A special dinner invitation was sent to Veterans and their loved ones in an honoring members and volunteers celebration on Patriots Day in the Wayne G. Austin American Legion Post number two of Newton. Adjutant Paul Sanford, begun by saying that they wished and looked forward to having the longtime members and volunteers to the American Legion honored. The volunteers, who have been doing it for approximately a year or so, were to be appreciated and let know that what they do for American Legion and the veteran at large is not taken for granted. Among them, eighteen members of the Wayne G. Austin American Legion Post No. 2 were recognized for being part of the American Legion organization for not less than fifty years. A good sign of loyalty. Sanford addressed them by saying that they should be recognized because it is because of the loyal members that the state has the present day freedom. Byron Brittain, who has been a member of the American Legion for seventy one years, was awarded a certificate of honor and a pin. The other honorees in the same field as Byron Brittain included the fifty nine years of membership, F.V. Daily, Larson Woelk who has been on the American Legion for fifty eight years, Ralph Weerts for his fifty two years of membership, Vernon Wonders, Dale Perkins and Wayne Porter for their fifty one, fifty and another fifty years of membership respectively. Sanford noted that the certificates were not only to recognize them, but very special especially this year, 2017, because they have a sign of Denise Rohan, who is the first female national commander of the American Legion in a period of ninety nine years. The attendees were happy to be in the providence of a free of charge roast beef dinner. Sanford continued to note that the day was a better day for honoring the Veterans because it was on Patriots day. The volunteers to the American Legion, sons of the American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary and the American Legion riders did not just leave the event the same way. They were recognized for the various activities they do in different sections of their working places. Sanford, giving them a speech said that the recognition was because of there are a lot of times that they forget to appreciate them and thank them. He concluded by setting a day, 11th September of every year, regardless of the day in which it may fall in a week, to be dedicated to having such events as what they had that day.          
Perched on a tiny wooden platformlike is an eagle that is nestled just at the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet of Dwight Whitcomb. The eagle is a symbolism and representation awarded to specific, acknowledged volunteer work for decades in the giving hand to veterans locally in any way. It is considered a very huge honor by the veteran community. The seventy two old Vietnam Veteran, Dwight Whitcomb, was even unsure if this was reality of him deserving the award. While he was having an interview with the reporters from Ledger-Transcript Thursday, he pulled the 2017 state legionnaire of the year award and looked at it for a couple minutes and said that it was such a high and great honor and that he is sort of in a way very proud. He said that every time he looks at the award he is reminded that that some people in the Veteran midst that deserve the award and not him. He said that the news to him came as a completely shocking news since he was not even aware that he was nominated, leave alone being the winner among the other nominees. Having served in the United States Army from 1963 – 1966 as a heavy equipment operator, Whitcomb had always been self-driven and passionate about giving a hand to other veterans in the army who were in need and wished for help. Navigating them to the healthcare field was one of the things he had a strong desire to do. He always felt that it was part of him or part of the regular duties, he was assigned and passionate about. He considers helping other veterans as a personal thing for him and does not ever want to see a fellow veteran in dire straits. As much helping the veterans was in him, Whitcomb continues to say that he has more focus and attention to Vietnam Veterans who are like him since they were given what he referred to ‘the short end of the stick’ upon resuming the state’s army. When it comes to the Vietnam Veterans, he extends his hand further. Whitcomb, from all of his fellow Veterans, is a proud one because he is a founder of the Rindge Veterans Association and also being involved in the creation of Memorial Park for the Veterans in Rindge. The memorial park is located close to the intersection of the main street and Payson Hill road. After several months after him being awarded, he finally accepted the award and said that he is at last coming to grips with the award even though he knows it is a biggie for him and that he will never take it for granted that he was not the only one deserving the award among the state Veterans.
In downtown Columbus, Ohio you will find construction under way, working on a museum and memorial, which is yet to be officially known as the national site for Americans to reflect on the experiences of veterans. Rep. Steve Stivers and Sen. Rob Portman, who are both Republicans from Ohio, came up with the legislation to designate the Columbus site as the “National Veterans Museum and Memorial.” A House subcommittee sampled feedback on the suggestion last Wednesday from several veterans service organizations, the feedback received were mostly supportive. The bills suggested by Stivers and Portman state that the museum will be a one of a kind public site of its kind and its objective will be “interpreting the collective experiences of veterans… across all eras, conflicts and branches of the military.”  Apart from that, the museum will be a place for tourists and visitors to reflect and evaluate the American history through the lens of veterans, this was according to the bill suggested by the lawmakers. There is also a great possibility that the museum can also inspire and motivate civil engagement, hence playing an important role in bridging the gap between the civilians and the military service members. The plans for the site began in the year 2013 with assistance from astronaut John Glenn, a World War II veteran and former U.S. senator from Ohio. Glenn passed away Dec. 8. Initially the museum had been intended to honor the 900,000 veterans who are living in Ohio only, however the scope had to be broadened after an interview was conducted by the project leaders, and it was noted that many of the Ohio veterans didn’t really have strong ties to the state. The historical museum will have veterans’ personal items at the same time narrating personal stories of the veterans’ military service, it will look at their life after the military. This was according to a statement made by, Amy Taylor, who happens to be one of the project managers. The project developer of the museum is Columbus Downtown Development Corporation, and it’s estimated that the museum will cost a sum of $75 million. Most of the money is being received from private donations and contributions from the state of Ohio and Franklin County, Ohio. The building that has a unique design will stand on 7 acres of land near the Scioto River. The building when finally complete will be 50,000 square feet and made of glass walls and concrete arches leading to a magnificent rooftop sanctuary. There will also be a 300-foot reflective pool and memorial wall on the site. The developers anticipate completing the construction in the winter, with the grand opening scheduled for the summer of 2018.  
Last Tuesday the House in their spending bill opted to raise the amount of spending for the veteran treatment courts by $3 million. This indicated the much awaited for support by the Congress for a diversion instead of the incarceration, for the many veterans who have been struggling with mental health and substance abuse disorders for many years. The House gave its approval of the amendment from Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., to increase the spending on veteran treatment courts to $10 million, for the next coming year. The courts had been awarded a sum of $7 million in federal funding for this year. A large part of the finding is used in training the jurisdictions who are planning to open new treatment courts. Justice for Vets happens to be a division of the National Association for Drug Court Professionals. The division offers technical and training assistance to the individuals who are operating veteran treatment courts. The main job of the treatment courts is to make sure that the veterans do not relapse into their past criminal behavior by addressing the underlying issues affecting the veterans, which most of the time are mental health conditions or substance abuse. The courts partner together with the local Department of Veterans Affairs facility and using an employee from the local VA department they are able to link veterans to resources, such as housing, disability compensation and education benefits. The system depends so much on the volunteer mentors. These local mentors most of the time are part of local veterans service organizations. Courts tailored to deal with veteran issues were first opened in the year 2008. As per this year the United States boasts of more than 350 veterans treatment courts that are, and 100 jurisdictions that are working day and night to create more courts. The spending bill which happens to be the same bill that the amendment was included, H.R. 3354, was debated in the House last Tuesday. The bill will allocate funds to the Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency and components of other departments, including the Department of Justice.
The Defense Department issued a policy change that offers more leeway to veterans who seek for upgrades to their other-than-honorable discharges. A memorandum which is dated Aug. 25 instructs the Army Review Boards Agency, (this is the office that is charged with the responsibility of changing military records) to implement “liberal consideration” when dealing with cases brought by veterans who are looking to upgrade their bad papers/ less-than-honorable discharges, that was due to mental health conditions or traumatic brain injury, sexual assault or sexual harassment. The policy also gives a clear guideline on the cases that ought to be considered when considering an upgrade of bad papers. In 2014, the former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, issued an order that instructed the Army Review Boards Agency to give ample consideration to the veterans who wanted to upgrade their bad papers and had been discharged because of post-traumatic stress disorder. This new memo just expands on the order that was issued by Hagel. This is after many years of veterans pleading with the government to recognize that service members can be affected by service-related mental health conditions that change their behaviors and lead to disciplinary problems. After Hagel’s memo was issued three years ago, many observers noted that the instructions had been applied differently based on the military branch, while the veterans’ applications for upgrades grew into a backlog of cases. And even now some service members suffering from PTSD are still being discharged with bad paper. Researchers from their studies also found out that the Defense Department was not consistent in applying its policy of taking into consideration that a service-related medical disorder could lead to misconduct. The memo was sent to all the military secretaries and was signed by Anthony M. Kurta, who is a retired Navy rear admiral and currently is performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. The memo legally requires that the boards ask whether a veteran had a condition or experience that would excuse or outweigh their other-than-honorable discharge. In March this year, the VA Secretary David Shulkin announced that the VA will be providing urgent mental health care services to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges – aid. This was not available in the past. The policy was put in place from the 5th of July, and the veterans with bad paper are eligible to be granted up to 90 days of mental health care.
The Department of Defense released clarifying guidance that can be used by both veterans and service members for discharges and military records reviews. In the recent past, the department has issued the same for consideration of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), however there had been questions on hpow the guidance was to be applied to sexual assault, sexual harassment, or mental health conditions other than PTSD. This new guidance fills in the gaps and resolves any confusion that the veterans or the review boards might have had. Apart from that it also ensures that there is a fair and equitable review of separations for all veterans. The guidance was forwarded to several Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and Military Service Organizations (MSOs) so that they can be able to spread the word to as many veterans in the country as possible. Veterans who would like to have their service records corrected or think that their discharge might have been unjust, erroneous, or warrants an upgrade, are highly encouraged to apply for the review. For discharge upgrades, if the discharge took place less than 15 years ago, the veteran is instructed to complete DD Form 293 ( and then post it to their service’s DRB (the address is on the form). For discharges that took place over 15 years ago, the veteran are instructed to fill the DD Form 149 ( and then send it to their service’s BCM/NR (the address is on the form). For corrections of records other than discharges, the veterans concerned should fill the DD Form 149 then submit their request to their service’s BCM/NR (the address is on the form). Below are some of the key contact information that will assist the veterans when applying for their requests or if they have any questions with regards to filling their forms. For other information or assistance: Air Force BCMR Website: Phone: 240-612-5379 E-mail: Air Force DRB: Website: Phone: 240-612-0995 E-mail: Army BCMR: Website: E-mail: Army DRB: Website: E-mail: Navy BCNR: Website: Phone: 703-607-6111 E-mail: Navy DRB: Website: Phone: 202-685-6600 E-mail: To those who might want to give their feedback on the policies and the whole process can do so, via the below contact information. Send an e-mail to, or mail your feedback to Office of Legal Policy at: Office of Legal Policy Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel & Readiness) 4000 Defense Pentagon Washington, DC 20301-4000
Community collaboration has turned out to be a new tool to enhancing mental health care and preventing any suicide cases among the New Hampshire's veterans, that is according to a statement released on Tuesday by the Manchester VA Medical Center officials. Daily about 20 veterans commit suicide nationwide, only six out of the 20 were able to access health care services through the VA in the year before their deaths. While speaking to those who attended the annual mental health summit, Dr. Brett Rusch made this shocking announcement, noting that the VA recently added two suicide prevention coordinators in Manchester, which is still not enough to deal with the number of suicidal cases among veterans. Rusch, who is the center's acting chief of staff, said it’s the work of the community to identify the other 14 veterans who are at risk of committing suicide. A work that has been going on for the past few years. Just two years ago the New Hampshire's Department of Health and Human Services started a unique program to create military liaison positions in all the community mental health centers that are in the state and a statewide campaign to motivate the health care providers, social service organizations and others to ask patients and clients if they have ever served in the military. Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan also said that she had started talking with her colleagues back in Washington on whether the "Ask the Question" initiative can be expanded to the other states. The Senator mentioned her other efforts, which included co-sponsoring a bill that had been signed by President Donald Trump last month that is aimed at reducing wait times and improving the process for veterans seeking benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The other bill that she co-sponsored was the one that saw VA services to female veterans was expanded. During a session that involved question-and-answer, one of the psychologists from the hospital inquired whether the mental health staffing levels will be increased so as to ensure that patients can get ongoing treatment.
According to a report released by a government watchdog, the Social Security Administration has spent close to $38 million in benefits to hundreds of dead veterans. The report also stated that the Department of Veterans Affairs is to be partially blamed for the inaccurate death records. The findings from the report were released late last week by the inspector general for the Social Security Administration.  The report stated that the SSA has continued to pay people the VA listed as dead. While in some crazy instances, the VA had listed people as dead who were still alive. The SSA reported that to the inspectors that the VA had on several occasions failed to share with them, their monthly reports of the names of some veterans who had died. In case these issues that are arising between these two agencies are not resolved soon, the inspectors estimated that the SSA will be paying out more than $7 million to dead people come 2018. The office further gave a financial estimate of around $37.7 million made in payments by the Social Security which have been paid to 746 people who had already died. This was even worrying since it was unclear how long this has been going on. A VA spokesman responded on Tuesday, saying that it was crucial to appreciate that most of the records given by the VA to the SSA in the year 2016 were indeed accurate. Last year the Inspector General's Office was given 17 million death records by the VA, the office counter checked the records against the Social Security Administration's database. They found that there existed about 3,925 cases of people receiving Social Security payments even though they had been listed as deceased. The estimation of the amount related to improper payments was entirely based on a sample of 100 of those cases. These issues have dated back to more than 10 years. In 2006 SSA released a similar report that showed that payments were being sent to veterans who had been listed by the VA listed as dead. And by 2006 payments totaling to $11.7 million in payments had been made. The Social Security Administration in a response to the report decided to go through the 3,925 cases which the inspectors had uncovered of the people who had been receiving payments even though they had been listed by the VA listed as dead.
To honor the deceased army veteran who died in a car crush, a Michigan man who resides just next to the site of the fatal motorcycle accident gave an American flag to the friends, family and relatives to the defunct family. James McCarter said to them that it is an honor and the right thing to do for a fellow Veteran by giving the flag to the deceased loved ones. Joshua VanBelzen, the victim Veteran was twenty six years of age when he faced his unfortunate death. He was leaving Cambridge Township, during a motorcycle gathering of Veterans in August 26th when he accidentally failed to make a curve on the road  and non-hesitantly the pickup truck that was behind him got struck on him in his motorcycle.   The Jackson Citizen reported that the veteran was pronounced dead by authorities at the scene where the accident happened. James McCarter had the crash impact of the accident when it happened because his house is around the environment near bent road, which is the scene of the accident. He continued to say that he brought the American flag to the loved ones of the deceased immediately after him learning that the victim, VanBelzen, was a Veteran. The flag used to be hanging in the front of his house. He insists that he did his part and is or was not seeking attention for what he did to the loved ones. He says what he did at the moment is what is expected of anyone like him. His obituary has it that VanBelzen had just completed his tour in Afghanistan while in the American Army and his recent post was an Army Reservist and drill sergeant and worked as a Federal Corrections Officer.  McCarter also said that the pickup truck that hit VanBelzen had elderly couple that were stunned. Friends of the deceased, who left the same gathering of Veterans held a last- minute prayer session service to the corpse after the authorities pronounced him lifeless. It is after then that the authorities transported VanBelzen’s body from the accident scene. McCarter confirmed it was a sad day not only for him, but for the whole veteran community, friends and family of the deceased. The township Police Chief, Jeff Peterson, is looking forward to address many of the fatal injury and accidents at a biannual state highway summit in Lansing after reporting that the same curve road had been a site where many fatal accidents happen. McCarter is having high hopes that the veteran’s crash will inspire change on the routine designing of the highway or maybe how speeds on the highway are being monitored and enforced, hence reducing the rate of losing lives on the road.    
At last there is a government approved study of marijuana’s effects on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, the first of its kind after 7 years of waiting. The study is lead by researcher Sue Sisley. Her team had been granted permission to begin enrolling veterans to participate in the study back in February this year. Since then she and her team have screened thousands of veterans yet only 26 have been enrolled who meet the eligibility criteria – prompting concern the study’s parameters must change. Sisley notes that this could delay the study. The main issue being the researchers’ lack of access to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix, which is just 20 miles from where the study is being conducted. Sisley has noted that there is plenty of potential in them finding many veterans at the hospital who might be resistant to other PTSD treatments and looking for an alternative. So far the Phoenix VA hospital has shown 0 cooperation. The Food and Drug Administration, Drug Enforcement Agency and Department of Health and Human Services offered their approval for the clinical trial. The clinical trial needs only 76 participants to be viable. Many veterans are not taking part in the study because they live far away from the location since those taking part in the study are needed to report at the Scottsdale Research Institute in Phoenix 10 times over 18 weeks, and then have a six-month follow-up. The study is being funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and have granted a sum of $2.1 million, to cater for travel expenses for veterans who are out of state. Sisley noted that relocation to Arizona by veterans could also affect the results. The clinical study uses four potencies of marijuana and intends to replicate real-world use of the drug. Participants are given 1.8 grams daily, however they have the freedom to choose the quantity they smoke. They are also asked to keep a daily journal that should always be updated. The other organization sponsoring the study is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Santa Cruz, Calif. In an effort to gain the 76 enrolled participants Sisley is fighting to gain access to more veterans at the Phoenix VA hospital.