Former Navy Admiral Gets 18 Months in ‘Fat Leonard’ Bribery Scandal

admiral

By Debbie Gregory.

Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau was convicted of lying to federal agents about receiving bribes in the “Fat Leonard” scandal.

Gilbeau, who acknowledged his wrongdoing in federal court in San Diego, told the judge he is “deeply sorry” and cannot explain his actions. He stood in court accompanied by his dog, his aid for coping with PTSD.

Gilbeau’s defense argued that his PTSD and a traumatic brain injury from a blast in Iraq should be taken into account, though prosecutors said he was exaggerating his condition because he knew he was going to get caught.  The Purple Heart and  Bronze Star recipient was sentenced to 18 months in jail.

“When tempted by parties and prostitutes, one of our most respected leaders chose karaoke over character, and cover-up over confession,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson. “In doing so, he forever tarnished the reputation of a revered institution.”

Gilbeau wrote in a letter to the judge that “I have no one to blame but myself.” He was allowed to retire in October but his rank was reduced from rear admiral to captain.

Leonard Glenn Francis, known as “Fat Leonard” because of his size, has admitted to bribing Navy officials with more than $500,000 in cash, prostitutes and more.  He wanted classified information to help his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia that supplied food and fuel to ships.

Prosecutors allege that he overbilled the Navy by more than $34 million.

Gilbeau signed an invoice for the USS Nimitz that was the highest amount the Navy ever paid in the ship’s history for wastewater removal.

To date, there have been twenty current and former Navy officials who have been charged.  Ten of those have pleaded guilty.

What you think?   Should Gilbeau have received a lesser or more severe sentence?

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.

Veteran Treatment Courts Offer Alternatives

vet treatment court

By Debbie Gregory.

Many military veterans have had life experiences that are very different from their civilian contemporaries. Depending on when and where they served, veterans may have experienced a vast array of physical, emotional and psychological injuries.

Untreated, unhealed emotional and psychological injuries lead to further veteran illnesses, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. These illnesses can lead to substance abuse, the commission of crimes, and even suicide. Special Veterans Treatment Courts seek to provide veterans suffering from these issues assistance that will help keep them from slipping into real legal problems.

Documented evidence suggests that a significant number of Vietnam veterans experienced severe problems adjusting to civilian life. So too, have many more recently minted veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Veterans Court offers opportunity for the VA, local support organizations, and local communities to offer treatment as an alternative to time in jail.

The first Veterans’ Court in the U.S. was established in 2008 in Buffalo, New York. Veterans’ Courts are modeled after Drug and Mental Health Courts, in that they promote sobriety, recovery and stability through strict court appointed measures.

Usually Veterans Courts hear cases involving misdemeanor charges, and veterans who choose to participate are assessed by a mental health professional and their treatment needs are determined. Most of them receive treatment through the VA’s health network.

Veterans Treatment Courts increase the likelihood of successful rehabilitation through early and continuous judicially-supervised treatment.

Veterans Treatment Courts also provide veterans with services and benefits that aid in their successful transition back into society.

Below are some resources that may assist any veterans in need of legal assistance:

Justice For Veterans

National Association of Veteran Advocates

American Bar Association Military Pro Bono Project

Jail Diversion and Trauma Recovery Program

California Veterans Legal Institute

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.

State and Community Colleges Successful for Student Veterans

vet center

By Debbie Gregory.

Student veterans face challenges that their civilian counterparts don’t; they are usually older than civilian students and in many cases, they are juggling college with families, jobs and service-related disabilities.

Student veterans believe that their discipline, maturity and drive aid them if facing their many challenges. But on the flip side, many of them find the less disciplined environment of a campus can be a problem for veterans used to being told what to do and when to do it

Many colleges and universities are eager to recruit military veteran students, attracted to the $10.2 billion a year in GI Bill benefits that come with them. Unfortunately, many of the large for-profit schools such as ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian (parent company to Heald College, Everest College and WyoTech) have gone out of business, leaving their veteran students hanging.

For colleges and universities looking to boost the number of veterans who will leave with a degree in hand, specialized support is key. According to the Departments of Defense, Education and Veterans Affairs, schools that don’t offer support to their student veterans have a very poor graduation percentage.

Many state and community colleges and universities with significant veteran support enjoy high levels of success. These schools will usually have some combination of a Veteran Center, dedicated veteran advisors and/or counselors, and a chapter of Student Veterans of America.

They also know how to convert military training and experience into academic credit. This can mean the difference between having enough GI Bill money to earn a degree, so that student veterans don’t have to choose between giving up or paying out of their own pockets.

According to Jared Lyon, president and CEO of Student Veterans of America and a Florida State grad, campuses that get it right are the ones “that look at the student veteran population as nontraditional students. It starts with the efforts to recruit, and there’s also a veterans resource office, a veterans center, a veterans lounge, a campus veteran success center.”

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.

Fraud Does Not Pay With VA

Veronica Dale Hahn

By Debbie Gregory.

A 60-year-old Florida woman was sentenced to nine months in prison and ordered to pay back $394,800.85 in restitution after pleading guilty to fraudulently claiming she was blind in order to receive veteran’s benefits. The sentence was announced by Christopher P. Canova, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida

Veronica Dale Hahn lied from November 2001 to February 2016 about being rendered blind in both eyes, which she claimed to be service related.

But less than a year after receiving her disability benefits for vision loss, she obtained driver’s licenses in Alabama, Florida and New Mexico all without any vision restrictions.

In addition to passing the vision exams she was also seen driving her personal automobile on numerous occasions. She was also able to perform work as a case manager and transition counselor at several state correctional facilities.

“Instead of providing benefits and assistance to worthy veterans who are justifiably in need, significant resources from the Department of Veterans Affairs were diverted to uncover an extensive and persistent fraud by Ms. Hahn, who repeatedly gave dishonest information and collected hundreds of thousands of dollars to which she was not entitled,” said Canova. “This case sends the message that you cannot make false disability claims and just walk away from such a crime.”

Monty Stokes, the Special Agent in Charge from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General said that this sentencing was the result of a successful multiyear investigation. “VA Disability Compensation Benefits are intended to provide for veterans with injuries or diseases related to their military service. Because of the successful investigative and prosecutive efforts of the VA OIG and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Veronica Hahn’s greed and deception will not go unchecked.”

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.

New TRICARE Contract Shakes Up Doctors

HUmanamil

By Debbie Gregory.

TRICARE’s 10-state South Region behavioral healthcare therapists have been notified that while they may continue to see their patients under the new behavioral healthcare network, they will do so under a revised fee deal. The deal is not in the practitioners’ best interest, and has some mental healthcare professionals deeply concerned.

The new contract, which will take effect on January 1, 2018, cuts therapy fees to 30 percent less than the Medicare approved rates. Medicare’s rates are already considered to be on the low end.

Humana Military will administer the contract for the new TRICARE East Region, which was formed by merging the current North and South Regions. The contract will cover approximately 6 million beneficiaries in a 32-state region, including Washington D.C., and is also scheduled to begin January 1, 2018.

The West Region contract will be administered by HealthNet.

While TRICARE officials monitor the progress of the two companies as they build their networks, there is concern that many of the current providers will be unwilling to accept the new fee structure.

“We hope, to the greatest extent possible, that providers currently providing care to our patients are able to reach agreement with Humana and that they can continue to provide that care so there’s no disruption,” said Navy Capt. Edward Simmer, deputy director of the TRICARE Health Plan.

“The goal is to negotiate a mutually agreeable reimbursement rate with providers,” said Matt Paynter, chief of staff for Humana Military. “Certainly, this is never a take-it or leave-it-you’re-going-to-get-kicked-out thing. We work with providers.”

Supply and demand certainly play a role in the therapists’ ability to negotiate their fees.  Depending on their location, the number of TRICARE beneficiaries in their area and the demand for their services, therapists may be able to negotiate a higher rate of reimbursement.

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.

House Considers Trimming Years off VA Appeal Process

appeal

By Debbie Gregory.

Of the hundreds of thousands veterans who file disability claims each year, approximately 10% of them will appeal the decision made on their claim, either because they disagree with the decision, don’t understand it, or are simply exercising their right to do so.

A large percentage of appeals are filed by veterans who are already receiving VA disability compensation, but are seeking either a higher level of compensation or payment from an earlier effective date.

This has caused veterans who are in the appeal process waiting an average of five years for their decision.

VA officials have repeatedly said that without changes in the law governing how often veterans can restart the appeals process, they can only make small improvements.

There are nearly half a million pending appeals cases. In an effort to fix this clearly broken process, members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee have debated draft legislation to overhaul the process.

“VA’s current appeals system is slow, cumbersome and just doesn’t serve veterans well,” said Phil Roe, (R-TN). “We have to do better … Congress has to make some changes to give VA the tools it needs to ensure that veterans receive a fair and timely decision on their appeals.”

New options on how veterans could have their cases appealed include waiving the chance to submit new evidence or official hearings in favor of quicker resolutions, or retaining those rights, but facing stricter timelines for submissions and responses. The Open Record, which allows veterans to add evidence at any time in the process to provide extra clarity or strength to their case, seems like a great idea, but if the veteran does submit new evidence, the claims review process starts all over again.

But the Vietnam Veterans of America released a statement calling the proposed legislation problematic, saying it “ignores the need for legal precedent in the VA claims process, limits due process protections, and compromises the non-adversarial, pro-veteran claims system at the convenience of VA.”

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.

Congress to Fight Massive Trump Saudi Arms Deal

asswipe2

By Debbie Gregory.

Congress introduced Legislation on May 24th to stop part of President Trump’s sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

A bill of disapproval was introduced in the Senate by Republican Rand Paul (KY) and Democrats Chris Murphy (CT) and Al Franken (MN) to force a vote to block part of the sale of arms.  On May 19th,the Senate Foreign Relations Committee received formal notice of the pending sale.

Once Congress is formally notified of plans of an arms sale, under the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, a senator is allowed to force a vote on the arms sale.  The same three senators introduced a similar resolution last year to block the sale of $1.15 billion of tanks and other equipment to Saudi Arabia.   Their resolution was overwhelmingly defeated.

When President Trump visited Saudi Arabia, they agreed to purchase $110 billion of U.S. arms with options of as much as $350 billion over ten years.   These lawmakers want to block approximately $500 million of the sale that includes precision-guided munitions and other offensive weapons.

Rand Paul cited Saudi Arabia’s past support of terror and their poor human rights record.  He asked if this sale is in the best interest of the United States’ national security.

Members of the House also took action on the sale.  Representatives Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Ted Lieu (D-CA) wrote to the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee requesting a hearing to review the sale of the precision-guided munitions.

President Trump stated that he wants to encourage international weapons sales as a way to create jobs in the United States.

Do you think we should sell precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia?  Do you think selling these weapons will create jobs in the United States?  Tell us what you think by emailing us info@localhost

Double Dipping Law May Force Disabled Vets to Pay Back Separation Benefits

 

milpay

By Debbie Gregory.

There is an important problem that affects disabled veterans and can severely impact their financial well-being.

There is an obscure law that requires former service members to pay back their separation pay before they can receive VA disability compensation. Apparently receiving separation pay and disability benefits is akin to “double dipping.”

This is something that most veterans and separating servicemembers are unaware of.

Thousands of veterans likely face recoupment of separation pay. And getting any relief may be an uphill battle because the payback requirement is written into federal law.

VA payments are withheld, or offset, until the full amount of separation pay is repaid. The law affects both voluntary and involuntary separation pay.  In the case of voluntary separation pay, the law allows the military service secretaries to waive the debt, but such waivers are the exception rather than the rule.

There are some veterans who have succeeded in appealing their recoupment rates by contacting their elected representatives. Often times, if you take your problem to your local congressperson, they can help you navigate the government red tape.

“It seems to me — whether intended or not, or whether it was a bureaucratic snafu — to be a bait and switch,” said Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA). “There is a promise between the American public, the American taxpayer, and military service members, when they go in, when they serve and when they get out, they’ll have this support, and in my view, the federal government and the Congress are violating this contractual obligation.”

Let us know what you think. Do these two types of pay, disability pay and separation pay, seem like two very separate things?

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.

Trump Budget Bad News for Vets, Government Retirees

budget trump

By Debbie Gregory.

While President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 aims to improve veteran care, it includes a plan to round down cost-of-living adjustments for veterans benefits payouts and boot some disabled, unemployed veterans from a program that allows them to receive higher disability payments.

The budget proposes to stop the higher payments once a veteran who is eligible for Social Security payments reaches the minimum age to receive them. Veterans who have already reached that age and receive Social Security would be removed immediately.

If a 60 percent disabled veteran living alone is removed from the Individual Unemployability program, their payments could decrease from the highest rate of $2,915 monthly to $1,062.

Changes would be even more dramatic for the estimated 70,000 civilian federal employees who retire yearly, along with the hundreds of thousands who are already collecting their pensions.

Trump’s proposed budget calls for eliminating annual cost-of-living increases for Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) enrollees completely, and lowering the adjustments for Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) enrollees by 0.5 percent.  CSRS beneficiaries are not eligible for Social Security payments. FERS employees are, but those government pensions still make up a significant portion of their retirement income.

The total VA budget exceeds $186 billion for fiscal 2018, which begins October 1st. It’s a nearly 6 percent increase from fiscal 2017.

Congress would have to approve the budget proposal, but both Republican and Democratic lawmakers rejected the budget blueprint, even before it was formally released.

“Almost every president’s budget proposal is basically dead on arrival, including President Obama’s,” said Sen. John Cornyn, the second ranking Republican in the Senate, making the point that such proposals are more statements of priorities than legislation. He added that Trump’s budget “may find a similar fate.”

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.

How to Properly Display Our American Flag

memday flag

By Debbie Gregory.

When there are holidays that call for flying the flag, or if you just want to express your patriotism, knowing how to properly display the American Flag is paramount to showing respect for this symbol of national pride.

While most people know that the U.S. flag should not touch the ground or be displayed if it is faded, torn or tattered, there are additional protocols that should be observed.

It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.

The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is displayed.

The flag should be displayed daily on or near the main administration building of every public institution.

When displayed with another flag against the wall with crossed staffs, the U.S. flag should be to the left of those facing it with the staff in front of the other flag’s staff.

If a flag is being displayed without a staff, it should be flat with the stars to the left of the observer, or suspended with the stars in the top left to the observer.

If the flag is displayed with a group of flags, the U.S. flag should be at the center and the highest point.

The flag should be displayed in or near every polling place on election days.

The flag should be displayed during school days in or near every schoolhouse.

Now, for a little history lesson. Betsy Ross would often tell the story of a fateful day in May of 1776, when three members of a secret committee from the Continental Congress came to call upon her. Those representatives, George Washington, Robert Morris, and George Ross, asked Ross, an upholsterer, to sew the first flag. She finished the flag either in late May or early June 1776. In July, the Declaration of Independence was read aloud for the first time at Independence Hall.

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress, seeking to promote national pride and unity, adopted the national flag. “Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

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.