Veterans Groups Agree on Four GI Bill Changes

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By Debbie Gregory.

Last month, thirty-five veteran groups banded together and stalled a congressional hearing.

The groups were in the U.S. Capital to weigh in on changes to the Post 9/11 GI Bill.  They want change and to close some loopholes.

While they agree on more than they disagree on, the area of disagreement concerns whether or not to charge new enlistees for their GI Bill benefit.
The areas of agreement include:

  • There should be a fix to a Pentagon deployment authorization that is unfairly preventing thousands of Reservists and Guardsmen from earning GI Bill benefits. About 4,700 Reservists and Guardsmen who deployed under Title 10, Section 12304b have been restricted from accumulating education benefits.
  • Also in agreement among veteran groups is a measure to bring the mobilization authority up to par with active-duty entitlements
  • Expanding eligibility for the Yellow Ribbon Program to surviving spouses and children of servicemembers killed in the line of duty. The program allows veterans to attend schools or enroll in programs that cost more than the GI Bill tuition cap.
  • Expanding full GI Bill benefits to all Purple Heart recipients. Currently, a veteran must be medically retired from the military or have 36 months of active-duty service to qualify.  There are approximately 1,500 Purple Heart recipients who aren’t eligible for full education benefits.  If you’ve been wounded on the battlefield, you’ve met the service requirement.
  • Assisting student veterans whose schools close. Last year, for-profit ITT Technical Institute closed its doors, and thousands of veterans who attended the campuses were unable to recover lost education benefits. The situation has also happened with other for-profit schools that have closed.

The major issue that these groups cannot reach consensus on which has divided veteran groups is the Post 9/11 GI Bill expansion and funding it.   It has been recommended by some of the veteran groups that new enlistees would pay $2,400 over a two year period to opt into this benefit.

Some Veteran groups have described this as “a tax on troops”.

There will be further discussions between veteran groups on whether to charge servicemembers for the GI Bill.

Tell us what you think and check out the multitude of educational information on our site militaryconnection.com.

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.

What Damage Can North Korea Do?

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By Debbie Gregory.

North Korea has long been a threat to South Korea and Japan. The country’s arsenal of ballistic missiles and nuclear weaponry grows on a daily basis.

For this reason, previous administrations have avoided confrontation with Kim Jong-un’s regime. Indeed, it would be South Korean and Japanese civilians who would take the brunt of Pyongyang’s wrath in the event of war. And of course, the U.S. has military bases and personnel in both countries.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said any military solution to the North Korea crisis would be “tragic on an unbelievable scale.”

President Trump has said he is ready to act, with or without China. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the nation would need some time to act.

War with North Korea would be a humanitarian disaster and a shock for global economy. This is why a diplomatic solution is widely seen as the only solution.

South Korea has numerous nuclear power plant reactors. North Korea has hundreds of missiles which are hard to stop.

If North Korea were to launch such a strike first, the first wave of shells could land with essentially no warning. Additionally, the North could hit the South with chemical or biological warheads.

The U.S. and South Korea both have preemptive strike plans in place should a North Korean nuclear attack appear imminent. While Japan is considering new options, it still relies heavily on U.S. defense.

While Pyongyang’s missiles might have some reliability issues, there are enough of them to do very significant damage to South Korea and Japan. According to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, North Korea now fields hundreds of missiles that can reach U.S. forces forward deployed to the Republic of Korea and Japan.

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.

Steyr Arms Files Suit Against Sig Sauer

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By Debbie Gregory.

Firearms manufacturer Steyr Arms claims that their 2001 patent for a removable gun chassis system has been infringed upon by Sig Sauer’s P320 and P250 series handguns. The company has filed a patent infringement case.

Sig Sauer had recently been awarded a contract to make the Army’s next service pistol based on the company’s P320 handgun.

The Modular Handgun System competition was decided with an announcement in late January that SIG Sauer had beaten out FN, Glock, and Beretta for the more than $500 million dollar contract for future 21st Century U.S. Army sidearms. A protest on the decision from Glock is still pending a Government Accounting Office (GAO) ruling, which is expected by early June.

The U.S. Army had selected the Model P320 to replace the M9 service pistol currently in use since the mid-1980’s. Released in 2014, the P320 polymer striker-fired pistol had proven itself in both the United States and worldwide markets.

The 10-year agreement called for Sig Sauer to supply the Army with both compact and full-size versions of the gun. It’s likely that the Army’s $580 million contract made Sig Sauer a target for rival manufacturers.

Steyr Arms claim that they hold the patent rights to the fiberglass-reinforced, polymer grip-frame module, which acts as the weapon’s lower frame. The modular polymer chassis allows the pistol’s slide and trigger pack to be fitted to frames with different grip profiles.

Steyr Arms is demanding preliminary and permanent injunctions against Sig Sauer to prevent them from selling the infringing pistols.

Patent infringement cases can be held up in the court system for months or years before they are settled. So the question remains, how this will this pending litigation impact  SIG Sauer’s contract with the U.S. Army ?

It is likely that Steyr is seeking a lucrative financial settlement in return for a licensing agreement.

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.

Per Pentagon, Military Sexual Assaults Victims Near 5,000

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By Debbie Gregory.

While incidences of sexual assault in the U.S. military is on the decline, retaliation and ostracism still pose a significant problem among victims who report these crimes.

According to the Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military 2016, the department’s main program efforts are:

  • Advancing Sexual Assault Prevention
  • Assuring a Quality Response to Service Members Who Report Sexual Assault
  • Improving Response to Male Service Members Who Report Sexual Assault
  • Combatting Retaliation Associated with Sexual Assault Reporting

Of those who experienced ostracism or maltreatment after reporting an incident, 29 percent indicated the treatment they perceived involved some form of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Yik Yak, and Snapchat.

About 1 in 3 service members who experienced a sexual assault ultimately filed a report in 2016, the Pentagon says. That’s up from 1 in 14 a decade ago.

An estimated 14,900 service members surveyed last year say that they were the victim of a sexual assault. While the number is down from previous years, 60 per cent of victims say they’ve experienced some sort of negative reaction as a consequence for coming forward.

While prevention and support efforts show demonstrable signs of progress, there is still a long way to go.

“That’s way too many people having to experience this stuff, but this is how change works,” said a senior Pentagon official.

John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with Ranking Member Jack Reed issued a statement saying “we are encouraged” by the report’s findings. At the same time, while “these trends point toward a positive improvement …, there is still much work to be done.”

Special victims counsel and victim advocates were the most-used support services, with the highest satisfaction ratings, but men weren’t as satisfied overall as women with the support they received.

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.

Support Veteran Resource Center Funding

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By Debbie Gregory.

An estimated 70,000 veterans who have served in the War on Terror have enrolled into the California Community College system. Many of them face difficulties adjusting to civilian life after serving in the military, and receive support through Veteran Resource Centers (VRCs) located on California’s Community College (CCC) campuses.

The California State Assembly has shown unanimous bipartisan support in voting to approve funding for Veteran Resource Centers (VRC) at Community Colleges in the May Revision Budget Sub Committee #2.

While the $15 million on-going funding sustains the VRCs,  the federal VA has already agreed to match the state’s input, resulting in $30 million in funding to VRCs in the community college system.
Research performed by the CCC indicates that providing support services improves academic success for all student veterans. This is especially true of those who are using the GI Bill and need to maximize every available month of eligibility. VRCs offer services specifically tailored to the needs of our veterans all in one place: tutoring, on-campus support services from the VA, and veteran support groups and counseling. VRCs also provide a sense of community and the camaraderie of fellow veterans, which are invaluable to transitioning to civilian life.

Many of these students enter our colleges with service connected disabilities, basic skills gaps, lack of support systems and challenges navigating a new system when entering higher education. Professional Veteran Resource Center faculty/staff support the veteran population on each campus and assure benefits and payments are appropriately allocated to the student and the campus. They are also in place to help student veterans traverse the complexities and constant changes to VA regulations and educational benefits.

We honor our veterans and the sacrifices they have made for our nation by supporting their  educational journeys, culminating in successful careers.

In their May Revision, the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education passed a $10 million ONE-TIME funding to community college VRCs. All California residents need to urge the Senate to go with the Assembly budget, and assert that this funding needs to be on-going, NOT a one-time fund.

Contact your local Senator and urge them to #PutYourMoneyWhereTheVetsAre by supporting the #70KStrong! It’s up to us to ensure that $30 million in funding goes to crucial transition efforts that help our veterans!

F-35 Getting Ready For Combat

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By Debbie Gregory.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the next generation fighter jet, is getting closer to full service. The program has been running years behind schedule and is billions over budget.

The single-engine F-35 comes in three variants. The A version is flown by the U.S. Air Force, the B version by the Marines, and the C version will become part of the U.S. Navy’s fleet.

Last year, the Air Force claimed the F-35 was “combat ready,” having reached a stage called “initial operating capability.” Recently, a squadron of Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighters was deployed to the Baltics as part of the European Reassurance Initiative.

The deployment is meant to send a message, and puts the F-35 as close to the action as it’s ever been, underscoring U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s belief that U.S.-Russian relations were at a “low point.”

The F-35 deployment to Europe comes after the Marine Corps’ deployment of F-35s to Asia to train with the South Korean military.

The F-35’s cost issues were addressed at the end of last year when then-president-elect Donald Trump tweeted about the “tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35.”

Trump has claimed that he was directly responsible for helping save $700 million on a February order of 90 F-35s, adding that costs will continue to shrink as more planes are delivered.

“Now you know that’s a saving of billions and billions of dollars, many billions of dollars over the course of – it’s between 2,500 and 3,000 planes will be the final order,” Trump said in an interview, projecting additional savings as the aircraft ramps up production.

The $400 billion price tag for the program is double the original budget, prompting Defense Secretary James Mattis to commission a review of the program in an effort to cut costs. But the Pentagon has also worked with Lockheed Martin to bring the costs down.

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.

Two of America’s Finest Tragically Lose Their Lives

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By Debbie Gregory.

Two men, both of whom served their country, one a veteran and one an active duty servicemember, lost their lives just days apart, both under tragic circumstances.

On Friday, May 26th, Army veteran Ricky Best was stabbed when he stood up to Jeremy Joseph Christian in defense of a girl wearing a hijab and her friend, as Christian launched a slur-filled diatribe at the two aboard a MAX Green Line train in Oregon.

Then on Sunday, May 28th, a tragic parachute malfunction sent a member of the Navy’s elite SEAL parachute team plunging into the Hudson River.

Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Remington J. Peters was taking part in a performance with the elite Leap Frogs skydiving demonstration team during New York Fleet Week.  He landed in the river near Liberty State Park in New Jersey, and was pulled out of the water by the Coast Guard. Peters was sent to the Jersey City Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The Navy is continuing to investigate the accident.

Best, a 23-year retired Army veteran, died on the train from stab wounds inflicted by Christian. Two other men, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, and Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, were also stabbed. Namkai-Meche later died at the hospital. Fletcher is expected to recover.  The three men tried to talk Christian down from his agitated state.

According to the Navy Special Warfare Center, Peters had completed two combat deployments and had more than 900 parachute jumps. He enlisted in September, 2009, and arrived in Coronado, CA shortly after recruit and preliminary training in Illinois.

Our hearts and thoughts go out to the families and loved ones of these two men who proudly served their country. We thank them both for their service, their bravery and their sacrifices.

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.