Shulkin Backs Off Plan to Cut Benefits of Elderly Veterans

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By Debbie Gregory.

It’s good to know that Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has announced that he wants to avoid any policy changes that will hurt the most vulnerable veterans, those who are part of the Individual Unemployability (IU) program.

“The budget is a process, and it became clear this (plan) would hurt some veterans,” he said. “I’m really concerned about that … I’m not going to support policies that hurt veterans.”

President Donald Trump’s $186.5 billion VA budget for fiscal 2018 has provisions that would dramatically change eligibility rules for the IU program, affecting some 210,000 veterans over the age of 60, at least 7,000 of whom are over 80.

Under current rules, the IU program awards payouts at the 100 percent disabled rate to veterans who cannot find work due to service-connected injuries, even if their actual rating decision is less than that. The change would make them ineligible once they reach Social Security’s retirement age

Although the move would save $3.2 billion just in its first year, the cost to the veterans currently qualified for UI would be enormous. IU payouts can total almost $20,000 a year.

American Legion officials praised the administration “for coming to their senses and committing to protect the Individual Unemployability program that provides for our most vulnerable veterans and their families.”

Shulkin is still committed to looking for ways to be more efficient with taxpayer funds, but not at the expense of veterans’ financial health.

We at Military Connection applaud these actions! Our veterans deserve all of the benefits they receive.

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.

Air Force Submits Wish List to Congress

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By Debbie Gregory.

Congress asks for unfunded lists from each service on an annual basis. The documents help guide lawmakers as they work through the budget requests and form policy and spending bills. The Air Force’s $10.7 billion unfunded priorities “wish list” submitted to Capitol Hill last month is heavy on research and development, but it also includes buying more aircraft , specifically F-35s and KC-46s.

Some $70 million would be earmarked to develop a “high power microwave weapon capable of multi-shot, multi-target ability to knock out digital electronic systems with low or no collateral damage and within anti-access area-denial environments.” A hypersonic prototype “to accelerate a Time Sensitive Target Engagement” also made the list.

The service has also planned $8 million for a light attack aircraft. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, as well as other top officials have endorsed the flight demo as a way to test whether a buy of inexpensive aircraft can help the force better meet readiness challenges.

The Air Force included 14  F-35A joint strike, three KC-46As, 12 MC-130Js, as well as one additional HC-130.

The EC-130H Compass Call program is based on an electronic attack aircraft, the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules. The aircraft is heavily modified to disrupt enemy command and control communications, perform offensive counter-information operations, and do other kinds of electronic attack. To keep the Compass Call program on track, the Air Force would need an additional $284.6 million for a number of initiatives. About $30 million would go to extend the life of the current EC-130H aircraft because the replacement program lags behind schedule.

The wish list also includes $131.6 million for various modifications for fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets.

The wish list included $360 million for nuclear deterrence operations, with nuclear command, control and communications emerging as a priority, and $563 million for cyberspace needs.

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.

Navy Veteran Seeking to Reclaim Pullup Title

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By Debbie Gregory.

Rodney Hahn is a Navy veteran and fitness trainer who smashed two Guinness World Records for pullups.

In 2015, Hahn did 6,737 pullups in 24 hours.  In 2016, a Virginia teen took the title by doing 7,300 pullups. Hahn tried to win the title back, but fell short  when he completed 6,844 pull-ups. But it wasn’t all for nothing as Hahn was able to raise $8,000 for the Navy Seal Fund.

Hahn, who is 56 years old, wants his title back. His goal is to do 8,000 pullups in a single day.

Hahn, who has been a fitness trainer for 20 years, understands what it takes.  He works out six days a week to build endurance.   He believes the most challenging part of the challenge to regain his title is sleep deprivation.

The Virginia Beach native understands that to achieve his goals, he needs to train in increments.

Hahn is not content to just break the pullups record again.  He also wants to break two other world records, including doing more than 30 chin-ups in a minute with a 20 pound weight onboard, and doing more than 57 pushups in a minute with a 60 pound weight onboard.  He wants to achieve this before his next birthday when he will be turning 57.

Hahn believes that the 8,000 push-ups in a single 24 hours is the easier of the goals to achieve.

We at MilitaryConnection.com commend Rodney Hahn and wish him success in achieving all of his goals.

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.

Air Force Veteran Convicted of Terrorism Sentenced to 35 Years

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By Debbie Gregory.

Tairod Pugh, a U.S Air Force veteran found guilty of terrorism for trying to join ISIS two years ago, has been sentenced to 35 years in prison.

The 49-year-old Pugh, a convert to Islam, was convicted of trying to join the Islamic State (ISIS) and die a martyr.

Acting United States Attorney Bridget Rohde said, “The defendant turned his back on his country, and the military he once served, to attempt to join a brutally violent terrorist organization committed to the slaughter of innocent people throughout the world.,”

Several days before his arrest on January 16, 2015, Pugh had flown from Egypt to Turkey, after spending about a year working in the Middle East. Turkey is a common entry point for would-be jihadists entering Syria.

The FBI had been closely monitoring Pugh, and Turkish authorities detained him as soon as he landed in Istanbul. He was immediately deported and sent to JFK International Airport in New York, where he was arrested.

At Pugh’s trial, prosecutors presented evidence showing that his laptop contained ISIS propaganda and execution videos. The prosecution also demonstrated that Pugh had voiced his support for ISIS to coworkers and on Facebook, encouraging his followers to “support [ISIS] with your bodies.”

Additional evidence included the draft of a letter from Pugh to his wife which read:

I am a Mujahid. I am a sword against the oppressor and a shield for the oppressed. I will use the talents and skills given to me by Allah to establish and defend the Islamic State. There is only 2 possible outcomes for me [sic]. Victory or Martyr.

Pugh served in the Air Force from 1986 to 1990 and was trained in installing and maintaining aircraft engines and navigation and weapons systems.

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.

China is Closing the Military Gap

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By Debbie Gregory.

China’s deployment of missiles, able to deliver nuclear warheads to U.S. bases on Guam, is among the military advancements closing the gap with Western military power, according to the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on China’s military, released on June 6th.

The report came just days after U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis warned China against actions that “impinge on the interests of the international community, undermining the rules-based order that has benefited all countries” at a security forum in Singapore.

After two decades of budget increases, including last year’s 7 percent increase in military spending to $144.3 billion, China claimed its position as the second largest military spender, after the U.S

China’s expertise in building both commercial and military aircraft has improved with work on the C919 commercial airliner and Xian Y-20 military transport.

Their Dongfeng-26 intermediate-range rockets could also be used for conventional strikes against ships in the Western Pacific. The DF-26 joins an arsenal that includes DF-21 “carrier killer” missiles. Boosting its sea power, China’s Jin-class submarines are now equipped with JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missiles.

At a regularly schedule press briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the Pentagon report had made “irresponsible remarks about China’s defense and development which disregard the facts.” She said China was a force for stability in Asia and elsewhere in the world.

From 2011 to 2015, China ranked as the world’s fourth largest arms exporter, with more than $20 billion in sales. This included $9 billion in sales to Pakistan and other Asian countries. China also sold armed drones to several countries in the Middle East, including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE.

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’s Campaign to Make Stanford More Veteran Friendly

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By Debbie Gregory.

Adam Behrendt is on a mission. The former U.S. Navy corpsman who enrolled as a transfer student at Stanford University is trying to persuade the university to change some of their policies to make the school more veteran friendly.

Behrendt enlisted in the Navy in 2007, after several years at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, was medically retired from the Navy in March 2015. He applied to Stanford, with the game plan of attending medical school.

Unfortunately, the way Stanford applied the education benefits available through Behrendt’s Post 9/11 GI Bill did not make it financially feasible for his wife to give up her job in Wisconsin and move to California.

Fortunately for Behrendt, he was able to get assistance from Service to School, an organization that helps military veterans apply to and succeed in college. Through his relationship with the non-profit, Behrendt began mentoring other veterans to help them navigate Stanford’s financial aid policies.

Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) provides both tuition assistance and a housing and living allowance to veterans in order for them to pursue postsecondary education.

Stanford charged roughly $72,000 for an undergraduate — $47,000 in tuition, $18,000 in room and board, and about $7,000 for supplies and fees.

Under VA policy at the time, the typical undergraduate veteran at Stanford would be eligible for more than $50,000 — roughly $25,000 in tuition and fees support and another $28,000 toward housing and living expenses.

For veterans who also earned need-based funds from Stanford, the university would apply the entire $53,000 from the VA, and reduce its own financial contributions as a result. Stanford was counting the housing allowance as a resource that the student veteran was bringing to the table in calculating financial aid.

Behrend thought it was not fair for the university to take $28,000 in VA funds to cover $18,000 in room and board.

Behrendt had become an accidental advocate, and because of his efforts,  Stanford’s general counsel noted in a letter to Behrendt that the university would no longer take more than the amount of the housing costs out of the VA’s living allowance, and that the university would not use an outside donor’s funds to meet a federal requirement that institutions match VA contributions under the Yellow Ribbon program.

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.

Delta Force Creator Dies

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By Debbie Gregory.

Lt. General (Ret) Samuel Wilson, who was known as “General Sam” and helped created Delta Force died on June 10th at the age of 93.

Wilson had a distinguished military and intelligence career.   He served as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.  Wilson was also known for coining the phase “counter-insurgency.”

Wilson joined the Army in 1940 at the age of 16.  He taught guerrilla and counter-guerrilla tactics at Fort Benning.  By the time he was 19, he was a first Lieutenant and was the chief reconnaissance officer for a unit known as “Merrill’s Marauders.”  This unit operated behind enemy lines in Burma during World War II.

Wilson was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, in Southwest Asia after the war.  He also worked in West Berlin as a CIA officer and in Russia as a defense attaché at the U.S. Embassy.

Wilson retired from the Army in 1977.  He became a political science professor at Hampden Sydney College, and served as president of the college from 1992 to 2000.  Wilson also continued to consult with officials in Washington D.C.

Hampton-Sydney College was an all-male college. It remained male and decided not to allow women even during difficult times of slow enrollment under Wilson’s tenure.  Even today, Hampden-Sydney College is one of our country’s few remaining all-male colleges.

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.

Non-profit Helps Veteran Farmers

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By Debbie Gregory.

In November, 2006, William O’Hare and Bill Bishop of the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute published a report showing that “rural families are paying a disproportionately high price for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Michael O’Gorman was farming in Mexico at the time, overseeing 1,600 acres of organic tomatoes, peas, basil and other fresh market produce. But he had a long history of farming in California and knew many other growers there. O’Gorman organized a gathering for farmers in California’s Central Coast to talk about creating jobs on their farms for returning veterans.

From that gathering came the Farmer Veteran Coalition, a non-profit based in Davis, CA. So far, the coalition has given out $1.2 million in grants to veterans who want to start farms.

Among those supporting the coalition’s efforts are the Bob Woodruff Foundation, Newman’s Own Foundation, Prairie Grove Farms, Farm Credit Counsel, Prudential Financial and Kubota Tractor Corporation.

O’Gorman felt that his personal journey, of going into agriculture with no money, land or education nearly forty years earlier, and becoming one of the country’s most prolific organic farmers, could help a new generation of new farmers.

“When I read the Carsey study, there was something magnetic about the idea of getting veterans on the farm,” said O’Gorman. “Just short of 40 years in my career path, I decided to do something different.”

In 2009, O’Gorman received substantial funding from the Iraq and Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund, which he said “was handling the nation’s largest private donation made on behalf of American veterans.

“They vetted 50 groups and distributed most of the money the year prior, but when they heard about FVC, the leaders recognized the unique program we had to offer veterans, and we became the 51st group to receive funding.”

The coalition’s vision of the future is an organization that will be around for decades, in every state, continuing to unite the agricultural sector: government, education, private industry, conventional and alternative farming and the veterans themselves.

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.

 

A First – Woman Takes Command of Special Forces Battalion

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By Debbie Gregory.

Lt. Colonel Megan A. Brogden has made history. She is the first female commander of a Special Forces battalion in the history of the U.S. Army.

Lt. Colonel Brogden assumed the command of the Group Support Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group.

The Group Support Battalion has an amazing reputation.  It is the largest and most diverse of five battalions within the 3rd Special Forces Group.  They are charged with supporting Special Forces teams deployed to remote environments in Africa and the Middle East

She was chosen for the position based on her leadership skills, her long history of supporting and leading special operations soldiers and maintaining the force.  She was not chosen because she was a woman.

Over the next two years, Lt. Colonel Brogden will work to build on the excellent reputation of the Group Support Battalion, and endeavor to innovate in order to better support soldiers and their missions.

Within the Group Support Battalion, women have served in civil affairs, as psychological operations soldiers and in cultural support teams with Army Rangers as part of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

The role of women in Special Operations is constantly changing.  They are filling more leadership roles.  U.S. Special Operations Command (USASOC) continues to integrate women into new roles.

Lt. Colonel Brogden took command from Lt. Colonel Chris Panoe.  Lt. Colonel Panoe led the Group Support Battalion known as “the Nomads” for two years. Lt. Colonel Paone praised Brogden and characterized her as a team builder.

On any day, the Group Support Battalion has soldiers deployed to approximately twelve countries in North and West Africa as well as soldiers in Afghanistan that work along our partners there.

This battalion was formed more than ten years ago, and has over 400 soldiers assigned within more than thirty-five occupational specialties, and nine officer branches.   Some of the services they provide include  communications, electronics support, military intelligence, food service, chemical recon, supply and services, transportation, maintenance, water purification, parachute rigging, unmanned aerial recon and contracting support.

Lt. Colonel Brogden served two tours with a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan and Kuwait. She advised female officers to challenge themselves and take the tough jobs that will develop their leadership skills.

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.

Special Operations Command Wants To Create Super Soldiers

Tactical Light Operator Suit

By Debbie Gregory.

U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is researching, developing and testing a next-generation Iron Man-like suit called Tactical Light Operator Suit (TALOS) designed to increase strength and protection to keep valuable operators alive when they kick down doors and engage in combat.

The Command is also looking at using nutritional supplements and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to push the abilities and endurance of its forces, increase operational readiness and relieve the physical burden of demanding mission sets.

Even though special ops forces currently have access to specialized resources such as physical therapists, athletic trainers and dietitians, SOCOM is looking to increase their ability to tolerate pain, recover from injuries, and remain physically able in challenging environments.

Another SOCOM goal is to develop “super soldiers” expanding the troops’ ability to operate in places not well suited for humans, such as high altitudes or underwater.

The technologies currently being developed include body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increasing systems and additional protection.

Special Operations Forces play a significant role in U.S. military operations and, in recent years, have been given greater responsibility for planning and conducting worldwide counterterrorism operations.

SOCOM has about 70,000 Active Duty, National Guard, and reserve personnel from all four services and Department of Defense civilians assigned to its headquarters, its four Service component commands, and eight sub-unified commands.

“Special Operations forces are playing a critical role in gathering intelligence—intelligence that’s supporting operations against ISIL and helping to combat the flow of foreign fighters to and from Syria and Iraq,” said Lisa Monaco, the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, in remarks at the International Special Operations Forces Convention last year.

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.