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Monthly Archives: June 2009

Two VA Employees Finalists in “Service to America” Awards

Deputy Secretary Gould Congratulates VA Employees

WASHINGTON (June 9, 2009) – Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs W.
Scott Gould congratulated two employees of the Department of Veterans
Affairs (VA) on becoming finalists for the 2009 Service to America
Medals, the top award to federal workers for their contributions to the

“Thank you, Dr. Janet Kemp and Dr. Audrey Nelson, for your tremendous
contributions to the Department and to our country,” Deputy Secretary
Gould said. “Your work has saved Veterans’ lives and promoted the well
being of our employees. The devotion and leadership you have shown
humbles us all, and we look forward to September when the winners are

Dr. Janet Kemp, national director of VA’s suicide prevention program, is
a finalist for the Citizen Services Medal. She established a national
suicide prevention hotline for Veterans — 1-800-273-TALK — which has
resulted in more than 3,000 immediate rescues. “Making the hotline a
reality took a leap of faith by many people,” Dr. Kemp said. “We had
many barriers to overcome, but we are succeeding because of the strong
partners we have across the country.”

Dr. Audrey Nelson, director of the Patient Safety Center in Tampa,
Florida, is a finalist for the Career Achievement Medal. Dr. Nelson
said many nurses have what she calls the “Florence Nightingale syndrome
– they will sacrifice themselves for the patient.” She explored ways to
help nurses and medical practitioners avoid back injuries, which
resulted in a $200 million program across the VA to use mechanical lifts
and transfer devices when moving patients.

“You have a 125-pound female nurse trying to move a 250-pound male
patient using her own body. It’s a dangerous situation – for the nurse
and the patient,” Nelson said.

Sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service, the Service to America
Medals (“Sammies”) pay tribute to America’s dedicated federal workforce,
highlighting those who have made significant contributions to our
country. Awardees are announced each fall at a dinner and awards
ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The 2009 finalists come from more than 20 federal agencies, including
the departments of Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, Housing
and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Treasury and Veteran Affairs;
the Central Intelligence Agency, Government Accountability Office,
Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation,
General Services Administration, Social Security Administration, U.S.
Agency for International Development and NASA

VA Awards $3.7 Million for New Hampshire Veterans Home

VA Awards $3.7 Million for New Hampshire Veterans Home

WASHINGTON (June 8, 2009) – To ensure high-quality health services for
Veterans at the state home in Tilton, N.H., the Department of Veterans
Affairs (VA) is awarding a grant of up to $3.7 million for upgrades
there, including energy enhancements and asbestos abatement.

The estimated cost the project at the State Veterans Home in Tilton is
$5.7 million, with VA's grant covering 65 percent of the total. The New
Hampshire Veterans Home agreed to enter into a contract for the
improvements within 90 days of an agreement with VA.

Last year, VA spent more than $336 million in New Hampshire on behalf of
the state's 131,000 Veterans. VA operates a major medical center in
Manchester and five outpatient clinics. The Department's facilities
provided care last year during 189,000 outpatient visits.

The state-run Veterans home in Tilton supplements these federal
services. For more information about the New Hampshire Veterans Home
and other New Hampshire services for Veterans, visit

Massachusetts Veterans Cemetery to Expand

Massachusetts Veterans Cemetery to Expand

WASHINGTON (June 8, 2009) — To expand burial capacity at the
Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, the Department of Veterans
Affairs (VA) has awarded a Boston firm a design contract to develop
another section of the cemetery.

"The expansion of Massachusetts National Cemetery will ensure the
Veterans of this community continue to be honored for their military
service," Acting Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Steve Muro said.
"A grateful nation provides this beautiful cemetery as a lasting tribute
to their sacrifice and memory."

The contract for $1.4 million was awarded to Cubellis, Inc. The design
documents will be completed in late 2010 or early 2011.

The 25-acre development is the third for the cemetery, which opened in
1980, and will provide another 10 years of burial spaces. It will
include approximately 8,500 pre-placed crypts for casket burials, 1,000
in-ground cremation burial sites and 3,800 columbaria niches, also for
cremation remains.

The project also will include a new administration building; a public
information center with an electronic gravesite locator and public
restrooms; a new maintenance building; renovation of existing
maintenance structures; systems for water distribution, irrigation and
utilities; and roads, signage and landscaping.

In the midst of the largest cemetery expansion since the Civil War, VA
operates 128 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 33
soldiers' lots and monument sites. More than three million Americans,
including Veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA's
national cemeteries.

Veterans with a discharge other than dishonorable, their spouses and
eligible dependent children can be buried in a national cemetery. Other
burial benefits available for all eligible Veterans, whether buried in a
national cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a
Presidential Memorial Certificate and a government headstone or marker.

Information on VA burial benefits can be obtained from national cemetery
offices, from the Internet at

Cold War Spy Ring at State Dept. Busted Up After 35 Years

Ex-U.S. State official, wife face Cuba spy charges

Fri, Jun 05 19:45 PM EDT By Andy Sullivan


(Reuters) – A former U.S. State Department official and his wife have
been arrested for spying for the Cuban government for nearly 30 years,
the Justice Department said on Friday. Walter Kendall Myers, 72, aided
by his wife Gwendolyn Myers, 71, used his Top Secret security
clearance to pass on classified information to the Cuban government
and at one point met with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, according to
court documents.

The two were charged with conspiracy to act as illegal agents of the
Cuban government and to communicate classified information to Cuba,
the Justice Department said. They were also charged with wire fraud
and acting as illegal agents. They face up to 35 years in prison. The
two pleaded not guilty and will be held until a detention hearing on
Wednesday, a Justice Department official said. A lawyer representing
the couple declined to comment. The arrests come as the United States
and Cuba have offered glimmers of hope that they might be ready to end
years of hostility. In mid-April, President Barack Obama pledged a
"new beginning" with Cuba after modestly easing the 47-year-old U.S.
trade embargo against Havana. The Cuban government had no immediate

According to court documents, the two were recruited in 1979 by a
Cuban official who directed Kendall Myers to pursue a job at either
the State Department or the CIA. Myers worked part-time at the State
Department since 1977 and joined full-time in 1985, eventually working
his way up to a position of senior analyst specializing in
intelligence analysis on European matters. With a Top Secret/SCI
security clearance, he had daily access to classified information and
viewed more than 200 intelligence reports about Cuba, according to the
affidavit. He retired in 2007. Gwendolyn Myers worked at a bank. The
two received messages from the Cuban government via shortwave radio
and hand-passed messages, and typically passed their responses to
handlers by hand. Gwendolyn Myers said her favorite way to pass
information was by swapping carts at a grocery story, according to the
affidavit filed by an FBI agent.

A Justice Department official said they were motivated by a desire to
help the Cuban government, not money. They traveled occasionally to
Cuba and other locations across Latin America to meet with their
handlers, and met Castro in 1995. Kendall Myers told an undercover FBI
source posing as a Cuban intelligence officer he had received "lots of
medals" from the Cuban government. The undercover operation began in
April. In meetings with the FBI source, who at one point offered
Kendall Myers a cigar, the couple allegedly agreed to provide
information on the April 17-19, 2009 Summit of the Americas in
Trinidad and Tobago, according to court documents. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton has ordered a damage assessment and a review of the
department's security procedures, the State Department said.

(Additional reporting by James Vicini and Arshad Mohammed in
Washington and Tom Brown in Havana)

Something to Remember

"Be careful when you fight the monsters,lest you become one"

Friedrich Neitzsche

Ex-servicemen who took part in nuclear tests in the 1950s have won the right to sue the government for compensation.


More than 1,000 men say they and their families have suffered ill-health following the nuclear tests conducted in the South Pacific.

The ruling by the High Court means the government could face its largest class action yet, for millions of pounds.

The servicemen’s solicitor, Neil Sampson, urged the government to settle the case out of court.

The Ministry of Defence argued that the claims were made too late.

The men want compensation for illnesses, including cancer, skin defects and fertility problems which they claim are the result of exposure to radiation during nuclear bomb testing.

The MoD says it compensates when liability is proven, but argued the claims have come too long after events.

It’s a good judgement. I’m giving a thought for those poor souls who didn’t make it to here

Alan Ilett, veteran

Atomic tests ruling is ‘too late’
In his judgment, Mr Justice Foskett rejected a submission by the MoD, which denies negligence, that all the cases were “doomed to fail” on the issue of causation.

He refused to strike the cases out and said the nature of the injury or disability in question was an issue of fact that only the judge who heard the full trial could determine after having heard all the evidence.

Dead or untraceable

He said: “All things being equal, a veteran who believes that he has an illness, injury or disability attributable to his presence at the tests whose case is supported by apparently reputable scientific and medical evidence, should be entitled to his ‘day in court”‘.

The judge acknowledged that it would not now be possible for the MoD to call as witnesses many of those responsible for the planning and execution of the tests.

The MoD’s counsel, Charles Gibson QC, said that over 90% of the 114 essential witnesses were dead or untraceable.

Speaking after the judgment, veteran Alan Ilett, 73, from Chelmsford, said: “It’s a good judgement. I’m giving a thought for those poor souls who didn’t make it to here.”

Mr Sampson, senior partner at Rosenblatt Solicitors which acted for the servicemen, said it was a “wonderful day for everybody”, and added that “since the MoD started the action 59 of the clients have died”.

He said: “We still have a further period of perhaps three years before the case can finally be brought to court for trial and sadly, in that time, many of the veterans we are fighting for will have passed away.

“We hope that the Ministry of Defence will recognise this and agree to settle the claims of the veterans out of court, rewarding them with the compensation they rightly deserve.”

Science advances

During the hearing in January, Benjamin Browne QC, representing the ex-servicemen, said science had made a link between health and their role in the tests.

He said the UK government’s attitude contrasted with those of many countries around the world who had set up schemes to compensate veterans as they fell ill.

Nuclear testing was carried out on Christmas Island in the South Pacific
The US has awarded compensation under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to veterans, including at least one Briton, involved in nuclear testing in the 1960s.

In France, a government-backed bill that is expected to pass later this year would provide compensation to those who contracted illnesses attributed to the country’s nuclear tests in the Sahara and French Polynesia between 1960 and 1996.

At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, Britain carried out a series of nuclear weapons tests in mainland Australia, the Montebello islands off the west Australian coast and on Christmas Island in the South Pacific.

Veterans who served in the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, as well as personnel from New Zealand and Fiji, were involved in the tests.

‘Brilliant light’

In January, veteran Dougie Hern, 72, told the BBC what happened.

“We saw a bright, brilliant light,” he recalled. “It was as if someone had switched a firebar on in your head. It grew brighter and you could see the bones in your hands, like pink X-rays, in front of your closed eyes.”

Mr Hern, now 72, believes radiation exposure on that day and four others accounts for his diabetes, the spurs growing on his sternum and the death of his 13-year-old daughter from cancer.

When the hearing opened, an MoD spokesman said it recognised the “vital contribution” the men played.

“When compensation claims are received they are considered on the basis of whether or not the Ministry of Defence has a legal liability to pay compensation. Where there is a proven legal liability, compensation is paid,” a spokesman said.

VA Awards $5.2 Million for Minnesota Veterans Homes

VA Awards $5.2 Million for Minnesota Veterans Homes

WASHINGTON (June 4, 2009) – To support high-quality health care for
Minnesota Veterans at the state's Veterans homes, the Department of
Veterans Affairs (VA) is awarding two grants totaling $5.2 million for
improvements at the state-run facilities in Minneapolis and Silver Bay.

The grants will pay up to 65 percent of the cost for improvements at the
two facilities. Construction at both sites is scheduled to be completed
within 180 days.

In Silver Bay, VA is providing $3.9 million for a $6 million project.
In Minneapolis, the grant will cover $1.3 million of a $2 million

Last year, VA spent about $1.5 billion in Minnesota on behalf of the
state's 400,000 Veterans. VA operates major medical centers in
Minneapolis and St. Cloud, eight outpatient clinics, Vet Centers in
Duluth and St. Paul, and the Ft. Snelling National Cemetery in

More information about the Minnesota state Veterans homes and related
Minnesota services for Veterans are available on the Internet at

WWII Veterans Compete in National Veterans Golden Age Games
Annual Games Mark 23 Years of Sports Competition

WASHINGTON (June 3, 2009) – Forty World War II Veterans are reuniting atthe world’s largest sports and recreational competition for seniorVeterans June 1-5 in Birmingham, Alabama, at the 23rd National VeteransGolden Age Games. The Games are open to all U.S. military Veterans age55 or older who receive care at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)medical facility. More that 700 Veterans have registered to compete.

“The Golden Age Games continue to grow every year, and the athletes whoparticipate are testimony that the spirit of competition, camaraderieand commitment to an actively invigorating lifestyle,” Marilyn Iverson,director of the Veterans Canteen Service, said. “This spirit not onlyhelps to prevent illness, it strengthens the hearts and rejuvenates thesoul.”

The Games give participants the opportunity to compete in ambulatory,visually-impaired and wheelchair divisions, according to their ages.Events include swimming, bicycling, bowling, croquet, air rifle, golf,shuffleboard, horseshoes, discus and shot-put.

The Golden Age Games are co-sponsored by VA, Help Hospitalized Veterans(HHV) and Veterans Canteen Service (VCS). This year’s event is hostedby the VA medical center in Birmingham.

The Games are designed to improve the quality of life for all olderVeterans, including those with a wide range of abilities anddisabilities. Through a partnership with the National Senior GamesAssociation, a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the Games serve asa qualifier for the National Senior Games, held every other year.

“HHV is extremely pleased to continue its support of this wonderfultherapeutic program,” Mike Lynch, executive director of HHV, said. “TheGames continue to demonstrate VA’s commitment to offer programs thathelp Veteran patients in their health recovery and to send the messagethat Americans support their service to our country.”

The majority of the competitive events for the Golden Age Games,including opening and closing ceremonies, will be held at the BirminghamJefferson Convention Center. The opening ceremony took place at 7 p.m.on Monday, June 1. The competition began with golf on Tuesday, June 2,at 8 a.m., at Highland Golf Course. Closing ceremonies will be held at7 p.m. on Friday, June 5, at the convention center.

For more information about the Golden Age Games, log onto the Games Website at

LifeLock Teams Up with VFW to Help Protect Veterans’ Good Names

LifeLock Teams Up with VFW to Help Protect Veterans' Good Names

TEMPE, AZ – (June 2, 2009) For more than a century, the men and
women of Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) have
given selflessly to defend those throughout the world who could not
fight for themselves. True heroes, these veterans have earned their
good names through great sacrifice, but their honorable deeds are of
no consequence to identity thieves ready to tarnish their credit
histories, perpetrate fraud and leave behind mountains of debt.
LifeLock is honored to partner with the VFW to help foreign war
veterans protect themselves from another battle, the fight against
identity theft. Many veterans are vulnerable to having personal
information stolen as their social security number is their unique
identifier to all military installations. The use of personally
identifiable information of military men and women is more accessible
as the information is listed on all documents as well as on individual
dog tags. This new partnership offers VFW's more than 2.2 million
members a discount on LifeLock services, which work proactively to
help protect members from identity theft. LifeLock joins VFW's
extensive list of benefits that aim to give support to veterans and
their families. "These veterans have fought hard to protect us, and
now LifeLock can show our gratitude to help protect them from identity
theft," said LifeLock CEO Todd Davis. "As identity thieves are
attacking consumers in various ways, we are honored to partner with
the VFW to help them protect the good names of our service men and
women." The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is a nonprofit
veterans' service organization composed of combat veterans and those
who currently serve on active duty or in the Guard and Reserves.

Founded in 1899 and chartered by Congress in 1936, the VFW is the
nation's largest organization of war veterans and is one of its oldest
veterans' organizations. With 2.2 million members located in 7,800 VFW
Posts worldwide, the VFW and its Auxiliaries are dedicated to "honor
the dead by helping the living" through veterans service, legislative
initiatives, youth scholarships, Buddy Poppy and national military
service programs.  Annually, the VFW and its Auxiliaries contribute
more than 13 million hours of community service to the nation.  For
more information or to join, visit the organization's Web site at Identity theft is costing Americans more than $1.8
billion annually, according to the Federal Trade Commission, and the
latest FTC report on identity theft shows the number of identity theft
complaints has grown by 21 percent from 2007 to 2008.

We are pleased with the opportunity to team with LifeLock in providing
identity theft protection to VFW members," said VFW Adjutant General
Allen "Gunner" Kent. " Thousands of veterans are at risk, including
older veterans who may not fully understand the ramifications of
identity theft and fraud, and with the families of our troops,
especially those with loved ones deployed in harm's way."About
LifeLock®LifeLock is a proactive identity theft protection service
providing consumers with confidence and control as an answer for their
good faith suspicion of becoming the next victim.

LifeLock ( leads the charge against the crime by
educating consumers, working with law enforcement, and developing
leading services/products, and doing what it should for members.