Current VA Secretary Bob McDonald and former VA Secretary James Peake just posted an op-ed at The Hill listing the things they believe Congress needs to do to help the VA right now:
While the Department is making significant progress, VA needs Congress’ help to achieve all of the breakthrough priorities on behalf of veterans . . . particularly in three pressing areas:
1. Untangle the seven different ways VA provides care in the community today
Today’s rules make the process inefficient, they cause confusion for both the veterans and providers, they are in place because of legislation added over the years, and they must be legislatively corrected.
2. VA needs the authority to enter into partnerships
VA needs the authority to enter into partnerships to make needed changes to our West Los Angeles campus and more quickly end veterans’ homelessness in the city with the largest concentration of homeless veterans.
3. VA needs Congress’s help to finally fix the claims appeal process
VA needs Congress’s help to finally fix the broken process by which veterans appeal unfavorable claims decisions—a process conceived over 80 years ago that is unlike any other appeals process in the federal government. Over the decades, layers of additions to the process have made it more complicated, more unpredictable, less clear, and less veteran-friendly.
Mattis spoke alongside Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all,” said Mattis.
He said he didn’t want to elaborate on the amounts Syria has in order to avoid revealing sources of intelligence.
“I can say authoritatively they have retained some, it’s a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically and they would be ill advised to try to use any again, we made that very clear with our strike,” he said.
Israeli defense officials said this week that Syria still has up to three tons of chemical weapons in its possession. It was the first specific intelligence assessment of President Bashar Assad’s weapons capabilities since a deadly chemical attack earlier this month.
Lieberman also refused to go into detail but said “We have 100 percent information that Assad regime used chemical weapons against rebels.”
Assad has strongly denied he was behind the attack in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s northern Idlib province, and has accused the opposition of trying to frame his government. Top Assad ally, Russia, has asserted a Syrian government airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons factory, causing the disaster.
Before meeting with Mattis in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters that Israel is encouraged by the change of administrations in Washington.
“We sense a great change in the direction of American policy,” Netanyahu said. He referred to the U.S. cruise missile strike in Syria as an important example of the new administration’s “forthright deeds” against the use of chemical weapons.
The Syrian government has been locked in a six-year civil war against an array of opposition forces. The fighting has killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s population.
Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting, though it has carried out a number of airstrikes on suspected Iranian weapons shipments it believed were bound for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Iran and Hezbollah, both bitter enemies of Israel, along with Russia have sent forces to support Assad.
Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons arsenal to avert U.S. strikes following a chemical weapons attack in opposition-held suburbs of Damascus in August 2013 that killed hundreds of people and sparked worldwide outrage.
Ahead of that disarmament, Assad’s government disclosed it had some 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, including sarin, VX nerve agent and mustard gas.
The entire stockpile was said to have been dismantled and shipped out under international supervision in 2014 and destroyed. But doubts began to emerge soon afterward that not all such armaments or production facilities were declared and destroyed. There also is evidence that the Islamic State group and other insurgents have acquired chemical weapons.
Associated Press writer Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this story.
Recently, a video of Secretary of Defense James Mattis surfaced as the retired, decorated Marine met with a group of deployed service members. As the former general started to speak, a school circle quickly formed around him as his words began to motivate those who listened.
Mattis is widely-known for his impeccable military service and leadership skills, earning him the respect by both enlisted personnel and officers.
Mattis broke the ice with the deployed service members by humorously introducing himself and thanking them in his special way — an epic impromptu speech.
“Just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it of being friendly to one another, you know, that Americans owe to one other,” Mattis said. “We’re so doggone lucky to be Americans.”
Just as cannabis is gaining traction as a legitimate treatment option for military veterans, the US Food and Drug Administration has given the “breakthrough therapy” designation to MDMA, the main chemical in the club drug Ecstasy, for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The move appears to pave the way for a Santa Cruz, California-based advocacy group to conduct two trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for patients with severe PTSD.
The nonprofit group Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies plans to test out the strategy on 200 to 300 participants in clinical trials this spring.
“For the first time ever, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy will be evaluated in [advanced] trials for possible prescription use, with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD leading the way,” said Rick Doblin, the group’s founder and executive director.
The FDA says it doesn’t disclose the names of drugs that receive “breakthrough therapy” designation. But if a researcher or drug company chooses to release that information, they are allowed to. In this case, the Psychedelic Studies group is the researcher.
Veterans have pushed for new treatments for PTSD, which some consider the “signature” injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Symptoms include depression, isolation, inability to concentrate and, in the extreme, suicidal thoughts.
At present, the US Drug Enforcement Administration lists the drug as a Schedule I drug, which means there are no currently accepted medical uses and there’s a high potential for abuse.
The drug affects serotonin use in the brain.
It can cause euphoria, increased sensitivity to touch, sensual and sexual arousal, the need to be touched, and the need for stimulation.
Some unwanted psychological effects can include confusion, anxiety, depression, paranoia, sleep problems, and drug craving, according to the DEA.
Clinical studies suggest that MDMA may increase the risk of long-term problems with memory and learning.
During World War II, military trainers had to quickly get recruits ready for combat on the front lines of Nazi Europe and the Pacific Theater. As a result, the U.S. Army created this infantry training video in 1943.
The video covers all of the major infantry weapons from their ammunition types and ballistic properties to how to best use each weapon in combat. It even shows how soldiers could make Molotov cocktails to take out tanks and the infantry could use 105mm howitzers, “the infantry’s bulldog.”
The film contains some great one-liners, including, “He’ll need more than aspirin after that,” while a Nazi mannequin takes .30-cal. rounds to the dome.
“Don’t think this pillbox is Heaven. The bazooka makes it Hell,” during the anti-tank rocket portion is pretty great as well.
The whole film runs through carbines, improvised weapons, mortars, anti-tank rifles and rockets, and more. It’s funny, but it also makes you think (about dying Nazis). Check it out below:
In a report released earlier this summer, the Department of Defense Inspector General has determined that the Army’s finances are a world-class mess. Reportedly, the service made $2.8 trillion in adjustments to make their books balance just in one quarter of 2015 in spite of the fact that the entire defense budget for that fiscal year was $585 billion.
According to Reuters, the Army’s books are so jumbled that they may be impossible to audit – and the Army is facing a September 30, 2017 deadline to be ready for one. The harsh IG report concluded the Army “materially misstated” its financial statements for 2015.
Making the task of squaring the Army’s books harder is the fact that over 16,000 documents have vanished from the Army’s computer system. The Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS), the Pentagon’s primary agency responsible for accounting services, routinely changed numbers without justification at the end of the year, something employees of that agency referred to as the “grand plug.”
“Where is the money going? Nobody knows,” DOD critic and retired analyst Franklin Spinney told Reuters.
The Army has taken issue with the IG report, claiming that the total discrepancies total just under $62.5 billion. An Army spokesman said, “Though there is a high number of adjustments, we believe the financial statement information is more accurate than implied in this report,” that and that the Army “remains committed to asserting audit readiness” and that steps are being taken to root out the problems.
“I, Private Schmuckatelli, take you, whatever your name is, to be my lawfully wedded wife.”
Many service members (not mentioning any names) spoke these words right before a deployment to move out of the small studio-sized barracks most likely for the extra money every month.
This money comes from the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). Implemented in January 1998 BAH pays housing expenses for service members to move off-base if the barracks are overcrowded or if a change in the member’s lifestyle warrants it (i.e., having a baby or getting married. After a certain pay grade, everyone receives BAH, but it is restricted in the lower ranks. That’s why some take the risk of a contract marriage.
Although contract marriages are frowned upon by the chain of command, it’s a well-known practice utilized by all ranks today. Capitalizing on this financial loophole could benefit your future (depending on the person with whom you join in court-approved matrimony).
Here are a few added bonuses to your contract marriage that you may have never noticed before.
1. Renter’s History
Signing a lease with a rental company starts your “Renter’s History.” As long as you pay your rent on time, this keeps you in good standing with the rental bureaus. Young service members may not have the best credit, but having good rental history is a step in the right direction.
Your contract marriage could help prevent you from being homeless in the future.
“I am serious and don’t call me, Shirley.” (Paramount Pictures)
2. Learn to Budget
Although the medical benefits are valuable, they could throw a curveball and require more money every month than you planned. Checking to see how much a service member earns is simple: you can Google it. Waiting to get paid on the 1st and 15th of every month could feel like a freaking eternity without a budget.
A contract marriage probably didn’t make you a millionaire even if it made you feel that way after that first check. So learn to…
3. It Follows
Unfortunately, one crappy aspect of being in the military is how your command intervenes in your personal life. They like to know about everything and if you don’t tell them upfront, somehow they manage to find out.
If you plan on making the military a career, I advise against a contract marriage, especially when word gets out about your legally-binding “spouse” while you’re out hitting on every single person at the bar. Remember: it’s technically fraud, so good luck getting promoted.
People can often suck.
4. Emotional Maturity
The average marrying age range in the civilian world is 25 to 27. However, in the military, the median falls at 22 – above legal drinking age, but not yet a mature adult. No one is condoning getting married for the benefits, but if you do and it doesn’t work out, you shouldn’t be surprised.
You were young, dumb and full of one bad idea after another. Your temporary spouse may not have been the perfect soulmate, but at least you narrowed it down.
5. The Silver Lining
Looking back on it, would you do it again? Overall experiences will vary depending on if everything went to plan. The memories you have are what separates you as an individual and makes you unique. If it made you into a grumpy old man, then that sucks.
Take it for what it is. It’s always better to look toward the future than dwell in the past.
More than 70 years ago, a US Army cargo plane dubbed “Hot as Hell” was headed for India on a supply mission. It never arrived, and no one went looking for the doomed aircraft or the eight men on board because military officials had no way of pinpointing where it went down.
All signs of the mission were lost until 2006, when a hiker in northeast India spotted a wing and panel sign with the plane’s name inscribed — “Hot as Hell.” It wasn’t until 2015 that the US Defense Department investigated the crash site and found the remains of 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford.
On June 8th, Oxford will finally be returned home and then laid to rest the following weekend with full military honors in his tiny hometown of Concord, Georgia. Photos of his seven fellow crewmen, none of whom was ever found, will lay beside the coffin and then be placed inside it for burial.
“We were ecstatic that Eugene was found, but we feel guilty there are seven other men on that mountain top,” said Merrill Roan, the wife of Oxford’s nephew. “So we are honoring the other seven. … We have to honor them as well, because they may never get any closure.”
Oxford’s plane departed Kumming, China, on Jan. 25, 1944, said Staff Sgt. Kristen Duus at the Defense Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Agency. Oxford was declared dead two years later.
Oxford’s family didn’t know the wreckage had been found until 2007 when Merrill Roan saw a message on a genealogy website from a relative of another service member on the aircraft. That relative wanted help persuading military officials to investigate the crash site.
Duus’ agency confirmed the crash site correlated with the missing aircraft in 2008. But harmful weather coupled with access issues and security delayed recovery operation efforts until late 2015, Duus said.
Officials say a DNA analysis of Oxford’s remains matched his niece and nephew.
Roan said the family was “shocked and excited” when they heard the news.
Duus said Oxford is one of 74 veterans who have been identified so far this year. She said all service members have been returned to the US for identification before the family is notified and the service member is provided a funeral with honors.
Eighty service members were identified in 2015, and that number more than doubled with 164 the following year, Duus said.
The Missing in Action Agency website says there are more than 86,000 Americans still missing abroad from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Advancements in DNA testing technology and partnerships with other nations has helped find and identify more missing service members than ever, Duus said.
Oxford’s parents, siblings, and any other relatives who saw him leave for World War II have all died since he went missing, said Terrell Moody of Moody-Daniel Funeral Home, which is handling burial arrangements. Still, the long-overdue homecoming of his remains won’t go unnoticed.
A State Patrol escort will guide a hearse carrying Oxford’s casket 50 miles south on Interstate 75 from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to the funeral home. A funeral will be held June 10th in a school auditorium — the biggest venue in town, Moody said.
“It’s just a huge historical event for our little town,” Moody said. “The phone constantly rings from people wanting information.”
Oxford will be buried in the same plot with his parents, Charles and Bessie Oxford, who had placed a memorial marker for their lost son at the gravesite after his plane went missing seven decades ago.
The tweet is not much of a surprise. Aviation Week and Space Technology, sometimes referred to as “Aviation Leak,” noted during the Air Force One controversy that Trump had been critical of the F-35’s costs during his successful presidential campaign.
Last week, after Trump tweeted about the rising costs of the planned replacement for the VC-25, CNN reported that the CEO of Boeing contacted Trump to assure the president-elect that he would work to keep costs down.
The program — which has been so delayed that the Marines had to pull legacy F/A-18 Hornets out of the “boneyard” at Davis Monthan Air Force Base to have enough planes to do its mission — has seen costs climb to roughly $100 million per aircraft. The plane is slated to replace F-16 Fighting Falcons, legacy F/A-18 Hornets, A-10 Thunderbolts, and the AV-8B Harriers in U.S. military service.
The state of the Marine Corps F/A-18 inventory may preclude a complete cancellation of the F-35 buy, however. Since Oct. 1, four Marine F/A-18 Hornets have crashed. In the most recent crash, the pilot was killed despite ejecting from his plane.
Trump’s tweet comes as news emerged of the Pentagon concealing a report of $125 billion in “administrative waste” over the last five years.
The Air Force has made the F-15 Eagle an icon of air superiority fighters. The Navy’s F-14 Tomcat has its iconic status, thanks in large part to Top Gun and JAG, among other Hollywood productions.
But the Navy could have flown the F-15 off carriers. In fact, McDonnell-Douglas, who had made the iconic F-4 Phantom, which was in service with the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, proposed what was known as the F-15N “Sea Eagle.”
There was, though, a problem with the Sea Eagle. Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that the design could not carry the AIM-54 Phoenix, which the Navy needed in order to counter Soviet long-range bombers armed with heavy anti-ship missiles.
The track records of both planes are nothing to sneer at. The F-14 proved to be a superb addition — it never had to face the big fight with the Soviet Union, but it nevertheless scored five air-to-air kills in United States Navy service. The F-15 scored 104 air-to-air kills with no losses across all operators, including the United States Air Force and Saudi and Israeli planes.
Here’s a video showing just what might have been, and why it didn’t happen.
The term “gear porn” might conjure up visions of late-night SkinaMax movie shorts, but this time we’re not talking about adult flicks after dark.
Instead, we’re talking about three new pieces of kit recently announced by their manufacturers that might just find a home in your gear locker: An adapter to attach a night vision monocular to your camera, a very interesting new multi-tool, and…
TNVC (@tnvc_inc) has re-released its SLR camera adapter for PVS-14 NVGs. This thing will allow you to place any NVG that uses the PVS-14 eyepiece assembly and retaining ring on a DSLR or SLR camera, providing a 46 mike-mike step ring for the camera lens. It will also work on Sony e-mount lenses with the proper step-up or -down from the 46mm. The three piece ring mounts and optically aligns the AN/PVS-14 monocular to the camera by clamping around the NVG’s ocular. It is secured with a threaded ring.
TNVC, a veteran-owned and -operated company, describes it as the best way to take photos through the tube. As they tell it, “It works especially well with high magnification capable lenses for running surveillance at night, or just taking photos of landscapes, animals, stars, or your neighbor.” That sounds legit to us. It damn sure beats an old school weapon mount with a camera adapter ring. It’s manufactured from machined aircraft aluminum finished in Type III anodized hard coat.
Gerber Gear Center Drive Multi-Tool
This is the Center Drive, a multi-tool built with a full-size driver on the center axis with a standard bit. It hails from Gerber Gear (@gerbergear), built in the company’s Portland facility with American steel and will be available November 2nd. Sliding jaws open with one thumb, allowing access to spring-loaded pliers or a liner-locked, full-size knife blade with reverse thumb support. The replaceable bits include a Phillip’s and flat head and 12 others. All are magnetic.
Gerber describes it as, “Not for posers, slackers, hipsters, or momma’s boys.”
The tools ship with a nylon and elastic sheath that can be mounted either vertically or horizontally.
The Center Drive’s 14 tools include the folowing:
Magnetic 1/4″ Bit Driver
Fine Edge Blade
Cats Paw Pry Bar
Rotatable Carbide Wire Cutters
Ruler (stamped into handle)
Optional Standard Bit Set
EDCCB – Every Day Carry Concealment Belt
From Tactical Jay and Silent Bob from US PALM (@uspalm) down in Phoenix comes the US PALM EDCCB (Every Day Carry Concealment Belt). Designed in collaboration with The Wilderness, the EDCCB is a low profile belt that holds your britches up and hides assorted goodies inside a lengthwise zippered compartment.
It’s built from Frequent Flyer belt Delrin, double rings and a polyethylene-insert CSM (Combat Shooters Model) to support IWB or OWB holsters. It’s available in S, M, L, and XL sizes, and in either black or ranger green colors.
The EDCCB is just one of several pieces of kit in the new US PALM deep concealment lineup. Check out their Ankle-FAKs, LowProGear Urban Havok Bags and other bits of sneaky fightin’ goodness.
About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth.