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ALEXANDRIA, La. – United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that a former Concordia Parish couple were each sentenced to 12 months in prison for their roles in a scheme to steal Veterans Affairs benefits over a 10-year period. Alfred Lewis Jr., 67, of Ferriday, La., and Rose M. Lewis, 64, of Natchez, Miss., were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dee D. Drell. Alfred Lewis was sentenced on one count of theft of government property or funds, and Rose Lewis was sentenced on one count of conspiracy to commit theft of government property or funds. They were also sentenced to two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $197,784 restitution. According to evidence presented at the August 21, 2015 guilty plea, from July of 2003 until November of 2013, the defendants conspired to steal $197,784 in Veterans Affairs benefits. Alfred Lewis served in the U.S. Air Force and applied for veterans benefits in July of 2003. He and Rose Lewis did not disclose to Veterans Affairs that Rose Lewis had been working while living with Alfred Lewis during the 10-year period he received benefits. In written statements of their income sent to Veterans Affairs, they denied they were working when in fact Rose Lewis was earning more than $50,000 a year in Mississippi. Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Cytheria D. Jernigan prosecuted the case.
From Washington Examiner: Justice Department officials have declined to pursue dozens of criminal investigations into employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs who allegedly participated in a national effort to cover up long delays in care by creating fake patient waiting lists.   As of Dec. 3, the Justice Department has refused to pursue any charges in 46 of 55 cases referred by the VA's own inspector general. Nine cases are still pending, according to a letter from Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, to Attorney General Loretta Lynch that was obtained by the Washington Examiner.  Despite the widespread attention VA officials have received for manipulating patient wait times, the Justice Department has acknowledged opening just one criminal investigation into a practice that took place at 110 VA facilities across the country.  FBI Director James Comey told Congress last year that the law enforcement agency's Phoenix office had opened a criminal probe of allegations made against officials at the Phoenix VA hospital.  However, during a House Judiciary Committee hearing last month, Lynch could not answer questions from Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Calif., about the status of that investigation or whether any others had been opened. Lynch vowed during that hearing to have her staff provide Walters with information about the investigation.  A month later, Justice Department staff did respond to Walters' questions. The officials requested Walters accept an "informal phone call" rather than a formal response, then refused to answer any questions about the scope of the agency's work with the VA.  "I am at a loss as to why [the Justice Department] required a month to determine that it was unable to provide any answers to these questions," Walters wrote in a Dec. 17 letter to Lynch.  Although the Justice Department appears to have taken minimal, if any, action against VA employees accused by the agency's watchdog of criminal wrongdoing, VA leaders are now attempting to blame their own inability to discipline employees on non-existent Justice Department investigations.   Read full article by clicking here    
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that it plans to propose expanded disability compensation eligibility for Veterans exposed to contaminated drinking water while assigned to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. From 1953 to 1987, water sources at the base were contaminated with industrial solvents that are correlated with certain health conditions.  Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald decided to propose presumptions of service connection for certain conditions associated with these chemical solvents following discussions between environmental health experts at the Veterans Health Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).  “The water at Camp Lejeune was a hidden hazard, and it is only years later that we know how dangerous it was,” said Secretary McDonald.  “We thank ATSDR for the thorough review that provided much of the evidence we needed to fully compensate Veterans who develop one of the conditions known to be related to exposure to the compounds in the drinking water.” ATSDR determined that the drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride, benzene and other petroleum contaminants from leaking storage tanks from 1953 to 1987.  ATSDR also determined that prolonged exposure to these chemicals increases the risk of certain health conditions. Based upon VA’s review of current medical science and ATSDR’s findings, Secretary McDonald intends to propose creation of a  presumption of service connection for the following conditions: Kidney Cancer Liver Cancer Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Leukemia Multiple Myeloma Scleroderma Parkinson's Disease Aplastic Anemia / Myelodysplastic Syndromes The Secretary’s proposal would also expand benefits eligibility to Reserve and National Guard personnel who served at Camp Lejeune for any length of time from August 1, 1953, through December 31, 1987.   These personnel would be presumed to have been exposed to the contaminated water during their Reserve or National Guard service and, in appropriate circumstances, to have been disabled by such exposure during service, thus allowing them to qualify for VA benefits under the statutory definition of “Veteran.”   This would make them eligible for VA disability compensation and medical care for any of the presumptive conditions, and their surviving dependents would be eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation and burial benefits. VA is working on regulations that would establish these presumptions, making it easier for affected Veterans to receive VA disability compensation for these conditions.  While VA cannot grant any benefit claims based on the proposed presumption of service connection for these conditions until it issues its final regulations, it encourages Veterans who have a record of service at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and develop a condition that they believe is related to exposure to the drinking water at the base, to file a disability compensation claim with VA. VA will continue to grant claims for disabilities claimed to be associated with exposure to the contaminants that can be granted under current regulations and review of the evidence in each case. If a claim for service connection for one of the proposed presumptive conditions would be denied under current regulations, the denial will be stayed until VA issues its final regulations. VA will announce when the regulations are final and presumptive benefits can begin to be awarded. For more information on applying for these benefits, visit:http://benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-postservice-exposures-camp_lejeune_water.asp. Veterans who served at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, are already eligible to receive VA healthcare for up to 15 health conditions.  More information, including a full list of covered conditions, can be found online at:http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/camp-lejeune/index.asp. Veterans can establish eligibility for healthcare benefits by submitting VA Form 10-10EZ online atwww.1010ez.med.va.gov/, downloading it at www.va.gov/vaforms/medical/pdf/1010EZ-fillable.pdf and returning it to any VA Medical Center or Clinic, or by calling 1-877-222-VETS (8387), Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM (Eastern Time).  VA is reimbursing certain veterans’ family members for eligible out-of-pocket medical expenses related to the 15 covered conditions. More information can be found at:  https://www.clfamilymembers.fsc.va.gov  
The Department of Veterans Affairs drew fire in 2014 for manipulating appointment waitlists while veterans died without care, but despite hopes that the agency would clean up its act, it hasn’t fared any better in 2015. In fact, increased scrutiny has resulted in more light shed on incredibly serious problems plaguing the department. From patients dying while they wait to gross over-medication, here are the top five worst VA scandals of 2015. A year after the waitlist scandal, the number of veterans waiting for care is up by 50 percent The waitlist manipulation scandal brought the VA into the public spotlight in 2014, and numerous waitlist scandals since continue to keep the VA under intense scrutiny. In June, The New York Times discovered that at the same time the department was posting a shortfall of $2.7 billion, wait times for appointments had increased by an unbelievable 50 percent, compared to wait times during the peak of the scandal in 2014. The VA failed to anticipate additional demand from veterans for services. Almost a third of veterans waiting for care have died without appointments A leaked internal document from the VA reported in July showed that almost a third of all veterans on the waitlist for care had died while waiting for an appointment. The exact total of veterans on the list was 847,822. VA database procedures are poor enough that the disaster is not actually as bad as it first appears. In fact, the VA has no method of removing the deceased from the database, meaning that deaths accumulate year over year. The list has existed in one form or another since 1985, but according to whistleblower Scott Davis, a program specialist at the VA Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta, the list only dates back to 1998.      Read more at the Daily Caller by clicking here
SALT LAKE CITY, - ASEA, an emerging global leader in cellular health, today announced findings from a skin study conducted by leading dermatological research institute Dermatest. The study showed that RENU 28® skin gel effectively improves the appearance of cellulite as a result of the reduction of the size of adipose lobules. Additionally, the study showed significant improvement in skin elasticity. In the study, 30 females aged 18 or older who had cellulite used RENU 28 twice a day for a 12 week period. In the cellulite test area, the use of ultrasound measurement showed improvement in the thickness and density of the skin. The measurements were performed in the same position and at the same sites before and after the 12 week in-use-period. The participants experienced a reduction of 15.81 percent in the appearance of cellulite, with the reduction in size of adipose lobules after the application period of 12 weeks. "While other treatments for cellulite employ inflammation and the use of fillers for a temporary effect, RENU 28 works with the body's natural cellular communication to actually reduce the adipose lobules," said Charles F. Funke, ASEA Chief Executive Officer. In the second test area, RENU 28 showed an increase in both the elasticity and hydration of the skin, both of which result in improved function and appearance of the skin. After the 12 weeks, researchers used a Cutometer sensor to measure the results and saw that the participants had an increase of 20.91 percent in skin elasticity. This is important given that with age, our skin loses its elasticity, or ability to bounce back to shape upon stretch, which results in the appearance of wrinkles. "RENU 28 is active in redox signaling molecules that can be applied directly onto the skin to improve and revitalize it at the cellular level from the outside in," said Dr. Karen Stolman, M.D. a board certified dermatologist. "These studies further validate the essential benefits of cellular health."   The study was conducted by researchers from the Dermatest GmbH Institute for Reliable Results.   For more information and to obtain ASEA. click here      
Last week, 46 U.S. veterans graduated from a trade school program in San Diego with not just a diploma in hand, but jobs awaiting them in advanced manufacturing. The newly minted CNC machinists, CAD/CAM programmers and welders made up the largest graduating class yet at Workshops for Warriors, a nonprofit that provides a free 16-month training program in welding and fabrication for veterans transitioning into civilian life. Graduates are placed at manufacturing companies large and small--many of them right in San Diego, a manufacturing hub where their skills are in high demand. RELATED How Veterans Get the Job Done in ManufacturingFord Partners with Girls Who Code on STE Since its founding, Workshops for Warriors has placed all of its graduates in jobs with starting salaries typically around $50,000. Even those who complete only part of the program often land skilled jobs that pay a living wage, says founder Hernàn Luis y Prado, a veteran himself. Prado served 15 years in the Navy, with combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Seeing more of his fellow service members “die of suicide and drugs in San Diego … than bombs and bullets in Baghdad” compelled him to start the organization in 2008. “If we want to help veterans, we need to have a secure civilian path that they can be trained into,” Prado said in a statement on the organization's website. Most students in the program are post 9/11 veterans, ranging in age from 22 to 35 and transitioning out of the armed forces sooner than they expected due to military drawdowns or major injuries. In San Diego alone, more than 40,000 veterans transition out of service each year. Students can earn credentials from industry organizations including the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, Mastercam University (computer-aided manufacturing), SolidWorks (computer-aided design) and the American Welding Society.  Since 2011, 238 veterans have been trained on-site in the program, receiving close to 600 third-party nationally recognized credentials.   Workshop for Warriors’ next 16-month session begins January 4. Students choose either the welding or machining track, training on a long list of up-to-date equipment. Courses include computer-aided design, machinery repair and maintenance, CNC and manual machining and turning, and welding and fabrication.
Five American veterans who took part in the firebombing of Japan during World War II saw photos of charred bodies and leveled homes Wednesday at a museum dedicated to the victims, and said the outcome on the ground of their missions was awful. From ABC News Fiske Hanley of Fort Worth, Texas, was an engineer on a B-29 bomber in the March 10, 1945, firebombing of Tokyo that killed about 100,000 people — more than the Aug. 9 atomic bombing of Nagasaki — and destroyed much of the eastern part of the city. On the ground, Haruyo Nihei was a schoolgirl running for her life. Hanley and Nihei, now 95 and 79, met at the museum on Wednesday and celebrated their survival. "I was up there," Hanley said, pointing his finger upward as he explained to Nihei that he was flying that night. "Awful." Hanley stopped in front of each photo on exhibit, studying the damage and shaking his head. "Terrible," he repeated. All five veterans crashed during the final months of the war and were taken prisoner by the Japanese. "You're a survivor, I'm a survivor too," Hanley told Nihei. Nihei, who survived under layers of people who fell on top of her, said she was happy the men had taken the time to see the damage of the firebombing despite their suffering during their captivity. "I wonder if they had thought of the people on the ground when they dropped the bombs," she said. "But I'm more thrilled by the fact that we, who were witnesses of that moment in history, are reunited at this place 70 years later. They must have had mixed feelings about coming here, so I'm so glad they came." From January 1944 to August 1945, the U.S. dropped 157,000 tons of bombs on Japanese cities, according to the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. The death toll from the bombings is estimated at more than 300,000, while another 15 million were left homeless. The five veterans, who were on separate planes that firebombed different areas of Japan, are visiting Tokyo on a Japanese government reconciliation program for former prisoners of war. During their weeklong trip, they will visit the sites where they crashed and the prisons where they were held captive. Hanley, who was a second lieutenant at 25 years old, carried out 16 firebombing and combat missions over other major cities too, including Nagoya, Kobe and Fukuoka. His B-29 was shot down over southwestern Japan 17 days after firebombing Tokyo. Hanley and a dozen other B-29 crew members who had crashed earlier were sent to the regional headquarters of Japan's notorious Kempeitai military police, where he suffered from repeated beatings, harsh interrogations and malnutrition. The trauma, which he wrote about in a book, "Accused War Criminal," gave him nightmares for years. Only 160 of about 250 American fliers captured by the Tokyo military police survived. Hanley was among the first to be liberated two weeks after Japan's surrender. ———
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Marco Rubio used a real-life example to talk about his commitment to the Department of Veterans Affairs -- his big brother. The Republican presidential candidate and Florida senator appeared in Iowa Thursday morning with his brother Mario, 65, an Army veteran who lives in Jacksonville, Fla. In his speech, Marco Rubio called for reforming a system plagued by long delays for those seeking care and allegations of falsified records. As an example, Rubio cited his brother, who served in the Army from 1968 through 1971, and has been waiting on dental work for a service-related injury. "He's had to file a claim and wait for a hearing, which could take anywhere from 18 months to three years. Meanwhile, he's stuck waiting for the procedures he needs," Rubio said. "Mario is going through the exact same bureaucratic nightmare every other veteran in his situation has to go through," he added. "And like so many of them, he will tell you how confusing it has been, how even the forms he has to fill out seem almost intentionally complicated." Rubio said his brother was injured during training and taken to a dentist, but the visit was never officially recorded. To date, the VA has not provided the periodontal work he needs. Rubio spoke before more than 100 people gathered for a town hall sponsored by the conservative group Concerned Veterans for America. Democrats in Iowa questioned Rubio's plans for veterans, arguing he would seek to privatize the health care system. In a call with reporters Wednesday, Iowa Democratic Party Vice Chair Danny Homan said: "Rubio isn't offering anything new. Just something dangerous." Marco Rubio said he will bring more transparency and accountability to the VA, promising to get rid of underperforming workers and provide more public oversight. He would also make it easier for veterans to seek private care. "When I'm president, benefits are going to follow the veteran; the veteran is not going to have to follow the benefits," he said. He said there's a lack of accountability at the VA, in part, because "union bosses have rigged the system, making it almost impossible to fire VA employees no matter how bad they are." Rubio took the opportunity to criticize Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. He said she, if elected, would "keep the status quo" at the VA. "The truth is we'll never be able to completely overhaul the system until we have a new commander-in-chief," Rubio said. ___ Associated Press Writer Sergio Bustos contributed to this report from Miami.
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WASHINGTON — The National World War II Museum in New Orleans this week opens the Road to Tokyo, the first big exhibit on the Pacific theater campaign from the highly regarded museum that opened in 2000 with a focus on D-Day and the Normandy Invasion. As the nation commemorates Pearl Harbor Day this week, here are the top 6 things that the museum’s chief historian would like Americans to know about the brutal – and initially unsuccessful – war that the US military was forced to wage against Japanese forces in the wake of what was, at the time, the most devastating attack ever on US soil. The American public did not support President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s key early decision in the war. The American public was so shocked by what they had seen at Pearl Harbor that they wanted to fight the Japanese first. President Roosevelt was arguing, however, that the Nazis were the greater threat.  “That’s not what the public wanted to hear. The public wanted revenge on Japan,” says Keith Huxen, senior director of history and research at the museum. “Historically, politically [FDR] was absolutely correct, but from that very first decision there were implications, and one of them was that we didn’t put the resources into the Pacific war that were being pumped into the European theater.”  As a result, he adds, “It meant that we were basically fighting the Pacific war on a shoestring budget, and [the American troops fighting it] didn’t get all of the help that they were entitled to.”  he destruction of the fleet at Pearl Harbor inadvertently ushered in a new era of US naval warfare. After Pearl Harbor, the US Pacific fleet of battleships were hit hard. The primary remaining US resources were primarily in the form of aircraft carriers, submarines, and projection of air power.  “This is a really new way of fighting that we’re going to have to pioneer and master,” Dr. Huxen says. The new museum exhibit offers a mockup of the USS Enterprise, which ended up being the most successful American aircraft carrier during World War II. “We’re going to try out this new military doctrine, relying on these assets because we don’t have a choice – but at the time the jury was still out.”  Previously, naval warfare meant battleships (like those that the US lost at Pearl Harbor) pulling up alongside each other and blasting away. In the Pacific, “we’re playing a game of cat and mouse, launching torpedo and dive bombers to locate each others’ fleet and kill that way,” Huxen says. “It’s the first time in history where the opposing fleets never lay eyes on each other.” The Pacific theater was a very different war than the one Americans waged in Europe. There is first the matter of vast distances: It is four times the distance from San Francisco to Tokyo than it is, for example, from New York to London.  Once US troops arrived on the scene, there was far less infrastructure, including, say, docks and port facilities, or cities with roads.  “You sail thousands of miles to these places like Guadalcanal, and the hardest part of the journey is the last 100 yards,” says Huxen. “You have to get from the boat to the beaches, and when you do we basically have to build all these things: Make hospitals, clean water, food. And we have to do it again and again and again.”  Victory was not looking good in the early days of the war.  “When the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor, they didn’t want to invade California. Their idea was that we would negotiate a peace if they hit us hard enough. Pearl Harbor did allow the Japanese to knock us back on our feet for six or seven months, and during that time they were virtually unstoppable,” Huxen says.  May 1942 sees the fall of the Pacific corridor to the Japanese – what amounts to the height of the Japanese empire. In the six or seven months since Pearl Harbor, the Japanese had swept through all of Southeast Asia and across the southwestern Pacific. The Japanese had taken the Philippines as well. “It was very frightening. We don’t have any victories at this point. If you can imagine an event like Pearl Harbor, and then there’s no good news for months on end.” Against this backdrop comes the Battle of the Coral Sea, which is largely a draw between US and Japanese forces. “Both sides have success, but neither wins total victory,” Huxen says. Still, though the performance wasn’t a win, it was a relief for the Pentagon. “It is the first time we kind of blunt the Japanese advance,” he adds. “Our military is OK – they’d have like to have seen better, but it wasn’t a disaster.”  The Battle of Midway was the US turning point in the Pacific. The World War II Museum singles the battle out for special treatment in its new exhibition. For the Japanese, the island was critical. They wanted to take Midway, where the US had a base, then threaten Hawaii and end the war.  “On the first morning of the battle, what we want people to understand is that we were losing very badly,” Huxen says. The US military had sent three waves of planes out trying to locate the Japanese, but when they did they were being shot down.  Then suddenly, in a remarkable moment, two waves of US bomber planes converged on the Japanese fleet, and arrived at the moment when the Japanese fighter planes were at a lower altitude and hit three of the four Japanese carriers.    CLICK TO READ FULL STORY FROM CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: