Veterans News Blog

Vets Issues

Monthly Archives: December 2010

No COLA Again for Vets

Update on Cost-of-Living Adjustment for Veterans Compensation and
Pension Benefits in 2011
COLA Tied to Social Security and Consumer Price Index

WASHINGTON (Dec. 30, 2010) – The Social Security Administration has
announced that no cost-of-living adjustments will be made to Social
Security benefits in 2011 because the consumer price index has not risen
since 2008 when the last Social Security increase occurred.

Like recipients of Social Security and other federal benefits, Veterans,
their families and survivors will also not see a cost-of-living
adjustment in 2011 to their compensation and pension benefits from the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Under federal law, the cost-of-living adjustments to VA's compensation
and pension rates are the same percentage as for Social Security
benefits.

VA provides compensation and pension benefits to about four million
Veterans and beneficiaries.  For more information about VA benefits, go
to www.va.gov <http://www.va.gov/>  or call 1-800-827-1000.

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Message from IAVA

Dear Sean,

One day, I was driving on IED Alley in Fallujah. The next, I was back on the 405 in LA.


After Iraq, transitioning to civilian life was hard. I tried to do it all on my own, but I couldn’t – I needed the support of my friends, family and fellow IAVA Member Vets. During that tough time, IAVA had my back. And now, I’ve got theirs.



Check out a quick video about what being an IAVA Member Veteran has meant to me and my family. Then, consider contributing to help other new vets like me make the transition home.

Your tax-deductible contribution will help IAVA continue to bring crucial resources and community to new vets across the country – all at no cost to them.




Want to go a step further? Consider enlisting with IAVA for a year of support. No matter how you choose to give, you’re making a huge impact on the life of an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran.


Thank you for stepping up. Your support will change the lives of millions of new vets – just as it has mine.




Semper Fi,


Sherman

Sherman Watson, Jr.
Triple Purple Heart Recipient
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)

DAV Year End Message

Dear DAV supporter,

Combat grips Afghanistan! The number of disabled veterans grows daily. Their needs are immense.

Sharing Hope for
the New Year!

Karen Wilkins continues the fight for others since her husband's death.


Major Kevin Wilkins went to Iraq to save lives, but as a result of burn pit exposure in the war zone, Kevin died of a brain tumor at the age of 51.

Share Karen's tenacious hope to set things right as you make a year-end gift of $25, $50, even $100 now!

Support DAV today!

Yet, as the year comes to a close, I can thank you for the triumphs you make possible as you support our Disabled American Veterans.

—  You joined our heroes in victory as the DAV won crucial improvements in health care for those who sacrificed their blood and health for your freedom.

—  Through the DAV, friend, you stood firm to win justice for the families of the most severely wounded.

But as we take pride in a year of hard work, you and I must continue the fight for disabled vets through the DAV.

—  Every day, war in Afghanistan is sending heroes home with devastating injuries.

—  600,000 veterans of today's wars have sought VA medical care, joining prior generations of disabled veterans. Half face mental health issues as a result of war. 

—  Meanwhile, the government still needs to address the hideous, sometimes fatal issues of burn pits.

—  As suicides soar, war continues to claim lives at home.

You and I face so much work in 2011! The need is urgent! Now is the moment to make a tax-deductible gift of $25 … $50 … $100 … or more for our disabled veterans!

Facing the Pressing Need!
DAV-AWilson (SIGNATURE)
Arthur H. Wilson, National Adjutant

Official NORAD Santa Tracker

VA Urges Veterans to Sign Up for Direct Deposits

Treasury Publishes Final Regulation to Phase Out Paper Checks by 2013

WASHINGTON (Dec. 21, 2010)- The Department of the Treasury announced a
new rule that will extend the safety and convenience of electronic
payments to millions of Americans and phase out paper checks for federal
benefits by March 1, 2013.  Officials at the Department of Veterans
Affairs (VA) urge Veterans to sign up for electronic payment of their
benefits.

"Receiving VA benefits electronically will increase the security,
convenience and reliability of these vital payments," said Secretary of
Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "VA encourages Veterans who are now
receiving their benefits in paper checks to set up direct deposits
before the deadline."

On March 1, 2013, VA will stop issuing paper checks.  People who do not
have electronic payments for their federal benefits by that time will
receive their funds via a pre-paid debit card.  Called the Direct
Express card, it is issued by Comerica Bank as the financial agent of
the U.S. Treasury.

Another deadline affects people receiving VA's compensation or pensions
for the first time after May 1, 2011.  Those people will automatically
receive the benefits electronically.

Anyone already receiving federal benefit payments electronically will be
unaffected by the changes.  To learn more about the federal government's
switch to direct deposit – or to change VA benefits to direct deposit —
visit www.GoDirect.org.  Information about the federal government's "Go
Direct" campaign is also available at 1-800-333-1795.

Along with payments for VA benefit, the change will also affect
recipients of payments from Social Security, Supplemental Security
Income, Railroad Retirement Board,or Office of Personnel Management.

VA’s Homeless Intervention Program Nears Roll Out

Provider Groups Sought for Applications, Training

WASHINGTON (Dec. 16, 2010) – A homeless-prevention program by the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which seeks to help Veterans and
families who are on the verge of becoming homeless, has moved closer to
implementation.  The program marks the first time that VA will fund
services for the spouses and children of Veterans at risk of becoming
homeless.

"The problems that lead to homelessness begin long before Veterans and
their families are on the streets," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Eric K. Shinseki. "By putting more resources into intervention programs
for people at risk of becoming homeless, we can reduce suffering and
increase the opportunities for turning around these lives."

Shinseki's comments came as VA formally announced that it is taking
applications from private non-profit organizations and consumer
cooperatives interested in providing needed services to at-risk Veterans
and their families.

With funding from VA for the program, called Supportive Services for
Veterans Families, community organizations will be better able to
provide counseling, training, education assistance, direct time-limited
financial assistance, transportation, child care, rent, utilities, and
other services to participating Veterans and family members.

In January, VA is sponsoring free grant-writing workshops for community
organizations interested in applying for funds under this program.  The
workshops will be held in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston and New
York City.

When the "Notice of Funds Availability" applications are available, they
will be posted on the VA Web site at www1.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp.

Details about the workshops and other information about the program are
available on the Internet at www1.va.gov/homeless.

Military Members and Veterans with Disabilities

Learn Life-Changing Skills

VA to Offer Educational Breakouts

WASHINGTON – This week more than 120 wounded military personnel,
disabled Veterans and their families are traveling to Walt Disney World
in Orlando for the 6th Annual Road to Recovery Conference.  The
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is providing on-site counseling and
information about VA programs.

"VA is honored to work with our partners in the private sector and
Veterans service organizations to help America's heroes and their
families, particularly Veterans who are facing unique challenges," said
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

The week-long event is presented by The Coalition to Salute America's
Heroes and the American Legion.

VA will have counselors on site to provide one-on-one counseling.  Other
VA employees will be available to provide participants with information
about health care and financial benefits available to injured military
personnel, Veterans and family members.

Participants will attend more than 40 hours of seminars, workshops, and
panel discussion devoted to enhancing personal relationships and
providing information on benefits, services, insurance, health care,
financial support and employment opportunities.  Experts from
government, the private sector and other non-profits groups will also be
on hand to offer advice and guidance on resume rewriting, career
counseling and many more topics.

Representatives from the U.S. Olympic Committee's paralympic program
will be on site to discuss the new joint VA-Paralympic program for
disabled service men and women who may be interested in representing
their country as a U.S. Paralympian.

For more information about the Road to Recovery Conference, visit
www.saluteheroes.org <http://www.saluteheroes.org/> , or contact Jose
Llamas, VA public affairs coordinator, at (202) 461-7549.

Mullen: Region Will Feel Loss of Holbrooke

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Dec. 14, 2010 – The death of Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke will be felt in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Pakistani media here today.

Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, died last night.

Mullen called Holbrooke an American patriot who dedicated more than 50 years of his life to the United States. The ambassador's service started during the Vietnam War and continued through Bosnia, where he negotiated the Dayton Accords that ended the conflict there. Holbrook served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and took on his final assignment at President Barack Obama's request in 2009.

That was when Mullen met him, the chairman said today, adding that they quickly became friends and colleagues.

"I certainly knew of him because of his rich history, … and I certainly knew of him starting with his passion and his dedication, and also his style," the admiral said. "He had a view and he had an approach that I think caused a comprehensive look at how some of the most difficult issues of our time were approached.

"Those of us who knew him will miss that," he added.

The chairman said Holbrooke recognized the critical nature of the mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan and had put together a group of people dedicated, as he was, to the success of the mission.

"I am completely confident that they will carry on," Mullen said. "They will carry on in his spirit, and I know them all well enough to know they will all carry on very specifically as he would want them to do."
 

Biographies:
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen
Related Sites:
Chairman's Official Statement on Holbrooke's Death
Special Report: Travels With Mullen

Operation Toy Drop Proves ‘Santa is a Paratrooper’

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2010 – Pouring rain didn't dampen the holiday spirit as thousands of paratroopers descended over Fort Bragg, N.C., this weekend, kicking off the world's largest combined airborne operation while ensuring Santa doesn't overlook a single needy child.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Paratroopers line up in the early morning of Dec. 10, 2010, to donate a toy for a local child in need while hoping to earn foreign jump wings during Operation Toy Drop on Fort Bragg, N.C. Through the 13th annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop, Army and Air Force servicemembers are donating thousands of toys to brighten the holidays for children and families in need. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharilyn Wells

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The Army's Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command launched the Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop on Dec. 11.

The first 1,300 active-duty, Army Reserve and Army National Guard soldiers jumped from over Fort Bragg's soggy Sicily Drop Zone before heavy clouds moved in, scrubbing the mission for the day. All 4,000 participating paratroopers will get their opportunity to jump – and to earn foreign jump wings – as the operation continues this week.

The toy drop, now in its 13th year, provides valuable joint and combined training, while enabling the military to give back to the local community, said Army Maj. Gen. David M. Blackledge, commander of U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command and host of the event.

The operation involves soldiers from the 18th Airborne Corps, the 82nd Airborne Division and Special Operations Command. Flying them more than a dozen active- and reserve-component C-130 and C-17 aircraft and crews from Pope Air Force Base, N.C.'s 43rd and 440th Airlift Wings, the 437th Airlift Wing from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., the 815th Airlift Squadron from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., the 145th Air Wing from Charlotte, N.C., and the 118th Airlift Wing from Nashville, Tenn.

In addition, 26 jumpmasters are participating from nine nations: Botswana, Canada, Chile, Germany, Estonia, Thailand, Poland, Latvia, Ireland. Israel had planned to send jumpmasters, too, but had to cancel due to big fires in northern Israel.

The jumpmasters issue airborne commands in their native language, with a U.S. safety official providing the English translation that sends the paratroopers out the aircraft door, Blackledge explained. Once on the ground, the paratroopers get awarded the allied country's jump wings.

"This gives everybody the opportunity, not just to get the proficiency training they need as paratroopers and air crews, but also interoperability training with our allies," he said. "It provides all of us the opportunity to see how our allies conduct the same kind of operations that we do, and learn from each other."

Meanwhile the complexity of the mission provides valuable preparation for real-world missions.

"There's a tremendous amount of coordination to get all these different units, all these different planes and all these different paratroopers coming together at the same time to execute an operation," Blackledge said. "That's what we do in real-world situations, so this gives us the opportunity to train just as we operate."

But the biggest bonus of the mission, he said, is the chance to brighten the holidays for needy children who might otherwise not receive a Christmas toy.

"That's what brings this all together and makes this happen: bringing paratroopers, airmen and our allies together over the holiday period for a great event that supports a great cause," he said.

Then-Staff Sgt. Randy Oler, a Special Forces soldier and Ranger assigned to U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, spearheaded the first Operation Toy Drop in 1998. It grew each year until 2004, when Oler died of a heart attack at age 43 while performing jumpmaster duties aboard a C-130 aircraft.

Oler's spirit lives on through what's now known as the Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop. This year, it collected more than 6,000 toys, the most ever, to be distributed within the community.

Since its inception, the annual toy drop has collected and distributed more than 40,000 toys in North Carolina and Tennessee, Oler's home state. Participating paratroopers donate most of the toys.

Every airborne unit at Fort Bragg gets allocated slots for the jump, but not enough for every soldier to participate, Blackledge explained. So to vie for one of several hundred parachutes distributed through a raffle, each paratrooper donates a new, unwrapped toy.

At 6 a.m. on Dec. 10, the day of the raffle, Blackledge was amazed to see 1,600 soldiers lined up in 21-degree temperatures, all holding toys with hopes they'd get to participate.

The outpouring was amazing, he said: bikes, dolls, electronic games, even highly coveted X-Box units. One unit arrived with a whole truckload of toys, far surpassing its number of paratroopers.

"American soldiers are some of the most compassionate people in the world, and it sure shows in the toys that are coming in," Blackledge said. "It's really neat to be here and see the generosity and outpouring of love."

Army Pfc. Efren Cassiana, assigned to the 319th Field Artillery Regiment's Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, said he was "pretty amazed" that he was among the soldiers who won the right to jump through the raffle.

The Operation Toy Drop jump was Cassiana's first since graduating from Airborne School on Nov. 5. He admitted he "had nerves" as his aircraft approached the drop zone, knowing that with the weather conditions, the jump would be challenging. "But once those doors opened, I felt pretty good waiting for that green light," he said.

Cassiana said he also felt great earning Chilean jump wings, and knowing that the Lego block set he'd donated would make a difference for a young child.

"Some of them don't get a lot of stuff, so what we are doing is going to mean a lot," he said. "It's a great feeling, knowing that what we are doing is helping someone out."

Army Spc. Christopher Hubbard, another 82nd Airborne soldier, called the opportunity to earn foreign jump wings a big motivator in signing up for the raffle that earned him a jump slot on the initial manifest.

Proudly bearing his new Polish jump wings, he said Operation Toy Drop "was definitely a rewarding experience, not just for me, but for all the soldiers out here."

Hubbard said he's also happy knowing the Transformer toy he donated will make a difference in a little boy's holiday.

"This is a way to give back and do a good thing for the community, especially for kids that might go otherwise not get anything for Christmas," he said. "I think all these gifts, even if they're just little things, will make these kids smile that much more."

Blackledge called Operation Toy Drop a great way to give back to the community that has stood behind its local units as they conduct some of the highest operational tempos in the military. "This is our way to show thanks to the community by giving back to the kids," he said. "It's a neat way of saying we are proud to be members of this community."

This year, for the first time, some of the young recipients got a chance to watch the airborne operations and receive their toys from volunteers dressed up as Santa and his elves.

"Even though it was cold and rainy, the kids were having a blast watching the paratroopers come down and then talking to them," Blackledge said. "The children at Fort Bragg know Santa Claus is a paratrooper."
 

Biographies:
Army Maj. Gen. David M. Blackledge
Related Sites:
U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command
Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop

I usually post something for Pearl Harbor Day a little late this year

Late Ewa Field Update
 
Aloha Mayor Carlisle,
"Lest We Forget" – Fort Barrette and MCAS Ewa Field Annual Pearl Harbor Day
Commemoration Events, Sunday December 5, 2010
 
Attached Photos by Jerry Stanfield
Video by Tom Berg
 
 
Approximately 250 people attended the third annual Fort Barrette and MCAS
Ewa Field Commemoration events, featuring veteran speakers, military vehicle
convoy, US Air Force, US Marine ceremonial teams, and US Coast Guard HH-65A
Dolphin helicopter fly-by.
 
It was a beautiful sunny morning as veterans and local residents gathered
first at Fort Barrette, Kapolei ( known today as the Kapolei Archery Range )
where four US Army coast Artillery soldiers stationed nearby, and were
killed by attacking Japanese Zero fighters and Val dive bombers. Hawaii
Veteran Services director and Master or Ceremonies Mark Moses read the names
of the KIA, after which the seven member Hickam US Air Force ceremonial
rifle team fired M-14 rifles in salute, followed by taps from the US PACAF
band bugler.
 
The entire attending group then convoyed from Fort Barrette lead by WW-II
military vehicles, including jeeps, trucks and M20 Armored Car. Following
them were cars and vans loaded with veterans, military cadets and Pearl
Harbor vets and their families. The MCAS Ewa commemoration site is located
where the actual battle took place and the event parking area is where the
original 1941 hanger once stood. The Ewa marine air base aircraft ramp,
hanger and fortified aircraft revetments were also a featured location in
the 1970 movie "Tora, Tora, Tora."
 
Beginning around 10:30 AM, the MCAS Ewa Field Commemoration event began with
a "Pearl Harbor has been bombed" radio news flash and the playing of
President Roosevelt's famous "Day of Infamy"
Speech. Then the presentation of colors by US Marines from the 3rd Radio
Battalion, Marine Corps Base Hawaii-Kaneohe.
 
Master of Ceremonies and Ewa Beach resident Tito Montes introduced the
attending veterans and guests which included the Fleet Reserve Association,
Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National Park Service.
The large pavilion tent and chairs were provided by the Ewa Beach Lions Club
and the National Guard Hawaii Youth Challenge Academy cadets provided
parking direction.
 
Speakers included Ray Emory, well known Pearl Harbor historian and survivor
of the USS Honolulu, who has dedicated his life to identifying those killed
which still are listed as unknowns. Also speaking was Ewa Field combat
veteran John Hughes, Major, USMC, Ret. who told the assembled audience what
it was like out there at the Marine Air Group 21 fighter base on December 7,
1941. LCDR David Stroud, US Navy Chaplain Corps provided the morning
benediction service.
 
Other speakers included John Willoughby, a retired Navy P-3 Orion pilot and
American Legion member, and LCDR Edward Ahlstrand US Coast Guard Barbers
Point historian who recounted Ewa Field history and the US Coast Guard
December 7th actions. Joedy Adams of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor
Survivors stated their groups intention to keep alive the "Lest We Forget"
mission and also made a plea for the historic preservation of the MCAS Ewa
attack site.
 
The names of four US Marines and two Ewa Village civilians killed on
December 7, 1941 were read, as well as the names of eight US Navy air
crewmen from the USS Enterprise who were shot down by Japanese Zeros near by
Ewa Field. These Navy planes and subsequent shot down Japanese planes, all
crashed in in nearby areas or offshore in and around the local Ewa Beach
community.
 
There are no memorials or commemorations for any of these December 7 Navy
deaths in Ewa West Oahu, which remain part of the largely untold Ewa air
combat "Pearl Harbor' story where the most significant air combat action
took place that Sunday morning. December 7th veteran John Hughes after the
ceremony described seeing an Army P-40 pilot shoot down two Japanese planes
just seconds apart over Ewa Field.
Hughes himself later became a decorated Marine combat pilot in the Pacific
War that began that morning with him fighting back against Japanese planes
armed only with just a 1903 Springfield rifle.
 
A rifle salute team of US Marines from the 3rd Radio Battalion, Marine Corps
Base Hawaii and bugler from the MARFORPAC Band provided the rifle salute and
playing of taps for the 14 US Marines, Naval airmen and Ewa civilians killed
on the morning of December 7, 1941. This was followed by a low flyover of a
US Coast Guard HH-65A Dolphin helicopter which is based near by at USCG Air
Station Barbers Point.
 
Following the event the Hawaii Military Vehicle Preservation Association,
Hawaii Military Vehicle Museum and the Hawaii Historic Arms Association
displayed their vehicles and re-enactment weapons for the attendees. Others
gathered around Pearl Harbor historian Ray Emory and Ewa Field Marine
veteran John Hughes to ask questions about what they saw that Sunday
December 7th morning. For many it was a great honor just to shake the hand
of these great WW-II veterans and December 7th survivors.
 
Other Ewa Village residents were also available to recount their own
eye-witness attack stories, including Kiyoshi Ikeda, a retired UH Hawaii
college professor who lived in nearby Ewa Village as a teenager, and barely
missed being killed by a strafing Japanese plane. The extensive attack on
Ewa Village remains as another uncommemorated  and yet to be fully
documented Pearl Harbor history.
 
The Ewa West Oahu Pearl Harbor histories and stories were again barely
mentioned and largely ignored by the US National Park Service for reasons
that suit certain pro-developer interests and agendas.
Fort Barrette – MCAS Ewa Event Coordinator – John Bond,  808-685-3045
*****************************************************************
ALSO SEE Honolulu Star Advertiser Story…
An airfield gets its due during a ceremony recalling Dec. 7, 1941  By Dan
Nakaso
******************************************************************
Retired US Marine Jack Cunningham has made a "Cause" webpage for Save Ewa
Field…