Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

Wait times at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics have gone down significantly from recent years and are now shorter on average than those in private-sector health care, at least in big cities, according to a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Critics of the study pointed out that main contributors to the JAMA report were current and former VA executives, including Dr. David Shulkin, who was fired as VA secretary in 2018 by President Donald Trump.


In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the JAMA report published Jan. 18, 2019, showed that the VA “has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care” since 2014, when wait-times scandals and doctored records led to the resignation of former VA Secretary and retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki.

“This study affirms that VA has made notable progress in improving access in primary care, and other key specialty care areas,” Wilkie said.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The cross-sectional JAMA study of wait-time data from VA facilities and private-sector hospitals focused on primary care, dermatology, cardiology and orthopedics in 15 major metropolitan areas.

The findings were that “there was no statistically significant difference between private sector and VA mean wait times in 2014” and, in 2017, “mean wait times were statistically significantly shorter for the VA,” the JAMA report said.

“In 2014 the average wait time in VA hospitals was 22.5 days, compared with 18.7 in the private sector,” the study said, but in 2017, “mean wait time at VA hospitals had gone down to 17.7 days, while rising to 29.8 for private practitioners.”

The study, titled “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” relied on wait-time data provided by the VA and calculated private-sector data from a survey conducted by a physicians’ search firm, Merritt Hawkins, using the so-called “secret shopper” method in nearly 2,000 medical offices in metropolitan areas.

“For the secret shoppers method, the research associates at MH [Merritt Hawkins] called physicians’ offices asking to be told the first available time for a new-patient appointment,” the JAMA study said.

“This earliest availability was recorded as the wait time. However, the VA data record scheduled wait times, which may not reflect the earliest available appointment,” the study said.

The JAMA report also noted that rural areas and follow-on care were excluded from the analysis and said that “follow-up studies are critical to analyze access to the entirety of VA health care,” since nearly one-quarter of veterans live in rural areas.

The overall conclusion of the report was that “access to care within VA facilities appears to have improved between 2014 and 2017 and appears to have surpassed access in the private sector for 3 of the 4 specialties evaluated,” with the exception of orthopedics.

In 2014, the VA was rocked by wait-time scandals and allegations of manipulated data at the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona. “This incident damaged the VA’s credibility and created a public perception regarding the VA health care system’s inability to see patients in a timely manner,” the JAMA report said.

The VA has since worked to improve access and reduce wait times.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

“There is evidence suggesting that these efforts have improved access to care, including reports that 22% of VA patients are now seen on the same day as the requested appointment,” the report said. However, “Despite, these efforts, the adequacy of access to VA care remains unclear.”

As a result of the 2014 scandals, the VA initiated the Choice program to expand private-care options for veterans. Last year, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the VA Mission Act to consolidate and streamline the Choice program, which has been riddled with inefficiencies.

In June 2018, the Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that many veterans who opted for the Choice program to avoid wait times still faced delays that could stretch for months before seeing a doctor.

In response to the JAMA report, a posting on the Disabled American Veterans website came under the heading: “Veterans Affairs Spins ‘JAMA Study’ It Authored On VA Wait Times.”

In addition to Shulkin, the posting noted that another contributor to the JAMA study was Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the former acting head of the Veterans Health Administration. She was replaced in July by Dr. Richard Stone as acting head of the VHA and has now taken the position at the VA of deputy under secretary for discovery, education and affiliate networks.

Stone, the former deputy surgeon general of the Army, has yet to receive Senate confirmation. The VHA has not had a permanent head since Shulkin left the position in January 2017 to become VA secretary.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 regulations from von Steuben’s ‘Blue Book’ that troops still follow

The winter of 1777 was disastrous. The British had successfully retaken many key locations in the 13 colonies and General Washington’s men were left out in the cold of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Morale was at an all-time low and conditions were so poor, in fact, that many troops reportedly had to eat their boots just to stay alive. No aid was expected to arrive for the Americans but the British reinforcements had landed. It’s no exaggeration to say that, in that moment, one cold breeze could have blown out the flames of revolution.

Then, in February, 1778, a Prussian nobleman by the name of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben arrived. He set aside his lavish lifestyle to stand next to his good friend, George Washington, and transform a ragtag group of farmers and hunters into the world’s premier fighting force.


With his guidance, the troops kept the gears turning. He taught them administrative techniques, like proper bookkeeping and how to maintain hygiene standards. But his lessons went far beyond logistics: von Steuben also taught the troops the proper technique for bayonet charges and how to swear in seven different languages. He was, in essence, the U.S. Army’s first drill sergeant.

The troops came out of Valley Forge far stronger and more prepared for war. Their victory at Stony Point, NY was credited almost entirely to von Steuben’s techniques. He then transcribed his teachings into a book, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, better known as, simply, the “Blue Book.” It became the Army’s first set of regulations — and many of the guidelines therein are still upheld today.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

Given the hours you spend prepping your dress blues, there’s no way in hell you’d bring it to a desert — or do anything other than stand there for inspection.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Schroeder)

Different uniforms for officer, NCOs, and troops

This was the very first regulation established by the ‘Blue Book.’ In the early days of the revolution, there was no real way to tell who outranked who at a glance. All uniforms were pieced together by volunteer patriots, so there was no way to immediately tell who was an officer, a non-commissioned officer, or solider. von Steuben’s regulations called for uniforms that were clear indicators of rank.

Troops today still follow this regulation to a T when it comes to the dress uniform — albeit without the swords.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

The rifle twirling is, however, entirely a recent officer thing.

(Department of Defense photo by Terrence Bell)

Marching orders

If there was one lasting mark left on the Army by von Steuben, it was the importance of drill and ceremony. Much of the Blue Book is dedicated to instructing soldiers on proper marching techniques, the proper steps that you should take, and how to present your arms to your chain of command.

Despite the protests of nearly every lower enlisted, the Army has spent days upon days practicing on the parade field since its inception — and will continue to do so well into the future.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

If you thought troops back then could get by without hospital corners on their bed, think again!

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Susan Krawczyk)

Cleanliness standards

One of the most important things von Steuben did while in Valley Forge was teach everyone a few extremely simple ways to prevent troops from dying very preventable, outside-of-combat deaths. A rule as simple as, “don’t dig your open-air latrine right next to where the cooks prepare meals” (p. 46) was mind-blowing to soldiers back then.

But the lessons run deeper than that. Even police calls and how to properly care for your bedding (p. 45) are directly mentioned in the book.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

While there arestillpunishments in place for negligencetoday, the armorer would be paying far more than for a lost rifle.

(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa)

Accountability of arms and ammo

No one likes doing paperwork in the military (or anywhere else) but it has to be done. Back then, simple accounting was paramount. As you can imagine, it was good for the chain of command to actually know how many rifles and rounds of ammunition each platoon had at their disposal.

While the book mostly focuses on how to do things, this is one of the few instances in which he specifically states that the quartermaster should be punished for not doing their job (p. 62). According to the Blue Book, punishments include confinement and forfeiture of pay and allowances until whatever is lost is recouped.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

Once given medical attention, a troop would be giving off-time until they’re better — just like today.

(U.S. Army photo by Robert Shields)

Sending troops to sick call

The most humane thing a leader can do is allow their troops to be nursed back to full health when they’re not at fighting strength. The logic here is pretty sound. If your troops aren’t dying, they’ll fight harder. If they fight harder, America wins. So, it’s your job, as a leader, to make sure your troops aren’t dying.

According to the Blue Book, NCOs should always check in on their sick and wounded and give a report to the commander. This is why, today, squad leaders report to the first sergeant during morning role call, giving them an idea of anyone who needs to get sent to sick call.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

“No one is more professional than I” still has a better ring to it, though.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Maria Mengrone)

NCOs should lead from the front

“It being on the non-commissioned officer that the discipline and order of a company in a great measure depend, they cannot be too circumspect in their behavior towards the men, by treating them with mildness, and at the same time, obliging everyone to do his duty.” (p. 77)

This was von Steuben’s way of saying that the NCOs really are the backbone of the Army.

According to von Steuben, NCOs “should teach the soldiers of their squad” (p. 78). They must know everything about what it means to be a soldier and motivate others while setting a proper, perfect example. They must care for the soldiers while still completing the duties of a soldier. They must be the lookout while constantly looking in. Today, these are the qualities exhibited by the best NCOs.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

They probably didn’t think we’d have radios back then…

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Duval)

The soldier’s general orders

Today, each soldier of the Army has their general orders when it comes to guard/sentinel duty. von Steuben’s rules run are almost exactly the same:

  1. Guard everything within the limits of your post and only quit your post when properly relieved? Check.
  2. Obey your special orders and perform your duties in a military manner? Check.
  3. Report all violations of your special orders, emergencies, and anything not covered in your instructions to the commander of the relief? Kinda check… the Blue Book just says to sound an alarm, but you get the gist.
Articles

Female sailor recognized for bravery during Iranian detention incident

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.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics
Picture released by Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Jan. 13, 2016.

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.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in June the Navy plans to implement better predeployment training and training on rules of engagement for sailors, as well as enhanced equipment checks and unit oversight.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US artillery strikes back new offensive in Syria

U.S. and coalition forces have increased airstrikes and artillery fire against Islamic State fighters in support of Operation Roundup, a new offensive aimed at defeating the terrorist group in eastern Syria.

Syrian Democratic Forces have resumed offensive ground operations against the remaining concentrations of terrorist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on the eastern side of the Euphrates River, British Army Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney, deputy commander of strategy and support for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters at the Pentagon on May 8, 2018.


In the first phase of the operation, the SDF is securing the southeast portion of the Syrian-Iraqi border, “eliminating ISIS resistance and establishing defensive positions” in coordination with the Iraqi Security Forces, operating on Iraq’s side of the border, Gedney said.

Since May 1, 2018, U.S. and coalition forces have carried out 40 strikes against ISIS targets, he said.

“Coalition forces are supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces maneuver by conducting air, artillery and mortar strikes against ISIS targets,” Gedney said, describing how the increase in strikes have destroyed “eight ISIS-held buildings, six logistical assets, two explosive factories and two weapons caches.”

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

Gedney said it is difficult to estimate how many ISIS fighters hold ground in eastern Syria, but said it is “too many.” He also could not estimate how long Operation Roundup would take to complete.

“It is absolutely clear that those final areas are going to be a difficult fight,” he said, adding that “we are going to continue our aggressive pace of operations in our own strikes” until the areas are cleared.

There are signs that the new offensive is already having a “devastating effect on ISIS,” Gedney said.

“Observations from eastern Syria suggest that morale among ISIS fighters is sinking,” he said. “Frictions are mounting between native and foreign-born ISIS fighters as ISIS’ privileged leadership continues to flee the area, leaving fighters with dwindling resources and low morale.”

Despite the progress that has been made east of the Euphrates, coalition officials are concerned that ISIS fighters seem to have more freedom of movement on the western side of the river, which is under the control of pro-Syrian regime forces, Gedney said.

“We remained concerned about ISIS’ freedom west of the river Euphrates; it seems they have some freedom of action still because they have not been properly defeated by the pro-regime forces,” he said.

Gedney stressed, however, that the “coalition will relentlessly pursue ISIS, wherever they are, until they are defeated.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army says Strykers can be hacked

The US Army’s upgunned Strykers were developed to counter Russian aggression in Europe, but while these upgraded armored vehicles bring greater firepower to the battlefield, they suffer from a critical weakness that could be deadly in a fight.

The improved Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle – Dragoons deployed with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Europe have the ability to take on a variety of threats, but there’s one in particular that the powerful new 30mm automatic cannons can’t eliminate.


Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

The new Strykers’ vulnerability to cyberattacks could be a serious issue against top adversaries.

(Photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)

“Adversaries demonstrated the ability to degrade select capabilities of the ICV-D when operating in a contested cyber environment,” the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Test and Evaluation (DOTE) said in a January 2019 report, according to The War Zone.

Simply put, the vehicles can be hacked.

It’s unclear who has been doing the hacking because “adversaries” is an ambiguous term. The adversaries could be simulated enemy forces in training exercises or an actual adversarial power such as Russia. The new Stryker units are in service in Germany, where they were deployed in late 2017, according to Army Times.

The military typically uses “opposing force” or “aggressors” to refer to mock opponents in training exercises. The use of the word “adversaries” in the recent report could indicate that the Army’s Strykers were the target of an actual cyberattack.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

The development of the new Strykers began in 2015.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. John Onuoha)

It’s also unclear which systems were affected, but The War Zone said that it appears the most appealing targets would be the vehicle’s data-sharing, navigation, or digital-communications systems because a cyberattack on these systems could hamper and slow US actions on the battlefield, threatening US forces.

These “exploited vulnerabilities,” the recent report said, “pre-date the integration of the lethality upgrades,” such as the replacement of the M2 .50 caliber machine guns with the 30mm cannon, among other upgrades. This means that other Stryker variants may have the same fatal flaw as the upgunned versions, the development of which began in 2015 in direct response to Russian aggression.

US forces have come face to face with Russian electronic-warfare threats before.

“Right now, in Syria, we are operating in the most aggressive EW environment on the planet from our adversaries,” Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of US Special Operations Command, said April 2018.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

(Photo by Sgt. Timothy Hamlin)

He said these activities were disabling US aircraft. “They are testing us everyday, knocking our communications down, disabling our EC-130s, etc.”

NATO allies and partner countries have also encountered GPS jamming and other relevant attacks that have been attributed to Russia.

The recent DOTE report recommended the Army “correct or mitigate cyber vulnerabilities,” as well as “mitigate system design vulnerabilities to threats as identified in the classified report.”

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

Articles

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

The final resting place of presidents, bandleaders, war heroes, astronauts, inventors, civil rights leaders, Pulitzer Prize winners, boxers, Supreme Court justices and sports stars, Arlington National Cemetery stands as a memorial to the melting pot of the United States. With connections to some of our nation’s most influential people and pivotal events, its history is as interesting as its denizens.


Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics
A serene image of Arlington National Cemetery in the spring. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ingfbruno)

Arlington is situated on 624 acres overlooking the Potomac River directly across from Washington, D. C. Although today it is surrounded by the nation’s capital, at one time, Arlington was a bucolic estate with a neoclassical mansion, Arlington House. Still presiding over the grounds today, the mansion was built by George Washington’s (yes, that Washington) grandson and marks the beginning of the cemetery’s history.

Before she married George, Martha was married to Daniel Parke Custis. After he died and she wed the “Father” of our Country, George adopted her two surviving children. The oldest, John Parke Custis (JPC), died in 1781 while serving with the Revolutionary Army. He left behind four children, the youngest of which, George Washington Parke Custis (GWPC), was born only shortly before his father’s death.

Related: These ladies attend every funeral at Arlington so no one is buried alone

GWPC and one sister went to live with the Washington’s. When he became of age in 1802, GWPC inherited wealth and property from his deceased father (JPC), including the Arlington land. Hoping to build a home that could also serve as a memorial to his grandfather, George Washington, GWPC hired an architect and built a Greek revival mansion believed by some to be “modeled after the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens.”

The home was built in pieces, with the north wing being completed in 1802, and the south in 1804. These two stood as separate buildings until the central section connected them in 1818. During GWPC’s life, a portion of the mansion was reserved to store George Washington memorabilia, which included portraits, papers and even the tent Washington used while in command at Yorktown.

GWPC and his family lived and died on the property, where many of them were buried.

In 1831, GWPC’s only surviving child, Mary, married Robert E. Lee (yes, that Lee). The Lee’s lived on the property with the Custis’s where they raised their seven children. At her father’s death, Mary inherited Arlington. Robert E. Lee loved the property and once described it as the place “where my attachments are more strongly placed than at any other place in the world.”

Prior to the Civil War, Lee had attended West Point (graduating second in his class) and saw service for the U.S. in the Mexican War (1846-1848). A respected and well-liked officer, Lee struggled with his decision to resign his commission of 36 years in order to take command of Virginia’s confederate forces. When he did in April 1861, this choice was seen as a betrayal of the Union by many of his former friends including Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs.

As Arlington, on high ground overlooking the capital, was critical to either the defense or defeat of D.C., Union leaders were eager to control it. After Virginia seceded in May 1861, Union troops crossed en masse into Virginia and soon took command of the estate. The grounds were quickly converted into a Union camp.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics
American flags adorn the graves at Arlington. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

By 1862, Congress had passed a law that imposed a tax on the real property of “insurrectionists.” Mary was unable to pay the tax bill in person, and her proxy’s attempt to satisfy the debt was rebuffed. As a result, Uncle Sam seized Arlington, and at its auction, the federal government purchased the estate for $26,800 (about $607,000 today, far below market value).

Not only a good bargain, Union leaders felt that by seizing the estates of prominent Rebels, they would, in the words of Gen. William T. Sherman: “Make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it.”

In 1863, after thousands of former slaves, freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, converged on D.C., a Freedman’s Village was established on the estate “complete with new frame houses, schools, churches and farmlands on which former slaves grew food for the Union war effort.”

As one journalist described it:

One sees more than poetic justice in the fact that its rich lands, so long the domain of the great general of the rebellion, now afford labor and support to hundreds of enfranchised slaves.

As Union casualties began to mount in the spring of 1864, Gen. Meigs suggested burying some of the dead at Arlington. The first, on May 13, 1864, was Pvt. William Christman, a poor soldier whose family could not afford the cost of a burial. Soon, many other indigent soldiers were laid to rest on Arlington’s grounds, near the slave and freedman cemetery that had already been established. Realizing the efficacy of this system, Gen. Meigs urged Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton:

I recommend that  . . . the land surrounding Arlington Mansion . . . be appropriated as a National Military Cemetery, to be properly enclosed, laid out and carefully preserved for that purpose.

Serving the dual goals of paying homage to the dead and making “Arlington uninhabitable for the Lees,” Meigs had prominent Union officers buried near Mrs. Lee’s garden. He also placed a mass grave of over 2000 unknown soldiers, topped with a raised sarcophagus, close to the house.

After the war, the Lee’s tried in vain to regain Arlington. Mary wrote to a friend that the graves: “are planted up to the very door without any regard to common decency.” After Robert E. Lee’s death in 1870, Mary petitioned Congress for the return of her family home, but this proposal was soundly defeated.

Shortly after, other monuments and structures honoring the dead were erected including numerous elaborate Gilded Age tombstones and the large, red McClellan Gate at the entrance to the grounds.

The family was not done, however, and in January 1879, following six days of trial a jury determined that the requirement that Mary Lee had to pay the 1862 tax in person was unconstitutional. On appeal, the Supreme Court concurred, so the property was once again in the hands of the Lee family.

Also read: Arlington National Cemetery is running out of room to bury America’s vets

Rather than disinter graves and move monuments, however, the federal government and Mary Lee’s son, George Washington Custis Lee, agreed on a sale. On March 31, 1883, Uncle Sam purchased Arlington from the Lee family for $150,000 (about $3,638,000 today).

Today, Arlington shelters the remains of over 400,000 souls. In addition to its famous sea of somber, beautiful white headstones, Arlington also hosts numerous monuments including the Tomb of the Unknowns, the Rough Riders Monument, the Pentagon Group Burial Marker and two memorials to the Space Shuttle tragedies Challenger and Columbia.

One of the National Cemetery’s most well known gravesites is that of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy with its eternal flame. Two of his children and Jackie Kennedy are also interred there.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics
The eternal flame at the grave of John F. Kennedy. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Wknight94)

William Howard Taft is the only other U.S. President buried on the grounds, and he along with three other Chief Justices and eight associate justices represent the Supreme Court at Arlington.

Of course, war heroes abound and famous generals buried at Arlington include George C. Marshall (father of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after WWII) and Omar N. Bradley.

Famous explorers interred at Arlington include Adm. Richard Byrd (the first man to fly over both poles) and Rear Adm. Robert Peary (another arctic explorer). John Wesley Powell (of Lake Powell fame) is also laid to rest at Arlington, as are several astronauts including Lt. Col. Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Capt. Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. (the third man to walk on the moon).

Other famous Americans buried at the National Cemetery include Abner Doubleday (who, in fact, had nothing to do with baseball contrary to legend), big bandleader Maj. Glenn Miller (who went missing in action on Dec. 15, 1944, so he really just has a headstone there), boxing’s Joe Louis, inventor George Westinghouse and civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan parliament’s first session of the year ends in fist fight

A fight broke out during the first session of Afghanistan’s new parliament after disagreement on the election of a speaker.

Online video showed lawmakers fighting on May 19, 2019, over the seating of businessman Mir Rahman Rahmani as the speaker of the lower house of parliament, known as the Wolesi Jirga. The body was meeting for the first time since controversial elections held last year.

Rahmani received 123 votes the previous day to defeat challenger Kamal Nasir Osuli, who had 55 votes, for the speaker’s post.


But Rahmani was one vote short of the simple majority of 124 votes in the 247-seat Wolesi Jirga that is needed to secure the speakership.

Rahmani’s supporters declared him the the new speaker and insisted he take the post.

Afghanistan Parliament Knife Fight Kamal Nasir Osoli د ولسي جرګی د پارلمان د تیری ورځی جنګ

www.youtube.com

“He has secured a majority of the votes and one vote is not an issue, so he is our new chairman,” said Nahid Farid, a lawmaker from the western city of Herat.

But opponents of Rahmani — the father of Ajmal Rahmani, a wealthy businessman known in the Afghan capital for selling bulletproof vehicles to Kabul’s elite — refused to let him sit in the speaker’s chair.

“We will never accept the new speaker and there must be a reelection with new candidates,” said Mariam Sama, a parliament deputy from Kabul.

Ramazan Bashardost, a deputy from Kabul, told Tolo News that the controversy over the new speaker could be resolved through legitimate means but lawmakers “are not willing to address the issue through legal channels.”

The results of the Oct. 20, 2018 parliamentary elections were officially finalized this month after months of technical and organizational problems.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Sexual assault at Fort Bragg up 28 percent over last year

A summary released by the Department of Defense shows reports of sexual assault from Fort Bragg increased by 28 percent in 2016 over the year before.


The summary says Fort Bragg received 146 reports of sexual assault in 2016 compared to 114 reports in 2015.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics
Sexual assault in the service is a very real problem, reports show. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Armando A. Schwier-Morales)

The News Observer of Raleigh reports that the summary notes that the location of the assault and the location of the report don’t necessarily coincide.

Also read: It’s not a scandal; it’s sexual harassment — Marines investigated after sharing nude photos without consent

Camp Lejeune had 169 reports of sexual assault in 2016, compared to 164 the year before.

At Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, the number of reports dropped, from 49 in 2015 to 27 in 2016. Seymour Johnson Air Force Base had 13 reports in 2016, unchanged from the previous year.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The government is quiet about plutonium missing for the last year

Two Department of Energy security experts took off to San Antonio in March, 2017. Their mission was to retrieve potentially dangerous nuclear material from a nonprofit research lab. Just to be certain they were getting the goods, they were issued radiation detectors along with a disc of plutonium and a small amount of cesium to calibrate their sensors.

When these two security experts stopped for the night along the 410 beltway, they left the nuclear materials in their rented Ford SUV in a Marriott parking lot that was not in the best neighborhood. The next morning, they were surprised to find the vehicle’s windows smashed in and the nuclear materials gone.

The cesium and plutonium were never recovered, according to the Center for Public Integrity.


For the uninitiated, plutonium is one of the most valuable substances on Earth. It’s also one of few elements that will undergo nuclear fission, which is used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. It’s an extremely deadly and dangerous substance with a half-life of just over 24,000 years. One kilogram of plutonium can explode with the force of 10,000 tons of TNT. Luckily, the Idaho National Laboratory says the amount stolen isn’t enough to make a nuclear bomb — that requires nine pounds of uranium or seven pounds of plutonium.

Something the size and weight of a kettle bell could fill the material need for a nuclear weapon.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

Pictured: terrorism.

Cesium is an element that can be used in highly accurate atomic clocks and dirty bombs. It’s one of the most active elements on Earth and explodes on contact with water.

No one briefed the public, no announcement was made in the San Antonio area, and no one would say exactly how much fissile material was stolen and is currently in the hands of someone who thinks they’re just holding cool pieces of metal while slowly irradiating themselves and those around them.

And the military doesn’t have to do any of that, so they don’t. In fact, it happens so often there’s now an acronym for it: MUF – material unaccounted for. An estimated six tons of fissile material is currently considered MUF.

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If there’s an acronym AND a powerpoint about it, you know that sh*t is happening all the time.

The Government Accountability Office doesn’t even have a thorough record of material it loaned to other nuclear nations, what the status of that material is, and if their systems are rigorously inspected. At least 11 of those sites have not been visited by U.S. inspectors since before the September 11, 2001, attacks.

In one instance, 45 pounds of enriched uranium — enough for five nuclear detonations — loaned from the military was listed as safely stored when it was actually gone as of 2009 and had been missing for as long as five years. Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency tracked 270 incidents where dangerous fissile materials were trafficked with the intent of doing harm.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

“He seems totally trustworthy to me. Let’s transfer our plutonium immediately.”

The security contracting firm who lost the equipment was given an award, government bonuses, and a renewed contract. Since the Idaho National Lab considered the amount of nuclear material stolen to be of little consequence, they closed the case.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture

The Army Futures Command, or AFC, is developing wearable identity authentication and authorization technologies that will enable soldiers to securely access network-based capabilities while operating on the move in contested, threat-based environments.

Since 2001, the Common Access Card, or CAC, has served as the de facto, government-wide standard for network and system security access control. However, CAC cards are not operationally suited for use in every environment.

Moreover, the Army lacks a standard way for soldiers at every echelon to prove their identity when operating systems, devices, and applications on Army networks.

With this in mind, AFC’s major subordinate command, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC, is researching and developing authentication technologies that will provide soldiers with secure and simple ways to identify, authenticate and be authorized access to Army networks, operating systems, servers, laptops, applications, web services, radios, weapon systems, and handheld devices.


CCDC’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or C5ISR, Center is designing wearable identity tokens for soldiers to use to log on to mission command systems, networks and tactical platforms. The tokens are wireless, lightweight, flexible, and rugged, and they can be inserted in a soldier’s pocket, attached to a sleeve or integrated into a wrist band like a Fitbit.

Conceptually, soldiers wearing these tokens could simply approach a system to login, be recognized by that system, which would then prompt the soldier to enter a PIN or use a biometric as a second factor, and be automatically logged out when they walk out of the system’s range.

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The CCDC C5ISR Center is developing wearable authentication tokens that will enable soldiers at every echelon to prove their identity when operating systems, devices and applications on the Army tactical network.

(Photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

“The Army is driving towards a simpler and intuitive tactical network, so we’re aligning our Science and Technology resources to explore the challenges associated with this mission space, inform senior decision makers of the lessons learned and deliver capabilities that support Army Modernization and address the soldier’s needs — now and in the future,” said Brian Dempsey, Tactical Network Protection chief for the C5ISR Center’s Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate, or STCD.

The wearable identity tokens combine the security of a public key-based credential — similar to the credential on the CAC — with cutting-edge advances in the commercial wireless payment industry and flexible hybrid electronics, explained Ogedi Okwudishu, project lead for the Tactical Identity and Access Management, or TIDAM, program.

“As part of the Army Futures Command, we’re looking to move at the speed of the information age. We want to be able to research, test, proof the concepts and integrate emerging IT capabilities from industry as they become available. There’s no point re-inventing the wheel,” Okwudishu said.

Under the current paradigm, tactical platforms would need to be retrofitted with specialized equipment in order to read new identity authentication technologies. Such deployments and retrofitting can be very costly. Wearable tokens, however, leverage already existing communication and protocol capabilities, Okwudishu pointed out.

“Soldiers should not have to take out a smartcard, insert it into a card reader and then remember to remove the card from the reader when they are done,” said Okwudishu. “Contactless identity tokens are not only easy to use, they provide a significant cost savings for the Army. You can continue to add authentication capabilities without needing to redesign, or deploy new, tactical hardware to every laptop, server, handheld device or weapon system in the field.”

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

The tokens are lightweight, flexible and rugged, and they can be inserted in a soldier’s pocket, attached to a sleeve or integrated into a wrist band like a Fitbit.

(Photo by Douglas Scott)

Since beginning the TIDAM program in 2017, the C5ISR Center has worked closely with soldiers and Program Executive Offices, or PEOs, soldier and Command, Control Communications-Tactical, or C3T, to validate, demonstrate and mature the technology.

The center’s STCD is working with Project Manager Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, to finalize a transition agreement with PEO soldier for wearable authenticator infrastructure technologies. In the meantime, the directorate is developing a wearable authenticator software provisioner that will enable the secure placement of credentials on the wearable tokens and the ability to do this “locally” at the brigade level and below.

STCD is also working from a roadmap it jointly developed with PEO soldier to integrate the capability with various systems from PEO soldier and PEO C3T. Currently, the goal for fielding the tokens is in FY 22.

“I think this is a really great idea,” said Sgt. 1st Class David Worthington, senior enlisted advisor for the C5ISR Center. “Nobody has done anything like this yet. If done properly, it will make the authentication process a lot easier and a lot faster. More important, it provides more reciprocity at the tactical level for log-ins, so you can track what people are doing on the network.”

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

Articles

Army fires miniature hit-to-kill missile from a new multi-mission ground launcher

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics
U.S. Army photo


The Army fired an interceptor missile designed to protect forces on the ground by destroying incoming enemy fire from artillery, rockets, mortars, cruise missiles and even drones and aircraft, service officials explained.

The successful live-fire test, which took place at White Sands Missile Range N.M., demonstrated the ability of a new Army Multi-Mission Launcher to fire a weapon called the Miniature Hit-to-Kill missile. It is called “hit-to-kill” because it is what’s called a kinetic energy weapon with no explosive. Rather, the interceptor uses speed and the impact of a collision to destroy approaching targets, Army officials explained.

The idea is to give Soldiers deployed on a Forward Operating Base the opportunity to defend themselves from attacking enemy fire. The MML is configured to fire many different kinds of weapons; they launcher recently conducted live fire exercises with an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile and an AGM-114 Hellfire missile. These MML is engineered to fire these missiles which, typically, are fired from the air. The AIM-9X is primarily an air-to-air weapon and the Hellfire is known for its air-to-ground attack ability.

The Multi-Mission Launcher, or MML, is a truck-mounted weapon used as part of a Soldier protection system called Integrated Fire Protection Capability – Inc. 2. The system, which uses a Sentinel radar and fire control technology to identify and destroy approaching enemy fire and protect forward-deployed forces.   The technology uses a command and control system called Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS.

The MML launcher can rotate 360 degrees and elevate from 0-90 degrees in order to identify and knock out approaching fire from any direction or angle.

“The MML consists of fifteen tubes, each of which can hold either a single large interceptor or multiple smaller interceptors. Developed using an open systems architecture, the launcher will interface to the IBCS Engagement Operations Center to support and coordinate target engagements,” an Army statement said.

Articles

Army Sergeant wins gold at Rio Paralympics

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics
U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps


U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth Marks won the gold medal and set a new world record in the women’s SB7 100-meter breaststroke Saturday night at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

“I had no idea [I was winning],” exclaimed Marks. “I can’t see when I am swimming. About 25 meters in, I have no idea where anybody else is. As long as I feel pressure on my hands, I know it is going well. I was just hoping for the best and putting everything I had into it.”

Marks served as a combat medic in Iraq and suffered serious injuries to her hip while deployed in 2010. Determined to stay in the Army and be declared fit for duty, she turned to swimming during her rehab in San Antonio.

She showed so much promise that she was accepted into the Army’s World Class Athlete Program in 2012, which allowed her to be declared fit for duty.

Marks fell into a coma in September 2014 after flying to London to compete in the Invictus Games. Doctors at Papworth Hospital put her on an external lung machine, saving her life.

She shocked everyone by returning to the pool less than a month after coming out of the coma and won gold at the World Military Swimming and Para-Swimming Open in February 2015 by defeating a field composed almost entirely of men.

Earlier this year, Marks won gold at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando. She asked Prince Harry, founder of the organization that puts on the games, to personally award her the medal. After he presented it to her, she returned it to him and asked that he give it to the staff at Papworth Hospital.

In July, Marks was given the Pat Tillman Award, which honors an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the legacy of former NFL player and U.S. Army Ranger Tillman.

Marks will also compete in the S8 100m backstroke on Sept. 13 and the SM8 200m individual medley on Sept. 17.

Watch our interview with Elizabeth Marks at the 2016 Pat Tillman Award ceremony:

Articles

US troops may take prominent role in attacking ISIS capital

US military forces seem poised to take a prominent role in the long-awaited battle to take down Raqqa, Syria, the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.


Though the Pentagon has long downplayed the role of US ground troops in the fight against the ISIS terror group in Iraq and Syria, recent deployments of many more “boots on the ground” suggest they may be front-and-center in the coming months.

Earlier this week, a convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.

Related: Meet the female Peshmerga fighters battling ISIS

Until this most recent Ranger deployment, the Pentagon had adamantly stuck to the line that its “regional partners” — Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga for the most part — were bearing the brunt of the battle.

But on Wednesday, another curious deployment seemed to counter that narrative. According to The Washington Post, US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment had left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa.

“For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations US-backed forces are carrying out,” the Post wrote.

The unit, part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, recently finished conducting training exercises in Oman and Djibouti. Its new outpost inside Syria has M777 Howitzers that fire 155mm projectiles, which are likely guarded by additional infantrymen at the site, according to The Post.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics
U.S. Marines fire artillery to break up ISIS fighters attacking Kurdish and Peshmerga forces. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, told the Fayetteville Observer last year that most US troops were in Iraq or Kuwait, though “some” were operating inside Syria.

Meanwhile, US special operations forces, who are said to be taking a training and advisory role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, were quietly given more latitude to call in precision airstrikes and artillery. As the AP reported in February, advisors are now able to call in airstrikes without seeking approval from an operations center in Baghdad.

Additionally, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces are increasingly getting closer to direct combat.

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics
Special Operations Command photo

Though the new directives were lauded by the Pentagon as “adding ‘precision’ to ground operations,” wrote The Institute for the Study of War, “it also underscores that US personnel are increasingly at the frontlines of the operation. Indicators from the new US Administration, including a proposed 10% budget increase for the Department of Defense, suggest that it may expand the level of US involvement in Iraq, beyond the Mosul operation.”

A spokesperson for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit did not respond to a request for comment.

Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for OIR, said the moves into Syria were to pre-position US forces so they can provide logistical and fire support to “Syrian partnered forces” who will eventually assault Raqqa.

Related: ISIS Fighters ordered to flee or blow themselves up

The Marines and Rangers will provide the “commander greater agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqah. The exact numbers and locations of these forces are sensitive in order to protect our forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS,” Dorrian told Business Insider.

He added: “The deployment of these additional key enabling capabilities allows the Coalition to provide flexible all weather fire support, training and protection from IEDs, and additional air support to our Syrian partners.”

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics
U.S. Special Operations personnel take cover to avoid flying debris as they prepare to board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. | DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Weiss, U.S. Navy

The White House is considering whether to send another 1,000 American soldiers to Kuwait to serve as a “reserve force” for the Raqqa offensive, Reuters reported Wednesday. Officials who spoke with Reuters said there were about 6,000 US troops currently deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, up from the 5,000 that was reported in January.

The presence of additional US ground troops inside Syria — even miles from the frontline — would bring with it considerable risk. Combat outposts often draw rocket and mortar fire, in addition to small arms. Last March, a Marine outpost established to support the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants, killing Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.

A total of nine American service members have been killed in OIR combat operations, while 33 have been wounded, according to Pentagon statistics.

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