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:
At 7:55 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese dive bombers, fighter bombers and torpedo planes attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu. Approximately 360 Japanese planes took part in the attack, which lasted less than two hours. The USS Oklahoma received nine torpedo hits in under twelve minutes that morning. It rolled over and sank in shallow water with more than 400 men still on board. Over the past six months, with a fresh mandate from the Defense Department, the unidentified bones of those onboard were exhumed from a cemetery in Hawaii and brought to a laboratory at Offutt Air Base in Nebraska, where scientists have begun the task of identifying the remains. Read the full story by clicking here
From the LA Times: Chris Tilly, an economist who directs the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment A White House initiative known as Joining Forces announced this year that it had secured new commitments from the private sector to hire or train 90,000 veterans and military spouses, in addition to 100,000 already brought on board. "There aren't a million veterans to hire." High veteran unemployment, once rampant among those returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, appears to be a thing of the past, based on data from the Labor Department. Phillip Carter, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Center for a New American Security, said the most important contribution of the hiring campaigns may be their underlying message: Most veterans are not the damaged people that many Americans imagine but valuable members of the workforce. "It's good PR to say you're hiring veterans," said Chris Tilly, an economist who directs the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. Full story click here
Come and learn from living historians about what holidays were like during WWII; enjoy holiday treats made from ration recipes, and an American Girl tea centered around the Molly McIntire character. This event will run Saturday, November 28 from 10 am until 4 pm and Sunday, November 29 from 10 am until 4 pm at Brunswick Railroad Museum, 40 W. Potomac Street, Brunswick, MD 21716. For more information call (301) 834-7100 or visit http://www.brunswickmuseum.org/events/upcoming-events/ Here are a couple facts to about WWII and holiday time: During World War II Christmas trees were in short supply because of a lack of manpower to cut the trees down and a shortage of railroad space to ship the trees to market. Americans rushed to buy American-made artificial trees. In 1941, a five-foot Christmas tree could be purchased for 75 cents. The shortage of materials—like aluminum and tin—used to produce ornaments led many people to make their own ornaments at home. Magazines contained patterns for ornaments made out of non-priority war materials, like paper, string, and natural objects, such as pinecones or nuts. Electric bubble lights were created during the 1940s and remain popular even today. To give their Christmas tree a snow-covered effect, people mixed a box of Lux soap powder with two cups of water and brushed the concoction on the branches of their tree. Fewer men at home resulted in fewer men available to dress up and play Santa Claus. Women served as substitute Santas at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City and at other department stores throughout the United States. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “White Christmas” were both written during the 1940s and quickly gained popularity with the war-weary, but optimistic, population. Travel during the holidays was limited for most families due to the rationing of tires and gasoline. Americans saved up their food ration stamps to provide extra food for a fine holiday meal. Many Americans threw their German blown-glass ornaments and exotic Japanese ornaments in the trash as soon as the war began. Shortly after the war, Corning Glass Company in New York began massproducing Christmas tree balls using machines designed to produce light bulbs. Corning could make more ornaments in a single minute than a German cottage glass blower could make in a whole day.
As reported on Strips.com FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — For years, the widow and daughter of Staff Sgt. Donald Stewart were plagued by doubts about the airman’s 1979 funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. Stewart, a load master, went missing in action in 1965 when a C-123 transport aircraft crashed on a mountainside in Phu Yen, a coastal province in Vietnam between Danang and Ho Chi Minh City, then known as Saigon. Three other Americans and 81 South Vietnam soldiers were also onboard. “We didn’t hear a word for 14 years, and then in 1979, they called me from Randolph Air Force Base in Texas — about 10 o’clock at night — and told me that my husband’s remains had surfaced and we had to have a service in Arlington,” said Wandra Raynor, who was pregnant with their first daughter when Stewart, 28, went missing. The grave was to hold the remains of Stewart and the other three Americans who died in the crash, she said she was told. When Raynor pressed the caller about the remains, she said she was told they consisted of “two pieces of a leg bone and a jaw bone.” “I kept thinking, that doesn’t make up four people,” Raynor said. “It couldn’t be but three at the most. Or one or two.” Raynor and her daughter, Dona Stewart, went to the Arlington ceremony and then moved on with their lives. Still, uncertainty nagged at them. They laid their doubts to rest Nov. 6 during a visit to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Hawaii where they held bone fragments proven by DNA testing to belong to Donald Stewart. They were the first family members to view their loved one’s remains in DPAA’s new science lab, which features a viewing room suspended two stories above an open-air courtyard, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. “It was wonderful to hold them,” Raynor said the following day. “It was very stressful on the drive there thinking about what you have to go through,” Stewart said. “But then they bring you to the family room, they show you the remains and give you time alone, and you can hold the bones. At that point, it was just a relief. I felt 100 pounds lighter.” They had carried the weight of the unknown for many years, which, by the turn of the millennium they say, had morphed into a series of strange dreams and visions. For Raynor, the dreams harkened back to one she had about a month before her husband died: She was looking down a tunnel at bamboo bars, surrounded outside by lush tropical greens. Stewart described a kind of out-of-body experience. “I kind of floated out of my body, and I was being shot at and running and there were some grass huts. And there were two people who took me inside,” she said. Although she never met her father, Stewart — along with a half-brother and a stepbrother — grew up amid unanswered questions. “We were always thinking when we were growing up, 'Is he alive? Is he being tortured?’ I’d hear my grandmother speak about it at the table. We just didn’t know,” she said. Eventually, the mother and daughter shared their dreams of the lost airmen and felt compelled to take a trip to Vietnam in 2007, spending a month learning what they could about the crash site. They hired a guide whose grandfather, serendipitously, had worked for the U.S. Air Force and knew where the plane went down. Stewart said they also found a man who, as a boy, was among the first to find the crash site. He had pulled a ring off the pilot’s hand and later sold it. The guide told them the trip up would be too arduous for them, so they supplied the hired search group with a disposable camera and sent them on the three-day roundtrip hike to the site. The searchers returned “visibly shaken” with boots, teeth and other artifacts from the plane, Stewart said. “Because nobody had ever gone up there except the Vietnamese.” “America had never been up there,” Raynor said. After returning to the U.S., they met with officials from the MIA accounting agency, then called the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. The meeting included Johnie Webb, the agency’s liaison to families of missing servicemembers, who agreed that the accounting agency’s recovery experts needed to visit the site themselves. A team visited the site, which over 50 years had been significantly scavenged, around 2012-13, Webb — now DPAA’s deputy to the commander for legislative affairs and external relations — told Stars and Stripes. But no excavation work was done because the Defense Department had officially “accounted for” all four crewmembers in 1979, and priority for excavation goes to sites believed to hold unaccounted remains, Webb said. The Stewart crash site “would be at the bottom of the priority list,” he said. “At this point and time, nothing has been put forward that we should put a recovery team on that site,” he said. Unknown to Raynor and Stewart for a long time, however, was that the accounting agency’s lab in Hawaii had for decades been holding a trove of commingled remains retrieved from the wreckage in 1974 by Vietnamese soldiers. Those remains were transferred to a lab in Thailand, where large bone fragments believed to belong to Americans were removed, Webb said. In February 1979, the Graves Registration Office “approved those remains as the group remains of those four crewmembers, so no individual identifications, just group remains that represented the crew of that aircraft,” he said. The rest of the remains were shipped to the Hawaii lab, where they were stored until they began undergoing DNA testing from 1997-2011, Webb said. Stewart said she and her mother learned accidentally that the agency possessed the remains — a scholarly article made mention of them — and she sent a “nasty email” to the agency cajoling it to conduct DNA testing for her father. The lab identified Stewart’s remains in December 2014 using DNA samples from his brother. Webb said the Air Force had requested that the remains in Arlington be disinterred for DNA testing but “were not successful in getting approval” due to “the policy of the cemetery.” Raynor and Stewart requested that the new remains be added to the Arlington gravesite but could not receive permission. Instead, Donald Stewart was laid to rest Wednesday in a cemetery near Raleigh, N.C., the area where he grew up. Raynor and Stewart’s journey is the subject of a forthcoming documentary by filmmaker Steven C. Barber. Stewart said families of missing servicemembers end up struggling between finding closure or the truth. “They try to give people closure by having these group burials without even having the remains, but for us it was more than closure. It was about the truth,” Stewart said. “Because I was living with this guilt that maybe he is alive and waiting for us to come back — who knows what goes through your mind? “Until I could find the plane crash, I don’t know, I was looking for some kind of truth. Not closure, because I wasn’t going to get it until the remains were found.” firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — The babies and toddlers of soldiers returning from deployment face the heightened risk of abuse in the six months after the parent's return home, a risk that increases among soldiers who deploy more frequently, according to a study scheduled for release Friday. The study will be published in the American Journal of Public Health. The abuse of soldiers' children exposes another, hidden cost from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that killed more than 5,300 U.S. troops and wounded more than 50,000. Research by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia looked at families of more than 112,000 soldiers whose children were 2 years old or younger for the period of 2001 to 2007, the peak of the Iraq War. Researchers examined Pentagon-substantiated instances of abuse by a soldier or another caregiver and from the diagnoses of medical personnel within the military's health care system. "This study is the first to reveal an increased risk when soldiers with young children return home from deployment," David Rubin, co-director of the hospital's PolicyLab and the report's senior author, said in a statement. "This really demonstrates that elevated stress when a soldier returns home can have real and potentially devastating consequences for some military families." Rubin said the study will help the Army and other services learn "when the signal [of stress] is the highest and the timing for intervention to help the returning soldiers." The Army said it will use the information to help serve soldiers and their families better. "While incidents of child abuse and neglect among military families are well below that of the general population, this study is another indicator of the stress deployments place on soldiers, family members and caregivers," said Karl Schneider, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs. "Since the end of the data collection period in 2007, the Army has enacted myriad programs to meet these kinds of challenges head on, and we will continue working to ensure services and support are available to soldiers, families and their children." The study focused on the first two years of a child's life because of the elevated risk for life-threatening child abuse among infants exceeds risk in all other age groups. In all, there were 4,367 victims from the families of 3,635 soldiers. The rate of substantiated abuse and neglect doubled during the second deployment compared with the first, the study found. For soldiers deployed twice, the highest rate of abuse and neglect occurred during the second deployment and was usually a caregiver other than the soldier. "The finding that in most cases, the perpetrators were not the soldiers thmselves reveals to us that the stress that plays out in military families during or after deployment impacts the entire family and is not simply a consequence of the soldier's experience and stress following deployment," said Christine Taylor, the study's lead author, a project manager the PolicyLab. Researchers had an ongoing interest in the topic, Rubin said, which coincided with the Army's interest in determining how to better serve its returning soldiers and families. A key finding was that mandatory reporting of child abuse by the Army to the Pentagon's Family Advocacy Program appears to have been largely ignored; 80 percent of the instances were not reported to the program. The program offers parenting instruction, child care and classes to ease a soldier's transition home. Those services may not be offered widely enough to meet the need, the study found.
Story from Washington Post; full link of the complete story at the bottom “We have proposed disciplinary action against 300 individuals for manipulating scheduling.” —Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, speech at National Press Club, Nov. 6, 2015 During his speech at the National Press Club, McDonald bemoaned the lack of fact-checking of numbers that are used in relation to veterans issues: “I just wish that there would be more fact-checking on some of the numbers that are used, because there are a lot of myths out there,” he said. We at The Fact Checker agree. In fact, we have fact-checked many claims to debunk myths and set the record straight on veterans issues. We even awarded McDonald himself Four Pinocchios for his claim in February 2015 that 60 people were fired for manipulating veterans’ wait-time data. (The actual number, at the time, was eight. VA later reported that the correct figure was actually three, as of early August 2015.) In a speech about the state of VA, McDonald said the agency has made progress but has “a lot more to do.” He noted a series of improvements he made, such as replacing members of his leadership team, the increasing number of people being fired across the agency for a variety of performance problems, and adding new standards into performance review plans. Then he said 300 people now have had disciplinary actions proposed for manipulating scheduling. That doesn’t jibe with the facts we uncovered in an Aug. 6, 2015, fact-check when we looked into the number of proposed and completed disciplinary actions against VA employees over wait-time data manipulation — which was 15, as reported by the VA. So we fact-checked McDonald’s figures on wait-time manipulation disciplinary actions — again. And we found that McDonald got his figures wrong — again. The Facts McDonald, of course, is referring to the wait-time manipulation scandal that led to his appointment in 2014 to lead the largest non-military Cabinet agency. His predecessor, Eric Shinseki, resigned amid whistleblower allegations that employees at the Phoenix VA were manipulating patient wait-time data, leading to delays in access to health care and contributing to patient deaths. The VA Office of Inspector General later confirmed the allegations and found a systemic, years-long problem. VA provides weekly updates to the House and Senate veterans affairs committees about proposed and completed employee disciplinary actions taken since June 3, 2014, “on any basis related to patient scheduling, record manipulation, appointment delays, and/or patient deaths.” The parameters of the report are offenses categorized by the VA Office of Accountability Review as “Data Manipulation,” “Delay in Care,” “Failure of Oversight,” “Falsifying of Scheduling Data” or “Falsifying Records.” Full story click here
SAN DIEGO (Stripes.com & AP) — Jan Scruggs knew as a young Army infantryman returning from Vietnam that his fellow veterans and his entire country needed a place to go to heal. More than three decades later, the man who led efforts to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, said it's now time such a wall be built for post-9/11 combat veterans, even though service members are still dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. "A lot of these veterans were hurt physically. There are high rates of PTSD, just like among Vietnam veterans, and if we wait until the war on terror is over, they will never see it happen," he said. Building a wall on the National Mall will require action from Congress to overturn the 1986 Commemorative Works Act, which stipulates that work cannot begin until 10 years after a war has ended. Scruggs said the law was enacted to prevent too many memorials from being built too quickly and to allow time for history to judge a conflict's significance. Scruggs said the law is out of touch with today's conflicts, which do not have clear-cut endings. He pointed to the recent death of Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, the U.S. soldier fatally wounded in a hostage rescue mission in Iraq last month. "It's not about the conflict," he said. "It's about the service of the veterans and people willing to give their lives for their country." Retired Rear Adm. George Worthington, a Navy SEAL who served in Vietnam, agreed. "Whatever memorial they build, it has to be cognizant of the fact that this isn't an end game. The war on terror is going to be an issue in the next several presidential elections, I'm afraid," he said. "They need to build a temple, maybe a pyramid, something that will last thousands of years, or maybe just put a stake in the national mall for future building rights." Still, work on a memorial must get started since it will take years to get done, said Worthington, whose son is an active-duty SEAL. The Korean War Memorial was built in 1995 and the World War II Memorial in 2004. A World War I Memorial is slated to be built near the White House in 2018, marking a century after that war ended. A Gulf War Memorial is also in the works. Scruggs headed up a team of veterans in the late 1970s to build the memorial despite strong opposition at the time. His team raised $8.4 million and pushed through legislation. Since the Vietnam war memorial wall was dedicated in 1982, wives, children, veterans, peace activists, politicians and presidents have gone there to mourn, reflect and share their pain. Afghanistan veteran Andrew Brennan, a former Army captain, said he was awed by its impact, and has organized the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation, Inc., with other young veterans to take up the calling of building a wall for 9/11 warriors. "I look at the Vietnam veterans and they really jelled around their memorial after it went up," the West Point graduate said. "It was a very conflicted conflict in the hearts and minds of Americans, and the same can be said about the global war on terror, but the memorial gave everyone a focal point. I want that for my era of veterans, to kind of have our own place to heal."