Veterans News Blog

Vets Issues

Monthly Archives: November 2008

Something cool that Xerox is doing If you go to this web site, http://www.LetsSayThanks. com you can pick out a thank you card and Xerox will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currentlyserving in Iraq . You can’t pick out who gets it, but it will go to amember of the armed services. How AMAZING it would be if we could get everyone we know to send one!!! This is a great site. Please send a card. It is FREE and it only takes a second.

A motorcade of Russia’s diplomats had a traffic accident in Iraq through the fault of U.S. military, spokesmen of the RF Foreign Ministry told RBC news agency.

Three armored cars of the RF embassy were heading for the international airport when a column of five armored troop carriers of the United States set to overtaking them.

“All of a sudden, the lead armored carrier maneuvered violently, overtook two of three cars of Russia’s motorcade, came abreast of the leading car and hit it to push away from the road. The embassy’s car was heavily damaged, lost control, moved by 180 degree, nearly turning over,” representatives of the RF Foreign Ministry said.

Without any agitation, the U.S. armored carriers proceeded in the previous direction, aiming guns at the diplomats, said representatives of the RF Foreign Ministry.

According to diplomats, Russia emphasizes the intended nature of the accident and demands to probe into it and punish the guilty. The RF embassies in Bagdad and Washington made the respective statements already.

Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, center, announces a tax exemption for Cold War-era veterans, which allows them to get the same tax exemption as veterans who served during wartime. He was joined at the press conference by, left to right, Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove); Legislator Judy Bosworth (D-Great Neck); Legislator Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn); Legislator David Denenberg (D-Merrick); Legislator David Mejias (D-Farmingdale); Presiding Officer Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove); Legislator Denise Ford (R-Long Beach); and Legislator Roger Corbin (D-Westbury).

Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi announced that Cold War-era veterans in Nassau County are eligible for a property tax exemption of up to 15 percent. Veterans who served more than a year in service from Sept. 2, 1945, to Dec. 26, 1991 may apply for the exemption, which allows Cold War veterans to get the same tax exemption as veterans who served during wartime. It applies to the veterans’ un-remarried spouses. Disabled veterans get an additional exemption.

“Although the guns were silent, the threat and potential for national disaster was real. Veterans who served during the Cold War preserved the peace by sacrificing years of their lives to service and being ready to defend us with their lives,” said County Executive Suozzi. “It is important that we get the word out to all veterans that whether they served during a time of war or a time of cold war, Nassau County has extended the Veterans Real Tax Exemption. We are grateful to all of our veterans for putting their lives on the line to protect us.”

Nassau County Legislator David Denenberg (D-Merrick) sponsored the legislation locally. He said, “I believe that we can never thank our veterans enough for their service. Providing tax relief is the least government can do for those who gave so much to their country. This law provides that the men and women who served during the cold war will be treated as serving during war-time for purposes of this veteran’s tax exemption. Having grown up in the late 1960s and 1970s, I remember the anxiety and fears of that war and the battles within that war; in the end it was a 46-year war that the US won because of the valiant service of the men and women of our armed forces.” Legislator Denenberg is vice-chair of the Veterans Committee.

Legislator and Vietnam War veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps Dennis Dunne (R-Levittown) said, “As a veteran myself, I am so thankful to all of the men and women who served this country during the prime of their lives and prepared to die for this nation. Providing this exemption is one way to exhibit the county’s gratitude towards our veterans.”

Legislator Dave Mejias (D-Farmingdale) said, “I have a lot of veterans in my district who took an oath to put their lives on the line for this country. This is the least we can do for them.”

The Cold War exemption of 15 percent adopted by the Legislature applies to county taxes but not school or special district taxes and is limited to 10 years. Veterans with a service-connected disability can increase the value of the exemption by one half of their disability rating.

Each individual County municipality has the option of deciding whether to grant the Cold War exemption to their veterans. The Cold War is defined as Sept. 2, 1945 to Dec. 26, 1991. Veterans who served during the Korean or Vietnam Wars or who received an expeditionary medal for operations in Lebanon, Grenada or Panama during specified times of conflict are eligible for the Alternative Veterans Exemption. No veteran can receive both a Cold War and a war time tax exemption. The Cold War exemption of 15 percent adopted by the Legislature applies to county taxes but not school or special district taxes and is limited to 10 years. Veterans with a service-connected disability can increase the value of the exemption by one half of their disability rating.

Veterans may contact the Veterans Service Agency at 572-8452 or the Nassau County Assessor’s Office at 571-1500 for an application.

Save Ewa Field Update


We have come up with some Sunday, December 7
Ewa Field battlefield Commemoration Posters.
See the attached artwork. You can see more here:

Let us know which one you think best represents
the Commemoration of this long lost and forgotten
December 7 battlesite, still marked with strafing
and cannon fire from attacking Imperial Japanese
Navy aircraft.

We feel it is important to Commemorate the actual
battlefield as it is in very dire danger of being bulldozed.
Already, there has been intentional damage done
to the previously untouched Pool battlesite by
Navy land developers using a tractor. The site was
run over from four directions and the pool area
badly chipped and cracked. The historic December 7
concrete ramp was also badly trashed and broken glass
spread around by these same Navy land developers
doing what they called an “Environmental Survey”.

It has been our hope that the actual December 7
battlesite would be visited for the first time in over
60 years by an official US Marine Corps Honor
Guard, Rifle Salute and Chaplin to honor the Marines
and Civilians killed on or near the battlesite on
Sunday, December 7, 1941.

John Bond
Save Ewa Field

By Julian E. Barnes
November 28, 2008
Reporting from Washington — Senior military leaders took the exceptional step of briefing President Bush this week on a severe and widespread electronic attack on Defense Department computers that may have originated in Russia — an incursion that posed unusual concern among commanders and raised potential implications for national security.

Defense officials would not describe the extent of damage inflicted on military networks. But they said that the attack struck hard at networks within U.S. Central Command, the headquarters that oversees U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and affected computers in combat zones. The attack also penetrated at least one highly protected classified network.

Military computers are regularly beset by outside hackers, computer viruses and worms. But defense officials said the most recent attack involved an intrusive piece of malicious software, or “malware,” apparently designed specifically to target military networks.

“This one was significant; this one got our attention,” said one defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing internal assessments.

Although officials are withholding many details, the attack underscores the increasing danger and potential significance of computer warfare, which defense experts say could one day be used by combatants to undermine even a militarily superior adversary.

Bush was briefed on the threat by Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mullen also briefed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

Military electronics experts have not pinpointed the source or motive of the attack and could not say whether the destructive program was created by an individual hacker or whether the Russian government may have had some involvement. Defense experts may never be able to answer such questions, officials said.

The defense official said the military also had not learned whether the software’s designers may have been specifically targeting computers used by troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, suspicions of Russian involvement come at an especially delicate time because of sagging relations between Washington and Moscow and growing tension over U.S. plans to develop a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. The two governments also have traded charges of regional meddling after U.S. support for democratic elections in former Soviet states and recent Russian overtures in Latin America.

U.S. officials have worried in recent years about the possibility of cyber-attacks from other countries, especially China and Russia, whether sponsored by governments of those countries or launched by individual computer experts.

An electronic attack from Russia shut down government computers in Estonia in 2007. And officials believe that a series of electronic attacks were launched against Georgia at the same time that hostilities erupted between Moscow and Tbilisi last summer. Russia has denied official involvement in the Georgia attacks.

The first indication that the Pentagon was dealing with a computer problem came last week, when officials banned the use of external computer flash drives. At the time, officials did not indicate the extent of the attack or the fact that it may have targeted defense systems or posed national security concerns.

The invasive software, known as agent.btz, has circulated among nongovernmental U.S. computers for months. But only recently has it affected the Pentagon’s networks. It is not clear whether the version responsible for the cyber-intrusion of classified networks is the same as the one affecting other computer systems.

The malware is able to spread to any flash drive plugged into an infected computer. The risk of spreading the malware to other networks prompted the military to ban the drives.

Defense officials acknowledged that the worldwide ban on external drives was a drastic move. Flash drives are used constantly in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many officers keep them loaded with crucial information on lanyards around their necks.

Banning their use made sharing information in the war theaters more difficult and reflected the severity of the intrusion and the threat from agent.btz, a second official said.

Officials would not describe the exact threat from agent.btz, or say whether it could shut down computers or steal information. Some computer experts have reported that agent.btz can allow an attacker to take control of a computer remotely and to take files and other information from it.

In response to the attack, the U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the military’s cyberspace defenses, has raised the security level for its so-called information operations condition, or “INFOCON,” initiating enhanced security measures on military networks.

The growing possibility of future electronic conflicts has touched off debates among U.S. defense experts over how to train and utilize American computer warfare specialists. Some have advocated creating offensive capabilities, allowing the U.S. to develop the ability to intrude into the networks of other countries.

But most top leaders believe the U.S. emphasis in cyberspace should be on improving defenses and gathering intelligence, particularly about potential threats.

On Tuesday, Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, received a specialized briefing about the malware attack. Officers from the Air Force Network Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana outlined their efforts to halt the spread of the malware and to protect military computers from further attack.

Schwartz, praising those efforts, said that the attack and the military’s response were being closely monitored by senior military leaders.

The offending program has been cleansed from a number of military networks. But officials said they did not believe they had removed every bit of infection from all Defense Department computers.

“There are lots of people working hard to remove the threat and put in preventive measures to protect the grid,” said the defense official. “We have taken a number of corrective measures, but I would be overstating it if I said we were through this.”

Barnes is a writer in our Washington bureau.

VA removes leaders of New York regional office

BY MARTIN C. EVANS martin.evans@
November 23, 2008

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has reassigned the director of its New York regional office after finding that employees there misdated hundreds of claims to make it appear they were being processed on time.

Without referring by name to the New York director, Patricia Amberg-Blyskal, VA spokeswoman Alison Aikele said last week that the director and five other top managers were ousted after investigators discovered a pattern of deception in the handling of claims at the regional headquarters at 245 W. Houston St. in Manhattan.

“It was systematically enough of a problem that we removed the leadership,” Aikele said.

The shake-up at the New York regional office, which serves 800,000 vets living in eastern New York State, came as veterans organizations and members of Congress have criticized the federal agency for mishandling, losing or destroying the benefits claims of veterans.

“The reports of date changing and document shredding at the N.Y. regional VA office are unacceptable and insulting to those who served our country,” said Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) in a prepared statement.

A summary of an investigation by the VA obtained by Newsday showed that of 20 claims examined by VA investigators at the New York office during a July visit, 16 had been marked with apparently phony dates to suggest their processing had begun within the required seven days of their arrival.

A wider audit in August showed that 56.4 percent of claims carried incorrect intake dates, according to the summary, which was dated Nov. 10. According to the summary, several employees told VA investigators that their supervisor had instructed them to enter incorrect dates, and that the practice was widely known.

VA investigators also found that the New York office has ignored “significant amounts” of its mail, officials said. An Oct. 6 visit by investigators, for example, turned up 700 pieces of mail that had not been acted upon. Aikele also said investigators recovered at least five documents related to claims that had been improperly placed in shredder bins.

On Friday, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) wrote to Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peak, asking to be apprised of the situation in the New York Regional Office.

Amberg-Blyskal did not reply to a reporter’s requests for an interview.

The summary said “the director and assistant director were initially placed on administrative leave but now have been detailed to other work sites to complete assigned projects.” Four other managers were placed on administrative leave, according to the summary.

Last week, two veterans organizations filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., seeking to force the VA to handle benefits claims more quickly, saying veterans often wait a year before their applications are processed, and as long as four years for appeals.

Joe’s Note: The two Vet organizations that filed the lawsuit last week were the VVA and the Veterans of Modern Warfare.

A must read website about the true story of the real great escape the film was basesd on.

The following research had been provided by Rob Davisprepared and completed: F. Fedorowicztranslated: A. Strukowskaused with permission, Rob Davis 3/30/2002

Allied aircrew shot down during World War II were incarcerated after interrogation in Air Force Prisoner of War camps run by the Luftwaffe, called Stalag Luft, short for Stammlager Luft or Permanent Camps for Airmen. Stalag Luft III was situated in Sagan, 100 miles south-east of Berlin, now called Zagan, in Upper Silesia, Poland.

It was opened in 1942 with the first prisoners arriving in April of that year, and was just one of a network of Air Force only PoW camps. The Germans treated captured Fleet Air Arm aircrew as Air Force and put them all together. There is no obvious reason for the occasional presence of a non-airman in the camps, although one possibility is that the captors would be able to spot “important” non-Air Force uniformed prisoners more readily.
Despite being an officers-only camp, it was not referred to as Oflag (Offizier Lager) like some other officer-only camps. The Luftwaffe seemed to have their own nomenclature


INHERITANCE- Feature Documentary
Cinematographer Harris Done shoots an interview with Monika Hertwig, Amon Goeth’s daughter, at the former site of the Plaszow Concentration Camp.

© 2006 Allentown Productions, Inc.
Photo by Don Holtz

The National WWII Museum is hosting a special premiere of Inheritance on December 1st in New York City. A documentary by director James Moll – whose work has won Emmy Awards © as well as an Academy Award © -Inheritance picks up where the iconic film Schindler’s List left off. In association with the Museum of Jewish Heritage, The National WWII Museum is proud not only to offer a preview of this important new film, but also the chance to meet the two women at the center of this powerful story. Connecting the public to the participants, and thereby creating a chance to experience history, fulfills the educational mission of The National WWII Museum.

December 1st, 2008
The Museum of Jewish Heritage
36 Battery Place – Battery Park City
New York, New York

Tickets are limited. Advance reservations
are strongly recommended.
Please contact Jessica Skelly for reservations
by November 24th, 2008.
1-877-813-3329 Ext. 334
Jessica.Skelly@ nationalww2museu

The National World War II Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today – so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as the country’s official museum of the Second World War, it celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women fought on the battlefront and the Home Front.

A Congressional report just released this week has concluded that one out of four U.S. soldiers who served in the 1991 war against Iraq suffered serious, long-lasting, or even permanent neurotoxic damage from exposure to drugs and chemicals.

That means 175,000 American GI’s out of the 697,000 deployed to the Gulf in 1990-91 were permanently injured in the so-called `bloodless’ war that was hailed as a great military triumph.

Until the 20th century, sickness caused by diseases like typhoid and small pox, filthy conditions, cold, and stress usually killed far more soldiers in wartime than combat operations. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the ratio was often five or eight to one. The advent of antibiotics in the 20th century and proper sanitation ended this heavy toll on soldiers in the field.

The U.S. government strongly denied for the past 17 years that there was any such thing as “Gulf War Illness’ in spite of mounting medical evidence and angry claims by ailing veterans. Now, Washington has finally admitted “Gulf War Illness” is indeed a specific condition that includes memory loss, lack of concentration, severe headaches, fatigue, and pains in different parts of the body, digestive and respiratory problems and skin eruptions.

The government study also concludes that ‘Gulf War Illness’ was primarily caused by an anti-nerve gas medication, pyridostigmine bromide, give to all troops in the Gulf Theater, and use of powerful pesticides and insect-repellents like highly concentrated DEET.

Other long-suspect agents, like anthrax vaccines, and exposure of 100,000 U.S. troops to Iraqi poison gas dumps blown up by the U.S. Army, may also have played a role. The study found no link to another suspected culprit, depleted uranium. That is another scandal waiting to be revealed.

A quarter of a million permanently disabled or semi-disabled American veterans from what was supposed to have been a jolly little war in the Gulf is a horrifying figure, both in terms of human suffering and the costs of veteran’s care. But this shocking report should also make us reflect on the true costs of supposedly ‘low-cost’ foreign military adventures.

President George H.W. Bush ordered an unnecessary war against Saddam’s occupation of Kuwait. The Iraqi leader, hitherto a close U.S. ally in the joint war against Iran, had rashly invaded Kuwait in a rage after being insulted by the Kuwaiti Crown Prince. As a U.S.-led coalition massed against him in Saudi Arabia, Saddam desperately sought a face-saving way out of the trap.

Shortly before the U.S. attack began, Saddam agreed to a French-Russian deal to withdraw his troops. But President Bush was determined to cut Saddam down to size by destroying most of his armed forces. ‘Our’ SOB had become too big for his britches.

So Bush Sr. ignored pleas from Paris and Moscow and launched his devastating attack on the doomed, totally outgunned Iraqi Army. Just enough Iraqi Republican Guard troops were allowed to escape from the Kuwait pocket to ensure that a gelded Saddam stayed in power and Iraq’s pro-Iranian Shias did not take over.

The U.S. lost a paltry 358 dead and 776 wounded. Over 20,000 Iraqis died. Not since British troops had mowed down some 22,000 sword-wielding Dervishes at the Battle of Omdurman in 1898 had a Western army so dramatically shown its lethal technological might over the armed mobs that passed for Third World armies.

But what seemed like a bloodless triumph produced a long chain of unintended consequences. Iraq was placed under Draconian U.S. sanctions that, according to the UN, caused the death of 500,000 civilians, mostly children. The leading cause of death was water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid that spread after Iraq’s water purification stations and sewage treatment facilities were targeted and destroyed by the U.S. bombing. After the war, Washington turned down Iraq’s pleas for chlorine to purify contaminated water.

No one knows how many Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the 2003 invasion ordered by President George W. Bush. Estimates run from 100,000 to one million. But it is likely that some, or even many, of the 160,000 US troops garrisoned in Iraq have contracted other serious illness in that nation’s exceptionally unhealthy environment. Iraq’s swamps, rivers, filthy cities, searing heat and clouds of dust are an ideal breeding ground for insects, rats, and all sorts of gastric, eye, and skin disorders.

Once again, while US casualties in Iraq appear relatively low — around 4,100 dead and 35,000 wounded — the real health costs of garrisoning Iraq will, as in the case of the First Gulf War, not be known for years. Many wounded US troops have suffered grave head wounds from roadside bombs. The splendid victory of the First Gulf War does not look so cheery when the true number of American casualties is computed: 358 dead and 175,776 wounded. Injuries from toxic agents are often worse and more persistent than those from shells and bullets. A 25% casualty rate in any battle is considered extremely high.

These casualties could have been avoided had President George H.W. Bush chosen diplomacy over vaunting his machismo as a war leader. He did the same thing in tiny Panama after pipsqueak dictator Manuel Noriega mocked the U.S. president. An equally swaggering Bush Jr. chose to plunge the U.S. into the growing morass in Afghanistan and a $1 trillion war in Iraq that is one of the great disasters of American history.

So far, we do not even have a grasp on the sicknesses and mental problems that U.S. troops in Afghanistan are encountering. But if the Soviet occupation is any historic guide, the Red Army’s troops suffered widespread physical and mental ailments during their ten-year occupation that many continue to experience to this day. The Afghan occupation also infected Soviet troops with addiction to heroin, a scourge they brought home with them after the war’s end.

These are things president-elect Barack Obama should ponder as he considers expanding what he called a “good war” in Afghanistan.

Mon Nov 17, 2008 5:35pm EST
By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A report released on Monday concluded that Gulf War syndrome is a legitimate illness suffered by more than 175,000 U.S. war veterans who were exposed to chemical toxins in the 1991 Gulf War.

The congressionally mandated report could help veterans who have battled the government for treatment of a wide range of unexplained neurological illnesses, from brain cancer to multiple sclerosis.

The Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses concluded that Gulf War illness is a physical condition distinct from the mental “shell shock” suffered by veterans in other wars. Some earlier studies had concluded it was not a distinct illness.

“Scientific evidence leaves no question that Gulf War illness is a real condition with real causes and serious consequences for affected veterans,” said the committee, which has been looking into the problem since 2002.

The committee, composed of independent scientists and veterans, said Congress should boost funding for research on Gulf War veterans’ health to at least $60 million per year.

“This is a national obligation, made especially urgent by the many years that Gulf War veterans have waited for answers and assistance,” the committee said.

Gulf War illness affects at least one-fourth of the 700,000 U.S. troops who served in the 1991 effort to drive Iraq out of Kuwait, or between 175,000 and 210,000 veterans in all, the report found. Few have seen their symptoms improve over the past 17 years, the report said.

Symptoms include persistent headaches, widespread pain, cognitive difficulties, unexplained fatigue, skin rashes, chronic diarrhea and digestive and respiratory problems.


Many Gulf War veterans suffering these symptoms say they were met with skepticism when seeking treatment.

“Today’s report brings to a close one of the darkest chapters of the 1991 Gulf War, and that is the legacy of Gulf War illness. For those who ever doubted that Gulf War veterans are ill, this report is definitive and exhaustive,” said Anthony Hardie, a Gulf War veteran from Madison, Wisconsin.

Hardie was a 23-year-old sergeant at the time of the conflict. Today he works in Wisconsin’s Veterans Affairs Department and suffers a host of ailments, including respiratory problems, fatigue and chronic widespread pain.

“The truth will prevail,” said Adrian Atizado, assistant legislative director of the Disabled American Veterans, an advocacy group that represents 1.4 million veterans from the various conflicts in which the United States has fought.

“One can argue with merit that the federal government did hold back progress in allowing Gulf War veterans to seek health care and financial benefits,” he said. “We hope now there will be a greater emphasis on finding effective treatments.”

The panel found two possible causes: a drug given to troops to protect against nerve gas, known as pyridostigmine bromide, and pesticides that were used heavily during the war.

The panel said other possible causes could not be ruled out, including extensive exposure to smoke from oil-well fires and low-level exposure to sarin gas when captured Iraqi stocks were destroyed.

The U.S. government has spent roughly $440 million on Gulf War health research since 1994, but spending has declined in recent years and often is not focused on improving veterans’ health, the committee said.

(Additional reporting by Ross Colvin)