NY Metro Vets- Dec 07 Newsletter

December 10, 2007 | Things to Do

NY Metro Vets

Must see video- The Surge at Home
(Thanks to Hank, James and several others who sent this to me.)

This Newsletter Includes the Following Articles:
· DFAS 2008 COLA Payments
· Peake Likely For VA Confirmation
· VA Announces Funds to Help Caregivers
· VA/DoD Testing All in One Medical Exam
· VA Claims Backlog
· VA Cuts Processing Time for GI Bill Benefits
· Disabled Combat Vets Can Get $500, No Strings
· Court Ruling Favors Funeral Picketers
· Wreaths Across America
· Former Generals/Admirals Question Gay Policy
· NYC Council Resolution of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
· OIF/OEF Manhattan VA Study
· Veteran Upward Bound Program Helps Students
· Santa Claus Season Opens for NORAD
· USMC Accepting Donations for “Toys for Tots”
· December Events
· My Final Thoughts

DFAS 2008 COLA PAYMENTS: According to Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) officials based on the increase in the U.S. Consumer Price Index, there will be a cost-of-living adjustment increase for retired pay and Survivor Benefit Plan annuities effective 1 December. The COLA increase will be reflected in the 2 January 2008 payment. Retirees being paid on an account where the retiree first became a member of the uniformed services before 8 SEP 80 and retired before 1 JUL 07 will receive a full COLA increase of 2.3%. The COLA increase for retirees being paid on an account where the retiree first became a member of the uniformed services on or after 8 September 08 will be as follows:

— 2.3% for those retiring before January 1, 2007
— 2.3% for those retiring in the first quarter calendar 2007
— 2.3% for those retiring in the second quarter calendar 2007
— 0.2% for those retiring in the third quarter calendar 2007
— No increase for those retiring in the fourth quarter calendar 2007

Retirees being paid on an account where the retiree first became a member of the uniformed services on or after 1 AUG 86 and retired on or before 1 January 07 but elected to receive a Career Status Bonus at 15 years of active service, will receive a COLA increase of 1.3%. Retirees being paid on an account where the retiree first became a member of the uniformed services on or after 1 August 86, retired on or after 1 January 07, and elected to receive a Career Status Bonus at 15 years of active service will receive COLA as follows:

— 1.3% for those retiring before 1 January 07
— 1.3% for those retiring in the first quarter calendar 2007
— 1.3% for those retiring in the second quarter calendar 2007
— No increase for those retiring in the third or fourth quarter calendar 2007. [Source: AFRN, 21 Nov 07]

PEAKE LIKELY FOR VA CONFIRMATION: Retired Army Lt. Gen. James Peake pledged Wednesday to be an advocate for veterans and to be honest with Congress if he is confirmed as the new secretary of veteran’s affairs.

His comments during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing appeared to seal the deal on his nomination, with plans for a Senate vote before Congress adjourns for the holidays.

Democrats on the committee want a VA secretary who is willing to fight within the Bush administration for money and attention to take care of a growing list of problems. They wanted to know if Peake — a decorated Vietnam veteran who was an infantry officer before becoming a surgeon — is up to the job.

“I think I can be tough,” Peake said. “My job is go fight for veterans, and I will do that effectively and efficiently.”
Asked what he would do if the Bush administration tries to short-change veterans programs, Peake vowed to argue within the administration for more money and, if that failed, to be open and honest with Congress about funding gaps.

If confirmed — and that seems virtually assured unless his nomination is held up by something not directly related to his qualifications for the job — Peake would spend the final year of the Bush administration heading a department that faces major challenges, including a growing backlog of benefits claims, complaints of long delays getting medical appointments, and a new generation of combat veterans who have different needs and expectations.

Peake said he would try to make the VA’s benefits claims process easier to use.

“I look forward, if confirmed, to moving forward with making the system less complex, more understandable and better supported with the tools of information technology,” he said. “A veteran should not need a lawyer to figure out what benefit is due or to get that benefit.”

He also promised to be open-minded about some of the controversial issues facing the VA. He said he would be willing to look at the idea of paying for veterans’ medical care with mandatory federal funding, similar to the way Medicare is funded, as an alternative the current system of discretionary budgets that must be approved each year and can fluctuate with the political winds of the moment.

He also supports, in concept, legislation to dramatically increase GI Bill education benefits to cover more college expenses, saying the current system doesn’t seem as generous as benefits should be in wartime.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, the veterans’ committee chairman, said running the VA is never easy but “doing so in a time of war is dramatically more difficult.”

Akaka had a bleak assessment of the current situation with the VA benefits system. “It is “no exaggeration to say that VA’s … compensation system is broken,” he said.

The committee’s ranking Republican member, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, said Peake seems like the perfect choice because of his background as a West Point graduate who served as an infantry officer in Vietnam, was twice wounded, used the GI Bill to attend medical school and went on to serve a full career in the Army, retiring as a three-star general. [Source: Navy Times, 6 Dec 07]

VA ANNOUNCES FUNDS TO HELP CAREGIVERS: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will provide nearly $4.7 million for “caregiver assistance pilot programs” to expand and improve health care education and provide needed training and resources for caregivers who assist disabled and aging veterans in their homes.

“This funding will enhance support and training for the family members and other caregivers who sacrifice to care for disabled and aging veterans,” said Acting VA Secretary Gordon H. Mansfield. “At VA, we’re committed to looking after caregivers who dedicate their own time and well-being to take care of loved ones who are veterans.”

The pilot programs will support eight caregiver projects across the country. In addition, VA provides support and assistance through a variety of programs such as care management, social work service, care coordination, geriatrics and extended care, and through its nationwide volunteer programs.

Among the key services provided to caregivers are transportation, respite care, case management and service coordination, assistance with personal care (bathing and grooming), social and emotional support, and home safety evaluations.

Education programs teach caregivers how to obtain community resources such as legal assistance, financial support, housing assistance, home delivered meals and spiritual support. In addition, caregivers are taught skills such as time management techniques, medication management, communication skills with the medical staff and the veteran, and ways to take better care of themselves.

Many of the projects use technology, including computers, Web-based training, video conferencing and teleconferencing to support the needs of caregivers who often cannot leave their homes to participate in support activities. [Source: VA, 6 Dec 07]

VA/DOD TESTING PROGRAM FOR ALL IN ONE MEDICAL EXAM: Defense and Veterans Affairs officials last week launched a pilot program to simplify the disability ratings process for wounded troops, trimming it down to a single medical exam, a system that could lead to faster and more generous benefits.

The concept was one of several changes recommended by commissions examining the military health care system in the wake of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center controversy earlier this year.
Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary for military personnel policy, told reporters Friday that the pilot will be a single disability evaluation conducted by VA medical personnel for wounded troops.

The idea, he said, is to provide a system that is “faster, more compassionate, less adversarial and by all means more efficient.”
The pilot will include all troops with serious injuries being treated in the national capital region, including those at Walter Reed in Washington; the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.; and the Malcolm Grow Medical Center at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

Under the current process, wounded troops must undergo a complete physical evaluation to determine if they can remain in the military. Carr said depending on the results, they can return to duty, retire with a severance package or retire with a full pension.

Those troops who retire must undergo a second VA evaluation to determine the extent of their veteran’s benefits. Critics said the multiple exams and conflicting ratings often left wounded troops confused and frustrated.

Under the pilot program, troops will undergo a single disability evaluation performed by VA medical staff. The results will be used by both departments in their separate processes.
“For a federal agency to accept the work of another agency is not trivial,” Carr said. “But you’ve got to take that in order for this to work.”

Typically, VA disability ratings are on average 8 percent higher than Defense ratings, Carr said. He said that gap likely isn’t enough to disqualify troops trying to stay on active duty.
But it would mean higher payouts once those troops enter the veterans affairs system. The joint evaluation also would cut down on the wait troops have before receiving that money after medical retirement, which is often up to six months.

Michael Dominguez, principal deputy undersecretary for personnel and readiness, said officials have no time line for expanding the program beyond the capital region, but officials will be monitoring its progress to see when all wounded troops might be brought into a more simplified system.

Also Friday, Defense officials announced the launch of a new Defense Center of Excellence focused on traumatic brain injury and mental health issues.

The center, to have its headquarters in Virginia and due to be fully operational by October 2009, will work jointly with VA experts to evaluate and improve treatment of psychological health and brain injury issues. [Source: Stars and Stripes, 2 Dec 07]

VA CLAIMS BACKLOG: The Department of Veterans Affairs fell further behind this year in its attempts to give veterans timely decisions on their disability claims, new records show.

The latest numbers are in an annual performance report the VA prepares for Congress. Overall, the agency either has fallen behind or has made no progress in improving its performance in more than half of what it lists as its key goals.

In its speed of processing disability claims, the agency lost ground for the third year in a row.
Moreover, McClatchy Newspapers has found that the VA put a positive spin on many of its numbers and in two instances provided Congress with incorrect or incomplete figures.

The agency said it took an average of 183 days to process a claim in fiscal 2007, longer than in any of the five years tracked in the report. Processing exceeded its 2007 goal of 160 days and its long-term goal of eventually reducing processing time to 125 days.

Congress and veterans closely watch the time it takes the VA to process claims, and the agency has vowed in previous years to pick up the pace. When it was asked about its processing speed last year, for example, the VA told McClatchy that hiring new workers would help it increase production and decrease its backlog of claims in 2007.

In fact, processing time increased by an average of six days, and the backlog of pending claims rose from 377,681 to 391,257, the agency’s records show.

The VA said that it was aggressively tackling the issue, hiring more than 1,000 workers, boosting overtime and revamping training. The agency also said it was receiving more disability claims than it had at any time in recent history and that it had received more than it had expected in 2007.

Beyond that, the agency said that meeting or exceeding its goals wasn’t always the best measure of success.

“The VA sets goals to measure how we are doing so that we can continuously improve performance,” said Bob Henke, assistant secretary for management. “We use goals to move and improve performance.”

But for Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, the report is more evidence that the agency hasn’t been upfront with Congress about its performance or its needs.

In many sections of the report, the VA looks past the missed goals to put the best face on its efforts.

Under “Positive 2007 Outcomes,” for example, the VA highlights “accurate claims processing” and said the “accuracy rate … was maintained at 88 percent, helping to ensure that veterans receive the proper level of monetary benefits.” Only elsewhere does the report note that 88 percent is below the agency’s goal of 98 percent.

The VA reports that 95 percent or more of outpatient visits are scheduled within 30 days of the patients’ desired dates, a fact it has touted to Congress repeatedly. The agency’s inspector general, however, found this year that only 75 percent of the visits it examined took place within 30 days. The VA said it didn’t agree with that finding and was examining the issue.

The VA also claimed that customer-satisfaction ratings by inpatients at VA hospitals are 10 points higher than ratings from private-sector hospitals. In fact, the number the agency used as a comparison is wrong, and as a result the advantage for VA hospitals is half as big as the VA claims.

The VA told McClatchy that the mistake was made by a “transposition error, and we will be fixing that as soon as possible.” [Source: McClatchy News Service, 28 Nov 07]

VA CUTS PROCESSING TIME FOR GI BILL BENEFITS: The Department of Veterans Affairs has cut eight days from the length of time it takes to process a new claim for GI Bill education benefits.

VA officials announced Monday that the average processing time is 32 days for first-time recipients, down from 40 days a year ago. For those re-enrolling in school, the average is now 13 days, down from the previous 20, according to the statement.

Keith Wilson, VA’s education services director, said processing time in November was cut to just 26 days for initial claims and to 10 days for re-enrollments, a sign of continued progress. VA officials said their goal is to cut processing time by 20 percent within one year.

The drop applies to education benefits claims, not disability benefits claims, which have been an area of greater concern; it takes almost six months, on average, to process initial disability claims and almost two years if a veteran appeals the initial VA decision.

On education benefits, VA officials used new procedures to cut the wait time, including creating a temporary call center to handle GI Bill-related calls. VA officials said this has worked so well that it will create a permanent call center in Oklahoma early next year.
The VA also has made changes so that schools where service members or veterans are enrolled can electronically submit claims, although this currently makes up a small proportion of total claims.

In 2007, 524,000 veterans and beneficiaries received approximately $21 billion dollars of education assistance. Since 1944, more than 21.4 million veterans and their beneficiaries have received GI Bill benefits.
VA education benefits include Montgomery GI Bill for active duty personnel, Montgomery GI Bill for Selected Reserves, the Reservist Education Assistance Program and educational assistance for survivors and dependents.
For more information on VA education benefits, go to VA’s education Web site at: www.gibill.va.gov. [Source: Navy Times/VA, 3 Dec 07]

DISABLED COMBAT VETS CAN GET $500, NO STRINGS: The Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, in conjunction with the American Legion, is giving gifts of $500 each to 1,000 disabled veterans who served in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars.

The Coalition presented a check for $500,000 to the American Legion, and the entire amount will be awarded to veterans, officials said. The Legion will assume all administrative costs.
There are no strings attached, and the money does not have to be used for any specific purpose, said American Legion spokeswoman Ramona Joyce. There is no “financial need” requirement — the only requirements are that veterans served in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, and have a disability rated at 30 percent or more.

The money will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.
Grants will be available through May 2008, or until the money runs out. “We’d love to go through it before the holidays so they can have extra spending money for presents or maybe for a plane ticket home,” Joyce said.

“These grants are just a small token of appreciation for the sacrifices made by so many of America’s men and women in uniform,” said Thomas Palma, general manager of the Coalition, in an announcement about the gifts. “Our Coalition was able to raise a lot of money from caring people but we do not have the distribution network of the American Legion. The Legion is a well-respected organization with a presence in communities across America.”

The Legion also distributed checks for the Coalition in 2005.
To apply for a grant, veterans should contact their state’s headquarters office. Contact information can be found in the American Legion’s State Headquarters Directory (http://www.legion.org/?section=our_legion&subsection=ol_departments&content=ol_deptdir). If further assistance is needed, veterans can call Ms. Joyce at (202) 263-2982 or John Raughter at (317) 630-1253. [Source: Navy Times, 5 Dec 07]

COURT RULING FAVORS FUNERAL PICKETERS: A federal appeals court on December 6 temporarily blocked Kansas laws restricting pickets at funerals as their constitutionality is reviewed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled in favor of Shirley Phelps-Roper, who sought to temporarily block enforcement of statutes restricting where members of Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church can picket at funerals is reviewed, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Westboro Baptist Church members believe God punishes the United States for tolerating homosexuality by killing Americans, including soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Members of the church have picketed funerals of soldiers killed in in the two theaters, sometimes prompting confrontations.

Phelps-Roper said Thursday the challenged statutes weren’t clear in defining how far from funerals church members can picket, using words like “in front of” and “about.” Because of vague language, she said law enforcement officers and other officials could interpret how the statutes should be enforced.

On Aug. 5, Phelps-Roper and other church members protested near a soldier’s funeral in St. Joseph, Mo. Responding to the protest, the state enacted statutes that criminalized picketing “in front or about” a funeral location or procession, and within 300 feet of a funeral location or procession. [Source: United Press International, 7 Dec 07]

WREATHS ACROSS AMERICA: The Department of Veterans Affairs’ national cemeteries will again participate in this year’s annual Wreaths Across America initiative scheduled to take place at noon on Saturday, December 15, 2007. That date marks the 16th anniversary of Maine wreaths being donated to decorate the graves at Arlington National Cemetery and the second year of a national campaign, dubbed Wreaths Across America, that will bring the same remembrance wreaths to over 230 National and State Veterans cemeteries and monuments across the nation.

The Worcester Wreath Company has donated 5,000 wreaths for placement by volunteers on gravesites in Arlington National Cemetery, in a mission to Remember – Honor – and Teach the value of freedom in the world today.

Participants include veterans groups, companies, school children and individuals. The truck carrying the wreaths, flanked by a contingent of Patriot Guard Riders, is scheduled to arrive at Arlington National Cemetery at 9:00 AM. The volunteers will then lay the wreaths, and a ceremony will be held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers at noon. This year, all 125 VA national cemeteries will participate with wreath-laying ceremonies for six wreaths – one for each Service and one for POW/MIAs.

The wreaths are made and decorated by the employees of Worcester Wreath Company. Through this program, company president Morrill Worcester wanted to recognize veterans, active duty military, and their families. For more information on this event, please visit: http://www.wreaths-across-america.org/. [Source: NAUS Weekly Update, 20 Nov 07]

FORMER GERNALS/ADMIRALS QUESTION MILITARY GAY POLICY: Twenty-eight retired generals and admirals released a letter late November urging Congress to repeal the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law, according to a report in the New York Times. The letter’s release marked the 14th anniversary of the policy that allows gay men and lesbians to serve in the military but only if they keep their orientation secret.

“We respectfully urge Congress to repeal the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” says the letter, a copy of which Stars and Stripes also received.

The officers said in the letter that “scholarly data show” that 65,000 gay men and lesbians now serve in the American armed forces and that there are more than 1 million gay veterans.
“They have served our nation honorably,” the letter states.

Although the signers of the letter are high-ranking, none is of the stature of Gen. John Shalikashvili, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when the policy was adopted and who now argues for its repeal, the Times noted. Shalikashvili refocused attention on the issue earlier this year when he wrote in a New York Times op-ed that conversations with military personnel had prompted him to change his position.

Through 2006, more than 10,000 people were removed from the military under the policy, according to government statistics cited by the Times. But the number of servicemembers discharged under the policy has declined noticeably since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, dropping to 612 in fiscal 2006 from 1,227 in fiscal 2001, the paper reported.

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Times that there were no efforts at the Pentagon or across the military to alter the policy. [Source: Stars and Stripes, 1 Dec 07]

NYC COUNCIL CONSIDERS RESOLUTION CALLING FOR REPEAL OF ‘DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL’: The New York City Council is considering a second resolution urging Congress to repeal the federal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel. The resolution, sponsored by openly gay Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, openly gay Council Member Rosie Mendez and Council Members Larry B. Seabrook, Chair of the Civil Rights Committee and Hiram Monserrate, Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, follows a similar resolution adopted by the city in May 2005. The resolution urges Congress to pass The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1246), a Congress bill to repeal the law.

“Communities across the country are beginning to realize the impact the military’s gay ban has on their security, safety and well-being,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). “The New York City Council is sending a strong, clear message to Washington that Americans no longer support the exclusion of qualified, capable Americans from our armed forces. All of our communities, and all of our citizens, are safer when we recruit based on qualification and refuse to perpetuate discrimination. Speaker Quinn and Council Members Mendez, Seabrook and Monserrate have taken an unmistakable stand in favor of military readiness and individual liberty, and SLDN salutes their commitment to ending this law.”

The New York City Council resolution follows similar resolutions adopted in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Saint Louis, Tucson and West Hollywood. The California State Assembly also passed a resolution in support of repeal, in 2005. [Source: PRNewswire/USNewswire, 3 Dec 07]

OIF/OEF VA STUDY: My name is Adam Brown and I am a psychology intern at the Manhattan (23rd Street) VA Medical Center. I am currently recruiting OEF/OIF veterans and active duty personnel for a study that I am conducting on memory. The study takes about 2 hours and is being conducted at the New School for Social Research. Participants will receive $25 dollars and one round trip NYC Metrocard. If you have any questions or are interested, please contact me by phone or e-mail. Thank you.

Adam Brown, M.A.
Psychology Intern
VA New York Harbor Healthcare System
New York Campus
423 East 23rd Street, # 2652
New York, NY 10010
(212) 686-7500 ext. 7705
(212) 951-6357 fax

VETERANS UPWARD BOUND AIDS STUDENTS: The Veterans Upward Bound program has helped numerous veterans to enter and succeed in college, vocational school or technical school. Currently recruiting participants, the program offers free educational services to qualified veterans. The Veterans Upward Bound program at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) in Long Island City, Queens will serve military veterans who wish to prepare to enter postsecondary school. Classes start January 7, 2008. For additional information on LaGuardia’s Veterans Upward Bound program, please call:(718) 482-5386. Also, visit Military.com (http://education.military.com/timesaving-programs/veterans-upward-bound-vub) to learn more about Veterans Upward Bound programs nationwide. [Source: Military.com/LaGuardia CC]
SANTA CLAUS SEASON OPENS FOR NORAD: The highly serious North American Aerospace Defense Command is showing its warm and fuzzy side for the 52nd year in a row.
The NORAD Tracks Santa web site (http://www.noradsanta.org/) went live in late November, according to a press release.
On December 24, beginning at 2 AM Mountain Standard Time, the web site will feature a minute-by-minute update of Santa’s travels around the world. All the information is available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish.
The Santa tracking tradition began in 1955 with an errant phone call to NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command operations center in Colorado Springs, Colo., NORAD spokesman Michael Perini said in the release. “The call was from a local child who dialed a misprinted telephone number in a local newspaper advertisement.”
The commander who answered the phone that night gave the youngster the information he requested and the trandition of NORAD tracking Santa began, he explained. The program has grown continually since it was first presented on the Internet in 1998.
“In 2006, the web site received a whopping 941 million hits frmo 210 countries and territories,” Perini said.
On Christmas Eve, 756 volunteers at the NTS Operations Center answered nearly 65,000 phone calls and 96,000 e-mails from children around the world. The Web site features the history of the program, information on how NORAD tracks Santa and interactive games. [Source: Air Force Times, 20 Nov 07]
MARINES ACCEPTING DONATIONS FOR “TOYS FOR TOT’S: The “Toys for Tots” program began in the fall of 1947 when a group of Marine Reservists based in Los Angeles collected and delivered 5,000 toys to local needy children. Today, more than 550 Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots distribution centers are located across the country.

Toys for Tots enables families of limited means to provide something for their children on Christmas. Collected toys are distributed through local social welfare agencies and other organizations. Besides toys for young children, the program also seeks gift donations suitable for teenagers, such as hand-held video games, purses, watches and other items.
For more information, or if you are interested in donating toys, please visit the NYC Toys for Tots website at: http://www.toysfortotsnyc.org/ [Source: http://www.toysfortots.org, 27 Nov 07]

DECEMBER EVENTS IN NYC: The following is a list of events that are taking place throughout the five boroughs during the month of December. This list is not all inclusive and other events may be taking place throughout the city. Please pass this on to others.

December 10, 2007 – The City Council’s Veteran’s Committee is having a hearing at 1 PM in the Committee Room at City Hall. The meeting agenda is: Oversight – Addressing Homelessness among NYC’s Veterans. Both the DHS and MOVA Commissioner are expected to testify.

December 14, 2007 – The Marine Corps Reserve Association (MCRA) General Carl Day Chapter is having it’s Traditional Christmas-Chanukah Party from 7:15 PM until ??. The location is Sardi’s, 234 West 44th Street. There will be a Cash Bar, complimentary H’ors D’oeuvres and complimentary Egg Nog (Plain and Spiked). Please note that some members choose to have dinner in Sardi’s Dining Room afterwards. You can call Sardi’s for dinner reservations at (212) 727-4371. Mention that you are with us. For more information, please contact Alexander Pas at (917) 572-1560.

December 17, 2007 – The Manhattan Vet Center is hosting its Annual Holiday Party from 2 PM until 6 PM. There will be Food, Beverage and Music. All Veterans, Families and Friends are welcome! The Manhattan Vet Center is located at 32 Broadway, 2nd Floor, Suite 200.
December 17, 2007 – Kwanzaa and Holiday Celebrations – Veterans on Ice! Veteran’s of All Eras, especially Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, their children and families are invited to join Black Veterans for Social Justice (BVSJ) for a evening of Ice Skating. This event will take place from 6 – 9 PM at Wollman Rink in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Admission and Skate Rental is FREE! If you don’t skate, come out for Hot Chocolate and great Fellowship. To reserve your spot, contact Windy McClinton from BVSJ at (718) 852-6400 ext. 226 or 221. This event is sponsored by BVSJ.
December 18, 2007 – There will be a Veteran’s Press Conference on the Steps of City Hall with CM Avella at 11:30 AM. The purpose of this press conference is to speak out about Intro’s 446 & 447, two bills that help veteran vendors which have been pending before the Consumer Affairs Committee since September 27, 2006! Please join us and help get the word out to others. If you would like more information, please visit the City Council’s website or contact Dan Rossi at: rossi_danrossi@yahoo.com.

December 21, 2007 – NYMAS Talk: “Al Qaeda’s Doctrine for Waging an Insurgency” with Norman Cigar, Marine Corps University. NYMAS talks are free and open to the public. They are held at the City University of New York Graduate Center, at 365 Fifth Avenue between 34th and 35th Streets from 7 PM to 9 PM. These lectures are held on the 6th floor, Room 6-495, but confirmation of the room should be obtained from the guard at the street-level entrance. Topics and speakers may be subject to change without notice. A current updated schedule is always available at this website (www.nymas.org).

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Well, November has come and gone and what a month it was! I would like to add my congratulations to EVERYONE who received an award or recognition this past month (and there were many of you). I hope that you and yours had a wonderful Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. Let me wish you all a Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas and a very happy and fruitful New Year.

I was looking at what I wrote last year and (once again) this year has been a roller coaster and while we have had some highs, we have taken a number of lows. We lost (what I consider) a large number of individuals this year that were real fighters in the veteran’s community here in the city. Last year I wrote that the community seemed to be going through a sort of malaise. This year, the community seems to be going through a sort of difficult transition with battles (issues) looming on multiple fronts.

As I continue to say, its way past time for the community to become more pro-active in what we want and expect from our local leaders. With our country at war and our servicemen and women coming home, there are many issues that need to be address and we are just not seeing the leadership that is urgently needed. It’s easy to give a speech and say the right things to the community – it’s a lot harder to actually show that support.

So that’s it for now. As always, please pass on this newsletter to others. If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at: bjoe7@hotmail.com. So take care, please have a safe and wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year! Until next month…

Joseph Bello, NYC Veterans Advocate