Friday, May 29, 2009

The Veterans Engaged for Tomorrow Corps Act

Veterans should know that President Obama recently signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which includes a provision by Rep. Phil Hare, Illinois Democrat, to create a Veterans Corps.

The Veterans Engaged for Tomorrow Corps Act was co-authored by Mr. Hare and Rep. John Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat. It will establish a service corps, similar to AmeriCorps or Senior Corps, for veterans by veterans. search for HR 1401

Hope it is not lost in the muddle

VET Corps Act of 2009 - Amends the National and Community Service Act of 1990 to direct the Corporation for National and Community Service to establish the Veterans Engaged for Tomorrow Corps (VET Corps), composed of veterans, retired military personnel, and their family members to: (1) help veterans, retired military personnel, and their family members obtain training, certification, or access to education or employers and otherwise to serve their communities through national and community service programs; (2) support existing outreach efforts to inform veterans about available services and benefits; (3) act as a clearinghouse for persons desiring to serve the veteran population; (4) coordinate with other departments and agencies to identify and address existing and future needs and challenges of veterans; and (5) provide veterans with opportunities to adjust to civilian life. Allows individuals to serve as VET Corps members for up to 24 months. Outlines VET Corps membership requirements and authorized benefits while performing or participating in VET Corps projects.

Directs the Corporation to make grants to veteran service organizations, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, state or local governments, or institutions of higher education for establishing, operating, and supporting VET Corps projects.

Questions? Call 1-800-942-2677 or email us at
also see:

Latest Major Action: Became Public Law No: 111-13

Signed by President.

Became Public Law No: 111-013 [Text, PDF]

Title: To create a service corps of veterans called Veterans Engaged for Tomorrow (VET) Corps focused on promoting and improving the service opportunities for veterans and retired members of the military by engaging such veterans and retired members in projects designed to meet identifiable public needs with a specific emphasis on projects to support veterans, including disabled and older veterans and retired members of the military.
Sponsor: Rep Sarbanes, John P. [MD-3] (introduced 3/9/2009) Cosponsors (14)
Latest Major Action: 3/9/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.



VET Corps Act of 2009 - Amends the National and Community Service Act of 1990 to direct the Corporation for National and Community Service to establish the Veterans Engaged for Tomorrow Corps (VET Corps), composed of veterans, retired military personnel, and their family members to: (1) help veterans, retired military personnel, and their family members obtain training, certification, or access to education or employers and otherwise to serve their communities through national and community service programs; (2) support existing outreach efforts to inform veterans about available services and benefits; (3) act as a clearinghouse for persons desiring to serve the veteran population; (4) coordinate with other departments and agencies to identify and address existing and future needs and challenges of veterans; and (5) provide veterans with opportunities to adjust to civilian life. Allows individuals to serve as VET Corps members for up to 24 months. Outlines VET Corps membership requirements and authorized benefits while performing or participating in VET Corps projects.

Directs the Corporation to make grants to veteran service organizations, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, state or local governments, or institutions of higher education for establishing, operating, and supporting VET Corps projects.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Civil War soldiers finally rest in peace

Civil War soldiers finally rest in peace

Discovered two years ago in graves unearthed at a construction site, the remains of 61 Civil War-era veterans and three civilians were reinterred at Southern Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Sierra Vista, Ariz., May 16. The caskets were escorted along their route by American Legion Riders, the Arizona Highway Patrol, U.S. Border Patrol and other patriotic groups.

A memorial ceremony honored 22 California Volunteers who fought during the Civil War, and 39 regular Army troops who served at various times between 1866 and 1881. The remains included those of three Army Indian scouts and one unknown Civil War veteran from the U.S. Colored Troops.

Soldiers from nearby Fort Huachuca helped to carry the troops’ remains – in small, U.S. flag-draped coffins – to a ceremonial staging area. Arizona’s official balladeer, Dolan Ellis, sang “Amazing Grace,” and Joe Joaquin said a prayer in his native Indian language. The 4th Cavalry Regimental Band provided music for the memorial ceremony, which was hosted by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.


I am the grandson of one of the California 4th Volunteers from the Civil War period, the service in Arizona led my grandfather Joshua E Bailey to return to Arizona after the war, where he started a town called Safford in 1874 and a stagecoach stop and ranch called Bailey's Wells which was in oeration until 1927 when the stages stopped running Joshua sold out in 1899 and moved to Yuma where he bought the town dairy, which he sold to his nephew Cash Smith and then relocated to Diamondale, Michigan where he died in April 1900 at the age of 66.

The fact that the 4th Calvary was then stationed in the territory should not be over looked, it appears that the Calif Volunters and the regular Army Cavalry unit are 2 different units.

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Jim Beam Partners With Kid Rock And His 2009 Rock N' Rebels Tour To Launch Red Stag

Jim Beam Partners With Kid Rock And His 2009 Rock N' Rebels Tour To Launch Red Stag

DEERFIELD, IL. (Top40 Charts/ Jim Beam) - Red Stag by Jim Beam, the all-new cherry-infused offspring of the world's No. 1 selling Bourbon announced today that it will partner with multi-platinum superstar, Kid Rock, as the headline sponsor of Kid Rock's 2009 Rock N' Rebels Tour, which will hit 25 cities across North America this Summer. Fifty cents from every ticket sold for Kid Rock's upcoming concert tour will be donated to Operation Homefront, a non-profit organization that provides assistance to America's military veterans returning home to their families.
Kid Rock will kick off the Red Stag by Jim Beam partnership on June 14, when the Detroit native will serve as Grand Marshal of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LifeLock 400 race at Michigan International Speedway.
Through their support of Operation Homefront, Red Stag and Kid Rock will help fund emergency aid, moving assistance, computer programs and care packages in local chapters throughout the country.

Red Stag by Jim Beam is scheduled to launch in June and is the latest innovation from Beam Global Spirits & Wine Inc. [Fortune Brands, Inc. (NYSE: FO)]. "Kid Rock's unique style and music set him apart from other artists," said Kelly Doss, senior director of Bourbon and Whiskeys, Beam Global. "He's a longtime Jim Beam fan who puts on an amazing show. And like Jim Beam, he's an avid supporter of the U.S. military. A different breed of Bourbon and a different breed of rock star - there's no better match."

The Rock N' Rebels Tour is scheduled to kick off June 26 in West Palm Beach, FL. Throughout the summer (and where legal), Red Stag by Jim Beam will be offering legal purchase age consumers in select markets access to download a free, exclusive Kid Rock download, as well as opportunities for VIP passes, access to post-show meet-and-greets, and Red Stag by Jim Beam merchandise.

"I've been drinking Jim Beam and singing about it my whole career, so when they approached us it was a no-brainer," said Kid Rock. "Add the support we'll be giving to Operation Homefront and everybody wins."

"Call of the Wild" Sweepstakes

Red Stag By Jim Beam will also give consumers a chance to enter the "Call of the Wild" sweepstakes, which will grant one winner and three friends an all-access weekend to see Kid Rock perform live in Las Vegas, among other prizes. The sweepstakes runs from July 6, 2009 to August 31, 2009 and will be available through mobile text messaging (SMS) as well as online at Entry into the sweepstakes can also be found at, as well as on Facebook through the Red Stag and Jim Beam fan pages. Additional sweepstakes details are below.

Red Stag by Jim Beam

Red Stag by Jim Beam uses an artisanal infusion process to combine four-year-old Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey with natural black cherry flavors. Those who are new to Bourbon will welcome the superior mixing potential and subtle sweetness, while experienced Bourbon drinkers will appreciate the distinctive aroma, smooth taste and warm finish they've come to expect from Jim Beam Bourbon.

Available in 50mL, 750mL and 1L bottles, Red Stag by Jim Beam will hit shelves in June. More information is available at

About Kid Rock

Kid Rock is an American rock star who has sold over 25 million albums around the world. His current album, "Rock 'N Roll Jesus" debuted at No 1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart and has reached multi-platinum status, selling in excess of 4 million copies Worldwide, and is being accompanied by sold-out worldwide touring. In addition to his musical activities, Kid Rock has become one of the countries most vocal supporters of US Military personnel serving overseas, making countless trips to provide entertainment and support. More information on Kid Rock can be found at


I have PTSD and am an alcoholic who quit drinking in 2001 and am still alive

but the fact they are donating 50 cents a ticket to Operation Homefront is enough to make me help spread the word about this concert tour....SALUTE to Jim Beam and Kid Rock for this

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Cheney and Rumsfeld pressured CIA to mislead Congress in the 1970s, too

Cheney and Rumsfeld pressured CIA to mislead Congress in the 1970s, too

Cheney and Rumsfeld pressured CIA to mislead Congress in the 1970s, too

Margie Burns / Online Journal | May 27, 2009

The first time Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld pressured the CIA to mislead Congress was in 1975 and 1976, when Cheney was chief of staff to President Gerald Ford and Rumsfeld was Ford’s secretary of defense.

Cheney, having held a series of positions alongside Rumsfeld — starting under him in the Nixon administration — also became campaign manager for Ford’s reelection campaign. George H. W. Bush was head of the CIA, appointed by Jerry Ford when Ford switched Rumsfeld from White House chief of staff to secretary of defense.*

The mission of the three men was to protect the Ford presidency and some elements in the CIA from the Church Committee. According to researcher Lamar Waldron, they succeeded.

Waldron is co-author, with Thomas Hartmann, of Legacy of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination, an exhaustively documented 800 pages compiling more than three decades of research into the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. In two recent interviews of more than an hour each, Waldron discussed how much some things haven’t changed since before Watergate.

Reacting to public outrage over a series of abuses — including domestic surveillance — exposed during Watergate, the Nixon impeachment and the winding down of the Vietnam War, in 1975 Congress authorized a special senate committee chaired by Democrat Frank Church of Idaho to look into abuses of the intelligence agencies, primarily the CIA and FBI. The Church Committee was convened, getting off to a slow start and under steady CIA-friendly media fire from the beginning; Ford appointed George H. W. Bush as head of the CIA and Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense in October 1975.

As Waldron points out, we now know from thousands of documents declassified since the 1970s that a massive amount of vital information was withheld by Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush from the Senate’s Church Committee. The White House and top echelon of the CIA withheld from the committee information about the CIA’s manipulation of the news media; domestic spying; and material about Cuba, including JFK’s plan to topple Fidel Castro on December 1, 1963, the Mafia’s infiltration of the anti-Castro plan, and the CIA’s unauthorized continuation of agency plotting to use the Mafia to assassinate Castro. Waldron and Hartmann document in Legacy of Secrecy that then-CIA official Richard Helms withheld the unauthorized extension of the mob-linked anti-Castro plots from JFK himself, and from President Lyndon Johnson and from the Warren Commission afterward — and even from JFK’s own CIA Director.

A d v e r t i s e m e n t

The legacy of secrecy — often for political or career reasons, depending on the individual, or for bureaucratic self-protection — continued throughout the sixties and seventies to the Church investigation. Some particularly flashy and sensational material on the larger issues was shared with the committee, garnering headlines. Elements of the Castro assassination plots like those ‘exploding cigars’ to be given to Fidel, for example, were divulged by the CIA to Church and were exposed with much fanfare. But the deeper concern of intensive Mafia participation in the anti-Castro plots was never fully investigated — not even by the later House Select Committee on Assassinations, and certainly not by the Church committee.

The back story is that from 1960 to 1963 Mafia participation in plots to assassinate Castro became, tragically for the United States, a powerful Mafia participation in plots to assassinate President Kennedy. The CIA picked up too lethal a tool in choosing the Mob to carry out its plans to remove Castro.

To this day, the general public — which never bought the ‘lone nut’ theory that the manipulated Lee Harvey Oswald, a beginning-level marksman, singlehandedly brought off the miracle shot of the assassination — still has not been permitted to know the full extent of the powerful arsenal of resources trained against President Kennedy by the wealthiest Mafia families in the U.S. Coordinated by Carlos Marcello, head of the oldest Mafia family in the U.S. (dating from the 19th century) and Gulf Coast kingpin in control of Louisiana and Texas, they had planned since 1962 to take out the Kennedy brothers — either Attorney General Robert Kennedy, aggressively pursuing the Mob, or, more effectively, the brother in the White House who had appointed him as AG. When John Kennedy came down South — as they had previously threatened — they took him out, having tried twice before in November 1963 to get JFK, once in Tampa and once in Chicago. The helpless Oswald — seen drinking a Coke in the Texas Book Depository two minutes after Kennedy’s murder — was then taken out himself, by heavily mob-connected ‘nightclub owner’ (actually, mob gnome) Jack Ruby, given basically full run of the Dallas police station. The general public has also not been permitted to know the full extent of Ruby’s Mafia involvement, despite hundreds of pages of information detailing his mob connections.

One continuing consequence is the effect on U.S. relations with Cuba to this day, something Waldron and Hartmann deplore. As Waldron says, no national security reason justifies hiding the JFK assassination archives in the year 2009. Congress intended them to be revealed years ago; the Cuban official implicated in the anti-Castro plots — Almeida — has long since been outed and forgiven; and both the United States and Cuba would benefit from expanded trade and other relationships.

Releasing more millions of pages of documents already declassified would illuminate more history of the twentieth century, including one of its defining tragic events. Waldron says, in the wake of current controversy, that he would like very much to see Cheney testify under oath about the material withheld from the Church Committee. After all, there is no legitimate security concern to justify keeping the material hidden. There is no argument, however specious, that releasing it would somehow endanger our troops.

There is not even an argument, in regard to those anti-Castro plots, that ‘they worked.’ As Waldron says, "Nobody thought Castro would be in office this long." Of course, as he also remarks, nobody thought during the 1970s that Cheney and Rumsfeld and George H. W. Bush would be back in government again, either, much less that they would return as vice president and secretary of defense in a bloody war and president, respectively. If we don’t learn from the past, we are condemned to relive it, with a vengeance. (The late Mary McGrory wrote about the return to government of so many Nixon retreads in her columns; very few other established Washington journalists did so, at least in newspapers and television news.)

In these changing times, one reason it would have been good to see the luminous Caroline Kennedy in the Senate is that she would be an excellent resource in support of warmer relations with Cuba. Few individuals would be better qualified to represent — just by her presence — U.S. awareness of our need to reach out to the islands near us, including Cuba, in a favorable, beneficial and practical way.

* * * * *

*Rumsfeld was Ford’s transition chairman in the WH, then chief of staff 1974 to 1975; secdef for Ford 1975-1977 (and secdef for GWBush 2001-2006, youngest and oldest person ever and 2nd longest holding that ofc, etc). Appointd secdef in Oct 1975 when George HW Bush appointd CIA head.

*Cheney was on Rumsfeld’s staff under Nixon; Cheney and Rumsfeld both were Nixon alums, along with GHW Bush, who was previously head of the Republican National Committee and resisted acknowledging the ills of Watergate to the bitter end. Cheney became assistant to pres under Ford; became Ford’s chief of staff when Rumsfeld became secdef, and Ford’s campaign manager. As deputy asst to pres in 1974-75, he memoed Rumsfeld about using the DOJ to get at journalist Seymour Hersh, then of the NYTimes." Waldron says that all the information about CIA manipulation of the news media has "definitely not" come out. Much of it is contained in documents still held by the CIA in spite of being declassified.


If you click on the link above you can read the 40 plus comments made on the website in response to it.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009



Gaps In Mental Health Screenings Still Haunt Military
Little Progress In Expanding Screenings

By MATTHEW KAUFFMAN | The Hartford Courant
May 12, 2009

Chad Barrett had attempted suicide and was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder by the time his unit prepared for a third combat tour in Iraq. A psychiatrist had recommended the staff sergeant be separated from the military for his own good, but Barrett wanted to stay with his Army colleagues.

And when it came time for deployment, Army commanders were happy to oblige.

Barrett, who had spent a dozen years in the Army, shipped out in December 2007 with prescription bottles of Klonopin for anxiety, Pamelor for depression and migraines, and Lunesta and Ambien for sleep problems. But the drugs did not control his despair and mood swings. And less than two months after arriving in Iraq, Barrett popped open some of the bottles and committed suicide by overdose. He was 35.

"I understand that they have a mission, and mission comes first. I completely get that," Barrett's widow, Shelby Barrett, said from her home near Fort Carson in Colorado. "But they took a soldier who was not mentally capable of doing the things that he thought he was capable of doing. And I think they took him just as another boot on the ground. They needed their numbers."

Related links
Chad Barrett Photos
2006 Courant Investigation: Mentally Unfit To Fight
U.S. Soldier In Iraq Kills 5 Comrades At Stress Clinic
Mental Health Referrals Graphic
Suicides Among Soldiers Graphic
More than two years ago, Congress ordered the military to implement tighter psychiatric screening for combat troops to keep mentally troubled service members out of the war zone.

But new pre-deployment data obtained by The Courant indicate there are still gaps in the military's screening policies, and that the military is still arranging professional mental health evaluations for only a tiny fraction of the troops it is sending into battle.

Pre-deployment screening records show that in 2008 and early 2009, barely more than 1 percent of deploying troops were referred to a mental health professional as part of their preparations. Even among troops who acknowledged seeking mental health care in the year before deploying, nearly nine out of 10 were deemed mentally fit without seeing a mental health professional.

Service members who acknowledge past mental health care are typically interviewed by medical technicians who decide if a mental health referral is warranted. After stories in The Courant in 2006 detailing deficiencies in mental health screening and treatment for combat troops, Congress instructed the military to establish specific guidelines for determining when those referrals should be made.

But a Defense Department spokesman acknowledged last week that specific guidelines were never developed.

The number of mental health referrals is little changed from 2007, even as the military grapples with a steady increase in depression and stress among combat troops. Just Monday, an American soldier was in custody after killing five fellow troops at Baghdad's Camp Liberty in a shooting at a military clinic for treating stress.

Since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, more than 210 service members have killed themselves while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the suicide rate has risen significantly since the beginning of those campaigns. Army-wide, there have been 64 confirmed or suspected suicides in the first four months of this year, with the suicide rate among soldiers now exceeding the demographically adjusted civilian rate.

Undermining Security?
Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, said he believes inadequate pre-deployment screening is partly to blame for the jump in mental illness and suicides. The military's formal pre-deployment mental health assessment consists of a single question on a survey that asks service members if they have sought care or counseling for their mental health in the previous year.

A 1997 federal law required the military to assess the mental health of all deploying service members, and Sullivan said that should mean a face-to-face evaluation — particularly for the 40 percent of service members who have deployed more than once.

"Until DOD [Department of Defense] is in full compliance with that law, DOD is harming our service members and they are undermining our national security," Sullivan said. "And the military leadership bears personal responsibility for continuing the practice of sending unfit soldiers to war."

Military officials have acknowledged that repeated deployments and the high "operational tempo" of the wars have taken a toll on soldiers' mental well-being. But they defend their mental health screening, saying the pre-deployment preparations now include a check of each service member's medical records, and that annual health assessments offer an opportunity to discover mental health issues.

"The pre-deployment health assessment is then just an opportunity to check if anything new has come up since their last assessment or since their last health care visit," said Dr. Michael E. Kilpatrick, director of strategic communications for the Military Health System.

Military officials also say pre-deployment screening is only one tool used to build a mentally healthy force.

The Pentagon has launched numerous programs to build mental "resiliency" among troops, combat the stigma associated with mental health care and increase access to care. Earlier this year, for example, Army leaders proposed scrapping a policy that required commanding officers to be notified when one of their soldiers sought counseling.

The military has also stepped up training throughout the chain of command to urge service members to act when they see suicidal tendencies in their colleagues. The Army even uses a role-playing video game to teach soldiers how to respond to signs of depression.

Numbers Still Low
The small number of troops seen by a mental health professional — about 1 in every 90 preparing for deployment — is still an increase over the early years of the Iraq war, when about 1 in 300 service members was referred for a mental health evaluation. While that growth has meant thousands of additional evaluations each year, the numbers are still far below military scientists' own estimates of the number of mentally troubled troops.

On the pre-deployment form, about 2.7 percent of troops deploying in 2003 said they had sought mental health care. In 2008 and 2009, that figure jumped to nearly 5 percent. But critics say the screen still fails to identify mentally troubled troops who have not sought mental health care or who are too embarrassed to admit they have.

For soldiers who acknowledge recent mental health care, about 12 percent are now referred for a professional evaluation, up from an average of about 7 percent in early years of the war.

Sullivan, the veterans' advocate, said every soldier with recent mental health care should receive a face-to-face evaluation with a mental health specialist before being given deployment orders and a rifle.

But Kilpatrick, with the Military Health System, said service members with a history of mental health care may have completed their treatment and have no need for a new referral. "Since each individual situation is different, it is up to the provider in discussion with the service member to determine their current medical needs and to make an individual determination," he said.

Related links
Chad Barrett Photos
2006 Courant Investigation: Mentally Unfit To Fight
U.S. Soldier In Iraq Kills 5 Comrades At Stress Clinic
Mental Health Referrals Graphic
Suicides Among Soldiers Graphic
Soldiers who say they have not recently sought mental health care are almost never referred for a professional evaluation. Among those troops, about 1 in 180 were referred for an evaluation in 2008 and this year, though that number has also grown since the beginning of the war, when troops who answered "no" to the mental health care question had a 1-in-1,000 chance of being referred for mental health evaluation.

Sullivan called those figures "shameful" and said sending troops to war without a face-to-face medical and mental health evaluation is akin to knowingly sending an aircraft on a long-range mission with inadequate fuel and ammunition. But because of a shortage of money and doctors, he said, he does not expect the military to improve screening.

"It's a question of supply and demand," Sullivan said. "The demand for mental health care and the demand for medical services for these exams is far higher than the supply of physicians available to conduct these exams and provide treatment."

Pattern of Stability
Congress in 2006 also ordered the military to establish minimum mental health standards for deployment, which led to new Defense Department rules barring the deployment of troops with bipolar or psychotic disorders and requiring that troops with mental health disorders demonstrate a "pattern of stability, without significant symptoms," for at least three months prior to deployment.

Shelby Barrett said her husband had no such pattern of stability as his third deployment approached. "No. Not at all," she said. "Not when the police had to be called here three or four times for domestic issues."

Barrett said her husband lost several friends during earlier combat tours and had become depressed and volatile.

Overall, the military in recent years has deployed fewer service members who reported recent mental health care, with 82 percent deployed in 2008 and 2009, compared to 88 percent in 2005. The overall deployment rate has also declined, but not as sharply.

The pre-deployment data were drawn from a health form filled out by service members in all branches each time they prepare for a combat deployment. The database, with names and other identifying information removed, includes information for more than 2.5 million deployments since the beginning of the wars.

But Kilpatrick said numbers of referrals and deployments don't tell the whole story.

"Looking at a database doesn't reflect the complexity of the overall process," he said. "While we can never say that each and every individual with a mental health condition is identified and treated, we do feel comfortable that the life cycle of assessment and health care delivery is comprehensive."

That does not ease Shelby Barrett's pain, or her anger that the Army did not do more for one of its own.

"My husband was one hell of a soldier. My husband was one hell of a man — until his mind couldn't take any more," she said. "And that's the easiest way for me to put it. That's the easiest way for me to make sense of it."

>> Matthew Kauffman will talk about this story on the Fox 61 morning show between 8 and 9 today.

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Gunn Sworn In As Veterans Affairs General Counsel

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 27, 2009) - Attorney Will A. Gunn, a retired Air
Force colonel, took the oath of office yesterday as General Counsel of
the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) following his recent Senate

"I'm thrilled by the opportunity to serve as VA's General Counsel," Gunn
said. "I'm also humbled and deeply honored by the confidence that
President Obama and Secretary Shinseki have shown in me with this

"Veterans hold a special place in my heart," he added. "I look forward
to helping lead a transformation at VA to make the department more
people-centric, results oriented, and forward looking than ever before.
I look forward to serving as VA's General Counsel and consider it both a
blessing and a sacred trust."

Gunn assumes the helm of an office with a nationwide staff of more than
700 employees, including 460 attorneys. The General Counsel ensures the
faithful execution of the laws, regulations and policies that VA

The General Counsel's interpretations on legal matters further VA's
mission of service to the nation's Veterans with written opinions on
adjudications and appeals involving Veterans' benefits under laws
administered by VA.

Operating through seven professional staff groups in Washington plus 22
regional counsel offices across the United States, the office provides
VA representation before administrative and judicial forums, offers
formal and informal legal and ethics advice, and drafts and advocates
legislation affecting Veterans.

Gunn, an attorney who at the time of his nomination represented military
members and Veterans in private practice in northern Virginia, retired
from the Air Force in 2005, where he served as a colonel in the Judge
Advocate General's Corps.

A former White House fellow, he received the American Bar Association's
Outstanding Career Military Lawyer Award. In 2003, he was named the
first chief defense counsel in the Department of Defense's Office of
Military Commissions, building a defense team and supervising defense
activities for detainees selected for trial before military commissions
to ensure they received effective representation.

A native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Gunn is a graduate of the U.S. Air
Force Academy and is a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School. While
at Harvard, he was elected president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau,
the nation's oldest student-run legal services organization.

He also has a master's degree in environmental law from George
Washington University School of Law and a master of science degree in
national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed

Gunn has been chair of the American Bar Association's Commission on
Youth at Risk and served on the board of Christian Service Charities.
In 2005, he was named president and chief executive officer of Boys &
Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

He appears to be an excellent choice, the question is will he be a pro-veteran lawyer or another lawyer that finds all the screwball justifications his predecessors have to keep the VAfrom having to properly compensate veterans or their families due to bad decisons from Regional Offices and VA employees not properly processing claims files. Time will tell this story...............

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House Subcommittee Reviews Appellate Process for Veterans

Washington, D.C. – On Thursday, May 14, 2009, the House Veterans’ Affairs Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee, led by Chairman John Hall (D-NY), conducted a hearing to continue its oversight of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA), the Appeals Management Center (AMC), and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). The hearing focused on the efficiency and effectiveness of the agencies tasked with handling appeals filed by veterans pertaining to claims for benefits initiated at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“The process a veteran goes through when filing an appeal is a never ending story that this Subcommittee has heard many times before,” said Chairman Hall. “A new claim is more like a short story. Upon submission, it can be developed and rated in about six months. However, if a veteran disagrees with the VA decision and files an appeal, then it becomes an epic tale that can go on for years or even decades. Our goal today is to learn more about the causes of delays in order to improve the administrative and judicial appeals processes to more efficiently serve veterans.”

At the hearing, Members heard the frustrations that veterans and survivors encounter waiting months and years on an appeal decision. Veterans who are denied or have benefits delayed as a result often face socioeconomic hardships, lack access to medical care, and miss opportunities to take advantage of other benefits that would come with service connection, such as vocational rehabilitation, life insurance or housing allowances. Veterans also find traveling to Washington, DC or even a Regional Office (RO) for a personal hearing with the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to be cost prohibitive and travel boards often are difficult to schedule.

Witnesses offered testimony detailing the complex appellate process, which involves multiple layers and jurisdictions, lengthy waiting times, and stressful and confusing choices for veterans and their families. Specifically, witnesses discussed the longstanding delay in forwarding appeals to the BVA from VA regional offices, the high error rate at the BVA with no accompanying remedial action, and the misapplication of the clearly erroneous standard by the CAVC. In fiscal year 2008, it took an average of 563 days for the BVA to process an appeal, 567 days for the AMC and 446 days for the CAVC. Both the BVA and the CAVC have high remands rates, around 37% and 70% respectively (sending the appeal back to the originating agency/entity usually for further procedural development without making a decision), a process many veterans and their advocates have dubbed the “Hamster Wheel”. Recommendations to eliminate this phenomenon included, dissolving the Appeals Management Center, changing VA policy that requires claims be returned to the RO if a veteran submits additional evidence after requesting the claim be sent to BVA, reducing the appellate period from one year to six months, and addressing the inefficiency of federal courts not having authority to certify a veteran’s lawsuit as a class action.

Chairman Hall summarized the hearing and said, “I am committed to working to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the appellate processes that produce better outcomes than the current maze of appeals, remands, re-remands, and undue delays to the benefit of our veterans, their families, and survivors. I look forward to working with all of the stakeholders as there remains much work to be done.”

“It is clear that VA needs to reform the claims processing system by greatly improving the accuracy and quality of its decisions,” said Bob Filner, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “The VA continues to see the number of pending cases and appeals rise. This trend is expected to continue due to the current conflicts. The VA, the BVA, and the CAVC must work cooperatively to address lengthy delays and ensure veterans get the timely justice that they deserve and Congress envisions.”


Panel 1

· Judge Bruce E. Kasold, U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims

Panel 2

· William Angulo Preston, Acting President, American Federation of Government Employees Local 17, Associate Counsel, Board of Veterans Appeals

· Kerry Baker, Assistant National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans

· Barton F. Stichman, Joint Executive Director, National Veterans Legal Services Program

· Richard Paul Cohen, Executive Director, National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates

Panel 3

· The Honorable James P. Terry, Chairman, Board of Veterans' Appeals, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

· Ronald S. Burke, Director, Appeals Management Center, Veterans Benefits Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Prepared testimony for the hearing and a link to the webcast from the hearing is available on the internet at this link:


The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a series of oversight hearings in the 110th Congress focused on the disability claims processing system and the appellate process. You can access statements and transcripts on the Committee website:

· February 26, 2008: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities

· February 14, 2008: Examining the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Claims Processing System

· January 29, 2008: The Use of Artificial Intelligence to Improve the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Claims Processing System

· September 25, 2007: Board of Veterans’ Appeals Adjudication Process and the Appeals Management Center

· May 22, 2007: The Challenges Facing the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New Bill to Help Veterans Exposed to Radiation

New Bill to Help Veterans Exposed to Radiation

Written by KGMB9 News -
May 25, 2009 07:31 PM

Congressman Neil Abercrombie has introduced a bill to help veterans who were exposed to radiation during and after World War II. Charles Clark was one of the first American solders to enter Nagasaki after the atomic bomb dropped in 1945. Now, more than 60 years later, he's still suffering from the effects of five days of radiation.

Unfortunately, I've had 183 cancers removed from my face," Charles Clark from the Radiated Veterans of America said. "My teeth fell out literally. Just fell out. I have other problems physically and our children suffer today.

The bill would provide medical treatment for veterans exposed to heavy doses of radiation. It's unclear how many are still alive, but hundreds of thousands were exposed as a result of bombings and tests on U.S. soil.


There is a short news video with Congressman Abercrombie on the website you should click thru and see it takes about 30 secs.


Atomic Veterans Relief Act (Introduced in House)

HR 2573 IH


1st Session

H. R. 2573
To amend title 38, United States Code, to revise the eligibility criteria for presumption of service-connection of certain diseases and disabilities for veterans exposed to ionizing radiation during military service, and for other purposes.


May 21, 2009
Mr. ABERCROMBIE introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs


To amend title 38, United States Code, to revise the eligibility criteria for presumption of service-connection of certain diseases and disabilities for veterans exposed to ionizing radiation during military service, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `Atomic Veterans Relief Act'.


Section 1112(c)(3)(B) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by inserting before the period at the end of clause (i) the following: `or exposure occurring at any time to ionizing radiation from undetonated weapons or residual contamination resulting from such a detonation'.


Section 1154 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

`(c)(1) The Secretary shall include in the regulations pertaining to service-connection of disabilities referred to in subsection (a) additional provisions to ensure, in the case of a claim by a radiation-exposed veteran for service-connection of a nonpresumptive disability, that the procedures for establishment of whether the disability is service-connected that require the mathematical calculation of the level of exposure of the veteran to ionizing radiation require the Secretary to carry out each of the following:

`(A) To determine the specific facts and circumstances of the claimed exposure based on the evidence in the record while presuming the veteran's recitation of the event is correct except where clear and convincing evidence establishes otherwise.

`(B) To obtain a reconstructed dose based on the specific facts and circumstances established by the evidence ensuring that no assumptions, bases, or other processes conflict with the evidence provided by the Secretary.

`(C) To require that each dose reconstruction required under subparagraph (B) include--

`(i) the calculated dose for each relevant radiation and organ;

`(ii) a description of the dose reconstruction process in sufficient detail to allow a reasonable person with appropriate experience and training to assess the methodology used to produce the reported doses;.

`(iii) a listing of each assumption used in the dose reconstruction and the basis or bases for each such assumption;

`(iv) a listing of each deviation from the factual scenario established by the evidence, the reason for the deviation, and an explanation of the impact on the reconstructed dose, including whether the deviation increased or decreased the final calculated dose; and

`(v) any other information that would further clarify the bases of the reconstructed dose or aid the determination of its probative value.

`(2)(A) The Secretary shall provide to a radiation-exposed veteran the veteran's dose that is reconstructed by the Secretary under paragraph (1), and the information required under subparagraph (C) of that paragraph to be included with the dose reconstruction.

`(B) Failure to provide the information required by subparagraph (A) shall be considered a prejudicial error requiring the Secretary to readjudicate the prejudiced claim based on a dose reconstruction compliant with this section.

`(3) For purposes of this subsection:

`(A) The term `radiation-exposed veteran' has the meaning given that term in section 1112(c)(3)(A) of this title.

`(B) The term `nonpresumptive disability' means a disability not specified in section 1112(c)(2) of this title.'.

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Online resources can make interns watchdogs, too

Hey Everyone,

I thought you might like this. Tim Wiseman was our intern for the spring semester; he did a project about digging into earmark requests from Rep. Hal Rogers (KY-5). He wrote about his experience watchdogging with internet tools and some of the problems he ran into.

(Whole post below)

I was wondering if any of you have had the same experience.

Nisha Thompson

Online resources can make interns watchdogs, too

“I’m proud to present the second part in a series of research projects from the Sunlight Foundation spring semester interns. This post is by Tim Wiseman, he spent time looking into Rep. Hal Rogers (KY-5) earmark requests trying to find out if they are truly what the Congressman claims.” – Nisha Thompson

By Sunlight Foundation Intern, Tim Wiseman

Thanks to online resources, basic watchdogging is now so easy, an intern could do it. Unfortunately, complete and total answers about lawmakers and their activities are still elusive, whether you are an intern, a journalist or anyone else. I learned these facts firsthand while spending some of my internship researching the earmark requests of Rep. Hal Rogers (KY-5).

The 22-page PDF of earmarks that Rogers posted to his Web site caught my eye, and not just because it was sideways. Looking through the list of 103 earmarks, which totaled $446 million, I found some names familiar to me from reading Sunlight’s Real Time Investigations blog. Outdoor Venture Corp. and Phoenix Products were in the running for earmarks again ($16 million for each). In late 2007, the Real Time Investigations blog had reported on the two Kentucky firms’ booming earmark business and their connections to Rogers, and more recent data showed those ties remained strong.

Additionally, earmarks for some non-profit organizations stood out since all are based in Rogers’ small hometown of Somerset, Ky.:

A $15 million request for the National Institute for Hometown Security, which had received an $11 million earmark in 2008
$2 million in requests for the Center for Rural Development
A $1 million request for the SEKTDA (South and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association)
A $13.75 million equest for Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education)
A $10 million request for Eastern Kentucky PRIDE (Personal Responsibility in a Desirable Environment)
$1 million request for SEKTDA (South and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association)
$500,000 request for SKED (Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation).
In relatively little time, I had gone from scanning the list of earmark requests from Rogers’ Web site to clicking my way to finding connections to past earmarks and donors. While I was using spare moments to do this online research, the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader (my hometown paper) was undertaking a similar effort, eventually publishing a front-page overview of Rogers’ 2009 earmark requests. The article offered basically the same information as I had found, but with a few comments - including some from Real Time Investigations’ Bill Allison - about the earmark requests and earmarks in general.

“You’re using federal money to create organizations that wouldn’t exist,” Allison told the Herald-Leader. “They’re hiring people — sometimes bringing in political supporters. Sometimes (those supporters) promote the lawmaker as much as the group because they’re out in the community and people identify the group with the member. It amplifies the member and it raises a lot of questions.”

Since the Herald-Leader article left those questions hanging, I tried to find out more about those organizations, especially the National Institute for Hometown Security (NIHS), which Rogers had praised in a subsequent article in the (Somerset, Ky.) Commonwealth Journal.

“Unelected and uninformed editorial boards, such as the Herald-Leader, do not represent the interests of my district,” Rogers told the Commonwealth Journal. “These ‘vague non-profits’ that the Herald lampoons are very real and have made a measurable impact on people’s lives. To denigrate the organizations is to denigrate the tens of thousands of Fifth District residents who have poured their sweat, blood, and tears into making them a success.”

While I had hoped to discover the “measurable impact” of these organizations, I found more dead-ends. Using (free registration required), I downloaded 990 forms filed by the NIHS and the Center for Rural Development (CRD). These forms give a basic overview of the organizations: general spending and revenue categories/totals, salaries of top employees, mission statements, etc.

The NIHS declared its mission is “1) to provide national leadership in discovering and developing community-based critical infrastructure, 2) facilitate the commercialization of these solutions, and 3) encourage the deployment of these solutions.” The CRD declared that its mission is “to provide economic development to Southeastern Kentucky.”

The 990 form showed a majority of NIHS’s 2007 spending going out of Rogers’ district, such as $238,449 to Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld in Washington, D.C., for legal service, $497,246 to G & H International, also of Washington, D.C., for “management support services” and $530,786 to the Center for Technology Commercialization of Westborough, Mass., for “management support services.” NIHS spent $2.6 million total in fiscal year 2007, so I was curious about this spending pattern as well as the reason behind the jumps in earmarks - $11 million received in 2008, and now $15 million more requested in 2009. I also noticed that James Egnew, president of Outdoor Venture, was a member of the NIHS board, a connection I would have liked to explain.

The Web sites of both organizations did not do much to clarify those generic statements, or to answer the questions I had about budgets, etc. The sites provided press releases and “success stories” - many featuring quotes from, or photos of, Rogers - but little that demonstrated a truly “measurable impact.” There was information about the Rogers Scholar and the Rogers Scholars at the CRD Web site, and at the NIHS site, there was news about addditional funding for a “Milk Transport Security Project.” Again, I found little to explain or to help me understand the “measurable impact” of the organizations.

“There’s no question that those dollars have some positive impact in these areas,” Dr. Ken Troske, an economist at the University of Kentucky who has studies rural development, told me. “But you should talk about maximizing the effect of those dollars and that might mean not spending them there.”

Generally, Troske said there is often little evaluation when it comes to these type of rural development or non-profit programs, and those lists of grants or scholarship winners don’t count.

“That’s not analysis,” he said. “They aren’t looking at what the situation might have been had there been no federal money spent; they aren’t looking at how and why this money may have had a impact.”

While I had been able to track down Troske in Australia, I had less luck speaking with anyone in Somerset, Ky. I called the NIHS, but I bounced around the organization’s phone tree before leaving messages in the mailbox of President Ewell Balltrip. As of this posting, I have not heard from him. Only recently did I find staff e-mail information on the NIHS site; I am waiting for a response.

My calls to the CRD were not returned, nor were their staff e-mail addresses available online. Yesterday, I received an e-mail to the one I submitted through the CRD’s generic Web form. The response, however, was a copy of a recent promotional magazine produced by the CRD. I responded and hope to learn more, but weeks after beginning my search, I have made little progress.

In the first minutes of my search, online transparency tools brought information instantly to my cubicle. That information - on donors, on earmarks, etc. - is valuable, but it also prompts more questions. Perhaps the NIHS and the CRD have the answers to these questions, and they very well could, but they certainly aren’t promoting it on their Web sites or eager to chat about it with inquiring interns. That’s far from transparent, and more than anything, it’s just frustrating for anyone - intern or not - who wants answers about the government’s impact at a local level.


Now, I am not about to say there is something wrong here, but obviously a company that is so deep into operating on government funds, and has no local operation evident in the community, would normally raise flags on any "normal" company's operations. Who does their books, and who is auditing their work? What benefit is the taxpayer getting for their dollars, which are obviously real and no I have not gone to see if this Congressional official is either a democrat or a republican, this should be looked at just as John Murtha's earmarks have in Pennsylvania. As a taxpayer and a totally disabled veteran I can think of many ways to spend these millions of dollars in better care for disabled troops or veterans or even their surving families. Make believe companies that do not show any type of actual productivity for millions of tax dollars in a local community, that is alleged to be GOOD for the community, it would seem as if the company and the Congressman would be proud to share their works, instead of "press releases and articles" that really don't explain anything. Giving scholarships with a few of the dollars is not "good work".

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EPA Announces Dioxin Review, Plans for Dow Cleanup

EPA Announces Dioxin Review, Plans for Dow Cleanup
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Published: May 26, 2009
Filed at 2:46 p.m. ET

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- The federal government is taking another look at the long-debated question of how chemicals called dioxins affect human health and the environment.

Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson announced the move Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

The EPA's 2003 assessment of dioxins' health effects drew criticism from the National Academies of Science, which said the agency didn't sufficiently justify assumptions it used to evaluate risks.

Jackson also says the agency plans a new strategy for cleaning a dioxin-contaminated Lake Huron watershed, which extends 50 miles from a Dow Chemical Co. plant in Midland to Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay.

Dow has acknowledged responsibility for the pollution.

EPA Announces Dioxin Review, Plans for Dow Cleanup


I am not real smart but the Institute of Medicine which is part of the NAS, has stated that Agent Orange which is one of the dioxin related chemicals from Vietnam, has been stating for decades that AO is not that bad, so which one is it, is it dangerous or isn't it? Of course it is, but you can't TELL the veterans, we might have to pay them.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Susan Boyle wins semi final

with this performance Susan knocks it out of the ballpark againSusan Boyle wins first 'Britain's Got Talent' semi-final

Susan Boyle won the popular vote -- the "public vote," as they say in England -- on tonight's Britain's Got Talent, singing "Memory" from Cats. Her voice quavered a little at the start but soon became clear and strong. Wearing a glittery brown dress, standing behind a backdrop of clouds with a spotlight behind her head making it look as though her face was emanating from heaven, Boyle pulled off her second major public appearance with ease.

During the first of five live semi-finals on Talent, Boyle said she wanted to win "more than anything ever in my life." Granted, the competition didn't seem very fierce: she defeated, among others, Darth Jackson (a guy in a Darth Vader helmet who danced to "Thriller") and Nick Hell, who attached a pick-axe to his ear-lobes and broke a dinner plate with it.

If Boyle had any competition in terms of crowd sentiment, it was adorable 10 year-old singer Natalie Okri, who burst into tears when Simon Cowell cast the final vote against her. (On this show, the public calls in votes; at the end of the episode, the "public vote" winner is revealed, and then the show's three judges pick from the two other highest vote-getters; a dance troupe called Diversity beat Okri.)

Boyle said a win for her -- the victor will be announced next weekend -- would "prove that I am a worthwhile person."

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