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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Alert: Health Subcommittee Seeks Update from VA on Prosthetics

WASHINGTON, D.C.—On Tuesday, July 31, 2012, at 4:30 p.m., in Room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building, the Subcommittee on Health will hold an oversight hearing entitled, “Optimizing Care for Veterans with Prosthetics: An Update.”

WHO: Subcommittee on Health

WHAT: Optimizing Care for Veterans with Prosthetics: An Update

WHEN: 4:30 p.m.,Tuesday, July 31, 2012, Room 334, Cannon House Office Building


Panel 1

The Honorable Dr. Robert A. Petzel, M.D.,Under Secretary for Health
Veterans Health Administration
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Accompanied by:

Mr. Philip Matovsky, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health

Administrative Operations

Veterans Health Administration

U.S. Department of Veterans Health

Dr. Lucille Beck, Ph.D., Chief Consultant, Rehabilitation Services

Director, Audiology and Speech Pathology

Acting Chief Consultant, Prosthetics and Sensory Aids Service

Veterans Health Administration

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Ford Heard, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary

Office of Acquisition and Logistics

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

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Cold War Docs Declassified Project Grudge Pre Blue Book


Without Firing A Shot: Occupation Duty As VFW Qualifier

Robert Widener

Occupation duty has a long and storied history as qualifying service for VFW eligibility. Here is a glimpse of the places that conferred membership on veterans who wore these little-known medals.

American military personnel who served on occupation duty in foreign lands have always been eligible for VFW membership. For 92 years, between 1898 and 1990, recipients of seven Army, Navy and Marine Corps occupation service medals were entitled to claim the Cross of Malta. And they did so by never seeing combat.


Soon after the Spanish-American War ended, U.S. forces began a new function on Cuba. The U.S. flag was hoisted over the island on Jan. 1, 1899, signifying the nation’s first official overseas military occupation.

Troop strength on Cuba peaked at 45,000 that March. Soldiers disarmed insurgent forces and maintained law and order. Pacification was completed by the summer, and thereafter U.S. troops were gradually withdrawn until May 20, 1902, when the last men departed.

But American soldiers were back four years later. In the fall of 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt dispatched an expeditionary force to Havana. This Army of Cuban Pacification, consisting of 5,000 soldiers and 1,000 Marines, was restricted to garrison duty. At no time did U.S. servicemen engage in fighting.

With the revolt quelled, the last personnel left in the spring of 1909. They received the Cuban Pacification Medal.Perhaps the best-known recipient was “Colonel” Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame.

The Army of Puerto Rico Occupation Medal went to troops stationed there between Aug. 14-Dec. 10, 1898. Some 16,253 regulars and volunteers (including poet-author Carl Sandberg, an active VFW member) served on that island.


In the wake of World War I, 240,000 Doughboys mounted a “watch on the Rhine.” The newly created Third Army, made up of three corps comprising nine infantry divisions—1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 32nd, 42nd, 89th and 90th—was stationed in a dozen different cities.The 4th Marine Brigade—5th and 6th Marines—also was part of the American Army of Occupation.

By mid-1919, however, the Third Army was reduced to a mere 6,800 men and redesignated American Forces in Germany. The U.S. watch formally ended on Jan. 24, 1923, when the Stars and Stripes was lowered at Fort Ehrenbreitstein in Coblenz.

Three VFW commanders-in-chief— Eugene P. Carver (1928-29), Otis N. Brown (1939-40) and Joseph N. Stack (1945-46)—took part in the occupation of Germany after fighting in France in 1918.


After World War II, Gis saw service on two continents. In Asia, soldiers were posted to defeated Japan (including the RyuKyu Islands and Bonin-Volcano Islands), as well as its former colony, Korea. The Army’s 6th, 7th and 40th Infantry divisions as part of the 24th Corps were stationed on the peninsula.

Troop strength there peaked at 72,360.One GI, Pvt. Charles Labita of E Co., 32nd IR, 7th ID, was KIA at an outpost near Kaesong on the Ongjin Peninsula On July 14, 1948.

The divisions were sent home, but the newly formed 5th Regimental Combat Team maintained a symbolic presence.The last Gis left on June 29, 1949 (the 5th went to Hawaii)—one year before the Korean War erupted. Only a 472- man Korean Military Advisory Group remained behind.

Japan was occupied by Gis beginning Aug. 30, 1945. Ultimately, 15 Army divisions, as well as the V Amphibious Corps (2nd and 5th Marine divisions), served on occupation duty there. U.S. Army troop strength in Japan peaked at 385,649 in December 1945.

By the time of South Korea’s invasion in 1950, only the 1st Cavalry, 7th, 24th and 25th Infantry divisions were stationed in Japan. Also present was the 5th Air Force along with Naval Forces Far East.

When the occupation ended on April 27, 1952, with the restoration of Japanese sovereignty, Army forces there totaled 106,108. By then, of course, many of the troops were directly involved in the Korean War build-up.

Also, the Navy patrolled around many of the islands of Japan and off Korea, rating the Navy Occupation Service Medal.Some sailors served on shore in Asia.


Europe hosted by far the largest number of U.S. troops. They included the uniqueU. S. Constabulary. A million or more Gis rotated through Germany during the 10-year occupation period (1945-55).Among them were past VFW commanders- in-chief John Stang, Howard Vander Clute and Norman Staab.

Contrary to unsubstantiated claims circulated in 2003, only three American soldiers may have died from hostile causes in occupied Germany. On Dec. 23, 1945, two Gis of the 78th Infantry Division were killed near Templehof Airport by unidentified assailants. And on March 3, 1946, Lt. James Wilson of the 778th Ordnance Co., 78th Inf. Div., was shot to death by a Soviet sentry in Berlin while driving his car.

Austria, like Germany, was occupied for an entire decade. U.S. troops controlled one of four Allied zones there. The backbone of the Army’s combat complement in Austria was the 350th Infantry Regiment, which was relieved from the 88th Infantry Division in May 1948. Also part of the early occupying force was the 4th Constabulary Regiment.

In mid-1952, Gis peaked at 17,490. The occupation closed with Austria’s independence on July 27, 1955. During the occupation, on May 3, 1951, one GI, Cpl.Paul Gresens of the 796th MP Battalion, was shot and killed by two Soviet soldiers in Vienna.

Military government lasted in Italy proper until Sept. 15, 1947, date of the ratification of the Italian Peace Treaty. The 10th Mountain Division, and 34th, 85th, 88th and 91st Infantry divisions were there early on. The 5th Army’s II Corps was gone by the end of September 1945, leaving behind one division. Eligibility for the Army of Occupation Medal (AOM) encompassed service within the compartment of Venezia Giulia E. Zara or province of Udine, or with a unit specifically designated.

One area of occupation in post-WWII Europe was unique because it witnessed actual firefights. Disputed Trieste, in the Province bordering Italy and Communist Yugoslavia, caused hostile action along the Morgan Line between members of the 88th Division and Tito’s partisans during 1945-46.

On the ground, two 88th soldiers were KIA. And on July 12, 1946, a squad of L Co., 351st Inf., was ambushed by “Jugs” near Ursina. No Americans died in the firefight, but two Yugoslavian soldiers did. In the air over Bled, Yugoslavia, the communists shot down a plane of theU. S. European Air Transport Service, killing five Americans.

October 1946 saw the “Blue Devils” at 11,352 men—the only division in the entire U.S. Army then at full operational strength.

Cities in Crisis

Though Italy itself was not occupied after 1947, the 88th’s 351st Regiment remained on duty in Trieste until Oct. 26, 1954, when the city was restored to Italy. Approximately 5,000 U.S. soldiers formed TRUST (Trieste U.S. Troops).

Soldiers who served on the Yugoslav border through mid-September 1947 earned the AOM, but those stationed in Trieste after that date were excluded.Tens of thousands of Gis rotated through Europe’s “trigger city” over nearly 10 years.

The U.S. Navy, however, did recognize its personnel offshore in the Adriatic Sea up until October 1954, with the Navy Occupation Service Medal.

One remnant of the Army of Occupation remained on duty for another 36 years. Members of the Berlin Brigade and various Air Force units continued to qualify for the AOM, and thus VFW, until Oct. 2, 1990, when the Allied occupation formally ended. By the time the brigade was deactivated four years later, 100,000 Gis had served in the city.

As history shows, with only a handful of minor exceptions, hundreds of thousands of uniformed Americans qualified for VFW membership solely by virtue of overseas service recognized by the Army or Navy Occupation Medal. They have been welcome in the ranks for well over a century.

This article highlights the VFW’s inclusion of Occupation Service as a qualifier to claim the Cross of Malta but it fails to explain why similar service in Europe and parts of Asia post 1955 is neglected. It seems to me to highlight the arbitrary nature of qualifying service especially in Europe. My personal eligibility comes from service in S.W. Asia but I totally see why many Veteran’s who served in Cold War Europe still feel out in the Cold. The VFW needs to adopt as inclusive as possible attitude on membership but maintain it’s core values on what kind of service qualifies for membership. It is a fine line to walk. This article raises more questions then it answers on membership but it was informative

Panetta Salutes Korean War Vets at 59th Armistice Observance

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 27, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta observed the 59th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice today by reminding a gathering of Korean War veterans that America will not permit cuts to the military to again "allow us to lose our edge", as he says happened on the eve of that conflict more than 60 years ago.

Panetta was the keynote speaker at an observance of the armistice that ended the 1950-1953 conflict, held at Arlington National Cemetery, just across the river from Washington. It was an opportunity to remember the more than 50,000 U.S. service members who lost their lives in the Korean War, and to celebrate the "sheer grit, determination, and bravery" of those who fought for a noble cause in a distant land to make the world a safer place, he said. "For three long, bloody years, American troops fought and died in Korea, in difficult conditions, where the country’s mountainous terrain and the unrelenting cold of winter were bitter enemies in themselves," Panetta said.

"It was an uncompromising war, where capture by a vicious enemy often meant summary execution. In Korea, American troops and their allies were always outnumbered by the enemy, awaiting the chilling sound of bugles and horns that would signal another human wave attack."

Panetta said the troops that fought during that Cold War conflict will never forget the battles waged in the country’s mountains and at Massacre Valle, Bloody Ridge, Chosin Reservoir and Pork Chop Hill. Those fights, he said, "became synonymous in our lexicon with the heroic sacrifice and the grim determination of the American fighting man."

The Korean War caught America unprepared, Panetta said, and the mighty military machine that liberated Europe and conquered the Japanese empire had been rapidly demobilized. Only a few years of under-investment had left the United States with a hollow force, he added.

"The American soldiers and Marines initially sent to Korea were poorly equipped, without winter clothing and sleeping bags, with insufficient ammunition and inadequate weapons, including bazookas that weren’t strong enough to stop North Korean tanks."

But those green troops sent to stem the tide of communism soon turned into savvy combat veterans, he said, and what they weren’t taught before their baptism by fire, they quickly learned on the unforgiving battlefield. They soon became a battle-hardened force, Panetta said, that fought from one end of Korea to the other, halting repeated drives to capture the peninsula, and in the process inflicting massive casualties on the enemy.

"As we honor our Korean War veterans we must also remember the more than 7,900 Americans missing in action," he said. "The Department of Defense is dedicated to resuming the search [to find] the remains of fallen service members missing in action in Korea. We will leave no one behind … until all of our troops come home."

South Korea has grown strong and has become independent, and the Korean War’s moniker as "The Forgotten War" no longer holds true, he added.

"Thanks to the service and sacrifice of our veterans six decades ago … South Korea is a trusted ally, an economic power, a democracy and a provider of security in the Asia-Pacific region, and in other parts of the world."

Panetta contrasted the South’s progress with "the bleakness" of the North, which he said remains a dangerous and destabilizing country bent on provocation, "and is pursuing an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction while its people are left to starve."

Two crucial lessons were learned from the Korean War, Panetta said.

"Too many American troops paid a heavy price in Korea because they were not provided the necessary training and the right weapons. They were sent into a tough fight with little preparation …Only a few short years after World War II, dramatic cuts to the force made us lose our edge — even though the world remained a dangerous place. We will not make that mistake again. That’s why today, coming out of a decade of war, we have put forward a strategy-driven defense budget to meet the challenges of the future. The world remains a dangerous place, and America must maintain its decisive military edge."

America "must remain the strongest military power in the world, and … make no mistake: We will be ready to defeat aggression – anytime, anyplace."

Panetta said the second lesson taught by the Korean War is the service and sacrifice made by a generation that bravely fought on its battlefields.

"Some 60 years ago, a generation of Americans stepped forward to defend those in need of protection and to safeguard this great country. America is indebted to them — to you, for your service and your sacrifice. Sixty years ago, the bugles sounded and you helped strengthen this country for 60 years. America will never forget you."

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, another generation stepped forward to lead, and its strength will be America’s strength for decades to come, Panetta said.

"Over the past decade of war this new generation has done all this country has asked of them and more," he said. "They take their place alongside all of you — another greatest generation of heroes that exemplifies the best that America has to offer. Our nation is great because generation after generation after generation, when the bugle sounded, our [military] responded."

In commemoration of the Korean War, Panetta said America should always remember "the sacred call to duty," and to "renew our commitment to honoring those who have fought, who have bled, and who have died to protect our freedoms and our way of life."

Leon E. Panetta
Related Sites:
Korean War Special
Presidential Proclamation: National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, 2012
Panetta Speech

Related Articles:
Winnefeld Honors Korean War Veterans’ Service, Sacrifice

USO2GO shipment to Afghanistan

USO Supporter,

Less than 48 hours ago, we asked USO supporters to step forward and help make a special USO2GO shipment to Afghanistan possible.

The plan: Deliver a shipment filled with everything from chicken noodle soup to the latest Nintendo® Wii™ game, from volleyballs to guitars. And make it especially meaningful by adding a "thank you" banner with the names of thousands of USO supporters.

We’ve received a tremendous response with people answering the call from all over the country. And while all of our troops need as much support as we can provide, I’m sure it will mean something extra special to the troops from New York to know that you’ve stepped up.

Help send a much-needed USO2GO shipment to our troops in Afghanistan and we’ll add your name to a banner that will be included with the shipment.

Dear Troops, Thank you for all you do! Add your name here!

The USO2GO shipment gives our troops the comforts of home that they’ve requested — everything from coffee to books to bean bag chairs.

But your name on our banner lets them know that there are thousands of people from New York and beyond who are deeply appreciative of their service and sacrifice.

Support this special USO2GO shipment for our troops and we’ll add your name to a banner letting our troops know who made this all possible.

The deadline to support this USO2GO shipment and have your name on the banner is July 31, so I hope you will act quickly.

For our troops,

Rear Admiral Frank Thorp, USN (Ret.)
Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, USO

Support the Troops

Shinseki Admits Cuts to VA to Occur Under Sequestration

WASHINGTON, D.C—Today, at a joint hearing of the House Veterans’ Affairs and Armed Services Committees, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, confirmed that under sequestration, VA would face cuts, possibly affecting the administration of veterans’ benefits and services, stating, “VA is exempt from sequestration except for administrative costs… I don’t have a definition of administrative costs right now.”

“President Obama publicly said Monday at the VFW Convention that VA is exempt from sequestration, yet the Secretary conceded today that VA would face cuts early next year if a sequester takes place,” stated Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Since last August, I have been asking this question and until today, I have received nothing but double speak. I am now demanding that VA and the President define ‘administrative costs.’ Does this mean closing veterans’ hospitals, fewer claims processors to help veterans with their disability compensation, longer wait times for veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of war or those having to bury a loved one, not to mention the possible impact on homeless veterans’ programs and research to care for our wounded warriors? Congress, and more important, our veterans, deserve an honest, straight-forward answer.”

In the first joint hearing of the two Committees in recent history, Members also addressed serious concerns that the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs were not working fast enough toward a seamless transition for servicemembers leaving the military. Secretary Shinseki noted that “over the next five years, there is the potential for one million serving men and women to either leave military service or demobilize from active duty,” raising numerous questions on the already convoluted transition process for veterans.

Wait times for the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, which assists wounded warriors transition from DoD to VA, are already at record highs, the disability claims backlog has tripled in the past four years, and a majority of veterans seeking mental health evaluations wait an average of two months for an appointment.

“Despite repeated assurances from VA and DoD to provide a ‘warm handoff,’ it is clear that is not happening. Unfortunately, what we heard today, we have heard before. And what is clear is that there are still no tangible results demonstrating that the silos between the departments have been broken down,” Miller said. “American know-how put a man on the moon in less than a decade, but 50 years later we can’t produce single electronic medical database for our military and veterans in the same span of time? There is clearly something wrong with this system, and the time has come to see real change and real results.”

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Panetta, Shinseki Warn of Stress on VA From Wars, Budget

By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki warned Congress today that looming budget cuts as well as the surge of troops returning from a decade of wars will further challenge the government’s ability to provide for veterans in a timely manner.

Both testified before a joint session of the House Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Panetta told lawmakers troop drawdowns as well as the impact of wars over the last decade will, for years to come, place additional strain on an already burdened system charged with caring for veterans.

"We’re going to be adding another hundred thousand per year. And the ability to be able to respond to that in a way that effectively deals with the heath care issues, with the benefits issues, with all of the other challenges, that is not going to be an easy challenge," he said, adding that the current system is already "overwhelmed."

Shinseki, whose agency is attempting to process a backlog of veterans’ claims within a bureaucracy that he described as still largely unautomated and "paperbound," further laid out the daunting task ahead.

"Our history suggests that VA’s requirements will continue growing for a decade or more after the operational missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are ended," he said. "Over the next five years, there is the potential for 1 million serving men and women to either leave military service or demobilize from active duty." Of the roughly 1.4 million veterans who have returned from both wars, nearly 70 percent, he said, currently rely on the VA.

Rep. Howard McKeon of California, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, noted if an additional round of draconian budget cuts known as "sequestration" takes effect next year, 100,000 additional service personnel will be leaving the military and likely would add to the strain on resources that DOD and VA are providing to current veterans.

Shinseki told lawmakers he has been informed that VA would be largely exempt from sequestration, and that only "administrative costs" would be affected. He told the panel he doesn’t yet have a definition of administrative costs, and he offered to provide that information later.

Sequestration is a federal budget maneuver written into legislation passed last year that raised the U.S. debt ceiling. Unless lawmakers take action to prevent it, the measure will slash spending across the federal budget beginning in January, taking an additional $500 billion from defense accounts. Panetta has said the cuts would be a disaster, and told lawmakers today that such a move would make it "near impossible" to do the kind of work the departments are trying to do.

Leon E. Panetta
Eric K. Shinseki


VA New York Harbor Healthcare System to Host Event for Clergy

Queens, NY, July 24, 2012NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., ranking Senate Democratic Minority member of the Veterans, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs Committee, is sending out an appeal to clergy of all faiths in the metropolitan NY area who work with returning veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan, and all-eras, who may be members of their faith communities. Military chaplains may be seeing a crisis situation with many wounded warriors from overseas conflicts who are trying to readjust to civilian life, while healing the strains from multiple military deployments such as higher unemployment among younger returning veterans and even homelessness. Multiple activations have had a devastating effect on many family relationships and family or community finances, as well as to their mental, physical and spiritual health. Some press reports have noted a suicide rate of one a day this year.

As this crisis unfolds, the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System will be hosting a working luncheon and information session for clergy about the needs of our veterans on Monday, August 27, 2012 from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM. This event will take place at the St. Albans VA Primary & Extended Care Center, Chapel 1st floor. This training is for clergy and/or representatives of houses of worship. The day includes a free lunch, free books and materials from VA, and training certificates for clergy.

The goal of the session is to help clergy understand their spiritual and pastoral role with veterans as one that is in partnership with VA chaplains and other health care providers at VA medical facilities. Session highlights will cover making referrals to the VA and to individual faith groups and new ways that clergy and houses of worship can provide ongoing support for military families and loved ones, who sacrificed so much on behalf of our nation.

A reservation is required. Please RSVP, by close of business day August 21, to: Chaplain Dr. Sotar Alfonso-Lloyd 718-526-1000 , x2652

Transforming TAP Needs to go the Extra Mile

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Rep. Buck McKeon, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement on the President’s announcement of TAP GPS at the 113th VFW Convention:

“Recognizing the need to better equip transitioning servicemembers with the skills and tools needed to compete in today’s tough job market, Congress passed the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011. We are encouraged that the President announced the implementation of these provisions signed into law last November to update and make mandatory the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) for servicemembers leaving the military. Congress has recognized for years the need to better equip transitioning servicemembers with the skills and tools needed to compete in today’s tough job market. Our soon-to-be veterans deserve no less.

“TAP has long been in need of reform, and these steps by the Administration to implement the law under the VOW to Hire Heroes Act will begin to help transitioning servicemembers almost immediately.

“We caution the Departments of Defense, Labor, and Veterans Affairs, however, from implementing a one-size fits all approach to TAP. Instead, we encourage the Departments to tailor TAP to the needs of the participants—from knowledge of educational opportunities, to improved translation of military skills into the private sector, and by providing information on how to start a business. We have a unique opportunity to transform TAP into a premier program that we can all be proud of, one which needs to go the extra mile to help our servicemembers successfully reintegrate into the civilian world.”

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the House Armed Services Committee will hold a joint hearing on DoD-VA transition issues to include TAP, on Wednesday, July 25, 2012, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 2118 of the Rayburn House Office Building.


RT @HouseVetAffairs: Chairman Miller and @BuckMcKeon discuss implementation of #TAP to help transitioning servicemembers:

RT @HouseVetAffairs: As new #TAP is implemented, Congress warns against a one-size fits all approach:

RT @HouseVetAffairs: Be sure to tune in Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. to hear more about #TAP from #HouseVets and #HASC:

VA Rolls Out New Claims Process

Week of July 23, 2012

The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that it is deploying a new model for processing compensation benefits claims at 16 VA regional offices. The new organizational model involves special handling of claims from veterans who are facing the most serious injuries or illnesses or experiencing financial hardships or homelessness, and therefore need immediate attention. Veterans and their Veterans Service Organization representatives are encouraged to provide all the needed evidence along with their application in a "fully developed claim" in order to expedite the process. A list of the sixteen regional offices using the new model is available on the VA website. To learn more about how to file "fully developed claims," visit VA’s Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) webpage.

For complete guides to all veterans benefits, visit the Benefits Center.