Friday, December 28, 2007
December 23, 2007
School employees in military to be made whole
by Audrey Blackwell
The School Board of Sarasota County will pay employees recalled to active federal military duty who lose pay as a result of their service.
The school board approved the policy change at its Dec. 11 meeting. It affects employees called to military duty retroactively to Sept. 11, 2001.
The policy change applies to employees who were in an appointed status as of the approval date of the change. The board will make up the difference in pay for the duration of the recall.
The measure should cost the district about $20,000 for the retroactive portion, according to Scott Ferguson, communications specialist for the district.
"I talked with Scott Lempe, our chief operating officer, and he said that if he drew a line in the sand today, fewer than 12 people would be affected retroactively and only two have lost pay because of military service," Ferguson said.
Ferguson does not know what the cost would be going forward.
To qualify for the wage supplement, the employee must apply for it and produce a copy of a Military Leave and Earnings Statement for each month for which he or she is entitled to the wages, a news release from the school district said.
"Compensation will also be made for normal school district longevity pay that would otherwise be lost due to time away from the job due to federal military service," the release said.
The release quotes Board Chair Kathy Kleinlein as stating: "We adopted this measure because of the men and women who serve our country in military uniforms during situations such as our current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are already making sacrifices for their country, and we want to make sure they and their families do not suffer any additional hardships."
Kleinlein is a veteran of the Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry Rainbow Division in New York.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
In response the Veterans Commission sent the below to the Sarasota County School Board and Superintendent Norris. This issue is important to all veterans and must be addressed.
Dear Superintendent Norris,
We have learned that the Coalition of Concerned Patriots has requested that the Sarasota County School District give them the same access and time on Sarasota high school campuses with students as military recruiters.
The Sarasota County Veterans Commission would like to become involved as you consider this request.
We firmly believe that the Coalition of Concerned Patriots should not be given the same access to high school campuses as military recruiters. As your staff has stated publicly, this group is presenting a narrow political view not offering our students career opportunities.
We have reviewed the web site of the Coalition. Their intent appears to be to create disruption and denigrate service in our military.
On their web site they openly provide information on how someone can create a conscientious objector's profile before entering the military for later use. Clearly the idea is to have people enter the military with the intent of becoming a conscientious objector. They state, "You need to build a paper trail and document everything possible that could help define you as a person who could not go to war. Have your photo, for example, taken at an anti-war event."
But why? The military is all volunteer. If someone objects to serving then simply do not volunteer.
The web site also makes statements that are lies or extreme exaggerations about service in the military in terms of educational opportunity, pay and benefits, job skills and the value of service to our nation. They ask blatantly politically motivated questions such as "Does dropping bombs on kids really sound like fun? How about killing or dying for corporate profit?"
We know that your outstanding legal staff is looking at what the law and your board policies say about providing access to this and other groups.
We support denying the Coalition access to any and all high school campuses. We say this for several reasons. As stated above the Coalition does not itself provide nor represent any organization that offers career opportunities to our students. We, after review of their web site and list of organizations that they associate with, believe they have a political anti-war view that they want to promote on campus. They clearly, by statements on their web site, are seeking to disrupt the efforts by military recruiters on campus, at Career Days and other events. This is a safety and security issue.
If it is not possible by current laws and district policy to deny the coalition access then we support limiting and controlling their access to high school campuses and what they can and cannot distribute.
We would appreciate the opportunity to appear before the board and state our position.
Dr. Richard M. Swier, LTC US Army (Ret.)
Sarasota County Veterans Commission
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
MPs assist in distribution of Japan's donation to IPs, BAGHDAD - The 18th Military Police Brigade's Provincial Police Transition Team assisted in transferring 600 Yamaha XJ900P police motorcycles donated by the Japanese government to Iraqi Police units at Camp Victory, Iraq. "It is very important for us to have these types of vehicles in the traffic department; more than the car, because here in Iraq, the streets are very busy and it provides our police more mobility to move around in traffic," said Lt. Col. Mubdir Haliem, Iraqi Police traffic HQ representative. The majority of the 600 motorcycles will be issued to police traffic stations within Baghdad. The donation of these motorcycles comes at a time when the Iraqi Police continue to grow in capability and gain additional police officers during the IP expansion plan.
Partnership Day strengthens Iraqi, U.S. military ties CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Iraqi Army Soldiers and U.S. Soldiers from Task Force XII found they have a lot in common, specifically regarding aviation, when they met up for Iraqi Partnership Day. "The main goal of this day is to continue to improve the relationship between the U.S. and Iraqi militaries," said Col. Timothy J. Edens, commander of Task Force XII and an AH-64 Apache pilot. "It's important for us as aviators to have a strong relationship with our Iraqi counterparts." The cooperative relationship with Iraqi forces began with 1st Air Cavalry Brigade and grew throughout the course of their deployment. It is a privilege to participate in this Partnership Day and continue to improve this special relationship with such a skilled group of Soldiers, said 1st ACB commander, Col. Dan Shanahan. The Partnership Day began with a visit to the Taji Wing, Air Force area of operation. This is where the Iraqi Air Force lives, trains and works. "I would personally like to express my thanks to the U.S. military for all the help they have provided," said Gen Sati, commanderof the Taji Wing. "Through our military relations, we have successfully achieved the targeted goals for the Iraqi Air Force." This Partnership Day will be the last for 1st ACB, but the first of many for Task Force XII Soldiers. "I really enjoyed the conversations Gen. Sati and I had," said Edens. "I think he is a well spoken man and great leader. I wish him and his Soldiers nothing but the best.
U.S., Iraqi Soldiers patrol CLC security positions in north Babil FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq - U.S. Soldiers conducted a joint patrol with the Iraqi Army at newly established traffic control points in the Abu Shemsi region last week. Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division conducted the patrol alongside troops from the 8th Iraqi Army Division. The area's Concerned Local Citizens' leader, Sheik Salih Ghalum, established the traffic control points. Manning the control points allows residents the opportunity to help secure their community, as well as earn an income. "We hope that by helping the sheiks build these Concerned (Local) Citizen checkpoints, we can show the people that the Iraqi Army is involved in their welfare and livelihood, and hopefully the people get a sense of empowerment. They now have money; they can feed their family and we all end up safer," Capt. Jim Hart said.
SMA's Hope and Freedom Tour entertains Task Force Warrior Soldiers - Musician Keni Thomas, a former Ranger and Bronze Star with V device recipient, entertains Task Force Warrior Soldiers during the Sgt. Maj. of the Army's 2007 Hope and Freedom USO Tour Dec. 19 at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq. The show is in its sixth year and included country western star Darryl Worley, four members of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, comedians Sheryl Underwood and Vince Morris, and Fox Sports commentator and model Leeann Tweeden.
Kingdom of Tonga Minister of Defense visits Tongan Royal Marines in Baghdad, BAGHDAD - The Kingdom of Tonga Minister of Defense Sonatane Tu'a Taumoepeau-Tupou visits Royal Tongan Marines at Camp Victory, Iraq.
---Multi-National Corps - Iraq
December 22, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
One of these heroes is Army Capt. Travis Patriquin, 32, who died Wednesday, December 6, 2006 in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, from injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.
Patriquin was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, serving in Tikrit, Iraq. Patriquin joined the Army upon graduating from high school.
Patriquin impressed his superiors during boot camp, and was subsequently offered Special Forces training.
In addition to participating in various Special Forces operations, he was also fluent in several languages including Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic.
Patriquin is survived by his wife Amy and their children Emily, 7; Harmon, 5; and Logan, 1, who reside in Bonstadt, Germany. He is also survived by his parents Gary and Connie Patriquin of Lockport, Ill., and three siblings.
Here is a picture of his desk in Iraq. Capt. Patriquin got it right.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Acceptance has been overwhelming to the extent that she has been joined by at least 3 other competent artists to meet the demand and that number now stands at around 800......and counting. They have been ably and enthusiastically assisted by the Department of Defense.
When retired NBC Radio Network correspondent Don Blair of Venice saw the Kaziah story popping up on his computer a few months ago he picked up the phone and called his friend Greg Crumbly...widely regarded (by his peers) as probably the finest portrait artist in the U.S. Check out www.gregcrumbly.com to see for yourself.
Suggesting a program mirroring the Utah effort, Greg accepted the challenge immediately. Blair remains as coordinator and the non-profit American Ideals Foundation, Inc....founded by Greg's father-in-law several decades ago...is the umbrella organization to which all donated funding is being channeled.
As with the western U.S. effort, this project is also enjoying the full cooperation of DOD...providing updated lists of Florida military casualties in both Iraq and Afghanistan and informing their families of the opportunity, after submitting favorite photos of their departed loved ones to the American Ideals Foundation or to Don Blair (firstname.lastname@example.org for further direction), to have a portrait done for them at no cost.
The first portrait, that of the late Marine PFC Christopher Cobb has already been done and presented to Chris' mother Sheila at the American Legion Post 312 in Bradenton, Florida now named in Christopher's honor.
Others are in process, meaning families have made contact with the AIF, photos being forwarded and so on. It is important to stress that families may indeed contact the AIF group directly without going through DOD although that department will continue to play a key role in the entire effort.
If you or any group, club or organization you are affiliated with would care to help support this program, the quickest way to "do the deed" would be to contact Don Blair at the above-mentioned e-mail address or call him at 941-493-0857.
By the way...artist Greg Crumbly...wounded in the line of duty as a Pittsburgh cop....later, as an Army Ranger and helicopter pilot, his chopper downed over Nicaragua. Greg wears the Silver Star. Blair served in the Army from 1953 to 1955.
If other family members step forward wishing they could have that portrait....fine lithographic copies will also be provided...at no cost. This is, and will continue to be, a Florida state-wide effort. Your help greatly appreciated. As the saying goes...no contribution either too small....or too big.
NOTE: The Sarasota County Veterans Commission has endorsed this project and has made a contribution to the American Ideals Foundation to help provide free portraits of our fallen heroes to their families. May they live on forever in our hearts and in these portraits.
The poem is from LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN, 30th Naval Construction Regiment, OIC, Logistics Cell One, Al Taqqadum , Iraq.
I think this says it all about our brave men and women serving overseas and throughout the United States, protecting each and every one of us.
The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ' Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ' Nam ',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."
"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
U.S. military forces have started phasing down from the "surge" that began last summer. The 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, whose departure from Iraq was announced in November and currently is taking place, will not be replaced by an American unit. In the months ahead, four more brigade-sized units are scheduled to rotate home. If everything goes as planned, they all will be replaced by Iraqi security forces. This is just some of the good news that somehow just doesn't make its way into the mainstream media.
But wait, there's more: The Iraqi military and police that we have seen on this, our ninth trip to Iraq since 2003, are now remarkably well-trained and equipped. Though many of the personnel in these units have been on active duty for less than a year, they are, according to what we have seen and documented, ready, willing and able to fight for their country.
Their motives for signing on are also important. In the town of Maderiya, east of Baghdad toward the Iranian border, I asked Capt. Fawaz Nazzir why he joined the new Iraqi army 11 months ago. His reply was a testament to American resolve in prosecuting this campaign: "I waited," replied Nazzir, "to see which side was going to win."
To some Americans, that may sound like a cynical response -- but not to those who have spent years campaigning in Mesopotamia. "What would you expect given how uncertain our commitment was at home?" commented one U.S. officer on his third tour of duty here. He continued: "Until 'the surge,' nobody in Iraq knew whether we were going to finish this fight. AQI (al-Qaida in Iraq) and the Shiite militias were all telling their followers that we were going to cut and run. 'The surge' proved that we weren't going to abandon them."...
That's not to say that Iraq is no longer dangerous. It still can be lethal -- particularly for Iraqis.
The day we arrived in Hillah, an improvised explosive device killed Lt. Gen. Qais Hamza al-Mamouri, the Babil province chief of police and the architect of the reconciliation movement in southeastern Iraq. A vigorous opponent of Iranian influence in Iraq, Qais was also the author of an agreement among tribal and community leaders pledging to "provide security for all citizens without regard to sect, ethnicity or political party affiliation."
Less than 24 hours after Qais was killed, our FOX News team went to the headquarters of the Hillah SWAT police to meet with their commander, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Abbas al-Jubori, a Qais protege... As we left the Hillah SWAT headquarters, Abbas took the wheel of his unmarked SUV and said, "Sit beside me. I'll show FOX News a safe Iraqi city." He did. For more than two hours, we walked streets where Iranian-supported Shiite militia gangs once held sway over 500,000 Iraqis. As he waded through throngs of citizens grieving the loss of Qais, Abbas promised, "We will never forget Gen. Qais. We will continue his legacy of giving every Iraqi equal protection from all criminals."...
Oliver North, Nationally Syndicated Columnist
December 14, 2007
50 Iraqi Soldiers graduate Commando Course CAMP STRIKER, Iraq - The Iraqi Army has 50 new Commandos to add to its ranks in the Rakkasan operational area. The 50 Soldiers graduated Dec. 13 from the Iraqi Army's Commando Course in a ceremony held at the Iraqi Army compound in Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad. The course started with 156 Soldiers; most fell out during the physical fitness testing and the obstacle course. "A lot of these guys go back to their units, take the training that they learned here and help their fellow Soldiers out to make better Soldiers in the battalions," said Sgt. 1st Class James Jorgensen, senior instructor. Graduates are either returned to their original units or are assigned to the Commando Company currently assisting the Red Knights with operations in the Mahmudiyah area. "The Commando Company will be able to do a lot more patrols on their own, enter and clear houses on their own and help keep AQI (al-Qaeda in Iraq) out of our area." Jorgensen said. "They are able to support themselves." This was the fifth graduating Commando class and the first one facilitated by the Red Knights.
MND - Center Soldiers disrupt extremist activity FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq - In two separate operations Dec. 12, Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Regiment detained a suspected extremist and seized an enemy weapons cache. Using information provided by local citizens, Soldiers apprehended an individual in the early morning hours in a house north of Khargulia. The suspect is believed to be a leader in a local extremist cell that is active in the trafficking of weapons and ammunition. Later in the day, Soldiers discovered a weapons cache during an operation near Jisr Diyala. As they searched a house, Soldiers discovered a large sum of Iraqi dinar, a spool of detonation wire, a pistol, a large bag of 7.62 mm ammunition and a camcorder.
Extremists lose ground in Arab Jabour BAGHDAD - Coalition Forces discovered two weapons caches in Hawr Rajab and Adwaniyah. In Hawr Rajab, Soldiers with the 6th Iraqi Army Division, located a rocket weapons cache while conducting a patrol west of Patrol Base Stone. In Adwaniyah, Soldiers from the 3rd Inf. Div., located another cache while conducting a patrol north of Patrol Base W-1.
MND - Center medic stabilizes Iraqi girl for 70-minute MEDEVAC flight BAGHDAD - A Medical Evacuation team from the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade transported a 17-year-old Iraqi girl to a Coalition Forces' hospital after a local hospital in Ad Diwaniyah was unable to treat her. The girl was in a coma, unresponsive and seizing due to a post-partum illness. However, aviators, crew chiefs and flight medics fly any patients who the ground forces commander approves, in order to prevent the loss of life, limb or eyesight, Maj. Oliver Hasse said. "This mission supporting a 17-year-old local national from Diwaniyah to Balad is just a great example of how 2-3 Aviation's MEDEVAC supports any patient in critical need," he added. The medic on board the MEDEVAC stabilized the girl for the 70-minute flight to the Balad CSH when it appeared her condition was deteriorating. The girl is now at the Balad CSH in stable condition.
MND - Center Soldiers secure caches, detain 2 suspected AQI operatives BAGHDAD - Coalition Forces in Arab Jabour and Al Buaytha detained two suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq members and destroyed four weapons caches Dec. 14. Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division has been conducting increased offensive operations against AQI for the past week. Concerned Local Citizens identified the two Iraqi males as members of al-Qaeda. The suspected al-Qaeda members were detained by the CLCs and turned over to Soldiers at Patrol Base Murray.
---Multi-National Corps - Iraq, December 17, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
Iraqi security volunteers turn over weapons cache to MND-B troops CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Iraqi Security Volunteers working in the Albu Obaed area west of Baghdad turned over a large weapons cache to Multi-National Division-Baghdad troops. While patrolling the Albu Obaed streets, the volunteers received a tip from a local resident about a nearby cache site. After receiving the location, the volunteers verified the information by traveling to the area to examine the find. "This event shows that the Iraqi Security Volunteers have been doing a tremendous job in finding weapons and securing their neighborhoods," said Maj. Randall Baucom. "They have definitely been disrupting the insurgents' abilities to perform operations against the Iraqi people, Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition troops.
"Iranian rockets found, turned over to Coalition Forces FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq - A cache of Iranian-manufactured rockets was turned over to Coalition Forces based at FOB Delta . Iraqi Civil Defense Corps personnel delivered 14 107 mm Iranian rockets and fuses to Kazakhstani Soldiers, said 1st Lt. Almaz Mukashev, the Kazakhstani liaison officer. The rockets were manufactured in 2006. ICDC personnel have turned over munitions to Coalition Forces before, but this was the first time Iranian weapons were turned over from the force to Coalition Forces, said Col. Peter Baker. "This is another indication of the cooperation of Iraqi officials who in all earnestness want to have a better society," Baker said. "They know these rockets are here illegally and that they are here to maim and kill Iraqi and Coalition Security Forces and innocent civilians." Baker said this is a sign that Iraqis are taking ownership of their area to bring about better security.
Polish Civil-Military Coordination group delivers humanitarian aid in Diwaniyah DIWANIYAH, Iraq - The Polish Civil-Military Coordination group, in cooperation with Iraqi Soldiers from the 8th Division and Polish Soldiers from Task Force Lynx, delivered four trucks full of humanitarian aid supplies to 110 families in Diwaniyah, Iraq. During the distribution of the family packages, which contained food, an electric generator and bedding, Polish Soldiers were able to speak to residents. "Nowadays, we can observe a big change in the citizens' behavior," said Warrant Officer Janusz Sawa, deputy platoon leader of Task Force Lynx. "At the beginning of the operation they hesitated, but now they come and ask us when we will come to their houses."
Iraqi Security Forces, Coalition Forces detain 27 suspected al-Qaeda in North Babil NORTH BABIL, Iraq - A joint raid resulted in the detention of 27 suspected al-Qaeda terrorists in a building in north Babil that was suspected to be an al-Qaeda safehouse where members planned attacks against local citizens, Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces. The raid was conducted by the Iraqi Army and Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), currently attached to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. Intelligence indicated that the al-Qaeda members operating out of the building included high-value individuals. The raid was conducted by an air assault. "The Iraqi Army did a fantastic job in clearing the objective area," said Capt. George Morris. "Much of the success of the mission was owed to intelligence reports from Concerned Local Citizens", said Lt. Col. Kane Barksdale.
Multi-National Corps - Iraq, December 15, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Thanks to Nick Catsakis for bringing it to our attention.
Let us never forget - all gave some and some gave their all.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Buchanan’s Soldier Tracking Bill One Step Closer To Becoming Law
Pro-Wounded Warriors Provision Included In Defense Bill
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Vern Buchanan’s (R-FL 13) efforts to address problems with the medical holdover process exposed by the scandal at Walter Reed Medical Center took one more step closer to law as the House of Representatives passed its annual defense authorization bill. The House-Senate defense authorization conference bill includes language similar to Buchanan’s patient tracking system legislation (H.R. 1579) and authorizes necessary funding for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Members of our armed forces have volunteered their service and sacrificed their health to help ensure our freedom and security,” said Buchanan. “They deserve the best possible care. That’s why I have worked to ensure these wounded warriors are not be left alone to navigate a bureaucratic system that leaves them in limbo and sometimes denies them the health care and benefits they have earned. Passage of today’s legislation finally makes available important information regarding the status of a patient’s care and helps cut through the red tape to ensure that our wounded soldiers get the first-class care they deserve in a timely manner.”
The fiscal year 2008 defense authorization bill, which passed the House by a vote of 370 to 49, would establish uniform procedures to help locate patients and track their appointments. This new policy mirrors legislation Buchanan introduced by March (H.R. 1579) to create a standard soldier patient tracking system to locate any patient in the medical holdover process. The Buchanan bill was endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and the Disabled American Veterans.
In addition to improving patient care, the annual defense authorization bill puts forth spending for a host of new ships, planes and ground systems, including $17.6 billion for vehicles that can better withstand bomb blasts. The measure also includes:
- An across-the-board 3.5 percent increase in military pay;
- $1.2 billion to continue to purchase personal body armor and other protective gear; and,
- $4.8 billion requested to procure and develop electronic jamming devices designed to detect and disrupt the radio signals used to detonate remote-control bombs and mines.
BATTLING INSIDE THE BELTWAY - Federal Legislative Update
Conference Committee Finishes FY 2008 Defense Authorization Act - Just when we thought it couldn’t be done the Joint House and Senate Conference Committee has reconciled the differences between their respective chambers’ versions of the FY ’08 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). There are many provisions in this bill impacting the health and quality of life of active duty troops, reservists, retirees and their families. Many provisions of this bill address the legislative priorities of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the other veterans’ service organizations and military associations. What follows is a quick analysis of the 800 plus page report.
Wounded Warrior Act - After the Walter Reed story broke earlier this year, it became evident that wounded service members and their families were facing incredible challenges during the recovery process. The Senate and House versions of the Wounded Warrior Act and some provisions of the Dole-Shalala recommendations emerged as mandates in the NDAA.
Creates a Wounded Warrior Resource Center to serve as a single point of contact for service members, their families and primary care givers to report issues with facilities, obtain health care and receive information on benefits;
- Requires semi-annual inspections of housing facilities for recovering service members;
- Requires DoD and VA to develop joint policy on care and management of the Armed Forces, including the development of an interoperable electronic health care system;
- Mandates DoD-wide standards for processing medical evaluations and training and qualifying those performing the evaluations;
- Mandates the establishment of new DoD-wide standards for processing disability evaluations to reduce the discrepancies between DoD assessments and those conducted by VA as well as ensuring consistent decision among the military departments;
- Requires comprehensive policy to address traumatic injury, post traumatic stress disorder, other mental health conditions and eye injuries;
- Mandates that DoD and VA establish a standard rating for service members’ disabilities that takes into consideration all medical conditions;
- Establishes a board to review the cases of service members separated without retirement benefits with a disability of 20 percent or less to ensure that such ratings are fair and accurate; and
- Requires DoD and VA to jointly study the feasibility and advisability of consolidating the disability evaluation systems of the military departments and VA.
Analysis: Thumbs up, this is a good start. We are concerned that the bill does not address the fact that unlicensed psychologists are treating combat post traumatic stress disorder patients as recently revealed at the James A. Haley VAMC in Tampa. We are encouraged that the Conference Committee did not adopt the Dole/Shalala Commission recommendation calling for two tiered disability system for combat disabled and non-combat disabled veterans.
Quality of Life
- Authorizes 3.5% pay increase to active and reserve members of the force.
- Prohibits increases in TRICARE and pharmacy user fees
- Authorizes a monthly payment of to $50.00 to surviving spouses denied the full amount of their Survivor Benefit Plan benefit because of concurrent receipt of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. The amount will be increased by $100 by 2014.
- Expands eligibility for Combat Related Special Compensation to Chapter 61 disabled retirees with fewer than 20 years of active service.
- Authorizes disabled retirees, who are considered 100% disabled by virtue of being unemployable, to receive full Concurrent Disability Retired Pay and VA disability compensation effective 1 Jan 05.
- Thumbs up for a reasonable pay raise and holding the line on TRICARE and pharmacy user fees.
- Thumbs down for missing an opportunity to end the DIC offset to SBP. The fifty dollar allowance is an insult to the surviving spouse who looses about $1,100 dollars because of this egregious offset.
- Thumbs side ways for opening CRSC to disabled retirees with less than 20 years of service and providing full CDRP to those disabled retirees who are receiving 100% disability compensation by virtue of being unemployable. Congress needs to finish the job by granting full and immediate concurrent receipt to those military retirees not currently eligible for either CRSC or CDRP.
GI Bill Expansion - Allows reservists to use their MGIB-RC benefits for 10 years after they separate from the reservists. Allows reservists with three cumulative years of active duty service to qualify for education benefits at the 80% active duty rate.
Analysis: Thumbs down; this was a minor tweak, The conferees missed an opportunity to completely reform veterans education benefits by not moving adopting the VFW’s priority of a 21st Century Bill which would virtually cover the full costs of a college education to include tuition, books, fees and a living stipend.
Reserve Retirement Age - Reduces the age at which a Reservist can draw retired pay below the age of 60 by 3 months for every aggregate 90 days of active service in support of a contingency operation.
VA Legislation Held Hostage - Three bills to improve VA care for wounded warriors appear to have been shelved for the year due to "holds" placed on them by former Ranking Member Senator Craig of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC).
S. 1233, an omnibus veterans' health measure, would direct the VA to develop individualized plans for the treatment and rehabilitation of veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI), among many other things.
S.1315, the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act, would authorize additional wounded warrior benefits including a new term life insurance program for disabled veterans. The sticking point is that the bill also would increase disability benefits for World War II Filipino veterans, including non-citizens living outside the US, in part by barring recent court-directed expansion of VA compensation to certain additional categories of disabled US veterans.
SVAC Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-HI) says Congress never intended the expansion directed by the court. His legislation would block the court-directed expansion and use those savings to pay for other upgrades in the bill for US veterans, as well as the Filipino benefits expansion.
Sen. Craig has blocked action on the bill because he opposes funding expanded benefits for Filipino veterans by barring the court-directed expanded benefits. Under Senate rules, any Senator may place a "hold" on a bill to prevent a floor vote. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), the SVAC's new Ranking Member said this week, "Having talked to at least those that I know have holds on [the bills], nobody has a position where they would entertain lifting the holds by the end of the year." That leaves wounded warriors caught in the middle.
S. 1315, contains $633 million in benefit upgrades for Afghanistan and Iraq conflict veterans. But the bill also would provide $332 million for Filipino veterans. Some of its other provisions would:
- Create a new term life insurance program for disabled veterans ($326 million)
- Allow retroactive coverage (to Oct 7, 2001) of traumatic injury insurance (TSGLI) payments to severely disabled veterans ($47 million)
- Upgrade veterans mortgage life insurance ($51 million)
- Increase job training benefits ($31 million)
- Improve adaptive housing and automobile equipment benefits for severely wounded warriors ($22 million)
- Increase Supplemental Disabled Veterans Insurance ($26 million)
- Authorize COLAs for surviving spouse dependent benefits ($9 million)
The last bill on hold is the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill H.R. 2642 which funds all VA programs. As we wrote in this space last month, VA must operate at last year’s funding levels in spite of the fact that the newest generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is placing huge demand on the health care and compensation and pension systems. It is inconceivable that during a time of war that bills so critical to all generations of warriors are being held hostage by partisan bickering.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Honors Del Ray Beach State Legislator- Jack McDermott, Commander of Florida’s Veterans of Foreign Wars announced the selection of Florida State Representative Maria Lorts Sachs as the recipient of its Legislative Achievement Award. Representative Sachs represents the 86th District in the Florida House of Representatives. In announcing this selection, Mr. McDermott lauded Ms Sach’s service to Florida’s veterans and their families. “We are deeply indebted to Representative Sachs work on behalf Florida’s veterans and their families.
Media Contact: Sally Tibbetts 941.951.6643
BUCHANAN SUBMITS SERVICE ACADEMY NOMINATIONS - December 6, 2007
Sarasota, Florida -- Congressman Vern Buchanan announced today his nominations to the four U.S. Service Academies. Each year, members of the House and Senate nominate senior high school students for admission to the U.S. Air Force, Merchant Marine, Military and Naval academies. Applicants who meet strict qualifications are interviewed and recommended by a non-partisan Service Academy Board appointed by the Congressman.
“Here in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, we are fortunate to have so many driven and courageous students willing to serve in our armed forces,” said Buchanan. “Each of the nominees is deserving of the privilege of attending one of our nation’s service academies. But only a handful of students from across the country will be admitted. I wish each of my nominees the best of luck throughout the remainder of the selection process.”
The nominations will be forwarded to the service academies where they will be evaluated based on their academic and extra-curricular record, leadership skills, physical stamina, and other requirements. The following nominees were chosen by Buchanan’s U.S. Military Service Academy Board:
Riverview High School student Cameron Addison of Sarasota was nominated to the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, the U.S. Military Academy, and the U.S. Naval Academy
Riverview High School and Naval Academy Preparatory School student Dustin Allen of Sarasota was nominated to the U.S. Naval Academy
Sickles High School student Celina Baldwin of Longboat Key was nominated to the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, the U.S. Military Academy, and the U.S. Naval Academy
International School of Geneva, Switzerland student Sean Christman of Bradenton was nominated to the U.S. Military Academy
Sarasota Military Academy student Matthew Cowles of Sarasota was nominated to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, the U.S. Military Academy, and the U.S. Naval Academy
Palmetto High School student Heather Hamilton of Parrish was nominated to the U.S. Naval Academy
Northwestern Preparatory School student Simon Irish of Bradenton was nominated to the U.S. Naval Academy
Pine View High School student Lance Larsen of Sarasota was nominated to the U.S. Air Force Academy
Pine View High School student Crane Tecce of Sarasota was nominated to the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and the U.S. Naval Academy
St. Stephens High School student Molly Tuckerman of Sarasota and was nominated to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy
Northwestern Preparatory School student Cory Williams of Sarasota was nominated to the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Merchant Marine, and the U.S. Military Academy
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Lion Pounce returns Diwaniyah to its people BAGHDAD - The city of Diwaniyah belongs to the people once again - a city where people walk the streets at night without fear or intimidation; a city where children go to the parks to play. It's a city without "them" - the militants, terrorists, criminals and thugs that surrounded the city and its citizens in a cloak of fear. Over the past several weeks, 8th Iraqi Army Soldiers joined forces with Iraqi Special Operations Forces, Iraqi Emergency Response Units and Iraqi Police to rid the city of these "bad men," a common term used to describe those militants and criminals. The joining of forces was part of Operation Lion Pounce - a series of ongoing operations in and around Diwaniyah to disrupt, isolate and neutralize militant, insurgent and criminal organizations. Iraqi Special Operations Forces and ERUs, accompanied by U.S. Special Forces advisors, launched their first Lion Pounce raid in mid-November with additional missions following in rapid succession the following nights. So far, operations have led to the capture of more than 150 suspects. Col. Hasan Abbas Tofan Sultan Al-Fatlawi, 8th Iraqi Army chief of staff. suspects these Soldiers and police forces will catch many more as they flush these militants from their hiding places. "We have broken the base of these terrorists," the colonel said. "We have broken their networks, and we have captured their leaders." Colonel Hasan sees a vastly different city than it was a few weeks ago. "The citizens of Diwaniyah are very happy and comfortable as we bring back security to this city," the colonel said. "People are not afraid to walk the streets at night. They are shopping at the markets, and children are going back to school. Things are almost back to normal. People know that no one is going to try to shoot them. They know we won't let that happen."
Victory troops bring books to Iraqi children CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - When a unit gears up for a mission, each team member may carry more than half his body weight in armor and equipment. For some troops at the Victory Base Complex, the gear can be just as heavy, but it is not armor or military gear they carry with them. It is school books, clothes, shoes and other hygiene products they distribute to the local families and youth. School supplies and other necessities are distributed to Iraqi families in a nearby neighborhood by Victory troops through Hearts for Baghdad, a program sponsored by the Camp Victory Chaplains' office. "All these things are donated to Hearts for Baghdad by caring people in the United States," said Marine 1st Lt. Melvin Burch.
Baghdad Regional Security Summit II - More than 200 sheiks gathered at the Nasar Wa Salam Iraqi Police Station for the Northwest Baghdad Regional Security Summit II in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, Dec 6. The summit was held to promote a safe, secure, and stable Iraq in partnership with the Iraqi Security Forces, the government of Iraq and tribal leaders.
Troops stop alleged al-Qaeda operatives returning to Rashid BAGHDAD -Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers arrested two men who were suspected terrorists attempting to infiltrate back into the Rashid District Dec. 6. They made the arrest of the alleged al-Qaeda operatives after receiving a tip from an informant. In the Doura region, Soldiers raided a home and detained an alleged al-Qaeda in Iraq member suspected of multiple murders. Iraqi Security Volunteers believe the suspect was in the neighborhood trying to re-organize a new terrorist group in the area. After a fire fight in Saydiyah, Soldiers detained a man who the Iraqi Army believes may be a member of a radical AQI splinter group. During a patrol, the Soldiers and members of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division were shot at from a home, and returned fire. Upon clearing the house, Soldiers found a blood trail that led them to the suspect armed with a pistol and a hand grenade.
Iraqi leaders commit to unity during summit CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Sheiks of tribes, Iraqi Army and police leaders, representatives of the Iraqi government and leaders from the 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division and Multi-National Division - Baghdad gathered at an Iraqi Police station in Nassir Wa Salam, Iraq, to discuss further steps to advance bringing the region back to the government of Iraq during the Northwest Baghdad Regional Security Summit Dec 6. Approximately 1,000 sheiks and local leaders attended the second of a series of reconciliation meetings that have taken place between the Sunni and Shia sheiks in the 1st Cavalry Division's area of operations. Tribal and governmental leadership from Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, Tarmiyah and the Anbar province came together to meet with senior leaders from the Baghdad provincial government, national government and Iraqi Security Forces. "The people of this community and the government have demonstrated their willingness to serve," said Lt. Col. Kurt Pinkerton, commander of 2-5 Cavalry. "That's the reason security is the way it is, the people are willing to serve. This is the beginning of unity."
---Multi-National Corps - Iraq, December 10, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
"You had us on the ropes. If you had pressed us a little harder, just for another day or two, we were ready to surrender! It was the same at the battles of TET. You defeated us! We knew it, and we thought you knew it," he wrote. "But we were elated to notice your media was definitely helping us. They were causing more disruption in America than we could in the battlefields. We were ready to surrender. You had won!" Giap's words are an important lesson from the past, to be sure.
---The Patriot, December 7, 2007
Sunday, December 9, 2007
By John Batiste and Pete Hegseth
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Congress has been entangled in a war-funding debate that pits war "supporters" against antiwar "defeatists." With all sides seemingly entrenched, a stalemate looms. The Pentagon, meanwhile, will soon begin stripping money from its training budget to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our military men and women deserve better than partisan politics; they deserve honest assessments of our nation's performance in fighting the Long War.
We are veterans of the Iraq war with vastly different experiences. Both of us commanded troops in Iraq. We, too, held seemingly entrenched, and incompatible, views upon our return. One of us spoke out against mismanagement of the war -- failed leadership, lack of strategy and misdirection. The other championed the cause of successfully completing our mission.
Our perspectives were different, yet not as stark as the "outspoken general" and "stay-the-course supporter" labels we received. Such labels are oversimplified and inaccurate, and we are united behind a greater purpose.
It's time to discuss the way forward rather than prosecute the past. Congress must do the same, for our nation and the troops.
Overall, this will require learning from our strategic blunders, acknowledging successes achieved by our courageous military and forging a bold path. We believe America can and must rally around five fundamental tenets:
First, the United States must be successful in the fight against worldwide Islamic extremism. We have seen this ruthless enemy firsthand, and its global ambitions are undeniable. This struggle, the Long War, will probably take decades to prosecute. Failure is not an option.
Second, whether or not we like it, Iraq is central to that fight. We cannot walk away from our strategic interests in the region. Iraq cannot become a staging ground for Islamic extremism or be dominated by other powers in the region, such as Iran and Syria. A premature or precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, without the requisite stability and security, is likely to cause the violence there -- which has decreased substantially but is still present -- to cascade into an even larger humanitarian crisis.
Third, the counterinsurgency campaign led by Gen. David Petraeus is the correct approach in Iraq. It is showing promise of success and, if continued, will provide the Iraqi government the opportunities it desperately needs to stabilize its country. Ultimately, however, these military gains must be cemented with regional and global diplomacy, political reconciliation, and economic recovery -- tools yet sufficiently utilized. Today's tactical gains in Iraq -- while a necessary pre-condition for political reconciliation -- will crumble without a deliberate and comprehensive strategy.
Fourth, our strategy in fighting the Long War must address Iran. Much has been made this week of the intelligence judgments that Iran has stopped its weapons program. No matter what, Iran must not be permitted to become a nuclear power. All options should be exhausted before we use military force, but force, nonetheless, should never be off the table. Diplomatic efforts -- from a position of strength, both regionally and globally -- must be used to engage our friends and coerce our enemies to apply pressure on the Iranian regime.
Fifth, our military capabilities need to match our national strategy. Our military is stretched thin and will be hard-pressed to maintain its current cycle of deployments. At this critical juncture, we cannot afford to be weak. Numbers and capacity matter.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, America was not mobilized for the Long War. This was an opportunity lost, but it is not too late. Many Americans are frustrated by the war effort, the burden of which has been shouldered by less than one percent of our citizenry. Our country is accustomed to winning. We deserve a comprehensive strategy that is focused on victory and guided by decisive leadership. America must succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we also cannot focus too narrowly on those conflicts. We need a regional and global strategy to defeat worldwide Islamic extremism to ensure a safer world today and for future generations.
The day after his famous Pearl Harbor speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt again addressed the nation. "I was about to add that ahead there lies sacrifice for all of us," he said. "But it is not correct to use that word. The United States does not consider it a sacrifice to do all one can, to give one's best to our nation, when the nation is fighting for its existence and its future life." His words inspired the "Greatest Generation," and they should inspire us again today.
Americans must mobilize for the Long War -- bolster our strained military, galvanize industry to supply troops with what they need right now and fund the strategy with long-term solutions. We have no doubt that Americans will rally behind a call to arms.
America's veterans -- young and old -- are resolved to support and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. This commitment, and nothing less, should compel us to stand together, in and out of uniform. Would that Congress finds the courage to bury its pride and do the same.
Maj. Gen. (Ret.) John Batiste commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq from 2004 to early 2005. Lt. Pete Hegseth served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division from 2005 to 2006 and is executive director of Vets for Freedom.
Reconciliation takes center stage across Multi-National Division - Center CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - The number of Iraqi-led reconciliation efforts swelled over the past two weeks across Multi-National Division - Center as local Iraqi leaders seek to capitalize on an improved security situation by developing the institutions that will enable long-term stability. A window has opened for local leadership to push forward business development and infrastructure repair and forge political relationships across sects and neighborhoods. Khalif Haloos of the Sadr al Yusifiyah Nahia Governance Council hosted more than 500 sheiks from Sunni, Shi'a and Kurdish tribes. Security for this meeting, the largest of several important reconciliation gatherings in MND-C in recent days, was provided by the Iraqi Security Forces. This meeting was an example of Sunnis and Shias working together. The sheiks discussed reconciliation issues, from the return of displaced families, to a pact that would allow Iraqis of all sects to travel freely through the sheiks' territory without fear of sectarian reprisal. They also discussed restraining Iranian influence, suppressing the remaining insurgents in their territory, and ways to integrate their activities with Iraq's central government. Part of that direction involves parlaying improved security and cooperation among the different parties to build a stepped-up reconstruction program.
Iraqi Army, Coalition Forces kill 2 insurgents, detain 12. KIRKUK, Iraq - Soldiers of the 4th Iraqi Army Division and the 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Iron, conducted a joint operation near Kirkuk. Operation Ghost Round-Up Reaper was intended to disrupt terrorist activities in the Tuz Province, and increased the presence of IA and Coalition Forces in the area. The IA led the operation while the 10th Mountain Division Soldiers provided air and outer-ground support to deny escape to anyone trying to flee the area. During the onset of the operation, Iraqi Soldiers aggressively maneuvered on the objective area and immediately began house-to-house questioning in search of terrorists, weapons and other contraband items. By the end of the operation, the joint forces had killed two and detained 12 suspected terrorists.
Anbar Agricultural College returned to province, GOI CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq - Camp Corregidor and Combat Outpost were returned to the Government of Iraq today in a signing ceremony held in the provincial capital of Ramadi. Governor Mamoun Sami Rashid Alawani, on behalf of the National Government, signed the documents and officially took possession of the property at the Provincial Government Center a few kilometers from the campus. Coalition Forces established Camp Corregidor on the abandoned campus of the Agricultural College in early 2004. Strategically located on the main highway connecting Baghdad to Syria. Cooperation between local leaders, Iraqi Police and Army, and Coalition Forces brought attacks to an end in 2007 and the base is now being prepared for transition back to its original purpose. As security has improved in Ramadi and Al Anbar, faculty and students are now gradually returning to their studies at the Women's College, Law School and Al Anbar University. Iraqi Police and Coalition Forces have in turn cleared concrete barriers, concertina wire and checkpoints from some of the roads in the education district to accommodate increased traffic.
CLCs, Coalition Forces coordinate to eliminate Arab Jabour insurgent safehouse FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq - An insurgent safehouse in Arab Jabour, Iraq, was rendered useless by two joint direct attack ammunition bombs Dec. 4. Although the munitions were dropped by a U.S. Air Force F-16, the operation was a combined effort conducted on the ground by Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division and Concerned Local Citizens in the area. The chain of events began Dec. 2 when the CLCs conducted a daylight search of a suspected insurgent base of operations. The citizens, led by Salah Mubarak, conducted the mission after they experienced a number of attacks around the abandoned building. Tired of the violence, local residents including Mubarak's cousin, who owned the structure, took proactive measures to stop the attacks. The citizens went to the building to gather intelligence and document anything found with a digital camera. The citizens were aware of the enemy's tactic of booby-trapping houses and found a pressure plate improvised explosive device on the second floor roof entrance. The initiator led to a recliner near the door, which the CLCs cut open to investigate. Packed inside the chair were approximately 50 pounds of unknown bulk explosives. The CFs' love the CLCs' skill at finding things and gathering intelligence, while the CLCs love the combat power and weaponry the Soldiers bring. There is the partnership with the CLCs to good community relations between the Soldiers and the Arab Jabour residents.
---Multi-National Corps - Iraq
December 6, 2007
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Inconceivably, the United States Congress took a two week break for Thanksgiving without finishing work on key bills effecting our Armed Forces, veterans and their families. There is only way to describe this irresponsible neglect, it is despicable. Left hanging are the Defense Authorization, the Veterans Affairs Appropriation and emergency war funding.
Defense Appropriation Signed, Defense Authorization Bill Stalled - It's important to distinguish between the Defense Appropriations Bill and the Defense Authorization Bill. Congress considers both bills at about the same time, and that's a source of confusion every year. Even more so this year, since Congress has completed the Defense Appropriation, but not the Defense Authorization. Although, the President, has signed the appropriations bill, not a nickel can be spent until The Congress enacts the Authorization bill and it is signed by the President. The authorization bill includes the law changes needed to authorize troop levels, weapons procurement, new programs, and changes in pay and benefits (including pay raises, health coverage, concurrent receipt and survivor benefits). Final provisions of the authorization bill are currently being negotiated by leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, but the final bill won't be ready for congressional passage until some time after Thanksgiving according to some Hill sources.
My best guess is that it is unlikely that anything will happen until after the first of the year when the second session of the 110th Congress convenes. The big hang-up on this bill has nothing to do with Defense and National Security. Evidently, the bill is ready to go except for contentious debate over a hate crimes provision inserted in the Senate version of the bill by Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA). The appropriations bill, on the other hand, provides the funding to pay for the things that are approved in the authorization bill. It was signed into law this week P.L. 110-116. Key items include:
- $459 billion for the Department of Defense, $39.7 billion above 2007, a 9.5% increase.
Defense Health Programs. $23.5 billion, $918 million above the President's budget request.
- Cancels proposed increases in TRICARE co-pays by fully funding the $1.9 billion TRICARE shortfall without cost to our troops.
- Adds $70 million to fund programs authorized under the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warrior Act.
- Military Pay and End strength: Fully funds a 3.5 percent pay increase for all service members, 0.5 percent above the President's request.
- Adds funds to increase the Army by 7000 troops, the USMC by 5,000 and the Army National Guard by 1,300.
- Military Families: Includes $2.6 billion for military family counselors, teachers, and child care providers.
Failure to pass what lawmakers have called a “bridge” fund to cover war costs for a limited time while waiting on approval of a larger budget has no immediate effect, but, if this impasse continues, DoD will have to curtail other programs to continue operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Action Stalled on the VA Appropriation-Another key bill still hung-up in Congress is the Veterans Affairs/Military Construction Appropriations bill. Although both the Senate and House has completed work on the FY ’08 VA Appropriation bill, it has not sent the VA appropriations bill to the President for his signature which will provide $37.2 billion for health care representing a $3.7 billion increase over last year’s funding. The Democratic leadership cluttered up a clean VA appropriations bill which passed the House in June 2007 by adding funding for the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services. The original veterans’ bill had bipartisan support, but, the President has threatened to veto the Labor-HHS bill. Consequently, VA is still operating at last year’s funding levels. It is absolutely shameful that the key bills impacting active duty, reservists, veterans and their families are being held hostage by partisan bickering.
Vet Cost of Living Allowances Signed into Law-The President has signed into law (P.L. 110-111) the annual COLA adjustment for certain veterans benefits. The 2.3% hike is the same as the annual Social Security rate and military retired pay. The COLA applies to VA disability compensation payments, survivors' dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC), and a clothing allowance for certain veterans'. The change becomes effective on December 1 and will be reflected in checks mailed in early January 2008. One example, the new basic monthly DIC rate for survivors of veterans who died of service-related causes after January 1, 1993 will increase to approximately $1,091 from $1,067.
GI Bill for the 21st Century Gets Local Cosponsors-Congressman Vern Buchanan (R-FL13) and Congressman Tim Mahoney (D-FL 16) announced their co-sponsorship of H.R. 2702, , the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act (H.R. 2702). This bill if signed into law will provide full tuition (based on the cost of the highest in-state tuition at public institutions, educational fees, books, room and board and monthly living expense stipend.
State Legislative Update
State Veterans Planning Group Adopts Legislative Priorities-In its September meeting the SVPG adopted the priorities listed below for the 2008 at Regular Session of the Florida Legislature.
Legislation establishing preferences for businesses owned by Disabled Veterans bidding on state contracts
Legislation protecting FDVA Trust Fund revenues by adding an additional $100,000 to the Grants and Donations Trust Fund from the sale of new stamped license plates bearing “Operation Enduring Freedom and “ Operation Iraqi Freedom”
Legislation exempting FDVA Trust Funds from Department of Administration service charges
Legislation authorizing FDVA use of Grants & Donations trust funds for personal care of State Veterans Nursing Home residents
Legislation defining the proper display of the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag on state owned buildings
Passage of the Governor’s Legislative Budget Request for the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs
Legislation establishing a tuition exemption at State Universities, Colleges and Community Colleges to honorably discharged veterans who received a Campaign or Service Medal denoting service in a combat theatre of operation.
Legislation providing “Transportation Disadvantaged” funds for the Disabled American Veterans Transportation Van Service
Legislation providing equal treatment for wartime veterans in the state retirement system
Legislation establishing bonuses for honorably discharged veterans who received the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, or the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Friday, December 7, 2007
American Ex-Prisoners of War
American Legion Auxiliary #159
American Legion Auxiliary #254
American Legion Auxiliary #266
American Legion Auxiliary #30
American Legion Post #159
American Legion Post #254
American Legion Post #266
American Legion Post #30
American Legion Post #370
American Merchant Marine Auxiliary
American Merchant Marine Veterans
American Veterans Post #1993
American Veterans Post #2000
Civil Air Patrol
Daughters of the American Revolution
Destroyer Escort Sailors of South West Florida
Disabled American Veterans #101
Disabled American Veterans #97
Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary #97
Dutch United Daughters of 1812
Gulf Coast Dolphins
Jewish War Veterans
Korean War Veterans Association
Manasota Civil Air Patrol
Marine Corps League #643
Marine Corps League Auxiliary #643
Military Officers Association of America Venice
Military Officers Association of Sarasota, Inc.
Military Order of the Purple Heart
Military Order of the World Wars
Navy League of Sarasota
Patriotic Observance Committee
Retired Enlisted Association
Reserve Officers Association of the US
Sarasota County Veterans Service Office
Sarasota Veterans Center, DVARCS
Sarasota WAVES National
Sons of the American Revolution
South West Florida WAC Veterans
U.S. Submarine Veterans of WWII
Veterans of Foreign War #8118
Veterans of Foreign Wars #10178
Veterans of Foreign Wars #3233
Veterans of Foreign Wars #8203
Wives of Submarine Veterans of WWII
American Veterans national web site. Provides information about Am Vets and services provided to members.
Disabled American Veterans
Disabled American Veterans national web site. Provides information about DAV and services provided to members.
Korean War Veterans Association
Korean War Veterans Association national web site. Provides information about KWVA and services provided to members.
Military Officers Association of America
MOAA national web site. Provides information on MOAA and services provided to members.
Veterans of Foreign Wars
Veterans of Foreign Wars national web site. Provides information about VFW and services provided to members.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Contains current information about VA health, educational, home loan, life insurance, compensation and other benefits.
The Committee's purpose is to facilitate the establishment of a National Cemetery in the Sarasota County area. The Committee has since its inception worked with the National Cemeteries Administration, Office of Construction Management to locate suitable sites for a national cemetery. After a lengthy process of site selection the Hawkins Ranch was selected as the preferred site for the new national cemetery. The Hawkins Ranch site was purchased in April, 2007. Following the land purchase was the design of the cemetery in FY 2007 followed by its construction in FY 2008. The Sarasota National Cemetery was dedicated on June 1, 2008 with over 3,000 attendees. At the dedication ceremony were Under Secretary for Memorial Affair William R. Turk, Congressman Vern Buchanan and former Congresswoman Katherine Harris. The cemetery held its first burials on January 9, 2009. This historic event was attended by a small group of veterans who assisted with the burials of their fellow veterans.
The Director of the Sarasota VA National Cemetery is Ms. Sandra Beckley. She may be reached at (941) 861-9840.
Sarasota National Cemetery Advisory Committee
Dr. Richard M. Swier, LTC, USA (Ret.)
LTC Lee F. Kichen, USA (Ret.)
Donald L. Courtney, Manatee County Veterans
George Mazzarantani, Law Offices of George H.
LeRoy Collins, Jr., Executive Director,
Florida Department of Veterans Affairs
John Degnan, Chair, Charlotte County Veterans Council
Commissioner Shannon Staub, Sarasota Board of County
Jason Toale, Toale Brothers Funeral Homes.
Interested individuals may contact the Committee Chair, Dr. Richard M. Swier, at (941) 923-2541 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Contact Jobs Etc. Employment & Training Center. Jobs Etc. is located at 3660 N. Washington Boulevard, Sarasota, FL and may be contacted by phone at (941) 358-4200.
Want to Know if You are Eligible for Combat Related Special Compensation?
The Army has a web site with all the facts and an 800 number if you have a question. Just click here to go to http://www.crsc.army.mil/.
Looking For Answers to Your VA Questions?
Call the Sarasota County Veterans Service Office at (941) 861-2899 or visit them at the Sarasota County Health Department, 2200 Ringling Boulevard, Sarasota, FL. This building is on the corner of Ringling Boulevard and School in downtown Sarasota.
Jerry Derrick and his team of experts provide answers to your veteran related questions, help obtaining veterans benefits, referrals to other organizations that can help you and provide help to veterans, their families and surviving spouses.
Please take advantage of their skills, knowledge and expertise. To e-mail the Veterans Service Office please click here.
Want to Submit a Request for Your Medals?
Go online and get the forms you need to request medals you have earned while in service. This is fast and easy. Click here to go to the web site that will help you request your medals.
If you do not have access to a computer just call the Sarasota County Veterans Service Office at (941) 861-2899 and they will mail you the appropriate forms to submit.
Getting Help From Veterans Organizations
There are over fifty veteran and patriotic organizations in Sarasota County. Many of these organizations have volunteer veteran service officers who are trained to help you. Take the time to find the organization closest to you and stop by and visit them. Most of our member organizations can be found by looking in your local telephone directory. Find out if they have a volunteer veterans service officer, what programs they have to help you, and when they meet. These organizations are there to help local veterans and their members.
If you are eligible to join then please do and add your voice to that of the over 396,000 veterans who live within a seventy-five mile radius of Sarasota County, FL.
The Commission is a non-profit Florida 501(c)3 federation of Sarasota County Veterans’ Organizations, Military and Patriotic Associations and their Auxiliaries.
The purpose of the Commission is to unify the veterans’ organizations by providing solidarity in communicating veterans’ viewpoints on issues before local, state and national legislative bodies. The Commission disseminates information on issues of interest to veterans.
The Commission plans, cooperates and coordinates with local authorities, government officials and other interested parties on matters of patriotic commemorations.
The Commission plans, coordinates and implements other programs to serve the best interests of veterans, active, National Guard and reserve military personnel, their families, surviving spouses and orphaned children.
The Commission cooperates with local, state and national social services and welfare agencies in programs related to the welfare of veterans, active & reserve military personnel and their dependents.
Elected Officers for 2008 — 2009
President — Dr. Richard M. Swier
Vice-president — Andy Hooker
Secretary/Treasurer — Gen Fowler
We honor our past Presidents who have worked so hard for our veterans.
Barbara Stewart Nowling - 1988 to 1990
Lee F. Kichen—1998 to 2002
David Stone—2002 to 2003
Dr. Richard M. Swier—2003 to Present
The Commission represents over fifty military and patriotic associations and their auxiliaries in Sarasota County, Florida. Currently there are over 406,000 veterans living within a seventy-five mile radius of our county. Florida has over 1.9 million veterans and has the second largest veterans population in the United States. Florida is adding 200 new veterans every day.
We welcome you to work with us as we support veterans and their families. We invite you to attend one of our meetings, special events and participate in any of our many patriotic commemorations.
Please join one of the many veterans organizations in our community and add your strong voice in support of our veterans.