Drug theft rises at VA hospitals - We Are The Mighty
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Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

Federal authorities are investigating dozens of new cases of possible opioid and other drug theft by employees at Veterans Affairs hospitals, a sign the problem isn’t going away as more prescriptions disappear.


Data obtained by The Associated Press show 36 criminal investigations opened by the VA inspector general’s office from Oct. 1 through May 19. It brings the total number of open criminal cases to 108 involving theft or unauthorized drug use. Most of those probes typically lead to criminal charges.

The numbers are an increase from a similar period in the previous year. The VA has pledged “zero tolerance” in drug thefts following an AP story in February about a sharp rise in reported cases of stolen or missing drugs at the VA since 2009. Doctors, nurses or pharmacy staff in the VA’s network of more than 160 medical centers and 1,000 clinics are suspected of siphoning away controlled substances for their own use or street sale — sometimes to the harm of patients — or drugs simply vanished without explanation.

Drug thefts are a growing problem at private hospitals as well as the government-run VA as the illegal use of opioids has increased in the United States. But separate data from the Drug Enforcement Administration obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act show the rate of reported missing drugs at VA health facilities was more than double that of the private sector. DEA investigators cited in part a larger quantity of drugs kept in stock at the bigger VA medical centers to treat a higher volume of patients, both outpatient and inpatient, and for distribution of prescriptions by mail.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Senator Marco Rubio calls for increased accountability of the VA medical centers to curb prescription drug abuse and theft.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R- Fla., said AP’s findings were “troubling.” He urged Congress to pass bipartisan accountability legislation he was co-sponsoring that would give the agency “the tools needed to dismiss employees engaged in misconduct.” The Senate is set to vote on the bill June 6.

“The theft and misuse of prescription drugs, including opioids, by some VA employees is a good example of why we need greater accountability at the VA,” Rubio said.

In February, the VA announced efforts to combat drug thefts, including employee drug tests and added inspections. Top VA officials in Washington led by VA Secretary David Shulkin pledged to be more active, holding conference calls with health facilities to develop plans and reviewing data to flag problems. The department said it would consider more internal audits.

Criminal investigators said it was hard to say whether new safeguards are helping.

“Prescription drug diversion is a multifaceted, egregious health care issue,” said Jeffrey Hughes, the acting VA assistant inspector general for investigations. “Veterans may be denied necessary medications or their proper dosage and medical records may contain false information to hide the diversion, further putting veterans’ health at risk.”

Responding, the VA said it was working to develop additional policies “to improve drug safety and reduce drug theft and diversion across the entire health care system.”

“We have security protocols in place and will continue to work hard to improve it,” Poonam Alaigh, VA’s acting undersecretary for health, told the AP.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
A Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta, GA

In one case, a registered nurse in the Spinal Cord Injury Ward at the VA medical center in Richmond, Virginia, was recently sentenced after admitting to stealing oxycodone tablets and fentanyl patches from VA medication dispensers. The nurse said she would sometimes shortchange the amount of pain medication prescribed to patients, taking the remainder to satisfy her addiction.

Hughes cited in particular the risk of patient harm. “Health care providers who divert for personal use may be providing care while under the influence of narcotics,” he said.

AP’s story in February had figures documenting the sharp rise in drug thefts at federal hospitals, most of them VA facilities. Subsequently released DEA data provide more specific details of the problem at the VA. Drug losses or theft increased from 237 in 2009 to 2,844 in 2015, before dipping to 2,397 last year. In only about 3 percent of those cases have doctors, nurses or pharmacy employees been disciplined, according to VA data.

At private hospitals, reported drug losses or theft also rose — from 2,023 in 2009 to 3,185 in 2015, before falling slightly to 3,154 last year. There is a bigger pool of private U.S. hospitals, at least 4,369, according to the American Hospital Association. That means the rate of drug loss or theft is lower than VA’s.

The VA inspector general’s office said it had opened 25 cases in the first half of the budget year that began Oct. 1. That is up from 21 in the same period in 2016.

The IG’s office said the number of newly opened criminal probes had previously been declining since 2014.

Michael Glavin, an IT specialist at the VA, says he’s heard numerous employee complaints of faulty VA technical systems that track drug inventories, leading to errors and months of delays in identifying when drugs go missing. Prescription drug shipments aren’t always fully inventoried when they arrive at a VAfacility, he said, making it difficult to determine if a drug was missing upon arrival or stolen later.

“It’s still the same process,” said Glavin, who heads the local union at the VA medical center in Columbia, Missouri. The union’s attorney, Natalie Khawam, says whistleblowers at other VA hospitals have made similar complaints.

Criminal investigators stressed the need for a continuing drug prevention effort. The VA points to inventory checks every 72 hours and “double lock and key access” to drugs. It attributes many drug loss cases to reasons other than employee theft, such as drugs lost in transit. But the DEA says some of those cases may be wrongly classified.

“Inventories are always an issue as to who’s watching or checking it,” said Tom Prevoznik, a DEA deputy chief of pharmaceutical investigations. “What are the employees doing, and who’s watching them?”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Syria may have accidentally shot down a Russian plane

US military officials believe Syrian forces accidentally shot down a Russian aircraft, according to a CNN report published on Sept. 17, 2018.

Syrian anti-aircraft artillery reportedly responded to a number of Israeli missiles that were launched towards the coastal city of Latakia when it accidentally shot the Russian maritime patrol aircraft, according to a US military official cited in the report.

Syria, Russia’s ally in a prolonged proxy war in the region, claimed its air defenses “intercepted a number” of the missiles headed toward the city, Reuters reported on Sept. 17, 2018, citing state-media.


Russia’s defense ministry also announced it had lost contact with an IL-20 aircraft carrying 14 service members, Syria’s state-run media reported. Russia’s presence in Latakia includes a large naval base, which was reportedly under attack by an unclaimed missile strike that Syria alleges to have come from Israel.

Although Israeli Defense Forces also declined to comment on the missile strikes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sept. 16, 2018, that his country will be “taking action to prevent our enemies from arming themselves with advanced weaponry.”

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


A US Central Command spokesman did not comment on where the strikes originated from but denied US forces were involved: “The US was not involved in any strikes in Western Syria or in the shoot down of any planes tonight,” US Navy Capt. Bill Urban said in a statement to Business Insider.

Russia and the Syrian regime have previously boasted about their air defense capabilities. After an airstrike in which US and its allies fired over 100 missiles towards suspected chemical weapons facilities in April 2018, Russian forces claimed the “high-effectiveness” of Russian-supplied weapons and “excellent training of Syrian servicemen” had shot down 71 missiles.

Russia’s claim was contradicted by US reports that said Syria’s air defenses were “largely ineffective” in response to its “precise and overwhelming” strikes.

“The Syrian response was remarkably ineffective in all domains,” US Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie said at the time.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

The Air Force is bringing the C-5 galaxy back into action

Senior Air Force officials want to return a number of C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft to active duty after budget cuts pushed them out of service over the last few years.


The C-5 Galaxy is the largest airlifter in the Air Force, standing 65 feet high with a length of 247 feet and a 223-foot wingspan.

The C-5M model, first deployed in 2009, featured more powerful engines that allowed it to haul more cargo with less room needed for takeoff.

The C-5M can haul 120,000 pounds of cargo more than 5,500 miles — the distance from Dover Air Force base in Delaware to Incirlik airbase in Turkey — without refueling. Without cargo, that range jumps to more than 8,000 miles.

It can carry up to 36 standard pallets and 81 troops at the same time or a wide variety of gear, including tanks, helicopters, submarines, equipment, and food and emergency supplies. The C-5M also set 45 aviation records in one flight.

Also read: The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment

Because of previous budget cuts as well as sequestration, the Air Force has already moved 12 C-5s and C-5Ms into backup aircraft inventory, “which means we still have the aircraft but lost all manning and funding to operate them,” Air Mobility Commander Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II told lawmakers at the end of March.

Everhart also said the C-5 inventory had fallen from 112 C-5s a few years prior to just 56 now.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock

In the coming years, the Air Force wants to move at least eight of the mothballed C-5Ms back into service, using newly allocated funds, according to DodBuzz.

“We’re going to buy back two a year for four years, if we’re able to have a predictable budget to get the fleet back to higher quality,” Lt. Gen. Jerry D. Harris, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, told the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee this week.

Also read: This is the Army’s super secret special ops aviation unit

“I need them back because there’s real world things that we’ve got to move, and they give me that … added assurance capability,” Everhart told lawmakers at the end of March. The C-5M’s increased range makes it doubly valuable in the vast Pacific theater.

“Recently, one of these aircraft flew from Travis Air Force Base, California, to Yokota, Japan,” Everhart said of the C-5M. “It’s the only airlifter in the inventory that can make the flight nonstop, which means we can put the American flag on the ground in hours versus days.”

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
AP Photo by Francois Mori

Air Mobility Command also intends to improve its current active fleet of airlifters, “upgrading the avionics to improve communications, navigation and surveillance/air traffic management compliance as well as adding new safety equipment and installing a new autopilot system,” according to an Air Force release.

The project, slated to wrap up in 2018, will also upgrade C-5As, C-5Bs, and C-5Cs into C-5M Super Galaxies by installing the F-138 commercial engine, the release said, giving them a “22 percent increase in thrust, a 30 percent shorter takeoff roll, a 58 percent faster climb rate and will allow significantly more cargo to be carried over longer distances.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This trainer will make you a card-carrying member of the log-carrying elite

Make sure you train properly before you venture into any log-carrying evolution. Max “The Body” Philisaire shows you how to get yourself into the right physical shape before you even try to move that log.


Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, Adelson Raimundo Reis Amaral, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Having trouble logging in?

Max wants to help you.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
It’s easy. Just follow Max’s step-by-step guide. (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Step 1: Type the word “log” into Google Images. Tell Max the image that you see.

Step 2: Recognize that you are not looking at an image depicting an action that involves sitting casually while making twiddly fingers on your keyboard.

Step 3: Acknowledge to Max that the first image Google showed you when you entered the word “log” resembles this one:

(This is the search result internet usage rules allow us to show.)

Step 4: Assume an upright position.

Step 5: Clean and jerk your computer/desk/cubicle over one shoulder and march your candy ass eight laps around your office parking lot.

Step 6: Repeat.

Step 7: And like it.

Oh sorry, what? You don’t like it?

Max would like to help you with that, too.

Because this is Max. Max does not log you in. Max lugs you out. Of harm’s way. With a large log over his other shoulder. In that scenario, you’re lumber. Max logs long hours lugging lumber. Max lugs logs longer than limber lumberjacks. If Max was a rockstar instead of a ruckstar? He be goddamned Kenny Luggins.

In this episode, Max attacks your shoulders and back, the muscle groups essential for mastering the classic log carry. Don’t be dead weight for other people to lug. Don’t be lumber. Do these exercises regularly and with great vigor. Do these exercises and you may one day be, like Max:

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Goddamned lug-xurious. (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Watch, and be dumbbell impressed, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Max Your Body:

This elite veteran trainer will make you aim true

This elite veteran trainer is why your ammo shows up on time

Our trainer will make you want to play Ruck Ruck Goose

This is how squats can open doors for you

This is how to beat the rope-a-dope

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Russians are messing with global GPS

On May 15, 2018, under a sunny sky, Russian President Vladimir Putin drove a bright-orange truck in a convoy of construction vehicles for the opening of the Kerch Strait Bridge from Russia to Crimea. At 11 miles long, it is now the longest bridge in Europe or Russia.

As Putin drove across the bridge, something weird happened. The satellite navigation systems in the control rooms of more than 24 ships anchored nearby suddenly started displaying false information about their location. Their GPS systems told their captains they were anchored more than 65 kilometers away — on land, at the Anapa Airport.


This was not a random glitch, according to the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, a security think tank known as C4ADS. It was a deliberate plan to make it difficult for anyone nearby to track or navigate around the presence of Putin, it said.

‘All critical national infrastructures rely on GNSS to some extent’ — and the Russians have started hacking it

The Russians have started hacking into the global navigation satellite system on a mass scale to confuse thousands of ships and airplanes about where they are, a study of false GNSS signals by C4ADS found.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

Putin driving two construction workers across the Kerch Strait Bridge.

GNSS comprises the constellation of international satellites that orbit Earth. The US’s Global Positioning System, China’s BeiDou, Russia’s Glonass, and Europe’s Galileo program are all part of GNSS.

Your phone, law enforcement, shipping, airlines, and power stations — anything dependent on GPS time and location synchronization — are all vulnerable to GNSS hacking. A 2017 report commissioned by the UK Space Agency said that “all critical national infrastructures rely on GNSS to some extent, with Communications, Emergency Services, Finance, and Transport identified as particularly intensive users.” An attack that disabled GNSS in Britain would cost about £1 billion every day the system was down, the report said.

The jamming, blocking, or spoofing of GNSS signals by the Russian government is “more indiscriminate and persistent, larger in scope, and more geographically diverse than previous public reporting suggested,” said a recent Weekly Intelligence Summary from Digital Shadows, a cybersecurity-monitoring service.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

This diagram shows GPS signals for a ship jumping between the accurate location at sea and a false location at a nearby airport.

(C4ADS)

Nearly 10,000 incidents of ships being sent bad location data

The C4ADS study found that:

  • 1,311 civilian ships have been affected.
  • 9,883 incidents were reported or detected.

Until the past couple of years, C4ADS thought the Russians used GNSS jamming or spoofing mostly to disguise Putin’s whereabouts.

For instance, a large area over Cape Idokopas, near Gelendzhik on the Black Sea coast of Russia, appears to be within a permanent GNSS-spoofing zone. The cape, believed to be Putin’s summer home, or dacha, contains a vast and lavish private residence — “a large Italianate palace, several helicopter pads, an amphitheatre, and a small port,” C4ADS said. It is the only private home in Russia that enjoys the same level of airspace protection and GNSS interference as the Kremlin.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

C4ADS thinks Putin’s summer home is protected by a permanent GNSS-spoofing zone.

(C4ADS)

‘Russian forces had developed mobile GNSS jamming units to provide protection for the Russian president’

“The geographical placement of the spoofing incidents closely aligns with places where Vladimir Putin was making overseas and domestic visits, suggesting that Russian forces had developed mobile GNSS jamming units to provide protection for the Russian president,” Digital Shadows said. “The incidents also align with the locations of Russian military and government resources. Although in some areas the motive was likely to restrict access to or obstruct foreign military.”

Ships sailing near Gelendzhik have reported receiving bogus navigation data on their satellite systems.

“In June 2017, the captain of the merchant vessel Atria provided direct evidence of GNSS spoofing activities off the coast of Gelendzhik, Russia, when the vessel’s on-board navigation systems indicated it was located in the middle of the Gelendzhik Airport, about 20km away. More than two dozen other vessels reported similar disruptions in the region on that day,” C4ADS said.

An million superyacht was sent off course by a device the size of a briefcase

Most of the incidents were recorded in Crimea, the Black Sea, Syria, and Russia.

Perhaps more disturbingly, GNSS-spoofing equipment is available to almost anyone for just a few hundred dollars.

“In the summer of 2013, a research team from The University of Texas at Austin successfully hijacked the GPS navigation systems onboard an million superyacht using a ,000 device the size of a small briefcase,” C4ADS said. “The experimental attack forced the ship’s navigation systems to relay false positioning information to the vessel’s captain, who subsequently made slight course corrections to keep the ship seemingly on track.”

Since then, the cost of a GNSS-spoofing device has fallen to about 0, C4ADS said, and some people have used them to cheat at “Pokémon Go.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

This trainee just earned a perfect ACFT score

Spc. Benjamin Ritchie came to Fort Jackson with the same hope as many others — to start his Army career on the right path by excelling at Basic Combat Training.

On Oct. 21, 2019, he became the first Basic Combat Training trainee to record a perfect score of 600 points on the Army’s new physical fitness test.

Ritchie maxed all six events on Army Combat Fitness Test, making him the third soldier in the Army to earn a perfect score. The San Antonio native, is assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, the “River Raiders.”


The battalion is one of two on Fort Jackson participating in the Army’s ‘field test’ where trainees take the ACFT during the ninth week of training.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

Spc. Benjamin Ritchie, a trainee with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment conducts the sprint drag event as Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Cabrera watches.

(US Army photo)

Ritchie, an 09S — Officer Candidate, said what ultimately brought him success was his personal dedication to physical fitness and the consistent guidance and support of his unit leadership.

“We didn’t do anything special,” Ritchie said about his preparations. “I trusted my drill sergeants and did my best.”

Ritchie was unable to max his initial diagnostic Army Physical Fitness Test, the soon to be legacy fitness test. For the following nine weeks, he performed regularly scheduled physical readiness training according to the BCT program of instruction and ate the regular meals provided by the dining facility and by the end of basic training, he was able to max both the APFT and ACFT.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Delgado, a senior drill sergeant in Ritchie’s company, said the training was the same as every other cycle.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Cabrera with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, observes Spc. Benjamin Ritchie conduct an Army Combat Fitness Test event.

(US Army photo)

“There were no special fitness coaches, diets, or focused ACFT workouts,” Delgado said. “Hard work and motivation — that’s our ‘special sauce.’ Once you get the trainees to buy-in to what you’re doing, they will achieve whatever you put in front of them.”

The company and battalion focused on creating an environment for the trainees to excel. They placed pull-up bars in easily accessible locations; encouraged trainees to conduct physical training in their free time; planned time to familiarize trainees with the ACFT in the evenings; and encouraged friendly, peer-to-peer competition.

The results speak for themselves as Ritchie maxed the test while two other trainees in the battalion scored above 590.

Lt. Col. Randall Wenner, 3-60th commander, said he is excited about the new direction of the ACFT and the work the battalion has put into its implementation.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

Brig. Gen. Milford H. ‘Beags’ Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson commander and Post Command Sgt. Maj. Jerimiah C. Gan, pose with Spc. Benjamin Ritchie from 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment after his graduation.

(US Army photo)

“There are naysayers out there about the new test, specifically due to injury,” he said. “We have tested over 2,800 trainees with zero injuries. Ritchie’s performance along with the performance of other trainees also sends a message — excellence in the ACFT is attainable for everyone. The Army needs adaptable soldiers. A fit soldier is an adaptable soldier.”

“We proved that when we asked trainees, who have been focusing on the APFT for graduation, to take the ACFT in week nine,” he added. “Focusing on fitness gives soldiers the tools to excel, regardless of the test.”

Ritchie, Co. A., 3rd Battalion 60th Infantry Regiment, and Fort Jackson have shown proper training and motivation produce outstanding results.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash

The commanding officer and the executive officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain were relieved of duty and reassigned to different posts for “loss of confidence,” according to a US Navy statement on October 11.


Commanding officer Cmdr. Alfredo Sanchez and executive officer Cmdr. Jessie Sanchez came under scrutiny after the McCain’s collision with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters in August. Ten sailors died and five were injured.

The collision tore a hole in the destroyer’s left rear hull, where several sailors were inside sealed compartments on the vessel, the Associated Press reported at the time.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
USS John McCain confronts Chinese ships in South China Sea. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Although the investigation is ongoing, the Navy called the collision preventable and said “the commanding officer exercised poor judgment, and the executive officer exercised poor leadership of the ship’s training program.” The Navy’s strict adherence to customs and traditions dictate that commanders be relieved of duty when superiors lose confidence in their leadership.

The McCain incident followed another collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a commercial container ship in June, which killed seven sailors. The Fitzgerald’s executive officer and senior enlisted sailor were also dismissed in that case.

US Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the three-star commander of the US 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, whose command oversaw the USS McCain and Fitzgerald, was also relieved of duty in August following the series of deadly ship collisions. Four accidents involving ships have occurred in the western Pacific since February, according to The New York Times.

Articles

6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange

With no sales tax and some name-brand discounts, the Exchange is a military benefit designed to help troops and their families save money. But, as most military shoppers know, some items don’t end up being cheaper at the Exchange, especially things that regularly get marked down. Sunglasses, Keurigs, and a lot of other items can be bought for less at Amazon or big box stores.


But many essential or high-demand items are cheaper at the a local exchange or at shopmyexchange.com. Here are 6 last-minute gifts that fit in that category:

1. Fitness trackers

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Photo: Wikipedia/Desmondma

Whether your gift recipients want to track their sleep, their runs, or both, the market is filled with awesome new options. Most trackers, including the popular Fitbits, are available at the Exchange for the same price they would be anywhere else, minus sales tax.

2. Video game consoles

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ash Severe

The tax savings on video game consoles at the exchange are typically $20 or more, so it’s a great place to pick up Playstations or XBoxes, if they have the bundle you’re looking for.

Both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 are primarily sold with a game included in a bundle. While getting a bundle like Gears of War will cost less at the exchange, the LEGO Movie Videogame Bundle isn’t available there. And the cost saving at the exchange aren’t enough to justify buying a game you won’t play.

3. Fragrances

While the Exchanges’ selection of perfumes and colognes is small, what it does have is cheaper than a lot of other outlets and there are a number of “stocking stuffer” sized bottles for $5 or less.

Those looking for a specific scent may have to pick up their bottles somewhere else.

4. Tactical gear

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

Getting military gear from a random website can be risky since badly sewn pouches won’t fit properly on a military vest and many items at tactical stores aren’t authorized for wear.

The items at the Exchange are more likely to appear on approved gear lists. But, remember that anything that can be bought used will likely cost less at a military surplus store.

5. Macs

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Photo: Wikipedia/Intel Free Press

Macs usually sell for $10 less than at the military exchange than from the Apple Store. On the more costly models, the tax savings of shopping the Exchange can save over $100.

But, in the Apple store customers can buy upgraded memory or processors that come pre-installed in the computer. These options aren’t available at the Exchange.

6. PCs

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy L. Wood

Dell and Office Depot both run online storefronts with special pricing on computers through the military Exchange. Before making the final purchase though, do an internet search of the model number. Some still end up being cheaper at civilian stores.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The Coast Guard and LinkedIn want to help spouses find jobs

Second Lady of the United States Karen Pence and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan announced that the Coast Guard is officially a proud partner with LinkedIn to facilitate the employment of USCG spouses — especially during particularly challenging times, such as PCS moves or job loss.

“Military spouse employment is a very important aspect of a strong and resilient military family,” said Mrs. Pence. “Our work to develop a partnership with LinkedIn to include Coast Guard military spouses with LinkedIn premium access started last fall. We commend Microsoft and LinkedIn for working with the United States Coast Guard to expand their program to Coast Guard military spouses. This new collaboration will help spouses with employment opportunities and will make job hunting easier.”


LinkedIn and the Coast Guard have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to allow Coast Guard spouses premium access to LinkedIn. The premium access will provide spouses with enhanced features to assist in finding employment through tools that allow them to expand their professional networks, research industries and specific companies, search for employment opportunities, and develop skills through online training to enhance employability.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

Initial eligibility for the one-year Premium upgrade will be open for all USCG military spouses. An additional year of the Premium upgrade will be available for USCG military spouses who experience any of the events below:

  1. In receipt of PCS orders of the military member.
  2. Experiencing a job loss or downsizing.
  3. In a career change.
  4. Within 6 months of the Service member’s date of separation from the Coast Guard.

“We are committed to helping as much as possible, and today I’m glad we can make that next move a little bit easier through this partnership with LinkedIn,” McAleenan said. “And I want to thank LinkedIn for partnering with us on this. Helping families get settled in a new community after a PCS move will go a long way.”

To learn more about this new opportunity, requesting access or receiving training, check out the official ALCOAST or email the USCG Transition Team Program Manager, Rodney Whaley, Rodney.B.Whaley@uscg.mil.

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NATO kicks off its massive war games in Europe

NATO is launching its largest military exercise since the collapse of the Soviet Union, mustering tens of thousands of troops in what the head of the Western alliance called a “strong display” of its capability, unity, and resolve at a time of growing danger in Europe.

“The main phase of exercise Trident Juncture will begin tomorrow in Norway,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference in Brussels on Oct. 24, 2018. “This is an important day because Trident Juncture is NATO’s biggest exercise since the end of the Cold War.”


The drills are drawing criticism from Moscow amid persistent tension between NATO and Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists in an ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine but accuses the alliance of provocative behavior near its borders.

Another source of discord is what NATO says is Russia’s deployment of a missile that violates a key U.S.-Russian nuclear arms treaty and could potentially be used to target alliance members in Europe.

“Trident Juncture sends a clear message to our nations and to any potential adversary: NATO does not seek confrontation, but we stand ready to defend all allies against any threat,” Stoltenberg said.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

The exercise “is a strong display of our capabilities and our resolve to work together,” he said.

Without mentioning Russia by name, he said that “Europe’s security environment has significantly deteriorated” in recent years and that NATO has responded with the biggest adaptation of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War. Trident Juncture demonstrates that adaptation.”

“Trident Juncture will include around 65 ships, 250 aircraft, 10,000 vehicles, and 50,000 personnel. All 29 NATO allies will participate, as well as our partners Finland and Sweden,” Stoltenberg said of the exercise, which will run in two phases from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7 and Nov. 13-24, 2018.

“It is ambitious and it is demanding,” he said.

Moscow has frequently said that it views NATO’s enlargement to include former Warsaw Pact countries and the Baltic states since the 1991 Soviet collapse as provocative, and Russia and NATO have repeatedly accused each other of aggressive action repeatedly in recent years.

Russia held large military exercises called Zapad-2017 (West-2017) in September 2017 in its western regions jointly with Belarus, which also borders several NATO countries, and last month conducted massive drills across its central and eastern regions.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

A Russian T-72B3 during Zapad-2017.

The Defense Ministry said the weeklong Vostok-2018 (East-2018) war games involved some 300,000 personnel — twice as many as the biggest Soviet maneuvers of the Cold War era.

Speaking at a joint panel of the Russian and Belarusian defense ministries in Minsk on Oct. 24, 2018, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that “the scale of [NATO] operational and combat training near our borders is expanding, its intensity is growing. The bloc’s member states are practicing the objectives of conducting offensive combat actions.”

Describing the exercise, Stoltenberg said the personnel will be split into “South Forces” and “North Forces” that will “take turns playing the role of the fictitious aggressor and the NATO defending forces. The exercise will test our readiness to restore the sovereignty of an ally — in this case Norway — after an act of armed aggression.

“This scenario is fictitious but the lessons we learn will be real,” he said.

Norway shares a short border with Russia in the Arctic.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

David Bellavia, who received the nation’s highest military honor June 25, 2019, for his heroic actions in Iraq, offered rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment at the Pentagon on June 24, 2019, revealing the thoughts and emotions that flooded his brain as he charged into a house filled with insurgents in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004.

Former Staff Sergeant Bellavia and his team were clearing houses in support of Operation Phantom Fury. In one house, insurgents ambushed his squad, pinning them down. Bellavia rushed inside the house to provide suppressing cover fire so that his fellow soldiers could exit the building safely.

Ret. Sgt. First Class Colin Fitts told reporters that had it not been for Bellavia, he probably wouldn’t be here today.


After Bellavia and his squad got out, a Bradley fighting vehicle hit the war-torn house hard, but not hard enough to eliminate the threat. It was necessary for someone to head inside and clear the building of insurgents, who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, among other weapons.

“David Bellavia had to go back into a darkened, nightmare of a house where he knew there were at least five or six suicidal jihadis waiting,” Michael Ware, an embedded reporter who was with the staff sergeant and personally witnessed the Medal of Honor moment, told press at the Pentagon.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

Engagements on the first floor.

(U.S. Army)

Supported by one fellow soldier inside and three outside, Bellavia re-entered the house, fighting room-to-room, killing four insurgents and mortally wounding a fifth in the fierce fight.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

Engagements on the second floor.

(U.S. Army)

“A lot of things go through your mind. Some are very rational. Some are completely irrational,” Bellavia explained. “The first thing you’re thinking about you’re scared, you’re life is on the line. The second thing you’re thinking is you’re angry. How dare anyone try to hurt us. How dare anyone try to step up against the US military.”

“You’re angry. You’re scared,” he said, telling reporters that it’s a certain kind of peer pressure that keeps you moving forward. “When you’re peer is asking for help … it’s easy. Peer pressure might make you smoke cigarettes at 13. But, peer pressure can also make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. It’s about who your peers are.”

Bellavia talked a little about the house he cleared, and it sounded horrific. He explained that the scenes when he first entered and when he re-entered the house were very different due to the extreme redecorating the Bradley fighting vehicle did prior to his re-entry.

“The water had ruptured. All of the plumbing inside. Fallujah had been abandoned for months. So, that water was very unpleasant. It assaulted your senses,” he revealed, adding that there were propane tanks lying about, broken mirrors, makeshift bunkers, and insurgents hopped up on experimental drugs in the dark.

“It was tough. The mind is playing tricks on you,” he said, “You don’t know if you are firing at the same individual or if this is a new individual. A person gets dropped, then they disappear.”

Bellavia said he “thought it was a real possibility” that he wouldn’t make it out.

Bellavia is the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, an upgrade of the Silver Star he initially received, for “conspicuous gallantry” during his time in the Army. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon June 24, 2019, he said that this honor “represents many different people,” including many who never came home.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

The only time the Soviet Union officially fought the US was in brutal air combat

In October 1944, WWII was still raging all across Europe. On the Eastern Front, Red Army troops in Yugoslavia were making their way to bolster other Soviet forces in the region when American P-38 Lightning fighters started raining lead on them.


In response, the Soviet Air Force launched two groups of its premiere fighter of the time, the Yakovlev Yak-3. The Yaks fought the Yanks for a good 15 minutes over the Yugoslav (now Serbia) town of Niš. No one knows exactly how or where the error started, but each side fought the other viciously, thinking they were fighting Nazis.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Soviet Yak-9s in flight. ‘The pilots who flew it regarded its performance as comparable to or better than that of the Messerschmitt Bf-109G and Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-3/A-4. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Americans’ small taste of the brutality of Eastern Front combat cost dozens of Soviet and American lives.

The Soviets claimed the American fighters were 400 kilometers off course, and thus saw the Red Army ground forces as an unknown German force. Others believe the meetup was intentional, but that the Red Army moved faster than anticipated. When the Americans encountered a significant force 100 kilometers ahead of the expected Allied position, they engaged.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
(Norwich University)

No matter what, the result was an intense air battle that both countries have kept classified for decades. Norwich University calls it the 8th largest air battle in history, even though the exact number of American fighters is unknown.

In fact, most official details are still classified, but both the United States and Russia admit the event occurred. An estimated 30 Soviet ground troops and airmen died in the fighting and Soviet accounts tell of P-38 fighters being shot down.

Another account of the battle, from Soviet Colonel Nikolai Shmelev, details American fighters strafing the airfields near Niš as Russian Yakovlev-9 planes were taxiing to fend off the U.S. Lightnings.

This would not be the only time Soviet and American fighter pilots would tangle with each other in the coming years. They would also fight (unofficially) over the Korean Peninsula and Vietnam, not to mention the numerous Cold War incidents of airspace violations and interceptions.

Enjoy some WWII gun camera footage from the P-38:

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 50 most violent cities in the world

Latin America holds the ignominious distinction of having the most cities on Mexico’s Citizens’ Council for Public Security’s annual ranking of the world’s most violent cities for 2016.


Of the 50 cities on the list, 43 are in Latin America, including 19 in Brazil, eight in Mexico, and seven in Venezuela.

The region’s violence is in large part drug related, driven by traffickers and supplemented by gang wars, political instability, and widespread poverty that has been exacerbated by sluggish economic growth or economic reversals.

The council’s ranking contains cities with populations of more than 300,000 and does not count deaths in combat zones or cities with unavailable data, so some dangerous cities don’t appear on the list

In some cases, the Council has determined homicide rates through estimates based on incomplete data.

In Venezuela, for example, the government has not consistently released homicide data(though it did this year), so to find the rate for Caracas, the Council made an estimate based on entries at the Bello Monte morgue — though, as the Council admits, that morgue receives bodies from an area much larger than Caracas itself.

50. Durban, South Africa, had 34.43 homicides per 100,000 residents.

49. Curitiba, Brazil, had 34.92 homicides per 100,000 residents.

48. Cucuta, Colombia, had 37 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
2012 Car Bombing in Bogota Colombia targeting the former minister, Fernando Londoño.
Four Columbian cities made the list for deadliest places in the world. (Image Wiki)

47. Vitoria, Brazil, had 37.54 homicides per 100,000 residents.

46. Manaus, Brazil, had 38.25 homicides per 100,000 residents.

45. Macapa, Brazil, had 38.45 homicides per 100,000 residents.

44. Armenia, Colombia, had 38.54 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Armenia was the home of Carlos Lehder — a cocaine-addled neo-Nazi who helped start the Medellin cartel.

43. Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, had 39.19 homicides per 100,000 residents.

42. Goiânia y Aparecida de Goiânia, Brazil, had 39.48 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
The mafia arson attack on the Casino Royale in Monterrey killed at least 52 people in 2011.Mexico had eight cities on the list of deadliest places in the world. (Image Wiki)

41. Ciudad Obregón, Mexico, had 40.95 homicides per 100,000 residents.

40. Chihuahua, Mexico, had 42.02 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Read more about the disappeared Ayotzinapa students here and here.

39. Cuiaba, Brazil, had 42.61 homicides per 100,000 residents.

38. Teresina, Brazil, had 42.84 homicides per 100,000 residents.

37. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, had 43.63 homicides per 100,000.

Read more about the cartel-related violence plaguing Ciudad Juarez.

36. Detroit had 44.60 homicides per 100,000 residents.

35. Fortaleza, Brazil, had 44.98 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Read Now: These veterans are keeping kids safe on dangerous Chicago streets

34. New Orleans had 45.17 homicides per 100,000 residents.

33. São Luís, Brazil, had 45.41 homicides per 100,000 residents.

32. Kingston, Jamaica, had 45.43 homicides per 100,000 residents.

31. Palmira, Colombia, had 46.30 homicides per 100,000 residents.

30. Gran Barcelona, Venezuela, had 46.86 homicides per 100,000 residents.

29. João Pessoa, Brazil, had 47.57 homicides per 100,000 residents.

28. Recife, Brazil, had 47.89 homicides per 100,000 residents.

27. Mazatlan, Mexico, had 48.75 homicides per 100,000 residents.

26. Baltimore had 51.14 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Murder victim in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil had 19 cities on the list of most dangerous places in the world.
(Image Andréa Farias)

25. Maceio, Brazil, had 51.78 homicides per 100,000 residents.

24. Culiacan, Mexico, had 51.81 homicides per 100,000 residents.

23. Guatemala City, Guatemala, had 52.73 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Cocaine seizures in Guatemala, a major drug transshipment point, recently hit a 10-year high.

22. Tijuana, Mexico, had 53.06 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Over the last two years, Tijuana has seen a spike in homicides, as rival cartels compete for control.

21. Cali, Colombia, had 54 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Also Read: The 5 most heavily-mined countries in the world

20. Salvador, Brazil, had 54.71 homicides per 100,000 residents.

19. Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil, had 56.45 homicides per 100,000 residents.

18. Cumana, Venezuela, had 59.31 homicides per 100,000 residents.

17. Barquisimeto, Venezuela, had 59.38 homicides per 100,000 residents.

16. Vitória da Conquista, Brazil, had 60.10 homicides per 100,000 residents.

15. Feira de Santana, Brazil, had 60.23 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Sharpshooters in Ferguson, Missouri, wait for violence to break out at protests after the verdict was read in the the Michael Brown death case. The United States has four cities on the list of most dangerous places in the world. (image Wiki)

14. St. Louis had 60.37 homicides per 100,000 residents.

13. Cape Town, South Africa, had 60.77 homicides per 100,000 residents.

12. Aracaju, Brazil, had 62.76 homicides per 100,000 residents.

11. Belém, Brazil, had 67.41 homicides per 100,000 residents.

10. Natal, Brazil, had 69.56 homicides per 100,000 residents.

9. Valencia, Venezuela, had 72.02 homicides per 100,000 residents.

8. Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, had 82.84 homicides per 100,000 residents.

7. San Salvador, El Salvador, had 83.39 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Protesters protecting themselves from rubber bullets on 7 June. Venezuala appeared on the worlds deadliest cities list 7 times. (Image Wiki)

6. Maturin, Venezuela, had 84.21 homicides per 100,000 residents.

5. Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, had 84.67 homicides per 100,000 residents.

4. Distrito Central, Honduras, had 85.09 homicides per 100,000 residents.

3. San Pedro Sula, Honduras, had 112.09 homicides per 100,000 residents.

2. Acapulco, Mexico, had 113.24 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Acapulco, and Guerrero state as a whole, has been shaken by spiraling narco violence for more than a year.

1. Caracas, Venezuela, had 130.35 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Official data, released by the Venezuelan government for the first time in several years, put Venezuela’s 2016 homicide rate at at 70.1 per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest in the world and up from 58 in 2015.

Another estimate from a nongovernment organization put the national homicide rate at 91.8 per 100,000 people.

Read more about life in Caracas here.