Saturday, July 31, 2010

Time to Reinstate Compulsory Military Service in America

I have received numerous e-mails about embattled Democrat Congressman Charlie Rangel's bill to reinstate compulsory military service in America. I would like everyone to look past who Charlie Rangel is, a crook who used his office for personal gain, and consider reinstating the draft based upon its merits.

I was in the Army when we made the transition from an military force based upon drafting able bodied men and women to serve, to an all volunteer force. I was against this move. However, politics and a knee jerk reaction by those who were against the Vietnam War led to the elimination of the draft. This was the wrong decision forced upon our military.

A calling to the nation's defense is the first responsibility of all American citizens since Bunker Hill.

Today, the military service hand picks those who will serve using criteria that set a high bar for entrance. That is good. The down side is many of our youth now consider service to the nation as secondary to their personal aggrandizement. Today's youth take advantage of the freedoms and liberties protected by our military. The American youth have no sense of service above ones' self. They have no skin in the game, so they play war games on their Wii and X-Boxes, when a real war is raging overseas and in the homeland. While our soldiers are fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, most Americans are going to the mall. Sad but true.

Here are the three reasons why I believe we must reinstate the draft and compulsory military service for all Americans:

  1. America and the American dream are based upon sacrifice in service to the nation. Other countries understand that service above one's self interests creates a bond between the individual and the America whose bounty gives so much to so many from so few. Today less than one-percent of all Americans serve in our uniformed services. This one-percent is defending with their lives the other ninety-nine percent. That is not what being an American is all about. Service to protect and defend this nation is part and parcel of being an American citizen. Our military takes an oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies both foreign and domestic. Until you raise your right hand and so swear you will not understand what service really means. The military instills a sense of duty, honor and country in all who serve.
  2. The military creates an understanding of team work, loyalty to ones comrades, and leadership. Few other organizations can make the same claim. Unlike the private sector, pledging one's life to be part of an elite group of military men and women transcends the ordinary world of work. However, leadership skill sets learn in the military easily transfer to the private sector and enhance the overall quality of our workforce and work place. Core values like showing up to work on time, dressing properly and addressing your superiors in a respectful manner are instilled during military training. While the American military has rules it also encourages independent decision making in the face of danger. Soldiers learn how to think on their feet. Something sorely lacking today.
  3. Finally, the military provides training in a vast variety of careers. From driving a truck to flying billion dollar aircraft. From being a medic to commanding a hospital. Job expertise of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines makes a difference in the workforce. The technical job skills learned as a baker, butcher, or candlestick maker carry over to our businesses with the added bonus of free on-the-job training provided by our military. A win-win for our society.

As Dan Senor, author of Startup Nation, points out it is Israel's compulsory military service that in large part has led to it being a startup nation. Everyone in Israel serves and has directly led to it being so successful and having so many entrepreneurs. As Dan points out it is the military experiences of Israeli youth that solidifies the idea that, " Israel is not just a country, but a comprehensive state of mind." That is what compulsory military service does, it creates a "comprehensive state of mind" that serves that nation well.

Time to reinstate compulsory military service in America and regain that which has been lost - our collective comprehensive state of mind.

To comment on this column please CLICK HERE.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Questions and Answers for New PTSD Rule (VA Office of Field Operations July 9, 2010)

I heard that VA has changed the regulations for PTSD claims. What has changed? VA has amended its rules for processing disability compensation claims for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The new rule eliminates the requirement for corroborating evidence of the claimed in-service stressor if it is related to the veteran’s “fear of hostile military or terrorist activity”.

What are the new requirements of this change? This new rule now requires that the following be demonstrated to establish service connection for PTSD: the claimed stressor is consistent with the places, types, and circumstances of the veteran’s service; A VA psychiatrist or psychologist, or contract equivalent, confirms that the claimed stressor is adequate to support a diagnosis of PTSD; and the veteran’s symptoms are related to the claimed stressor.

When does this new rule take effect? The new rule is effective on July 13, 2010. The rule is applicable to all PTSD service connected claims, including appeals, that are: pending before VA, or received on or after, July 13, 2010; pending before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals; or pending before VA on or after July 13, 2010, because the Veterans Court vacated and remanded a Board decision.

I claimed PTSD before and was denied. If I reopen now, will VA go back to when I first claimed PTSD? If service connection for PTSD is granted under the amended regulation, the effective date will be no earlier than July 13, 2010, the date the new rule went into effect.

I currently have a PTSD claim (or appeal) for service connection pending at the regional office and am waiting for a decision. What do I have to do? Nothing. This new rule will be applied to any pending claim (or appeal) involving service connection for PTSD.

Should I still provide proof of my combat medals? You should always submit any evidence that would support your claim.

I claimed PTSD. Will I be scheduled for a VA exam? Your claim will be reviewed and, if a VA exam is necessary, you will receive a separate notification letter with reporting instructions.

My private physician has already diagnosed me with PTSD. Do I have to report for a VA exam? A private report or diagnosis is not adequate for establishing service connection for PTSD; therefore, a VA exam will be required. You should submit this supporting evidence from your doctor, or we can request those for you. (PCR must offer VA Form 21-4142 and document evidence on VA Form 21-0820. Refer VA Form 21-0820 to SOJ.)

I have been denied service connection for PTSD in the past. How do I reapply? We will have to reopen your claim. (PCR must take claim on VA Form 21-0820 and refer to SOJ.)

Does this change regarding PTSD apply to any Veteran? Yes. This change applies to all veterans, regardless of when they served.

VA Simplifies Access to Health Care and Benefits for Veterans with PTSD (VA News Release July 12, 2010) WASHINGTON – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced a critical step forward in providing an easier process for veterans seeking health care and disability compensation for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with the publication of a final regulation in the Federal Register.

By publishing a final regulation in the Federal Register to simplify the process for a veteran to claim service connection for PTSD, VA reduces the evidence needed if the trauma claimed by a veteran is related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity and is consistent with the places, types, and circumstances of the veteran’s service. This science-based regulation relies on evidence that concluded that a veteran’s deployment to a war zone is linked to an increased risk of PTSD.

Under the new rule, VA would not require corroboration of a stressor related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity if a VA doctor confirms that the stressful experience recalled by a veteran adequately supports a diagnosis of PTSD and the veteran's symptoms are related to the claimed stressor. Previously, claims adjudicators were required to corroborate that a non-combat veteran actually experienced a stressor related to hostile military activity. This final rule simplifies the development that is required for these cases.

VA expects this rule making to decrease the time it takes VA to decide access to care and claims falling under the revised criteria. More than 400,000 veterans currently receiving compensation benefits are service connected for PTSD. Combined with VA’s shorter claims form, VA’s new streamlined, science-based regulation allows for faster and more accurate decisions that also expedite access to medical care and other benefits for veterans.

PTSD is a medically recognized anxiety disorder that can develop from seeing or experiencing an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury to which a person responds with intense fear, helplessness or horror, and is not uncommon among war veterans.

For additional information, go to or call VA’s toll free benefits number at 1-800-827-1000.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Charlotte County Veterans Council Donates Computer

The Charlotte County Veterans Council will present a dedicated computer to the Military Heritage Museum on behalf of Don Moore, a longtime military affairs writer, Saturday, June 26 at 1 p.m., during the “Village and Verse: Taste of the Village” literary/culinary festival at Fishermen’s Village.

Terry Lynn, President of the Veterans Council, said the computer will enable veterans and visitors to the museum to read a growing cyber-collection of “War Tales,” the popular column about military men and women written by Moore which appears weekly in the Charlotte Sun.

“Freedom’s not free,” Lynn said. “Giving people access to these tales of military men and women is a way of reminding us of the sacrifices people made for this country.”

Lynn praised Kim Lovejoy, Executive Director of the Museum, for her vision.

“Kim understands technology, and the importance of blending the displays and artifacts at the museum with the latest computer advances,” Lynn said. “That means we’re sure she’ll find a way to combine our gift with existing displays to present a dynamic picture of our veterans.

Moore, who is working to archive the thousands of “War Tales” he has collected, was surprised but pleased to hear of the gift.

“I’m just doing my job in telling these stories, but I’d love to find a way to get them all available for research or whatever,” he said.

Moore, who has published two volumes of his “War Tales” columns, will be available to autograph copies of his books. The ceremony will take place at the Military Heritage Museum, located just inside Fishermen’s Village.

All veterans and the general public are invited to attend the ceremony.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Don't Ask About Homosexuality, Don't Tell About Its Negative Impacts On Our Military

President Obama, Senator Levin and Speaker Pelosi are forcing a vote on the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell legislation that has served us well. They are doing so without the benefit of a report from the Department of Defense (DOD) on the impact of repealing this law on our readiness and sustainability of the all volunteer force.

But why?

It is because when the DOD studies an issue they really study it. Their report will have great credibility and a major impact on how homosexuality is viewed, not only in our military, but in our society. If the DOD report shows that having homosexuals in the military negatively impacts our combat readiness, the health, morale and welfare of our forces, and presents long term risks to the sustainability of the force, then the barriers to looking at homosexuals in our society will be broken down. President Obama, Senator Levin and Speaker Pelosi cannot let that report get out to the public because support for repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell will collapse.

People will begin to say well if homosexual behavior negatively impacts our military does it not also negatively impact our society?

The federal government has not seriously studied the long term impacts of homosexual behavior on the individual, their partners and society as a whole. This DOD report could open the way for further studies by other government agencies like Health and Human Services on homosexuality. Researchers would feel emboldened to study the impacts of homosexuality on our healthcare system, businesses and social policy. It will open a Pandora's box that President Obama wants to keep the lid on.

I have written about the negative health aspects of homosexuality here, and here. It is critical that the DOD report be completed and released to Congress and the American people before any legislation repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell is considered.

Here is a video from FRC Action on what our generals think about repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell:

Related articles:

Veterans Groups and House Armed Services Leaders Oppose President’s DADT Plan

Rush to Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell an Insult to Military Personnel and Their Families

Monday, July 13, 2009

Legislative Update - July 2009 by LTC Lee F. Kichen

BATTLING INSIDE THE BELTWAY: Federal Legislative Update

VFW State Commander Tells Congress to Leave VA Health Care and TRICARE Alone-In a letter to the Florida delegation of the United States Congress, Department Commander Stephen Surface urged the Senators and members of the House of Representatives leave VA health care and TRICARE out of a national health care reform package. Surface wrote: “Military health benefits provide an essential offset to the extraordinary demands and sacrifices inherent in a military career. Unique and specialized VA programs acknowledge special government responsibilities to those who incur service-caused injuries and illnesses. Each is critical in sustaining a career all-volunteer force, and subjecting them to taxation would be a major erosion of benefits that would undermine recruiting, retention, and national security.” We believe that VA health care should continue as stand alone and untaxed programs rather than be absorbed by some ill-defined national health care system. To do so would fail to recognize the government’s special responsibility to the active, reserve and retired military members and veterans and their families.

Advanced Funding for VA Health Care Continues to Make Progress-Advanced funding for the Veterans Affairs Department moved a big step forward, when the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MILCON/VA) while considering the 2010 appropriation agreed to set aside $48 billion for 2011 veterans’ health care costs.

This action represents the latest step towards achieving the VFW number one legislative priority of ensuring predictable and continuous funding for veterans’ health care. Only once in the last nineteen years has The Congress completed this all important appropriation on time. Before advanced funding becomes a reality, lawmakers must work-out final details like how much money needs to be set aside to cover a budget one year in advance including cost estimates and a procedure for making adjustments if the estimates are wrong.

In other action, the MILCON/VA subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., approved a $133.8 billion funding bill on Monday, including $23 billion for military construction, $53 billion for veterans’ health care and administrative programs and $55.8 billion in mandatory spending, such as veterans’ benefits. The 2010 spending is about $440 million more than the Obama administration had requested.

“We have done our best to address both the needs of the military and our veterans in this legislation,” Johnson said in a statement. “I remain committed to keeping our promises to our veterans and honoring them by ensuring they receive the care they deserve and require.”

Advanced funding includes $37.1 billion for medical services, $5.7 billion for medical facilities and $5.3 billion for medical support, money that would become available on Oct. 1, 2010, which is the first day of fiscal 2011.

The House version of the 2010 veterans funding bill includes a placeholder for a 2011 advanced appropriation but does not provide a specific number while waiting on the Obama administration to make 2011 budget estimates.

House Adopts “Light” Concurrent Receipt Measure-When the House Armed Services Committee did its “mark-up” of the FY 2010 National Defense Authorization Act we were very disappointed to learn that it did not include the Obama’ Administration’s proposal to expand Concurrent Receipt of Military Retirement Pay and VA Disability Compensation to disabled military retirees with less than 20 years of service.

However, after considering through nearly 70 amendments, the House voted overwhelmingly (389-to-22) on June 25 to approve its version of the FY 2010 Defense Authorization Bill (HR 2647). With respect to Concurrent Receipt there is “good news” and “bad news”. One of the most important floor amendments was offered by Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO), to phase out over five years the disability offset to military retired pay for service members retired for disability (Chapter 61).

The first three years of the five-year phase-out would end the offset for more severely disabled Chapter 61 retirees with less than 20 years of service:

  • On January 1, 2010, Chapter 61 retirees with less than 20 years of service and a VA rating of either 90% or 100%, or who are deemed “unemployable” by the VA, would become eligible.
  • On January 1, 2011, Chapter 61 retirees with less than 20 years of service and a VA rating of either 70% or 80% become eligible.
  • On January 1, 2012, Chapter 61 retirees with less than 20 years of service and a VA rating of either 50% or 60% become eligible.

Over the following two years, the offset would be eliminated for all remaining Chapter 61 retirees:

  • On January 1, 2013, Chapter 61 retirees with a VA rating of either 30% or 40% will become eligible.
  • On January 1, 2014, Chapter 61 retirees with any VA rating become eligible.

The bad news is that House leaders were able to identify funding only for the first increment in 2010. Congress would have to come up with additional funding by Oct 1, 2010, or the program would expire. In reality there is little chance of Congress letting this high-profile initiative (which was generated by President Obama) lapse.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), the senior Republican on the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, expressed his support of the bill but said the House “could have done so much more.”
We couldn’t agree more with Mr. Wilson.

TALLAHASSEE TALES: State Legislative Update

Veterans of Foreign Wars Adopts State Legislative Priorities for 2010-The 2009-10 Department Council of Administration met for the first time immediately after this year’s convention in Orlando on June 21 and adopted, on a voice vote, the following legislative priorities:

1. Legislation asking the people to amend Article VII, Section 6 (e) of the Florida Constitution eliminating the pre-service Florida residency requirements for the “Combat Related” ad Valorem tax exemption. Last year, the COA adopted similar language as well as language seeking an Ad Valorem exemption for members of the Armed Forces receiving hostile fire or being in imminent danger. The 2009 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature adopted a resolution amending the Florida Constitution allowing an Ad Valorem exemption to all service members deployed overseas. This resolution will require approval by 60% of the voters in the November 2010 General Election. Senator David Aronberg (D-West Palm Beach) and Representative Doug Holder (R-FL)

2. Legislation authorizing charitable organizations to utilize electronic or other mechanical devices to dispense “Instant Bingo” cards. During the Regular Session of the 2009 Florida Legislature, we secured language authorizing machines in the Senate version of a gambling bill. However, the House did not have language authorizing the use of machines. We expect Senator Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) to once again sponsor this bill in the upper chamber, we should work the House leadership to gain support for this measure.

3. Legislation providing for the sale of a Veterans of Foreign Wars distinctive license plate with the proceeds of sales accruing to the Department of Florida VFW Foundation. House Transportation Committee Chairman, Representative Rich Glorioso, late last session invited the VFW to submit language for his review. Attached hereto is a copy of that language.

4. Legislation granting Congressionally Chartered veterans service organizations an exemption from the Department of Agriculture administrative solicitation fees. Last session we were unable to gain any support for this legislation given the fact the Legislature looked at raising most state fees as a means of raising revenue.

5. Legislation granting equal treatment for wartime veterans in the state retirement system. Senator Aronberg intends to reintroduce this legislation in 2010. A potential House sponsor is Representative Maria Lorts-Sach (D-Delray Beach). Ms. Sachs was the driving force behind the VFW Legislative Priority expanding veteran’s preferences for State and Local jobs.

Recommended County, Municipal and School District Legislative Priority

Local ordinances establishing preferences for disabled veteran owned businesses bidding on county, municipal and school district contracts.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Vets Funding Passed!

Today, the House of Representatives passed legislation that provides guaranteed funding for health care programs within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The House approved a bill (H.R. 1016) by a 409-1 vote. H.R. 1016 would provide for two-year advance funding for certain Department of Veteran Affairs health care programs, prosthetics and Internet technologies. As a cosponsor of H.R. 1016, and a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am very pleased that the House took action to help protect the funding of important VA health care programs.

In addition, the House also passed a few other bills related to veterans. I have summarized those bills below:

• H.R. 1211 would require the VA to study the barriers and services for women veterans; it would provide staff training to better treat sexual trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); it would establish a child care pilot program for certain veterans receiving care; and it would allow the VA to provide care for a newborn of a woman veteran receiving VA maternity care. The House passed this bill with a 408-0 vote.

• H.R. 1172 would allow the VA to post a list of organizations that provide scholarships to veterans and their survivors on its website. The House passed this bill with a 411-0 vote.

• S. 407 amends the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans and will codify increases equal to that of the cost of living adjustment of Social Security, and make it retroactive to December 1, 2008. The House passed this bill with a 403-0 vote.

I hope that this legislative update is helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact either my Sarasota Office (941-951-6643) or my Bradenton Office (941-747-9081) on a veterans issue or with any other concern that you have.


Vern Buchanan
Member of Congress