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Thousands of veterans and active military personnel visit Branson, MO every year and they do their best to show gratitude. Branson honors their service with special deals and discounts on all aspects of their trip, standing tributes before the shows, memorials and exhibits, military reunions and renowned national events like Veterans Week in November. Military veterans, active-duty men and women, and military families are held in very high esteem. Here’s a guide to all things they can enjoy in Branson.  Attractions  Whether you’re looking to snap hilarious keepsake photographs at the Hollywood Wax Museum, be wowed at Ripley’s Believe It or Not, discover artifacts at the Titanic Museum or experience a one-of-a-kind land and water tour with Ride the Ducks, many of Branson’s top attractions offer $2-$3 discounts on tickets for active and retired military and their families. One of the most popular deals is offered at the must-see Silver Dollar City and White Water amusement parks where you can receive a two-day ticket for the price of a one-day ticket, or $5 off a one-day ticket. Dependent military children age 4-11 receive complimentary two-day tickets when they are accompanied by a parent purchasing a two-day military ticket.   Dining  Enjoy discounts of 10-15% at a number of Branson’s restaurants including Famous Dave’s BBQ, Golden Coral, Chili’s, Olive Garden and Shoney’s. On Veterans Day, many locations also offer free meals to honor our men and women who have served.   Hotels & Lodging  A variety of hotels honor veterans and military personnel with 10-20% off (depending on the season). Enjoy a discounted stay at the luxurious Chateau on the Lake or the family-friendly Clarion Hotel and Grand Country Resort. The new, state-of-the-art Hilton Branson Convention Center features a military and veteran discount, as well as a prime location. It’s walking distance to Branson Landing and downtown. For a unique lodging experience, spend a night in the trees at Branson Treehouse Adventures. Other popular favorites include La Quinta Inn Branson Strip, Marriott’s Willow Ridge Lodge, Yellow Rose Inn & Suites and the Barrington Hotel & Suites. Try renting a distinctive cabin with Amazing Branson Rentals. Many of the popular name hotels that offer military discounts nationally have locations in Branson including Best Western, Comfort Inn, Days Inn, Quality Inn and Wyndham.  Shows  Every theater in Branson is a sponsor of the Veterans Task Force. Many of the shows not only kick off with a touching salute to veterans but most offer discounts of 10-20%. The Acrobats of China also feature a special Veteran VIP ticket which is 30% off their usual VIP ticket price. Some other shows with popular discounts include the Baldknobbers Jamboree, Dixie Stampede, SIX and the Texas Tenors.  Shopping  Veterans and active military personnel will enjoy a discount at many of the top name factory stores at the Tanger Outlet including Ann Taylor, Colombia, Eddie Bauer, Dressbarn, Gap, Nike, Old Navy, Ralph Lauren and Under Armour. The outlet mall also offers active Military personnel and their families a free coupon book. Or head over to Bass Pro Shops between the 15th and 22nd of each month when you can receive 10% off select items.  Transportation  All top name car rental facilities, in and around Branson, offer great discounts for veterans and military personnel. At Avis, you can receive a discount of up to 25%, Alamo and National offer up to 20%, and Enterprise, founded by a WWII veteran, features an entire Veterans Advantage Discount program.   Military Reunions in Branson  As the year-round home for America’s veterans, Branson is a popular destination for military reunions. Lodging and meeting venues around town specialize in military reunions and offer planners assistance with arranging the perfect event.  The Branson/Lakes Area Convention & Visitors Bureau  Contact the Branson Chamber for help with planning your next military reunion. Rather than contact dozens of hotels, their complimentary service will help connect you with a venue that is a good fit for meeting your reunion needs.   Dixie Stampede  The Missing Man Table & Honors Ceremony recognizes all branches of service, acknowledges the missing and their absence from the night’s celebration. Dixie Stampede will dedicate the Military Memorial Ceremony free of charge for reunion groups of 15 or more with paid advance reservations to their popular dinner attraction. Military and Veterans Exhibits  Challenge Coin Tables at Shindigs Restaurant   Shindigs would like to turn as many tables in the restaurant as possible into “Challenge Coin” tables. If your reunion is in Branson, visit their tables, share your story, and if you want to be represented, leave them a coin.  Missouri Vietnam Veterans Memorial   Located at the entrance of College of the Ozarks, the Missouri Vietnam Veterans Memorial bears the name of more than 1,400 Missourians who served and died in the Vietnam War.  Veterans Memorial Museum  Located on Highway 76, this museum is hard to miss—just look for the P-51 Mustang fighter. The Veterans Memorial Museum is a moving tribute to those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces across all branches of service. Exhibits include sculptures, murals and thousands of pieces of military memorabilia. There are also displays throughout the museum with names of the soldiers killed in action since World War II.  Veterans Patch Wall  At Grand Country Resort, discover an exhibit with hundreds of patches from various military branches, units and divisions.  Veterans Reunion Registry  The Veterans Reunion Registry is a free service in Branson giving veterans the opportunity to locate others that served in their unit.  Veterans Homecoming Week   This seven-day event is held every year, November 5-11, as both a tribute and celebration of veterans. Festivities include America’s biggest Veterans Day tribute, a Veteran’s Day Parade (now over 80 years), themed shows, memorial ceremonies and more.   
Five local Veterans on the eve of Saturday, joined a local Boy Scout Troop 2014 who were accompanied by the Daughters of the American Revolution in the retiring of flags in McCready Manor, Kentucky. The veterans and the scouts who attended with their families had a reflective and somber mood. The troop’s committee chair, Mr. Duane Norris, said that those flags were being retired with much honor and that they had fulfilled their designated purpose and duty. For flags that are already worn out and only retirement is the only need, first, it is required to cut the blue onion and separate it from the stripes. It is then that each stripe is cut and separated from other stripes. A bon of fire is lit, the stripes are placed in the fire, piece by piece, and it is then that the blue union is released to the flames too. After the flag was lowered, the acting senior patrol leader, Tylan King, 15, carefully and systematically cut separately each stripe. It was then the responsibility of the scouts to lay the stripes on the fire. Black smoke rose from the pit of fire as a result of the burning stripes and the onion. The smell of the burning nylon from the stripes was immediately replaced with the wood burning smell inserted into the fire. The veterans were also residents of McCready Manor. They were also the honored guest of the event. Each of them was awarded the union, which had its stars intact. This symbolized that under any circumstance, like a promise, the state’s union should not be broken. With a salute, the brave men solemnly gave their offering of their flag stripes to the fire. The flags grommet, symbolizing honor was given to each of the veterans. Paul Flynn, the Somerset native, had served in the country’s Navy as a destroyer in the Korean War as a gunner’s mate. He struggled in his battleship and slide but did not fall.  When he got back to his feet, he responded to his call back to war. He addressed the scouts referring to himself when he was young. He told them when he was their age, every man around the age was good enough to enlist and head to war. He thanked the appreciated and thanked the scouts for their coming that day. In the midst of the Veterans was Keith Reynolds, who is a marine from Hazard and served during the last documented battle, World War II, in Japan. The battle is considered as one of the bloodiest wars in the pacific. He had been in the war during the second wave since the first day of the invasion, 1st April, 1945. Keith told them the experience he went through during his digging of his first foxhole. He explained that he was determined despite the unending rains that night that kept filling the foxhole every time he was digging. Bob Hughes, who joined the Navy in 1945 when he was seventeen years of age, followed by saying that he had to get his dad to sign him to join the Navy. Nodding, Flynn seconded him, saying he too did the same.  Stanley Postlethwaitss who was a trainee of the Army Forces Training Command as a bombardier during the Japan World War II also gave a speech to the scouts. He said his unit was almost to leave as prepared veterans on a B-24 bomber to Japan in 1945. Terry Corder told them that the first time he participated in a ceremony like what the scouts were having was a very emotional event to him. He served as a Major from 1988-2012 in the National Guard, during the operations Iraqi Freedom and he endured. Nathan Corder, who is his son, told the scouts too, that the flag was and is still a very important symbol of a home.  He expressed how much of importance it meant to him and that they raised and lowered the county’s flag on a daily basis in their house because his dad served in the Iraqi Freedom for two years.  Scoutmaster Phil Blankenship was not left behind, he ended by saying that the ceremony was by far really special he has ever been in. The Richmond-based troop has had 49 members aging a range from 11 to 17 years from 2014 when it began.
A guide was recently released, available both online and in print.  The guide is intended to educate all the veterans and also the active service members, so that they know the legal resources available for their use. The guide has a total of 33-pages and was developed by the attorneys from the Office of Attorney General in Virginia. The guide has a list and explains all the state and federal statutes that are designed for citizens who are serving in the armed forces and those who have served in the forces. The guide has been broken down into categories and sections of legal expertise, which include: Employment • Consumer Protections • Education • Taxes • Family Law In addition to the above sections, there is also a list of organizations that provide legal advice and representation.
The federal government has several important duties to its citizens and most importantly to the veterans, who have served the country diligently. Among these responsibilities of the federal government is to make sure that all the veterans who had served the military with valor in defending their country have the chance to enjoy the privileges and benefits, which are able to measure up to the level of their sacrifice ( though sometimes this can be very difficult). But then there is a new proposed legislation known as the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017. This new law if passed will amend the Post-9/11 GI Bill.  The amendment will get rid of the 15-year time limit that was set for veterans to utilize their GI bill entitlements and benefits. The bill, which was passed by both the House and the Senate, is currently awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature to become law. Incase President Trump decides to sign the bill into law, then the veterans who  had been discharged after the year 2013 and all the future veterans will have the permission to make use of  their GI bill benefits with no any given time limit. The law will also offer a raise in the GI bill funding. The funding will be for the reservists, guardsmen, dependents and surviving spouses and dependents. Also offer the GI bill eligibility to reservists and guardsmen that have been placed on active duty and convalescent medical leave orders, which are not able to accrue GI bill eligibility. The other crucial provision that is under the law will streamline the programs that are under the GI bill. Programs that will reduce the costs incurred by the personnel and reinvest them into a system for use by the veterans. The law also will supply the veterans with special assistance, (for those who will be studying information technology, or any other science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines). Any law that limits the duration the veterans are to use their benefits is very disrespectful since the veterans are the ones who are entitled to the benefits. The military men and women had risked their lives when they were in the military so that the citizens of our country can enjoy similar opportunities. President Trump in his campaigns had vowed to offer maximum support to the veterans and also protect the interests of the veterans.  
Many veterans commit suicide every day and the figures are always shocking. Many of these veterans had received medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and one given point had received prescription of opioids from a non-VA doctor to deal with their chronic pain. Even though there are psychological factors which were the reasons and the drugs were just the tools. Suicide cases among veterans has been more prominent by a gap in the system that is designed to offer the veterans the freedom of seeking medical care from private medical service providers at the expense of the government. The gap that is found in the coordination, has contributed to different clinical standards among the VA and the non-VA community providers. This so far has proved to be very deadly. The health professionals who are not within the VA do not have to follow the guidelines set by the department. In a report that was released by the Inspector General Michael J. Missal, stated that veterans who are currently receiving opioid prescriptions from private clinics are at a higher risk of taking an overdose and other hazards since the information related to the medication is not shared uniformly. Missal noted that this needed to change immediately and health care providers who are serving the veterans ought to adhere to consistent guidelines when prescribing opioids. Also, they need to share information that guarantees high quality care for veterans who are high-risk. The VA agreed, with the principle and the recommendations. According to a statement made by the VA press secretary Curt Cashour, better and detailed coordination needs to be made between the VA health providers and those in the private sector. Especially since there is a great shortage of veteran health care providers. In a report by the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis that was issued the day before Missal's, it was noted that on a daily basis 142 Americans died from an over dose of opioids. They went ahead to declare that opioids "a prime contributor to our addiction and overdose crisis". As an intervention measure, the commission asked the President to make a national declaration that empowers the government with the authority to make "bold steps" against drug abuse. In response to the report, The VA Secretary David J. Shulkin responded to the report and noted that recent studies and reports have shown how successful the VA has been when dealing and approaching issues related to pain management and the responsible use of opioids among the Veteran patients. Ever since the Opioid Safety Initiative was launched back in 2013, according to the VA, the average number of patients receiving the opioids prescription reduced by 27% and those on long-term opioid therapy went down by 33 percent. Shulkin noted that the VA is indeed sharing its eight best practices that are intended to balance the pain management and the use of opioid under the acronym S.T.O.P. P.A.I.N.
In John Ackert's Tallahassee subdivision you will find a lady in a golf cart riding in the neighborhood. Her job is to take notes on how all her neighbors' homesteads measure up to the set standards. These standards have been put in place by the Southwood Residential Community Association. So far John Ackert has been trying hard not to hate the lady. Ackert who is an 82-year-old retired Navy commander, once got an official letter. The letter instructed the veteran to remove the military and Special Olympics stickers from his front door, failure to do this will make the veteran to be exiled from the community's tennis courts and swimming pool. The veteran complied and removed the stickers from his front door. 2 weeks later, another letter came that made Ackert and his neighbors get scared. The letter was related to the American flag. Ackert has his vinyl mailbox covered by the picture of the American flag. Ackert had placed the vinyl on his mailbox a few weeks after he moved into the Southwood community back in 2013. Over the years he has been replacing the colors whenever the colors get burned out by the Florida sun. According to the association of his neighborhood the flag mailbox was a violation of the covenant passed by the community, and so had to be removed. The letter warned the veteran that if he did not comply then he would be fined and ultimately a lien could be placed on his home.  The letter described the vinyl as something that, 'devalues the aesthetic value of the homes in the neighborhood,’ The veteran refused to get rid of the mailbox covering. He has vowed to fight the homeowner's association in court and has gone ahead to accuse the association of bullying him. When contacted, the manager of the community association, Jerome Simpson, said that they were still having ongoing talks with the veteran and so they were not in a position to give no official comment beyond an emailed statement. 82 year old Ackert, spends his week golfing and looking after his yard, did not expect to be at logger heads with his homeowner's association. Ackert had been drafted for Vietnam, and later opted to take military service as a career. He later decided to specialize in transportation logistics, his job was to make sure that the military property and personnel got to their final destination safely. He gets the idea that the association wants to have uniformity in the estate, but he is more bothered by the pettiness.  He acknowledges of having minor problems with neighbors, but then they have always been solved by a chat and a handshake, but not with a threatening formal letter drafted by a lawyer.
The Vietnam Veterans of America went to court filing a lawsuit against the Defense Department. The group alleged that the website had information related to veterans’ and service members’ records which is a violation of the privacy rights. This makes the veterans and the service members susceptible to fraud. The site, scra.dmdc.osd.mil, happens to be a searchable database of service members’ active-duty status, it was made initially to be used by financial institutions, and other institutions when determining if a service member who is on active duty is entitled to certain protections under the Service members Civil Relief Act. These protection benefits are like protection from eviction. However the Vietnam Veterans of America disputed that the website has very low security and anyone can easily access the data. In the statement they said that anybody with other intentions can anonymously access the data which violates the Privacy Act. Laura Ochoa, who is the Pentagon spokeswoman, said that Pentagon has not commented on the litigations that are currently on going. The data on the website can be accessed by searching the veteran’s or service member’s surname/ last name and birthday or social security number. Apart from that data related to troops’ dates of active-duty service, future dates of active duty and other service information can also be found on the website. The suit was filed by the Vietnam Veterans of America last Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of New York. The legal representatives of the group were three student attorneys from the University Of Buffalo School Of Law, the team also had Jonathan Manes, an assistant clinical professor at the law school as part of the legal team The lawsuit quoted a recent scenario in which an Air Force veteran, named Thomas Barden, was a victim of scammers who collected information of Barden from the Defense Department website. The scammers got details of Barden’s history in the military service from the site, used it to gain trust from the veteran and conned him into making purchase of a computer software that was fraudulent. Later, they took control of Barden’s computer, locking him out of his files until he paid a ransom. Barden refused to pay. The complaint stated that the situation of Barden was no aberration. Vietnam Veterans of America wants the court to order the Defense Department to put in pace security restrictions on the concerned website they also want Barden to be awarded at least $1,000 in damages.  
Last week the committed members of the American Legion Charles S. Hatch Post #79 came together at the Veteran’s Memorial Park located in the Lord’s Cemetery in Berwick. The meet up was to hold the remembrance of a veteran and also to celebrate all the gifts that had been made in his honor. Emily Repp, who is the widow of Richard (Dick) Repp, was part of the people who made donations. Her donation was a sum of $1,000 to be posted at 79 while another sum of $250 was made to the Ladies Auxiliary all in the memory of her husband. Her husband had been a World War II veteran and had passed on the 23rd of August in 2014. Jeffrey Chase who was the Post Commander talked of Repp’s service, which included the Battle of the Bulge, the D-Day and he described Repp as a prisoner of war. Repp managed to fight his way through France later he got a posting at the Wiltz, Luxembourg (this is the location where the Battle of the Bulge started). On his 19th birthday instead of throwing a party he was in France in a foxhole. That same year his Christmas was no different as he spent in Germany as a prisoner. This was according to a historical statement released by Chase. Repp managed to get back home in St. Louis, Missouri, by the time the 1945 Thanksgiving was taking place. When he left the service, the veteran decided to join the banking world and joined the Bank & Trust as an employee until 1957. After that he moved to the Eastern Airlines, and worked there for close to 26 years. Rupp’s wife said that it was a privilege to be invited to the group and that the group went through a lot in order to honor her husband. The celebration was held this month and Rupp had passed on the 23rd of the month of august. Chase said that the money collected will go to a fund and help a Berwick student who is at Noble High School, continue with his study. Emily was given a red vest together with a Blue Ribbon pin by Auxiliary President Diana Lapierre. Emily was now a new member of the Auxiliary. Lapierre said that the money given by Emily will help a lot in the works they are doing. She also said that support should be given to other veteran organizations like the Maine Wounded Warrior project, Quilts of Valor and many more.
The Senate recently passed a legislation, which many veteran advocates have described as a gigantic expansion of veterans experienced in over a decade. The senators gave their unanimous consent of the bill, which will now be sent to the President desk to be signed into law. The measure was passed through the committees and was cleared by the House and the Senate within 20 days of being introduced.  The bill will put to an end the 15-year limit that had been placed for veterans to use their education benefits, put back in place benefits to veterans who, their academic institutions had been abruptly closed and lastly it will fix the Pentagon deployment authorization which has kept in waiting almost 5,000 reservists from accumulating their earned education benefits. The bill is called The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017. It is named after the former commander of the American Legion who had authored the GI Bill of Rights back in 1944. The bill had been introduced on July 13th in the House and on July 19th it was passed through the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The House gave its approval of the bill a 405-0 vote July 25. The Senate received the bill on July 20th and the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs passed it on the 26th of July. The bill has had many obstacles and at one point many thought it would not be introduced. In April the negotiations on the bill were stopped after there was a difference of vies between the veterans organizations on the best way to of paying for the $3 billion that is the total cost of the new measures expected to be implemented for the next 10 years. The negotiations were combination of 18 different bills. But then the teams managed to sort out the issues and decide to reignite the momentum for the GI Bill so that the bill can be passed before the Congress and the Senate left Washington and went for their recess this month. The bill so far has gathered widespread support from veterans and many higher education organizations. Many called it the “Forever GI Bill” since it eliminated the 15-year deadline for a veteran to use their education benefits. The restriction will be eliminated for the veterans who had been discharged on or after Jan. 1, 2013. The bill will also get rid of the “Post-9/11” from the GI Bill’s title. Lauren Augustine, who is the director of government relations for the group Got Your 6, in a statement said that the quick passage of the bill was proof enough that even when a nation is divided it can still come together and give veterans maximum support.  
Last Tuesday evening the Senate passed the legislation. The legislation is intended to reform the whole process that is used by veterans when appealing for their benefits.  The current system that is in operation has been keeping many veterans on the waiting list for years as they wait to get their earned disability compensation and health care. This new legislation will creates three channels that the veterans can use to appeal their claims for benefits. Sponsors of the bill described the bill as an overhaul of the system that has been operational for decade. Now the system takes six years for a veteran to appeal for their claim with the Board of Veterans' Appeals.  Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., released a prepared statement, stating that the bipartisan bill will cut the red tape that was placed by the government giving the VA the needed flexibility and resources so that they can be able to process faster and more accurate claims made by veterans. Tester and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who are leaders of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, were the ones who sponsored the bill, while 30 senators signed on as cosponsors. The House had passed the bill, HR 2288, on the 23rd May. The Senate had on Tuesday passed the amended version, now it has to be sent back to the House so that it can be approved and then sent to President Donald Trump to sign into law. House lawmakers will be going on a month long recess and had left Washington on Friday to start the recess. In case the reforms are finally implemented then veterans will be able to appeal their claims directly with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals the other option for the veterans would be to request for a higher-level VA adjudicator to decide the claim. The veterans can also appeal -- only if they have new information – the appeal should be made to the same adjudicator who had denied their claim. The bill also has a new requirement of the VA notifying the veterans about the status of their appeals. The VA leaders said that the new system will take 18 months for it to be fully established if the bill is passed. VA Secretary David Shulkin had placed the appeals reform as one of his top priorities ever since he was confirmed by Senate in February hearing. For the past few months he has repeatedly called on the Congress to pass the legislation. As of last week Saturday, the VA’s hands were dealing with more than 350,000 pending claims for benefits, while more than 87,000 were backlogged, this meant that the VA had been waiting for a decision for more than 125 days. As the will be working through the pending and the backlogged claims, they are expecting the number of claims to be higher. Tester have described the current process used in appealing for claims as “complex, inefficient and confusing.” The Senate voting in the bill comes as the chamber is winding up pending work before they go for the mid-august recess.