The one-of-a-kind helicopter carrier, HMS Ocean, has found a new home in the Southern Hemisphere. The Brazilian Navy has acquired the carrier and will use it to replace the French-built Clemenceau-class carrier Sao Paolo (formerly known as Foch).
According to a report by TheDrive.com, the Royal Navy is letting HMS Ocean go despite an extensive and expensive refit. According to the Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, HMS Ocean displaces 21,578 tons, is capable of operating 12 transport helicopters and six attack helicopters, and is armed with three Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems and five 20mm cannon. The vessel also operates four Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVP), modern versions of the World War II “Higgins boats.”
HMS Ocean was commissioned by the Royal Navy in 1999 and had served for 19 years. The vessel was used to provide security support for the 2012 Olympics in London. While designed to haul 500 Royal Marines, HMS Ocean also carried out humanitarian missions, including relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Irma last year.
Brazil was seeking a replacement for the French-built Clemenceau-class carrier Foch, which they chose to decommission and scrap after 17 years of service. Known as Sao Paolo under Brazilian service, the carrier displaced just under 31,000 tons and was able to operate up to 37 aircraft. The Sao Paolo operated 14 Skyhawks and five helicopters.
While the former HMS Ocean is not able to operate the Skyhawks, it will still give Brazil a measure of power projection. The vessel is still quite young (France operated the Foch for 37 years before handing it over to Brazil), so Brazil may be able to get a lot of use yet from this ship.
For more on the sale of HMS Ocean, check out the video below:
The Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared a military coup against the government of President Nicolás Maduro on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, sparking a confrontation that escalated into an armed conflict.
In a message to supporters online, Guaidó announced the beginning of what he called “Operation Liberty” and called for supporters to rally at a military air base in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.
Reporters for the news agency Reuters reported that the gathering at the military air base — called La Carlota — came under fire Tuesday morning and shot back. Reuters said both sides appeared to be using live rounds.
Part of the clash can be seen in this video, broadcast by the Latin American TV channel NTN24. A noise that sounds like gunfire can be heard:
The opposition leader then held a rally at Francia de Altamira square where he told supporters: “Today it became clear that the armed forces are with the people and not with the dictator.”
Maduro called for his supporters to maintain “nerves of steel,” tweeting that he still has complete loyalty from his commanders.
His government also said it was taking action against “a small group of traitors” in the military who had defected to Guaidó.
In his announcement Tuesday morning, Guaidó was seen surrounded by uniformed men whom he described as Venezuelan soldiers who switched their loyalty to him.
“People of Venezuela, the end of the usurpation has begun,” Guaidó said on Twitter. “At the moment I am meeting with the principal military units from the armed forces to start the final phase of Operation Liberty.”
He said the gathering at La Carlota would set in motion the “definitive end” to Maduro’s rule.
Guaidó was joined by Leopoldo López, another opposition leader who had been under house arrest for two years. López tweeted that he was freed by soldiers supporting Guaidó.
Venezuela’s government said it was working to stop the uprising.
Jorge Rodríguez, the Vice President of Communications, said on Twitter that the state was “confronting and deactivating a small group of traitors in our military personnel.”
Venezuela’s defense minister, Vladimir Padrino, tweeted: “The armed forces are firmly in defense of the national constitution and its legitimate authorities.”
Diosdado Cabello, the leader of Maduro’s socialist party, urged Maduro supporters to rally in front of the presidential palace, according to the AP.
The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said President Donald Trump had been briefed. “We are monitoring the ongoing situation,” BBC News reported her as saying.
Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, tweeted that the US government “fully supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for freedom and democracy.”
Russian news agencies reported that President Vladimir Putin, an ally of Maduro, had scheduled a meeting to discuss the uprisings with his Security Council, according to the AP.
Guaidó has been trying to oust Maduro since January 2019, when Guaidó declared himself the legitimate interim president of Venezuela. He cited emergency powers in the constitution that he argued gave him the right to rule.
More than 50 countries, including the US, the UK, and all the nations of the European Union, have backed Guaidó’s claim to power.
Besides calling for new elections, one of Guaidó’s main goals was to win support from Maduro’s power base: the army.
The power is especially concentrated among high-ranking officers who hold important government positions and run influential companies under the socialist government.
It took sixty five years for one member of the 101st Airborne Division Screaming Eagles to learn that his actions during the Battle of Bastogne were legendary, but not for heroism or bravery. It all started with a simple request for a beer – and the greatest beer run the world will ever see.
Vincent Speranza, Vince to all that know him, had joined the Army right after graduating high school in 1943 and was assigned to Company H, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne as a replacement soldier while the unit recovered from Operation Market-Garden.
Shortly after training, Vince found himself in a foxhole in the middle of Bastogne, Belgium – cold, short on supplies, food, and ammunition. And surrounded by German troops.
“The first eight days we got pounded” by German artillery, he recalled. “But this was the 101st. They could not get past (us). They never set one foot in Bastogne.”
On the second day, his friend Joe Willis took shrapnel to both legs and was pulled back to a makeshift combat hospital inside a mostly destroyed church. Vince tracked him down and asked if there was anything he could do for his friend.
Vince told him it was impossible. The 101st was surrounded by Germans with no supplies coming in, they were taking artillery fire every day, and the town had been bombarded. But Joe wanted a beer.
Moving through the town, Vince, from blown-out tavern to blown-out tavern, went searching until serendipity hit. At the third tavern he hit, Vince pulled on a tap and beer came flowing out. He filled his helmet – the same one used as a makeshift shovel and Porta Potty in the foxhole – with all the beer he could handle and returned to the hospital.
Mission accomplished. Vince poured beer for Joe and some of those around him. When the beer ran out, they asked him to go for more.
As he returned to the hospital, Vince was confronted by a Major who demanded to know what he was doing.
“Giving aid and comfort to the wounded,” was the paratrooper’s simple answer.
An ass-chewing about the dangers of giving beer to men with gut and chest wounds lead to Vince putting his helmet back on his head, beer pouring down his uniform, and heading out.
While that could have been the end of it, the story continues 65 years later, when Vince returned to Bastogne for an anniversary celebration and learned that his epic beer run had been turned into Airborne beer, typically drunk out of a ceramic mug in the shape of a helmet.
The process the President has to go through to launch the U.S.’s nuclear weapons isn’t as simple as pressing a button, but the key component of that process — the codes needed to authorize the launch — are never far from the president.
At least they’re never supposed to be.
According to Gen. Hugh Shelton, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 1997 to September 2001, the number of redundancies in the nuclear-launch process “is staggering.” All of steps are “dependent on one vital element without which there can be no launch,” he wrote in his 2010 autobiography, “Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior.”
That element, the president’s authorization codes, is supposed to remain in close proximity to the president at all times, carried by one of five military aides, representing each branch of the military. The codes are on a card called the “biscuit” carried within the “football,” a briefcase that is officially known as the “president’s emergency satchel.”
However, around 2000, according to Shelton, a member of the department within the Pentagon that is responsible for all pieces of the nuclear process was dispatched to the White House to physically look at the codes and ensure they were correct — a procedure required to happen every 30 days. (The set of codes was to be replaced entirely every four months.)
That official was told by a presidential aide that President Bill Clinton did have the codes, but was in an important meeting and could not be disturbed.
The aide assured the official that Clinton took the codes seriously and had them close by. The official was dismayed, but he accepted the excuse and left.
When the next inspection took place the following month, that official was on vacation, according to Shelton, and another official was dispatched to the White House. The new official was met with the same excuse — the president is very busy, but takes the codes very seriously and has them on hand.
“This comedy of errors went on, without President Clinton’s knowledge I’m sure, until it was finally time to collect the current set and replace them with the new edition,” Shelton writes.
“At this point we learned that the aide had no idea where the old ones were, because they had been missing for months,” he added. “The President never did have them, but he assumed, I’m sure, that the aide had them like he was supposed to.”
Shelton and then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen were alarmed. The problem of missing codes had been resolved by changing the codes, but they quickly acted to change the process itself, mandating that the Defense Department official visiting the White House physically see the codes — waiting there to do so if necessary.
Shelton and Cohen feared the saga would reach the press and become an embarrassing story. But word of the missing codes never made it out, and Shelton’s recounting of it in his 2010 book was, to his knowledge, the first time it had been shared publicly.
“This is a big deal — a gargantuan deal — and we dodged a silver bullet,” Shelton writes, adding: “You do whatever you can and think you have an infallible system, but somehow someone always seems to find a way to screw it up.”
The US issued a stark warning to Beijing on May 31, 2018, as Chinese militarization of the South China Sea creates a potential flashpoint in a longstanding battle for control of the Pacific.
For years, Beijing has dredged the South China Sea to build artificial islands in waters it claims as its territory.
Six of China’s neighbors also lay claim to conflicting patches of the South China Sea. The body of water is home to natural resources, and trillions of dollars’ worth of trade passes through every year.
On May 31, 2018, the US reminded China of a “historical fact.” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said “the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands.”
“We have a lot of experience, in the Second World War, taking down small islands that are isolated,” McKenzie said. “So that’s a — that’s a core competency of the US military that we’ve done before. You shouldn’t read anything more into that than a simple statement of historical fact.”
The US has been the main challenger to China’s maritime claims and in doing so has provoked the bulk of Beijing’s rage, which is often expressed in a kind of doublespeak common for the Chinese Communist Party.
On May 31, 2018, China’s foreign ministry called US claims that Beijing was militarizing the islands “ridiculous” and compared them to “a case of a thief crying ‘stop thief’ to cover their misdeeds.”
But on the same day, the Chinese state media detailed plans to prepare a military response to US interference.
The Global Times, a newspaper controlled by the Communist Party, wrote: “Aside from deploying defensive weapons on the Spratly Islands, China should build a powerful deterrence system, including an aerial base and a roving naval force and base.”
“How can anyone argue with a straight face?” Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider. “How can anyone say this is not militarization? It’s a patent lie.” She said the ranges and functions of missiles China placed on the islands pointed to a clear military utility.
Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea isn’t just a potential threat to the region. Beijing is already using hard power to force out other countries and assert its dominance.
Most recently, on May 11, 2018, a Philippine navy ship was harassed by two Chinese vessels while trying to resupply Filipino marines in the disputed waters. A helicopter reportedly got dangerously close to the small, rubber Filipino ship and chased it off.
(U.S. Energy Information Administration)
“If the Chinese start blocking supply operations,” the Filipino marines “could starve,” Glaser said.
The Philippines are a longtime US ally. The US has massive military bases there and a duty to protect it.
Glaser said this was the first time the actual Chinese navy had announced involving itself in a patrol of the waters, marking an escalation of conflicts.
According to a report from BreakingDefense.com, the situation’s gone from a bad deficit of 1,500 pilots this summer, to an ugly shortage of 2,000 pilots. To combat this shortage, the Air Force formed an Aircrew Crisis Task Force, upped flight pay to as much as $1,800 a month, and increased bonuses as high as $35,000 — all with no luck.
It should be noted that when increased flight pay was announced, the hike wasn’t to take effect until Oct. 1, so we could still see the impact of this change. Still, there are other factors that have been weighing heavily on airmen.
“Surge has become the new normal,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said. “Less than one percent of Americans serve in uniform and protect the rest of us, and they’re carrying a heavy burden. We are burning out our people because we are too small for what the nation is asking of us.” A lack of budget is also causing problems, Wilson said.
“The fiscal 2018 continuing resolution is actually delaying our efforts to increase the readiness of the force, and risk accumulates over time,” Wilson said Nov. 9, during the State of the Air Force address. “We are stretching the force to the limit, and we need to start turning the corner on readiness.”
To illustrate the situation, WATM noted in February that at the end of the Cold War, the Air Force had 134 fighter squadrons — a total that has declined to 55 today. The Air Force is not the only service affected by a lack of personnel and budget. In June of 2016, the Marine Corps had to pull a number of F/A-18 Hornets out of the boneyard to address an airframe shortage.
Ashley Keller was frustrated. Why was every prenatal workout she found on YouTube too slow or beyond extreme and not safe for her baby?
The triathlete Army officer was no stranger to fitness. Upon her graduation from West Point, she was offered the opportunity to train for the Olympics, but turned it down to pursue serving her country in a traditional way.
“My husband Luke got his mid-tour leave from a year long deployment and a government paid ticket to anywhere in the world,” Keller explained. “He sacrificed that ticket on a flight to West Point, New York to support my graduation from the Academy. We got married two days later, honeymooned to Costa Rica and he flew back to Iraq and I headed to Fort Leonardwood for Engineer Officer Basic Training. The Army then gave me a choice: go be a platoon leader like I had spent the last four years at West Point preparing to do or be sponsored by the Army to train at the World Class Athlete Center in Colorado for the next triathlon Olympics. [Training in Colorado] would mean not serving our country as I hoped to do, and it would post me across the country from Fort Bragg, where my new husband was stationed. I also knew one injury in triathlon [training] could foil all Olympic prospects and didn’t want to sacrifice my marriage for it.”
Keller had forfeited her Olympic dreams in favor of service, but never sacrificed her love of sport, representing the U.S. Army in NBC’s Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge and competing in the notoriously grueling Ironman races. When she became pregnant with her first baby, Keller longed for workouts that were challenging, yet effective.
“So I got certified and nerded out on scholarly articles about training,” Keller says. “I’d rush home over lunch breaks, change out of my Army uniform, and record ten to fifteen minute prenatal workouts with a cheap camera propped up on index cards on my countertop. I thought there might be some women out there who also wanted more challenging prenatal workouts.”
As it turns out, there were quite a few women. Keller quickly built a community of online followers and her passion for fitness and educating women online grew. After five and a half years of active duty service and a deployment to Afghanistan, she separated from the Army to pursue fitness full time and GlowBodyPT was born.
Today, Keller has an online following of more than 40,000 on social media and offers free workout videos on her Youtube channel, as well as customized plans through her website, featuring specialized workouts for prenatal and post-pregnancy.
“A couple of months ago I launched my newest and favorite plan to date: The 10 Minute Plan,” Keller said. “It was a year in the making while my husband was deployed, raising a newborn and running GlowBodyPT.”
When asked why specifically targeting the mom community is so important, Keller smiled knowingly.
“Fitness does more than just make your body look good, it transforms how you feel about yourself,” she said. “Fitness empowers you to have patience, more energy and more drive, to pour into your marriage and your kids. Staged workout videos in white studios don’t resonate with me. When you follow my workout videos it’s like working out with a friend in your living room who says it how it is, teaches you how to train and makes the best use of every single minute of your time, because I know you don’t have time to waste.”
5 MIGHTY QUESTIONS
What piece of advice would you give to fellow military spouses?
Put yourself out there to make a couple of good friends every time you move. I tell my friends, “You are my people!” Give them your number and let them know, sincerely, you are here for them day or night no matter what they need. Follow through. Having your tribe and fueling those relationships is what makes the military community what it is.
What is your life motto?
God, use me for your purpose.
What inspires you about the military community?
Only military families know the sacrifices we make as service members and spouses. How it feels to wonder if your spouse got back safe from a mission. Wondering if everybody is okay when there is a communications blackout. Missed holidays and birthdays. Lonely nights. Phone calls as you try to make conversation without talking about sensitive information related to your spouse’s everyday life. Consoling crying children who miss Daddy. I love the military community because there is a shared sense of respect, reverence, family and sacrifice.
What has been your toughest professional challenge?
I got my front teeth knocked out, elbow broken, wrist casted, stitches across my lips, chin and both palms during a Half Ironman bike crash a couple of years ago. The top four athletes racing all got rushed to the ER. The injuries lasted for months and I didn’t get permanent teeth for over a year. My husband was away at a military school when the crash happened and I came home the next day to two kids, one of which I was potty training and the other who put on my socks for me the next morning because it hurt to move my hands.
What’s your superpower?
I actually care about every single woman who does my plans, and her progress. Bigger companies just don’t have the capacity to pour into others at this level.
The Pentagon is investing roughly $1 billion over the next several years for the development of robots to be used in an array of roles alongside combat troops, Bloomberg reported.
The US military already uses robots in various capacities, such for bomb disposal and scouting, but these new robots will reportedly be able to preform more sophisticated roles including complex reconnaissance, carrying soldier’s gear, and detecting hazardous chemicals.
Bryan McVeigh, the Army’s project manager for force protection, told Bloomberg he has “no doubt” there will be robots in every Army formation “within five years.”
“We’re going from talking about robots to actually building and fielding programs. This is an exciting time to be working on robots with the Army,” McVeigh said.
In April 2018, the Army awarded a $429.1 million contract to Endeavor Robotics and QinetiQ North America, both based out of Massachusetts. Endeavor has also been awarded separate contracts from the Army and Marine Corps in as the Pentagon pushes for robots in a wide range of sizes.
The introduction of more robots into combat situations is intended to not only make life easier for troops, but also protect them from potentially fatal scenarios.
(U.S. Army photo)
But there are also concerns about the rapid development of robotic technology in relation to warfare, especially in terms of autonomous robots. In short, many are uncomfortable with the notion of killer robots deciding who gets to live or die on the battlefield.
“Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend,” the letter said. “These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.”
In May 2018, roughly a dozen employees at Google resigned after finding out the company was providing information on its artificial intelligence technology to the Pentagon to aid a drone program called Project Maven, which is designed to help drones identify humans versus objects.
Google has reportedly defended its involvement in Project Maven to employees.
America’s use of drones and drone strikes in counterterrorism operations is already a controversial topic, as many condemn the US drone program as illegal and unethical. The US continues to face criticism in relation to civilian casualties from such strikes, among other issues.
Hence, while the military is seemingly quite excited about the expansion of robots in combat situations, there is a broader debate occurring among tech experts, academics and politicians about the ethical and legal implications of robotic warfare.
The killer robots debate
Peter W. Singer, a leading expert on 21st century warfare, focuses a great deal on what is known as “the killer robots debate” in his writing and research.
“It sounds like science fiction, but it is a very real debate right now in international relations. There have been multiple UN meetings on this,” Singer told Business Insider.
As Singer put it, robotic technology introduces myriad legal and ethical questions for which “we’re really not all that ready.”
(U.S. Army photo)
“This really comes down to, who is responsible if something goes bad?” Singer said, explaining that this applies to everything from robots in war to driverless cars. “We’re entering a new frontier of war and technology and it’s not quite clear if the laws are ready.”
Singer acknowledges the valid concerns surrounding such technology, but thinks an all-out ban is impractical given it’s hard to ban technology in war that will also be used in civilian life.
In other words, autonomous robots will likely soon be used by many of us in everyday life and it’s doubtful the military will have less advanced technology than the public. Not to mention, there’s already an ongoing arms race when it comes to robotic technology between the US and China, among other countries.
In Singer’s words, the Pentagon is not pursuing robotic technology because “it’s cool” but because “it thinks it can be applied to certain problems and help save money.” Moreover, it wants to ensure the US is in a good position to defend itself from other countries developing such technology.
Singer believes it would be more practical to resolve issues of accountability, rather than pushing for a total ban. He contends the arguments surrounding this issue mirror a lot of the same concerns people had regarding the nuclear arms race not too long ago.
“I’m of the camp that I don’t see as an absolute ban as possible right now. While it might be something that’s great to happen I look at the broader history of weapons,” he said.
Moving forward, Singer said countries might consider pushing for banning the use of such weapons in certain areas, such as cities, where the risk of killing civilians is much higher.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Syrian state media said a military airport near Homs had come under missile attack, which was repelled by its air defense systems on May 24, 2018.
“One of our military airports in the central region was exposed to hostile missile aggression, and our air defense systems confronted the attack and prevented it from achieving its aim,” state news agency SANA said.
Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, tweeted that there were reports of “possible #Israel airstrikes underway targeting the Al-Dhaba’a Airbase near Al-Qusayr in #Homs, #Syria.”
Al-Qusayr is an Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah stronghold, Lister tweeted.
“Some local users said #Israel strikes,” Joyce Karam, a reporter at The National, also tweeted.
SANA earlier reported sounds of explosions heard near the Dabaa airport near the city of Homs.
Claims piled up at the VA Regional Office in Winston-Salem, N.C.
A $16 billion effort to give veterans lifetime electronic health records that meshed with the Pentagon’s has been marked by repeated delays and oversight failures that could have put patients at risk, according to reports from the VA Inspector General.
The IG reports released Monday detailed confusion in the overall implementation of the plan and failures to train staff and put in place adequate equipment for the pilot program, such as new laptops.
The first IG report, titled “Deficiencies in Infrastructure Readiness for Deploying VA’s New Electronic Health Record [EHR] System,” looked at how the Department of Veterans Affairs went about implementing the initial billion, 10-year contract with Cerner Corp. of Kansas.
The VA now estimates that the contract, awarded in May 2018 by then-Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie without competitive bidding, will now cost at least another billion for management and equipment.
The second report focused on delays and failures in the pilot program, even after it was scaled back from three test sites to one at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Spokane, Washington.
One of the main findings of the second report was that patient safety at the Spokane facility could have been put at risk due to poor preparation for the planned switchover to the Cerner system in the pilot program.
The IG’s report found that the VA and the Spokane leadership failed to hire and train adequate staff to handle the transition, and overlooked the impact on how the hospital would continue to function while the inevitable kinks in the system were worked out.
“For example, online prescription refills, the most popular form for refilling prescriptions at the facility, was identified as a capability that would be absent when going live,” the IG’s report said of the pilot program at the Mann-Grandstaff VAMC. “The OIG determined that the multiple work-arounds needed to address the removal of an online prescription refill process presents a patient safety risk.”
In addition, the IG found that the VA’s expanded program to allow veterans to choose community care — made policy by the Mission Act of 2018 — had suffered as the Spokane facility focused on the switchover to EHR.
“The OIG identified that facility leaders addressed recent in-house access to care challenges within primary care, but a significant backlog of 21,155 care in the community consults remained as of January 9, 2020,” the report said.
Outrage on the Hill
In May 2019, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie identified the transition to EHR as one of his top priorities, noting its potential “to change the way our veterans are treated, but also change the way we do business, to make the delivery of our services more efficient, make it more timely.”
In that same month, then-acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan took a beating during a hearing of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee when he projected a possible four-year delay in implementing the transition.
“I don’t ever recall being as outraged about an issue than I am about the electronic health record program,” Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, told Shanahan.
“For 10 years we’ve heard the same assurances” that the electronic health records problem will be solved, Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, said. “It’s incredible that we can’t get this fixed.”
Veterans were suffering “because of bureaucratic crap,” he added.
Over the years, previous attempts to mesh the EHR systems of the VA and DoD have either failed or been abandoned, most recently in 2013 when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki dropped an integration plan after a four-year effort and about id=”listicle-2645875913″ billion spent.
The goal of the new effort to integrate the records was to overcome the track record of failure by the VA and the DoD to meet a congressional mandate to bring their separate medical records systems in line with one another, ensuring a seamless transition for service members to civilian life.
In its overview of the VA’s latest attempt, the IG report noted that “there are tremendous costs and challenges associated with this effort.”
Under the current plan the VA’s legacy information system — Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) — would be replaced by Cerner’s commercial off-the-shelf solution called “Millennium.”
The plan was to have VA’s Millenium mesh with DoD’s electronic health record system — Military Health System (MHS) GENESIS — which at its core also consists of Cerner’s Millennium, the IG report said.
The ultimate connection of VA and DoD’s electronic health records “will result in a comprehensive, lifetime health record for service members,” the report said, improving health outcomes by giving providers more complete information.
However, the indefinite hold put on the pilot program in Spokane underlines the huge challenges ahead in implementing the transition as the nation seeks to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the IG said.
The report found widespread failure in VA’s preparations to start up the new system in Spokane.
“The lack of important upgrades jeopardizes VA’s ability to properly deploy the new electronic health record system and increases risks of delays to the overall schedule,” the report said. “Until modifications are complete, many aspects of the physical infrastructure existing in the telecommunications rooms [such as cabling] and data center do not meet national industry standards or VA’s internal requirements.”
The VA’s response essentially concurred with the findings and recommendations of the IG’s overview and the separate report on the pilot program in Spokane.
In his response, Dr. Richard Stone, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, said that the VA was working to correct the problems with infrastructure and staffing noted by the IG.
“I appreciate the concerns regarding mitigation strategies and capabilities of the new electronic health records [EHR] system,” Stone said.
He said that as the target date was approaching for the launch of the pilot program in Spokane, “Secretary Wilkie received feedback from clinical and technical staff.”
“He decided to postpone the Go-Live so that the system can provide the greatest functionality at Go-Live and VHA staff are confident in providing care with the new system with the least mitigation strategies,” Stone said.
A lot of factors go in to a veteran’s post-military life. Where they choose to live when they get out of the service is important for many reasons. Veterans Affairs hospitals in some areas of the country are overcrowded and have a hard time giving fast, quality care. Access to decent schools and a quality education for the vets to use their GI bill benefits are another factor.
Analysts from WalletHub looked at 100 American cities and judged them based on four criteria: employment, economy, quality of life, and health. For each of those areas of study, the analysts looked at a number of weighted metrics, including skilled jobs, veteran unemployment rates, housing affordability, median veteran income, VA facilities, the quality of those facilities, and more.
These 10 cities may or may not surprise you, but they’re definitely worth a look!
10. Austin, Texas
This should surprise no one. Austin is a city that has been coming up in conversation for more than twenty years. From its proximity to the military bases in Texas, to its active nightlife and vibrant social scene (not to mention the SXSW Festival that comes around every year), Austin is the place to be for everyone — not just veterans.
9. Colorado Springs, Colorado
In the proverbial shadow of Pike’s Peak, Colorado Springs is the second most populous city in Colorado. It is consistently ranked as one of the top spots to live in America, not just for vets. Also, apropos of nothing, marijuana is totally legal here.
8. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach offers more for the avid outdoor veteran than just the beach. Nearby Back Bay Wildlife Refuge offers kayaking, birdwatching, and hiking, among other activities. Even the thriving downtown entertainment offers more for vets than it did even just a few years ago.
7. Raleigh, North Carolina
“The City of Oaks” has a vast array of schools, public and private, along with nearby Chapel Hill and Durham. It also boasts a world-class technical research park that houses IBM, Cisco, Sony Ericsson, and Lenovo.
6. Plano, Texas
Yes, really. Plano and the greater Dallas area are proud handlers of U.S. military tradition. The (relatively) nearby presence of Sheppard Air Force Base, NAS Fort Worth, and JRB Carswell ensure there will be a great infrastructure for veterans who stick around the area.
5. Tampa, Florida
Tampa was the top bootlegging and rumrunning towns during prohibition. Tampa has been big on the military since Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders staged their visit to Cuba from here. On that note, Tampa is also the only place to visit Cuba in the mainland U.S. Yeah, check out José Marti Park.
4. Fremont, California
Freemont is a young city, an amalgamation of five other cities that came together in 1956. But if you’re going to be in the San Francisco area, Fremont is the furthest south you can still hop on the BART.
3. Seattle, Washington
I’m not sure this one needs an explanation. Seattle is home to Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon, and more. It’s probably more difficult to get a job at that fish market where they throw fish at each other.
2. San Diego, California
The town that brings you Navy SEALs might have just stolen Amazon from Seattle. So they might be up a level on this list next year.
1. Boise, Idaho
Boise being in the top ten might have surprised you, but it didn’t surprise anyone in Boise. The residents enjoy a high quality of life, which includes the Greenbelt – a 25-mile long strip of wildlife habitats and bike paths along the Boise River.
A lot of American troops find something to love about cultures they discover during their service. One World War I veteran left Ohio and discovered the magical history of Medieval Europe amid the fighting and squalor of the trenches. When he returned to the rolling hills next to Ohio’s Little Miami River, he decided to build that magic in his own backyard. Literally.
Complete with sword room.
Just north of Loveland, Ohio sits a structure that has no business standing in the American midwest. Harry D. Andrews began constructing a full-scale replica of the castle where his medical unit was stationed in Southern France. It was built brick-by-brick by Andrews himself on land he acquired from buying yearlong subscriptions to the Cincinnati newspaper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, taking stones from the Little Miami River, and even using bricks formed from milk cartons.
It took him 50 years to complete the project.
Though it has come to be known as Loveland Castle, the building began its life as Chateau Laroche – French for “Rock Castle” – and Andrews was a huge fan of the Medieval Era of European History. As the Castle Museum’s website reads:
[It was built as] “an expression and reminder of the simple strength and rugged grandeur of the mighty men who lived when Knighthood was in flower. It was their knightly zeal for honor, valor and manly purity that lifted mankind out of the moral midnight of the dark ages and started it towards the gray dawn of human hope.”
Loveland Castle via Instagram
Harry D. Andrews was born in 1890 and served as a medic in France during World War I. While “over there,” he contracted spinal meningitis and was declared dead. Except that he was very much alive and in hospital at the actual Chateau La Roche in southwest France. It would take him six months to recover. By the time he was declared alive, the war was over, and his fiancée was married to someone else. So Andrews stayed in Europe and toured the castles. He never much cared for modern war and believed the weapons used by knights in the Medieval Era were much more fair to a fighting man.
That’s when Harry Andrews gave up on women and dedicated his life to recreating the Medieval Era right there in his native Ohio. As he built the castle, he also constructed a year-round hotbed garden, a secret room, and wrote a book about immigration. As a lifelong Boy Scout leader, he donated the castle to his scouts when he died in 1981. Called the “Knights of the Golden Trail,” they guard the castle to this day.
Five years ago, Marine Corps Veteran Frederick Nardei returned to service, but not the military. He became a certified peer support specialist, dedicated to helping fellow Veterans whose futures were as uncertain as his had once been.
Nardei served as a peer specialist for a recent study at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, helping Veterans enrolled in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) manage their mental health and substance misuse challenges. The study was also conducted at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass., where it was led by Dr. Marsha Ellison.
Actively and significantly engaged in their own recovery from mental health issues, VA peer specialists serve as success stories for their fellow Veterans. Their experience using mental health services, combined with their VA training and certification, have made them valuable additions to VA’s mental health offerings.
“My own experiences with homelessness, drug abuse and mental illness had prepared my heart to serve in ways that the Veterans could easily relate to… When I share my recovery story, they say that they are inspired and empowered because they can see that I am the evidence that recovery is possible and achievable,” said Nardei.
The study, led by Pittsburgh VA’s Dr. Matthew Chinman, found that formerly homeless Veteranswho worked extensively with peer specialists had greater improvements in their symptoms than those who did not work with a peer specialist. When asked about their work with a peer specialist, both the Veterans and the other HUD-VASHstaff expressed great satisfaction. Veterans reported being less isolated, more integrated into their community, and more involved in recovery activities as a result of their work with a peer specialist.
Who better to help other Veterans on their recovery journey than someone who has been in their shoes?
“The Veterans who struggled with the shame and stigma of being homelesswere able to overcome those barriers… because I was able to share with them my own experience with being homeless for seven months after my wife left, because of my heroin addiction,” said Nardei, one of an estimated 1,100 Veterans serving as VA peer specialists.
Recover, heal, grow
The peer support program inspires and empowers participants to recover, heal and grow. Nardei believes that there is nothing more powerful than seeing someone accomplish the things that once seemed impossible.
He’s the proof he inspires in others.
To become a VA-trained peer specialist, visit the VA Careers webpage for details.
To learn more about peer specialists and their how they improve Veterans’ lives, download the Peer Support Toolkit.