Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Town Hall" for 1991 Gulf War Veterans Coming to Seattle








Veterans of Modern Warfare, Inc.

December 31, 2008


"Town Hall" for 1991 Gulf War Veterans Coming to Seattle

For the first time, a 14-member independent panel advocating for veterans of the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War is coming to the West Coast, slated to hold two days of hearings in Seattle in January.

The Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans, created by Veterans Affairs Secretary James B. Peake last May, will be here Jan. 14 and 15 at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System medical center, that big complex up in Seattle's Beacon Hill neighborhood.

The committee, expected to finish its work within 18 months since its creation, held its first public meeting last June in Washington, D.C. Ultimately, it will recommend programs and policies to help Gulf War veterans.

And advocates for those veterans say that this is the long-overdue chance, at least regionally, for that war's long-suffering and long-neglected veterans to turn out and speak up.

Veterans are allotted five minutes to speak, so need to be direct, but they also can submit lengthier letters to the panel. Gulf War veterans advocates urge them to do both.

"This committee is looking at the human cost and actual experience of the veterans," Julie Mock of Woodinville, president of the national Veterans of Modern Warfare Inc. non-profit for veterans who have served from 1991 to present, said Wednesday.

A Gulf War veteran with service-connected multiple sclerosis, Mock, is among those slated to testify not only about her own experience with the illness. It will be the first time that multiple sclerosis is addressed by the committee. Mock, a mom, said she also will bring up another rarely heard issue regarding problems among the children of Gulf War veterans.

"The committee wants to know what the veterans think solutions might be and what could make their situations better," she said. Veterans who want to participate also can contact her. Other topics include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, which, along with brain cancer, exists disproportionately among those veterans.

In the nearly two decades since the war, a large number of Gulf War veterans have complained of chronic multi-symptom illnesses that were not being service-connected.

A different committee, the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War illness, focused upon medical reseach into those problems. In November, more that 17 years after the 100-day 1991 Persian Gulf War, the committee released a final report that concluded Gulf War illness was a real disorder. The report blamed a toxic stew of chemical and biological hazards to which those veterans were exposed, singling out as potent factors a pesticide and a vaccination troops were given to protect against potential nerve gas agents.

The Gulf War veteran's plight has been compared to the long post-war battle waged by Vietnam veterans for recognition of the effects of Agent Orange, a defoliant used in Vietnam, upon themselves but also upon their children.
In fact, the VMW and Vietnam Veterans of America in November filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against the VA in an attempt to speed up delays in processing veterans claims.

The committee members coming to Seattle in mid-January bring a variety of perspectives and experiences, and include a Gold Star wife, Gulf War veterans, veterans service organization representatives and medical experts. The committee is chaired by Charles Cragin, of Raymond, Maine., a retired Navy captain.

Cragin, who is now a senior counselor for Maine Street Solutions, LLC, is also a former acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and chairman of the VA's board of veterans appeals.

One panel members is Kirt Love, of Texas, a Gulf War veteran who became seriously ill with multiple symptoms a few years after his service there. Love, who directs the Desert Storm Battle Registry and has often been at odds with the VA over Gulf War issues, stressed the need for veterans to take advantage of the chance to be heard in Seattle.

"Seattle has been one of the hotspots for years; we've seen, at a variety of Gulf War functions, that people from the Seattle VA are constantly present," Love said. "From my standpoint, I would like to see a roomful of veterans," Love said.

To learn more, see: http://www1.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=1502
Mock said interested veterans also can contact her or the vmw at jmock@vmwusa.org or http://www.vmwusa.org/.
From RonRosenbaum.com





Jarvisites (see below) don’t seem to get that I love the ‘net. I love surfing. I love the debates one comes upon (and sometimes starts–see below). And I love Google (just not kool-aid drinking Google- worshippers), for instance for rthe way Google Alerts has helped me with my new book on the new face of nuclear warfare.

And so it was that on Christmas morning I woke up to find one of my Google alerts directing me to what I consider a truly profound and important moral debate, one initiated by the campaign to create a medal for “Cold War veterans”.

These are the guys who manned the missile silos and the nuclear armed subs, flew the nuclear armed bombers. The guys who–depending on your point of view–saved the world from a nuclear holocaust, by making deterrence–the prevention of nuclear and conventional war, possible in the 45 years between Hirsohima and the fall of the Soviet Union.

Or took part in the reckless policy of Mutually Assured Destrruction at the heart of deterrence that pledged them to what anti-nuke types such as Jonathan Schell called “conditional genoicide”: our threat to attack and vaporize entire cities full of unarmed civilians if we should be attacked. To carry out a genocidal threat even after the threat had failed in its purpose. Or even, as happened on more than one occasion, carry out that threat on the basis of “false positive” warnings of an attack.

On the other hand what was the alternative? And also on the other hand they were doing it because we, as a populace, in effect ordered them to do it.

On the other, other hand (I’m running out of hands) there were some who questioned and opted out of it. I wrote about one in a Harper’s article “The Subterranean World of the Bomb” (March, 1978; reprinted in The Secret Parts of Fortune). And I talked to guys in Minuteman misile silos who had doubts, but I had no idea, as the post below shows that some went as far as hanging themselves from the stress of the moral quandry our policy makers (and the Soviet Union’s) put them in.

Was deterrence a profoundly moral doctrine inthat it saved tens, hundreds of milions of lives, perhas the entire human species. Or was it profoundly immoral because it threatened genocide after it had failed to deter nuclear attack?

And do the “footsoldiers” in that unconventional, non-physical–very real, but metaphysical, conceptual–combat that deterrence represeneted, deserve medals for their service regardless because of the impossible demands it made upon them as human beings?

That’s the contention of a campaign for a Cold War Medal campaign I came upon in this blog posting (lined above):

“Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cold War Veteran Spot to Air on Weekend America on Dec 27th.

ACWV and Independent Producer Eric Molinsky have put together a montage of interviews of Cold War Veterans to commemorate the End of the Cold War. Dr. Frank Tims, Scott L’Ecuyer and Bill Robinson are featured on the radio spot.

This weekend marks the 17th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the official end of the Cold War. Some Americans will be observing this weekend as if it were a holiday. These folks flew the Berlin Air Lift, or played cat and mouse games with Soviet subs, like in a Tom Clancy novel. Independent Producer Eric Molinsky says these retired servicemen are facing a new battle.



Bill Robinson was part of an elite crew: People who had their finger on the button. He flew a B52 bomber in 1968, circling the Arctic for 24 hours at a time. If given the order, he would’ve nuked Moscow. “We had one purpose and only one purpose, and that was to put our bombs on the target, regardless of battle damage, regardless of anything other than complete destruction of the airplane. So we all knew that we were basically flying a suicide mission.”

Officially, they were called “Chrome Dome” missions. Bill worked for the Strategic Air Command, or SAC. They were tested constantly - rehearsing World War III over and over again.

“Every time we had a practice alert, we never actually knew whether if it was real or not,” Robinson says. “But if it were the real thing, we would have nothing to come back to. In the back in our minds, and my mind, I knew that my family would probably be vaporized.”

Bill and his crewmates were on the front lines of the Cold War. But when the Soviet Union fell, there were no victory parades and no medal ceremonies. Gorbachev was barely clinging to power. The first President Bush was worried about sparking a backlash in the Soviet Union if America appeared to be gloating. Bill Robinson gets that, but he still feels unappreciated.

“It would have been nice to have somebody say thank you.” Bill says. “It would be nice to have somebody say, as my old OPS officer used to say, ‘It was a real bucket of snot but thanks.’”

Bill is part of a growing movement of retired servicemen who support The American Cold War Veterans Association. The organization is lobbying Congress to create a Cold War Service Medal. They have the support of seven senators, but the Pentagon is against it.

Here’s the problem: The Department of Defense does not consider The Cold War a real war. They’re worried that if they give medals to people who didn’t serve in combat, they’ll water down the whole meaning of the word “veteran.”

Scott L’Ecuyer believes that he was on the front lines of a real war. The contribution of his crew needs to be recognized.

“Sometimes I wonder, if President Reagan was still around and conscious of this, would he recognize us?” Scott contemplates. “I’ve spoken to Ronald Reagan. On a Christmas day, when I was out on the missile site, he called us, and said ‘Merry Christmas.’”

Scott spent four years as a chief mechanic at a nuclear missile silo. The job was grueling. The missiles were constantly malfunctioning, but the base had to be fully operational in case the Soviets took a first strike. The crew was tested every day, unaware if was the real thing or just a drill. One of Scott’s roommates couldn’t handle the stress. He was kicked out.

“I can’t tell you how much that guy did for the mission,” Scott explains. “He couldn’t do the job, but he propped us up so much, he might as well have been the truck that drove us there. When they kicked him out, it was unbelievable to all of us, because he was like our parent. We didn’t realize he couldn’t go home because of family issues, and he hung himself in our room. I have a flag that’s on my mantel right now that was flying over the squadron at the time, and I keep it in a box for his memory.”

Those memories weigh heavily on Scott. He had trouble adjusting to the outside world. He had nightmares from underground in solitary confinement. Scott was eventually diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. He showed up at a local VA hospital, and that’s when he discovered that he wasn’t technically a veteran. He didn’t serve during an official time of war, like Vietnam.

“I was locked out from being a new applicant,” Scott says. “I went crazy. That’s when I really got involved.”

Scott recruits members for the American Cold War Veterans Association. He’s hoping to change the system, which he thinks is unfair.

According to Scott, “Everyone’s made hay on the Cold War, from authors to politicians to the media. Everyone for 50 years has made their careers on the Cold War, and it was us that carried out that mission, and the fact that we’re forgotten is unbelievable.”

Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton have pledged their support, but getting money is going to be tough. A new generation of soldiers is coming home, with pressing concerns. The Cold War veterans might have to hunker down for a long fight. The payoff may be years down the road. They’re used to that.”

How do you feel about the stories of Bill and Scott above? I’d like to hear from “Cold War vets” about their experience–what they thought then, what they think now. Post them in “comments”. I’d like to hear what the non-combatants among you think. I think we just can’t bury their experiences, we need to think about them, because the way things look we’re going to have to deal with these questions again, soon.
There is some lively feedback on Rons blog put in your two cents here




Tue Dec 30, 6:20 pm ET


WASHINGTON – A federal judge has awarded more than $65 million to several men of the USS Pueblo, who were captured and tortured by North Korea back in the 1960s.

U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. issued the judgment against North Korea on Tuesday.

North Korea did not respond to the lawsuit accusing it of kidnapping, imprisonment and torture.

The USS Pueblo was seized off North Korea while it was on an intelligence-gathering mission on Jan. 23, 1968. North Korea says the ship was inside its coastal zone. U.S. Navy records say it was in international waters.

The men on the ship were held and sometimes tortured for 11 months.

North Korea displays the USS Pueblo on the Taedong River in the capital, Pyongyang (pyuhng-yahng).

Tuesday, December 30, 2008





Fighting War -- and for Custody
Deployment Used In Battles for Kids

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 30, 2008; A01



FORT LEE, Va. -- Army Sgt. Stephanie Greer was serving with a vehicle-maintenance unit in the volatile Iraqi city of Ramadi, part of President Bush's "surge" strategy to stabilize the country, when she learned of a far-off and most unexpected battle: Her estranged husband was going to fight her for custody of their daughter.

Greer had temporary custody of Mackenzie when she began her second deployment to Iraq in early 2007. Her husband was to care for the 7-year-old while Greer was overseas, but soon he challenged that arrangement in divorce proceedings. "He said I was unstable because I was deployed or training too much," she said.

As a result, throughout her 15-month combat tour, Greer had to mount from 4,000 miles away a legal campaign to keep her daughter.

"If I had not deployed, I know I never would have faced this situation," said Greer, 39. "I don't think it should be held against you, and I don't think my time away, or me deploying, affects my ability to be a mother or provide for my kids."

If she expected support in that position from the military, she was disappointed. Instead, the message she said she received from her superiors was: Deal with it.

"In the midst of the deployment, everything goes to pieces . . . and they say, 'Just let it go and fix it when you get home,' " Greer said. "But most of the time when you do that, it is too late."

The military does not track statistics on custody disputes, but as military divorce rates rise -- particularly among enlisted female troops such as Greer -- so do child custody struggles in which military service overseas has become a wedge issue, according to experts in military family law.

"More and more, a service member is deployed and the service member's spouse is seeking to use that to their advantage," said Greg Rinckey, a former Army judge advocate.

"We are seeing a substantial increase in cases . . . challenging the custody of military parents and the return of custody when they come back from mobilization or deployment, compared to virtually none 10 years ago," said Mark E. Sullivan, a retired Army Reserve judge advocate who practices family law in North Carolina. The increase has been greatest in states with large military populations, such as Virginia and Texas, he added.

Female troops may be particularly at risk, because mothers are more likely to have custody of children after a divorce. "For them to go away for 15 to 18 months, it opens the door to these challenges," said A.J. Balbo, Greer's attorney and a former Army judge advocate.

These conditions create an impossible quandary for service members who are devoted parents and yet must fulfill their obligation to their country, Rinckey and other experts said.

Under Army regulations, soldiers can request emergency leave because of the threat of divorce or related problems at home, although unit commanders retain ultimate discretion to grant approval. However, Balbo said, "most of the time the chain of command is not going to view the custody fight as an emergency."

"Typically, when someone . . . is on emergency leave, it's understood that he has a family member who is dying or just died," said Lt. Col. George Wright, an Army spokesman. "But the regulation clearly states that there are provisions for that type of thing," he said, referring to marital problems.

The Pentagon has supported protections for deployed troops facing custody disputes, Wright said, including giving them the power to request a delay of at least 90 days in child custody proceedings. President Bush signed such a measure into law in January. Wright said the military has also stepped up programs to help service members and their families cope with the stresses of deployments through counseling.

More than 20 states have passed legislation over the past two years to limit the impact of deployments on custody decisions.

"More states are recognizing the need for statutes which protect the rights of service members and their children," said Sullivan, who helped write North Carolina's statute.

The states' approaches vary, but several prevent deployment from being a factor in determining or modifying custody. In a statute passed this year, Virginia bars any permanent change in custody while a service member is deployed.

Still, such protections are incomplete and do not exist in the District and more than 20 states, including Maryland -- which killed a bill similar to Virginia's in a House committee this year -- and Georgia, where Greer's custody hearing took place.

Congress is expected to hold hearings on the issue next year. Meanwhile, experts said, many cases fall through the cracks, such as that of Army Staff Sgt. Dan Diaz.

Diaz gained temporary custody of his daughter, Talia, in February 2002 because her mother was unfit, Diaz said. But when he deployed to Iraq with his engineer battalion in April 2003, he had to delegate joint custody to his mother and Talia's mother. When he came back, Talia's mother refused to return the child.

This year, Florida enacted a statute saying that courts should reinstate custody decrees in place before deployment, but for Diaz, the change came too late.

"If I had not deployed in 2003, I would not have lost custody," he said. "That's unfair. We are trying to serve the country, but to lose custody because you did the right thing is pretty hard." He said he will keep trying to get his daughter back: "If there is a small bit of an opening anywhere, I will take that opening."

Another problem, legal experts and advocates say, is the military protocol that requires service members to devise a family care plan for dependents before deployment -- effectively delegating legal decisions about minor children to a chosen relative. Such military arrangements are not equivalent to legal custody, though, and civilian courts may choose to ignore the care plan if the non-deploying parent challenges it. Yet the range of state approaches to family law makes it all but impossible for the military to create a plan that would be legally binding nationwide, experts said.

"It's wonderful to have protections" for deployed parents, but they should be adopted at the state not the federal level, Sullivan said. "The federal judges would not know what to do. It would be a nightmare," he added.

"There's an imperfect fit between military policy and the civilian family court system," said Rachel Natelson, coordinator of the Veterans and Servicemembers Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York.

Spec. Jonathan W. Maldonado learned that fact the hard way. Maldonado, currently deployed in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, is struggling to regain custody of his son and daughter after officials placed them in foster care in New York. He said he gave his mother guardianship and power of attorney over the children. But the courts did not recognize the military's power-of-attorney arrangements, said Natelson, who is working on Maldonado's case.

"I can't contact my kids, I can't speak with them, and it's hard 'cause they're with a foster mother, when they could have been with my family," Maldonado wrote in an e-mail from Mosul, where he is with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

"No one ever wants to help me out in this situation, no one wants to tell me anything, I'm left in the dark pretty much," he wrote. He plans to return stateside in January and says he will file again for custody.

Such ordeals have become increasingly common recently as the rate of divorce among military members has risen, particularly among enlisted troops in the Marine Corps and Army, the services with the longest deployments.

Nearly 10 percent of enlisted female soldiers and Marines obtained divorces in fiscal 2008, up from 7.1 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively, in 2004.

"There are a lot of single moms out there. This is very worrisome" for them especially, Rinckey said.

Greer was a single mother in Richlands, N.C., when she approached a military recruiter in 2003, in search of a career that would allow her to better provide for her two daughters, Sheressa Carr, then 14, and Mackenzie, then 3. The recruiter told her that the military did not take single parents. (As recently as the 1970s, the military required women to give up their children if they wanted to enlist and discharged those who became pregnant.) Greer signed over custody of Mackenzie to the child's father, Stephen Greer.

In May 2004, the two married when Stephanie Greer was on leave from training, ending that custody arrangement, and within seven months she left for her first Iraq deployment. The relationship suffered while she was abroad, and Greer filed for divorce after she returned.

Although she gained temporary custody before deployment from Fort Stewart, Ga., Stephen Greer strongly believed that Mackenzie would be better off with him, given the prospect of more deployments by her mother, said his attorney, John Harvey.

Harvey said the main focus of the custody challenge was to emphasize the "positives" of his client, a schoolteacher. But "deployments obviously do affect custody cases," he said, and "we certainly raised that as an issue" about Stephanie Greer.

"We weren't attacking her personally for serving her country," Harvey added.

But in Ramadi, it felt that way to Greer.

"I had to prove I was sending money, and prove I was taking care of her. That is hard to do" while deployed in a combat zone, she said.

Serving with a maintenance unit with the 3rd Infantry Division, Greer had trouble gaining even the most rudimentary contact with Mackenzie, waiting over the course of weeks in long lines for the phone where her combat brigade was based, trying repeatedly to reach her daughter. Meanwhile, Greer needed to stay alert for fellow soldiers and their mission. "We are trained tears are a sign of weakness," she said. "I had to keep my composure for my soldiers."

Greer returned home in the spring, and her custody hearing was held in June, after which the judge took seven days to make a decision. "It was the worst week in my life," Greer recalled in an interview at her home at Fort Lee, an Army base near Richmond.

Finally the phone call came from her attorney. Mackenzie, now 8, was to stay with Greer. Her father, now in Jacksonville, N.C., would get regular visitation. "I think I blacked out," Greer said. In a blur, she put down the phone and went flying out the door, embracing her daughter and sobbing.

"I guess I get to stay with you, don't I?" Mackenzie asked. All Greer could do was cry.

Staff researchers Julie Tate and Madonna Lebling contributed to this report


New America Media, Commentary, Aaron Glantz, Posted: Dec 30, 2008

Editor’s note: On any given night, there are 200,000 U.S. veterans sleeping on the streets of America. Many died while waiting for their disability claims to be approved by the government. NAM contributing writer, Aaron Glantz, is the author of “The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle Against America's Veterans” (University of California Press). Reach him at www.aaronglantz.com.

SAN FRANCISCO - Roy Lee Brantley shivers in the cold December morning as he waits in line for food outside the Ark of Refuge mission, which sits amid warehouses and artists lofts a stone's throw from the skyscrapers of downtown San Francisco.

Brantley's beard is long, white and unkempt. The African-American man's skin wrinkled beyond his 62 years. He lives in squalor in a dingy residential hotel room with the bathroom down the hall. In some ways, his current situation marks an improvement. "I've slept in parks," he says, "and on the sidewalk. Now at least I have a room."

Like the hundreds of others in line for food, Brantley has worn the military uniform. Most, like Brantley, carry their service IDs and red, white and blue cards from the Department of Veterans Affairs in their wallets or around their necks. In 1967, he deployed to Vietnam with the 1st Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army. By the time he left the military five years later, Brantley had attained the rank of sergeant and been decorated for his valor and for the wounds he sustained in combat.

"I risked my life for this democracy and got a Bronze Star," he says. "I shed blood for this country and got the Purple Heart after a mortar blast sent shrapnel into my face and leg. But when I came back home from Vietnam I was having problems. I tried to hurt my wife because she was Filipino. Every time I looked at her I thought I was in Vietnam again. So we broke up."

In 1973, Brantley filed a disability claim with the federal government for mental wounds sustained in combat overseas. Over the years, the Department of Veterans Affairs has denied his claim five separate times. "You go over there and risk your life for America and your mind's all messed up, America should take care of you, right," he says, knowing that for him and the other veterans in line for free food that promise has not been kept.

On any given night 200,000 U.S. veterans sleep homeless on the streets of America. One out of every four people -and one out of every three men -sleeping in a car, in front of a shop door, or under a freeway overpass has worn a military uniform. Some like Brantley have been on the streets for years. Others are young and women returning home wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan, quickly slipping through the cracks.

For each of these homeless veterans, America's promise to "Support the Troops" ended the moment he or she took off the uniform and tried to make the difficult transition to civilian life. There, they encountered a hostile and cumbersome bureaucracy set up by the Department of Veterans Affairs. In a best-case scenario, a wounded veteran must wait six months to hear back from the VA. Those who appeal a denial have to wait an average of four and a half years for their answer. In the six months leading up to March 31st of this year, nearly 1,500 veterans died waiting to learn if their disability claims would be approved by the government.

There are patriotic Americans trying to solve this problem. Last month, two veterans' organizations, Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans of Modern Warfare, filed suit in federal court demanding the government decide disability claims brought by wounded soldiers within three months. Predictably, however, the VA is trying to block the effort. On December 17, their lawyers convinced Reggie Walton, a judge appointed by President Bush, who ruled that imposing a quicker deadline for payment of benefits was a task for Congress and the president-not the courts.

President-elect Barack Obama has the power to end this national disgrace. He has the power to ensure to streamline the VA bureaucracy so it helps rather than fights those who have been wounded in the line of duty. He can ensure that this latest generation of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan does not receive the bum rap the Vietnam generation got. Let 2008 be the last year thousands of homeless veterans stand in line for free food during the holiday season. Let it be the last year hundreds of thousands sleep homeless on the street.
VA Ramps Up Job Search for Injured Vets



WASHINGTON (Dec. 30, 2008) - Thirty percent of employees of the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are veterans - the second highest
ranking among cabinet departments after the Department of Defense -- and
nearly 8 percent of VA employees are service-connected disabled
veterans. But the VA intends to increase the number of disabled
veterans who obtain employment in its workforce.

"I am proud of this effort," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr.
James B. Peake. "VA knows the true quality of our men and women, and we
should be a leader in employing them."

Peake said all severely injured veterans of the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan will be contacted by VA's Veterans Employment Coordination
Service to determine their interest in -- and qualifications for -- VA
jobs. So far, that office has identified 2,300 severely injured
veterans of those wars, of whom 600 expressed interest in VA employment.

The coordination service was established a year ago to recruit veterans
into VA, especially those seriously injured in the current wars. It has
nine regional coordinators working with local facility human resources
offices across the country not only to reach out to potential job
candidates but to ensure that local managers know about special
authorities available to hire veterans. For example, qualified disabled
veterans rated by the Defense Department or VA as having a 30 percent or
more service-connected disability can be hired non-competitively.

"Our team is spreading the message that VA is hiring, and we want to
hire disabled veterans," said Dennis O. May, director of VA's Veterans
Employment Coordination Service.

VA coordinators participate in military career fairs and transition
briefings, and partner with veterans organizations, the Department of
Labor's Veterans Employment and Training Service, as well as VA's
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service, the Marine Corps'
Wounded Warrior Regiment and the Army's Warrior Transition Units.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Vets to see another break on travel reimbursement with deductible decrease



Some Veterans to See Another Travel Reimbursement Increase
WASHINGTON (Dec. 29, 2008) - Service-disabled and low-income veterans
who are reimbursed for travel expenses while receiving care at
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities will see an increase in
their payments beginning January 9.

A recently passed law allows VA to cut the amount it must withhold from
their mileage reimbursement. The deductible amount will be $3 for each
one-way trip and $6 for each round trip -- with a calendar cap of $18,
or six one-way trips or three round trips, whichever comes first. The
previous deductible was $7.77 for a one-way trip, and $15.54 for a round
trip, with a calendar cap of $46.62.

"I'm pleased that we can help veterans living far from VA facilities to
access the medical and counseling help they deserve, especially in the
current economic climate," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James
B. Peake. "Together with the increased mileage rate approved last
month, we can further reduce the financial hardship some veterans
undergo to use our superior health care."

In November, Peake announced VA's second increase in the mileage
reimbursement rate during 2008, from 28.5 cents to 41.5 cents a mile.

Service-disabled and low-income veterans are eligible to be reimbursed
by VA for the travel costs of receiving health care or counseling at VA
facilities. Veterans traveling for Compensation and Pension
examinations also qualify for mileage reimbursement. VA can waive
deductibles if they cause financial hardship.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Honoring Cold War Veterans
This weekend marks the 17th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the official end of the Cold War. Some Americans will be observing this weekend as if it were a holiday. These folks flew the Berlin Air Lift, or played cat and mouse games with Soviet subs, like in a Tom Clancy novel. Independent Producer Eric Molinsky says these retired servicemen are facing a new battle.


Listen to the Cold War spot here



Download



From the : Mineola American

Veterans Must File By the December 31 Deadline

The Village of Mineola Board of Trustees enacted a new tax exemption for Cold War veterans after a public hearing held on Wednesday evening, Dec. 17.

The exemption provides a basic property tax exemption for the village tax of 15 percent of the assessed value of a property with a maximum reduction of $12,000.

The law also provides an additional exemption to disabled veterans equal to one-half of their service-connected disability ratings. The basic exemption is good for 10 years, but there is no time limit for the disabled portion of the exemption. The exemption only applies to a primary residence.

In order to be eligible for the exemption for the 2009-2010 village tax year, a qualified veteran must make application to the Village of Mineola by next week, December 31, 2008. Application forms are available at Mineola Village Hall, located at 155 Washington Avenue in Mineola.

The veteran must show a discharge or release from the U.S. Armed Forces under honorable conditions and that service was during the Cold War period. The Cold War period covers the time from September 2, 1945 to December 26, 1991. If a Cold War veteran already receives a veterans' tax exemption, this new exemption will not be available.

Application for the exemption must be made each year by Jan. 1, meaning Cold War veterans have a week to file for next year's exemption.

"The board of trustees and I have the highest respect for and gratitude to those men and women who served in our Armed Forces. They deserve this benefit as a sign of our appreciation for what they have given to our nation," said Mineola Mayor Jack M. Martins.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008





By Andrew McGinn

Staff Writer

Monday, December 22, 2008





SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — A world war had just ended with the splitting of atoms.

Daring flyboys were going higher and faster than man knew he could go.

New enemies were emerging. New sides were forming.

And then something happened in New Mexico.

In Roswell.

This was the nascent Air Force Donald Rizer served in.

By the time he was initially discharged in 1948, the Springfield resident had gone from feeding cavalry horses at a base in Texas to personally watching Chuck Yeager fly faster than the speed of sound in the California desert.

He went from tinkering on airplanes at Crabill Airport in Springfield to chasing UFOs across the western night sky.

Now 81, Rizer recalls this era of strange new aircraft and stranger new sightings in a video on SpringfieldNewsSun.com.

As someone always interested in aviation, Rizer considers himself lucky that he was sent to Muroc Airfield (now Edwards Air Force Base) in the Mojave Desert in 1946.

There, he became one of the military's first jet mechanics.

"This," he said, "was the place to be."

From rockets to flying wings, Rizer helped put the wild in wild blue yonder.

"In October of '47, when they broke the sound barrier, we all witnessed and knew what had happened," he said. "We were told right then, 'Don't tell anybody.' They didn't want the Russians to know what we could do."

At the start of the Korean War in 1950, Rizer was called back to duty, eventually retiring from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as the civilian chief of base operations in 1987.

But if watching a man go Mach 1.06 40 years earlier was weird, chasing UFOs was frankly out of this world.

Because of his dealings with the latest in aviation, Rizer was picked to go on UFO search missions in the wake of the alleged spaceship crash at Roswell in July 1947.

Put on alert, he was handed an infrared camera and put on a C-47 whenever a sighting was reported in California.

"They had to take it serious," he said. "People were demanding an answer."

Six decades later, some people are still waiting.


Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0352 or amcginn@coxohio.com.


Voice of America

By Jason Strother

Seoul


23 December 2008


Forty years ago, North Korea freed the crew of the USS Pueblo, a U.S. Navy ship it had captured 11 months earlier. The ship itself is still in North Korea.


Ralph McClintock is seen in this 1968 file photo on the day he was released from captivity in N. Korea

Ralph McClintock, a surviving member of the Pueblo's crew, was a 24-year-old communications technician aboard the Pueblo when it was captured off North Korea's east coast in January 1968.

Pyongyang said the ship was in its territorial waters, which the ship's crew and the U.S. government denied.

McClintock and the rest of the crew spent an agonizing 11 months in captivity.

He says things only got worse before they got better.

"Well, everyday we thought our lives were in peril. And it just dragged on and on," he said. "We never knew we were going to be released until a day and a half before it actually happened. And they were beating the living life out of us, for the 10 days before that. That is what we call hell week."

McClintock says the crew members were forced to sign confessions. If they refused, they were beaten even more.

Finally a deal was struck with Washington, and on December 23, the crew was sent across the border into South Korea.


"They were really sort of drummed out of the Navy," said Mitchell Lerner, author of The Pueblo Incident, and an associate professor at Ohio State University. "They were treated not as deserving heroes, but as people who surrendered a ship that they shouldn't have surrendered. And then capitulated to torture and signed a bunch of false propaganda statements. Essentially what they were told is that you should have gone down with the ship. And the fact you didn't means we're not going to do much for you upon your return."

Some members of the Pueblo's crew were recommended for court-martial, but the secretary of the Navy intervened and all charges were dropped.


North Korean guide stands for a portrait next to a mounted machine gun on the deck of USS 'Pueblo' in Pyongyang, N. Korea, 19 Sep 2008

Their ship never left North Korea. In the late 1990s, it was towed around the Korean peninsula, and was anchored in the Taedong River in Pyongyang. It is now a museum that praises North Korea's military for its capture.

A guide leads visitors along its deck, proudly pointing out hundreds of bullet holes that are circled in red. She also shows off the spot where Duane Hodges, the only Pueblo fatality, was killed when the ship was captured.

Inside the old mess hall, a video tells the story of the Pueblo from the time it was seized until the crew was set free.

"General Kim Jong Il instructed to state, the U.S. government should take responsibility and apologize. Then we will return the prisoners, but we cannot return Pueblo because it is a trophy," says the video.


Ralph McClintock holds his patches and medals in Jericho, Vermont, 04 Sep 2008

McClintock blames Washington for letting the Pueblo become a propaganda toy of the North Koreans. He would have rather seen the ship destroyed.

"Blow it up right then. The ship was given up with no retaliation, nothing. And it's still to this day, a commissioned ship. For the government of the United States to allow that to happen, to be towed 1,500 miles, is the ultimate insult to the crew," he said.

There are some U.S. politicians who want to get the Pueblo back from North Korea.

McClintock says if that ever happens, he hopes to be part of the handover.

"What I would like to be on board is the navy ship that meets the Pueblo when it is towed out into the East China Sea for the exchange," he said.

But he may have a long wait. Over the past five years, the United States has focused on efforts to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programs, which have stalled. Other issues between the two countries, including the Pueblo, have received little attention.
Cold War Veteran Spot to Air on Weekend America on Dec 27th.



ACWV and Independent Producer Eric Molinsky have put together a montage of interviews of Cold War Veterans to commemorate the End of the Cold War
. Dr. Frank Tims, Scott L'Ecuyer and Bill Robinson are featured on the radio spot.




This weekend marks the 17th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the official end of the Cold War. Some Americans will be observing this weekend as if it were a holiday. These folks flew the Berlin Air Lift, or played cat and mouse games with Soviet subs, like in a Tom Clancy novel. Independent Producer Eric Molinsky says these retired servicemen are facing a new battle.

---

Bill Robinson was part of an elite crew: People who had their finger on the button. He flew a B52 bomber in 1968, circling the Arctic for 24 hours at a time. If given the order, he would've nuked Moscow. "We had one purpose and only one purpose, and that was to put our bombs on the target, regardless of battle damage, regardless of anything other than complete destruction of the airplane. So we all knew that we were basically flying a suicide mission."

Officially, they were called "Chrome Dome" missions. Bill worked for the Strategic Air Command, or SAC. They were tested constantly - rehearsing World War III over and over again.

"Every time we had a practice alert, we never actually knew whether if it was real or not," Robinson says. "But if it were the real thing, we would have nothing to come back to. In the back in our minds, and my mind, I knew that my family would probably be vaporized."

Bill and his crewmates were on the front lines of the Cold War. But when the Soviet Union fell, there were no victory parades and no medal ceremonies. Gorbachev was barely clinging to power. The first President Bush was worried about sparking a backlash in the Soviet Union if America appeared to be gloating. Bill Robinson gets that, but he still feels unappreciated.

"It would have been nice to have somebody say thank you." Bill says. "It would be nice to have somebody say, as my old OPS officer used to say, 'It was a real bucket of snot but thanks.'"

Bill is part of a growing movement of retired servicemen who support The American Cold War Veterans Association. The organization is lobbying Congress to create a Cold War Service Medal. They have the support of seven senators, but the Pentagon is against it.

Here's the problem: The Department of Defense does not consider The Cold War a real war. They're worried that if they give medals to people who didn't serve in combat, they'll water down the whole meaning of the word "veteran."

Scott L'Ecuyer believes that he was on the front lines of a real war. The contribution of his crew needs to be recognized.

"Sometimes I wonder, if President Regan was still around and conscious of this, would he recognize us?" Scott contemplates. "I've spoken to Ronald Reagan. On a Christmas day, when I was out on the missile site, he called us, and said 'Merry Christmas.'"

Scott spent four years as a chief mechanic at a nuclear missile silo. The job was grueling. The missiles were constantly malfunctioning, but the base had to be fully operational in case the Soviets took a first strike. The crew was tested every day, unaware if was the real thing or just a drill. One of Scott's roommates couldn't handle the stress. He was kicked out.

"I can't tell you how much that guy did for the mission," Scott explains. "He couldn't do the job, but he propped us up so much, he might as well have been the truck that drove us there. When they kicked him out, it was unbelievable to all of us, because he was like our parent. We didn't realize he couldn't go home because of family issues, and he hung himself in our room. I have a flag that's on my mantel right now that was flying over the squadron at the time, and I keep it in a box for his memory."

Those memories weigh heavily on Scott. He had trouble adjusting to the outside world. He had nightmares from underground in solitary confinement. Scott was eventually diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. He showed up at a local VA hospital, and that's when he discovered that he wasn't technically a veteran. He didn't serve during an official time of war, like Vietnam.

"I was locked out from being a new applicant," Scott says. "I went crazy. That's when I really got involved."

Scott recruits members for the American Cold War Veterans Association. He's hoping to change the system, which he thinks is unfair.

According to Scott, "Everyone's made hay on the Cold War, from authors to politicians to the media. Everyone for 50 years has made their careers on the Cold War, and it was us that carried out that mission, and the fact that we're forgotten is unbelievable."

Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton have pledged their support, but getting money is going to be tough. A new generation of soldiers is coming home, with pressing concerns. The Cold War veterans might have to hunker down for a long fight. The payoff may be years down the road. They're used to that.



Stations that Carry Weekend America

All dates and times are subject to change. Contact your local station if you want Weekend America to air in your city.

Times below are local.

XM, Sirius, and International
Market Station Frequency Broadcast Day Broadcast Time
Satellite SIRIUS Sa 12:00 PM
XM Satellite Su 05:00 AM

Inside the U.S.

State Market Station Frequency Broadcast Day Broadcast Time
AK Juneau, AK KTOO-FM 104.3 Sa 01:00 PM
KTOO-FMHD1 Sa 01:00 PM
Wrangell, AK KSTK-FM 101.7 Sa 12:00 PM
KSTK-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
AR El Dorado, AR KBSA-FM 90.9 Sa 03:00 PM
KBSA-FMHD1 Sa 03:00 PM
AZ Tucson, AZ KUAZ-AM 1550 Sa 01:00 PM
KUAZ-FM 89.1 Sa 01:00 PM
KUAZ-FMHD1 Sa 01:00 PM
CA Calexico, CA KQVO-FM 97.7 Sa 12:00 PM
KQVO-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
Los Angeles, CA KPCC-FM 89.3 Sa 01:00 PM
KPCC-FMHD1 Sa 01:00 PM
Palm Springs, CA KPCV-FM 90.3 Sa 01:00 PM
Quincy, CA KQNC-FM 88.1 Sa 11:00 AM
Riverside-San Bernardino, CA KUOR-FM 89.1 FM Sa 01:00 PM
KUOR-FMHD1 Sa 01:00 PM
Sacramento, CA KXJZ-FM 88.9 Sa 11:00 AM
KXJZ-FMHD1 Sa 11:00 AM
San Diego, CA KPBS-FM 89.5 Sa 12:00 PM
KPBS-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
Stockton, CA KUOP-FM 91.3 Sa 11:00 AM
Tahoe City, CA KKTO-FM 90.5 Sa 11:00 AM
CO Aspen, CO KAJX-FM 91.5 Sa 01:00 PM
KCJX-FM 88.9 Sa 01:00 PM
Ignacio, CO KSUT-FM 91.3 Su 12:00 PM
KUTE-FM 90.1 Su 12:00 PM
FL Orlando, FL WMFE-FM 90.7 Sa 03:00 PM
IA Decorah, IA KLNI-FM 88.7 Sa 12:00 PM
Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA KIOS-FM 91.5 Sa 11:00 AM
KIOS-FMHD1 Sa 11:00 AM
IL Chicago, IL WBEQ-FM 90.7 Sa 02:00 PM
WBEZ-FM 91.5 Sa 02:00 PM
DeKalb, IL WNIJ-FM 89.5 Sa 11:00 AM
Freeport, IL WNIE-FM 89.1 Sa 11:00 AM
Kankakee, IL WKCC-FM 91.1 Sa 11:00 AM
LaSalle-Peru, IL WNIW-FM 91.3 Sa 11:00 AM
Macomb, IL WIUM-FM 91.3 Sa 12:00 PM
WIUM-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
Sterling, IL WNIQ-FM 91.5 Sa 11:00 AM
Warsaw, IL WIUW-FM 89.5 Sa 12:00 PM
WIUW-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
IN Anderson, IN WBSB-FM 89.5 Sa 02:00 PM
Elkhart, IN WVPE-FM 88.1 Sa 08:00 PM
Sa 12:00 PM
Ft. Wayne, IN WBOI-FM 91.3 Sa 12:00 PM
WBOI-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
Hagerstown, IN WBSH-FM 91.1 Sa 02:00 PM
Marion, IN WBSW-FM 90.9 Sa 02:00 PM
Muncie-Marion, IN WBST-FM 92.1 Sa 02:00 PM
Portland, IN WBSJ-FM 91.7 Sa 02:00 PM
MA Boston, MA WBUR-FM 90.9 Sa 02:00 PM
Harwich, MA WCCT-FM 90.3 Sa 01:00 PM
Sandwich, MA WSDH-FM 91.5 Sa 01:00 PM
Springfield, MA WNNZ-AM 640 Sa 12:00 PM
West Yarmouth, MA WBUR-AM 1240 Sa 01:00 PM
MD Baltimore, MD WYPR-FM 88.1 Sa 01:00 PM
ME Augusta-Waterville, ME WMEW-FM 91.3 Sa 03:30 PM
WMEW-FMHD1 Sa 03:30 PM
Bangor, ME WMEH-FM 90.9 Sa 03:30 PM
WMEH-FMHD1 Sa 03:30 PM
Calais, ME WMED-FM 89.7 Sa 03:30 PM
WMED-FMHD1 Sa 03:30 PM
Camden, ME WMEP-FM 90.5 Sa 03:30 PM
WMEP-FMHD1 Sa 03:30 PM
Ft. Kent, ME WMEF-FM 106.5 Sa 03:30 PM
WMEF-FMHD1 Sa 03:30 PM
Portland, ME WMEA-FM 90.1 Sa 03:30 PM
WMEA-FMHD1 Sa 03:30 PM
Presque Isle, ME WMEM-FM 106.1 Sa 03:30 PM
WMEM-FMHD1 Sa 03:30 PM
MI Detroit, MI WUOM-FM 91.7 Sa 03:00 PM
Flint, MI WFUM-FM 91.1 Sa 03:00 PM
Grand Rapids, MI WVGR-FM 104.1 Sa 03:00 PM
MN Appleton, MN KNCM-FM 88.5 Sa 12:00 PM
Austin, MN KNSE-FM 90.1 Sa 12:00 PM
Bemidji, MN KNBJ-FM 91.3 Sa 12:00 PM
Brainerd, MN KBPN-FM 88.3 Sa 12:00 PM
Buhl, MN WIRN-FM 92.5 Sa 12:00 PM
Collegeville, MN KNSR-FM 88.9 Sa 12:00 PM
Duluth-Superior, MN-WI WSCN-FM 100.5 Sa 12:00 PM
Fergus Fall, MN KNWF-FM 91.5 Sa 12:00 PM
Grand Marais, MN WLSN-FM 89.7 Sa 12:00 PM
LaCrosse, WI KXLC-FM 91.1 Sa 12:00 PM
Mankato/St. Peter, MN KNGA-FM 91.5 Sa 12:00 PM
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN KNOW-FM 91.1 Sa 12:00 PM
Moorhead, MN KCCD-FM 90.3 Sa 12:00 PM
Rochester, MN KZSE-FM 90.7 Sa 12:00 PM
Thief River Falls, MN KNTN-FM 102.7 Sa 12:00 PM
Worthington, MN KNSW-FM 89.3 Sa 12:00 PM
MO Columbia, MO KBIA-FM 91.3 Sa 02:00 PM
KBIA-FMHD1 Sa 02:00 PM
KKTR-FM 89.7 Sa 02:00 PM
KKTR-FMHD1 Sa 02:00 PM
St. Louis, MO KWMU-FM 90.7 Sa 01:00 PM
KWMU-FMHD1 Sa 01:00 PM
NC Buxton, NC WBUX-FM 90.5 Sa 12:00 PM
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC WFAE-FM 90.7 Sa 12:00 PM
WFAE-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
Columbia-Manteo, NC WUND-FM 88.9 Sa 12:00 PM
Elizabeth City, NC WURI-FM 90.9 Sa 12:00 PM
WURI-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
Hickory, NC WFHE-FM 90.3 Sa 12:00 PM
Raleigh-Durham, NC WUNC-FM 91.5 Sa 12:00 PM
Rocky Mount-Wilson, NC WRQM-FM 90.9 Sa 12:00 PM
NE Alliance, NE KTNE-FM 91.1 Sa 12:00 PM
Bassett, NE KMNE-FM 90.3 Sa 12:00 PM
Chadron, NE KCNE-FM 91.9 Sa 12:00 PM
Hastings, NE KHNE-FM 89.1 Sa 12:00 PM
Lexington, NE KLNE-FM 88.7 Sa 12:00 PM
Lincoln, NE KUCV-FM 91.1 Sa 12:00 PM
KUCV-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
Merriman, NE KRNE-FM 91.5 Sa 12:00 PM
Norfolk, NE KXNE-FM 89.3 Sa 12:00 PM
North Platte, NE KPNE-FM 91.7 Sa 12:00 PM
Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA KIOS-FM 91.5 Sa 11:00 AM
KIOS-FMHD1 Sa 11:00 AM
NJ Atlantic City, NJ WNJN-FM 89.7 Sa 02:00 PM
Berlin, NJ WNJS-FM 88.1 Sa 02:00 PM
Bridgeton, NJ WNJB-FM 89.3 Sa 02:00 PM
Cape May Court House, NJ WNJZ-FM 90.3 Sa 02:00 PM
Manahawkin, NJ WNJM-FM 89.9 Sa 02:00 PM
Sussex, NJ WNJP-FM 88.5 Sa 02:00 PM
Trenton, NJ WNJT-FM 88.1 Sa 02:00 PM
NV Las Vegas, NV KNPR-FM 88.9 Sa 12:00 PM
KNPR-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
Lund/Ely, NV KWPR-FM 88.7 Sa 12:00 PM
KWPR-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
Panaca, NV KLNR-FM 91.7 Sa 12:00 PM
KLNR-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
Tonopah, NV KTPH-FM 91.7 Sa 12:00 PM
KTPH-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
OH Akron, OH WKSU-FM 89.7 Sa 01:00 PM
WKSU-FMHD1 Sa 01:00 PM
Cincinnati, OH WVXU-FM 91.7 Sa 12:00 PM
WVXU-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
Cleveland, OH WCPN-FM 90.3 Sa 01:00 PM
Dover, OH WKRJ-FM 91.5 Sa 01:00 PM
Thompson, OH WKSV-FM 89.1 Sa 01:00 PM
West Union, OH WVXW-FM 89.5 Sa 12:00 PM
Wooster, OH WKRW-FM 89.3 Sa 01:00 PM
WKRW-FMHD1 Sa 01:00 PM
Youngstown-Warren, OH WYSU-FM 88.5 Sa 12:00 PM
WYSU-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
OK Ketchum, OK KOSN-FM 107.5 FM Sa 01:00 PM
Stillwater, OK KOSU-FM 91.7 Sa 01:00 PM
KOSU-FMHD1 Sa 01:00 PM
OR Bend, OR KOAB-FM 91.3 Sa 02:00 PM
Coos Bay, OR KOGL-FM 89.3 Sa 02:00 PM
Eugene-Springfield, OR KOPB-AM 1600 Sa 02:00 PM
LaGrande, OR KTVR-FM 89.9 Sa 02:00 PM
Lakeview, OR KOAP-FM 88.7 Sa 02:00 PM
Pendleton, OR KRBM-FM 90.9 Sa 02:00 PM
Portland, OR KOAC-AM 550 Sa 02:00 PM
KOPB-FM 91.5 Sa 02:00 PM
KOPB-FMHD1 Sa 02:00 PM
PA Harrisburg-Lebanon-Carlisle, PA WITF-FM 89.5 Sa 01:00 PM
WITF-FMHD1 Sa 01:00 PM
RI Providence-Warwick-Pawtucket, RI WRNI-AM 1290 Sa 01:00 PM
Westerly, RI WXNI-AM 1230 Sa 01:00 PM
SC Aiken, SC WLJK-FM 89.1 Sa 03:00 PM
Beaufort, SC WJWJ-FM 89.9 Sa 03:00 PM
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC WFAE-FM 90.7 Sa 12:00 PM
WFAE-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
Conway, SC WHMC-FM 90.1 Sa 03:00 PM
Sumter, SC WRJA-FM 88.1 Sa 03:00 PM
TX Commerce, TX KETR-FM 88.9 Sa 11:00 AM
KETR-FMHD1 Sa 11:00 AM
UT St. George, UT KSGU-FM 90.3 Sa 12:00 PM
KSGU-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
VA Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford-Pulaski, VA WWVT-AM 1260 Sa 12:00 PM
Roanoke-Lynchburg, VA WFFC-FM 89.9 Sa 12:00 PM
WA Moses Lake, WA KLWS-FM 91.5 Sa 10:00 AM
KLWS-FMHD1 Sa 10:00 AM
Mt. Vernon, WA KMWS-FM 90.1 Sa 10:00 AM
KMWS-FMHD1 Sa 10:00 AM
Olympia, WA KUOW-AM 1340 AM Sa 12:00 PM
Omak/Okanogan, WA KQWS-FM 90.1 Sa 10:00 AM
Pullman, WA KWSU-AM 1250 Sa 10:00 AM
Seattle-Tacoma, WA KUOW-FM 94.9 Sa 12:00 PM
KUOW-FMHD1 Sa 12:00 PM
Walla Walla, WA KWWS-FM 89.7 Sa 10:00 AM
WI Duluth-Superior, MN-WI WSCN-FM 100.5 Sa 12:00 PM
Nearly 11,000 Survivors to Receive Retroactive Payments by New Years
Search for Other Eligible Survivors Continues




WASHINGTON (Dec. 24, 2008) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
has identified nearly 11,000 surviving spouses of deceased veterans who
will receive a lump-sum payment before the New Year to correct an error
in their VA benefits. Also documented were more than 73,000 who had
been previously paid. VA officials are still tracking down eligible
survivors.

"I am pleased that our task force working to correct this problem has
been able to identify this first group this week," said Secretary of
Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "We understand the difference these
funds can make for these surviving spouses, especially during the
holiday season."

Payments will be released to these survivors on Dec. 29. The total
value of the payments is about $24 million.

At issue is a 1996 federal law that makes a surviving spouse eligible to
receive the veteran's VA compensation or pension benefit for the month
of the veteran's death. VA failed to properly implement that law in all
cases.

Most likely to have been affected by this problem are surviving spouses
who never applied for VA survivors' benefits following the death of a
veteran. Eligible for the payment are surviving spouses of veterans who
died after Dec. 31, 1996. The Department doesn't have current addresses
for many of them, which makes the process of contacting them difficult.

VA has established a special Survivor Call Center (1-800-749-8387) for
spouses who believe they may be eligible for this retroactive benefit.
The Call Center is open Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00
p.m., Central Standard Time. Inquiries may also be submitted through
the Internet at http://www.vba.va.gov/survivorsbenefit.htm

Tuesday, December 23, 2008







20 hours ago

MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian navy says an experimental sea-based ballistic missile has failed in yet another test launch, signaling serious trouble with a key component of the nation's nuclear might.

Navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said the Bulava missile "self-destroyed and exploded in the air" early Tuesday after a launch from a nuclear submarine beneath the White Sea in northwestern Russia.

Over the past two years, Bulava has failed in several launches and its deployment prospects are uncertain.

The Bulava is reportedly designed to have a maximum range of about 6,200 miles (10,000 kilometers) and carry six individually targeted nuclear warheads. Russian officials say the weapon can penetrate any prospective missile defenses.







December 19, 2008


Letter
Homeless Vets in New York

To the Editor:

Re “New York City Bolsters Effort to Shelter Homeless Veterans” (news article, Dec. 16):

Thank you for your coverage of the city’s efforts to assist homeless veterans. In addition to the Department of Homeless Services’ work to enhance shelters for veterans and increase housing options, the task force established by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has led to changes in how the city’s Office of Veterans Affairs coordinates and promotes services including health and mental health benefits and job opportunities.

Currently, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City is raising private money to support a new multiservice center at the city’s Veterans Memorial Hall in lower Manhattan. The center will maximize city, state, federal and not-for-profit resources under one roof in an interactive manner in which our veterans and their families can easily interface with many service providers situated at the center.

Now more than ever, we must provide new ways to address the changing needs of our returning military service members.

Roger Newman
Commissioner
Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs
New York, Dec. 17, 2008








NAVY TV
This Day in Naval History
40th Anniversary of Pueblo Crew Release




On this date in 1968, the imprisoned crew of the USS Pueblo (AGER-2) was released, exactly 11 months after being captured and held as prisoners of war by the North Koreans.

Watch a video of the U.S. Navy account of the incident – according to official U.S. Navy records.

Leave your memory or tribute to the crew at the Navy Log USS Pueblo community page and add to the records in the Navy Log by creating a service profile for a USS Pueblo crew member.
Video

The Pueblo Incident Chronology and History

On January 23, 1968, the USS Pueblo was captured by North Korean forces in international waters. This is the U.S. Navy's account of the event at that time.
http://www.navytv.org/channel.cfm?s=52&c=189
A Fantastic Blog Cold War Veterans should Check Out



May you and yours have a very Merry X-mas






Sean Eagan Chairman
American Cold War Veterans, Inc.

Monday, December 22, 2008







By SARAH M. RIVETTE
TIMES STAFF WRITER
MONDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2008


The number of young men and women returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan increases every day, but veterans organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to reach these young soldiers.

“We are actually closing, getting rid of the building and hoping to keep the charter and go in with another organization,” said E. Allen Mooney, assistant commander and adjutant for Ogdensburg American Legion Post 69. “The closing has been coming a long time. The area just can’t support three veterans clubs. Members are passing away and going to nursing homes and there are just fewer and fewer people.”

Mr. Mooney described what is happening to some posts across the country as the aging World War II and Korean War veterans die. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, that population is dying at a rate of 900 per day.

“My job is to recruit new members, and we are doing that,” said George H. Osborne, Bath, the state chairman for membership for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “We need to work on retention and reinstatements of those who are dropping out. We can’t run the risk of losing these kids, and that has happened in the past.”

Mr. Osborne, who served in the Korean War with the Marine Corps, said there are about 5,000 people in New York who were VFW members but have fallen by the wayside and have not paid dues. He said reaching out and getting back in touch with them is a priority.

The VFW is open to service members who served overseas and have received a combat patch, which limits the number of people who can join. The 16 VFW posts in St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis counties have lost 323 members since 2007, according to data on the state VFW Web site. The same decline is seen at the state level, where the organization lost 9,811 members, going from 77,233 in 2007 to 67,422 as of Dec. 10.

One reason for the declining numbers may be that the organizations are not modern enough for the 20- and 30-year-olds returning from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Current members are finding there is a gap between generations that needs to be bridged.

“It’s very difficult because of the age difference. Most of the veterans we have now are Vietnam era, and you get men in their 60s talking to men in their 20s,” said Richard Dingman, quartermaster in charge of membership at Dionne-Rumble VFW Post 7227, Carthage. “Something we did for our younger veterans is put in an ATM machine because they all use plastic money.”

Mr. Dingman said that of about 400 members, there are 50 to 60 who are active-duty and stationed at Fort Drum. He acknowledges the post’s proximity to Drum has helped with membership, but says that most times a soldier will join Post 7227 and then change duty stations.

In Jefferson County, the American Legion added 74 members. Lewis County added 16 and St. Lawrence County added 19. These numbers do not reflect Sons of the American Legion nor the American Legion Auxiliary.

Still, none of the counties has reached its 2009 recruiting goal. Jefferson County is short 1,036 members, Lewis County is short 87 and St. Lawrence is short 632, according to statistics on the state American Legion Web site.

“We are just scraping by and it’s dwindling,” said David L. Brown, treasurer of American Legion Post 74 in Potsdam. Mr. Brown served in the Army during Vietnam. “Most of our members are in their late 70s and early 80s. The membership that we have is elderly and no one wants to get involved and volunteer to take over for membership because it’s time consuming and they don’t have the spunk to do it.”

The American Legion and VFW posts have decided to stress the kinds of programs available not only to veterans but to family members. They include temporary financial assistance and scholarship opportunities that help draw potential members into the organization.

“We are not pushing the membership probably as hard as others would like us to, but we are trying to get them in the door and see what we do, aside from sitting at the bar and telling war stories,” said Jamie Brassard, vice chairwoman for Hometown for Heroes for the American Legion District 5, which covers Lewis and Jefferson counties. “That’s the perception of the Legion and the VFW.”

Mrs. Brassard, who works at Fort Drum and is a Vietnam veteran, said another issue is that some older members can no longer afford to belong to the Legion and pay the yearly dues. This compounds when there are several organizations to which a single veteran can belong.

In situations like these, the American Legion will try to pay the dues for the member who can no longer afford them. As an incentive, the VFW has a program whereby it will pay for the first year for a new member.

Despite incentives, programs, recruiting and retention efforts that both the VFW and American Legion have tried, membership in rural places is declining for both groups.

“It’s not so much about joining; it’s about being active,” said Richard O. Matthias, quartermaster at Massena VFW Post 1143. Mr. Matthias served in the Navy during Vietnam.

“The majority of our guys who are active in the club are 60 or older and it’s hard for us to get over that generational thing,” he said. “Eventually we will be able to bring in some of the younger guys, but it’s all a matter of blending.”




EUGENE, Ore. -- The homeless man who froze to death Tuesday evening, believed to be the first victim of Oregon's snow, was a decorated war veteran who earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.

Thomas Lawrence Egan, 60, was found partially covered in snow near the corner of Blair Boulevard and West First Avenue. According to the Lane County Medical Examiner's office, he died from exposure to the cold.

Word of Egan's death spread quickly throughout Lane County's community of veterans. He was well known among veterans support circles. He served two decades in the Army and Oregon Army National Guard, spent two years serving in Korea and earned several medals and ribbons for his service.

Bud Dickey, a Vocational Rehablitation Coordinator with Eugene's VA Clinic, says Egan's story is tragic.
Dickey served alongside Egan for five years in the Oregon National Guard. He calls Egan " a good person who fell on bad times."

"There were several different times when people tried to help him and for certain times, he was OK," said Dickey. "For whatever reasons, he couldn't stay on track and chose to continue to drink."

That was one reason Egan remained homeless. According to Dickey, many local housing projects for veterans required sobriety and Egan was unable to remain sober.

"It pulls at all of our heart strings," said Dickey. "And hopefully the community will take a look at the trouble and the sacrifices these veterans had made for our country. We have so many young ones today who have recently come back and will be going again that are in the same situation. And hopefully we can help them before things get that bad."

Penny Simpson, the house manager for Vet Net, shared Egan's military records with KVAL News. She wanted people to know the true identity of the man found in the snow.

According to Simpson:

* Egan was born in 1948 in Port Chester, New York.
* He received his Bachelors Degree in History at Quinnipiac College, Hamden, Conn., in 1971.
* He received his Masters of Arts Degree in 1983 from the University of Oregon
* Thomas was appointed as a Second Lieutenant through the PMS, Yale University 14 June 1971 as an Infantry Officer.
* On Feb. 5, 1977, Thomas was promoted to first lieutenant and subsequently reassigned to the Oregon Army National Guard SPT Co 2nd Battalion 162nd Infantry “VOLUNTEERS” as the Antiarmor Platoon Leader.
* On Aug. 8, 1980, Thomas was promoted to the rank of CPT assigned to Headquarters and headquarters company 2nd Battalion 162nd Infantry.
* On Dec. 22, 1980, Thomas was assigned the Company Commander of Co A 2nd Battalion 162nd Infantry.
* Oct. 1,1989, Thomas was reassigned to Headquarters Starc in Salem, Oregon as the Chemical Officer.
* On July 8, 1990, Thomas was promoted to the rank of Major.
* Thomas retired from the Oregon Army National Guard honorably in 1991.

Awards:

* Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
* National Defense Service Medal
* Humanitarian Service Medal
* Armed Forces Reserve Medal
* Army Service Ribbon
* Overseas Service Ribbon
* Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon
* Oregon Faithful Service Ribbon with 1 Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
* Connecticut Recruit-badge

Saturday, December 20, 2008







December 19, 2008
Editorial




Far too often, military veterans find themselves desperately short of the information they need as they make the torturous quest for benefits within one of this country’s most daunting bureaucracies, the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Officials say help is on the way, but administrators are forever promising to streamline procedures for an era of conquered paperwork that never seems to come. That is why it is heartening to see that one promising form of help has indeed arrived: a 599-page guide to veterans’ issues, from educational help to vocational rehabilitation, from housing to citizenship.

It’s called “The American Veterans’ and Servicemembers’ Survival Guide,” and it comes, unsurprisingly, from outside the system. It is a publication of the nonprofit advocacy group Veterans for America, available as a free download at veteransforamerica.org.

This electronic book is a descendant of “The Viet Vet Survival Guide,” which was published a decade after the end of that conflict — when veterans were still being routinely and shamefully denied their rights. The new book was written by veterans and lawyers for a new generation of soldiers with old problems, like post-traumatic stress, and new ones like traumatic brain injury, the brutal legacy of Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s roadside bombs.

The authors caution that while the guide will help a veteran understand what’s going on, it is not a substitute for a good lawyer or other advocate. And it isn’t the only source of information: The government, too, has vast Web sites explaining things — for example, how officers help veterans through the disability evaluation system. (In military acronyms, it’s how the Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officer, or Peblo, helps with the D.E.S.)

The “Survival Guide” does this, too, but with a difference: It also warns veterans to “pay careful attention to what you say to your Peblo,” because the Peblo is not required to act in their best interests the way an attorney is, and things told to a Peblo are not necessarily confidential.

No book will ever defeat a bureaucracy this large, but a book can help people to subdue it. Veterans and their families often praise the dedication of health-care providers, but at the same time express utter frustration over incomprehensible thickets of rules and the glacial pace at which benefits and appeals are decided.

Unless and until the government significantly improves its treatment of veterans — and our hopes are high for progress under Gen. Eric Shinseki, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee to run Veterans Affairs — they will have to keep looking to one another for help, as they always have. This veterans’ guide looks like a powerful updating of that old tradition.

Thursday, December 18, 2008



1 day ago

MOSCOW (AFP) — Russia will by 2020 replace its Soviet-era arsenal with new nuclear-capable intercontinental missiles that can overcome defence systems like the US missile shield, the military said Wednesday.

"By 2015-2020 the Russian strategic rocket forces will have new complete missile systems with improved combat characteristics," General Nikolai Solovtsov told reporters at a briefing in the Moscow region.

"They will be capable of carrying out any tasks, including in conditions where an enemy uses anti-missile defence measures," said Solovtsov, the overall commander of Russia's missile forces, quoted by Russian news agencies.

Russia is working hard to upgrade its elderly missile forces and has repeatedly tested new missiles in recent months amid the controversy over the missile shield.

"Basically his comments mean almost all Soviet-made or 1990s intercontinental ballistic missiles will be withdrawn and scrapped by 2020," leading Russian defence analyst Pavel Felgenhauer told AFP.

"The missile force will be much slimmer than the present one, which is still a leftover from the Cold War and Soviet times," he added.

The refurbishment of the missile forces comes amid Russian fury at the US plan to install missile defence facilities in central Europe, despite US assurances that the system is not directed against Moscow.

Washington plans to put an anti-missile radar facility in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland, both ex-Soviet bloc countries which are now NATO members.

President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have urged US president-elect Barack Obama to drop the system, which was devised by President George W. Bush's administration.

"My assessment is the Russians intend to test the mettle of the new administration and the new president," said John Rood, acting US under secretary of state for arms control and international security.

"And the future will show how the new administration chooses to answer that challenge," he told reporters in Washington, citing both its stance on "missile defence and other subjects".

Despite expressions of optimism from Moscow, Obama has yet to give any details about his intentions.

Meanwhile US Senator Richard Lugar, a veteran in US-Russian arms control efforts, urged both countries to get cracking on replacing a key army treaty that expires in December 2009.

It was vital to make a "running start" in talks to replace the START 1 treaty, which was brokered between Washington and Moscow and led to major reductions in nuclear arsenals, Lugar said at a Moscow forum.

Solovtsov said the Russian rocket forces are "developing and putting new missile systems on combat duty and perfecting their capabilities in line with the threats that are currently apparent".

Russia's missile arsenal still contains Soviet-era war horses like the Stiletto, the Voevoda and the Topol but the military has been seeking to phase in newer weapons.

The military has already started mass production of the Topol-M, a three-stage ballistic missile with a range of 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles) which can be deployed on both stationary and mobile launch platforms.

Felgenhauer said that Russia's new intercontinental missile arsenal will essentially be built around the Topol-M.

"It is not clear how many will be deployed but it is clear it will be less than now. Russia will also lose in payload capacity, maybe four or five times," he said.

Generals have said that from December 2009 Russia will deploy its new RS-24, which is similar to the Topol-M but carries a multiple warhead.

In November, it also successfully tested the Bulava, the sea-based equivalent of the Topol-M which is also capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads, reaching a target 6,000 kilometres (4,000 miles) away.

Solovtsov denied that the RS-24 violates the START 1 treaty, which he says only bans adding additional warheads to existing missiles or expanding the number of warheads on multiple-warhead weapons.

The refurbishment of the missile forces comes alongside a wider shake-up of the armed forces, which is expected to see a massive reorganisation of structures and personnel cuts to make the military more dynamic.


Russia hopeful on Obama START talks


UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Russia says it expects the incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to be receptive to extending an arms reduction treaty.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday at the United Nations in New York he expects "the new (U.S.) administration to maintain constructive cooperation with us so that the (Strategic Arms Reduction) treaty can be preserved and strengthened, rather than weakened, after December 2009," RIA Novosti reported.

START, signed in 1991, is set to expire that month, and Lavrov said he would like to see not just an extension but a strengthening of the current limits of 6,000 strategic or long-range nuclear warheads on each side, as well as other limits for delivery vehicles -- such as bombers, land-based and submarine-based missiles -- to 1,600 each.

Noting START talks had begun but not borne any fruit, Lavrov said they will be continued with the Obama administration, adding Russia's aim was to ensure the "strengthening of strategic stability without depriving this sphere of the control, verification and limitation mechanisms or the instruments for strategic arms reductions established in earlier agreements," the news agency reported.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008



REPORT: VA sends latest Gulf War Illness Report to IOM for review


The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has sent the October 2008 report from the VA Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses to the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM) for review and recommendations, according to a news release from the VA.



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Click here for a copy of the report
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VA Sends Latest Gulf War Illness Report to IOM for Review


VA Press Release
December 1, 2008
(Printable Version)



WASHINGTON -- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has sent the October 2008 report from the VA Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses to the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) for review and recommendations.

The October report from the advisory committee identified potential causes for -- and asserted that research supports the existence of -- a multi-symptom condition resulting from service in the 1990 - 1991 Gulf War, which the committee identified as Gulf War Illness (GWI).

Because VA has traditionally and by law relied upon IOM for independent and credible reviews of the science behind these particular veterans’ health issues, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake has asked IOM to review the advisory committee’s report before VA officially responds to the report’s conclusions.

“I appreciate the committee’s work on this report, and I am eager to see the results of further independent study into their findings,” Peake said. “Of course, VA will continue to provide the care and benefits our Gulf War veterans have earned through their service, as we have for more than a decade.”

VA has long recognized conditions, granted benefits and provided health care to Gulf War veterans suffering from a broad range of symptoms, even though these conditions have not been scientifically recognized as a specific disease or injury or GWI.

These include chronic fatigue, persistent rashes, hair loss, headaches, muscle pain, joint pain, neurologic symptoms, neuropsychological symptoms (such as memory loss), respiratory system symptoms, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal symptoms, cardiovascular symptoms, abnormal weight loss and menstrual disorders.

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By KATHERINE MICHALETS - GM Today Staff
December 12, 2008




The Cold War Museum-Midwest Chapter has completed the design for its building to be located in Hillcrest Park, but it has yet to get approval from the city of Waukesha and to raise the funds for it. The museum would be located near these remnants of the Nike missile radar site located off of Davidson Road in Waukesha.

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WAUKESHA - Fans of James Bond will learn what it really means to be a spy when they hear former United States Army Intelligence political operative Werner Juretzko speak during the opening of a U2 spy plane exhibit on Saturday.

"People are always intrigued with James Bond and spying," Juretzko said, adding that his experiences differ from those of 007�s.

Juretzko, from Illinois, will open The Cold War Museum-Midwest Chapter�s U2 spy plane exhibit at the New Berlin Public Library on Saturday. As a former prisoner of the KGB and Stasi, East Germany Ministry for State Security, Juretzko has in-depth knowledge of the Cold War.

The piece of a U2 spy plane exhibit centers on the international U2 incident of May 1, 1960, and the subsequent imprisonment of U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers.

The Cold War Museum-Midwest Chapter is continuing to work on a permanent home in Hillcrest Park in Waukesha, near what is often called Missile Park and was home to one of eight Nike missile batteries in southeastern Wisconsin during the Cold War.


Cold War Museum-Midwest Chapter Chairman Chris Sturdevant said the plan for a permanent building is on track and that the designs for the building have been completed. Next, the museum needs to have those plans approved by the city of Waukesha and begin raising funds.

Sturdevant said the museum plans to expand a building that is already on the site for a cost of about $350,000. Overall, he said he thinks the museum�s fundraising goal will be $500,000 to cover the expansion and other costs, such as maintenance and hidden costs.

Sturdevant said the museum might seek approval for its building plans sometime this year.

Meanwhile, The Cold War Museum-Midwest Chapter continues to sponsor exhibits and talks.

"Its a world-class exhibit," Sturdevant said of the U2 spy plane exhibit.

He said the exhibit will include a piece of the plane, a flight suit, reconnaissance photos and information on the life of Powers, including his training with the CIA, prison time and through his death in the 1970s.

"It�s a really tragic piece in a sense, but it�s an important part of history," Sturdevant said.

When the exhibit is closed April 29, Powers� son, Gary Powers Jr., will give a presentation.

Juretzko, originally from Germany, will give a presentation Saturday on the topic "Espionage: A Weapon during the Cold War," which will detail his time being brutally interrogated in prison and his release to the United States in 1961 after serving six years for military espionage.

"First of all, for the appreciation, So they can appreciate living in freedom. Just think if the other side won - we were pretty close at times," Juretzko said of why people should learn about the Cold War.

At a glance

WHAT: U2 spy plane exhibit opening

WHO: The Cold War Museum-Midwest Chapter

WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Veterans Room, New Berlin Public Library, 15105 Library Lane

COST: free

MORE INFO: www.coldwar.org/midwestchapter


Katherine Michalets can be reached at kmichalets@conleynet.com





December 16, 2008




by Stacey Hopwood

An extensive federal report released in November concludes that roughly one in four of the 697,000 U.S. veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War suffer from Gulf War illness.

GWI is a condition now identified as the likely consequence of exposure to toxic chemicals, including pesticides and a drug administered by the military to protect troops against nerve gas.

The 452-page report states that "scientific evidence leaves no question that Gulf War illness is a real condition with real causes and serious consequences for affected veterans."

The report, compiled by a panel of scientific experts and veterans serving on the congressionally mandated Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, fails to identify any cure for the malady. It also notes that few veterans afflicted with GWI have recovered over time.

Noting that overall funding for research into GWI has declined dramatically since 2001, it calls for a "renewed federal research commitment" to "identify effective treatments for Gulf War illness and address other priority Gulf War health issues."

According to the report, GWI is a "complex of multiple concurrent symptoms" that typically includes persistent memory and concentration problems, chronic headaches, widespread pain, gastrointestinal problems and other chronic abnormalities.

The illness also may be potentially tied to higher rates of ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease — among Gulf War veterans than veterans of other conflicts.

The illness is identified as the consequence of multiple "biological alterations" affecting the brain and nervous system. While it is sometimes difficult to give a specific diagnosis of the disease, it is, according to the report, no longer difficult to identify a cause.

The report identifies two Gulf War "neurotoxic" exposures that "are causally associated with GWI."

The first is the ingestion of pyridostigmine bromide pills, given to protect troops from effects of nerve agents. The second is exposure to dangerous pesticides used during the conflict.

The report does not rule out other possible contributors to GWI — including low-level exposure to nerve agents and close proximity to oil well fires — though it fails to establish any clear link.

The report does conclude there is no clear link between GWI and a veteran's exposure to substances such as depleted uranium or an anthrax vaccine administered at the time.

It also is noted that soldiers in the field today are not at risk for GWI, because the military is no longer using the PB pills or pesticides that led to the illness during 1990 and 1991.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has referred the report to the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine for review and recommendations. Because VA has traditionally and by law relied upon IOM for independent and credible reviews of the science behind veterans' health issues, no official VA response to the report's conclusions will be issued until the review is completed.

In other words, we still don't know if these findings will make the process of obtaining a service-connected disability easier or not. But, we do now have legitimate causes identified, and this should ease the burden of proving exposure for those Gulf War veterans who suffer from these chronic, multi-symptom conditions.

I certainly hope the VA does the right thing and designates certain conditions to be presumptively recognized for service-connection for Gulf War I veterans based on their in-country service, much like Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange.

It's the least they can do for the men and women whose health has been irrevocably changed by their military service. They deserve no less.