North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to be making huge concessions before meeting with President Donald Trump or South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Moon said on April 19, 2018, after South Korean diplomats held a series of meetings with Kim and his inner circle, that North Korea essentially wanted nothing in return for ridding itself of nuclear weapons.
According to Moon, North Korea wants “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. While experts usually take that to include a removal of US forces from South Korea, Moon said that was not the case.
“I don’t think denuclearization has different meanings for South and North Korea — the North is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization,” Moon said during a lunch with chief executives of Korean media companies, according to Reuters.
Moon went on to say North Korea wouldn’t be asking the US to do much in return for denuclearization.
“They have not attached any conditions that the US cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea,” Moon said. “All they are talking about is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”
Essentially, according to Moon, all North Korea wants is the US to promise it will not attack it and end the sanctions and other forms of overt pressure.
Why that may be too good to be true
For North Korea, these statements represent an about-face. North Korea has for decades defended its pursuit of nuclear weapons as a means to deter a US invasion.
North Korea has spent decades criticizing the US for its military presence in South Korea, and it routinely complains about military exercises the US holds with South Korea, sometimes launching missiles during the events.
Additionally, North Korea has entered into and exited out of denuclearization and peace talks several times in the past, each time leaving the US frustrated after gaining much-needed cash in the form of sanctions relief. None of the many experts contacted by Business Insider doubt that stalling for sanctions relief may be Kim’s game this time around too.
Consider the messenger
Moon is not an impartial messenger when communicating North Korea’s stance to the world. Moon won office on a progressive platform that promoted talks and engagement with North Korea.
With many Korean families divided by the war and the armistice that technically still has not ended it, Moon also faces pressure to reunite the two Koreas.
(Republic of Korea photo)
Seoul, South Korea’s capital of some 25 million people, also stands to be the hardest-hit city if war struck between the US and North Korea.
Though talks with North Korea have failed before, a few things are different this time. North Korea recently announced the completion of its nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile program, which experts say it can use as a bargaining chip in negotiations. With all tests completed and what North Korea believes is a working missile capable of hitting the US with a nuclear payload, Kim may now be motivated to talk.
Perhaps above all, North Korea has never faced a US president who spoke so candidly, and so often, about bombing it. To an extent unlike that of his predecessors, Trump has made North Korea a top priority and portrayed himself as a leader willing to go to the insane length of nuclear war to disarm it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Super Bowl is known for a lot of things, but giving out free access isn’t one of them. For military members, veterans, and their families, the experience might be a little different. USAA, as a financial institution, isn’t just a major partner of the NFL — they’re integral to the league’s Salute to Service every November, and USAA is determined to give its members a chance to take part.
For those who have never been to the NFL’s biggest game, part of the experience is literally The NFL Experience. For days prior to Super Bowl Sunday, the league puts on a huge, open forum featuring player appearances, giveaways, games, food, and fun, along with a chance to kick a field goal, throw a touchdown pass, run the 40-meter dash (or the entire combine), and even play as an actual player through virtual reality.
Even if you don’t have tickets to the Big Game, the NFL experience is only , half that for USAA members. Best of all, military service members get a little something extra from their experience – all for free.
USAA has its own little corner of the NFL Experience called the Salute to Service Lounge, and it’s open to anyone with a Department of Defense or Veterans Affairs identification card. In this special room, attendees can sit, relax, enjoy free snacks and drinks.
Oh, and they get to listen to current and former NFL players talk about their time on the gridiron, answer any and all questions from their military fans, and even pose for photos, sign autographs, and shake hands — all at no cost. They all just want to do the most for the U.S. Military and its NFL fans, and they show it all year long, not just during Salute to Service Month.
Almost all the players who came to visit USAA’s Salute to Service Lounge also teamed up with USAA and other partners to donate tickets to the big game to a service member or their family.
NFL legend Roger Staubach (left) chats with WATM’s own August Dannehl
The 2019 Salute to Service Lounge saw NFL legend and Naval Academy graduate Roger Staubach come by and spend time with fans. Current Falcons Coach Dan Quinn and Atlanta Falcons Guard Ben Garland stopped by the lounge to talk about highlighting the military community and what it’s like to host a Super Bowl without being part of it.
Quinn and USAA teamed up to get tickets to the big game for the family of Marine Corps Pvt. 1st Class Zachary R. Boland, who died in 2016 during training at Parris Island. Garland, a former player for the Air Force Falcons, was this year’s Salute to Service Winner.
Colorado Air National Guardsman and Atlanta Falcons Guard, Ben Garland.
Also visiting the USAA Salute to Service lounge this year (who also visited USAA’s Super Bowl LII Salute to Service Lounge in Minneapolis in 2018) was the Arizona Cardinals’ future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald. This year, Fitzgerald honored fellow Cardinal Pat Tillman during the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” Campaign, which benefited the Tillman Foundation. He has a very close connection to the military, as he comes from a military family and wanted something to reflect his family’s service as well as Tillman’s.
Kirk Cousins answers some fans’ questions at the USAA Salute to Service Lounge
Other visitors to the lounge were Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, Denver Broncos quarterback Case Keenum, and former Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas.
These NFL players and the many, many others like them are regular faces at USAA’s annual Super Bowl Salute to Service Lounge. They spend all season honoring military members past and present but make it a big point to show their military fans how much they’re appreciated.
Check out Patriot Boot Camp with their next event in San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 16-18, 2018.
The program welcomes 50 veteran and mil-spouse entrepreneurs from around the country—and offers an intense 3 day education, mentoring, and networking experience designed to help their businesses succeed.
Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) was started by Taylor McLemore as a volunteer effort to help veterans and mil-spouses gain access to mentors, educational programming, and a robust community of experts and peers. It was built to help them innovate and build impactful technology businesses.
Charlotte Creech, a veteran spouse, and the CEO of Patriot Boot Camp, discusses the impact of the program for entrepreneurs.
“I am continually impressed by the determination and mission-focus of the entrepreneurs that come through Patriot Boot Camp, as well as the magnitude of the problems they aim to solve.”
Creech adds that most veteran and military spouse founders don’t merely set out to build a business; rather, they work to make the world a better place and it’s inspiring to hear the stories of what motivates them to succeed and to follow their progress along the entrepreneurial journey.
“What makes the program so powerful, is when we combine these talented, mission-driven entrepreneurs with a community of peers and mentors that are dedicated to helping them achieve their business milestones and goals. By the end of the event, we all leave with new insights and new network contacts that will help us advance and overcome the challenges of startup life.”
The core, three-day program is modeled after the popular Techstars accelerator and continues to leverage the Techstars network to empower and advance military/veteran and spouse founders.
Since its first program in 2012, nine Patriot Boot Camp alumni have been accepted into the Techstars accelerator programs, with many others gaining acceptance to prominent accelerators including Y Combinator and Vet-Tech.
Four of PBC’s alumni have appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank television show, and five have had successful exits via acquisition.
Creech adds: “It’s inspiring to see these alumni achieve great business outcomes, but what’s really powerful about the PBC program and network is that our high-performing alumni continue to come back to PBC as mentors and guest speakers to share their lessons learned and coach new entrepreneurs to success.”
The boot camp works as follows:
The Patriot Boot Camp staff facilitate the planning and execution of the program where they organize external guest speakers and mentors to provide the educational content and workshops.
Each PBC program is entirely unique because the speakers vary in each 3 day intensive. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to attend multiple programs to continue learning as the needs of their business change over time.
If you’re interested in learning more or applying for this year’s Patriot Boot Camp, visit http://patriotbootcamp.org.
When people talk about the aircraft carriers of World War II, some names jump out right away. Maybe the USS Enterprise (CV 6), both versions of the USS Yorktown (CV 5 and CV 10), or the USS Hornet (CV 8)?
But one carrier that was present at the start of World War II and survived throughout the war isn’t that well known. Meet America’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier, the USS Ranger (CV 4).
The Ranger, like many pre-war American ship designs, was heavily influenced by the Washington Naval Treaty. This limited aircraft carriers to 27,000 tons per ship, and the United States Navy’s carrier force could have a total displacement of 135,000 tons. The conversion of the under-construction battle cruisers Lexington (then-CC 1) and Saratoga (then-CC 3) to CV 2 and CV 3 put them both at 33,000 tons.
As such, the Ranger was limited to 14,500 tons – and the U.S. wanted to cram as much as it could on this ship. She received eight 5-inch, 25-caliber guns, as well as a host of M2 .50-caliber machine guns. She also could carry around 75 aircraft.
Nine Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters and five Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers are visible on the flight deck of USS Ranger (CV 4) prior to Operation Torch. Note Ranger´s distinctive stacks in the left foreground. (US Navy photo)
When World War II broke out, the USS Ranger was in the Atlantic as part of the Neutrality Patrol, along with the carrier USS Wasp (CV 7). According to the “Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships,” the Ranger was sent to patrol the South Atlantic. After returning for repairs, the Ranger then was tasked with delivering P-40 Warhawks to Africa. She made two runs in the spring and summer of 1942, delivering 140 of those planes – some of which were destined to reinforce the Flying Tigers.
In November of 1942, the Ranger took part in Operation Torch, launching 54 F4F Wildcats and 18 SBD Dauntless dive bombers. Her planes sank or damaged two French warships, and also gave the landings fighter cover.
After Torch, the Ranger was overhauled, then delivered 75 more P-40s — this time for the North African Theater of Operations. She carried out training missions during most of 1943, until she was attached to the Home Fleet.
In October, 1943, the USS Ranger joined the British Home Fleet, and carried out a number of strikes on German naval forces around Norway. After that, she again served as an aircraft ferry, delivering 76 P-38 Lightning fighters to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.
After making that delivery, the Ranger finally went to the Pacific, where she was a training carrier until the end of the war. After the war, the USS Ranger was decommissioned and sold for scrap.
In the fallout from an embarrassing international incident in which two Navy riverine boats strayed into Iranian waters during a transit to Bahrain and were briefly captured, some half-dozen sailors have faced punishments, but one was recognized with a prestigious award for quick actions in the face of danger, Military.com has learned.
A Navy petty officer second class, the only female sailor among the 10 who were detained, received the Navy Commendation Medal on Aug. 3 in recognition of her efforts to summon help under the noses of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard members who captured the crews.
The number two gunner aboard the second riverine boat, she managed to activate an emergency position-indicating radio beacon, used to signal distress at sea, while in a position of surrender and at gunpoint.
A Navy spokesman, Lt. Loren Terry, said the sailor had asked not to be identified and had declined interviews.
Service commendation medals are presented for heroic service or meritorious achievement.
In a recommendation within the riverine command investigation released to reporters at the end of June, investigating officers found the riverine gunner should be recognized for “her extraordinary courage in activating an emergency beacon while kneeling, bound, and guarded at Iranian gunpoint, at risk to her own safety.”
While one of the guards ultimately noticed the beacon and turned it off, help was not far off.
The Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy, which had been monitoring the journey of the riverine boats, notified Task Force 56.7, the parent unit in Bahrain, when the boats appeared to enter Iranian waters.
The investigation found the crews of the Monomoy and the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio should also receive recognition for their efforts to track the captured boat crews and provide assistance for their safe return.
None of the riverine crew members involved in the incident has spoken publicly about the experience. They were returned to U.S. custody following a 15-hour period of detention, during which their captors filmed them and took photographs later used for propaganda purposes by the Iranian media.
Photos indicate the female gunner was made to wear a headscarf while detained.
A military source with knowledge of planning said the Navy’s administrative personnel actions regarding the Jan. 12 riverine incident were nearing completion.
In all, three officers were removed from their posts and four officers were sent to admiral’s mast, with two receiving letters of reprimand for disobeying a superior officer and dereliction of duty, according to a statement this week from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command and first reported by Navy Times.
One of the officers was found not guilty of dereliction of duty, and a fourth officer still awaits completion of “accountability actions.”
Two enlisted sailors received letters of reprimand for dereliction of duty, according to the statement.
After taking the oath of office, Trump remained at the Capitol to sign a number of documents officially nominating his choices for cabinet and ambassador posts and to declare Jan. 20 a “National Day of Patriotism.”
Among the documents was the historic waiver for the 66-year-old Mattis, who led the 2003 invasion of Iraq as commander of the 1st Marine Division, commanded a task force in Afghanistan in 2001, and commanded a battalion in the Persian Gulf war in 1990.
In 1947, Congress passed a law barring members of the military from taking the Defense Secretary’s post until seven years after retirement to preserve civilian control of the military. Mattis retired in 2013.
The only previous exception to the law was the waiver granted to Gen. George C. Marshall, the five-star Army chief of staff in World War II, who became Defense Secretary in 1950.
Earlier this week in separate action, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 26-1 to approve Mattis for a confirmation vote by the full Senate. The only “No” vote in the Committee was from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, who praised Mattis but said she was voting against him on the issue of civilian control.
The full Senate was expected to confirm Mattis, possibly later Friday. If confirmed, Mattis was expected to make his first visit as the 26th Secretary of Defense to the Pentagon to meet with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, who was staying on temporarily at the Pentagon to assist with management issues.
During the campaign, Trump said he would demand a plan from his commanders within 30 days of taking office speed up and ultimately end the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In his inaugural address, Trump said he would “eradicate radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the Earth.”
During his Senate confirmation hearings, Mattis also said he would be reviewing plans to “accelerate” the ISIS campaign but gave no details.
Already, there were signs that the U.S. military was moving more aggressively against ISIS and also the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. On Wednesday, in the last combat mission specifically authorized by President Barack Obama, B-2 Spirit stealth bombers flying out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri struck ISIS camps in Libya.
On Thursday, a B-52 bomber deployed to the region dropped munitions in Syria west of Aleppo against a training camp of the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham group, formerly known as the Al Nusra Front and linked to Al Qaeda.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman said “The removal of this training camp disrupts training operations and discourages hardline Islamist and Syrian opposition groups from joining or cooperating with Al Qaeda on the battlefield.”
Though the distinction between training and exercising might seem unimportant — it isn’t. How you label your physical activity says more about you, your mindset, and your probable rate of success than any PFT score ever could.
I first saw this difference at The Basic School in Quantico. Some of my peers were former college athletes, and a few were training in our off-time for an upcoming marathon. These peers had goals and a plan to achieve them. The rest of us were just doing what I now call “exercising,” random workouts on random days, inconsistently.
I’m on the far left, standing and squinting.
(Photo by Michael Gregory)
The Marines who were actually training were the only ones I knew who could keep a solid schedule and maintain their fitness levels during The Basic School. The rest of us got by on an ever-dwindling fitness reservoir that was nearly empty by the time I finally finished the school.
I finally started applying this training mentality to fitness during the Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Course. The course itself was a constant physical beat-down, but in the few classroom lectures, we were taught how to set up a MCMAP and combat conditioning plan for our units. It was then that I realized I could design a plan to become progressively more difficult as fitness levels increase, the same way a pre-deployment workup gets more complicated as the deployment date nears.
A classic case of the slay fest.
(Photo by Cpl. Brooke C. Woods USMC Recruit Depot San Diego)
How I loathed unit PT…
I used to think I hated PT just because I disliked being told what to do.
I have come to realize I actually hated unit PT because it is exercise and not training.
Most units plan solid workups to prepare each member of the unit to the max extent possible with all the skills and proficiencies needed for when they are actually ‘in country.’ This is training, a clear plan that progressively increases in difficulty and complexity with an end state in mind.
I have rarely seen physical fitness approached in the same logical way in unit PT.
Most units approach PT in one of two ways: as a slay fest or a joke.
A Slay Fest: (n) from the ancient Greek Slayus Festivus, meaning make as many people puke or stroke out as possible in an effort to assert physical dominance and make less-fit service members feel inadequate.
A Joke: just going through the motions and checking the quarterly unit PT requirement box.
Neither one of these has the intention of making better the members of the unit. In fact, slay fests often lead to injuries which have the opposite effect on unit readiness, while potentially initiating a hazing investigation because a junior NCO decided to play drill instructor.
Is this a training session or exercise? …Seriously though, what is this?
In the Marine Corps, I saw what could be accomplished when a proper training plan is followed to the most minute detail. I also saw what type of chaos or indifference towards fitness can result from no plan and/or unchecked egos.
This is why you should be training. The most successful athletes are those that have a plan in place that works them towards a goal. I’m a firm believer that everyone is an athlete no matter what your job or current station in life.
Marines are constantly reminded that it doesn’t matter what your MOS is, you could find yourself in combat and you better be prepared for it. Even though some roll their eyes at the idea of a finance technician lobbing grenades in a firefight, they still have an underlying feeling of pride that this is a potentiality.
Promotion on Iwo Jima. I swore to not waste anyone’s time with exercise on that day.
(Photo by Jeremy Graves)
I carry that with me to this day. Constantly thinking about what I would do if a fight breaks out — or if ‘patient zero’ of the zombie apocalypse strolls into my part of town — doesn’t keep me awake at night in dread. It keeps me awake at night in giddy anticipation because I’m training for that sh*t every. Damn. Day.
Of course, your reason for training doesn’t need to be so heavy, violent, or world-altering. Simply wanting to be able to throw a perfect spiral with your future son is a perfect reason to be training. If you need a more immediate time frame, choose a challenge: sign up for an adventure race, a marathon, an adult sports league, or a powerlifting meet (I just took second in my first meet and got a free t-shirt #winning #tigerblood). Train for the on-season or the event day.
As a member of the military community, it’s in your blood to conduct work-ups. Now it’s your turn to determine where and when that “deployment” is and how you train for it. Exercise is a word for people who throw out their back trying to get the gallon of Arizona Iced Tea off the bottom shelf and into their grocery cart. They need exercise; you need to be training.
The topic of combat-related trauma is finally being addressed in mainstream medicine across the United States. After seventeen consecutive years in overseas conflicts, trauma is both a reality and a devastation for our troops. As the stigma previously attached to mental health challenges fades, we’re finally coming together collectively to help support the men and women who serve in our military.
Luckily, there are many forms of treatment. Throttle therapy happens to be one of them — and a high octane one at that.
“Throttle therapy” is the term for time spent on a motorized bike with the intent to enjoy feelings of euphoria that may exceed the capabilities of prescription or illegal drugs. According to the nonprofit Veteran Motocross Foundation, or VetMX, “Research has shown that physical experiences which are thrilling and physically demanding can re-center human brain chemistry.”
In other words, sports like Motocross can help alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress, especially for veterans.
“It’s not something radical we’ve come up with,” said Dustin Blankenship, an Air Force veteran with a paralyzed left thigh. “There’s proof that riding a motorcycle helps people. It’s almost like you’re in a trance state on a motorcycle. It’s like meditation.”
Blankenship discovered that his injury doesn’t hold him back when he rides.
He’s not the only veteran to experience a transformation when he rides. Then-2nd Lt. Michael Reardon told the Air Force that motocross racing was the ultimate stress reliever and the perfect adrenaline rush — within reason: “[Motocross] is only dangerous if you let it be dangerous. The sport is much safer if you don’t exceed your own limits.”
Brothers Greg Oswald and Eli Tomac, a C-17 pilot and a Supercross champ respectively, know a thing or two about getting in a machine and letting everything else fade away. Check out the video below to hear about how they support each other on the ground, in the air, or on a racetrack:
Navy leads the all-time sprint series with Army West Point in sprint football, 42-35-1 (.545), including a 19-14 (.576) mark in Annapolis. Two of the most dominant teams in sprint football history, Army West Point and Navy have won or shared the sprint football title 71 times, including 29 outright by the Mids and 27 by the Black Knights. The league was split into divisions last season with Army West Point winning the North before defeating Penn in the first CSFL Championship game.
Today, starting at 7:00PM EST, the two archrivals clash once again in Annapolis. Navy’s out to continue their dominant streak while Army West Point is bringing their best to try and even the score. Both Army and Navy are coming into the game with a lot of momentum, fresh off of 45-7 victories over Chestnut Hill and Franklin Pierce, respectively.
Trying to emerge from scandals that shook the agency to its core, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to overhaul what officials admit was sometimes pretty bad customer service.
Quietly, since 2015, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has built a national Veterans Experience Office.
The office’s first steps have been rolling out over 100 community veterans committees nationwide and retraining employees to be less rigid and more customer-focused.
The VA even hired professional writers to redraft the language of 1,200 official letter templates to make them more reader friendly.
“(We) had somehow gotten away from the primary mission of organizing the enterprise through the eyes of the customer,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast.
“(We did) things that made sense to us, made it easy for us as the VA,” White said. “But, in all of that, we lost the voice of the customer.”
The task at hand: How to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.
Some might wonder if — with what’s a famously dense bureaucracy — it can be done. Even new VA Secretary David Shulkin has said it’s a struggle to fire bad apples, including employees who watch porn on the job.
The new Veterans Experience Office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year, “to lead the My VA transformation,” according to a budget document. About 150 jobs now fall under this office’s umbrella.
Two years in, the nation’s veterans organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.
“We’re not sure how much the VEO has improved the VA to date, but we are encouraged by this initiative and hope to see it succeed,” said Joe Plenzler, American Legion spokesman. “Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”
One vocal critic of the VA said the office has potential but not if it tries to just “paper over” structural issues facing the veterans agency.
“Doing things that are more feel-good measures, but actually don’t address some of the core problems of the VA, could distract from what’s needed to be done,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.
“That’s the danger I see, potentially, with this office. But I want to say there’s a lot of opportunity here. If this office is managed well and insists that they are here to improve the outcomes for veterans — and not just ‘the experience’ — they could be successful.”
The “veterans experience” campaign started under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the retired Proctor Gamble chief executive brought in by President Barack Obama in mid-2014 following a national scandal over wait times for VA medical care.
McDonald installed a “chief veterans experience officer” in early 2015.
The office reports directly to the VA secretary — now Shulkin, a doctor and health-care executive who is the first non-veteran to lead the agency.
Whether he will continue the “experience” campaign is an open question.
However, in April he named Lynda Davis, a former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive with experience in personnel and suicide prevention, to head the office. She replaces a former McDonald’s executive, Tom Allin, who held the job for about two years.
Some of the hiring was for “human-centered design” teams. These teams, which include people from Stanford’s prestigious D School, are supposed to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working.
They produced a “journey map” showing what VA patients experience.
It identifies “pain points” along the way, such as cancelled appointments. It also calls out “moments that matter,” such as the check-in process and whether it’s hard or easy to park.
Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and 1 (844) My-VA311.
The VA is now looking for inspiration from national brands famous for good service. Starbucks, Marriott, and Walgreens are on the list.
“We get the experience that we design. Historically, we haven’t put an emphasis as an organization on customer service. There was no program of record that said ‘this how we do customer service,'” White told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
One change the Veterans Experience Office has led: hiring for customer-service skills, instead of just looking for people qualified for a position.
“We weren’t hiring for attitude,” said White, who said her office identified questions to insert in the VA’s interview process to draw out whether an applicant had customer service aptitude.
In a changing health-care industry, this is a bandwagon that the VA is belatedly jumping on.
Other hospital organizations have rebooted their customer experience in the past decade in response to a shift in Medicare reimbursement policy that now rewards for patient satisfaction, experts said. The power of social media is also a factor.
The Cleveland Clinic was the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief experience officer in 2007. Across the country, hospitals have built grand entrances, opened restaurants intended to draw non-patients and put flowers by bedsides.
“My sense of it is that we live in the age of the empowered consumer,” said John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center for health policy.
“VA customers maybe have less choice in the matter, but at the same time, there’s a great deal of sensitivity in the broader population about how we treat these people in the VA system.”
The VA’s new customer service motto — Own the Moment — sounds a bit like a commercial TV jingle.
Training is rolling out across the country, including at the La Jolla VA hospital.
The premise: Each VA employee should “own” their time with a customer, the veteran, and do their best to ensure the person gets the help he or she needs.
That contrasts to the like-it-or-lump-it experience that veterans have sometimes complained about in the past.
“We’re moving away from a rules-based organization to a more of what we call a values, principle-based organization,” said Allan Castellanos, the VA employee teaching the La Jolla seminar.
“I call it more like integrated ethics, like doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said.
The employees were shown a video of VA workers going the extra mile to welcome an uncertain new veteran into a clinic.
In another, VA workers allowed the family of a dying veteran to bring his horse onto hospital grounds.
The VA is trying to emerge from bunker mentality after back-to-back national embarrassments.
First, in 2013, the backlog of disability claims rose to mountainous proportions, bringing down the wrath of Congress and the public.
Then, in 2014, news reports revealed that VA medical workers were keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments to make wait-time data appear satisfactory.
All of this occurred as the VA struggled to handle a flood of new veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
A few of the ideas being pursued by the Veterans Experience Office have origins in San Diego.
Officials acknowledge that what they are calling Community Veterans Experience Boards — the 152 community boards they eventually want to create nationally — came from San Diego’s longstanding example.
San Diego veterans leaders meet monthly with VA officials here in both closed-door and public sessions.
Additionally, the tragic suicide of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Sears appears to have helped spur a campaign to redraft VA correspondence to make it more user friendly.
Sears shot himself at an Oceanside gun range in 2014 after being rejected for VA disability benefits despite the cumulative effects of several combat tours.
Veterans advocates suggested that the VA rejection letter could have offered advice on where to go for counseling and other assistance, instead of just a “no.”
“That was one of the ‘pain points’ that was identified,” White said, referring to the veteran’s “journey mapping” that her office did. “There was a lot of legalese, when in fact we just want it to be simple and clean.”
They started with the Veterans Benefit Administration’s correspondence and are working their way toward the Veterans Health Administration’s appointment cards.
Veterans Experience Office officials first told the Union-Tribune that they could provide examples of the rewritten letter formats, but later said they weren’t ready yet.
The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.
The Veterans Experience Office is now trying to finesse those moments that matter to veterans. In 2017, officials expect to roll out a veterans real-time feedback tool in 10 locations. They also plan to release a patient experience “program of record.”
“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members, and survivors,” White said. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”
The European Command has released dramatic photos of a Ran jet coming within a few feet of a reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea in a maneuver that has been criticized as fe.
The photographs released Friday show the Ran SU-27 coming so close to the wing of the RC-135U that the Ran pilot can be seen in the cockpit in some images.
Intercepts are common and are usually considered routine, but EUCOM said in this case on June 19 “due to the high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft during the intercept, this interaction was determined to be fe.”
Two days later, Sweden summoned Ra’s ambassador after another SU-27 jet flew close to a Swedish Gulfstream reconnaissance plane over the Baltic.
Iranian officials have sharply rebuffed U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer to meet with his Iranian counterpart to discuss ways of improving ties between the two countries, saying such talks would have “no value” and be a “humiliation.”
Trump said on July 30, 2018, he would be willing to meet President Hassan Rohani with “no preconditions,” “anytime,” even as U.S. and Iranian officials have been escalating their rhetoric following Washington’s withdrawal in May 2018 from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on July 31, 2018, that Trump’s offer was at odds with his actions, as Washington has imposed sanctions on Iran and put pressure on other countries to avoid business with the Islamic republic.
“Sanctions and pressures are the exact opposite of dialogue,” ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Fars news agency.
“How can Trump prove to the Iranian nation that his comments of last night reflect a true intention for negotiation and have not been expressed for populist gains?” he added.
Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council of Foreign Relations.
The statement echoed earlier comments from Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council of Foreign Relations, as saying there was “no value in Trump’s proposal” given Iran’s “bad experiences in negotiations with America” and “U.S. officials’ violations of their commitments.”
Fars also quoted Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli as saying the United States “is not trustworthy.”
“How can we trust this country when it withdraws unilaterally from the nuclear deal?” he asked.
The United States has also vowed to reimpose sanctions against Iran that were lifted as part of the nuclear agreement until Tehran changes its regional policies.
“I’d meet with anybody. I believe in meetings,” Trump said at the White House during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Trump added that he believes in “speaking to other people, especially when you’re talking about potentials of war and death and famine and lots of other things.”
Asked whether he would set any preconditions for the meeting, Trump said: “No preconditions, no. If they want to meet, I’ll meet anytime they want,” adding that it would be “good for the country, good for them, good for us, and good for the world.”
Such a meeting would be the first between U.S. and Iranian leaders since before the 1979 revolution that toppled the shah, a U.S. ally.
Hamid Aboutalebi, a senior adviser to Rohani, tweeted on July 31, 2018, that “respecting the Iranian nation’s rights, reducing hostilities, and returning to the nuclear deal” would pave the way for talks.
Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted deputy parliament speaker Ali Motahari as saying that the U.S. pullout from the nuclear accord meant that “negotiation with the Americans would be a humiliation now.”
“If Trump had not withdrawn from the nuclear deal and had not imposed sanctions on Iran, there would be no problem with negotiations with America,” Motahari added.
Iran’s leaders had previously rejected suggestions from Trump that the two countries negotiate a new nuclear deal to replace Iran’s 2015 agreement with six world powers.
“We’re ready to make a real deal, not the deal that was done by the previous administration, which was a disaster,” Trump said in July 2018.
Trump has consistently opposed the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program. His administration argues the agreement was too generous to Iran and that it enabled it to pursue a more assertive regional policy.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered his own interpretation of Trump’s latest comments on Iran, setting out three steps Iran must take before talks take place.
“The president wants to meet with folks to solve problems if the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to making fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their maligned behavior, can agree that it’s worthwhile to enter into a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation,” Pompeo told the CNBC television channel.
Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, insisted that the United States would not be lifting any sanctions or reestablishing diplomatic and commercial relations until “there are tangible, demonstrated, and sustained shifts in Tehran’s policies.”
“The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course,” Marquis said.
In suggesting talks with Iran, Trump has maintained that it would help Tehran cope with what he describes as the “pain” from deepening economic woes as the United States moves to reimpose economic sanctions against Iran.
The looming sanctions, some of which will go into effect within days, have helped trigger a steep fall in the Iranian rial, with the currency plummeting to a new record low of 122,000 to the dollar in black-market trading on July 30, 2018.
The rapid decline in the value of the currency sparked street protests in Tehran in June 2018.
A large association of enlisted National Guardsmen is calling on the Army to end its six-year criminal probe into a now-defunct recruiting bonus program, accusing investigators of inflicting “relentless harassment” on targeted soldiers.
The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command since 2011 has been investigating soldiers who participated in the National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program, or G-RAP. It created a new cadre of recruiting assistants who received up to $2,000 for each recruit they helped sign up to meet a soldier shortfall during two wars.
Army auditors found fraud in the form of recruiting assistants receiving money for people they did not assist and full-time recruiters receiving illegal kickbacks. But the amount of fraud has not come close to the $100 million figure predicted by the Army in 2014.
“We believe those still being investigated are unfairly being targeted and that the result of the investigation has ruined lives, careers, marriages, and credit; indeed, some have opted for suicide to end the relentless harassment,” said the open letter from the 40,000-member Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.
“This harassment must stop now and complete restitution to those innocent Guard members must be made,” proclaimed the letter signed by the group’s 25 officers.
Frank Yoakum, executive director, said he plans to talk directly to top Army officials at the Pentagon next week. He said the enlisted group was trying to facilitate a joint letter with the larger National Guard Association of the United States, but that group never signed on.
“We’ve been kicking around what action to take for almost a year,” said the retired sergeant major.
The Washington Times has published stories on, and spoken with, Guardsmen who have been under investigation for years without a final outcome. Meanwhile, their uncertain status has played havoc with private-sector jobs, military careers and personal lives.
The Times recently published two stories on a Virgin Islands Guardsman, full-time recruiter First Sgt. Trevor Antoine, whose 18-year career is slated to end abruptly based on a CID report. Handed to his commander, the report says he committed theft and identity theft by sharing personal information with recruiting assistants.
There is no proof in the CID report that he received any money from recruiting assistants. The Times reported that the rules sent out by a private contractor changed frequently.
At one time, assistants were urged to acquire ID information from recruiters such as Sgt. Antoine. The Army itself did not forbid the sharing by full-time recruiters it oversees until 2010, when the program was five years old. The Army ended G-RAP in 2012.
The enlisted association letter states, “We, the undersigned, as officers of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, call upon the Congress of the United States and the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army in the strongest possible way to stop the investigation of National Guard members by Army Criminal Investigation Division agents relative to the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP).”
It is unclear how many Guardsmen remain under investigation. The Times reported last year that the Army had identified $6 million in fraudulent payments.
Out of more than 100,000 National Guard and Army recruiting assistants during the G-RAP period, 492 were determined to be guilty or suspected of fraud, though the majority (305) received $15,000 or less each. Of that group, 124 assistants took less than$5,000 each.
The Times has asked the Army to update these figures. A spokeswoman said the Army is working to acquire updated numbers.
Liz Ullman, a business owner in Colorado, became so alarmed at CID’s long nationwide probe, she started a campaign to expose what she considers overreaching.
She started a webpage, Defend Our Protectors, communicated with Guardsmen under investigation and posts court discovery documents.
“Their lives are being turned upside down,” she said. “They are losing their jobs.”