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American Legion News Clips – February 14, 2018

Posted: Feb 12, 2018 8:15 PM ESTUpdated: Feb 12, 2018 8:56 PM EST
By Natalie Rubino
A week and a half ago CBS46 introduced you to a woman who says she was raped while she was in the Marines 30 years ago and is struggling to get help from the VA.
That veteran was homeless and living out of her car. A day after CBS46 aired her story and pressed the VA for answers she got a call that is changing her life. 
"He said well 'I'm calling from the VA [and] I wanted to let you know that we are giving you benefits. We are granting you benefits and we're providing you with 50 percent disability and I couldn't even talk from that point. I just couldn't talk at all I kind of shut down started crying," said Pamela Parker.
It was a phone call Parker had been waiting decades for. No one in the the military believed her when she said she was raped while serving on the Marine Corp at Air Station Cherry Point. When Parker was honorably discharged in the 1980s, she had trouble adjusting to civilian life and couldn't get answers or help from the VA.
"It's almost like they're reading from a script like that's not my job you need to see someone else or you're not a veteran," said Parker.
And after 31 years of trying she almost gave up hope.
"I felt like I just wanted to end it. It was so painful to think of the productive life that I had that had disintegrated," said Parker.
Parker credits Jim Lindenmayor from the American Legion and her doctors at the VA's Trauma Recovery Center for getting her through. And she has a message for other veterans in similar situations.
"Be persistent. That is a fact," said Parker
Now Parker is living in a hotel and she's working on securing more permanent housing with her benefits from the VA. 
"We believe the veteran when they say there's something wrong," said Jim Lindenmayor.
Lindenmayor helped Parker submit to the VA the required paperwork. Lindenmayor says there's hundreds of others like Parker who aren't getting what their entitled to from the VA. He recommends reaching out to outside veteran organizations for help.
"Whether it's American Legion of VFW or DAV there should be a person that's called a service officer," said Lindenmayor.
That officer can help vets get together the paperwork needed and act as an advocate to get answers. Parker and Lindenmayor also recommend each veteran to keep all of their records organized and log dates, times and information about the people you spoke to at the VA. 
"It took things outside of the VA to actually get the help and it took a lot of work from Jim. It took you, ultimately it came down to this story being aired and it should not be that way at all. It should not take that," said Parker.
CBS46 asked the VA why Pamela Parker was denied benefits for 30 years. A spokesperson asked us to fill out a patient consent form so they can answer our question. We did. They then asked for the dates and locations of each visit Parker made to the VA asking for benefits. We provided that as well. However, they still could not give us an answer and asked for the name of every staff member throughout the past 30 years who told Parker she wasn't qualified for benefits. 
CBS46 also asked the VA why this is an ongoing problem with other veterans. They declined that it was a problem and asked for the name of every other veteran that we know of who's experiencing similar problems.
By: Tara Copp    1 day ago
The Pentagon releases its $686 billion budget request for FY19, including increases in acquisition for jets, subs, other hardware and troop increases across the board.
President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2019 budget request includes almost $686 billion to position the military for a more global fight, even as it replenishes aircraft and missiles that have worn out faster than planned due to counter terrorism operations.
The request would procure more fighters and ships, purchase tens of thousands of munitions to replenish stocks used in operations against the Islamic State, and infuse money into both the nuclear triad and missile defense.
Here are some highlights:
F-35 Joint Strike Fighters
The budget sets aside $10.7 billion to buy 77 of the fifth-generation fighters.
The budget request asks for $1.2 billion to procure 43,594 JDAMs.
Joint Light Tactical Vehicles
DoD wants to buy 5,113 JLTVs, estimated to cost $2 billion.
KC-46 Tanker
About $3 billion would be used on 15 of the new tankers, meant to replace the aging KC-135 Stratotanker.
DoD wants to buy 24 F/A-18s, estimated to cost $2 billion.
VH-92 Presidential Helicopters
The budget request includes $900 million to buy six new presidential helicopters.
Virginia Class submarines
The Navy wants two of these submarines, which will cost $7.4 billion.
DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers
The request includes $6 billion for three of these destroyers.
B-21 Raider Long Range Strike Bomber
About $2.3 billion is set aside for the long-awaited B-21, which would be part of the nuclear triad.
In addition to the weapons systems above, other highlighted requests include:
  • 60 AH-64E attack helicopters, worth $1.3 billion.
  • 10 P-8A aircraft at $2.2 billion.
  • 8 CH-53K King Stallion helicopters worth $1.6 billion.
  • 1 Littoral Combat Ship worth $1.3 billion.
  • Continued development funding for the CVN-78 Class Aircraft Carrier, worth $1.8 billion.
  • 2 Fleet Replenishment Oilers (T-AO) priced at $1.1 billion.
  • 1 Expeditionary Sea Base for $700 million.
Ground Systems
  • 5,113 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles for $2.0 billion.
  • M-1 Abrams tank modifications costing $2.7 billion.
  • 30 Amphibious Combat Vehicles for $300 million.
  • 197 Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicles for $800 million.
  • Columbia Class Submarine worth $3.7 billion.
  • Long-Range Stand-Off Missile for $600 million.
  • Ground Based Strategic Deterrent for $300 million.
By: Leo Shane III   14 hours ago
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WASHINGTON — Amid the turmoil of a new administration, officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs managed to get through 2017 with relatively little distraction and political drama.
They haven’t been as lucky in 2018.
The past six weeks for VA have included a Republican senator publicly blasting Secretary David Shulkin as a liar, a report that White House officials have considered firing a top deputy, the leak of an inspector general report condemning Shulkin for misuse of government travel, and no answers to a pair of lingering vacancies in top department leadership roles.
On Tuesday, about 300 union workers rallied outside VA headquarters (part of a series of events nationwide) to protest plans that would push more veterans health care to private-sector doctors. The event featured old arguments from labor leaders against Trump policy proposals but a new visual sign of anger and frustration right at the doorstep of the embattled bureaucracy.
On Wednesday, the inspector general’s office is expected to formally release its report criticizing Shulkin for accepting Wimbledon tickets and using taxpayer funds for his wife’s airfare. When the Washington Post first broke the story last fall, Shulkin and his supporters dismissed the issue as non-news and predicted an investigation would clear his name.
Meanwhile, more than a year after Shulkin took over the top role, he has been unable to finalize plans for one of his top policy priorities (and one of Trump’s biggest campaign promises): overhauling the department’s community medical programs to make it easier for veterans to seek health care outside the VA.
Lawmakers are worried the new series of scandals may make that work nearly impossible to finish.
“It is no secret that disorder and chaos frequently emanate from the president and throughout his administration, and the prospect that veterans could be negatively impacted due to that disorder is extremely disappointing,” said Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn. and ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Officials from Concerned Veterans for America, which has been largely complimentary towards Trump and Shulkin, said that administration officials “should be focused on passing legislation that increases health choices for veterans and which better integrates the VA with community providers … we hope that these current distractions don’t slow progress towards that goal.”
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., has pushed forward in recent days with community care overhaul legislation passed by his committee late last year.
The plan differs somewhat from guidelines for VA health care reforms released by the White House last month, in an effort to clarify what lawmakers lamented were mixed messages coming from Shulkin’s office. No timetable has been set for consideration or amendments to the measure.
Meanwhile, while conversations on that plan between VA and congressional leaders continue, department officials are readying their response to the IG report. In a statement Tuesday, VA spokesman Curt Cashour said that Shulkin has been open and honest about his public travel.
“That said, accountability and transparency are important values at VA under President Trump, and we look forward to seeing the report.”
VA officials declined to respond to a separate report from the Washington Post claiming White House officials are on the verge of firing VA Deputy Secretary Thomas Bowman due to conflicts with other administration staffers. White House officials did not respond to requests for comment.
And the department has repeatedly dismissed concerns that the top posts at the Veterans Health Administration and Veterans Benefits Administration remain unfilled, a year after Trump’s inauguration.
At the union rally Tuesday, led by American Federation of Government Employees officials, several Democratic congressmen decried the state of VA leadership as adversarial and dangerous to the health of the system. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. and a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, accused Trump of working to undermine the system instead of strengthening it.
On Thursday, Shulkin is scheduled to appear before Congress to answer questions about the president’s fiscal 2019 budget request and rebut those accusations. But that’s only if he can get past questions on all the other controversies, too.
By: The Associated Press    18 hours ago
PICO RIVERA, Calif. — A Los Angeles-area city council will consider a resolution Tuesday asking for the resignation of a councilman who bashed U.S. military service members while teaching at a high school.
Gregory Salcido is expected to make his first public appearance at the Pico Rivera city council meeting since making the comments Jan. 26.
Salcido has been on leave from El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera after video surfaced of him scolding a 17-year-old student who was wearing a U.S. Marine Corps sweatshirt. Salcido’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Tuesday.
The student recorded Salcido in a government class urging him not to join the military and referring to service members with a crude term for stupid.
“They’re not like high-level thinkers, they’re not academic people, they’re not intellectual people; they’re the frickin’ lowest of our low,” Salcido said on the recording.
“I don’t understand why we let the military guys come over here and recruit you at school. We don’t let pimps come in the school,” Salcido added.
The video was posted to social media by a friend of the student’s mother. It went viral and has drawn millions of views, along with outraged comments.
The resolution council members will vote on states that Salcido’s comments “have placed our city under a cloud of dishonor, disparagement, suspicion and criticism,” and that “taking such a drastic step is an effort to restore the positive image of our city.”
Salcido is currently the city’s longest serving council member. If he refuses to resign, according to the resolution, he will be censured, which will include the formal removal from city committee appointments as well as from any other positions, committees or boards for outside agencies affiliated with the city.
Deputies of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will attend the meeting, Capt. Pat Valdez told the Los Angeles Daily News. Salcido and his family have received threats since the video was posted to Facebook.
By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPESPublished: February 13, 2018
WASHINGTON — A proposal to loosen regulations and enable the Department of Veterans Affairs to sell and lease property was included Monday in President Donald Trump’s long-awaited, $1.5 trillion plan to improve American infrastructure.
The plan, promised since his presidential campaign and officially rolled out Monday, asks Congress to create legislation initiating work on roads, bridges, railroads, airports and other infrastructure nationwide, and tasks lawmakers with finding a way to pay for it. VA facilities – some of which VA Secretary David Shulkin has described as outdated and unusable – are also addressed in the plan.
“My Administration’s plan addresses more than traditional infrastructure … but addresses other needs like drinking and wastewater systems, waterways, water resources, energy, rural infrastructure, public lands, veterans’ hospitals, and Brownfield and Superfund sites,” Trump wrote in the preamble to his proposal.
The infrastructure plan addresses VA property by proposing to loosen regulations that keep the agency from leasing facilities or profiting off the sale of unwanted buildings or land.
Under current law, the VA can’t keep profits from selling properties, and it can’t exchange its current facilities for new ones. Trump’s plan proposes to change that. Allowing the agency to collect off its property sales could help fund renovations and new construction, the plan states.
The proposal also aims to limit the instances the VA would have to go to Congress for approval to lease a facility. Now, the agency must gain congressional approval for any lease totaling more than $1 million annually. The rule has led to yearslong delays in leasing new facilities. In August, Congress approved 28 leases for VA clinics across the country, some of which had been awaiting approval for more than two years.
The infrastructure plan would require the VA to receive approval from Congress only for leases totaling more than $3.1 million.
“There are provisions that will help the VA,” Jim Sullivan, in the VA’s Office of Management, said of the infrastructure plan. “Primarily, increasing the lease threshold for authorization for leases from $1 million to $3 million.”
The creation of a pilot program is also included in the plan. It would establish a system for the VA to trade property to a private entity, in exchange for “a lease of space in a resulting private facility built on the former VA land.”
The changes would provide flexibility to the VA, the plan states, which has “a nationwide physical footprint that includes aging facilities.”
Shortly after he took the position as VA secretary, Shulkin listed dealing with bad infrastructure as one of his top priorities. According to the VA, their buildings are 60 years old on average, and the agency spends $25 million each year to maintain vacant or underutilized buildings.
In May, Shulkin announced plans to dispose of vacant or nearly vacant VA buildings. At a congressional hearing in October, VA officials said they were in the process of purging 430 buildings, and 784 others were up for review. The process was estimated to take 18 months.
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced legislation last year to create a process to dispose of VA buildings similar to the Defense Department’s Base Realignment and Closure program. It would establish an 11-member commission to recommend which facilities to close and where the VA should invest, in an attempt to “right-size” the agency’s footprint.
Roe’s office said Monday they were still reviewing the infrastructure plan, but that some of the VA-specific changes aligned with his legislation.
Posted: Feb 13, 2018 6:31 AM ESTUpdated: Feb 13, 2018 11:34 AM EST
CORPUS CHRISTI - Hundreds of people are expected to attend funeral services for two local unaccompanied veterans Wednesday.
Randy Shultz served in the U.S. Navy, and Howard Lyman served in the U.S. Army.
No family members have come forward for either of the two men.
Alfredo Medina of the Coastal Bend State Veteran’s Cemetery said veterans deserve the best treatment possible, even after death.
“Formerly the unaccompanied veterans typically showed up in a box of plywood. Then, my deputy director came out and said, ‘We need to do better than that, because that's a veteran,’” Medina said. 
During the service, both veterans will receive full military honors, including a flag line, pallbearers, a plaque, military formation and floral arrangements.
Officials at the Coastal Bend State Veteran’s Cemetery said if a soldier has no family, they are proud to take their place.
“These veterans serve our country and there will be no veteran buried in this hallowed ground without honors,” Medina said.
Services for Randy Shultz will take place at the Coastal Bend State Veteran’s Cemetery at 11 a.m. Wednesday, February 14th.
Services for Howard Lyman will follow directly afterward at 11:15 a.m.
As always, the public is invited and encouraged to attend.
If you would like to be added to the list to receive notifications for upcoming services for unaccompanied veterans, call (361) 248-4830.