the nature of mesothelioma, many veterans do not find out they have the illness until the later stages of life. When trying to obtain assistance and benefits for their wrongful illness, they are met with decisive struggles. Pleural mesothelioma is currently not recognized as a service related ailment. However, veterans can apply for Veteran Affairs (VA) benefits and must provide proof that their exposure occurred at the same time of their military service.
Regarded as one of many cover-ups jointly executed by corporations and government, it appears that the asbestos scandal still has not reached its climax. It appears that until there is a vehement change in policies enforced on a federal level against the use of asbestos, it will continue to inflict damage and harm to yet another generation of innocent by standards.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Wounded Bragg GIs Punished More Often
March 12, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The general in charge of the Army's more than 9,000 wounded Soldiers said Wednesday he is ordering a review of how the ones at Fort Bragg are being punished for minor violations.
Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek said he is asking the Army Surgeon General to look at all discipline that has been taken against Soldiers in the base's Warrior Transition unit to make sure each case was fair.
Cheek's comments come a day after The Associated Press reported that Soldiers in the unit are being disciplined three times as often as those assigned to the base's main tenant, the 82nd Airborne Division. The AP also found that discipline rates vary widely across the Warrior Transition system; some units punish their Soldiers even more frequently than the one at Fort Bragg, while others are far more lenient.
"We are transparent enough in this that we want to make sure that we aren't doing anything bad by our Soldiers," Cheek said in a phone interview from Washington.
The Army set up 35 Warrior Transition units two years ago to help Soldiers navigate the medical system and monitor their progress and treatment following the scandal over shoddy conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
More than a dozen current or former Soldiers who have been assigned to the transition unit at Fort Bragg told the AP that its officers are indifferent to their medical needs and punish them for the very injuries that landed them there. Officers who oversee the unit said they hold the wounded Soldiers to the same performance standards as able-bodied troops, arguing that it helps them get back into fighting shape.
Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said his group is hearing similar things from Soldiers throughout the Army. The service needs to view injured troops as patients more than Soldiers, he said.
"There is still this culture of toughness that is pervasive throughout the military," Rieckhoff said. "They are probably in the minority, but they need to alter the system so that you don't have a guy with a head injury getting screamed at for missing formation."
Cheek said he is "very confident" that Lt. Col. Jay Thornton, the Fort Bragg transition unit's commander, does what's best for his troops.
"He has done good things for our Army and our Soldiers there," Cheek said. "I think there is much more positive than negative, but that said, we'll take a look at it. We don't want to disadvantage a single Soldier."
Several members of Congress also weighed in Wednesday on the allegations in the AP report. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said the Senate Armed Services Committee is looking into the allegations but not yet formally investigating.
"It is my hope that we can get to the bottom of this issue," Burr said by e-mail.
Congressman Larry Kissell, whose district includes parts of Fort Bragg, plans to visit the base at the end of March.
"Above all else, we must ensure that our military heroes are treated with dignity and respect," Kissell said in an e-mail.
Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said he heard about the problems at Fort Bragg's Warrior Transition Battalion last month when a group of Soldiers came to Long Island to share their experiences. He said what he heard "sent chills up his spine," and he vowed to seek legislation to resolve the issue if the problems don't clear up soon.
Copunt me as ignorant but it would seem to me that injured or wounded soldiers that are taking medications would have problems sleeping, staying awake during duty hours, soldiers with PTSD are going to have issues with either alcohol or drug addictions, many soldier self medicate to cope with PTSD, I am not saying it is acceptable, it is just a medical fact. They Warrior Transition Units were created due to the fact these soldiers could NOT handle duty in "normal" military units, so the fact they are being disciplined at higher rates than regular uninjured soldiers, seems to be defeating the purpose of helping them, it appears more to be a unit where they use article 15's to reduce them in ranks and then to throw them out of the military on discharges that keep them from being able to utilize the Veterans benefits an honorable discharge would entitle them to.
This is bogus and the Command Sergeant Major of the Army and the Chief of Staff should be doing tap dancing on the heads of the Commanders and NCOIC's of these units from coast to coast. The warrior transition unit was to make life easier for the wounded and injured not to abuse them until they could be thrown out of the Army, it might be time to put Doctors or Psychiatrists in charge and get rid of the combat arms commanders.
SENATE VETERANS’ AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
PROVIDES VIEWS ON VETERANS’ BUDGET
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, was joined by Ranking Member Richard Burr, and a majority of the Committee members yesterday in submitting views and estimates for the Fiscal Year 2010 budget for veterans’ programs to the Senate Budget Committee. Akaka and the other co-signers outlined a need for appropriate funding to match rising veteran demand for health care, to reduce the claims backlog, and to implement the 21st Century GI Bill on schedule. The co-signers also rejected a proposal to shift VA’s responsibility to pay for the cost of care for service-connected injuries to veterans’ private insurers.
“America’s veterans and their families pay the true cost of war everyday, and we must pay for the care and benefits they have earned. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration to pass a budget worthy of their service,” said Akaka.
Views and estimates are a formal part of the federal budget process, in which Congressional committees recommend funding levels for programs and activities under their legislative jurisdiction. (For the Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s jurisdiction, click here.) The House and Senate Budget Committees review the recommendations when formulating the proposed Budget Resolution for the following fiscal year.
The President’s budget blueprint proposed an overall increase of more than $5 billion for VA in the next fiscal year. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki testified that a detailed proposed VA budget is expected in late April. Chairman Akaka noted that the Committee will provide further comments when that proposal becomes available.
The co-signers include Chairman Akaka, Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC), and Senators Rockefeller (D-WV), Murray (D-WA), Sanders (I-VT), Webb (D-VA), Brown (D-OH), Tester (D-MT), Begich (D-AK), Burris (D-IL), Specter (R-PA), Isakson (R-GA), and Wicker (R-MS).
Highlights of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s views and estimates include:
Support for Funding to Prepare for Increased Health Care Demand: VA operates the largest health care system in the nation. The co-signers noted that increased enrollment and demands on the health care system require funding increases. Forces expected to simultaneously stretch VA health care resources include increased enrollment of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, growing age-related health issues among older veterans, and the economy’s impact on veterans who earned VA eligibility through their honorable service, but who have not received services from VA until now.
Opposition to Any Proposed 3rd Party Billing for Service-Connected Injuries: The co-signers voiced united opposition to any proposal to shift VA’s responsibility to pay the cost of care for service-connected injuries. The Committee understands that the formal budget may propose charging veterans’ insurers for care provided for injury and disease incurred or aggravated during military service.
Support for Resources to Combat Old Problems and Prepare for New Benefits: While Congress has appropriated historic funding increases for VA in the past two years, these funds were long overdue and followed budget shortfalls. For the coming fiscal year, VA requires appropriate funding to reduce the backlog of disability claims, prepare for the August 1, 2009, implementation of the 21st Century GI Bill, and adapt VA to meet veterans’ needs in other areas.
The Need to Plan for Costs in Future Years: To ensure VA is prepared for inflation and increased needs from rising enrollment, the co-signers urged the Budget Committee to anticipate necessary increases to account for health care inflation and other cost-adjustments.
For the Committee’s views and estimates, click here.
F.D. Thompson veterans remember history
Local American Legion post began 1946
By Freddie Downs
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After the first World War (1914-1917), it was noted that troop morale was at a very low point. Credit is given to the American Expedition Force (A.E.F.), which was stationed in France, for planning and implementing the Legion. In order to improve morale, one officer, a Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., suggested that they organize a group of veterans.
In March 1919, a group of 1,000 officers and enlisted men, known as the Paris Caucus, got together and ratified a Constitution; and on the 15th day of March 1919, the American Legion was born. Only men and women who have been on active duty in times of was would be eligible to be called a “Legionnaire,” in which that policy still stands today. It placed great emphasis on patriotism, education, disabled veterans and charitable organizations.
In the year 1936, World War II broke out and lasted until 1945. After being battle tested and battle worn, a group of strong black men from Ouachita Parish got together to further advance the interest and aims of Black Veterans. Their first meeting was held at the Tabernacle Baptist Church on the 13th of November 1946.
It was named F.D. Thompson Post 521. F.D. Thompson was part of the Fighting Marine force that toured the Western Pacific where this American “hero from Monroe, La.” Lost his life. Our first Commander was Ibra B. January, who died on the 25th of December 1987. In that same year, Willie Haynes, Jr., was elected the Commander. However, in between that time, we had several other notable Commanders: Jessie W. Moore, Edgar Adams, Roy Moy, Alfred Bailey, Sam Haynes, O.C. Elliott and Mose Flentroy to name a few.
These and other stalwarts of our community had vision and goals in mind such as helping veterans find jobs, get disabled veterans the medical attention that they needed and placed higher values on education. In past days, they have sent some of our children to Bayou Girls and Boys State, where our children learned about state government and met other youth of their caliber.
We still value education, our veterans, their families and the American Legion way. I stand on some of America’s broadest shoulders and I dare not tarnish the legacy that these great men have left and that includes Woody Staten and Sylvester George.
F.D. Thompson veterans remember history
Veterans' benefit not taxable
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Contributed by: Douglas County on 3/16/2009
As veterans prepare their 2008 taxes, they will not want to include any veterans' benefits paid under any law, regulation or administrative practice administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in their income as it is not taxable.
The following amounts paid to veterans or their families are not taxable: education, training and subsistence allowances; disability compensation and pension payments for disabilities paid either to veterans or their families; grants for homes designed for wheelchair living; grants for motor vehicles for veterans who lost their sight or the use of their limbs; veterans' insurance proceeds and dividends paid either to veterans or their beneficiaries, including the proceeds of a veteran's endowment policy paid before death; interest on insurance dividends left on deposit with the VA; benefits under a dependent-care assistance program; the death gratuity paid to a survivor of a member of the Armed Forces who died after Sept. 10, 2001; and payments made under the compensated work therapy program.
Veterans will not receive a 1099 or any other tax forms from the VA. For more information on taxes for the military, please visit www.irs.gov/individuals/military/index.html or contact the Douglas County Office of Veterans Affairs at 303-688-4825, ext. 5359.
AKAKA: VA, NOT PRIVATE INSURERS, ARE OBLIGATED TO PAY FOR COMBAT INJURIES
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, issued the following statement today in opposition to a proposal to shift the responsibility to pay for care for service-connected injuries from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to the private insurers of wounded veterans:
“VA’s sacred duty is to care for veterans injured in honorable service to our nation, and the department should not turn to wounded warriors’ private insurance to pay for combat injures. Under my Chairmanship, the Veterans’ Affairs Committee will not advance any such legislation,” said Akaka.
Akaka’s statement follows the submission of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s views and estimates on the budget to the Senate Budget Committee yesterday. The views and estimates were signed by Chairman Akaka, Ranking Member Richard Burr, and a majority of the Committee members. Last week, Akaka applauded the overall increase President Obama has proposed for VA, as well as his plans to improve services, expand care, and target problem areas within the Department.
People are getting worked up over nothing Congress and the senate will NEVER authorize 3rd party billing for service connected injuries, they may change the rules for 100% veterans and make insurance compnaies pay for non service connected issues, but veterans like me were told that when I was rated 100% P&T that the VA would take take of all of my health issues, regardless of SC or not, my body belonged to Uncle Sam, I didn't even sign up for Part B of medicare since the VA is responsible for my healthcare why should I spend my money for Part B when it's not required, we were promised life time health care if we became totally disabled by military service, it would seem that is the VA wants 3rd party payments they should pay the insurance premiums since they are going to be the beneficiaries of the benefits, it does not help my family or myself in any way that I can see. If The VA wants me to have Medicare part B they should pay for it.
CHAIRMAN BOB FILNER
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Veterans Groups Present Legislative Goals at Joint Hearing of House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees
Washington, D.C. - On Thursday, March 12, 2009, Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-HI) of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a joint hearing to receive the legislative presentation of the Air Force Sergeants Association; Fleet Reserve Association; Non Commissioned Officers Association; Military Order of the Purple Heart; The Retired Enlisted Association; Military Officers Association of America; National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs; and Vietnam Veterans of America. The hearing was the third of the 111th Congress in which the Senate and House came together to receive the legislative agendas from veterans service organizations.
John Rowan, National President of the Vietnam Veterans of America, offered testimony urging the VA to build a system to enact real accountability in the management of the Veterans Health Administration. Mr. Rowan stated, “We believe that the system of bonuses for senior staff must be overhauled to reward only the truly worthy, e.g., those who not simply do their job but take that extra measure to ensure that it’s done well; to withhold bonuses from those who just do their job with competence; and to remove those who do their job poorly.”
Charles F. Smith of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs expressed the need for timely information sharing to states regarding returning injured and transitioning service members. Mr. Smith testified, “State Directors of Veteran Affairs across the Nation agree that one of their most difficult tasks is identifying ‘Wounded Warriors’ within their jurisdiction because there are no formal channels of communication with DOD regarding military members being discharged for medical reasons.”
“Funding for veterans benefits and health care services is not only a top priority for this Congress and the Administration, but a continuing cost of our national defense,” said Chairman Filner. “The Obama Administration submitted a budget plan that provides a path to restoring and revitalizing the services provided to veterans. For homeless veterans, it means improved support services to combat and prevent this National disgrace. For rural veterans, it means increased services and enhanced outreach for mental health care and traumatic brain injuries. For returning veterans, it means timely implementation of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill to expand educational entitlements. Ensuring we keep our promises to veterans is an issue this Congress takes seriously. We recognize that there is a cost associated and we are going to have to dig deep, but the service and sacrifice of our veterans are real, and the VA’s budget must provide the realistic funding to meet their needs.”
Witnesses addressed the needs of veterans and raised concerns from the veterans’ community. Issues discussed at the hearing included fully funding the health care budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), improving accountability measures at the VA, advancing health services for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, providing additional support to veterans’ families and caregivers, and ensuring that veterans have viable opportunities for employment, education, and housing.
The House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees have scheduled a future joint hearing to receive the legislative presentation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Wednesday, March 18. The Committees have held previous hearings to receive the legislative presentations of the American Ex-Prisoners of War; Blinded Veterans Association; Gold Star Wives of America; Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America; Paralyzed Veterans of America; Wounded Warrior Project; and Disabled American Veterans.
· John Chad Hapner, National Commander, AMVETS
· Robert H. Price, Director, Military and Government Relations, Air Force Sergeants Association
· Joseph L. Barnes, National Executive Director, Fleet Reserve Association
· H. Gene Overstreet, President, Non Commissioned Officers Association
· Jeff Roy, National Commander, Military Order of the Purple Heart
· Charlie L. Flowers, National President, The Retired Enlisted Association
· Robert F. Norton, Deputy Director for Government Relations, Military Officers Association of America
· Charles F. Smith, President, National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs
· John Rowan, National President, Vietnam Veterans of America