Friday, February 26, 2010

Veterans Affairs to review files of thousands of Gulf War veterans denied disability benefits

KIMBERLY HEFLING / Associated Press Writer
Posted: 02/25/2010 09:22:24 PM MST

WASHINGTON -- The Veterans Affairs Department will re-examine the disability claims of what could be thousands of Gulf War veterans suffering from ailments they blame on their war service, the first step toward compensating them nearly two decades after the war ended.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said the decision is part of a "fresh, bold look" his department is taking to help veterans who have what's commonly called "Gulf War illness" and have long felt the government did little to help them. The VA says it also plans to improve training for clinic staff who work with Gulf War vets, to make sure they do not simply tell vets that their symptoms are imaginary - as has happened to many over the years.

"I'm hoping they'll be enthused by the fact that this ... challenges all the assumptions that have been there for 20 years," Shinseki told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.

The changes reflect a significant shift in how the VA may ultimately care for some 700,000 veterans who served in the Gulf War. It also could change how the department handles war-related illness suffered by future veterans, as Shinseki said he wants standards put in place that don't leave veterans waiting decades for answers to what ails them.

The decision comes four months after Shinseki opened the door for as many as 200,000 Vietnam veterans to receive service-related compensation for three illnesses stemming from exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide.

About 175,000 to 210,000 Gulf War veterans have come down with a pattern of symptoms that include rashes, joint and muscle pain, sleep issues and gastrointestinal problems, according to a 2008 congressionally mandated committee that based the estimate on earlier studies.

But what caused the symptoms has long been unanswered. Independent scientists have pointed to pesticide and pyridostigmine bromide pills, given to protect troops from nerve agents, as probable culprits. The 2008 report noted that since 1994, $340 million has been spent on government research into the illness, but little has focused on treatments.

Last week, Shinseki and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs committee, met privately in Charleston, W.Va., with several Gulf War veterans. In an interview after the meeting, Rockefeller told the AP that Shinseki's background as a former Army chief of staff made the changes possible. He said either the military has been reluctant over the years to release paperwork related to the war or kept poor records about exposures in the war zone, which made it harder for the veterans to prove they needed help.

"The paperwork isn't very accurate, but the pain is very real," Rockefeller said.

Shinseki has publicly wondered why today there are still so many unanswered questions about Gulf War illness, as stricken veterans' conditions have only worsened with age.

Last fall, he appointed a task force led by his chief of staff, John Gingrich, a retired Army colonel who commanded a field artillery battalion in the 1991 war, to review benefits and care for Gulf War veterans. The changes stem from the task force's work.

Gingrich said in an interview that he feels a personal stake because some of his own men who were healthy during the war are dealing with these health problems. Gingrich said the VA isn't giving a new benefit to Gulf War veterans, just making sure the claims they submitted were done correctly.

"We're talking about a culture change, that we don't have a single clinician or benefits person saying 'you really don't have Gulf War illness, this is only imaginary' or 'you're really not sick,'" Gingrich said.

A law enacted in 1994 allows the VA to pay compensation to Gulf War veterans with certain chronic disabilities from illnesses the VA could not diagnosis. More than 3,400 Gulf War have qualified for benefits under this category, according to the VA.

The VA says it plans to review how regulations were written to ensure the veterans received the compensation they were entitled to under the law. The VA would then give veterans the opportunity to have a rejected claim reconsidered.

The VA doesn't have an estimate of the number of veterans who may be affected, but it could be in the thousands.

Of those who deployed in the Gulf War, 300,000 submitted claims, according to the VA. About 14 percent were rejected, while the rest received compensation for at least one condition but not for other health problems they reported.

Senator Dorgan Comments on Army Denying KBR Award Fee

Senator Dorgan commenting on the fact that KBR was denied a $25M award fee for shoddy work. Specifically, for the time period of the contract in which Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth was electrocuted and killed in. Senator Dorgan expresses the fact that although, this is great news and certainly a first-step in the right direction, the DoD has a long way to go in holding their contractors accountable for shoddy work performed. He also comments on a recent conversation he had with Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates on this exact issue

VA Announces $41 Million in Construction Contracts for San Antonio State-of-Art "Polytrauma Center" Funded

WASHINGTON (Feb. 26, 2010) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
announced the award of two contracts totaling $41.5 million to create a
"polytrauma center" that cares for the most severely injured Veterans
and to improve the existing wards at the Audie L. Murphy VA Medical

"A top priority for VA is providing greater access to VA's health care
system and higher quality of care for the nation's Veterans," Secretary
of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said. "America's Veterans have
earned the very best that this nation as to offer."

One contract announced by Secretary Shinseki provides $37.2 million to
Robins and Morton of Birmingham, Ala.  The contract calls for
construction of a three-story, 84,000-square foot "polytrauma center."
It would include physical medicine, rehabilitation services, prosthetics
service and research.

"Polytrauma" refers to health care for Veterans who have more than one
severe, life-threatening medical problem.  Many of VA's polytrauma
patients are recent combat Veterans injured by roadside bombs and other
explosives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A second contract, valued at $4.3 million, went to Strategic
Perspectives Development of San Antonio.  It provides for upgrades and
expansion to ward 4-A, including electrical work, utilities, fire alarm
and fire protection systems, telephone and data systems, and asbestos

Last year, VA spent more than $7.8 billion in Texas on behalf of the
state's 1.7 million Veterans.  VA operates 11 major medical centers in
the state, more than 40 outpatient clinics, 14 Vet Centers and six
national cemeteries.

Web Site Offers Single Access Point for Wounded Warriors

WASHINGTON (Feb. 25, 2010) - The federal departments of Veterans
Affairs, Labor and Defense unveiled today an improved Web site for
wounded warriors.

"VA is committed to tapping into the full powers of the Internet to
provide accurate, timely, easy to find and easy to understand
information that improves the lives of Veterans, service members, their
families and all who care for them," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Eric K. Shinseki.

The National Resource Directory is a comprehensive, free, online tool
for wounded, ill and injured service members, Veterans and their
families.  Visitors to the site can find an extensive range of
information about Veterans' benefits, including disability and pension
benefits, VA health care and educational opportunities.  The site also
provides information for those who care for Veterans, such as access to
emotional, financial and community assistance.

The Web site has been enhanced to provide a single point of access to a
wealth of information from more than 10,000 sites by federal, state and
local governments and organizations offering services for wounded

"This online directory is an invaluable resource for those involved in
helping service members and Veterans," Shinseki said. "Reliable
information about government and private-sector programs can be a
priceless tool."

A recent addition to the Web site is a specialized section where users
can find help for homeless Veterans.  These resources will help end
Veteran homelessness over the next five years.

The new design will help visitors find needed resources easily.  Other
enhancements include a fast, accurate search engine; a "bookmark and
share" capability that allows users to share valuable resources on
Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites; and a news feature with
updates on relevant information and events.  Resources are added daily.

Visit the site at

Thursday, February 25, 2010



(WASHINGTON, D.C.) --- U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), who chaired Senate hearings on electrocutions of soldiers in Iraq resulting from shoddy contracting work by KBR, said Thursday the Army’s decision to deny million of dollars in bonuses to the firm for its 2008 work in Iraq “is the right call, but it is only a first step.”

Dorgan chaired two Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) hearings in 2008 and 2009 on KBR’s shoddy electrical work in Iraq. The hearings revealed widespread problems with KBR’s electrical work there including countless electrical shocks including one that killed Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, and perhaps others, and injured dozens more on their own bases as they showered and engaged in other routine activities.

Following the hearings, Dorgan and Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) wrote the Army asking that it review KBR’s work and the electrocution death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth. They also asked the Army to re-evaluate the millions of dollars in bonuses it has routinely awarded KBR for supposedly excellent work, even when the Army’s own evidence made clear it was highly questionable.

The Army’s investigation of Maseth’s January 2008 death found that KBR’s work exposed soldiers to “unacceptable risk.” A theatre-wide safety review that resulted from the Dorgan-Casey request -- Task Force SAFE -- also found widespread problems with KBR’s electrical work that exposed soldiers to life threatening risks.

“The decision to deny KBR millions in bonuses for its work in 2008 is welcome news, and is a significant change from the Army’s past practice, but the Army clearly needs go much further,” Dorgan said. “Specifically, it needs to review the $34 million bonus and other bonuses it awarded KBR for shoddy work that may have contributed to other electrocution deaths and other serious electrical shocks.”

Dorgan said the Army’s decision “will send a long overdue message to military contractors that they will be held accountable for their performance. But the Army needs to send that message much more powerfully. Not awarding a bonus for widespread sloppy contracting work that killed soldiers is just the beginning, not the end point, of accountability.”

Dorgan has chaired 21 Senate DPC hearings on waste, fraud and corruption in military contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Evidence at those hearings he said, “has been overwhelming that KBR’s work was shoddy and put the lives of U.S. soldiers at risk. KBR’s electrical workers were often unqualified, poorly trained and poorly supervised. When questions were raised, they simply denied there was a problem and proceeded with the same shoddy business as usual.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

VA Begins Nationwide GI Bill Advertising Campaign to Reach Student Veterans and Schools

Ads to Be Placed in College Newspapers, Radio Stations, Campus Venues
and On-Line Sites to Ensure Student Veterans and Servicemembers Receive
Their Education Benefits

WASHINGTON (Feb. 23, 2010) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
today announced a two-month, nationwide advertising campaign to assist
student Veterans and servicemembers applying for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

"VA, student Veterans and our schools have made significant progress in
implementing the GI Bill this spring, but we still have more to do,"
said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "We won't rest
until all student Veterans have received the education benefit they
earned in defense of our Nation."

Since inception of this historic new program, VA has issued nearly $1.9
billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit payments and opened the door to
higher education to 209,490 people.

As of Feb. 12, VA has received spring semester Post-9/11 GI Bill
enrollments from approximately 180,000 student Veterans and already paid
nearly 90 percent of students. All Post-9/11 GI Bill participants whose
spring enrollments were received by Jan. 18 have been paid.

The GI Bill Advertising campaign includes half-page ads in top college
publications, online and social media, print, radio, and outdoor
advertising such as posters and flyers. Public service announcements
are being delivered to approximately 150 college radio stations and 750
local stations in areas where there is a high density of students, as
well as military installations.

Student Veterans on college campuses will also see a variety of posters
in registrars' offices, dormitories, cafeterias, student union buildings
and other high traffic areas.

"This comprehensive, nationwide advertising campaign will help us reach
those student Veterans, servicemembers and educational administrators
who need help in understanding the GI Bill and their role in the
benefits process," said Keith Wilson, director of VA's educational

Social media and online advertising will be extensively used to reach
the younger generation of student Veterans. VA will place banner ads on
social media sites such as Facebook, Google, MySpace, Yahoo, and other

Text messaging ads will also link student Veterans to VA. By texting
"GIBILL," Veterans will receive the basic message: "You Served. Get
Benefits." Veterans will then be directed to follow three steps:
"Review your benefit options online. Submit your application. And
check with your school certifying official to confirm that your VA
enrollment certification has been sent to VA."

VA also developed a hip pocket guide and checklist with helpful tips to
assist Veterans and servicemembers in the application process.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, passed by Congress last year, is the most
extensive educational assistance program authorized since the original
GI Bill was signed into law in 1944.

Information about the Post-9/11 GI Bill, as well as VA's other
educational benefit programs, is available at VA's Web site, <> , or by calling
1-888-GIBILL-1 (or 1-888-442-4551).

VA Expands Evaluation of Technology Projects Management and Accountability System Found Effective

WASHINGTON (Feb. 23, 2010) - The Department of Veterans Affairs today
announced that all information technology (IT) projects at the
Department will now be managed under its program management and
accountability system (PMAS).

"We will end projects that don't work, streamline those that do, and
focus on the responsibility we have for achieving maximum value for our
Veterans," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

First announced by Secretary Shinseki in June 2009, the system requires
IT projects to deliver new functionality within six months and keeps
projects tied to established milestones.  VA is using PMAS and other
rigorous management techniques to reform its IT management practices and
provide better value, efficiency, and effectiveness for taxpayers'

VA announced the temporary halt of 45 of its most problematic computer
projects last summer so they could be fixed.  During the next six
months, VA restarted 32 of these projects, stopped 12, and continued the
review of one.  These actions resulted in cost avoidance of $54 million
for VA during fiscal year 2010.

"While we have stopped the 12 projects, the real saving is in the
increased probability of success for the projects we changed and
restarted," said Roger W. Baker, VA's Assistant Secretary for
Information and Technology.  "Holding each project accountable for
regularly delivering value is key to getting the most out of our IT
budget.  While much work remains to be done, PMAS has shown what can be
achieved by forcing measured demonstrations of performance."

PMAS, in conjunction with the analytical tools available through the IT
Dashboard, will ensure early identification and correction of
problematic IT projects.  The Internet-based IT Dashboard
<> , launched in June 2009, is a one-stop
clearinghouse of information, allowing the American people to track
federal information technology initiatives and hold the government
accountable for progress and results.

"Better accountability and focus on results lead to better services for
our Veterans and better value for the American taxpayer," said Federal
Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra. "Investing in what works is
about continuing projects that are effective and making tough choices
when projects, however well intentioned, are broken and failing.  We owe
it to the American people to make sure their dollars are being spent

Women to Serve on Subs, Gates Tells Congress

I guess this is the next logical step women have been all over in today's military serving in combat there is no doubt they could do job but serving on a sub might be a little more problematic as far as how close the quarters are and as far a fraternization and  morale .I would like to hear some old sub-mariners sound off on this issue is it feasible to have women serving aboard subs.

By Donna Miles 
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2010 - The Navy plans to repeal its ban on women serving on submarines, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has informed Congress.

Gates signed a letter Feb. 19 informing Congress of the Navy's plan to lift the policy, which it intends to do through the phased-in assignment of women to submarines, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell confirmed today.

The secretary endorsed the plan, the brainchild of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Morrell said.

No change can take effect until Congress has been in session for 30 days following the notification, Navy Lt. Justin Cole, a Navy spokesman said.

Mabus, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and other Navy leaders have looked closely at the issues involved with integrating women into the submarine force, including close working conditions and accommodations, he said.

No funds will be spent to reconfigure submarines to accommodate female crew members until the Navy Department presents the phased-approach plan to Congress.

Mabus has been a strong proponent of the policy change since being confirmed to his post in May.

"I believe women should have every opportunity to serve at sea, and that includes aboard submarines," he told reporters in October. Roughead, in a statement issued in September, said his experience commanding a mixed-gender surface combatant ship makes him "very comfortable" with the idea of integrating women into the submarine force.

"I am familiar with the issues as well as the value of diverse crews," Roughead said.

The integration of women into the submarine force increases the talent pool and therefore, overall submarine readiness, Cole said.

"We know there are capable young women in the Navy and women who are interested in the Navy who have the talent and desire to succeed in the submarine force," he said. "Enabling them to serve there is best for the submarine force and our Navy."

The policy change &#150; and the Navy's ability to work through the issues involved -- is not without precedent, he noted. In 1993, the Navy changed its policy to permit women to serve on surface combat ships.

Robert M. Gates
Ray Mabus
Navy Adm. Gary Roughead

Monday, February 22, 2010

Shinseki: US will fix broken VA disability system

Associated Press Writer

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio (AP) - Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said he's making it a top priority this year to tackle the backlog of disability claims that has veterans waiting months _ even years _ to get financial compensation for their injuries.

Among those waiting for relief are sick Vietnam and Gulf War veterans to whom the former Army commander feels an allegiance and who have long felt ignored.

"I'm a kid out of the Vietnam era, I just have enough firsthand knowledge of folks walking around with lots of issues. If there's a generation of veterans that have had a tough row to hoe, it's the Vietnam generation," said Shinseki, 67, in an interview with The Associated Press as he traveled through snowcapped mountains in Ohio and West Virginia between meetings with veterans.

Shinseki, a former Army chief of staff who had part of a foot blown off when he was a young officer in Vietnam, was unapologetic about a decision he made in October to make it easier for potentially 200,000 sick Vietnam veterans who were exposed to the Agent Orange herbicide to receive service-connected compensation.

He said it was the right thing to do, even though the claims volume will grow and it will likely take about two years to get the average claim-processing wait time back to where it is today, about five months.

There's a chance Shinseki could also extend similar benefits to veterans from the 1991 Gulf War. A task force he appointed to look at their health is expected to release a report this week, which could eventually lead to thousands of additional sick Gulf war veterans receiving health care and compensation.

Shinseki said he's often asked why, 40 years after the Vietnam war and nearly two decades after the Gulf War, his agency is still trying to resolve issues related to those veterans' illnesses.

Because of his decision, Vietnam veterans with B-cell leukemias, Parkinson's diseases and ischemic heart disease no longer have to prove their illness is the result of their military service. Shinseki determined after reviewing a study by the Institute of Medicine that the illnesses should be presumed to have come from veterans' war service, making it easier for them to receive financial compensation. The illnesses were added to 12 others the VA had previously presumed came from Agent Orange exposure during Vietnam.

Shinseki said he's looking ahead to make sure Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries don't have similar problems getting financial compensation.

"I'm also asking the question, how do we ensure that 20 years from now, that future secretary isn't answering questions about PTSD or TBI, sort of the signature injuries of this war, in the same way that I'm having to look back and try to address these issues," he said.

In recent years, resources have been poured into clearing the backlog, but problems persist. Besides the time it takes to process a claim, there are frequent complaints about lost paperwork and inconsistency in how claims are processed.

To start looking for solutions, Shinseki's agency instigated pilot projects in Pittsburgh; Little Rock, Ark.; Providence, R.I.; and Baltimore that he says he's watching closely. His plan is to reduce the backlog by 2015, which means a veteran wouldn't wait more than four months for a claim to be processed.

The VA and Pentagon are also working together to create a universal electronic system with the goal of solving many of the claims challenges. Some of the collaboration is expected to be rolled out in 2012, although it could take years before the system is fully in place.

Shinseki, who became the Army's chief of staff in 1999, is no stranger to change. In that role he sought to modernize and better prepare the Army for urban combat. In his current position, he's highlighted the challenges veterans face, such as unemployment, suicide and homelessness.

In small gatherings in Chillicothe and Charleston, W.Va., he listened to complaints about the red tape veterans face and explained the work he's doing to fix the claims backlog

"We're going to fine-tune each of the pieces and then put that engine back together again and look for better processing by the end of the year," Shinseki said during a morning meeting with employees at the VA hospital in Chillicothe.

The employees listened quietly, not touching the pastries and juice put out for them, as he told them matter-of-factly that he knew the Agent Orange decision was going to add new claims.

"This backlog I just told you I'm going to knock down, I added to it, I know that," he said.

Later in the morning, he told veteran advocates he wants vets to see the VA as an ally.

"In time, I'm hopeful this relationship will create a culture of advocacy between VA and veterans so that there is that sense, that trust between veterans that VA is working to their benefit," he said.


ND Missile Site Offers Cold War Film Contest

The Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site near Cooperstown is being opened to independent film crews as part of a contest. Site manager Mark Sundlov says selected film crews will be allowed special access from mid-September through next February. The short-length films they produce will be judged and winners will receive prizes.

Sundlov says one goal of the contest is to bring attention to North Dakota`s Cold War history. Another is to help area students develop a deeper interest in that history and in film projects.

The underground nuclear missile control center once was used by military officials to monitor 10 nearby Minuteman III nuclear missiles. It`s now been turned into a historic site commemorating North Dakota`s contribution to the Cold War.

100 Veterans Affairs workers to pare down claims backlog

WACO -- Perhaps no criticism of the Veterans Affairs Department has been more biting, or true, in recent years than that the agency takes too long to rule on disability claims.

Numerous VA secretaries have promised to reduce the backlog, but it stubbornly remained in the tens of thousands and often only grew, particularly as a new generation of combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan entered the system.

On Thursday, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, himself a disabled combat veteran and former Army chief of staff, joined with U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, to announce the hiring of 100 employees at the VA's regional office to try to make headway on the Texas claims.

The money for the hires, it was noted frequently from the dais, came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, known as the stimulus package, which President Barack Obama has defended in recent days as instrumental in helping the economy.

"Our veterans have earned this support," said Edwards, a key Democrat for the VA who faces re-election this year. "They deserve this commitment. This isn't a gift. It is giving our veterans what they have already earned."

The Waco regional office handles disability claims from a wide swath of Texas, from Austin to the Red River, Texarkana to El Paso, for issues as varied as hearing loss, back injuries, traumatic brain injury, psychiatric problems and cancer. Last year, the center processed 126,000 claims for VA benefits, a 19 percent increase over 2007.

The additional hires, some of whom will start March 1, are part of a major expansion that began two years ago with a dramatic increase in VA funding, some of it earmarked specifically for handling claims. The office in downtown Waco has added 259 employees in those two years, not including the 100 announced Thursday.

The new employees, who officials said will include more than 30 disabled veterans, will work a new shift of 3:30 p.m. to midnight, according to the center's director, Carl Lowe.

"That is the goal -- do them quicker and do them better," he said.

Last autumn, about 20 percent of the 19,000 pending claims at the Waco office had been in the system for more than 125 days, the VA's goal for handling a claim.

On average, Shinseki said, the VA is taking about 160 days to process a claim. He called that an improvement from a few years ago but said it is hardly worth celebrating.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Iwo Jima Vets Observe Battle’s 65th Anniversary
Bill Toledo, Frank G. Willetto and Keith Little, Navajo code talkers, participate with other Iwo Jima veterans at a ceremony commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va., Feb. 19, 2010. On Feb. 19, 1945, the United States launched its first assault against the Japanese at Iwo Jima, resulting in some of the fiercest fighting of World War II. DoD photo by William D. Moss

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Larry Snowden presents Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, with a war document he carried home from the Battle of Iwo Jima at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Triangle, Va., Feb. 19, 2010. The men spoke at a 65th anniversary commemoration of the battle. DoD photo by Lisa Daniel

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

TRIANGLE, Va., Feb. 19, 2010 – Dozens of veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima and their families gathered at the National Museum of the Marine Corps here today to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the iconic World War II battle.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Frank G. Willetto, an 84-year-old Navajo code talker, renders honors during the playing of the national anthem at a ceremony commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va., Feb. 19, 2010. In February 1945, the United States launched its first assault against the Japanese at Iwo Jima, resulting in some of the fiercest fighting of the war. DoD photo by William D. Moss
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The battle for Iwo Jima – the first U.S. attack on Japanese soil – is memorialized worldwide by the famous Joe Rosenthal photo of five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi. Three of the six later were killed in battle.

"Iwo Jima was not the bloodiest or the longest battle" of World War II and "it probably was not even the most successful in the Pacific Island campaign," Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, told the audience. "All that said, Iwo Jima occupies a place in our history like no other battle."

Conway said he believes that's a result of the determination, courage and sacrifice of the men who fought there, noting the "savagery" of the battle. "It was kill or be killed," he said.

And that was true of both sides of the fighting, Conway said, noting a comment a Japanese lieutenant colonel made about the Americans during the battle: "They are relentless, and they fight with a mentality like they are exterminating insects."

George Alden of Fort Worth, Texas, was a 20-year-old sergeant with 1st Battalion, 27th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division, when he stormed the volcanic ash beach in the first wave of U.S. troops onto Iwo Jima. The Japanese -- who with 21,000 troops had nearly three times more men than Alden and his unit expected -- had terraced the beach, making for an arduous climb for the troops who had no alternative but to move forward on the eight-square-mile island.

About 400 yards up the beach, Alden and his unit came upon a bunker. After taking charge of the action that demolished the bunker, Alden was seriously wounded on his left side by rifle fire. "I laid out in the open until almost dark," he recalled.

Finally, a litter bearer approached the injured Alden. "They said they'd passed me four times thinking I was dead," he said. They could not evacuate him until the next morning, leaving Alden and three of his comrades in a fox hole overnight.

Three days later, on the fifth day of the battle, Alden was aboard a hospital ship when a medic told him to look out the port hole over his bed. "That was when I saw the flag rising up above the smoke and haze," he said, remembering the scene of Rosenthal's famous photo.

Like others, Alden said, the image of the U.S. flag on the mountaintop made him think the battle soon would be over. In fact, it would last 31 more days, claiming 6,820 Americans dead or missing, and 19,000 wounded.

"We could not have guessed that Feb. 19, 1945, would start 36 of the most deadly days in the history of the Marine Corps and probably the most savage fighting we have ever engaged in," Conway said.

For today's Marines, Iwo Jima is the "gold standard," the commandant said. "It drives us, it inspires us, and it gives us confidence" in training and preparedness, he said.

In the Iraq war, Conway said, a young Marine was asked about the possibility of U.S. troops wresting control of Fallujah from insurgents. "Of course we can take Fallujah," Conway said the Marine replied. "We took Iwo Jima."

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones, now President Barack Obama's national security advisor, thanked the veterans for their service. "We honor your legacy for the lives you saved," he said.

Jones said today's Marines gain strength from the examples set by the veterans of Iwo Jima, and he asked the audience to keep today's Marines in mind, especially those confronting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Ron "Rondo" Scharfe, an Iwo Jima veteran from Missoula, Mont., was 16 when he hit the Japanese island's shores. "Our knees were shaking so bad we could barely stand up," he said. "We didn't know where the hell we were going. We were tight as rubber bands."

Scharfe said he and his comrades crawled onto the beach, which already was smoking and "smelling like a junkyard" on the first day of battle. The Japanese "waited 'til we got on the beach, then they opened up on us," he said.

Scharfe survived nine days of Iwo Jima without serious injuries, before being sent to Okinawa. Today, he said, he thinks about the Marines in Afghanistan and thinks Iwo Jima was easier in at least one way. "At least we knew who the enemy was," he said.

Retired Marine Corps Col. Harvey Barnum, a Medal of Honor recipient for heroism in Vietnam, said the courage of those on Iwo Jima was proven by the number of Medal of Honor recipients the battle yielded: 22 Marines and five sailors.

The commemoration of the battle is important for the veterans who remain, Barnum said.

"They've gotten older, but nothing has changed in their heart," he said. "These people are all in their 80s, and they've come from all over the country to be here. But this will be the last time for many of them."

Suffolk County has introduced legislation to expand property tax exemptions granted to Cold War veterans

Riverhead - Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine has introduced legislation to expand property tax exemptions granted to Cold War veterans, their spouses, or their un-remarried surviving spouses.

Veterans who served on active duty for a period of more than 365 days in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard between September 2, 1945 and December 26, 1991, were discharged or released under honorable conditions, and have been awarded the Cold War Recognition Certificate are eligible for a 15 percent exemption with a maximum of $54,000.

Cold War Veterans who received a "compensation rating" from the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Department of Defense because of a service-connected disability will be eligible for a 50 percent exemption with a maximum of $180,000.

Under the current law the maximum exemption was $12,000 and $40,000, respectively.

Veterans who already receive a property tax exemption under another veterans program are not eligible for this exemption.

"Expanded property tax exemptions to our veterans is the least we can do for those who put their lives on the line defending our freedoms," said Romaine.

A public hearing on Legislator Romaine's bill will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 2, at the Evans K. Griffing Building in Riverhead.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

DOD Open Defense

Support the CWSM at the DoD/Open Gov site!

This year marks the 19th year since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end
of the Cold War. Many lives were lost in America's Longest War, planes and ships
attacked, ground troops fired upon.

No medal exists to honor these veterans who did much the same jobs as today's military.
The NDAA for 2002 contained a provision for a Cold War Medal, but it was denied.
Over the last ten years many attempts were made to provide for a Cold War Medal.
This should be the year to finally say Thank You to our veterans.
There are two bills this year, one in the Senate and one in House to authorize a Cold War Service Medal.

DoD should finally relent and issue this long overdue and deserved medal to all
who served from Sept. 1945 to Dec. 1991

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Army Releases January Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data today for the month of January.  Among active-duty soldiers, there were 12 potential suicides:  one has been confirmed as suicide, and 11 remain under investigation.  For December, the Army reported ten potential suicides among active-duty soldiers.  Since the release of that report, three have been confirmed as suicides, and seven remain under investigation.

During January 2010, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 15 potential suicides.  For December, among that same group, there were seven total suicides.  Of those, five were confirmed as suicides and two are pending determination of the manner of death.

"In the new year, we won't just maintain our current focus on suicide prevention, we're going to sharpen that focus," said Col. Christopher Philbrick, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force.  "We've made significant changes in our health promotion, risk reduction, and suicide prevention programs, policies, and initiatives.  But over the last year, you could describe our Army effort as shining a flood light on the problem of suicide.  Now in 2010, we're going to move from a flood light to a laser light&#151; identifying our most effective programs, so we can target and reinforce what's working and fix what isn't."

In January, the Suicide Prevention Resource Council and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention selected the Army's "Ask, Care, Escort" model for inclusion in their national registry of programs reflecting "best practices" in suicide prevention.  The Army's model is one of only thirteen suicide prevention programs, nationwide, included in the registry.

"One suicide prevention approach that is working is the Army's 'Ask, Care, Escort' model of suicide prevention," said Philbrick.  "The 'Ask, Care, Escort' model is fundamentally about engaged, concerned leadership, and caring for your fellow soldier.  That's something the Army knows how to do."

Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63, Health Promotion at: and Army Pamphlet 600-24 Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention at .

Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at Army Knowledge Online is required to download materials.

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCOE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center.  Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental U.S. is 1-800-342-9647; their Web site address is .  Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.

The DCOE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at .and at .

The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at .

More information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at .

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The secret army still fighting Vietnam war

Hired and armed by the CIA in the 1960s, the Hmong remain trapped in enemy jungle, forgotten by America and the world

It is sad we did this to the Hmong . We used them and left and now they are hunted like dogs 30 plus years later. It makes me think of the Kurds in 1991 when we urged them to revolt against Saddam. We have made a lot promises in order to co opt indigenous forces in our conflicts. It just seems when things go bad we walk away leaving in this case loyal allies high and dry. It upsets me to think our words can be meaningless and our government ignores it. Bottom line we need to make this right one way or another before they are all gone. Sadly the chances of this are same as Buffalo Bills winning the Super Bowl ever lol maybe not that bad but you get my point they are slim to none. Have a read of the following article comment me on how it makes you feel.


By William Lloyd George in Laos

Hired and armed by the CIA in the 1960s, the Hmong remain trapped in enemy jungle, forgotten by America and the world

Up a winding dirt path through lush mountains comes the sound of whistling from the side of the road. Narrowly missing a passing motorbike, two young boys with machine guns leap out of the dense jungle.

We need to move fast, but as one boy hauls me to the top of a steep, muddy slope his hand flicks to his eyes. He is fighting to hold back tears.

In a tiny clearing they've cut out of the thick bamboo forest four boys, seemingly no older than 18 whisper to each other. Sweating from the quick climb and dense heat, they hang up their torn blue uniforms on bamboo branches and prop up their battered old AK-47s.

These are the remnants of the Royal Laos Army, hired by the Americans to disrupt Ho Chi Minh supply lines during the Vietnam War. Although Laos had been declared neutral, Vietnamese troops were operating there and the CIA saw it as another front against the spread of communism.

For the rest of the world, the capture of Saigon - now Ho Chi Minh City - by North Vietnamese troops in 1975 marked the end of the Vietnam War, but for the Hmong, it was just the beginning. When the communist regime, the Pathet Lao took power it announced it would wipe out all Hmong from Laos. Since then the Hmong have been hiding in the depths of the jungle completely cut off from the outside world.

The young soldiers lead the way to their people deep behind enemy lines in the Saysomboun, "special zone". They tread lightly and whisper, because, they warn, the "enemy is everywhere".

Days and nights of trekking, some of it straight up mountains to avoid enemy patrols brings us eventually to the entrance of their camp. The whole community falls on the ground crying hysterically and begging for help. Old women shake with emotion as they speak of the horrors they have witnessed, while young children weep at their first sighting of an outsider. CIA veteran Cho Her lies face down in the dirt, praying for the rescue of his people. "US and world leaders please come and rescue us and stop the Laos government persecuting us for being the CIA's foot-soldiers during the secret war," he says.

More than 30 years ago, when the Vietnam War finished and the CIA pulled their agents out, Cher Fer was a young man. When the Americans left, they took a handful of Hmong fighters with them, leaving more than 10,000 of their allies behind to fend for themselves. Bitter at their betrayal, the Laos government persecuted those who had fought alongside the Americans, forcing the Hmong to retreat deep inside the jungle.

"We had no choice but to take the weapons the Americans gave us and flee to the jungle," said another CIA veteran Chong Pha Thao, wiping tears from his cheeks. "Then the Vietnamese joined forces with the Laos communists and hunted us like animals in the jungle, leaving our people's corpses to rot when they killed them."

Members of the once proud and formidable fighting force now lie on the ground, abandoning all dignity to beg for help, even from a visiting journalist, their personification of the West. Identifying themselves as CIA soldiers, they plead over and over again for the Americans to return, and take them out of their "living hell".

"I am CIA. In 1970 Mr Jerry gave me this M79 and told me to shoot enemy," Cher Fer says in a perfect American accent, as he waves a battered grenade-launcher in the air.

"We have lost thousands of troops for America - when the Laos soldiers kill us they feel like they have killed an America soldier. The CIA must come and save us."

The fantasty that America will one day come and liberate them has motivated the veterans and their families to struggle on through for the last 30 years. But despite the Hmong rebels' alliance with the CIA, the American government has made little effort to extract them from the jungle.

Bill Lair, the legendary CIA agent who co-ordinated the operation to build an anti-Communist resistance army out of poorly educated jungle tribespeople, defended the Agency's actions. Speaking by phone from his home in Waco, Texas, he said that the US originally hired the Hmong and used Thai recruits to train them because the Hmong "were better than anyone else around, every step they took was up or down so they could move a lot faster than the enemy".

But when asked if America should now take steps to save them, he replied: "The CIA owes them nothing. We gave them the choice to leave but they decided to stay, thinking they could go back to how they used to live in the mountains".

In 2007, Vang Pao, the leader of the Hmong rebels appointed by the CIA, who later emigrated to the US and was a Hmong community leader there, was arrested in California and charged by the US with conspiring to overthrow the Laos government. The charges were later dropped, but the message was clear: America was now on the side of Laos, its former enemy, an enemy it trained Vang Pao to fight.

Barack Obama's election to the White House was seen as a beacon of hope for Hmong advocates. He has called for all parties to respect international law and "ensure that displaced Hmong are not placed in harm's way". However, despite an international furore, more than 4,500 Hmong refugees were forcibly repatriated back to Laos by Thailand where they had sought refuge. The US government issued statements saying it was concerned, but took no action.

The Laos government subsequently invited three US congressmen to visit. They later claimed that the returnees were being treated well which ignited anger among Hmong advocates said the trip was orchestrated by the Laos government.

Weeks later, visiting Congressman Joseph Cao said he would like to increase aid to Laos. But Hmong leaders believe US aid has already been funnelled into the Laos government's military efforts to eliminate, as the Hmong call themselves, the "CIA's forgotten allies"

Cut off from the outside world, this is the first time the jungle leaders have heard that the Hmong refugees were being sent back to Laos. On receiving the news their despair is evident.

"At least before, we thought we could escape to Thailand but now we have no place to run to," says Chao Fer as he looks over to a mountain just three miles away. "We can't keep running, soon we will all die here. Just over that mountain is where the enemy is and as we speak they are hunting us down with dogs - it's just a matter of time before they attack us again."

Weeks earlier the Laos army had stormed the Hmong's previous temporary camp in what they believe was part of campaign to prepare for the 25th Southeast Asian Games. In the raid a 14-year-old boy was killed, the leaders say he was unarmed and foraging for food to feed his family.

"My son was shot by the communists last month," the boy's mother says as she prepares food for her other children. He didn't have any gun, just finding food for us but I don't have the ability to do anything - I can only die inside".

Frequent attacks force the groups to change camp every two weeks and break up into small numbers to avoid large-scale offensives by the Laos army. This leaves the community no chance to farm food or forge a proper way of life. With no other choice, boiled tree shrub has become their daily diet and at times they are lucky if they can catch a jungle rat or monkey. The lack of nutrients has left the group visibly malnourished - both young and old have swollen abdomens.

Eating the tree shrub leaves them starving, so like animals, women and children take to the surrounding hills to dig on their hands and knees. Outside the camp, they claim that many women and children have been killed by the Laos army and the "lucky ones" have bullet wounds to show.

"I feel so unhappy to give this food to my kids, but we have no other choice," one mother explains. "It's too dangerous to hunt and we can't reach the villages because the communists will kill us. Sometimes we are too scared to go out so we just starve."

The Lao foreign ministry spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing has denied that the group exists, stating, if anything, they are nothing more than "bandits". However, according to the Hmong, the Laos army has recently increased their campaign with the assistance of the Vietnamese. Hmong leaders report that the intensity of attacks against them has increased and their groups are being driven further and further into the jungle.

A planned trip by Vang Pal to visit Vientiane, the Laos capital, to try and strike a peace deal has been cancelled citing security risks. The Laos government has announced that if he returns he will "face the death sentence for his war crimes during the Vietnam War".

In the jungle camp, fear is written on all the faces, even those of the children. With Thailand apparently turning its back on them, and the US seemingly ignoring their plight, they know their chances of survival are slim.

As the entire group gathers to say farewell, one old lady grabs my hand and whispers in my ear.

"I know the communists are going to kill us all... when they do, make sure you tell the world we were here and what they did to us."

IAVA Legislative Update From "Storm The Hill"

Dear Sean,

65 meetings with Congress. 55 inches of snow. 28 veterans. One huge success.

Last week, we saw the biggest recorded snowfall in Washington, D.C.'s history. Some Senators and Representatives stayed home. But IAVA's vets were out in full force.

Take a minute to watch a quick recap of this amazing week.

These veterans traveled from all across the country through snow, sleet, and blistering winds to tell Congress about the biggest issues facing their generation.

They sat with over 60 Congressional offices, and many Representatives agreed - on the spot - to support our #1 legislative priority for 2010: disability claims reform.

And Montana Senator Max Baucus announced immediately after meeting with IAVA that he is introducing a veterans' jobs bill - directly from our Legislative Agenda.

There's still work ahead before disability reform becomes a reality. But in the face of the "Snowpocalypse", we adapted, improvised and overcame. And Storm the Hill 2010 will give this fight the momentum it needs.

Thank you for your continued support.



Paul Rieckhoff
Executive Director and Founder
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)

P.S. You can still support Storm the Hill 2010 by buying one of the official, limited-edition t-shirts.

Meeting in DC

Upcoming event information:
ACWV National Meeting Washington, DC
Date: 27 April 2010, Tuesday

American Cold War Veterans - National Meeting

The April 28th general meeting is open to anyone interested in the Cold War, our continued pursuit of a Cold War Victor/Service Medal. We have been attempting to convince Congress to authorize and DIRECT the Department of Defense to issue this medal for several years. We will be storming Capitol Hill to convey the importance of this legislation and for it to be included in the National Defense Authorization Act 2011.

Another goal is to persuade Congress to declare May 1st of every year as a Day Of Remembrance Of The Cold War.

Meeting in DC
The Hotel for our DC meeting is: Best Western Rosslyn Iwo Jima 1501 Arlington, VA 22209 Phone: 703-524-5000 Fax: 709-522-5484.

A Block of 20 rooms are held for April 27 to May 1(If you want to arrive earlier or stay later room rate is negotiable on case by case) Check in is 3PM, Check out is Noon When making reservation be sure to mention "American Cold War Veterans" to receive this price. Rooms are outside rooms with two Queen beds. Cost is $149.99 plus tax 10.25% Limited Handicapped rooms are available, so if you require handicapped access please call early. Rooms are non-smoking, but smoking is allowed outside the rooms.

Cut off date for reservations is 4/13/2010. So make your reservations early Cancellations must be made by 3PM 7 days prior to arrival, one night will be charged if reservation is not canceled 7 days prior. There is a restaurant on the grounds. Serving mainly Italian type food.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Russian spy lived in Dayton, stole secrets

DAYTON — Anyone looking up his name in the city of Dayton directory back in 1945 would have found nothing to raise their suspicions: "Koval, George. R 827 W. Grand Ave. Chemist, Monsanto Corp."

Nor would neighbors have noticed anything unusual about the tall, polite, bespectacled young man coming and going from his boarding home near Grand and Salem avenues. No accent. No uniform. No furtive or standoffish demeanor.

George Koval, an Iowa-born and -bred communist and a U.S. Army engineer, was a master at blending in — and, as it turns out, a master spy for the Soviet Union. He did just that while working on the Manhattan Project in Dayton for six months in 1945.

Koval is one of the two top Russian spies during World War II credited with stealing secrets that enabled the Soviet Union to enter the nuclear arms race with the United States at least five years ahead of predictions. He died in Moscow in 2006, having narrowly escaped banishment to a gulag for his American roots and his Jewish ancestry.

In a posthumous ceremony in 2007, then Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded Koval the nation's top honor for meritorious service, the gold star for Heroes of the Russian Federation. Even so, Putin referred to him only by his codename of "Delmar."

Since then, historians and researchers have been able to piece together an incredible tale of deception carried out by Koval — with the help of some plain dumb luck — during his years in the U.S. Army from 1940 to 1945.

Long-time veterans of the U.S. nuclear weapons program, Danny Stillman and Thomas Reed, first detailed Koval's exploits in a book published in January 2009. Former TIME foreign correspondent Michael Walsh followed with an article in the May 2009 issue of Smithsonian magazine.

"It's a fantastic story, with serendipity playing a part all along," said Don Sullenger, a past president of the Mound Museum Association. Sullenger will present a talk on Koval at the Mound Museum on Feb. 24. The Mound Laboratory in Miamisburg is where Dayton's vital nuclear research continued after the war.

In June 1945, Sgt. Koval, then at Oak Ridge, Tenn., where uranium was being enriched for the Hiroshima bomb, was transferred to Dayton just when scientists here were finalizing the design of the polonium trigger needed to detonate the more advanced Nagasaki bomb.

A month later, on July 16, 1945, the Dayton trigger proved itself by successfully detonating a nuclear device in the desert near Alamogordo, N.M.

Although a chemist and engineer by training, Koval was not directly involved in the research in Dayton. But as a health physicist whose duty was to protect workers from the effects of polonium radiation, he had access to all parts of the top-secret research complex at the old Bonebrake Seminary at First and Euclid streets.

Dayton had four sites devoted to the work of the Manhattan Project, the massive, $4 billion program during World War II to build a nuclear bomb.

The research on the triggers was first done at Monsanto's original laboratory building at 1515 Nicholas Road, but was soon moved to the old seminary as the project grew.

Project workers were checked and treated for radiation sickness at a third location, the General Electric Supply Warehouse at 601 E. Third St. When production began, the triggers were assembled at a fourth location, Runnymede Playhouse in Oakwood near the intersection of Dixon and Runnymede avenues. Of the four Dayton-area locations, only the warehouse and several storage buildings on the old seminary grounds remain.

Koval was brilliant, having graduated from a Sioux City high school in 1929 at age 15. But as the son of Russian Jewish immigrants who had fled the brutal persecution of the czar, he was an avowed communist even as a teenager. When his family moved back to Russia in 1932, Koval went with them.

He enrolled in a Moscow technical university, married a fellow student and earned his degree in chemistry in 1939. Then, under the ruse of being drafted into the Soviet army, he disappeared.

Sometime between then and his return to the United States in October 1940, Koval trained as an agent for Russia's spy agency, at the time called the GRU.

Koval was good-natured and likable — traits that probably helped deflect any suspicion about his activities, Sullenger said. "He could get along with everyone. He was always very helpful and friendly."

Of the three Dayton Manhattan Project workers still alive when Koval's spying came to light last year, only Howard DuFour remembered having contact with him, Sullenger said.

DuFour, who died late last year, also recalled that FBI investigators came to Dayton in the 1950s and began asking about Koval. But Dufour "said he wasn't certain (the FBI) proved he was a spy," Sullenger said.

Koval's history of service in the U.S. Army showed an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time — including his arrival in Dayton. After basic training at Fort Dix, N.J., in 1940, Koval trained as an electrical engineer at The Citadel and, after graduating in 1941, was admitted to a new unit, the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), aimed at keeping the Army's top scientists from going to the front.

In early 1944, with the Allies still bogged down in France, the ASTP was disbanded and its members assigned to the infantry. But, as luck would have it, not Koval. Instead, he and about a dozen other scientists were assigned to The Manhattan Project through something called the Special Engineer Detachment (SED).

After training as a health physicist, Koval found himself with unquestioned access to America's nuclear secrets at a time when the Manhattan Project had solved all but the final hurdles to building a working, reliable bomb.

Koval's ideal positioning within the Manhattan Project has led to speculation that he might have been a double agent planted by American forces to spy on other possible spies.

Sullenger said the many questions surrounding Koval and his activities in Dayton in 1945 may not be answered "until a lot more records are opened" related to the Manhattan Project and the ensuing Cold War.

Like Koval himself, some of those answers may have already gone to the grave.

"As far as I know," Sullenger said, "there's no one still alive from Dayton who remembers him."

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2437 or jdebrosse@Dayton

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Veterans Affairs prodded to give more aid to female veterans

OCEANSIDE, Calif. - Kristine Wise remembers driving from San Diego to Victorville, Calif., to visit her brother and seeing haunting messages on the freeway signs. Instead of the speed limit or the miles to the next town, she envisioned: Beware of Snipers. Watch Out for Bombs. 40 miles to Baghdad. Death Ahead.

"It was horrible'' said Wise, who served in Iraq with the Army in 2003 and 2004.

The disturbing images are part of the anxiety and panic attacks she has suffered since serving as a supply clerk just as the insurgency was becoming proficient at killing Americans with roadside bombs and suicide attacks.

In Iraq, her depression ran so deep that she wrote a suicide poem: "The pressure is too great / I'm going to crack and fall apart / ... My casket is now fully covered, it looks nice.'' Sent back to Germany, Wise received psychiatric and medical treatment before she was honorably discharged in 2004, two years early.

Now 40 and a student at Cal State San Marcos, she is part of a growing phenomenon: large numbers of women who have been traumatized by military service.

The number of female veterans being treated by the Department of Veterans Affairs has doubled in recent years and is expected to double again within a decade. The swift demographic change has prompted some veterans' advocates to assert that the VA has not responded adequately to women's mental and physical health care needs.

Moves are under way in both houses of Congress to prod the VA, a massive organization that has historically been dedicated to the treatment of men, to improve service to female veterans. VA officials say they have gotten the message.

More than 240,000 female soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen - about 11 percent of the overall force - have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Through Oct. 1, 11,713 female veterans had been diagnosed by the VA with post-traumatic stress disorder, a number that does not include thousands who are still on active duty and received a similar diagnosis from military health specialists.

Through mid-2009, 5,100 female veterans were receiving disability benefits for stress, compared with 57,732 men.

There have yet to be comprehensive studies about how women are affected differently than men in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a leading VA critic, has called for a study to determine whether a bias toward men makes it more difficult for women to receive disability payments.

Some preliminary statistics and anecdotal evidence collected by clinicians suggests that women are experiencing physical and emotional problems at a higher rate than their male counterparts, although firm numbers are not available.

By one study, about 40 percent of female veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking care at the VA, compared with 22 percent of male veterans.

In San Diego County, which has a large military population, female veterans are more likely to have a mix of physical and emotional problems than men. The divorce rate among enlisted women is three times that of enlisted men.

Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, said the VA's response to women's needs has been "too slow and not comprehensive enough. It's not just a money thing, it's a major culture shift.''

A bill passed in November by the Senate would authorize a comprehensive study of the VA's treatment of women by outside researchers. A companion bill is pending in the House. Filner wants a Women's Veterans Bill of Rights.

Patricia Hayes, chief consultant for the Women's Veterans Health Strategic Health care Group at the VA, said four-day seminars are being held nationwide with the goal of training 1,200 employees to become specialists in women's health issues.

At a hearing held last spring by Filner's committee, Anuradha K. Bhagwati, executive director of Service Women's Action Network, told lawmakers that many women continue to receive inferior care at VA hospitals.

"Attending a VA medical appointment as a woman veteran can be a traumatic experience,'' she said. "VA employees sometimes fail to acknowledge the prevalence of servicewomen throughout the armed forces, forcing women to 'prove' their veteran status.''

Filner said the VA needs to make sure its employees, starting with its doctors, realize that women are serving in combat.

"We had a woman who lost her arm in Fallujah, but the doctor couldn't recognize that women are in combat and figured it must have been cancer,'' he said. "If a woman feels disrespected like that, she's not going to seek the care she deserves.''

Cold War property-tax exemption deadline nears

by Carol Thompson

Cold War veterans interested in applying for the new property-tax exemption will need to file by March 1.

Oswego County Legislator Doug Malone, who was an early proponent of the benefit, said Tuesday that the Town of Oswego recently passed its local resolution to allow the exemption.

"Now we need to get the word out that they have to be in by the first of March," he said.

A local law, passed last year, provides county property-tax relief to individuals who served in the U.S. Armed Forces between Sept. 2, 1945 and Dec. 20, 1991. The New York State Legislature amended the Real Property Tax Law to enact the exemption.

According to the resolution, veterans will need to present an Honorable Discharge Form DD-214. Interested veterans should also check with their respective towns and cities for eligibility.

The exemption will be 15 percent of the assessed value of the applicable property, but cannot exceed $12,000 or the product of $12,000 multiplied by the latest state equalization rate of the assessing unit, according to the law passed by the legislature.

Any male or female who served on active duty for a period of more than 365 days in the Armed Forces is eligible to apply. To qualify, a property must be owned by a qualified owner and used exclusively for residential purposes, the proposal states.

In addition to the exemption, where the Cold War veteran received a compensation rating from the U.S. Veteran's Office or from the Department of Defense because of a service-related disability, qualifying residential real property will be exempt from taxation to the extent of the product of the assessed value multiplied by 50 percent of the Cold War veteran rating, provided the exemption does not exceed $40,000 or the product of $40,000 multiplied by the latest equalization rate for the assessing unit.

The 10-year exemption is only for county property taxes and does not include school taxes.

The law sets out conditions in the event of a property sale during the exemption period as well as stipulations when other veterans' exemptions are in place. In the event a veteran already receives the 458 or 458-b exemption, he or she will be ineligible for the Cold War exemption.

More information may be obtained from the county Real Property Tax Service office.

At the time the resolution was proposed on the floor, Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann said the exemption will not have a negative impact on taxpayers or the county budget.

Malone said he would like to see every eligible veteran apply for the exemption. "This is important and I'd like to see everyone who is eligible get it," he said.

Friday, February 12, 2010

VFW Set to Stream Live From 2010 Legislative Conference

KANSAS CITY, Mo., February 12, 2010 — Due to overwhelming response from the veteran community following last year's live stream from the 110th VFW National Convention, VFW will stream live from this year's National Legislative Conference, March 6-10, only on

Streaming will begin with the Voice of Democracy Parade of Winners at 6:00 p.m. (EST) on March 7th.

We'll pick it back up with the Conference's Opening Session, set to begin at 8:00 a.m. the next morning, featuring guest speakers General George W. Casey, Jr., Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki.

A delayed stream of VFW Commander-in-Chief, Thomas Tradewell's testimony on Capitol Hill will also air the afternoon of Tuesday, March 9.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Military Olympians: Solider Shoots for Olympic First

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Sgt. Jeremy Teela, a biathlete with the Army's World Class Athlete Program, has sights set on becoming the first U.S. biathlete ever to win an Olympic medal when he competes at the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps

By Tim Hipps
Special to American Forces Press Service

SOLDIER HOLLOW, Utah, Feb. 11, 2010 - Army Sgt. Jeremy Teela has returned to the site of the best performance of his three-time Olympic career with sights set on becoming the first U.S. biathlete ever to win an Olympic medal.

Sgt. Jeremy Teela, a biathlete with the Army's World Class Athlete Program, has sights set on becoming the first U.S. biathlete ever to win an Olympic medal when he competes at the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Teela, a soldier in the Army's World Class Athlete Program, finished third in the men's 20-kilometer individual race at last season's World Cup stop in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. The XXI Olympic Winter Games are scheduled for Feb. 12-28, based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The biathlon -- a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting &#150; will be held in Whistler.

Teela said he remembers the March 11, 2009 race as if it were yesterday. "That was my day," he said. "I made as close to a perfect race as I could.

"I got down the course and was maybe a half-kilometer out, and Coach was there saying, 'You're in second place.' And I was like, 'No stuff, second place, huh?' I always thought if somebody told me I was podium bound, I would have this extra kick in me &#150; but I had nothing. I was fighting... just going as hard as I could."

With his third-place finish, Teela became the first American biathlete to win a World Cup medal since Josh Thompson in 1992.

"I was coming in second but there was this one German kid who also was having a great race," Teela said. "I don't know if I could have done anything to counter his kick, but all in all, third place, I was psyched. He did get me, but that was the best performance of my career."

U.S. biathlon coach Per Nilsson was impressed with Teela's poise under pressure.

"I am really amazed how 'cool' he was on the shooting range," Nilsson said. "There were two shots that were pretty close to a miss, but nevertheless, he stayed focused and just put his race together."

Teela, 33, who trains in Heber City, Utah, and claims Anchorage as home, expects unprecedented success this year at Whistler. His 14th-place individual finish at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Soldier Hollow remains the second-best U.S. finish at the Olympics.

"I think a podium is within reach," Teela said. "I showed it last year at Vancouver, but you really have to have the mindset. Your mind has to be in the right spot. I think a podium is in the cards for the team. We have four guys that are strong. And even the relay, I think we have a great shot at podium in that competition as well."

He will be competing at the Vancouver Games with Tim Burke, who medaled twice on the 2009-2010 World Cup circuit since Teela's third-place finish at Whistler. Burke, 27, of Paul Smiths, N.Y., headlines this U.S. Olympic biathlon squad, joined by Teela, four-time Olympian Jay Hakkinen, 32, of Kasilof, Alaska, Lowell Bailey, 28, of Lake Placid, N.Y., and first-timer Wynn Roberts, 21, of Battle Creek, Minn.

"You try to be the best that day," Teela said. "You don't have to be the best in the world. All you have to do is be the best at the Olympics on that day.

"I've got two jackets. I want the hardware."

Teela says he's honored to represent soldiers and their families worldwide.

"It's an amazing opportunity given to you to be able to race and compete at the Olympics and to represent the United States, but it's also special for me to race and compete for the Army," he said. "It's hard to explain ; just to show up and have so many people rooting for you.

"You show up and you race alone, but there's been a lot of people along the road that's helped you get to where you are. I've got a big, strong team behind me that says U.S. Army on it."

(Tim Hipps works for Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command public affairs.)

Stuart VA worker on a mission: find owner of military medal-laden baseball cap

Photo by Joe Crankshaw Is this your cap?

Photo by Joe Crankshaw Is this your cap?" Dick Smerda

of Heritage Ridge wants to find the owner of this military-stye

baseball cap he found at the Veterans Administration Clinic in Stuart.

By Joe Crankshaw

STUART — It is just a baseball cap of the type many veterans wear, with a unit emblem and miniature medals and badges.

It's in a plastic grocery bag sitting on a shelf in a closet at the Veterans Administration Clinic.

"Somebody may be missing that hat," said Dick Smerda, 78, of Heritage Ridge. "But no one knows to whom it belongs."

Smerda, a retired certified public accountant from Jupiter, works one day a week as a volunteer at the clinic. "I confirm appointments, handle papers, do whatever they ask," he said.

Three weeks ago, while tidying up the closet, he found the hat.

He waited for someone to claim it. No one did. So now he has a mission - find the owner and give back his medal-covered cap.

"I'm not a veteran," said Smerda, "but I admire and respect them, and I can imagine that this cap means something to someone."

The dark blue baseball cap has the words "Special Operations Command" embroidered on it, along with a spearhead. Mounted in the center is the silver leaf of a Navy lieutenant commander or Marine Corps lieutenant colonel. The owner of the cap has added miniature replicas of the Purple Heart medal, the National Defense medal, Cold War Victory medal, a Battle of the Bulge commemorative medal, a Sea Service medal and a Vietnam Veterans of America pin.

The current Special Operations Command is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, and includes all branches of the military service.

Born in Ohio, Smerda lived much of his life in Jupiter, where he was president of the Kiwanis Club, a director of the Jupiter Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Jupiter Police Pension Board.

"I only had two years of ROTC," said Smerda, "and I feel as if I missed something by not being in the service. I guess I try to make up for it by visiting with veterans and helping them as much as I can."

Smerda said he doesn't know how his search for the owner of the cap will end.

He is hoping that the individual will read of his search and claim the cap.

"Of course, I know the owner my have died," he said. "But I hope not."

Help Build The American Veterans for Life Memorial in Washington D.C.

Are you a coin collector? 2010 American Veterans Disabled for Life Commemorative Silver Dollar available February 26th. A portion of every coin sold will go towards the construction of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington D.C


Forwarded from Rep. Kym Pine's office:


Aloha Friends and Neighbors,

I introduced HB2311 on behalf of a veteran who expressed frustration and the
hoops he had to go through just to honor his fallen comrades who he served with in

Veterans and many others are prohibited from flying the American flag on a
pole on their property year round in various PCA's.

The measure is similar to the clothesline bill passed last year in that the
community associations themselves would dictate where and how the flag and
pole would be displayed.  Certainly, if such provisions and importance can be
applied to laundry, the fabric of the American flag rises above that.

I have attached the background on this for your review.  Last week, the
Committee on Housing held the measure keeping it from advancing. My proposal and plea to
you, is to help me revive the bill by doing what's called, "Pulling the bill out of
committee for a floor vote."  We would need 17 House members to agree with
that motion and 26 of the 51 members to pass the actual bill.

If you do not know who your Representative is, please utilize the link here
to get the contact information needed:

For those that can come to the Capitol on Tuesday the 16th at noon for
session, please wear red, white and blue and bring a flag. I will be making the
motion on that day.  If you use Twitter or Facebook, please pass along this effort
that stands to treat the flag better than we do dirty laundry. A "Save Old Glory"
movement has already been started on Facebook:

Please do not hesitate to contact me at 586-9730 if you would like more

Here is a link to the story covered on the news yesterday:

I will be on national talk radio today at 5:30pm Hawaii time on the AM dial
- 990 where our own local radio talk host personality-Mike Buck, will be filling
in for Rusty Humphries on the Rusty Humphries Show. We will be discussing this bill
across the nation.


Kymberly Pine
State Representative
Ewa Beach
(808) 586-9730

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Message From Iraq Vets for Congress

Iraq Vets for Congress logo
February 2010

Dear Friend:


Thanks to your support, Iraq Vets For Congress has been able to recruit and support nearly three dozen rock-solid conservative Veteran candidates running for U.S. Congress from around the country this fall. 

But now because of a Special Election in Pennsylvania in May, we have an early opportunity to elect to Congress one of those candidates, William Russell, a retired Army Lt. Col and proud Iraq Vet. 

To take advantage of that opportunity, we urgently need your financial support now.

In 2008, Russell ran a gritty campaign and nearly knocked off one of the most entrenched Democrat incumbents.  He's been campaigning tirelessly ever since to win the seat in the 2010 campaign. 


Russell is an outstanding candidate with great name recognition in the district and thoughtful positions on economic and national security issues. 


In short, William Russell is the next Scott Brown and his campaign in the upcoming Special Election is our next opportunity to take a House Seat and send another clear message rejecting the Obama Administration and its far left policies.


But the liberals will pull out all the stops to end our conservative momentum.  We can fight back by supporting Col. Russell and his fundraising efforts now.  Please make a contribution to Iraq Vets for Congress today and we can show them how unstoppable we are.


Whatever amount you can send - be it $10, $ 25, $50, $100, $500 or $5,000 - please know that it will be spent to help elect a Veteran who has put his life on the line to protect you and your family.


May God bless you, your family, and our great country.


D. Patrick Mahoney

Marine Corps Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom

President, Iraq Veterans For Congress PAC


P.S. After you make a contribution to Iraq Veterans For Congress PAC, please email the link to our website to at least three of your friends to help us grow the organization and accomplish our mission of Recruiting, Funding and Electing to Congress conservative Republican Veterans.