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Archive for the ‘Veterans.’ Category

George W. Bush: Drop ‘Disorder’ From Post-Traumatic Stress.


Image: George W. Bush: Drop 'Disorder' From Post-Traumatic Stress

By Drew MacKenzie

Former President George W. Bush has demanded changes in the way post-traumatic stress disorder is labeled so that the stigma can be removed surrounding the illness affecting many military veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Speaking at a summit on veterans at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in University Park, Texas, Bush urged that the word “disorder” be erased, that it should just be called “post-traumatic stress,” according to the Dallas Morning News.

“We are going to use our platform to make clear that veterans receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress are not damaged goods, they are not mentally shattered,” Bush said. “They are people who got hurt defending our country and are now overcoming wounds.”

Story continues below video.

The former president said that by removing the “D” from PTSD will help veterans settle into civilian life and get jobs.

“Employers would not hesitate to hire an employee being treated for a medical condition like diabetes or high blood pressure,” Bush said. “And they should not hesitate to hire veterans with post-traumatic stress.

“Post-traumatic stress, or PTS, is an injury that can result from the experience of war. And like other injuries, PTS is treatable.”

Bush was the driving force behind the summit with the aid of the George W. Bush Institute, and he hoped it would show how Americans can help the 2.5 million post-9/11 veterans lead normal lives.

He was joined at the event by Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, and retired Marine Gen. Peter Pace, along with executives from Bank of America and 7-Eleven, the Morning News reported.

Bush, however, will find he’s facing a tough battle to get the PTSD name changed because doctors have previously resisted removing the “D.”

Last year, the American Psychiatric Association brought out a new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for the first time in 13 years — and the manual kept the “disorder” in the PTSD psychiatric diagnosis.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

Suicides Among Young Male Vets Jumped 44 Percent From 2009-2011.


New data from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows the number of young male vets committing suicide jumped 44 percent from 2009 to 2011, or roughly two young men a day, reports say.

The suicide rate for all veterans remained mostly unchanged over the same period; the department estimates some 22 veterans a day take their own life, Stars and Stripes reported Thursday.

But while there was a slight decrease in suicides among older vets, the rate among male vets under 30 increased 44 percent — most of them just a few years out of the military.

“Their rates are astronomically high and climbing,” said Jan Kemp, the Veteran’s Affairs’ national mental health director for suicide prevention. “That’s concerning to us.”

Kemp said the pressures of leaving the military life, readjusting to civilian life, and combat injuries like post-traumatic stress disorder all play a role in problems facing the stressed young male vets.

Female vets saw an 11 percent increase in their suicide rate over the same time period, the data shows.

Overall, according to the data, suicides for all veterans are significantly higher than among civilians, Stars and Stripes reported. But the data notes national rates have been about the same or slightly increased in recent years, indicating a larger national health problem.

Kemp said that for vets who are being cared for within the VA system, “treatment does work.”

Of the 22 deaths a day for suicidal vets, only about five are getting care within the health system.

“They’re young. They’ve just gotten out of the service,” Kemp said in USA Today on Friday.

“They’re more concentrated on going home, getting jobs, for the most part. They’re not coming in for mental health care,” she said.

VA epidemiologist Robert Bossarte told USA Today a similar pattern was found among vets in the past.

“Several studies after Vietnam showed increases in suicide and other forms of injury/mortality for about the first five years following a return from service,” Bossarte says. “Those rates [eventually] came down to be about the same as the rest of the population.”

Kemp said suicide rates for male vets overall who are diagnosed and treated for mental health problems by the VA have fallen steadily from 2001, in contrast to suicide patterns among nonvets.

But suicide rates have not improved and remain higher for female vets than for women who are not veterans, the VA data showed.

“If we can get them engaged in [mental health] services, we can make a huge difference, and that’s encouraging,” Kemp said.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Cathy Burke

Outrage Among Veterans Grows over Obama Military Pension Cuts.


Image: Outrage Among Veterans Grows over Obama Military Pension Cuts

The Pentagon‘s top civilian says it’s time to tame burgeoning military personnel costs, but he’s facing a test of wills with the nation’s powerful veterans groups, which want no cut in their benefits.

Veterans groups are fighting curbs in annual pension increases for military retirees under age 62 that are part of the new budget deal passed by Congress last week and awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature. After a barrage of protests from the military community, lawmakers said they’ll review the cut next year and possibly reverse it. But Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday that reform of military compensation can’t be avoided.

Editor’s Note: Obama’s Budget Takes Aim at Retired Americans 
“We all know that we need to slow cost growth in military compensation,” Hagel told a Pentagon press conference. “We know that many proposals will be controversial and unpopular. … Tough decisions will have to be made.”

Retirees want the belt-tightening done elsewhere.

Here’s a look at what members of the U.S. armed forces get now and the debate:

Due to pay and benefit boosts in recent war years, officials and military analysts say compensation is competitive with the civilian sector — and well above it when comparing people with similar education and experience.

For example, an Army private with fewer than two years of service and no dependents earns on average about $40,400 annually, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Defense Department spokesman. About two-thirds of that is base pay and the rest a housing allowance and a food allowance, with no taxes paid on the two allowances. An Army captain with six years of service and no dependents averages $93,800 annually.

Active duty military members also get all of their health care for free. Their spouses and children get free care at military treatment facilities. If dependents use a private doctor, dentist or pharmacy, they get the care through the department’s TRICARE system, paying no premiums and no co-pays, said Austin Camacho, a system spokesman.

The force also gets what the Pentagon calls “quality of life” benefits, like help paying for continuing education, separate schools in some places for their children, commissaries where they buy food at an estimated 30 percent below retail prices and exchanges where they buy other deeply discounted goods like clothing and household items. Greatly discounted day care is available through the department’s child development system, which officials say has grown to serve the largest number of kids daily among the nation’s employers — now that more than half of the 1.4 million-member force is married and they have 1.2 million children.

While serving, some are and some aren’t able to build much of a retirement nest egg on their own. There’s a savings plan, though there are no employer matching funds, and moving every two or three years due to reassignment can affect the service members’ ability to build equity in their homes and the spouse’s ability to build a career that brings in a good second income.

The military retirement system is unfair and costly. Only 17 percent of service members — those who serve 20 years — get pensions, the Pentagon says. Most people don’t stay that long, meaning 83 percent who serve less than two decades get no retirement pay.

But someone who enters the military at age 18 and stays 20 years starts drawing pension checks worth half their base salary immediately at age 38 — rather than having to wait until their 60s — and gets the payments for life. It’s a practice without parallel in the private sector, though some government agencies such as city police departments do it.

Critics say 40 years of pension for 20 years of work is overly generous, but retirees say they deserve it for doing risky jobs that are tough on them and their families and that the overwhelming majority of Americans don’t volunteer for.

A Navy Chief Petty Officer who earned $80,000 a year, is married and served for 20 years can immediately get a pension of about $2,200 monthly that would grow with cost-of-living increases. He or she can get free health care at military facilities on a space-available basis and can continue using commissaries — the latter two benefits being a reason some retirees like to live near military installations, officials say. Those who enroll in TRICARE insurance for private sector care can pick between two plans, paying only $274 annually for an individual or $548 for the family for the standard plan, far below civilian insurance costs.

There are nearly 2 million retirees currently getting military pensions at an annual cost to the Defense Department of $4.5 billion. Of those, 840,000 are under 62 — and more than 80 percent of those were enlisted, as opposed to higher-paid officers.

The retirement system hasn’t been changed materially in more than 100 years and was designed when people didn’t live as long, second careers were rare and military pay was low. Many people now have second careers after retiring, collecting the pension as well as income from their new jobs — and in their 60s are also getting Social Security payments, to which they contributed while in the military.

Editor’s Note: Seniors Scoop Up Unclaimed $20,500 Checks? (See if You qualify) 

BREAKING FAITH?The change provoking outrage among military and veteran groups this week would reduce retirement benefits for working-age retirees. Starting Dec. 1, 2015, cost-of-living adjustments for pensions of people under 62 would be modified to equal inflation minus 1 percent; then at 62, retirees would receive a “catch-up” increase that would restore their pensions to reflect levels as if the cost-of-living adjustment had been the full consumer price index in all previous years.

But they wouldn’t get back what was lost, meaning a reduction of nearly $72,000 in benefits over a lifetime for a sergeant first class who retires at age 42, by one group’s estimate. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said a veteran of identical rank who retired at 38 would still wind up with $1.62 million in retirement pay over a lifetime.

But officials have said repeatedly in recent years that changes in the system would not affect current military members or retirees. Rather, they would be applied to future recruits.

“Keep your promise” was the theme of a lobbying effort by the Military Officers Association of America.

American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said the group was “horrified” that the Senate could pass a bill “so unfair to those Americans who have served honorably in uniform.”

The Veterans of Foreign Wars predicted the change would prompt an exodus of those at midcareer once the U.S. economy rebounds, and that it will hurt efforts to recruit new people into the all-volunteer force.

CHANGE IS COMING, BUT WHAT CHANGE?

By passing the pension cut now, lawmakers jumped the gun on a review panel broadly studying modernization.

The nine-member Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission was mandated in the last budget year to study the full breadth of issues including regular military pay, health care, the promotion system, retirement pay and family support programs. “Everything is on the table,” Christensen said.

In an era of tight budgets, personnel costs now make up nearly half of the Pentagon’s funding, and officials fear continued growth will force disproportionate cuts in other areas, such as training and equipment. Health costs alone have skyrocketed nearly 200 percent since the year 2000 and will balloon further in coming years without changes, officials say.

“Modernization is a certainty,” said James Hosek, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation and expert on defense manpower.

Retirees argue that cutting troop benefits is the last thing that should be done — and some suggest efforts to curb personnel costs should first target what they see as bloated civilian staffs as well as redundant uniformed bureaucracy in which each service branch has its own medical command, cyberassets, intelligence assets and uniforms — just to mention a few complaints.

Ideas already floated for compensation changes include earlier vesting in pensions; giving troops a lump sum on departure rather than long-term pensions; slightly increasing health care premiums; and replacing pensions with a 401(k)-type saving plan, which would be offered, not forced on current members and retirees. Some analysts say modernization will inevitably mean less generous benefits for military members, but others hope that may not be the case if creative efficiencies can be found.

Editor’s Note: Obama’s Budget Takes Aim at Retired Americans 
The challenge for the commission is to reform programs so they’re more affordable and sustainable and yet offer benefits attractive enough to keep drawing people to volunteer for the nation’s armed forces.

The panel is scheduled to make recommendations to Congress and the president in May.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Schumer: Veterans Must Face Budget Cuts, Too.


It’s time for retired veterans to face cuts as the federal government looks for ways to trim expenditures, Sen. Chuck Schumer said Monday.

“Civilian federal employees have been cut, cut, cut. I think there was a feeling, if you’re going to cut them further, which was done, that the military retirees should have about an equal amount. It’s small,” the New York Democrat told MSNBC‘s “Morning Joe.”

In the budget plan brokered by Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, military service personnel under the age of 62 would take a one percent cut to retirement benefits. The move has drawn fire from military and veterans organizations.

Story continues below.

“I think (Rep.) Paul Ryan and (Sen.) Patty Murray looked everywhere they could to try and find compromise. Everybody had to take a little,” Schumer said.

“They’re going to have to pay a tiny, little bit into it, which they never have,” he added.
But Schumer maintained members of Congress should not be forced to take a pay cut. He said they have already sacrificed, since they have not seen a pay raise “in a long time,” and explained most of them are paying more for healthcare insurance.

“We have taken pretty big cuts,” he said.

The bill will pass the Senate, Schumer predicted, and said Democrats would “reluctantly vote for it” because they realize the threat of a government shutdown is a “brutal alternative.”

The expiration of unemployment benefits in the proposed budget has been a sticking point for some Democrats. Schumer said it would be an issue that would be handled later.

“We’ll make a shot at trying to do unemployment insurance separately. And, then, work on it next year,” he said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Wanda Carruthers

Hegseth: Ryan-Murray Deal Balances Budget on Backs of Veterans.


The bipartisan spending deal reached by House and Senate negotiators balances the budget on the backs of veterans, a move that could cost an enlisted service member $83,000 over the course of their retirement, retired Army Capt. Pete Hegseth said Friday.

“Somehow we’re going to balance the books on the backs of military retirees,” Hegseth, CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, said on “Fox & Friends.”

“Because Washington has been so unwilling to reform the way it spends money for so long, they look for easy places. Safety valves. One of those in this deal was retirement,” Hegseth said.

The budget plan passed by the House Thursday night calls for a one percent cut to retirement benefits for service personnel under the age of 62 who served 20 years in the military, Hegseth explained. He said that could total $83,000 in benefits an enlisted service member receives.

Hegseth claimed the move breaks the trust between government and those who join the military to serve the country.

“You know what’s more damning about this, is that we’re breaking the trust. We’ve made an ironclad promise to those who put their lives on the line,” he said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Wanda Carruthers

War Veteran Held by North Korea Reunited With Family in US.


Image: War Veteran Held by North Korea Reunited With Family in US

Merrill Newman, left, walks beside his wife Lee and son Jeffrey after arriving at San Francisco International Airport, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

A tired but smiling 85-year-old U.S. veteran detained in North Korea for several weeks returned home Saturday to applause from supporters, yellow ribbons tied to trees outside his home and the warm embrace of his family.Merrill Newman arrived at the San Francisco airport after turning down a ride aboard Vice President Joe Biden‘s Air Force Two in favor of a direct flight from Beijing.

He emerged into the international terminal smiling, accompanied by his son and holding the hand of his wife amid applause from supporters. He spoke briefly to the assembled media, declining to answer questions about his ordeal.

“I’m delighted to be home,” he said. “It’s been a great homecoming. I’m tired, but ready to be with my family.”

He also thanked the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, North Korea, and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for helping to secure his release. He declined to answer any questions and didn’t discuss his detention.

Newman was detained in late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea, a visit that came six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas during the 1950-53 war.

Last month, Newman read from an awkwardly worded alleged confession that apologized for, among other things, killing North Koreans during the war. Analysts questioned whether the statement was coerced, and former South Korean guerrillas who had worked with Newman and fought behind enemy lines during the war disputed some of the details.

North Korea cited Newman’s age and medical condition in allowing him to leave the country.

Barbara Ingram, a friend and neighbor of Newman’s at the senior citizen complex where they live said residents broke into applause when news of Newman’s release was announced Friday during lunch.

“A great cheer went up,” Ingram said. “We are all so very relieved and grateful.”

Newman’s detention highlighted the extreme sensitivity with which Pyongyang views the war, which ended without a formal peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically in a state of war. The conflict is a regular focus of North Korean propaganda and media, which accuse Pyongyang’s wartime enemies Washington and Seoul of carrying on the fighting by continuing to push for the North’s overthrow.

The televised statement read last month by Newman said he was attempting to meet surviving guerrilla fighters he had trained during the conflict so he could reconnect them with their wartime colleagues living in South Korea and that he had criticized the North during his recent trip.

Members of the former South Korean guerrilla group said in an interview last week with The Associated Press that Newman was their adviser. Some have expressed surprise that Newman would take the risk of visiting North Korea given his association with their group, which is still remembered with keen hatred in the North. Others were amazed that Pyongyang still considered Newman a threat.

“As you can imagine this has been a very difficult ordeal for us as a family, and particularly for him,” Newman’s son Jeff Newman said in a statement read outside his home in Pasadena Friday night, adding that they will say more about this unusual journey after Newman has rested.

Newman’s release comes as Biden’s visit to the region brought him to Seoul. Biden said Saturday that he welcomed the release and said he talked by phone with Newman in Beijing.

___

Associated Press writers Eun-Young Jeong, Hyung-jin Kim, Foster Klug and Josh Lederman in Seoul, Martha Mendoza and Paul Elias in San Francisco, and Didi Tang and Aritz Parra in Beijing contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Detained US Vet in NKorea Oversaw Guerrilla Group.


Image: Detained US Vet in NKorea Oversaw Guerrilla Group

Park Young, center, a former member of the Kuwol partisan unit and his comrades look at a website reporting on Merrill Newman.

SEOUL, South Korea — Six decades before he went to North Korea as a curious tourist, Merrill Newman supervised a group of South Korean guerrillas during the Korean War who were perhaps the most hated and feared fighters in the North, former members of the group say.

Some of those guerrillas, interviewed this week by The Associated Press, remember Newman as a handsome, thin American lieutenant who got them rice, clothes and weapons during the later stages of the 1950-53 war, but largely left the fighting to them.

Editor’s NoteDomestic Pressure Drove Rouhani to Make Deal With WestNorth Korea apparently remembered him, too.

The 85-year-old war veteran has been detained in Pyongyang since being forced off a plane set to leave the country Oct. 26 after a 10-day trip.

He appeared last weekend on North Korean state TV apologizing for alleged wartime crimes in what was widely seen as a coerced statement.

“Why did he go to North Korea?” asked Park Boo Seo, a former member of the Kuwol partisan unit, which is still loathed in Pyongyang and glorified in Seoul for the damage it inflicted on the North during the war. “The North Koreans still gnash their teeth at the Kuwol unit.”

Park and several other former guerrillas said they recognized Newman from his past visits to Seoul in 2003 and 2010 — when they ate raw fish and drank soju, Korean liquor — and from the TV footage, which was also broadcast in South Korea.

Newman has yet to tell his side of the story, aside from the televised statement, and his family hasn’t responded to requests for comment on his wartime activities.

Jeffrey Newman has previously said that his father, an avid traveler and retired finance executive from California, had always wanted to return to the country where he fought during the Korean War.

Newman’s detention is just the most recent point of tension on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has detained another American for more than a year, and there’s still wariness in Seoul and Washington after North Korea’s springtime threats of nuclear war and vows to restart its nuclear fuel production.

According to his televised statement, Newman’s alleged crimes include training guerrillas whose attacks continued even after the war ended, and ordering operations that led to the death of dozens of North Korean soldiers and civilians. He also said in the statement he attempted to meet surviving Kuwol members.

Former guerrillas in Seoul said Newman served as an adviser for Kuwol, one of dozens of such partisan groups established by the U.S.-military during the Korean War.

They have a book about the unit that Newman signed, praising Kuwol and writing that he was “proud to have served with you.” The book includes a photo of Newman that appears to be taken within the last 10-15 years.

But the guerrillas say most of the North’s charges were fabricated or exaggerated.

Newman oversaw guerrilla actions and gave the fighters advice, but he wasn’t involved in day-to-day operations, according to the former rank-and-file members and analysts.

He also gave them rice, clothes, and weapons from the U.S. military when they obtained key intelligence and captured North Korean and Chinese troops. All Kuwol guerrillas came to South Korea shortly after the war’s end and haven’t infiltrated the North since then, they say, so there are no surviving members in North Korea.

“The charges don’t make sense,” said Park, 80.

In the final months of the war, Newman largely stayed on a frontline island, living in a small wooden house, said Park Young, an 81-year-old former guerrilla.

“He ate alone and slept alone and lived alone,” said Park, one of 200 guerrillas stationed on the Island.

When the U.S. Eighth Army retreated from the Yalu River separating North Korea and China in late 1950, some 6,000 to 10,000 Koreans initially declared their willingness to fight for the United States, according to a U.S. Army research study on wartime partisan actions that was declassified in 1990.

The report says the U.S. Army provided training and direction to the partisans, who had some “measurable results.” But ultimately the campaigns “did not represent a significant contribution,” in part because of a lack of training and experience of Korean and U.S. personnel in guerrilla warfare.

The guerrillas aren’t alone in questioning Newman’s trip to North Korea.

“Newman was very naive to discuss his partisan background with the North Koreans,” Bruce Cumings, a history professor specializing in Korea at the University of Chicago, said in an email. “The South Korean partisans were possibly the most hated group of people in the North, except for out-and-out spies and traitors from their own side.”

Some analysts see Newman’s alleged confession as a prelude to his release, possibly allowing the North Koreans to send him home and save face without going through a lengthy legal proceeding.

North Korea has detained at least seven Americans since 2009 and five of them have been either released or deported. Korean-American missionary and tour operator Kenneth Bae has been held for more than year.

Editor’s Note: How China’s Air ID Zone Changes the Geopolitical Map of AsiaThe Korean War is still an extremely sensitive topic in North Korea. It ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically at war.

“It seems absurd from a public relations standpoint to arrest an 85-year-old man who came with goodwill,” Cumings said. “But the North Koreans are still fighting the Korean War and grasp every chance they get to remind Americans that the war has never ended.”

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Geraldo Rivera, South Florida’s WFTL to Host 9/11 Job Fair for Vets.


Award-winning broadcaster Geraldo Rivera is teaming up with local South Florida radio station WFTL to honor the Sept. 11 anniversary in a positive way: finding jobs for military vets, law enforcement and others looking for work.

“A lot of self-worth has to do with what you do for a living,” Rivera tells Newsmax about his hosting of the “Putting America Back to Work” job fair this Wednesday.

“We want to let these men and women know that the experience they have is a valuable experience. Their organizational skills, discipline, chain of command, reliability, honor and character — those are truly valuable assets that have a monetary value,” Rivera said. “They can easily be translated to the private sector.”

Rivera is teaming with talk radio station 850 WFTL that broadcasts in South Florida from Miami to Palm Beach for the free event held at the Sheraton Suites in Plantation, Fla. from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

There, 36 employers will be onsite to visit with aspiring applicants, says WFTL station manager Steve Lapa. The employers will be offering about 5,000 jobs.

Lapa’s station hosted a job fair last year called “Hire a Hero,” while Rivera had hosted his own previous job fairs in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas.

Teaming up to host a joint job fair seemed like the natural thing to do, said Lapa, whose station carries Rivera’s syndicated radio show from 9 a.m. to noon each day.

“Conceptually we were on the same page,” Lapa said of their mutual interests. “These are employers ready to hire.”

Interview rooms will be set up so prospective applicants can have one-on-one time with employers. One area will be for vets, military and former law enforcement. Another is specifically for Florida residents.

WFTL will broadcast for 9 hours at the event, hosting Rivera in his usual spot, followed by the popular “Joyce Kaufman Show.”

“If you want to change careers, or you need a job, you got to be there,” Lapa says. “We’re trying to give 9/11 a different dimension. We really want a show of strength. Our whole philosophy as a local radio station is that jobs are the engine that fuels everything. If you’ve got a good job and you’re working, you can fulfill your dreams.”

Rivera says he has spent considerable time in the battlefield trenches, reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan and getting to know the troops firsthand.

Not only have they warmed his heart with their service, but he sees their determination and skill set, and knows it can be valuable when they return back home to civilian life.

Often, however, many return home traumatized, some with PTSD, making the struggle for meaningful work after a military life that much harder on soldiers and their families.

Rivera says it is important that he and others step up to make sure they are not forgotten.

“One thing in this we want them to know is that we love them,” Rivera says. “We want to reach out and say, ‘You are loved here and you mean something to us.'”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported in June that the unemployment rate declined for all veterans.

Citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate nationally for all vets was 6.3 percent, down from 6.6 percent in May and below the national average then of 7.6 percent. Unemployment rates for post-9/11veterans was slightly higher at 7.2 percent, down from 7.3 percent in June.

Employers participating in the job fair are all quality businesses, Rivera adds. They include representatives from the marine industry, Anheuser-Busch, Walmart, Royal Caribbean International, Newsmax Media and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, among many others, offering full-time and part-time work.

Rivera said he was pleased by the outpouring of support from those companies in appreciating the value veterans bring to the work place.

“To those sponsors, we want to say you are to be congratulated for understanding that these are the cream of the crop, the best of the best,” he said. “These are people who are not only patriotic, but highly competent, trained and honorable.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Andrea Billups

Obama: Progress Made on Disability Claims Backlog.


President Barack Obama assured disabled veterans Saturday that his administration is making progress on reducing a backlog of disability claims and said the number of requests for assistance has fallen by nearly one-fifth since peaking at more than 600,000 just a few months ago.

In an address at the Disabled American Veterans‘ convention in Orlando, Obama also announced a new national plan to guide mental health research, as well as commitments from 250 community colleges and universities to help veterans earn college degrees or get the credentials they need to find jobs.

A top concern for veterans is the backlog of disability claims for compensation for illness and injury caused by military service.

“After years of military service, you shouldn’t have to wait years for the benefits you’ve earned,” Obama said.

The number of claims ballooned after Obama made it easier for Vietnam veterans who were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange to get benefits. Access to benefits also was eased for sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder and Gulf War veterans afflicted with malaria, West Nile virus or other infectious diseases.

The backlog is shrinking due to some aggressive steps taken by the Department of Veterans Affairs, including requiring claims processors in its 56 regional benefits offices to work overtime and moving from a manual to a computerized system to help speed the judgment of claims, administration officials said.

About 780,000 claims are pending. About 496,000 are considered backlogged after the 20 percent reduction Obama highlighted, down from 611,000 at the end of March, said White House press secretary Jay Carney. A claim is considered backlogged if it has been in the system for 125 days, or roughly four months.

Even with that progress, Obama acknowledged the amount of work still needed to eliminate the backup by 2015 as VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has promised.

“Today I can report that we are not where we need to be, but we are making progress,” Obama said. “So after years when the backlog kept growing, finally the backlog is shrinking.”

The president also announced the release of a comprehensive national plan to improve the ability to prevent, diagnose and treat PTSD and traumatic brain injuries and mental health issues earlier and better, and to reduce suicides, according to a briefing paper the White House released Saturday before the president spoke.

Beyond the claims issue, Republican lawmakers have started to hammer the VA on the issue of patient safety.

A congressional hearing in Atlanta this past week focused on poor patient care linked to four deaths. Another hearing is scheduled for next month in Pittsburgh, where five veterans died as a result of a Legionnaire’s disease outbreak in 2011-12.

Several dozen protesters greeted Obama as he arrived at the hotel. Some held signs that said “Kenyan Go Home,” ”Impeach Obama,” and “Obama Lies.”

Obama met privately with DAV members before the speech, the White House said. Afterward, he headed to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., for a family vacation.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: NEWSmax.com

Jon Stewart Blasts Obama’s Handling of Veterans’ Benefits.


President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to end the backlog of disabled veterans waiting for benefits not only hasn’t come to fruition – it’s ballooned, and Jon Stewart isn’t happy about it.

Stewart detailed the problem on Wednesday’s “Daily Show.” The number of veterans waiting more than a year for benefits in 2009 was 11,000. Today it is 245,000 – a 2,000 percent increase.

“That is… criminal,” Stewart said, using a well-known expletive.

Ninety-seven percent of Department of Veterans Affairs claims are on paper,
And the VA and Department of Defense run two separate computer programs that can’t talk to each other.

Surely the problem, Stewart said sarcastically, is the Republicans cutting funding. He had just played a montage of Democratic members of Congress blaming the GOP for stopping every issue Democrats had tried to pass.

Turns out, the VA has actually seen funding increase 40 percent in four years while other departments have been cut.

“Republicans!” Stewart chided. “They made it impossible to even find their medical records under all the money they’ve dumped on the agency!”

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said the VA’s and DOD’s computer programs were like an Xbox and PlayStation; each can play the same games on the same TV, but they can’t communicate with each other.

Stewart called the analogy flawed, since the two gaming systems are competitors, and their intent is to destroy each other. The two government agencies actually should be trying to work together.

“I guess you could spend a billion dollars over four years trying to get one kid’s Xbox games to work with another kid’s PlayStation games, or as the family’s parent – or commander-in-chief – you could just command, ‘We’re gonna just use the Xbox.’”

Normally more favorable to the left than right, Stewart minced no words for the Democratic president. “When you’re not obstructed from doing what you want, you’d better f—-ing bring it.”

Otherwise, he concluded, Republicans “won’t be obstructing government, they’ll be running it again.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Greg Richter

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