Posts

Trump Wants to Use Military to Secure Border

border wall

By Debbie Gregory.

President Donald Trump wants to deploy members of the military to secure the U.S.-Mexico border until his promised border wall is built.

No time frame for the deployment has been announced.

Trump has promised to build a “big, beautiful wall” on the border since early in his campaign, claiming it will help secure the border. But Congress has yet to pass any meaningful funding for the wall’s construction, and federal law prohibits the use of active duty service members for law enforcement inside the U.S., unless specifically authorized by Congress.

Some 6,000 National Guard troops were deployed to the border in 2006, under president George W Bush. The troops did not participate in any law enforcement activity, but helped with surveillance and administrative tasks.

“We’re going to be doing things militarily. Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” Trump said, calling the move a “big step.”

In addition to mobilizing the National Guard, Trump and senior officials agreed on the need to pressure Congress to urgently pass legislation to close legal loopholes exploited by criminal trafficking, narco-terrorist and smuggling organizations

Among the new measures the administration is pursuing: ending special safeguards that prevent the immediate deportation of children arrested at the border and traveling alone. Currently, unaccompanied children from countries that don’t border the U.S. are turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services and undergo often lengthy deportation proceedings before an immigration judge instead of being immediately deported.

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.

DoD Overpayment Error Puts Pendleton Civilian Police in a Tough Position

clawback

By Debbie Gregory.

Nearly 100 civilian police officers hired to augment military police on U.S. military bases in San Diego County are being asked by the federal government to pay back tens of thousands of dollars in wages after it was discovered the federal government had made an error in determining their pay scale.

Sixty civilian police officers at the Provost Marshal’s Office at Camp Pendleton and 33 civilian police officers at Naval Station Fallbrook were informed that to an accounting error, they will have to pay back the money.

The officers were paid on the wrong pay scale from 2008 to 2016.

On March 14, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) Office began sending letters to officers notifying them of how much money they need to repay for the overpayment going back a decade.

Individual debts range from $12,000 to $80,000. The average overpayment was $3,500 annually, according to Robert Richey, president of the police officer’s union, the National Federation of Federal Employees.

Those involved have three options: Pay the money back, request a payment plan, or submit a waiver for the entire amount – but there is no guarantee the waiver will be granted.

Base officials at Camp Pendleton held town halls to help police officers understand what happened and how to move forward.

“We understand this is challenging for our police officers and poses a substantial burden on those who provide a critical service to meet the Navy’s security requirements,” a Navy spokesperson said. “Navy Region Southwest is committed to helping the officers through this process and continues to help mitigate the situation to the greatest degree possible.”

Carl Redding, a spokesman for the Marine base, said “We stand in full support of our police officers and understand how indebtedness can impact their welfare and morale.” He added, “Our civilian police officers provide such an added benefit for base security and we are grateful for all their hard work and dedication.”

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.

Deportation Fears for More Military Families

dhs

By Debbie Gregory.

With a number of military spouses facing deportation, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he would need to look into whether there may be additional protections for them.

While Mattis said he had reached an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that active duty forces, Reserve, Guard and honorably discharged veterans who are under the government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would be protected from deportation (as long as they didn’t have any standing court orders or serious felony convictions) it is not known whether those protections would be extended to their spouses.

“I’ll have to check on that and get back to you,” Mattis said.

Numerous military families, both active duty and veteran, are concerned about their undocumented spouses or dependents facing possible deportation.

The last thing deployed service members need to be thinking about is the deportation of their spouses while they are away. To that end, spouses of active-duty troops or veterans have been eligible for “Parole in Place,” or PIP, a relief that allows spouses, children and parents of active duty, National Guard and Reserve troops and veterans who entered the U.S. illegally to remain in the country and pursue a green card.

The law was put in place in 2007 to come to the aid of Yaderlin Hiraldo, the wife of Army Sgt. Alex Jimenez. Hiraldo entered the U.S. illegally, and Jimenez was killed in Iraq before they could complete her green card request.

In 2006, the couple was granted a deferment of immigration proceedings until Spc. Jimenez returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq. However in June of that year, the government announced its intent to deport Hiraldo, despite the fact that her husband was declared missing along with two other soldiers. The case quickly received national attention and the involvement of influential U.S. Senators John Kerry and the late Ted Kennedy.

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 Soldier on Raid Against ISIS Killed In Syria

dunbar

By Debbie Gregory.

Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar, 36, of Austin, Texas, was killed near Manbij, Syria on March 30th by an improvised explosive device.

A member of the Army’s elite Delta Force, Dunbar was on a mission to kill or capture a member of the Islamic State terrorist group.

In recent weeks, Manbij has seen an assassination attempt against a senior Kurdish official on the highway outside the town and a number of small explosions. Authorities imposed a curfew after 11 p.m., and in recent days barred motorcycles from moving around the town after sunset.

Few details about the mission on which Dunbar and a British soldier were killed have been released so far.

Dunbar’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal (third award), the Army Commendation Medal (fourth award), the Army Achievement Medal (sixth award), the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with 2 Bronze Service Stars, the Iraq Campaign Medal with 2 Bronze Service Stars, the Ranger Tab, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Expert Infantryman Badge, the Pathfinder Badge, the Military Freefall Jumpmaster Badge, and the Parachutist Badge.

Dunbar is the fourth American service member to die in Syria since the U.S. began attacking Islamic State group militants there in September 2014, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Casualty Analysis System.

The others were Air Force Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren, whose death was specifically labeled by the Pentagon as noncombat related; Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott C. Dayton, who was killed by an improved explosive device; and Army Spc. Etienne J. Murphy, who died in a vehicle rollover.

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 Convicted of Stolen Valor and Scamming More than $700K

Darryll

By Debbie Gregory.

It’s a sad fact, but fraud involving the veteran community is on the rise.

In just a 6-month period last year, the VA’s Office of Inspector General reported that it recovered $2.9 million in restitution, fines and penalties relating to fraud.

But in a “this-one-takes-the-cake” case, standout fraudster Darryl Wright, a former Idaho National Guardsman, scammed more than $700,000 in benefits. His deception further included supposed injuries that resulted in Wright being awarded the Army’s Combat Action Badge and a Purple Heart.

“Darryl Lee Wright built an entire myth system on these two awards, relying on them to obtain every possible benefit that might be available to a wounded veteran,” assistant U.S. attorneys David Reese Jennings and Gregory Gruber wrote in a sentencing memo.

Wright represented that he was so severely disabled by PTSD symptoms that he spent two-to-five days a week in bed, in a fetal position; he had a caregiver, a house cleaner, and yard worker; he could not prepare his own meals; he could not take public transportation or be in crowds; he could walk only fifty meters; and his attention span was only five to ten seconds.”

So imagine how shocking it was to catch Wright doing yard work, playing in a recreational basketball league and coaching a high school team. He was also a member of an emergency response team that responded to fires and conducted searches and rescues in Snoqualmie, Washington. He had a “sport” membership at a local country club. Wright was also a board member for a hospital foundation and ran unsuccessfully for political office.

Stolen valor is just plain disgusting. It siphons vital benefits from veterans who truly need it.Wright hurt the heroes who fully deserve recognition, respect, and honor.

“I made several poor decisions that adversely affected my family,” Wright said in a statement sent to the Snoqualmie Valley Record.

Wright was sentenced to three years in prison and stripped of his medals.

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.

Proposed Tax Credits for Employers Who Hire Military Spouses

kaine

By Debbie Gregory.

Every military spouse knows that finding employment is difficult, but a new bill aims to incentivize employers to hire them.

On February 27, the bill to provide a work opportunity tax credit for military spouses and to provide for flexible spending arrangements for childcare services for military families was introduced by Sen. Timothy Kaine.

The Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act of 2018 would also give military families pre-tax savings accounts for child care expenses.

“The Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act encourages businesses to step up and play a bigger role in hiring military spouses who already sacrifice so much,” Kaine said in a recent press release.

The tax credit for employers would be up to $9,600, and is the same one that certain veterans get. The value of the credit depends on how many hours the veteran worked and whether the veteran has a disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs, among other factors.

The new bill would simply add “qualified military spouse” to the list of those for whom an employer could receive the credit. It defines “qualified military spouse” as the “spouse or domestic partner” of a member of the U.S. armed forces.

The numbers behind military spouse unemployment are staggering. According to  press release, “between 12 percent and 25 percent of military spouses are unemployed,” and Blue Star Families says that military spouse unemployment costs the U.S. economy almost $1 billion a year.

The press release went on to say the bill “…further addresses a real obstacle to professional success for many military families: access to quality, affordable child care. Addressing these issues will help military spouses advance in their careers despite frequent moves.”

The proposal would allow military families to have flexible spending accounts that they can add pre-tax money from their paychecks to pay for out-of-pocket childcare expenses.

“Again and again we hear from these spouses that the lack of childcare puts a big burden in their way in terms of finding employment. Childcare is so expensive that the childcare is going to cost more than your salary then you are not going to work, you’re not going to maintain your career, your profession during that time,” Kaine said.

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 Supersonic Bullet is Almost Ready for Prime Time

onr

By Debbie Gregory.

Long-range, gun-launched, high-velocity and hypervelocity projectile (HVP) technologies are highly desired as potential cost-effective solutions for force protection and ballistic missile defense applications.   Now, the Department of Defense is preparing to test-fire its next-generation HVP within the next year, a development that could significantly augment that Pentagon’s existing missile defense systems.

HVP has been in development for more than a decade.

The high-velocity, compact design relieves the need for a rocket motor to extend gun range. Firing smaller, more accurate rounds improves danger close/collateral damage requirements and provides potential for deeper magazines and improved shipboard safety.

HVP program manager Vincent Sabio said that the shell is engineered to defeat several different threats, and could offer a lost-cost alternative to the standard Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptors.

The Navy’s Integrated Warfare Systems office put the cost of an HVP around $85,000. Although the price tag is higher than previous 2016 estimates of between $35,000 and $50,000, it still is a significant savings over the cost of a single PAC-3.

The new HVP will also offer a major tactical boost for forces downrange.

“We need to be able to address (all) types of threats: subsonic, supersonic; sea-skimming, land-hugging; coming in from above and dropping down on top of us,” said Sabio. “There are many different trajectories that we need to be able to deal with that we… cannot deal with effectively today.”

Another advantage is that the next-generation HVP projectiles could end up firing from the Army’s 155 mm howitzers or the 5-inch deck guns aboard Navy destroyers and cruisers.

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.

Investigation into the Sexual Assaults of Military Children

child assault

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. military has been derelict in its duty to protect and provide justice to the children of servicemembers when they are sexually assaulted by other children on base.

Tens of thousands of children and teenagers live and attend school on U.S. military bases while their parents serve the country. Yet if they are sexually violated by a classmate, a neighborhood kid or a sibling, they often get lost in a legal and bureaucratic netherworld. That’s because military law doesn’t apply to civilians, and the federal legal system that typically handles civilian crimes on base isn’t equipped or inclined to prosecute juveniles.

Reports of sexual violence among minors on U.S. military bases at home and abroad often only get as far as the desks of prosecutors. Many cases get lost in the system, with neither victim nor offender receiving help.

The Pentagon has rules and support systems to combat sexual violence among service members, but when it comes to student-on-student assaults, officials can only point to three paragraphs of guidelines that generally prohibit sexual harassment or “physical conduct of a sexual nature.”

As a result, reports of student sex assault languish.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have requested that the Pentagon’s inspector general begin a “comprehensive assessment” of department policies related to sexual assault among military children in schools and elsewhere on base.

“It disturbs us to learn that the department’s policies and procedures may prevent efforts to help child victims of misconduct … and to rehabilitate and hold child offenders accountable,” they wrote.

Pentagon school officials said they were developing new rules and guidance for reporting and responding to such violence. Officials also said the school system had appointed additional staff to advise families on their rights and available resources, among other reforms.

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.

Pronounced Dead, this Army Medic has an Amazing Story

bennett

By Debbie Gregory.

Those who serve in the U.S. military often have a story to tell when they come home. But John Bennett’s story may be one of the oddest stories with a happy ending that you’ve ever heard.

The young Army medic, just 20-years-old, was serving in Vietnam when he was struck by lightening and declared dead. Quite a coincidence, as Bennett’s high school nickname was “Lightning” due to the speed he ran in track.

The only thing was, he was still alive. He proved that wen sometime between 18 and 24 hours later, he woke up, in a morgue, in a body bag.

When Bennett regained consciousness, he used his knife to cut himself out of the body bag.

“Around me were many litters with body bags on them just like mine. I didn’t know if I was in enemy or friendly hands. I was in shock. I had always been so very cognizant of my surroundings and now I was in a place I could not identify and had no idea of how or why I was here.”

“What went through my mind is, ‘How did this happen, and how did I miss this?’” Bennett said.

In an understandable state of confusion, Bennett grappled to understand where he was and why he was there until someone came in and found him.

When he was asked what his problem was, Bennett replied, “You tell me!”

They retrieved the body tag, which said that Bennett had been killed in action — struck by lightning.

His battalion was preparing to name a bunker after their fallen comrade.

Phillip Kissinger, the chaplain for Bennett’s platoon, vaguely remembers writing a letter to Bennett’s parents informing them of their son’s death.Unfortunately, a letter to correct the erroneous declaration was never sent.

That letter reached his parents, but another letter correcting it was never sent out.

Bennett was able to get a message to his father by radio, weeks after his family had mourned his passing.

Fortunately for Bennett’s wife, who was eight months’ pregnant at the time, no one sent her a letter regarding her husband’s fate.

And if this story wasn’t already incredulous, after the war, the career Bennett chose? Electrician! You couldn’t make this up!

Here is What’s In Store for the New Head of the VA

ronny

By Debbie Gregory.

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the president’s appointed White House physician who drew national attention when he complimented President Trump on his “incredibly good genes,” has been tapped to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs — pending approval by the Senate.

This leadership post has been described as one of the most difficult jobs in government, one which has stymied generals, CEOs and health care executives.  Here’s a rundown of by the numbers:

  • More than 1,243 health care facilities:

These Veterans Health Administration facilities include 170 VA Medical Centers, and 1,063     outpatient sites — making it the largest health care system in the United States.

  • 9,000,000 veterans:

That’s the number of veterans who receive medical care from VA, and many of these patients are older and suffer from multiple traumas and injuries that require specialized care: amputations, traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, and as of 2013, half of all VA patients suffer from chronic pain, to name just a few. And as many as 2 million patients receive in-facility care, according to an American Legion statement.

  • 20,000,000 veterans in the United States:

This is an estimation. There could be many more, since an individual’s military history isn’t tracked by the census bureau, which is a concern since the VA relies on headcount of its target population to get a feel for the size and scope of the services it needs to provide.

  • $10,000,000,000 contract for Electronic Health Records:

A long-term plan to modernize the VA’s health records system could be jeopardy, with Shulkin’s dismissal coming just as the VA was set to finalize the acquisition of a new electronic health record system.

  • Second largest federal agency:

The only one bigger is the Department of Defense.

  • $186,000,000,000 budget:

For fiscal year 2018.

  • 60,000 employees:

Spread across three separate administrations within the department; the Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefit Administration, and the National Cemetery Administration.

  • 23 years active duty:

Rear Admiral Jackson’s Navy career began in 1995, and includes postings as an instructor, diving medical officer, diving safety officer, from Panama City, Florida Sigonella, Italy, to Norfolk, Virginia. By 2005 he deployed to Taqaddum, Iraq as part of a Surgical Shock Trauma platoon. While still in Iraq in 2006, Jackson was selected as a White House physician and served as the supervising physician for the Camp David Presidential Retreat under the George W. Bush administration. Later he led the White House Medical Unit as its director and was the appointed White House physician for Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

In four years there have been seven VA Secretaries – the department has been beset by turmoil and scandal. Eric Shinseki resigned from his post as VA chief following the 2014 wait-list scandal the department. Since then, the VA has gone through three sitting secretaries, and is on its third acting secretary, with Robert Wilkie, previously the Pentagon’s undersecretary of personnel and readiness, now tasked as the interim chief until Shulkin’s replacement is approved by the Senate.

Although the VA is about more than healthcare, we need to provide the best health care and mental health care to our veterans.  The VA also helps those who have written a blank check to our nation, up to and including their lives, execute the benefits they have earned.  This includes employment, education, entrepreneurship, disability, aid and attendance and much more. One size does not fit all veterans.

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.