TREA: The ENLISTED ASSN
NEWS FOR THE ENLISTED
FOR JANUARY 20, 2012
The House of Representatives returned to town this week; the Senate returns next week. And then the drama begins. Actually there was a good deal of drama here this week. The House voted on the raising of the debt ceiling. (Please see below) On the House’s return hundreds of protesters calling themselves” Occupy Congress” first marched on Congress; then to the Supreme Court and finally in front of the White House. Then what was thought of as an easy bi-partisan vote outlawing internet intellectual piracy blew up in the faces of both parties when popular internet sites protested. There was not much new on military personnel issues this week but even if there had been from now and until November most media will focus on the Presidential race. We assure you that we will work to keep you informed about news and events of particular importance to all of the enlisted family.
1) First Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Dies-On Monday Edward Joseph Derwinski died at the age of 85. He was appointed by President George Herbert Walker Bush to be the first Secretary of the newly elevated Cabinet Department that had been created at the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term. (It had been an Federal Agency since its creation in 1930 when many veterans programs throughout the federal government were consolidated into one agency. Below you can see the tribute that present VA Secretary Erik Shinseki issued concerning the ebullient, effusive, and effective Secretary.
Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki
The Department of Veterans Affairs mourns the passing of its first Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Edward Joseph Derwinski, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush and served America's Veterans from March 15, 1989 to September 26, 1992.
Secretary Derwinski was a World War II Army Veteran, who served in the Pacific theater of operations and in post-war Japan. A Soldier and a patriot, Ed Derwinski was an exuberant public servant, beloved by the citizens of the 4th Congressional District of Illinois, whom he served faithfully and with great distinction and compassion for 24 years as a member of House of Representatives.
When Ed departed the Congress, the tributes to his service flowed equally from both parties—testament to his character and his ability to meet others more than half way to achieve consensus on crucial policies. His larger view of what could be done when people work together for the common good is also what made Ed Derwinski so respected at the Department of State during his appointment as Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance in 1987, and as a Delegate to the United Nations. Ed Derwinski was key to America's role in the advent of freedom and democracy in Eastern Europe. A champion of the oppressed, his devotion to freedom and liberty was passionate.
Ed Derwinski brought to VA the simple life of a Veteran from the Midwest. Proud of his Polish heritage, he served as an emissary to events in Poland for President Bush. He was also a fun-loving, caring family man, who enjoyed Polish food, sing-alongs, and the Polka, often going out of his way to aid those in need. He brought the same passion to his appointment as Secretary of Veterans Affairs, a new cabinet position. His was the duty to establish and reaffirm the Nation's commitment to the men and women who had safeguarded this Nation from its earliest beginnings.
When he was sworn in by President Bush on March 15, 1989, Ed said, "I consider the new Department to have a vital mission. In fact, it is so vital that there's only one place for the Veterans of America: in the Cabinet Room, at the table with the President of the United States of America."
Secretary Derwinski made it clear from his first day in office that the newest Cabinet Department would be fully committed to caring for the Nation's Veterans. He honored and promoted General Omar Bradley's statement that "[we] are dealing with Veterans, not procedures: with their problems, not ours."
When Ed Derwinski took the reins of VA 23 years ago, there were 27 million Veterans—many of them World War II Veterans. VA's budget was about $29 billion dollars. Operation Desert Storm had not yet been fought, and today's first wars of the 21st century, in the wake of September 11, were nowhere on the horizon. But Ed Derwinski knew that VA had to be ready for any of the contingencies he knew would come. His tenure as Secretary was marked by the judicious preparation of the Department of Veterans Affairs for its new role as a federal department and for the future calls to action to which the citizens of this great country would respond.
The Department of Veterans Affairs joins Mrs. Bonita Derwinski and the other members of the Derwinski family in honoring the memory and the contributions of one of VA's visionaries in caring for the men and women who have safeguarded this Nation in peace and in war for over 236 years.
2) Brother of Slain Former SEAL Dies of Combat Wounds-The Washington Post reported Wednesday, January 18, 2012 that Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin B. Wise, 34, of Little Rock, Ark., died of wounds sustained during combat in Afghanistan. He died two years and 11 days after his older brother, Jeremy Wise, was killed in a suicide bombing at Forward Operating Base Chapman near the eastern Afghan city of Khost.
Benjamin Wise, a Green Beret with the U.S. Army’s 1st Group, 3rd Battalion, was on his fourth overseas deployment. When his unit was attacked by insurgents he was shot six times and was wounded grievously in his legs and abdomen. Military doctors in Landstuhl, Germany amputated both legs in an effort to save him, but Wise succumbed to his wounds on Sunday, according to the Pentagon.
Jeremy Wise, a former Navy SEAL who was part of the CIA’s security detail at Khost, was killed on Dec. 30, 2009, by CIA informant Humam al-Balawi, a Jordanian national working undercover in Pakistan. Balawi concealed a suicide vest under his clothes when he arrived at the base for a meeting with his CIA handlers. Balawai and nine others, including five CIA officers, two American security guards, a Jordanian intelligence officer and an Afghan operative working with the CIA were killed in the explosion.
Benjamin Wise is survived by a wife and three children, as well as his parents, a sister, and a younger brother who is still on active duty with the Marines.
TREA salutes the sacrifices made by these brave Americans and our heartfelt condolences go out to the Wise family, as well as the youngest Wise brother still serving with the Marines.
3) House of Representatives Vote to Block Raise in Federal Debt Limit Increase; Limit Will Still Go Up-On Wednesday the House of Representatives passed H.J. Res 98 “resolution of disapproval” by a vote of 239-176 to bar President Obama’s request to raise the federal borrowing authority by $1.2 trillion. This procedure was part of the agreement to end the debt limit fight last August, but the vote is extremely unlikely to have any practical effect. That is because even if next week the Senate passes a similar resolution the President would surely veto it and there will clearly not be 2/3 of the members of Congress that would vote to overturn the veto.
It was mainly a strait party line vote. Six Democrats, Reps. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, John Barrow of Georgia, Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell, both of North Carolina voted for the resolution and against raising the limit. One Republican, Rep. David Dreier of California against the resolution and 2 Republicans, Rep. Jeff Landry of Louisiana and Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh voted present
After the vote Speaker John Boehner’s office said it was: a “further indictment of Washington Democrats’ reckless spending binge that has hurt economic growth and added more than $4.5 trillion to the nation’s debt in just three years.” Earlier House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer called the vote a “charade, a pretense, an abdication of responsibility,”
The August agreement created the supercommittee that failed in the Fall to agree on budget cuts. If agreements are not reached, DoD will face draconian across the board budgetary cuts, in addition to the $500 billion in cuts that President Obama has directed DoD to make. Such additional cuts would clearly have large effects on all enlisted retirees and personnel.
4) The VA’s Office of Inspector General Releases Downloads of its 2011 Reports-This week the VA’s Office of Inspector General released downloads for the 10 most read reports of 2011. Below you can find several important and influential reports.
Top 10 VA OIG Downloads for 2011
What are people who are interested in veterans’ issues reading these days? Last year the VA OIG’s Internet site registered over 1 million hits, with most visitors reading and downloading our audit, health care, and investigative reports. We issued over 300 reports in 2011 on VA’s delivery of health care and benefits to America’s veterans covering a broad range of subjects—from issues of special interest to Congress, the VA Secretary, and veterans such as mental health and disability benefits to our ongoing inspections of VA medical centers, clinics, and regional offices. Last year our reports made over 1,500 recommendations to VA on how to improve services to veterans and can help VA achieve over $6 billion in efficiencies.
Here are the top 10 reports downloaded from our Internet site last year:
1) Review of Combat Stress in Women Veterans Receiving VA Health Care and Disability Benefits [Click for report.]
2) Audit of 100 Percent Disability Evaluations [Click for report.]
3) Administrative Investigation, Improper Locality Rate of Pay, Office of Information & Technology, VA Central Office [Click for report.]
4) Implementing VHA’s Mental Health Strategic Plan Initiatives for Suicide Prevention [Click for report.]
5) Administrative Investigation, Improper Academic Degree Funding, Improper Detail and Failure to Cooperate with an OIG Investigation, OI&T VA Central Office [Click for report.]
6) Administrative Investigation, Misuse of Position, Abuse of Authority, and Prohibited Personnel Practices, Office of Information & Technology Washington, DC [Click for report.]
7) Alleged Poor Quality of Patient Care, Marion VA Medical Center, Marion, Illinois [Click for report.]
8) Oversight Review of Dental Clinic Issues, Dayton VA Medical Center, Dayton, Ohio [Click for report.]
9) Review of State Variances in VA Disability Compensation Payments [Click for report.]
10) Audit of Veteran-Owned and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Programs [Click for report.]
5) Money from the VA Means Fewer Homeless Vets-Below please see a local news article that shows how a national program works on the streets. VA Secretary Erik Shinseki has made ending veterans homelessness one of his primary goals and one can see that the effort is paying off.
From the Minneapolis Star Tribune
Based on a one-day shelter and street census taken in January by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), from 2010 to 2011the number of homeless veterans dropped by 12 percent nationally.
Cathy ten Broeke, Minneapolis-Hennepin County coordinator to end homelessness, said the drop can be attributed to the resources being poured into veteran homelessness from Washington, DC. The VA has housed more than 33,000 veterans in the past 2 1/2 years by expanding eligibility for vouchers that qualify them for Section 8 housing.
A joint VA/HUD program combines a voucher with intense support for mental health or substance abuse needs. Veterans pay 30 percent of their income for rent, and the voucher covers the rest. Each voucher costs the government on average $6,500 a year, plus $4,148 in case management services. The program’s cost has been estimated to be less than the costs of emergency rooms, jails or homeless shelters.
Most of the veterans being served are from the Vietnam era, but the drawdown of forces from Iraq and Afghanistan is likely to tax the system and require applying the lessons learned. "This is not going away soon," Ten Broeke said. "The prevention of these new veterans from having the same kinds of issues and falling through the same kinds of cracks is really key."
Estimates in Hennepin County indicate that 19 percent of homeless single adults are veterans.
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