|ress Release||September 23, 2010||No. RI-002
Beware the Senator Who Speaks With Forked Tongue
| By John Weiss, Vietnam Veterans of America Rhode Island State Council
North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the leading Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said yesterday, as reported by the Associated Press, that he has “concerns about a proposal to spend billions of dollars on disability compensation for Vietnam veterans who get heart disease and wants to make sure that science supports the expansion of benefits.”
The “proposal” Burr is referring to is a decision by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, based on the recent National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine committee report, “Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2008.”
A little history is in order: From 1962 to 1971, the U.S. military used Agent Orange and other herbicides in Vietnam and elsewhere to defoliate the jungle canopy, to destroy crops, and to clear the perimeters of U.S. bases. These herbicides were sprayed from fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, trucks, and backpack sprayers. The drums that stored these chemicals were often recycled and put to various other uses, sometimes to collect rain water, to serve as barbecue grill, etc. Nearly three million veterans served in Southeast Asia.
Contained in these herbicides was dioxin, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-paradioxin—one of the most dangerous chemicals known to man.
On August 31, 2010, in the Federal Register, the Department of Veterans Affairs published the final rules amending the adjudication regulations concerning presumptive service connection, concluding that there was a positive association between exposure in Vietnam to certain herbicides and the subsequent development of three diseases: hairy cell leukemia & B-cell leukemias; Parkinson’s disease; and ischemic heart disease.
And for the first time in history, on September 23, Burr and his colleagues will call into question the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, as outlined in the Agent Orange Act of 1991.
Recognizing that Burr was voted into the House of Representatives in 1994, it is obvious that he was not involved with the passage of the Agent Orange Act of 1991 (Public Law 102-4), which passed the House and the Senate without a single nay vote. In fact, today, 19 years later, there are only 36 members of Congress still serving who voted for passage of this act in 1991.
The Agent Orange Act of 1991 acknowledges the culpability of toxic exposures in health conditions that manifested years after a veteran’s service. Included in the law is the authority for the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to, on a biannual basis, provide a review of all scientific studies and research on the association between dioxin and specific diseases; and include recommendations for future research.
The act further grants the Secretary of the VA the authority to determine if a presumption of service connection is warranted for any of the health conditions addressed in the report.
If Sen. Burr is uncomfortable with the Secretary’s determinations based on the National Academy of Sciences recommendations, perhaps he would be more comfortable with the finding of the U.S. Air Force Ranch Hand Study, conducted by the U.S. Air Force on those who participated in the aerial spraying program, as sited in the 1992 testimony of Dr. Barry L. Johnson, Assistant Surgeon General, before the House Subcommittee on Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations:
A recent study on the health status of Vietnam veterans who participated in Operation Ranch Hand did not find any signs of liver disease, but did report increased levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood (a second report does not support these increases). In addition, an increase in body fat, diabetes, and blood pressure were also noted. These effects were strongly associated with TCDD levels in the serum. Ranch Hand veterans also had changes in blood (increased white blood cells, platelet, IgA, and sedimentation rates) which suggest a chronic inflammatory response, although no immunologic system diseases were identified. These immune system changes were also strongly associated with serum TCDD levels. These results differ from those reported in previous analyses of the Ranch Hand group in 1982 and 1985. The earlier analyses did not include an assessment of serum TCDD levels. A physical examination of Ranch Hand veterans is currently under way.
There is no doubt, that Burr, though too young to have faced conscription during the Vietnam Conflict, views himself as a supporter of those who served.
In fact, seven months ago, it was Sen. Burr who introduced a resolution recognizing March 30 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.” Proclaimed Burr, “There’s no question that our troops served our country bravely and faithfully during the Vietnam War, and these veterans deserve our recognition and gratitude. Unfortunately, when these service members returned home, they were caught in the crossfire of public debate about our nation’s involvement in the war.”
Today, Vietnam veterans are again caught in the “crossfire of public debate,” as Burr and others balk at the price of providing for the continuing cost of care for those whom he and others recognize “served our country bravely and faithfully during the Vietnam War.”
Words of praise and gratitude do not cost anything. Veterans’ compensation for service-related health conditions do. Sen. Burr, which is it?
|Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation’s only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VVA’s founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”|
The following is a portion of the testimony presented by American Legion National Commander Jimmie L Foster and addresses Veteran disabilities due to environmental exposures.
The full testimony can be found at the following weblink:
Please distribute to your members.
American Legion National Commander Fiscal Year 2012 Testimony For the Department of Veteran’s Affairs
By Jimmie L Foster, National Commander
Excerpt: Veterans Disabilities due to Environmental Exposures:
AGENT ORANGE AND TACTICAL HERBICIDES
The American Legion believes that major epidemiological studies of Vietnam veterans who were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange are long overdue. In the early 1980s, Congress held hearings on the need for such epidemiological studies. When VA was unable to accomplish the task, the responsibility was passed to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In 1986, CDC also abandoned the project, asserting that a study could not be conducted based on available records.
The American Legion did not give up. Three separate panels of the National Academy of Sciences have agreed with The American Legion and concluded that CDC was wrong and that epidemiological studies based on DoD records are possible.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, Characterizing Exposure of Veterans to Agent Orange and Other Herbicides Used in Vietnam, is based on the research conducted by a Columbia University team. The team has developed a powerful method for characterizing exposure to herbicides in Vietnam. The American Legion is proud to have collaborated in this research effort. In its final report on the study, the IOM urgently recommends that epidemiological studies be undertaken now that an accepted exposure methodology is available. The American Legion strongly endorses this IOM report.
PRESUMPTIVE SERVICE CONNECTION FOR EXPOSURE
The American Legion strongly supports the extension of presumption of exposure to Agent Orange for veterans who served on naval vessels located in the territorial waters of Vietnam (known as Blue Water Navy veterans) but did not set foot on land in Vietnam.
The IOM, in Update 2008, specifically stated that the evidence it reviewed makes the current definition of Vietnam service, for the purpose of presumption of exposure to Agent Orange, limited to those who actually set foot on land in Vietnam “seem inappropriate.” Citing an Australian study on the fate of the contaminant TCDD when sea water is distilled to produce drinking water, the IOM committee stated that it was convinced that such a process would produce a feasible route of exposure for Blue Water veterans, “which might have been supplemented by drift from herbicide spraying.” (See IOM, Veterans and Agent Orange, Update 2008, p. 564; July 24, 2009) The IOM also noted that a 1990 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a classic Agent Orange cancer, was more prevalent and significant among Blue Water Navy veterans. The IOM subsequently recommended that, given all of the available evidence, Blue Water Navy veterans should not be excluded from the group of Vietnam-era veterans presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange/herbicides.
The American Legion submits that not only does this latest IOM report fully support the extension of presumption of Agent Orange exposure to Blue Water Navy veterans, it provides scientific justification to the legislation currently pending in Congress that seeks to correct this grave injustice faced by Blue Water Navy veterans. The American
Legion at its 2010 National Convention approved Resolution 88 identifying service in the Republic of Vietnam includes “those who served in the territorial waters offshore.”
EXPOSURE IN AREAS OTHER THAN THE REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM
The American Legion is also extremely concerned about the timely disclosure and release of all information by DoD on the use and testing of herbicides in locations other than Vietnam during the war. Over the years, The American Legion has represented veterans who claim to have been exposed to herbicides in places other than Vietnam. Without official acknowledgement by the Federal government of the use of herbicides, proving such exposure is virtually impossible. Information has come to light in the last few years leaving no doubt that Agent Orange, and other herbicides contaminated with dioxin, were released in locations other than Vietnam. This information is slowly being disclosed by DoD and provided to VA. In April 2001, officials from DoD briefed VA on the use of Agent Orange along the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) from April 1968 through July 1969. It was applied through hand spraying and by hand distribution of pelletized herbicides to defoliate the fields of fire between the front line defensive positions and the south barrier fence. The size of the treated area was a strip 151 miles long and up to 350 yards from the fence to north of the civilian control line. According to available records, the effects of the spraying were sometimes observed as far as 200 meters downwind. DoD identified the units that were stationed along the DMZ during the period in which the spraying took place. This information was given to VA’s Compensation and Pension Service, which provided it to all of the regional offices. VA Central Office has instructed its Regional Offices to concede exposure for veterans who served in the identified units during the period the spraying took place.
In January 2003, DoD provided VA with an inventory of documents containing brief descriptions of records of herbicides used at specific times and locations outside of Vietnam. The information, unlike the information on the Korean DMZ, does not contain units’ involved or individual identifying information. Also, according to VA, this information is incomplete, reflecting only 70 to 85 percent of herbicide use, testing and disposal locations outside of Vietnam. VA requested that DoD provide it with information regarding the units involved with herbicide operations or other information that may be useful to place veterans at sites where herbicide operations or testing was conducted. Unfortunately, as of this date, additional information has not been provided by DoD.
Obtaining the most accurate information available concerning possible exposure is extremely important for the adjudication of herbicide-related disability claims of veterans claiming exposure outside of Vietnam. For herbicide-related disability claims, veterans who served in Vietnam during the period of January 9, 1962 to May 7, 1975 are presumed by law to have been exposed to Agent Orange. Veterans claiming exposure to herbicides outside of Vietnam are required to submit proof of exposure. This is why it is crucial that all information pertaining to herbicide use, testing, and disposal in locations other than Vietnam be released to VA in a timely manner.
The IOM subsequently recommended that, given all of the available evidence, Blue Water Navy veterans should not be excluded from the group of Vietnam-era veterans presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange/herbicides.
Congressional oversight is needed to ensure that additional information identifying involved personnel or units for the locations already known by VA is released by DoD, as well as all relevant information pertaining to other locations that have yet to be identified. Locating this information and providing it to VA must be a national priority. The American Legion endorses both the 2006 and 2008 IOM reports and strongly urges VA to make a timely decision on its recommendations and provide timely notification of the decision to add or not add to the presumptive list. The ongoing and lengthy process witnessed during the addition of the three new presumptive conditions associated with Agent Orange, ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s
disease, and b-cell leukemias such as “hairy cell leukemia” has illustrated the need for better coordination between VA, the veterans’ community and Congress. There is an excellent system already in place by law to provide for the addition of new presumptive conditions. The science evaluation performed by the IOM has been proven to be
sound and thorough. Where VA evaluates this information and chooses to add new presumptive conditions, the process should not reflect endless months of delays and debate, but should move forward swiftly.
In order to facilitate a better understanding of this process, more clarity and transparency may be required. Why, for example, does VA determine one portion of an IOM report to be valid for finding of a presumption of service connection, yet disregard other portions of the IOM findings, such as the analysis of the Australian Naval Study which
recognized the link between Blue Water Naval Service and the exposure to Agent Orange? When questions are raised as to why VA has determined that the IOM findings suggest a connection, there should be clear guidance as to what standard is being objectively used, so that no questions as to the integrity of the process can arise. The process, when supported by sound science, should not consist of a yearlong cycle of bickering. The law clearly states a period of deadlines for the publication of new regulations. These regulations must be adhered to, and the criteria by which the Department of Veterans’ Affairs determines the necessity to add a new presumptive condition must be clear, so that future delays to veterans can be avoided.
The American Legion has long fought for the veterans of Vietnam to be justly treated for the after effects of their exposure to Agent Orange. Congress and VA must discover a way to more efficiently execute the process of the addition of new presumptive conditions, so that years of long delays no longer plague veterans in their quest for benefits.
GULF WAR ILLNESS
In the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illness (RACGWI) initial report released in November 2004, it was found that, for a large majority of affected Gulf War veterans, their illnesses could not be explained by stress or psychiatric illness and concluded that current scientific evidence supports a probable link between neurotoxin exposure and subsequent development of Gulf War veterans’ illnesses. Earlier government panels concluded that deployment-related stress, not the numerous environmental and other exposures troops were exposed to during the war, was likely responsible for the numerous unexplained symptoms reported by thousands of Gulf War veterans. The Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses released their most recent report November 2008. In the report, the committee concluded that Gulf War Illness is a physical condition. The report indicates that Gulf War Illness is a serious condition that affects at least one fourth of the 697,000 U.S. veterans who served in the 1990-1991 Gulf War. The panel also determined that Gulf War Illness fundamentally differs from trauma and stress-related syndromes described after other wars.
Studies have indicated that Gulf War veterans have a lower rate of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) than veterans of other wars. Upon review of extensive scientific evidence, the committee determined that two neurotoxin exposures are causally associated with Gulf War Illness: a drug given to service members to protect them from nerve gas known as pyridostigmine bromide (PB) pills and pesticides used during deployment.
The science evaluation performed by the IOM has been proven to be sound and thorough. Where VA evaluates this information and chooses to add new presumptive conditions, the process should not reflect endless months of delays and debate, but should move forward swiftly.
The American Legion strongly supports this report and urges the VA Secretary to act quickly on the committee’s recommendations. In addition, VA must continue to fund research projects consistent with the recommendations of the RACGWI. VA must continue to fund research projects consistent with the recommendations of the RACGWI. It is important that VA continues to focus its research on finding medical treatments that will alleviate veterans’ suffering as well as on figuring out the causes of that suffering. Although veterans can file claims for these ailments and possibly gain access to the health care system once a disability percentage rate is granted, those whose claims are denied cannot enroll. Unfortunately, the denial rate for Gulf War undiagnosed illness claims is approximately 75 percent. Due to their nature, these illnesses are difficult to understand and information about individual exposures may not be available, many ill veterans are not able to present strong claims. They are then forced to seek care from private physicians who may not have enough information about Gulf War Veterans’ illnesses to provide appropriate care. VA published its comments on the IOM’s Gulf War and Health, Volume 2: Insecticides and Solvents report, released in February 2003 in the Federal Register.
The Department decided not to establish a presumption of service connection for any diseases, illnesses or health effects considered in the report, based on exposure to insecticides or solvents during service in the Persian Gulf during the Persian Gulf War. Many of VA’s justifications for not establishing presumption mirror the reasons why ill Gulf War veterans have problems justifying their claims. The IOM report notes that little information is known about the use of solvents in the theater. VA notes that veterans may still be granted service connection, if evidence indicates an association between their diseases and their exposures. This places the burden of proof on Gulf War veterans to prove their exposures and that the level of exposure is sufficient enough to warrant service connection. IOM and VA have acknowledged that there is insufficient information on the use of the identified solvents and pesticides during the Gulf War.
VA’s interpretation is that Congress did not intend VA to establish presumptions for known health effects of all substances common to military and civilian life, but that it should focus on the unique exposure environment in the Persian Gulf during the war. The IOM was commissioned to ascertain long-term health effects of service in the Persian Gulf during the war, based on exposures associated with service in theater during the war as identified by Congress, not exposures unique to the Southwest Asia Theater. The determination to not grant presumption for the ailments identified should be based solely on the research findings, not on the legitimacy of the exposures identified by Congress. The IOM has a similar charge to address veterans who served in Vietnam during the war. Herbicides were not unique to the operations in the Southeast Asia theater of conflict and there had not been, until recently, a definitive idea of the amounts of herbicides to which service members had been exposed. Peer-reviewed, occupational studies are evaluated to make recommendations on which illnesses are associated with exposure the herbicides—and their components known to be used in theater. For ailments that demonstrate sufficient evidence of a causal relationship, sufficient evidence of an association, and limited evidence of an association, the Secretary may consider presumption. Gulf War and Health Volume 2 identifies several illnesses in these categories. However, the VA Secretary determined that presumption is not warranted. VA needs to clearly define what type of information is required to determine possible health effects, for example, any clarification of guidance or mandate for the research.
VA also needs to ensure that its charge to the IOM is specific enough to help it make determinations about presumptive illnesses. VA noted that neither the report, nor the studies considered for the report identified increased risk of disease based on episodic exposures o insecticides or solvents and that the report states no conclusion whether any of the diseases are associated with “less than chronic exposure,” possibly indicating a lack of data to make a determination. If this was necessary, it should have been clearly identified.
Finally, Section 1118, title 38, United States Code mandates how the VA Secretary should respond to the recommendations made in the IOM reports. The VA Secretary is required to make a determination of whether or not a presumption for service connection is warranted for each illness covered in the report no later than 60 days after the date the report is received. Persian Gulf War and Health, Volume 2 was released in 2003, four years ago. VA has yet to publish its determination on those reports as well. The American Legion urges VA to provide clarity in the charge for the IOM reports. The VA must identify what type of information is needed to make determinations of presumption of service connection for illnesses that may be associated with service in the Gulf during the war.
The American Legion urges VA to request clarification from Congress on the intent of the phrase “known or presumed to be associated with service in the Armed Forces in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Persian Gulf War.” Additionally to obtain clarification from the IOM committee concerning missing information as possible, and re-evaluate the findings of the IOM report with the clarification provided. The American Legion also urges Congress to provide oversight to ensure VA provides timely responses to the recommendations made in the IOM reports.
Jose M. Garcia
Past National Commander
Catholic War Veterans,USA
Better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.
In God We Trust
This saga has been underway since the first troops rotated after the Shock and Awe bombing of Iraq in 2003. For the past 7 years only one mission has been accomplished, the war side one. Post war battles are harder to fight, because the soldier is not armed with the emotional weapons to overcome a bio-chemical make- over of their entire being. At least not in the employers minds.
I predicted this patriotic hypocrisy following the first retreat I attended in 2005, for returning combat veterans. There were 19 at the workshop, and 11 of them had trouble getting their jobs back after deployment. Four of them were engaged in lawsuits with former employers. They were all reservists who by Federal Law must be allowed to return to their jobs after being called up for duty.
What was the Employers response to these young warriors? “Sue me, then.” So much for the yellow ribbons.
And this is just the first wave of troops rotating home. We think we have an unemployment problem now? Wait for the next wave to hit the barren beaches of bleakness in the economy. I remember well 1973 when no one wanted to hire a Vietnam Veteran.
There is, however, an aspect to this job placement dilemma that is really quite positive. Now the VA cares. Now our current Administration cares. Now there are mentoring programs and vocational rehabilitation that never existed in my era of suppression and repression of all war related matters. We are a bit more enlightened about a soldiers needs. That is a good thing. The funding and support for these programs needs to be ongoing and stable until every Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman, and Coast Guard combatant are safe at home. Without that assured commitment, we will only see a deja vu of the self destruction and homelessness that visited us in the veteran community for the 25 years following the end of the Vietnam War. There were no yellow ribbons then, just suicides. We can do better, and will. Mike Brewer/USMC
The article follows.
“I was even turned down by McDonald’s,” said the 29-year-old San Diego native.
The military is known for developing leadership, adaptability, loyalty and teamwork. But Butcher said when he tells employers he needs time off to see therapists for post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury, they don’t call back.
“They think you are mental,” he said.
After nearly a decade of war, many U.S. military veterans have lived through extended periods of combat stress and the trauma of losing colleagues. Nearly a third of the troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of PTSD, severe depression or traumatic brain injury, according to a 2008 study by the Rand Corp.
Many of these new veterans struggle to find and retain civilian jobs. Not only are they returning to the worst economy in decades, advocates say, but many employers do not know how to accommodate these invisible wounds and worry that they might “go postal.”
“If you are a person with a lost limb, it’s a little more straightforward what you might need,” said John Wilson, assistant legislative director for Disabled American Veterans. “You might need a different kind of keyboard or voice-recognition software to do the typing.”
But employers may not know what to expect from a person with PTSD or a brain injury. The symptoms can include severe headaches, memory lapses, poor concentration, slurred speech, loss of balance, a short temper and anxiety in a crowd.
“These elements can make it a challenge to do everyday activities in the workplace,” said Raymond Jefferson, assistant secretary for the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service in the U.S. Department of Labor. “But there are very reasonable accommodations employers can make to allow wounded warriors with PTSD and [brain injuries] to be high-contributing, high-performing members on the team.”
When the Society for Human Resource Management surveyed its members in June, 46% said they believed post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues posed a hiring challenge. Just 22% said the same about combat-related physical disabilities.
Although media attention has helped make the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD and traumatic brain injury a government priority, veterans say it has also contributed to the stigma associated with these wounds.
“They hear so many stories on the news — this soldier got back from Iraq and killed his wife — which makes people a little reluctant to hire you,” Butcher said.
Butcher deployed to Iraq in 2003 as part of a tank crew that repeatedly came under fire. One hot day he left a hatch open and the force of a grenade blast slammed his head against an iron shield.
Many veterans are using education benefits to improve their qualifications. But when Butcher enrolled in community college, the sight of Muslim students kneeling to pray triggered terrifying flashbacks. He left after one semester.
A friend helped arrange an internship at a computer manufacturing company, but Butcher said he got into frequent arguments with co-workers. After four days, he was asked to leave.
Butcher said he has since learned to walk away when he gets angry and uses weekly counseling sessions to relieve stress. But he said the flexibility he would need from an employer puts him at a disadvantage compared to job seekers who don’t have special needs.
Officials with the U.S. departments of Veterans Affairs, Labor and Defense have worked to assure potential employers that the mental and cognitive disabilities of many veterans can be accommodated with little expense and minimum disruption.
Short rest periods — no longer than a smoking break — can make a big difference, said Ruth Fanning, who heads the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service. The department also pays for adaptive technology, such as electronic organizers to help keep track of appointments and white-noise machines to reduce distractions.
Denita Hartfield, a veteran now working from home, takes a digital recorder into every meeting, writes lists in color-coded notebooks and covers her workspace with Post-it note reminders. A striking woman, fashionably attired, with a master’s degree in criminal justice and weapons of mass destruction, Hartfield struggled as dean of students at a business school because her disabilities were not immediately apparent.
“I need my appointments to live,” she said.
Hartfield now wants to set up her own business advising veterans and employers how to work together. She says more open communication would have helped in her case, but at first she did not want to acknowledge her disabilities.
“One of the problems is so many folks aren’t even talking about their invisible wounds,” said Tim Embree, legislative associate for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “The issues are different with every individual, so what I think matters is that the individual understands what’s going on as well as the employer.”
To help employers better accommodate the mental health issues veterans face, the Department of Labor has set up a web site, America’s Heroes at Work.
Many veterans find civilian work with the U.S. government, which is one of the largest employers of former military personnel; they make up a quarter of the federal workforce. About 40% of the staff at VA medical call centers in Northern California are disabled veterans, many of them with PTSD or brain injuries, according to Project Hired, the nonprofit contracted to run them. Los Angeles Habilitation House is training 18 veterans with invisible wounds to provide contract management services to the government.
They include Ronta Foster, a 49-year-old father of two who has cycled between the Army and low-paying civilian jobs for years.
He was diagnosed with PTSD and traumatic brain injury after deploying to Iraq in 2003 but traces the symptoms back to a beating he received outside a German nightclub in 1982.
“The opportunities have been far and few for me,” Foster said. “This here is going to give me an opportunity to start another career and take care of me and my family. That’s all I have been wanting to do for 30 years.”
Some companies also seek out veterans. Joshua Stout is one of 80 people recruited through Northrop Grumman’s hiring program for severely wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. A former Marine who served in both wars, he now works as a project manager at a plant in San Diego that is developing an unmanned surveillance plane for the Navy.
The company consulted occupational nurses on how to help the 27-year-old manage PTSD and a brain injury. They showed him how to set reminders on his computer and arranged his cubicle so co-workers could not come up from behind and startle him.
Stout said he struggled to learn how to manage databases, but his supervisor worked with him until he could remember the steps.
“I get a lot of self pride out of working for this company,” he said. “I’m still supporting the troops and I’m still defending freedom.”
Although accommodations have to be made, Karen Stang, who manages the hiring program, said managers appreciate what veterans like Stout bring to the company.
“They bring loyalty, a great work ethic, commitment,” she said. “It’s been a real win-win.”
Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times
One of my pals suggested I just post my comment that was in response to the Arizona Daily Star article about re-naming Tucson Electric Park.
I said, I had no courage to do so. He said, “honesty is a lonely word.” “And…. are you not suppose to be a veteran advocacy blog?” He won. So here it is in raw honest form. Be nice now. The comment follows.
“I like Carlos’s (Chazman1) idea. Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium is the right name and packed with the dignity and respect that needs to be returned. I say returned,as the original name of the park,the one that was sold to voters in the bond election, and the establishment of a Stadium District, was Veterans Memorial Stadium. When it was removed without input,(they could have kept the name Veterans Memorial when granting naming rights),they essentially dissed the veterans,whose name was used to get the bonds passed. Bad news, bad karma. One of the many reasons the place was star-crossed from the outset. Not to mention some shady real estate transactions that Jim Click had to step in to ameliorate. Myself and tons of veterans boycotted the park,without fan-fare, since its opening. Too bad, cuz we like the sport not the organizational structure. Sort of like a kid having a dysfunctional Dad. Ain’t his fault. Without anyone ever knowing or drawing attention,this may well have been a reason for poor attendance. It was a thing of integrity.Something the veterans had, not the electeds.
The subterranean agenda, that was jammed through the old Pima County Sports Authority, in order to establish the new Stadium District, would now, with a new fund of knowledge, most likely result in indictments of both elected officials and some former members of the Sports Commission.
I know, as I was the Executive Director of the Pima County Sports Authority,(which has never been legally sunset-ed), from 1995-97. The other one. If I told all, I would have to be in the victim-witness program!
As the late and talented Chris Limberis once said after leaving journalism to work for the County, when asked how he liked it, stated, “I feel like I need to take a shower three times a day.”
For penance….and atonement…..say two Hail Mary’s, two Our Father’s and return the name; Veteran Memorial Stadium. It will be good for the soul of Tucson.”
|IRS holds open house for Veterans|
Federal Tax Law Changes Update 03: Probably the most distributed email for the past month
has been a scare message (Subject: Tax Hikes in 2011) that talks about what would be in three waves the largest tax hike in history starting in January 2011. While the intent of the email is to tie in the increases in taxes and changes in law directly to President Obama‘s redistribution of income‘ scheme and some of the items in the email are directly related to the President’s health care bill, there are several items that should be of concern to citizens. The partisan language at the conclusion of the email is not warranted, and the assertion that this is an attempt to force America to ‘Soviet style Socialism and then Communism‘ is simply a scare tactic. So let‘s drop the partisanship and examine the particular items. MOAA sat down with their resident financial expert, Phil Dyer, CFP, and went over the list item by item. Their thoughts in brackets follow corresponding items:
First Wave: Expiration of 2001 and 2003 Tax Relief. In 2001 and 2003, the Congress enacted several tax cuts for investors, small business owners, and families which are all scheduled to expire on 1 JAN 2011. [These changes would become the regulations and terms only if Congress did not act to extend the cuts]:
Personal income tax rates will rise. The top income tax rate will rise from 35 to 39.6 percent (this is also the rate at which two-thirds of small business profits are taxed). The lowest rate will rise from 10 to 15 percent. All the rates in between will also rise. Itemized deductions and personal exemptions will again phase out, which has the same mathematical effect as higher marginal tax rates. The full list of marginal rate hikes is: The 10%, 28%, 33%, and 35% brackets rises to an expanded 15%, 28%, 31%, 36%, and 39.6% respectively. [It is extremely unlikely that the tax brackets will not be extended, especially for anyone making under less than $200k annually or $250k for families filing jointly.]
Higher taxes on marriage and family. The ―marriage penalty‖ (narrower tax brackets for married couples) will return from the first dollar of income. The child tax credit will be cut in half from $1000 to $500 per child. The standard deduction will no longer be doubled for married couples relative to the single level. The dependent care and adoption tax credits will be cut. [This would be something that would hit the most American families directly and, by MOAA’s estimations, has about as much chance of expiring as the Rams have of winning the Super Bowl this year.]
The return of the Death Tax. There is a 55% top death tax rate on estates over $1 million. A person leaving behind two homes and a retirement account could easily pass along a death tax bill to their loved ones. [This has a high probability of coming back in some incarnation, but it is extremely unlikely that the rate will be for estates worth over $1 million.]
Higher tax rates on savers and investors. The capital gains tax will rise from to 20% and the dividends tax will rise to 39.%. These rates will rise another 3.8% in 2013. [Will most likely increase in 2013 vice 2011.].
Second Wave: Obamacare. [Can hardly be considered a historic wave of new taxes and affects a much smaller portion of the populace than the email implies.]
Americans will no longer be able to use health savings account (HSA), flexible spending account (FSA), or health reimbursement (HRA) pre-tax dollars to purchase non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines
A cap on flexible spending accounts (FSAs) of $2500. [For most people, the $2500 cap won’t be noticed.]
Additional tax on non-medical early withdrawals from an HSA increases to 20%,
Third Wave: The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and Employer Tax Hikes. [Would only be an issue if Congress failed to enact an extension to the yearly fix that ensures that the number of families affected remains low.]
Without indexing families will have to calculate their tax burdens twice, and pay taxes at the higher level.
Small business expensing will be slashed to $25,000 maximum and 50% expensing for larger businesses
Taxes will be raised on all types of businesses. [The fate of any increases are, at worst, still up in the air, and at best, an almost sure-to-pass group of extensions. Especially in a hot mid term election year, MOAA expects Congress to ensure that these changes don’t come into effect.]
The deduction for tuition and fees will not be available. Tax credits for education will be limited. Teachers will no longer be able to deduct classroom expenses. Coverdell Education Savings Accounts will be cut. Employer-provided educational assistance is curtailed. The student loan interest deduction will be
disallowed for hundreds of thousands of families.
Charitable Contributions from IRAs no longer allowed. [Expired at the end of 2009.]
The W-2/1099R/1042S tax forms sent by a private concern or governmental body gross income figure will be increased to show the value of whatever health insurance you are given. [The amount is not taxable and does not factor into your tax brackets.]
[Source: MOAA News Exchange 8 Sep 2010 ++]
Jose M. Garcia
Past National Commander
Catholic War Veterans,USA
Better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.
In God We Trust
The 2009 Census reports 23.2 million living veteran in the United States.
THOSE WHO SERVED
1.8 million are female. 2.3 million are Black. 1.1 million are Hispanic. 463.000 are Asian, Native American Indian, Alaska Native, Hawaiian Native, Other Pacific Native.
18.3 million are White
WHEN THEY SERVED
6 million in peacetime.
2.6 million WWll, with 182,ooo serving in both WWll and Korea
2.8 million Korea, with 245,000 serving in both Korea and Vietnam
7.8 million Vietnam (33%) with 50,000 serving in both Vietnam and Gulf War
5.2 million Gulf War Veterans, with 740,000 serving in both Gulf Wars
There are 5 states with 1 million or more veterans.
Pennslyvania, 1 million. (the only state that officially recognized Vietnam Veterans with a $350 check)
New York, 1 million
Texas, 1.7 million
Florida, 1.7 million
California 2.1 million
There are 5.5 million disabled veterans. 3.4 million are service connected. And 2.9 million receive compensation for service connected disabilities for a total cost of $36.2 billion.
Last year we spent $84.4 billion on veterans benefits programs. $6.3 billion on vocational rehabilitation and related educational programs. $37.0 billion for medical programs.
And $40.2 billion was spent on compensation and pensions.
I often wonder if any nation comes close to our care for veterans. But then with us carrying most the load for cosmic security, I suspect not.
This is one veteran who has nothing but gratitude for the VA Health Care System. We are a lucky lot. Now if we can just not war, we would be pretty flush.
2011 COLA and Disability Comp Watch
Week of September 13, 2010
The current Consumer Price Index shows a negative rate of inflation for the first three quarters of 2010. The CPI is the determining factor for the annual COLA for VA Disability Compensation and pensions, Military Retirement, and Social Security. Based on the current CPI rate it appears that 2011 will mark the second year in a row without a Cost of Living Adjustment.
Do these folks never buy Gas?
P.O. BOX 7440 WINDOW ROCK, AZ 86515 ▪ (928) 871-7000 ▪ FAX: (928) 871-4025
CONTACT: GEORGE HARDEEN
OFFICE – 928-871-7917
CELL – 928-309-8532
Navajo President Joe Shirley, Jr., orders flags to half-staff in honor of the late Navajo Code Talker Allen Dale June, 90
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., today ordered flags on the Navajo Nation to be flown at half-staff from sunrise Sept. 11 to sunset Sept. 15 in honor and recognition of the late Navajo Code Talker Allen Dale June, who died Wednesday. He was 90.
The late Allen Dale June was renowned as one of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers who served the United States of America, the U.S. Marine Corps, and the Navajo Nation during World War II with courage, honor and distinction,” President Shirley said.
“Mr. June endured the horrors of combat on Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima as a radio operator in a forward echelon against hostile forces,” he said. “The Navajo Nation unites and offers prayers and deepest condolences to his family during this time of grief.”
Mr. June was born on Nov. 28, 1921, to Kinlichii nii-Tl ízi lání and born for Yé’ii Diné Tachii’ nii. He passed away at the Presscott Veteran’s Hospital of natural causes.
Mr. June graduated from the Tuba City Vocational High School in Tuba City, Ariz., in 1941. Upon hearing the news of the outbreak of World War II, Mr. June hitchhiked to Fort Defiance on his way to Fort Wingate when he heard the announcement seeking Navajos who would become Code Talkers. He joined the U.S. Marines to become one of first 29 Navajos to compose the secret group that developed an unbreakable code.
He served from 1941 to 1945 and was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant.
After his military service, Mr. June graduated from New Mexico Highlands University in Las Cruces, N.M., in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in business
administration, accounting and economics. He went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Utah in 1975.
Although he spoke little about having been a Code Talker, in later life he always wore his red Navajo Code Talker cap with his name on it. In 2001, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal along with the other original Code Talkers for his pioneering Marine service.
Mr. June is survived by his wife, Virginia June, his brothers Adolph June, Jr., Floyd June, Jackie June and Keith June, 11 children, nieces and nephews and many grandchildren.
His funeral has been re-scheduled from Monday to Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 10 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Page, Ariz. Burial will be at the family cemetery in Kaibeto, Ariz.
For more information, please call his brother Adolph June, Jr., at 928-673-5819.
rights and Mosque mania, are all distractions from the cost of war. And they are working!
VA abruptly issues second contract for Agent Orange claims system
BY BOB BREWIN 09/08/2010
The Veterans Affairs Department awarded IBM a contract in July to develop within three months a system to process claims for veterans suffering from diseases related to the Vietnam-era chemical Agent Orange. But last week officials inexplicably issued another contract searching for a second contractor to do the job in one-third the time, while the IBM contract remains in place.
VA needs the new system to process up to 240,000 claims for 15 illnesses determined to be the result of military personnel being exposed to Agent Orange, a defoliant sprayed on the jungles during the Vietnam War. VA presumes all personnel who served in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange, and the 15 illnesses they might have are a result of coming into contact with the chemical.
According to VA, its policy of presuming the diseases are a result of exposure to the chemical will simplify the process for veterans receiving compensation because the department will forgo the normal process of requiring veterans to prove their illnesses began, or worsened, during their military service in Vietnam. Paying Agent Orange claims will cost the United States $13.4 billion.
Department officials decided this year to process the claims separate from the other systems the Veterans Benefits Administration uses. In March, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said he wanted to tap private sector skills to fast-track the development of the system. “This will be a new way of doing business and a major step forward in how we process the presumptive claims we expect to receive over the next two years,” he said at the time.
VA initially planned to award the contract in April, but delays pushed that move up to July. IBM eventually won the $9.1 million pact. The procurement calls for delivery of a production-ready prototype by October and full production by December.
VA asked IBM to develop a fully automated system and a machine-readable claims form that veterans can electronically download and, at their option, electronically submit.
Officials want the forms to be shorter than the current document, well-suited to an automated processing method, and they expect IBM to use commercial systems to the fullest extent possible. They also want employees and veterans to be able to access the system via the Web, with a separate data repository linked to existing departmental systems.
But on Sept. 3, officials quietly posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website a second procurement for the same processing system. The document was not accompanied by any public announcement. The new procurement includes roughly the samerequirements as the original contract, but a shortened delivery deadline.
VA wants the selected contractor to demonstrate the capability to electronically process claims within 15 days of the award and to provide a production-ready system 15 days later, a daunting task, according to one contractor who declined to be identified.
The system must be operational next month, and bidders must submit their proposals by Friday, only a week after the solicitation was issued, which are due Friday.
Harold Gracey, a consultant with Topside Consulting who served as chief of staff at VA from 1994 to 1998, said he assumed the department put out the second procurement as a backup plan in case IBM cannot deliver its system on time.
Gracey added VA could find a second contractor to meet its requirements, but bidders also have to recognize the negative publicity that would result if they fail to deliver. A source familiar with VA said he viewed the second source procurement as a poke at IBM to fulfill its requirements on time.
Veterans groups said whatever the reasons behind the second procurement they were worried the department might not be able to meet its deadlines. “VA’s unusual announcement for a second contract, without any details released to the public, raises significant concerns among veterans about VA’s transparency and VA’s ability to process Agent Orange claims in a timely and accurate manner,” said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense. “We hope VA issues an explanation about this and puts to rest veterans’ concerns.”
VA officials did not reply to numerous requests from Nextgov to comment on the status of the IBM contract and did not respond to a query on why they issued a second procurement. IBM executives also did not reply to calls and e-mails about the status of the company’s contract.
Jose M. Garcia
Past National Commander
Catholic War Veterans,USA
Better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.
In God We Trust