If you’ve had difficulty recovering from combat trauma, Captain Danny Maher, USMC (Ret), and best friend, Sergeant Ryan Loya, USMC have a prescription: camping, karaoke, and going on a 22-mile hike in your underwear.
Really? Let’s back up.
Ryan’s comrade in arms Sgt. Jeremy Sears committed suicide on Oct. 6, 2014 and six months later, Danny’s good friend L.Cpl. Artem Lazukin took his own life on March 29, 2015. Both men suffered from combat PTSD.
The loss of these two brave souls was profound, but in typical military style, Ryan and Danny decided to go to work. The conclusion that they came to: hanging out with guys who have experienced war and having a good belly laugh in the face of adversity is damn fine medicine.
What started as the “Silkies Hike, 22, with 22, for the 22”, a 22-mile hike for vets on July 25, 2015, has become a nationwide community 20,000 strong. The number 22 is significant because it is estimated that 22 vets commit suicide each day in the US.
Sporting official Irreverent Warriors “ranger panties”, these guys go on excursions that take them out into nature (or sometimes right through the city) where they can goof off, bond, and get a little respite from the demands of civilian life.
To get a sense of just how outrageous these guys are, check out this video:
While the event is high-spirited, the goal is a serious one: to let other vets know that they are not alone, that help is available, and that suicide is not the answer. It also helps spread awareness among the civilian population to ensure these brave men and women get the support they need.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD affects 31% of veterans and there is a substantial link between combat injuries, PTSD and suicide.
There are many things you can do if you experience PTSD symptoms, which include:
Reliving the trauma
As one vet put it, “You forget how to have fun.”
The first step in conquering PTSD is knowing that there is no way to think your way out of it. It’s actually your body’s sophisticated method of protecting you, a response known as “fight, flight, or freeze”. It’s got nothing to do with bravery and everything to do with having a fully functioning parasympathetic nervous system.
Though we have made remarkable headway as a nation in understanding the threat of PTSD and its relationship to suicide, often, family members do not grasp the effects combat has on our minds and bodies. What starts off as a legitimate medical condition can spiral out and destabilize the dynamics of our homes.
The Irreverent Warriors are not just a good group of guys willing to help and have fun, they also partner with other military-friendly organizations that supply vets with much-needed services, everything from buying a home to starting a business.
Brotherly love and humor is not the cure-all for PTSD, but it can go a long way in speeding up the healing process and preventing tragedy. If you or a veteran family member is exhibiting symptoms of PTSD, reach out to the big-hearted guys at Irreverent Warriors.
The rivalry between branches can best be described as a sibling rivalry. We’re always making fun of each other whenever we can, calling the Air Force the Chair Force, the Coast Guard a bunch of puddle pirates — the list goes on. One thing that branches can’t seem to figure out, though, is a good, slightly insulting nickname for Marines.
It seems like the other branches tried to find some kind of insult for Marines but, instead, we’ve turned those monikers into sources of pride. We like being called names like Jarhead. It’s kind of cool, really. You’re saying our hair regulations are so disciplined it’s stupid? Maybe it’s your attitude toward discipline that has us always on the delivery side of insults. Think about it.
But one thing that’s sorta caught on and is becoming popular is calling Marines, “Crayon-Eaters.”
Well, here’s why that nickname just won’t hold water:
Snipers know why there’s some truth there…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Krista James)
1. First off, it’s just kind of… weak
Maybe we’re just too dumb to understand the insult here but, quite frankly, it sucks. It’s lame.
If you were to call your friend a “Crayon-Eater” in any other situation, they’d just shrug and say, “okay,” with a condescending tone. It’s no better than a Kindergarten insult. You might as well say, “you poop your pants!” At least then there’s some truth for some Marines.
“You think crayon-eater is funny?!”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Aaron Bolser)
2. It’s ironic
The whole point of the joke is to say that Marines are stupid. Got it. But you know what’s stupid? The joke itself. It’s ironic how dumb the joke is. Instead of making Marines look dumb, you actually just display the inability to create a layered, intelligent insult. “Crayon-eater” is so bland and overplayed that it loses any impact it might have.
We’re not afraid to take shots at each other because it’s all part of the brotherhood.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony Guas)
3. Marines have better insults for each other
The things Marines say to one another on a daily basis are way worse — it’s stuff so bad that we can’t even mention it on this website. They’re things that would make your average civilian’s stomach turn and cause airmen everywhere to puke all over their computer desks.
The worst part is that the joke isn’t even close to being offensive. Of course, some of you may read this and say, “this guy is just offended,” and the answer is no — and that’s the problem. You think something as lame as “crayon-eater” is going to offend a member of a tribe whose trainees are taught to yell, “kill!” during training?
Didn’t think so.
They’re laughing at you, not with you.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)
If you want to keep using the joke, go right ahead. Just remember, when a Marine laughs in your face because your joke isn’t doing what you thought it would — we tried to warn you.
Over the past year, a selected set of Army units have been piloting the new six-test Army Combat Fitness Test as the first phase of replacing the three-test Army Physical Fitness Test.
Used since 1980, the APFT includes the 2-mile run, push-up test, and sit-up test. The ACFT is an almost hour-long series of the six tests described in Table 1: the dead lift, the standing power throw, the hand-release push up, the sprint-drag-and-carry, the leg tuck hold, and the 2-mile run.
The ACFT is designed to better assess soldiers’ abilities to perform common tasks that reflect combat readiness. “It’s much more rigorous, but a better test,” agreed several members of the units testing the ACFT. Some studies are still underway, but transition to the ACFT is imminent:
The ACFT will be conducted by all soldiers Army-wide starting Oct. 1, 2019. Soldiers will also conduct the APFT as the official test of record during a one-year transition until Oct. 1, 2020. While some aspects of standards, training, and administration are being finalized, procedures and techniques are documented in Field Manual (FM) 7-22, Army Physical Readiness Training (PRT), 2012.
Capt. Jerritt Larson, executive officer, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait performs the “maximum deadlift” element of the new US Army Combat Fitness Test.
(Photo by Kevin Fleming, 401st AFSB Public Affairs)
The ACFT and associated training requires soldiers to use several parts of the body not previously addressed by the APFT. This supports a more holistic, balanced approach to Army physical readiness. While ACFT is intended to improve soldiers’ physical performance while reducing injuries long term, as with any new physical activity it comes with new injury risks.
Observations by Army experts suggest certain injuries that may be anticipated. While the Army is sending out ACFT trainers to every unit to help train soldiers, everyone should be aware of potential new problems and how to avoid them.
Why and how were new ACFT tests selected?
Leaders and soldiers alike have long expressed concerns that the APFT doesn’t adequately measure soldiers’ abilities to perform common required tasks important during deployment.
Not all aspects of the APFT are bad, however. Studies have demonstrated that the 2-mile run is an excellent way to test soldiers’ cardiorespiratory endurance, also known as aerobic fitness. Aerobic capacity is linked to performance of more military tasks than any other aspect of fitness.
“Aerobic capacity is the most important measure of a soldier’s fitness,” says Dr. Bruce Jones, a retired Army colonel and medical doctor with the U.S. Army Public Health Center. “And weight-bearing physical activities such as running or marching are inescapable routine military aerobic activities.” Jones also explains that “Poor run times are not only associated with poor performance, they are associated with higher risk of injury.” So the 2-mile run time is a reliable way to monitor both aerobic fitness and injury risk.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test.
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)
The push-up test is also linked to key military tasks, and is a good measure of upper body muscle endurance. However, evidence did not support the value of using the sit-up test to measure military task performance.
An in-depth review of key fitness elements and their association with military tasks found that muscle strength and power are critical to military task performance. Agility and speed are also very important. The APFT does not measure these key fitness elements. The ACFT will now ensure soldiers’ combat readiness determinations include these additional fitness components.
What injury risks are associated with the ACFT?
Historically, the majority of soldiers’ injuries have occurred in the lower body, which includes the knee, lower leg, ankle, and foot and the lower back. Excessive physical training emphasis on distance running and long foot marches have been to blame.
“While lower body injuries may be reduced with more cross-training, they are expected to remain a primary concern,” explained Tyson Grier, an APHC kinesiologist. “Soldiers spend the majority of their time on their feet. Their lower body is constantly absorbing forces from carrying their body weight in addition to other loads.”
The Army updated its training doctrine to the physical readiness training program in 2012 to reduce lower body injuries. The PRT deemphasizes distance running and encourages a mix of training activities to promote strength, agility, balance, and power.
The PRT has been associated with a reduction of injuries in initial entry training. Army operational units have not shown comparable trends in injury reduction, however. Since the APFT has continued to be the test of record these units may not have fully embraced the PRT.
With the implementation of the ACFT, the Army will still monitor soldiers’ aerobic fitness with the 2-mile run, but training time will need to be devoted to a variety of other activities too. The new tests are not risk-free, but the goal is to slowly build up the body’s ability to perform activities than might cause soldiers injuries on the job. While this is to enhance physical performance, Army experts recognize that the training for and conduct of the ACFT could also increase risk of injuries to the upper body such as the back and spine, shoulder, and elbows.
Sgt. Traighe Rouse, 1-87IN, 1BCT10MTN, carries two 40 pound kettle bells during the A 250-Meter Sprint, Drag and Carry event of the new Army Combat Fitness Test.
(U.S. Army photo by SSG James Avery)
Some items used for the ACFT, such as the trap/hex bar for the deadlift, have been specifically selected to reduce injury risk. To avoid injuries caused by excessive weight lifts, the maximum weight for the deadlift was limited to 340 pounds, considered a moderate weight by serious lifter. Procedures are designed to avoid injury. For example, the grader must spot the soldier during leg tuck to reduce falling injury. A required warm up before the ACFT and a specific deadlift warm up period will reduce injuries. Despite these efforts, there will be a learning curve.
“A primary reason for injury resulting from the new test and training activities will be due to improper form and technique,” says Grier. “These are new activities to learn. It is very important that soldiers learn proper technique from the start, and avoid developing bad habits.”
“We also worry that “too much too soon” will cause injuries,” notes Maj. Timothy Benedict., Army physical therapist. “Some soldiers will start this training by lifting too much weight, conducting too many repetitions, or not allowing days of rest between sessions that stress specific muscles.”
While only future surveillance of soldiers’ injuries will be able to identify actual changes to the Army’s injury trends, a review of existing evidence suggests potential injury risks associated with the new tests and associated training. Table 1 highlights key injury concerns.
Some injuries associated with the ACFT will be sudden acute injuries. Acute injuries are usually associated with sudden sharp pain and typically require immediate medical attention. These include strains or tears in arm, shoulder, chest, or back muscles, torn knee ligaments, dislocated shoulders, herniated discs in the back, pinched nerves, or fractured bones (such as from falling during the leg tuck).
While these acute injuries can occur when soldiers are conducting military tasks or other personal activities, specific training activities may raise the risk. For example, studies of both professional and amateur and weightlifters and power lifters have indicated that use of extremely heavy weights during the dead-left is associated with lower back disc herniation and knee injuries. On the other hand, some rehabilitation studies have suggested that using lighter weights during the dead-lift may be useful to strengthen the back and knees.
An acute tear of fatigued muscles and tendons in the chest, arm, or shoulder during bench-pressing of heavy weights, such as a pectoralis major rupture, is another highly studied injury. This injury is almost uniquely associated with the bench press activity — only a couple past military cases were other causes (parachuting and push-up training). Though the bench press is not part of the ACFT, there is concern that soldiers may use this activity to train for the ACFT.
Pfc. Tony Garcia, an infantryman with 2nd platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, pumps out pushups during a ranger physical fitness test.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Ford)
Injuries that develop gradually over time from over training are known as cumulative or overuse injuries. Overuse injuries occur when a repeatedly used set of body tissues haven’t had adequate time to heal and rebuild. “Continuing to stress tissues already injured from improper or excessive use or weight will only make the condition worse,” warns Benedict.
While delayed muscle soreness can be a normal sign that muscles are rebuilding stronger, pain in a joint or bone is not normal. Pain associated with overuse injuries may dull during the activity, but can become more serious if use continues.
Overuse injuries to the lower body are the most common type of soldier injury. Overuse to joints in shoulders, elbows, as well as knees and spinal joints are concerns because of the new ACFT tests. A common shoulder overuse injury is a torn rotator cuff – though it can occur suddenly, tissues have often already been worn from excessive use. Other common overuse injuries include tendonitis, bursitis, and pain syndromes in the knee and the lower back. These injuries may lead to long term chronic or permanent tissue damage.
Why it matters
Though injuries will continue to be experienced by soldiers — most are preventable.
Injury can mean out of commission for some time — and can notably increase your chances of getting injured again. Or develop chronic life-long conditions as you get older.
Injuries critically impact individual, units, and Army performance. Injuries cost the Army billions of dollars annually for medical treatment, rehabilitation and re-training, medical disability, and reduced productivity from restricted duties, and attrition. Training-related musculoskeletal injuries are the leading reason for temporary medical non-deployment status.
What you can do
In order to optimize U.S. military performance, soldiers and Leaders must do their part to train smarter which includes avoiding injury.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So do what you can to avoid getting injured in the first place. Table 2 provides some general guidance. Using proper technique, slowly building up intensity and weight levels to acclimate your body, and allowing rest days between similar activities are the primary keys to minimizing your risk.
To minimize risk follow procedures as taught by Army ACFT trainers. Seek guidance from Army Fitness Centers, doctrine in FM 7-22, a certified trainer, such as a Master Fitness Trainer, and use a buddy system during training to be warned of poor form and for hands on help as a ‘spotter’ to ensure proper balance and range of motion.
And if you are injured? Stop activities at early signs of pain and seek medical advice. Taking a break from activities temporarily to let the tissues heal can minimize the likelihood of a more serious injury. An injured knee can require weeks or months of rehabilitation. A worn rotator cuff tear can mean surgery. Lower back pain can result in a long term health condition.
US military snipers have to be able to make the hard shots, the seemingly impossible shots. They have to be able to push themselves and their weapons.
Staff Sgt. Hunter Bernius, a veteran Marine Corps scout sniper who runs an advanced urban sniper training course, walked INSIDER through his most technically difficult shot — he fired a bullet into a target roughly 2.3 kilometers (1.4 miles) away with a .50 caliber sniper rifle.
The longest confirmed kill shot was taken by a Canadian special forces sniper, who shot an ISIS militant dead at 3,540 meters, or 2.2 miles, in Iraq in 2017. The previous record was held by British sniper Craig Harrison, who shot and killed a Taliban insurgent from 2,475 meters away.
“There are definitely people out there who have done amazing things,” US Army First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper and instructor at the sniper school at Fort Benning, Georgia, told INSIDER. “Anything is possible.”
Weapons Company scout sniper and Lufkin, Texas, native Hunter Bernius takes a shooting position during field training at an undisclosed location.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tommy Huynh)
Snipers are trained to scout the movements of enemy forces often from very exposed positions, and are also used to target enemy leaders and to pin down their forces. These dangerous missions require they become masters of concealment, as well as skilled sharpshooters.
While 2,300 meters may not be a record, it is still a very hard shot to make.
US military snipers typically operate at ranges between 600 and 1,200 meters. At extreme ranges, the Marine is pushing his weapon past its limits. The M107 semi-automatic long range sniper rifles used by the Marine Corps can fire accurately out to only about 2,000 meters.
“Shooting on the ground can be easy, especially when you are shooting 600 meters in or 1,000 meters in. That’s almost second nature,” Bernius explained. “But, when you are extending it to the extremes, beyond the capability of the weapon system, you have all kinds of different things to consider.”
At those longer ranges, a sniper has to rely a lot more on “hard math” than just shooter instinct.
Bernius, a Texas native who has deployed to Iraq and other locations across the Middle East, made his most technically difficult shot as a student in the advanced sniper course, a training program for Marine Corps sharpshooters who have already successfully completed basic sniper training.
“When I came through as a student at the course I am running now, my partner and I were shooting at a target at approximately 2,300 meters,” Bernius explained. “We did in fact hit it, but it took approximately 20-25 minutes of planning, thinking of everything we needed to do with calculations, with the readings.”
Sgt. Hunter G. Bernius shoots at a target placed in the water from a UH-1Y Huey during an aerial sniper exercise.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Chance Haworth)
At that distance, it takes the bullet roughly six to eight seconds to reach the target, which means there is a whole lot of time for any number of external factors to affect where it lands.
“You have all kinds of considerations,” Bernius told INSIDER, explaining that snipers have to think about “the rotation of the earth, which direction you are facing, wind at not just your muzzle but at 2,300 meters, at 1,000 meters, you name it.”
Direction and rotation of the earth are considerations that most people might not realize come into play.
Which direction the sniper is facing can affect the way the sun hits the scope, possibly distorting the image inside the scope and throwing off the shot. It also determines how the rotation of the planet affects the bullet, which may hit higher or lower depending on the sniper’s position.
“This is only for extreme long range, shots over 2,000 meters,” Bernius explained.
Other possible considerations include the temperature, the humidity, the time of day, whether or not the sniper is shooting over a body of water (it can create a mirage), the shape of the bullet, and spin drift of the round.
“We ended up hitting it,” Bernius said. “That, to me, was probably the most technically difficult shot.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Within the United States Army, each unit will routinely hold competitions to determine which soldier is the best at their given role. There’s a competition for best warrior, best Ranger, best medic, best cook, soldier of the month, NCO of the quarter — you name it. The list goes on to include nearly every MOS, ranked each month, quarter, and year.
But when it comes time for the first sergeant to get the names of those who will nobly represent the company, you’ll hear nothing but crickets from the joes that are busy waiting until close-of-business formation. It’s like pulling teeth each and every time. In fact, you’d hear less groaning and complaining if you voluntold them to go fill sandbags with spoons.
Yes, you’ll have to put in some effort, but even if you rank somewhere around 10th place, getting in on these competitions is a more rewarding experience than nearly anything else you’d otherwise be doing. Here’s why:
One of the most important steps in getting promoted is getting your name out there in a positive light. That doesn’t mean you need to be Captain America, but any (positive) means of getting your chain of command to know your name, face, and think higher of you than the dirtbags in formation is a good thing.
Your squad leader should obviously know who you are and everything about you — they write your monthly counseling statements after all. Your platoon sergeant should know a bit about you, your first sergeant should probably know whether you’re a dirtbag or not, and your battalion sergeant major probably only knows that you exist.
Go any higher than that, and they’ve got way too many troops to keep track of.
When you arrive at a Best Soldier competition, you’re always escorted by your immediate chain of command. If you happen to be the only joe brave enough to try, that means you’ll be walking in with just your squad leader, platoon sergeant, and first sergeant — all ready to cheer you on.
Here’s a fact for you: Once you’ve reached a certain rank on the enlisted side, you’ll have to stomach the fact that your personal glory days are behind you. Your entire career, from that point forward, depends on your men and how well you lead them. When you’re out there at a Best Soldier competition, the NCOs aren’t just cheering you on — they’re out there collecting bragging rights. “See that dude? That’s my guy!”
For obvious reasons, if you come out of that challenge with a shiny gold medal or trophy, you’re going to become the giant middle finger your NCOs will raise at their peers. Their pride in you will open whatever doors you wanted opened in your career. You want to go to airborne school? Win Soldier of the Year and your first sergeant will fight for you when that slot comes down from battalion. Want to get promoted? Your first sergeant probably won’t even ask you any questions at the board. They’ll nod to their fellow first sergeants and sergeant major and say, “that soldier’s good. That’s my guy.”
A glowing recommendation like that could mean no other questions will be asked and you get your (P) status with a snap of the fingers.
It is a competition though, and it’s far from guaranteed that you’ll win — or even medal. While your platoon sergeant may knifehand your ass and threaten you with a 24-mile ruck march for getting “the first place loser” (better known as “second place”), that’s just incentive to push you. Try your hardest and you’ll be okay.
I really don’t want to sound like a corny, motivational 80s sports flick, but it really doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It only matters that you gave it your all. Your chain of command will respect you far more for coming in a hard-fought second place than if you shriveled out of the competition to begin with. Hell, come in last place — as long as they know you honestly give it everything you had, everything will be fine in the end.
Your chain of command now knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that you will push yourself to the limit when needed — and that’s truly the greatest thing a leader could ask of their troops.
Chinese hackers have reportedly targeted South Korean businesses and that country’s government over the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense System, also known as THAAD. The cyberattacks are apparently in response to the deployment of a THAAD battery to South Korea.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the American cyber-security firm FireEye claims that a series of attacks on South Korean business and government computer networks may be related to the deployment of the ballistic-missile defense system. The groups responsible for the attack, APT10 and Tonto Team, are believed to be tied to the Peoples Liberation Army.
The attacks are also being carried out by so-called “patriotic hackers” like the Panda Intelligence Bureau and the Denounce Lotte Group. The latter hacking ring is targeting a South Korean conglomerate that has permitted the deployment of THAAD on some land it owned. Lotte Group was subjected to a denial-of-service attack on an online duty-free store after the approval was announced in March 2017. South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also targeted by a DOS attack at that time.
China has long opposed the deployment of THAAD to South Korea, claiming such a deployment would undermine China’s ballistic missile capabilities. China has a large number of ballistic missiles in its inventory, many of which are medium or intermediate-range systems.
According to a March 1, 2017, report by RT, Russia and China agreed to work together to strengthen opposition to the BMD system’s deployment. The Chinese government’s official response to the South Korean hosting of THAAD included halting a real-estate deal and barring some South Korean celebrities from entering the country.
The THAAD battery, consisting of six launchers that each hold eight missiles along with assorted support vehicles, was deployed to South Korea to counter the threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missiles. According to Army-Technology.com, the system has a range of at least 200 kilometers (124 miles), and is able to hit targets almost 500,000 feet above ground level (ArmyRecognition.com credits THAAD with a range of 1,000 kilometers – equivalent to over 600 miles).
Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs chose a contractor to run its Choice Card program who was previously fired for allegedly defrauding the government after working on a similar contract with the Department of Defense.
The contractor, TriWest, now takes so long to schedule appointments with private healthcare providers that many veterans could shorten wait times by opting for traditional VA care, whose delays Choice was intended to allow veterans to escape.
Choice Card links vets with private doctors, but VA seemingly tried to sabotage the program, fearing it jeopardizes its budget.
TriWest contracts to administer parts of Tricare, the active military’s healthcare system, since 1996. TriWest paid $10 million in September, 2011, to settle charges that it defrauded the government by negotiating low prices with doctors but not passing the resulting savings on to taxpayers.
“Those who overbill Tricare threaten to undermine the health care provided to our men and women in uniform,” Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, said of the legal settlement at the time.
But the standards seem to be lower for care owed to those who formerly wore the uniform of the U.S. military, because VA gave TriWest a contract in September, 2013, to run its Community Care program, a precursor to Choice Card that allowed veterans to use private doctors in some circumstances.
Inspector general reports said that program was run poorly, pointing the blame both at TriWest and the way VA set up their work. Meanwhile, Congress created the Choice Card program to enable any veteran delayed more than 30 days for VA care, or who didn’t live close to a VA facility, to seek private health care services.
VA managers and leaders of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union, which represents most of the department’s employees opposed it, fearing that fewer veterans in the government system would mean smaller budgets and fewer civil service jobs.
When VA leaders claimed budget shortfalls threatened closure of hospitals, they asked Congress to let them re-purpose $3.3 billion originally authorized for the Choice Card program.
When the bill became law anyway, VA gave the Choice Card contract to TriWest and HealthNet, another company that worked on Community Care.
A VA spokesperson said that “in order to enact [Choice] within 90 days, VA held an industry day to try to partner with industry to operate the program. Unfortunately, given the timeline set to roll out the program, VA’s only option was to modify a previously existing national community care contract, which was never intended to handle the scope” of the Choice Card model.
Official data obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation shows that more vets are now waiting months for private care because contractors take so long to schedule appointments.
Consequently, VA bureaucrats and their union will likely get the result they sought: veterans going back into the government healthcare system despite its delays.
Private care doctors aren’t happy with the Choice Card initiative either, because the companies, which also manage payments, have been so slow to pay, causing many private care physicians to refuse veterans, leading to the same result.
A knowledgeable VA source told TheDCNF that after a patient does finally see a private doctor, TriWest takes up to 75 days to get the medical results of that appointment back into the VA system. That makes followup care impossible.
Darin Selnick, an Air Force veteran and former VA official under George W. Bush who now runs Concerned Veterans For America’s Fixing Veterans Health Care Taskforce, said that “TriWest and HealthNet may not have been the best choices,” but much of the failure is because VA “didn’t want it to work.”
Officials at VA “didn’t like the idea of patients going outside,” because “what does any organization want to do? It wants to get more money, more people, more power, it wants to grow,” Selnick added.
Scheduling delays happen because the system has a middleman, Selnick said. What other health care plan has “a system where you have to call a 1-800 number and they set up an appointment for you” with a provider that they select?,” he asked.
Half of all veterans are on Medicare anyway, so the VA should simply pay a small supplement to Medicare providers, instead of creating multiple administrative layers of VA bureaucrats and contractors in between veterans and healthcare workers, Selnick noted, which would purportedly save billions of tax dollars annually.
Those close to the issue believe “the chief problem with Choice is that we’ve had to rely on VA to implement it, and the department is just not very good at implementing things,” a spokesman for the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, which designed the Choice Card program, told TheDCNF
The committee never requested a third-party administrator to schedule appointments, the spokesman noted.
Companies involved in the Choice program defend their record. “Overall, TriWest is processing 90% of clean claims from providers within 30 days,” the company explained, adding that it got “exceptional” and “very good” performance ratings for its Tricare work, and saved the military money, but voluntarily entered a settlement on the assumption that more savings were possible.
Hiring people with prior records of failure is a pattern at VA. When hospital directors come under criticism for poor management, VA executives routinely remove them, then reinstate them at another hospital where the poor performance continues.
Only weeks after the Chicago VA fired Deloris Judd from the federal workforce for patient abuse and dishonesty, the Phoenix VA hired her to work on the Choice Card program.
You may have noticed a select few Marines and sailors walking around in their uniforms with a green rope wrapped around their left arm — it’s not just for decoration.
That green rope is called a “French Fourragere,” and it was awarded to the members of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments for their heroic actions during the Battle of Belleau Wood from the French government in WWI.
This rite of passage extends to Marines who serve in those respected units today to commemorate their brothers in that historic battle.
The Fourragere is authorized on all service uniforms, and dress coats or jackets where medals or ribbons are prescribed.
During the bloody summer months of 1918, the Marines and the Germans fiercely fought one another just northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road. For weeks, German Gen. Erich Ludendorff had his troops attack U.S. forces with artillery, machine guns, and deadly gas.
Although the Marines sustained thousands of casualties during the skirmish, the infantrymen charged their opposition through the wooded area with fixed bayonets.
It’s reported the French urged the Marines to turn back, but the grunts proceeded onward frequently engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.
By June 26, 1918, the war-hardened Marines confirmed that they secured the woods from German forces and took many prisoners.
And the French Fourragere reminds Leathernecks in this storied units of their World War I bravery.
“It is with our deepest sympathy that we tell you both service members on board the air craft are deceased, our thoughts and prayers are with their family,” CW5 Glen Webb of the Texas Army National Guard said in a statement.
The AH-64 Apache is the Army’s helicopter gunship. According to a fact sheet released by the United States Army, it entered service in 1984, and can carry AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, 70mm Hydra rockets, and is also armed with a M230 cannon holding 1,200 rounds of ammunition. The Army plans to manufacture 690 Apaches for service.
Apache crashes are not unheard of, with ArmyAirCrews.com listing 43 incidents involving 73 fatalities over the last 36 years, to include one during a test flight. The list includes seven combat losses due to enemy fire (six during Operation Iraqi Freedom, one during Operation Enduring Freedom).
The cause of the crash is under investigation, but KHOU.com reported that bystanders were taking photos of parts from the stricken attack helicopter that were lying near the crash site off the Bayport Cruise Terminal.
About 60,000 US soldiers will have their monthly Basic Allowance for Housing payments revoked if they don’t update their personnel files with documents proving they qualify for the benefit.
The mandate to update the documents, first reported Aug. 30 by the site US Army WTF Moments, will be released in an official message “soon,” Army officials said.
That message will direct soldiers to update their documentation in the interactive Personnel Electronic Records Management System, service officials told Military.com on Aug. 31.
“An ALARACT addressing the required documentation that should be loaded into iPERMS for BAH and the timeline for required actions is being drafted,” Army Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, an Army manpower and reserve affairs spokesman, said in an email to Military.com.
“Currently, we have around 60,000 soldiers who are missing documentation in iPERMS,” he added.
Whether a service member qualifies for BAH is based on paygrade and if he or she has dependents.
For those who qualify to live outside the barracks, the allowance amount is based on paygrade, dependents, and duty station zip code.
Dual military couples are both given a BAH payment at the “without dependents rate,” unless they have children. In that case, one of the members receives the “with dependents rate,” while the other does not.
Documents that show eligibility and should be in iPERMS can include birth, adoption, and marriage certificates.
Soldiers will be given 60 days from the release of the ALARACT message to upload their missing documentation, Taylor said.
After the 60 days, their with-dependents rate BAH payments will be reduced or, in the case of soldiers who do not otherwise qualify for BAH, eliminated.
They will be notified of the need to update by both email and by their unit, he said.
If soldiers still have not updated their documents within 90 days of the initial deadline, they will be referred to the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) under suspicion of BAH fraud, USAWTFM reported.
Taylor, whose initial response didn’t mention such a referral, said the iPERMS document requirement has been in place since 2013.
“Since 2013, there has been a Secretary of the Army directive mandating that key supporting documents are to be stored in the interactive Personnel Electronic Records Management System (iPERMS),” he said in the email.
“Loading KSD in iPERMS allows the Army to improve on its business processes and ensure all Soldiers are receiving the correct payments for their entitlements to include BAH,” he wrote.
The Pentagon is preparing for its first-ever full financial audit, which is to begin this fall. White House officials hope to have the audit completed by mid-2019.
Meanwhile, BAH payments and rates remain a point of contention on Capitol Hill as some lawmakers look to find cost savings by changing who can qualify for the higher with-dependents rates.
Lawmakers ultimately scrapped a 2016 proposal that would have severely limited the amount of housing allowance available to dual-military married couples and service members sharing off-base housing with other troops.
A proposal in the 2018 authorization bill, which is still under negotiation between the House and Senate, would focus reductions only on dual-military couples, bumping both members down to a “without dependent” housing rate regardless of whether the couple has children.
The Navy wants a drone tanker that can launch from ships. And Boeing Co. has thrown its hat in the ring with a futuristic design.
On Dec. 19, Boeing offered a public peek at its design for what the Navy is calling the MQ-25 Stingray: an unmanned aircraft system that can offer in-air refueling to the service’s fighters, including the F-35C.
General Atomics revealed concept art of its proposal for the MQ-25 earlier this year, publishing photos of an aircraft with wide wings, almost fighter-like in silhouette. The prototype aircraft Boeing revealed today has a domed top and thicker body.
In all, four companies were expected to compete for the MQ-25 contract, including Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. However, Northrop, expected to compete with its X-47B blended-wing-body UAS, dropped out of consideration in October.
To date, Lockheed has only published teaser images of what its unmanned tanker prototype would look like.
“Boeing has been delivering carrier aircraft to the Navy for almost 90 years,” Don ‘BD’ Gaddis, the head of the refueling system program for Boeing’s Phantom Works, said in a statement. “Our expertise gives us confidence in our approach. We will be ready for flight testing when the engineering and manufacturing development contract is awarded.”
According to the Boeing’s announcement, the prototype aircraft is now completing engine runs and had yet to take its first flight. Deck handling demonstrations are set to begin in early 2018.
The Navy’s unmanned tanker program had been renamed and re-envisioned multiple times as officials juggle requirements and capabilities. The program was formerly called CBARS, Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System, before being renamed the MQ-25.
According to Naval Air Systems Command, the MQ-25 will not only deliver “robust organic” refueling capability, but will also interface with existing ship and land-based systems, including those providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
The competing companies have until Jan. 3 to get their full proposals in; Boeing expects to pick a design in the second quarter of 2018.