April 9, 2007 | Things to Do
This Newsletter Includes the Following Articles:
Â· Wounded Warrior Assistance Act
Â· Veterans Seizure Risk Cited from TBI
Â· VA Facility Maintenance
Â· Veterans Benefits Protection Act
Â· Survivors Benefits Plan Legislation
Â· 2008 COLA UPDATE
Â· Returning GWOT Heroes Task Force
Â· Veteran Federal Employment Ruling
Â· PTSD Update
Â· New York City Reservist under Investigation
Â· 2007 National Veterans Day Poster Submissions
Â· Lloyd Brown, Last Known Navy Vet of WWI Dies
Â· Vietnam Veteran Wall â€“ 25th Anniversary
Â· VA Secretary Commencement Address (SI)
Â· New Vet Org., New Vet Memorial in Queens
Â· Broadway Play â€“ Beyond Glory
Â· Tamburri Post Summer Picnic Raffle
Â· My Final Thoughts
WOUNDED WARRIOR ASSISTANCE ACT: On March 28th, the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 1538, the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act of 2007. This bipartisan bill responds to the problems brought to light at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military health care facilities by including provisions to:
(1) Improve the access to quality medical care for wounded service members who are outpatients at military health care facilities;
(2) Begin the process of restoring the integrity and efficiency of the disability evaluation system and taking other steps to cut bureaucratic red-tape; and
(3) Improve the transition of wounded service members from the Armed Forces to the VA system.
More specifically an overview of some of the key provisions of the bill discloses it:
* Improves the training and reduces the caseloads of medical care case managers for outpatient wounded service members, so that service members and their families can get the help they need when they need it. For example, the bill requires that case managers for outpatients handle no more than 17 cases and review each case at least once a week to better understand patient needs.
* Creates a system of patient advocates for outpatient wounded service members. These advocates are there to fight, when necessary, to ensure that outpatients get the right treatment. The bill limits patient advocates to a caseload of no more than 30 outpatients.
* Requires DOD to establish a toll-free hot line for reporting deficiencies in facilities supporting medical patients and family members, requiring rapid responses to immediate substantiated complaints.
* Establishes an independent medical advocate to serve as a counselor and advisor for service members being considered by medical evaluation boards.
* Requires DOD to recommend annually improvements in the training of health care professionals, medical care case managers, and patient advocates to increase their effectiveness in assisting recovering wounded warriors. The bill, at a minimum, requires DOD to make recommendations about improving training in the identification of post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal tendencies, and other mental conditions among recovering service members.
* Requires the Army to establish an Army Wounded Warrior Battalion pilot program at an installation with a major medical facility modeled after the Wounded Warrior Regiment program in the Marines. The unit is intended to track active-duty soldiers in outpatient status who still require medical care.
* Begins the process of reforming administrative processes in order to restore the integrity and efficiency of the disability evaluation system. For example, the bill requires DOD to establish a standardized training program and curriculum for those involved in the disability evaluation system.
* Takes some substantive steps in reducing the turmoil of being transferred from military to veteransâ€™ medical care for service members who are discharged. The bill creates a formal transition process from the Armed Forces to the VA for service members who are being retired or separated for health reasons. The transition is to include an official handoff between the two systems with the electronic transfer of all medical and personnel records before the member leaves active-duty.
The Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act H.R.1268 & S.713 are similar bills that have been introduced in the 110th Congress on this issue. [Source: House Speaker Pelosi & NY Times article, 29 Mar 07]
VETERANS SEIZURE RISK CITED FROM TBI: Epilepsy experts worry that veterans arriving home with traumatic brain injuries are at risk for seizures and these electrical storms could be subtle and develop months to several years following their initial injury.
“Epilepsy is very common following head injury,” said Dr. Marc Dichter, professor of neurology and pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania. He was one of dozens of speakers at an epilepsy meeting held yesterday and continuing today at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Md.
Right now, there are no treatments to prevent epilepsy, a condition that affects 1 to 2 percent of the population. Trauma and brain infection increase the risk for seizures. “As the brain tries to repair itself, it may take time to ripen into seizures,” said Dr. Dennis Spencer, an endowed professor of neuro-surgery at Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut.
Government reports estimate more than 30,000 troops have been injured in the 4-year-old war in Iraq, and the two major wounds have been limb loss and traumatic brain injury. Veterans groups put the number of injured much higher.
Experts say it is hard to know exactly how many injured troops could later develop epilepsy. US Army and other officials have said better medical care in Iraq has meant that more severely injured soldiers have been saved, only to return home with serious injuries. Dr. Dichter stated that severe brain trauma can trigger epilepsy in as many as 30 percent to 50 percent of the brain-injured soldiers.
Early warning signs for epilepsy can include subtle changes in behavior, lapses in memory, strange sensory auras, attention problems and depression.
Dichter is conducting a pilot study on head injuries, focusing on people who arrive at emergency rooms with gunshot wounds or wounds from accidents. These people are at greater risk of developing epilepsy over the next year or two. Funded by the Department of Defense, scientists also will test the effectiveness of short-term use of anti-seizure medicines to ward off seizures.
It took more than a year for 54-year-old Denise Pease of Corona, assistant comptroller for commercial banking in the Office of the New York City Comptroller, to get the right diagnosis and treatment for epilepsy.
“I went from being a vibrant woman with a bright future to being a candidate for an extended adult care facility,” Pease told scientists at the meeting.
Months after a car accident 12 years ago she began losing her way on the street and forgetting familiar things. It wasn’t until a relative witnessed a seizure that she received a proper diagnosis.
This week, the American Epilepsy Society also announced new efforts to help wounded soldiers on their return home. Post-traumatic stress disorder, common among soldiers, could also complicate diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy. [Source: NY Newsday, March 30, 2007]
VA FACILITY MAINTENANCE: The Veterans Affairsâ€™ vast network of 1,400 health clinics and hospitals is beset by maintenance problems such as mold, leaking roofs and even a colony of bats, an internal review says. The investigation, ordered two weeks ago by VA Secretary Jim Nicholson, is the first major review of the facilities conducted since the disclosure of squalid conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Democrats newly in charge of Congress called the report the latest evidence of an outdated system unable to handle a coming influx of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The report found that 90% of the 1,100 problems cited were deemed to be of a more routine nature: worn-out carpet, peeling paint, mice sightings and dead bugs at VA centers. The other 10% were considered serious and included mold spreading in patient care areas. Eight cases were so troubling they required immediate attention and follow-up action, according to the 94-page review.
The VA’s Acting Under Secretary for Health Michael Kussman, stated that the special review of all facilities concludes most deficiencies involve â€œnormal wear and tear.” He noted that most of the maintenance issues identified in the special report did not involve areas providing direct patient care. The overwhelming majority of issues identified are the kinds of items you would expect to find — and see being addressed — in an organization with nearly 150 million square feet of space where 1 million patients come eaach week.
Kussman said the Department’s $519 million maintenance budget for this year, coupled with $573 million proposed for next year should take care of any maintenance shortcomings. If further funds are needed, VA pledged to work with congressional committees to identify how to best address those needs. “VA facilities are inspected more frequently than any other health care facilities in the nation,” Kussman said. “We will continue to monitor closely the progress of corrective action identified by this special report.”
Veterans groups said they were concerned about the findings but also appreciated the VAâ€™s aggressive efforts to identify problems. In response, Secretary Nicholson ordered â€œimmediate corrective actionâ€ to fix problems, with full accounting provided to the VA. To see the report on conditions of VA hospitals, go to: http://www.vawatchdog.org/07/nf07/nfMAR07/MARFILES/VA%20Enviro%20of%20Care%20Report.pdf. [Source: Associated Press, 22 Mar 07]
VETERANS BENEFITS PROTECTION ACT: The Attorneyâ€™s for Veterans Act was passed in the 109th Congress after lengthy negotiations and compromise between the House and Senate Veteran Affairs committees and signed into law. Basically, it gave veterans the right to hire an attorney to represent them in furthering their claims only after the VA had issued an initial decision on their claim and the claimant had appealed.
The Disabled American Veterans (DAV), which provides free representation for veterans in appeal cases, was opposed to the legislation fearing that among other things attorneys would unduly charge for their services on such claims. Recently, the DAV sent out a letter to their Commanders and members on this subject. Members were urged to sign petitions and send them to Congress in an effort to repeal the “Attorneys for Veterans” legislation passed last year through the newly submitted Veteransâ€™ Benefits Protection Actâ€ H.R. 1318 in the 110th Congress.
On March 19th, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), who favored the “Attorneyâ€™s for Veterans Act” and who was mentioned in the DAVs letter, responded to the DAV regarding their claims in an effort to correct what appears to be a “misrepresentation” of his involvement and support of the legislation. Among other things he said that he believes veterans to be mature, responsible, and capable enough to decide for themselves whether or not to hire legal representation. That the legislation only gives veterans the option of do so and they should not be discouraged from availing of free assistance provided by many veteran service organizations. His letter can be viewed at: http://www.vawatchdog.com/07/nf07/nfMAR07/nf032007-8.htm.
Additionally, comments from an attorney who represents veterans in the VA claims process stated: “I believe Senator Craig wrote a very well reasoned response to the DAV. The only thing I would have added is since the new law only allows attorney representation after a denial by the VA Regional Office and the submission of a Notice of Disagreement, attorney representation would only occur after a Veterans’ Service Organization (VSO) (if the veteran was so represented) has failed to obtain a favorable decision.
If the veteran first obtained VSO representation [from the DAV, for example], and that representation failed to obtain a favorable result, why shouldn’t the veteran then be allowed to seek other representation, if he or she so chooses?” [Source: VA Watchdogâ€™s Larry Scott article, 20 Mar 07]
SURVIVORS BENEFITS PLAN LEGISLATION: On March 20th, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Rep. Henry Brown (R-SC), re-introduced their bills, S. 935 and H.R. 1589, respectively, to end two major survivor benefit inequities. Both bills would end the unfair deduction of VA-paid dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) from SBP. Senate Nelson’s bill would also accelerate the effective date of paid-up status for retirees who have paid SBP premiums for 30 years and attained the age of 70. Rep. Jim Saxton’s (R-NJ) H.R. 784 addresses this in the House. Both bills would make paid-up coverage effective 1 OCT 07 (vs. 1 OCT 08 under current law). Survivors of active duty and retired members who die of service-connected causes now have DIC ($1,067 per month) deducted from SBP.
In a joint statement to the President of the Senate upon introducing S.935 Sen. Nelson said, â€œâ€¦ Back in 1972, Congress established the military survivorsâ€™ benefits plan–or SBP–to provide retireesâ€™ survivors an annuity to protect their income. This benefit plan is a voluntary program purchaseed by the retiree or issued automatically in the case of service members who die while on active duty. Retired service members pay for this benefit from their retired pay. Upon their death, their spouse or dependent children can receive up to 55% of their retired pay as an annuity.
For over five years, Iâ€™ve been talking about the unfair and painful offset between SBP and the Department of Veterans Affairsâ€™ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, or DIC, which is received by the surviving spouse of an active duty or retired military member who dies from a service-connected cause. Under current law, even if the surviving spouse of such a service member is eligible for SBP, that purchased annuity is reduced by the amount of DIC received. Another inequity in the current system is the delayed effective date for â€œpaid-up statusâ€ under SBP. We should act to correct these injustices this year.
We have made progress, but even with the important changes made over the last few years, the offset still fails to take care of our military widows and surviving children the way it should. We have considered and adopted increased death gratuity benefits for the survivors of our troops lost in this war, and we have changed the law to enable these survivors to automatically enroll in SBP. However, now we see the pain caused when at the same moment a widow is enrolled in SBP she is hit with the DIC offset. The SBP offset is no less painful for the survivors of our 100% disabled military retirees. SBP is a purchased annuity plan. Before coming to the U.S. Senate, I served as Insurance Commissioner for the State of Florida, and I know of no other purchased annuity program that can then turn around and refuse to pay you the benefits you purchased on the grounds that you are getting a different benefit from somewhere else.
Federal civil servants receive both their purchased survivor income protection annuity and any disability compensation for which they may be entitled–without offset. Why on earth would we treat our 100% disabled military retirees any differently, especially after they have given the best years of their lives and their health in service to the Nation? Let me be clear about this: survivors of service-members are entitled in law to automatic enrollment in SBP; 100 percent disabled military retirees purchase SBP. Survivors stand to lose most or even all of the benefits under SBP only because they are also entitled to DIC.â€
The retired community and The Military Coalition, which represents them believe strongly that if military service caused a retired member’s death, DIC should be added to the SBP benefit the retiree paid for, not substituted for it. There are about 61,000 survivors affected by the DIC offset. The paid-up SBP initiative would affect 172,000 Greatest Generation retirees. [Source: MOAA Leg Up & TREA News Flash 23 Mar 07]
2008 COLA UPDATE: The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the February 2007 Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is the metric used to calculate the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for military retired pay and annuities. The CPI had its third straight increase of FY2007 – 0.5% above January’s CPI. However, the CPI still stands 0.3% below its starting point at the beginning of the fiscal year five months ago. This year’s cumulative -0.3% through February is the lowest rate of inflation recorded for the first five months of any fiscal year for the past 30 years. But inflation could turn around quickly in the next seven months. The next quarter may give a clearer picture of where inflation may end up for 2007. The lowest COLA military retirees and annuitants received in the last 30 years was 0% in 1985. That year, Congress consciously eliminated the COLA for federal retirees and survivors to save money. The lowest COLAs based on actual inflation occurred in 1986 and 1998 at 1.3%. [Source: MOAA Leg Update 16 Mar 07]
RETURNING GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR HEROES TASK FORCE: On March 6th, 07 the President directed VA Secretary Nicholson to establish an Interagency Task Force on Returning Global War on Terror Heroes. The Task Force will consist of Secretaries, or their designees, from the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Education. The Director, Office of Management and Budget, and the Administrator, Small Business Administration, will also serve on the Task Force. The mission of the Task Force is to:
(a) Identify and examine existing Federal services that currently are provided to returning Global War on Terror service members;
(b) Identify existing gaps in such services;
(c) Seek recommendations from appropriate Federal agencies on ways to fill those gaps as effectively and expeditiously as possible using existing resources; and
(d) Ensure that in providing services to these service members, appropriate Federal agencies are communicating and cooperating effectively, and facilitate the fostering of agency communications and cooperation through informal and formal means, as appropriate.
The Task Force is focused on improvements using existing executive authority and resources. The Commission will report its recommendations to the President via the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veteran affairs and will provide a final report no later than 30 JUN 07. To further their study on how to enhance combat veteran services and reduce red tape they are inviting feedback from those concerned. People can email their comments to the task force at: TFHeroes@va.gov or fax comments to 202-273-9599.
Task Force information and mailing address can be obtained on the VA home page: www.va.gov/taskforce. The web page allows active duty service members, veterans, family members and others to comment directly to the task force on the accessibility, timeliness and delivery of services. Comments will be studied by the task force, used in the panelâ€™s evaluation of gaps in service and form the basis of recommended solutions. Under the terms of the executive order creating the task force, the group has 45 days to complete their mission. [Source: VA Press Release 15 Mar 07]
VETERAN FEDERAL EMPLOYMENT RULING: A recent federal appeals court ruling held that veterans who allege discrimination in government employment because of their military service are legally entitled to a hearing. In Kirkendall v. Department of the Army, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that these veterans have a statutory right to a hearing from the Merit Systems Protection Board.
That right comes from the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), a law that protects veterans from discrimination resulting from their military service. In its decision, the court criticized the manner in which MSPB has denied hearings with no explanation. “Until now, it has been the board’s practice to grant hearings as a matter of administrative grace, or deny one at its convenience,” wrote Haldane Robert Mayer, a judge for the appeals court. “But it must administer the law as Congress wrote it. The board’s consistent misapplication of the law can neither be used to defend its practice; nor to justify what Congress did not intend.â€
The case dates back to 1999 when Kirkendall, a disabled veteran with organic brain syndrome, a general disease in which a physical disorder causes decreased mental function, applied for a position as a supervisory equipment specialist with the Army at Fort Bragg, N.C. Kirkendall’s service and resulting disability entitled him to a 10-point preference for the position. But in early 2000, the Army found that Kirkendall’s application lacked sufficient detail on his experience and rated him ineligible for the position, offering it to another 10-point preference eligible veteran.
Kirkendall filed several complaints with the Army contesting his ineligibility, but all of them were denied. He then filed a complaint with the Labor Department, which also rejected his claim because it was not filed within 60 days of the Army’s alleged violation as required by law. In 2002, Kirkendall appealed to the MSPB. The MSPB administrative judge dismissed Kirkendall’s claim on the grounds that it was untimely and that the Army selected another qualified and 10-point eligible veteran for the position. Kirkendall then appealed the board’s decision to the federal circuit court.
According to a judge advocate in the Naval Reserve, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, many of the cases brought before the MSPB are pro se, meaning the claimants represent themselves without a lawyer. The source said MSPB often views these cases as less serious, and as a result, not worthy of a hearing.
Matthew Tully, the founding partner of the New York law firm Tully, Rinckey & Associates. Tully has represented hundreds of current and former federal employees in similar cases, though he did not represent John Kirkendall. Tully said the appeals court decision offers a “huge advantage” to veterans who cannot afford legal representation, especially because it allows veterans the ability to cross-examine their supervisors. He said the newly established right to cross-examine will make it much easier for veterans to win discrimination cases.
Tully also said he hopes the ruling will encourage more training for federal managers on USERRA law. He said many federal managers are trained solely on Equal Employment Opportunity law and very little on USERRA, though the penalties for denying rights under both laws are almost equally harsh. “There doesn’t seem to be any system in place in the federal government about USERRA,” Tully said. “The publicity [from] this case will help educate people about its importance.” [Source: GOVEXEC.com Daily Briefing article 12 Mar 07]
PTSD UPDATE: Patients with post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) are more likely to struggle with smoking, alcoholism and obesity, according to a new analysis of post-traumatic stress studies. Researchers say the findings shows that counselors need to deal not just with the mental aspects of PTSD, but also the physical challenges that patients face. Relieving the PTSD will help with some of the burden, but these risk behaviors will still be a problem, said Dr. Miles McFall, Director of Psychology Service at VA Puget Sound Health Care System and an author of the analysis. â€œThey need to be treated specifically.â€
The report, published in the latest issue of the Department of Veterans Affairs PTSD Research Quarterly, reviews various research performed over the last few years which shows PTSD patients are twice as likely to smoke, twice as likely to develop a drinking problem and nearly three times more likely to use drugs than the general population. Another study showed that nearly 83% of those suffering from PTSD are overweight or obese, compared to just under 65% of the adult population in the United States.
McFall said those symptoms are not necessarily indicators that someone might have PTSD but health professionals dealing with PTSD patients should be on the lookout for that type of destructive behavior as well. Ideally, counselors should treat both the PTSD and the secondary problems at the same time, he said. The report pointed to the high-risk health behavior as a possible reason for the shorter life space among PTSD patients. The report states: â€œIt cannot be assumed that these behaviors will resolve on their own without direct, targeted interventionâ€. To review the complete study, go to:
http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/nc_archives/rsch_qtly/V17N4.pdf. [Source: Stars & Stripes article 21 Feb 07]
NYC RESERVIST UNDER INVESTIGATION: A Reserve corporal whose star has been rising in conservative circles over the past few month â€“ including appearing on Fox News and being photographed with Ann Coulter has acknowledged appearing in gay porn films.
Cpl. Matthew Sanchez, 36, now a member of the Individual Ready Reserve, has made national headlines since, as a student at Columbia University, accused other students at Columbia University of publicly ridiculing him for serving in the military while administrators there refused to intervene, citing freedom of speech.
Sanchez has appeared on cable television programs such as Fox Newsâ€™ â€œThe Oâ€™Reilly Factorâ€ and â€œHannity & Colmes,â€ and penned an editorial for the New York Post. He also wrote a Back Talk column for the Jan. 1 edition of Marine Corps Times titled, â€œMissing the big picture: Ivy League protesters feel superior to service members.â€
Sanchez also appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington where he was photographed with his arm around Coulter, who caused a stir when she gave a speech at the conference in which she slammed Democratic presidential contender John Edwards using a vulgar word for a gay man.
On March 6, four days after Coulterâ€™s comment, homosexual blogger Joe.My.God published the picture of Coulter and Sanchez and alleged that Sanchez had spent the mid â€™90s acting in gay porn films such as â€œMan to Menâ€ under the screen names Rod Majors and Pierre LaBranche.
In a letter published on www.salon.com, Sanchez confirmed that â€œI acted in several adult movies 15 years ago,â€ but that he no longer does that.
The Corps was slated to wrap up an investigation into allegations Sanchez also solicited more than $12,000 from private organizations by asking them to fund a deployment to Iraq he never made, according to e-mails from the investigating officer forwarded to Marine Corps Times.
Reserve Col. Charles Jones, a staff judge advocate called to Marine Corps Mobilization Command in Kansas City, Mo., on temporary orders that expire Saturday, informed Reserve Cpl. Matt Sanchez of the allegations against him in a March 22 e-mail that advised Sanchez of his rights.
Jones wrote that Sanchezâ€™s participation in porn films was part of the investigation, but that two of the three allegations against him involved lying â€œto various people, including but not limited to, representatives of the New York City United War Veterans Council (UWVC) and U-Haul Corporationâ€ about deploying to Iraq at the commandantâ€™s request.
â€œSpecifically, you wrongfully solicited funds to support your purported deployment to Iraqâ€ by coordinating a $300 payment from the UWVC and $12,000 from U-Haulâ€, Jones wrote.
In an interview Thursday with Marine Corps Times, Sanchez said the fund-raising allegations are â€œdemonstrably falseâ€ and that he never collected money from either organization.
In a March letter addressed to MobCom Commander Brig. Gen. Darrell Moore, who will ultimately decide what to do with Jonesâ€™ investigation, Sanchez said heâ€™s never done anything to bring dishonor on the Corps since enlisting and that â€œmy past is behind me.â€
â€œThe Marine Corps is a conversion experience, what men were before they joined is not as important as what they become,â€ Sanchez wrote. [Source: Marine Corps Times, 30 March 07]
2007 NATIONAL VETERANS DAY POSTER SUBMISSIONS: Attention photographers, graphic designers and artists. The Veterans Day National Committee, which is chaired by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, is seeking submissions for the 2007 national Veterans Day poster. The poster is distributed to more than 110,000 schools nationwide, military installations around the world, and to federal agencies in the nationâ€™s capital. The poster is also used as the cover of the official program booklet for the Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
The committee will convene in May 2007 to review all submissions and select a finalist. The final poster must be 18×24â€ at 300 dots per inch, but please scale down submissions to 9×12â€ and submit electronic versions as jpg images or PDF files via e-mail to: email@example.com. Alternatively, send copies of artwork or a CD with artwork files to: Department of Veterans Affairs (002C), 810 Vermont Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20420. Please â€“ DO NOT send originals. To view Veterans Day posters from previous years, please visit: http://www.va.gov/vetsday and click on â€œPoster Galleryâ€. Submissions should include sufficient information to demonstrate that the image is the work of the artist and is not copyrighted material (i.e. photos and concepts). [Source: Kevin Secor, VA Service Org Liaison, Feb 07]
LLOYD BROWN, LAST KNOWN NAVY VET OF WWI DIES: Lloyd Brown, the last known U.S. Navy veteran to fight in World War I, has died. He was 105.
Brown died March 29th at the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in Maryland, according to family and the U.S. Naval District in Washington.
His death comes days after the death of the last known surviving American female World War I veteran, Charlotte L. Winters, 109. Their deaths leave three known survivors who served in the Army, and a fourth who lives in Washington State but served in the Canadian army, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The fourth of nine children, Brown was born October 7, 1901, in Lutie, Missouri, a small farming town in the Ozark Mountains. In 1918, 16-year-old Brown lied about his age to join the Navy and was soon on the gun crew on the battleship USS New Hampshire.
“All the young men were going in the service. They were making the headlines, the boys that enlisted,” Brown told the (Baltimore) Sun in a 2005 interview. “And all the girls liked someone in uniform.â€ Brown finished his tour of duty in 1919, took a break for a couple of years, then re-enlisted. He learned to play the cello at musicianâ€™s school at Norfolk, Virginia, and was assigned to an admiral’s 10-piece chamber orchestra aboard the USS Seattle.
When Brown ended his military career in 1925, he joined the Washington Fire Department’s Engine Company 16, which served the White House and embassies. [Source: AP, 2 Apr 07]
VIETNAM VETERAN WALL 25TH ANNIVERSARY: Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is presenting the 25th Anniversary Parade in celebration of the dedication of â€œThe Wallâ€ on Saturday, November 10, 2007. If you were there in 1982, you know why you should be back for the 25th. If you werenâ€™t there in â€™82, then this is the one to attend, because it is being held by us, for us.
Come feel the healing power of â€œThe Wallâ€ and show our fallen brothers and sisters the honor and respect they deserve. If you have a group, or as an individual are interested in joining the parade, then you must fill out an application form.
The purpose of the 2007 Vietnam Veteran Memorial 25th Anniversary Parade is to recognize military service, not to endorse or support any political agenda, and any individual or group that attempts to use the Parade as a forum for this purpose will be denied participation, and will forfeit any expenses incurred.
Immediately following the opening ceremony, a parade with thousands of participants, military vehicles, floats, veteran motorcyclists, and marching bands will step off. Along side the reviewing stand will be limited bleacher seating for those veterans and members of the general public who wish to view the parade. Parade participants and the general public can enjoy a variety of activities and street vendors.
If you are interested in joining the parade as a group, or as an individual, then you must fill out an application form. For more information about this event, please visit: http://vva.org/25thEvent/event_info.htm. To download a parade application form (in PDF), please go to: http://vva.org/25thEvent/Parade_App.pdf. You can also call toll-free, 1-800-VVA-1316 x151. [Source: VVA]
VA SECRETARY COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS: The Honorable R. James Nicholson, United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs, will give the 2007 Commencement Address at St. John’s University’s Staten Island Campus on Saturday, May 12th. Presiding over the 137th Commencement Exercises will be Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., President of St. John’s University, who will confer honorary degrees upon the Most Reverend Robert J. Cunningham, the 13th Bishop of Ogdensburg, and Sister Judith Garson, R.S.C.J., Executive Director of Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Services. The procession of graduates, faculty and honored guests will begin at 9:45 a.m., followed immediately by the formal ceremony.
“Jim Nicholson, the Most Reverend Cunningham and Sister Judith Garson are all distinguished honorary degree recipients who will highlight our Staten Island Commencement ceremonies,” said Fr. Harrington, C.M. “They are all dedicated to living their lives in the true meaning of the Vincentian Mission and will serve as great role models for our graduates.”
Nicholson (who will receive a Doctor of Laws Degree), the fifth Secretary of Veterans Affairs in U.S. history, assumed office on January 26, 2005. He is an attorney and real estate developer and has led a successful life in the political arena. Nicholson was the GOP National Chairman of the Republican National Convention from 1997-2000 and was also appointed United States Ambassador to the Holy See from 2001-2005.
For more information contact Dominic Scianna, Director of Media Relations at St. John’s University by calling (718) 990-6185 or e-mail requests to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Media representatives requesting credentials for the Staten Island Commencement Ceremonies can call Elizabeth Reilly at (718) 990-5789 or e-mail inquires to: email@example.com. [Source: St. Johnâ€™s University, 31 March 07]
NEW VET ORGANIZATION, NEW VETERAN MEMORIAL IN QUEENS: Queens Chapter 32 of the Vietnam Veterans of America held an open house at their Glendale headquarters recently, welcoming veterans of a new era, the Veterans of Modern Warfare. Any veteran who served from August 2, 1990, to the present, which includes Iraq and Persian War veterans, are invited to join this new organization.
“This is the first chapter in NYC,” said Chapter 32 president Pat Toro, Jr., “These vets need to be able to go to one place and get all the information they need.â€
VVA-Chapter 32, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and currently has 300 members, is helping the new organization get started.
Mr. Toro also showed the concept plan for a park planned for the six and a half acres of land in Maspeth where the old Keyspan gas tanks used to stand near the Long Island Expressway.
A year ago last February; Mr. Toro presented a proposal to erect a Vietnam Veterans War Memorial to honor the approximately 450 veterans from Queens who gave their lives in the war. It was approved by the Parks Department and the City Council has given the organization $500,000 while Senator Serf Maltese allocated $50,000 for the memorial. The memorial will have a wall with the names of all the Queens veterans who gave their lives in service to their country during the Vietnam War. [Source: Queens Ledger, 29 March 07] NOTE: If you are interested in finding out more information about the Veterans of Modern Warfare, please contact Mr. Mike Porcaro at (718) 830-0037.
BROADWAY PLAY – BEYOND GLORY: The Medal of Honor. The nation’s highest military award and the stories of eight men who received it in World War II, Korea and Vietnam are told in “Beyond Glory,” Stephen Lang’s one-man show opening June 21 at the Laura Pels Theatre.
Lang, wrote and stars in the play, adapted from the book “Beyond Glory: Medal of Honor Heroes in Their Own Words,” by Larry Smith. The Roundabout Theatre Company production begins preview performances May 23rd, 2007. “Beyond Glory” originally played Chicago’s Goodman Theater Sept. 10-Oct. 9, 2005. Its director, Robert Falls, will also direct the New York production.
Tickets are available by calling 212-719-1300. For more information, visit the Roundabout Web site, http://www.roundabouttheatre.org. [Source: AP, 2 April 07]
TAMBURRI POST 917 SUMMER PICNIC RAFFLE: Dear John R. Tamburri Jr. Memorial Post 917 members, family and friends. This is the Postâ€™s first raffle and it is a good one. For $5 dollars a ticket, $25 dollars for a book of 5 â€“ the GRAND PRIZE is a 42â€ Flat Screen Plasma Television. If you are interested in participating in this raffle, please e-mail Bobby Tamburri at: VetScoop@aol.com. Please let him know how many tickets you would like and how he can get them to you. The drawing will take place on August 18, 2007 at the Marine Corps League, 46 Ontario Ave, Staten Island, NY. The winner does not need to be present. [Source: Bobby Tamburri]
MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Well, another month has come and gone and what a month it has been. We have already finished a quarter of the year and Memorial Day is fast approaching. PLEASE â€“ PLEASE â€“ PLEASE â€“ If you are putting together an event in May and would like to get it out to the community, please get it to me ASAP. By way of information, this yearâ€™s Fleet Week will take place from May 23rd â€“ 30th.
Now, there are two events that I would like to share with you. First, there is a City Council Veterans Committee hearing on Monday, April 16, 2007 at 1 PM in the Council Chambers at City Hall regarding Oversight: The future of St. Albans VA Medical Center. This is related to the VA CARES Process and I urge all interested parties to attend.
The second event is the Bronx Borough President; along with his Veterans Advisory Board are having a Bronx Veterans and Family Day at Pelham Bay Park on Saturday, May 19th from 10 AM to 2 PM behind the Veterans Memorial. It is a free and public event and there will be a lot of fun activities for the entire family. As soon as I get the flyer, I will make sure to get it out to everyone and post it and it will be in next monthâ€™s newsletter â€“ So save the date!
Moving on, I expect this to be a busy month in terms of veteran issues as the city starts gearing up for Fleet Week. The Bloomberg administration is expected sometime this month to unveil the homeless veteranâ€™s plan its task force came up with. As I have stated, I was already leery of the initial plan; but the devil is in the details, so weâ€™ll have to wait and see what they announce. Iâ€™ll have more to say then. Also, it will be interesting to see: (a) when MOVA will officially move back to 346 Broadway (as they still have 100 Gold Street listed on there website) and (b) what 346 Broadway (the 8th floor vet area) will look after the city finishes building the cubicles.
As I have consistently stated, I want to believe that Mayor Bloomberg wants to truly help veterans but I also continue to believe that he doesnâ€™t understand us (Example: Recent closing of the Brooklyn Legion Post by the Health Department and his remarks). So I was surprised when I was recently asked by administration officials to come to City Hall to discuss MOVA and veteran issues in general. I went with high hopes but came away disappointed. It seems that some in the administration have an idea of what is needed but to quote Upton Sinclair: “You can’t make somebody understand something if their salary depends upon them not understanding it.” I found some of what they asked me strange, I spoke too much and after I helped them out, the door was closed behind me.
In fact, I was very disappointed as I was given legal answers as to what I should tell you all about the meeting and the subsequent phone calls. I think I even lost an old friend because of this incident. Needless to say, I came away with a few observations. First – while they may have the best intentions, they cannot be trusted. They work for the Mayor (city) and as such, will do anything that is needed to get the job done â€“ Period! Second, they will not (for whatever reason) fire Ms. Joynes, so we are stuck with her. I did tell them to give her a swift kick in the ass. Third â€“ they will interpret the law there own way and use it to justify their actions (or inactions). As I said before, with the Mayorâ€™s businessman background, it becomes clear that taking care of veterans (as a social issue) is not his cup of tea! He will say all the right things but itâ€™s what heâ€™s doing (or not doing) that tells the real story. Sometime in the near future I will put out a full report of what happened at this meeting and the subsequent telephone calls. Believe it or not, I actually started to feel sorry for Ms. Joynes when I left.
In any case, a number of us will try to meet soon to discuss a strategy of moving the administration to do more; and we still have to fight the administration to add money into the budget for the veteran resource centers.
Also, once again for those of you who have not joined, I created a yahoo group. The site is: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NYMetroVets/. Please check it out and join as I put a lot of good information on it. I also try not to bombard anyone with e-mails.
As always, please pass this newsletter to others and if you have any comments or questions, please feel free to e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next month…