Secretary Mabus Makes Recommendations for Medal of Honor

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By Debbie Gregory.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus is recommending that two service members, either Sailors or Marines, be upgraded to the Medal of Honor following an extensive review of medals awarded since Sept. 11, 2001. The names of the two service members were not made public.

To end his near-record seven-and-a-half year tenure, Mabus has made the recommendations as part of a Defense Department review of all service crosses and Silver Stars awarded to troops to determine if any of them are eligible for upgrade.

Some 1,100 combat awards meet those criteria.

The Pentagon’s official military awards database shows that nine sailors and 38 Marines have received the Navy Cross.

Among those being considered for the upgrade are: Navy Cross recipient Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who posthumously received the award in 2008 for throwing himself on a grenade in Fallujah to save the lives of fellow Marines during a 2004 battle; Navy Cross recipients Cpl. Jonathan Yale and Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, who sacrificed their lives to keep a truck loaded with explosives from entering the base they were guarding in Ramadi, Iraq in 2008; and Navy Cross recipient Lance Cpl. Brady Gustafson, who courageously engaged enemy fighters as a turret gunner in Afghanistan in 2008 despite sustaining grievous wounds to his leg.

Chief Petty Officer Nicolas Checque, a member of Naval Special Warfare Development Group, was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during a December 2012 raid in Afghanistan to rescue an American doctor, Dilip Joseph, who had been captured by the Taliban. Senior Chief Petty Officer Edward Byers Jr., another member of the team, received the Medal of Honor for his heroism in subduing the Taliban captors and rescuing Joseph.

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Easier Medical Care Access for Mil Families Expected

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By Debbie Gregory.

Thanks to changes in the annual defense department bill, passed by both the House and Senate, military families will have easier access to urgent care and primary care.

Awaiting President Obama’s signature before becoming law, the bill ensures out-of-pocket costs won’t change for most Tricare users who are already enrolled in the system.

Unfortunately for future service members and their families, plans call for fees and co-payments to be collected from those entering service and/or enrolling in health plans beginning in 2018. Retirees and family members now enrolled in Tricare Standard will have to pay an annual enrollment fee of $150 for singles and $300 for families starting in 2020.

Among the improvements are urgent care referrals will no longer be required, allowing greater access to care.

Some military medical treatment facilities will keep urgent care services open until 11 p.m. daily. Defense department officials would determine the locations where these extra hours would be needed, and they’d have 365 days from the bill’s signing to get the plan in place.

Hours at primary care clinic military medical treatment facilities (MTF) would also expand, if needed. Again, the Defense Department would determine the appropriate hours for primary care clinics at MTFs based on the ability to meet access standards and patients’ patterns of using primary care. This would be implemented within six months after the bill is signed into law.

The legislation would retire the Tricare Standard and Tricare Extra programs as of the end of next year. The new program, Tricare Select, would take effect January, 2018. Current Standard/Extra users would enroll in either the new Select program or Tricare Prime.

Tricare Select will come with higher out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries of anyone entering service after Jan. 1, 2018.

Tricare Prime will remain free for all active-duty families — no enrollment fees, deductibles or out-of-pocket co-payments.

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Wrongfully Collected Money to be Returned to Some Veterans

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By Debbie Gregory.

Veterans who had to medically retire from the military because of combat-related injuries during the last two decades have lost out on thousands of dollars in severance pay because the Defense Department improperly taxed those payments.

And for some veterans of these veterans who were shortchanged millions by the government, it took an act of Congress to finally get the money they were owed.

Luckily, the nonprofit National Veterans Legal Services Program stepped up to go to bat for these disabled American veterans.

“It literally takes an act of Congress to try to right this historic wrong that was done to them,” said Thomas Moore, a lawyer with the National Veterans Legal Services Program.

“We have estimated that it’s about 14,000 veterans, and the total amount taken from these veterans we’ve estimated as about $78 million,” Moore said.

Both houses of Congress unanimously passed H.R. 5015, the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016, before Congress wrapped up its legislative session. Once the bill is signed into law, the veterans will be allowed to file an amended tax return to get their money.

The accounting error related to taxes and disability severance payments might stem from the system’s shortcomings when identifying disability severance payments (DSP) categories. While combat-injured vets receiving DSP aren’t supposed to be taxed on that payment, the government does withhold taxes on disability severance payments for service members who are separated because of non-combat-related injuries.

Sen. Warner said he takes comfort knowing the bill is heading to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

“It is unbelievable that Congress needed to act to clear up this issue,” Warner said.

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New Combat Tourniquet Introduced for Torso Injuries

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By Debbie Gregory.

How do you put a tourniquet around the chest?”

It couldn’t be done with the standard issue Combat Application Tourniquet for torso or high leg and arm wounds developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz and Dr. John Croushorn.

So now the Army has now developed “junctional tourniquets” to stop bleeding for most body areas that can’t be serviced by conventional tourniquets.

Developed at Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC), Fort Dietrich, Maryland, the junctional tourniquet is essentially a belt with one or more inflatable air bladders that can be puffed up, somewhat like a blood pressure cuff, to apply pressure to a wound. The Army’s Medical Materiel Agency (USAMMA), a subordinate command of USAMRMC, has already begun fielding the new tourniquets to improve battlefield survivability rates.

“The device is designed so that a person can position it in under a minute — a crucial factor for combat medics who only have mere minutes to save a fellow warfighter’s life if he or she is hemorrhaging,” according to USAMMA.

The Army found that getting a tourniquet in place quickly and “not necessarily by a medical person but by the infantryman, the soldier that was right there on the ground when the injury occurred – getting that tourniquet on saved a lot of lives,” said Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West, who serves as surgeon general of the Army and commander of the Army Medical Command.

The correct use of tourniquets contributed to survivability rates from battlefield wounds that averaged 89.8 percent in Iraq and 91.4 percent in Afghanistan, compared to 76 percent in Vietnam, 78.2 percent in Korea, and 70.7 percent in World War II, according to Army statistics.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, post-traumatic bleeding is the leading cause of potentially preventable death among trauma patients. In response, the Department of Homeland Security began a new program called “Stop the Bleed.” The program emphasizes the role bystanders can play in saving lives.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Senators Seek Quick Action on Stalled VA Projects

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By Debbie Gregory.

A group of senators are urging quick action from the lame duck Congress on two dozen stalled VA projects.

The senators are calling for Congress to set aside funding for a list of health care centers, outpatient clinics and research facilities proposed throughout the Veterans Affairs system. The list includes three each in California and Florida, research facilities in Boston and Charleston, S.C., and a business office in Denver.

In South Hampton Roads, the proposed 155,200-square-foot facility is aimed at easing the workload at the Hampton VA Medical Center, where demand has skyrocketed. Patient visits in Hampton’s service area increased by 30.5 percent from 2011 to September 2014. The national average across the VA system was 8.6 percent during that time.

The Hampton Roads center would offer primary and specialty care, day surgery, an eye clinic, pharmacy and radiology services. Two similar centers are operating in North Carolina, another high-growth area for veterans care.

While Trump has talked about improving  veterans’ health care, it is unclear how these proposed projects would fare under his administration.

Supporters say a plan that leans more on private hospitals would give veterans additional choices. Critics fear it marks the first step toward privatization of veterans health care and abandonment of long-held promises for retired service members.

VA hospitals could concentrate on military-specific areas for which it has expertise, such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Supporters say this would not lead to a dismantling of the VA health system. The federal government would still bear responsibility for veterans health care.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Survey Reveals Many Mil Parents Don’t Want Their Children to Enlist

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By Debbie Gregory.

In what would have been almost unheard of in past decades, a new  survey of military families revealed that a majority of active-duty military families — 57 percent of them — said they were unlikely to recommend that their own children join the service.

In the past, military families tended to remain military families. But the Blue Star Families survey revealed a shift, which could be due to the multiple deployments faced by current and recent servicemembers. In the past 15 years, servicemen and women have been sent on multiple rotations to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another factor, according to Kathy Roth-Douquet, president and CEO of Blue Star Families, is the cuts in benefits.

“It’s the reductions in forces at the same time as we are increasing our mission,” said Roth-Douquet.

Blue Star said 72 percent of active duty personnel and their spouses found the rate of deployments created too much stress for them. “Among active duty and military spouses who indicated they planned to leave service in the next two years, deployment was the top stressor for both groups with 83 percent and 85 percent, respectively,” the report reads.

Repeated moves also have a serious effect on military spouse employment. Many spouses cannot get or keep jobs. More than 20 percent are unemployed, the survey found, and many more are underemployed.

Fewer than half of military families in which one spouse is a civilian earn two incomes, compared to 66 percent of non-military couples, the survey found.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Army Faces Challenges in Recruiting 80,000 Troops

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By Debbie Gregory.

With only thirty percent of applicants being qualified to join the U.S. military, the U.S. Army is facing a big challenge to meet its  recruiting goal of  80,000 new soldiers.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, commanding general of United States Army Recruiting Command,  is charged with signing 62,500 recruits for the U.S. Army and 15,400 for the U.S. Army Reserve in fiscal 2017, which runs Oct. 1, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2017.

Rising obesity rates in the U.S. have made recruiting people especially challenging, but  Snow is not in favor of changing or adjusting the requirements to enlist because he believes that doing so would ultimately reduce the quality of the military.

“We don’t want to sacrifice quality,” Snow said. “If we lower the quality, yes we might be able to make our mission – but that’s not good for the organization. The American public has come to expect a qualified Army that can defend the nation. I don’t think the American public would like us to lower the quality of those joining the Army if they knew it’s going to impact our ability to perform the very functions or nation expects us to do.”

In January, the Armed Forces will implement a five-part test to measure physical fitness, called the occupational physical assessment, to make sure male and female recruits will meet the physical requirements for the job.

Other requirements for joining any branch of the U.S. Military include: U.S. citizenship or a green card ; at least 18 years old, or 17years old with parental consent; a high school diploma.

Additional requirement to join the Army include: be aged 17-34; have no more than two dependents; pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude test with a minimum AFQT score of  31.

“If there comes a point where young men and women are unwilling to raise their right hand and commit an oath to something bigger than themselves, yes, it could be a national security challenge,” Snow said. ” “I have too much confidence in my team of recruiters, and I think the youth of today gets a bad rap.”

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Planned Space Weapon Could Destroy Multiple Nuclear Missiles

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By Debbie Gregory.

A multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) is a ballistic missile payload space weapon containing several warheads, each capable of being aimed to hit one of a group of targets.

More countries have or are developing long-range missile technology, including systems that can carry MIRVs and/or decoys.

Last year, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency awarded contracts to Raytheon, Lockheed-Martin and Boeing to begin designing what is known as a “Multi-Object Kill Vehicle” or MOKV, which could destroy several objects in space with a single launch. Raytheon’s contract was for $9,775,608.

This program is similar to an earlier program that had been terminated.

Design work on the MOKV kill vehicle concept has been underway at Raytheon’s Advanced Missile Systems, an industry-leading technology and innovation hub.

Raytheon’s plan, which is scheduled for a concept review in December, is to load multiple MOKVs onto a single missile for launch. Each MOKV would be outfitted with multiple sensors, a steering and propulsion system and communications equipment that will allow them to hone in on an individual target and hit it, destroying the object by sheer kinetic forces.

The points of impact would take place beyond Earth’s atmosphere, but on a trajectory that would send the resulting cloud of debris back into the atmosphere, where it burn up.

A major technological challenge is figuring out how to differentiate between bombs and decoys, such as balloons that look like they might have a hydrogen bomb aboard.

The military hopes to begin proof-of-concept demonstrations late next year and a non-intercept flight test in 2018. If successful, the Missile Defense Agency would conduct an intercept test in 2019.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Continuing Resolution Will Keep Government Running

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By Debbie Gregory.

A temporary spending bill signed by President Obama will keep the funded through April of next year, and includes the Pentagon’s highest procurement priorities.

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers introduced the short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) (H.R. 2028) to prevent a government shutdown and continue funding for federal programs and services until April 28, 2017. The legislation also contains funding for emergency disaster relief.

The Senate voted 63-36 to pass the 70-page continuing resolution that was released by the House Appropriations Committee.

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain was one of 13 Republicans who voted nay. McCain characterized the bill as shortchanging defense.

“This is absolutely disgraceful,” McCain said. “We’re going to kick the can down the road because we failed to fund our troops. The fiscal irresponsibility [of] another continuing resolution, which will force the Department of Defense to operate for seven months of the fiscal year without a real budget. Tell me one company or corporation in the world, small or large, that has their budget frozen for seven months of the year and you expect to operate with any kind of efficiency. You can’t.”

Congress ended this year by abandoning regular order, as GOP leaders expect to give the new administration a chance to put its stamp on federal spending. Congress only passed one of 12 appropriations bill this year.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Defense Secretary Ash Carter complained that the lengthy continuing resolution, through the presidential transition, was “unprecedented and unacceptable” and urged Congress to reject it.

The CR extends funding for operations for most federal agencies, programs and services and maintains the current budget cap level of $1.07 trillion put into place under the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Florent Groberg Honored At Citizenship Ceremony

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By Debbie Gregory.

Capt. Florent Groberg was the special guest at a citizenship ceremony last month, where he was honored with the Outstanding American by Choice award.

The Outstanding American by Choice initiative recognizes the outstanding achievements of naturalized U.S. citizens. Through civic participation, professional achievement, and responsible citizenship, recipients of this honor have demonstrated their commitment to this country and to the common civic values that unite us as Americans.

Groberg, one of  only 11 living Medal of Honor recipients from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Poissy, France, and became an American citizen in 2001 at age 17.

Groberg addressed 164 newly minted American citizens who hailed from 43 different countries. He shared with them that he had come to understand what it meant to be an American through his seven years of military service.

“When I lost my friends, when I felt that pain, it reminded me why this is the greatest country in the world. Because of its people, because of our history,” he said. “We stand up while others run. We face our struggles head on, and when we get back down, we get back up.”

Army Secretary Eric Fanning, another guest of honor at the ceremony, gave more weight to passages in the oath of citizenship that commit new citizens to “bear arms on behalf of the United States” and “perform noncombatant services for the Armed Forces” when required by law to do so.

Fanning hailed the diversity in the room, saying it was crucial to American military strength.

“For me, the existence and frequency of these naturalization ceremonies ranks as an important national achievement,” he said. “As Army secretary, when I look at a formation of soldiers, I want to see strength. I want to see the resilience. I see that as I look around this room today. These characteristics are what makes Americans and America great.”

“We are the greatest country in the world. This is a place where we can make anything we want of ourselves; this is the land of opportunity,” Groberg said. “So I’m very confident in the leadership that we have had, and will have. And I just, every day, am grateful to call myself an American. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.