Last Wednesday the Congress experienced mixed reactions after it was made known that the federal funds offered to veterans (those taking fight training classes) will be cut. This was after a report was released saying that the schools are taking advantage of that to charge large amounts of cash in tuition fees and take advantage of the GI Bill. Speaking to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee, the Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs, American Legion and Student Veterans of America said that it was a great concern that large amount of money was being charged to students by the flight schools. This applied to veterans who were using the GI Bill to cater for their education. The VA quoted one example where a student was charged more than $534,000 in the fiscal year of 2014. John Kamin, who is a representative of the American Legion said that it would be best to pass a legislation that will lower how generous the GI Bill is to veterans, especially those attending flight program sessions. In 2015 the Los Angeles Times first reported in of some companies avoiding the expense limit set by the VA on the private schools. Instead, they work as contractors for various flight training programs offered at the public universities. The law makers were considering dealing with the loophole by drafting a proposal that was discussed last Wednesday. The draft will in turn input a spending cap on all the flight schools. Last year the number of veteran students enrolled in flight schools was 1700 and it cost a total of $48.5 million. Will Hubbard, vice president of Student Veterans of America, also supported the to be drafted proposal, saying that veterans should not be hindered from pursuing careers in aviation but still that should not affect the sustainability of the GI Bill. Matthew Zuccaro, president of Helicopter Association International, also said that his organization was in support of regulating the expenses on the GI Bill so as to avoid any form of abuse by flight programs. Though he asked the VA and Congress to consider other options and not the spending caps as it “unfairly impact the ability of veterans” who want to go for aviation related careers. Last year the House passed a legislation that addressed the spending of the GI Bill on flight programs, however, the initiative did not pass the senate. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, and Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., called for fast action last Wednesday to pass the bill again.
Last Friday 5 Congress Members flew to Tijuana, Mexico, and met with the many U.S. veterans who had been deported. The veterans are unable to access their federal benefits despite some suffering from mental illness of physical disabilities. The congress members were members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The team planned to return back to DC and suggest to the Department of Veterans Affairs on ways in which the veterans can access the disability compensation, health care and other services. The delegation was led by Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif. The other congress members who went with Takano, were Reps. Lou Correa, D-Calif., Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., Norma Torres, D-Calif., and Gregorio Sablan, I-Northern Mariana Islands. The team met with the former service members of the Deported Veterans Support House, which was founded by 82nd Airborne veteran Hector Barajas-Varela. Barajas Varela was also discharged honorably and deported in the year 2009 after he was found guilty. For many years Barajas-Varela has been advocating for the deportation reversals of the many U.S. veterans. However, when the delegation visited he decided to take a different approach, he accepted that indeed they may never return to America and so he opted to advocate for the situation in Mexico to be improved. Most of the veterans age from 50 to 70 years old and some from addiction, depression, military-related ailments and other issues, including high blood pressure, diabetes and hepatitis C. The delegations has been summarizing recommendations that it will present to the House committee and the VA. Takano said that some of the things they would like the deported veterans to access are good healthcare, technology, telehealth and assistance in filling out their claims for VA benefits. Veterans have had to wait for months in order to get an appointment in the city of Mexico or Guadalajara which happens to be 2,000 miles away. Tiffany Haverly, who is the communications director for Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, commented that the committee currently doesn’t have any plans of taking up laws that are related to the benefits that the deported veterans are to access. Takano commented that the VA indeed has the authority to make amendments and changes that will benefit the deported veterans, he said he’s planning to visit VA Secretary David Shulkin.
The world has enjoyed the talents and fame brought by celebrities and many have grown to be very rich. It has been a well-known trend among celebrities for them to give back to the society. Below is a list of the 10 celebrities who have spared their precious time to devote their influence, gratitude and talents to the service members of our country United States. Jon Stewart Known for frequently putting the politicians on a comical hot seat, the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show has over the years shown massive support towards the U.S. military. Stewart teamed up with his staff and initiated an internship program at The Daily Show. The internship helps veterans start a career in the media and television business and lasts for 5-weeks: entailing weekly evening class. The program organizes a career fair that so far has helped veterans get jobs in the very industry. Steward has encouraged other media cooperation to embrace the same internship so as to help more veterans. Apart from that he went for a comedy tour of the bases that are in Afghanistan. Steward also paid a visit to the wounded soldiers who were in hospitals. Gary Sinise This Emmy Award and Golden Globe winner, and also a nominee in the Academy Award is known for his famous roles in the TV series CSI: NY, Forest Gump, Truman. Sinise has also appeared and acted on many other television and film stories in his acting career. However, he is more known for his acts and commitment towards the US military. Sinise has been advocating for service members for more than 30 years. He even has a band known as Lt. Dan Band, which performs around 50 shows annually in charities, fundraisings and military bases to get funds to support soldiers, wounded soldiers, veterans and the Gold Star families and veterans. He is also the current spokesperson for the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial Foundation and Disabled American Veterans. He started a foundation in 2011 known as the Gary Sinise Foundation and came up with other additional programs that partner with other organizations like the Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment (R.I.S.E.), Relief + Resiliency Outreach, Serving Heroes and Invincible Spirit Festival. Carrie Underwood Underwood is a country music sensational superstar and has won many awards. She has performed around the world for many US military service members. She has been to Iraq and Kuwait on a tour with the USO, and performed at military bases during the special Concert for Valor which happened on the Veterans Day 2016. Her song “See You Again,” is a special song to one military family, after the father who was deployed died before him and his family could attend the show. Underwood visited the family after hearing the tragic story. She has also performed at the ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute to the Troops and it was during that performance that she debuted her song “Keep Us Safe,” The song was co-written as a tribute and gratitude to the service members for their work. Bradley Cooper Cooper received an Oscar nomination after playing the role of the late Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle in the famous biographical war film, “American Sniper.” During an interview with PEOPLE Magazine, Cooper described the role as “life-changing” and that it gave him a chance to actually learn about the many struggles that military families go through. When promoting the film Cooper partnered with Chris Kyle’s widow Taya and hosted several screening sessions of the film in a number of veterans’ hospitals. He also got an invite to give a talk at The National Geographic Society as part of the panel for Got Your 6. This is a group that is dedicated to using entertainment to portray the lives of veterans accurately. Mark Wahlberg During the 10th annual Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) Courage Awards & Benefit Dinner (May 2015), Wahlberg was honored and awarded the James Gandolfini Award. The award gave honors to the late actor’s impeccable character in service to the military service members and their families. Wahlberg received the recognition for his committed support to the WWP during his entire career in TV commercials, creating awareness for the WWP and also the difficulties faced by the wounded warriors. Wahlberg is also remembered for being a very vocal supporter of the issues affecting veterans when he was promoting his movie “Lone Survivor”, in the movie he played the role of a Navy SEAL. Kellie Pickler Pickler the very first person to ever receive the Operation Troop Aid Chris Kyle Patriot Award, American Idol top six finalist and country music rock star. Has impressed many by being a great supporter of the US military. The young star still in her early twenties has taken part in eight USO musical tours and is a frequent face in events organized by the USO and Wounded Warrior Project. She has been to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan to entertain service members, and even decided to send Valentine’s Day care packages to the female service members at one point. Despite getting the award, Pickler is very humble. The award, was initially known as the Operation Troop Aid Patriot Award, and was started in honor of the late sniper and Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. KISS and Def Leppard The founders of Heroes Tour. The two are legendary rock groups. During their three month 2014 tour a dollar from each ticket was distributed among several military organizations like the Hire a Hero and USO. During the tour they also gave jobs to two veterans who acted as roadies as part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Capital One’s Hiring 500,000 Heroes campaign. Wayne Newton An active participant in USO activities, this Las Vegas entertainer and singer is currently the Celebrity Chairman of the USO. Newton has dedicated all his life to advocating for US military performing for the troops and going for many USO trips outside the United States. As the current chairman, he has been encouraging more celebrities to join the USO. Newton has gathered several awards for his tremendous work in the military: “The USO Spirit of Home Award,” The Secretary of the Navy Public Service Award,” The Air Force Scroll of Appreciation,” “The AMVET’s Silver Helmet Award in the Americanism Category,” and he was also named in an honor in the “Honorary Green Beret” back in 1999 at an event in Fort Bragg. Kathy Griffin Famous for her comedy. Griffin is also an Emmy award winner. Her father was a World War II veteran and supported the United States military for a very long time. Griffin has been present in many USO tours. In 2010 she hosted the VH1 Divas Salute the Troops from the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar based in San Diego, CA. She is also known for her free backstage tickets to veterans to attend her shows. She received an honor in 2013 for her contact support to the veterans during the 5th Annual Heroes Celebration. Trace Adkins Adkins also joins the list of country music stars who have given constant support to the US military. Adkins comes from a very patriotic family, even though none of his family members have ever served in the military. He was lucky to grow up in a military focused community and so far has been giving back to the community by visiting the wounded soldiers in hospitals. He has been on 10 tours organized by the USO and also visits families of fallen soldiers. He has taken part in several charity concerts that are military focused. Some of the major concerts he has taken part in are the Cause for Applause: Salute the Troops concert at the Grand Ole Opry on May 19. He has even used his music to honor the service members, in his songs “’Til the Last Shots Fired” and “Arlington.”
From the affected many, Hawn Taylor is an example of persons who can testify to the strain and struggles that Alzheimer’s can impact to a family and the community at large. It started with her grandmother contracting the disease in the early 1980s. Then her grandfather was the next victim a few months later. Her life situation became more saddening and worse when her mother and father were diagnosed with the same. By the time Taylor was twenty one of age, she was not only the only child to the parents, but also the only grandchild. Diagnosis of both her parents and grandparents from the deadly form of Dementia gave Taylor a forceful caregiving commitment to the folks for an approximate of the next thirty five years. From an interview with Taylor, she said that she understands what it takes to give intense caregiving needs and when as she watches her dear mother slip away, not even able to recognize her and unable to take care of her most basic needs, she got the motivation to do more. She had to do something to help the whole veteran community. Her experience with the family gave her the motivation to help come up with Veterans Against Alzherimer’s, which the official launching took place on Tuesday, 3rd October this year. The formed group has partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Veterans of Foreign Wars and aims at increasing the funds allocated for the Alzheimer’s research, give and boost the support that the volunteered caregivers provide and even enroll more veterans from the community that are diagnosed of the illness into the VA. Taylor’s decision to take part in the creation and concentrate on Veterans, the group disproportionately at risk for dementia, was really personal. Her grandfather, John Gavin was the States Army colonel and a West Point graduate. Her father on the other side is a retired lieutenant colonel and Vietnam War veteran to the States Army. The father’s name is Bernard Landau. This veteran focused group is a new creation of Us Against Alzheimer’s and is lobbying to multiply research for a cure for the illness. A cofounder of the group, George Vradenburg gave a description to the group as ‘small, feisty and fearless.’
At 96 years of age, the World War II paratrooper recognized by his awarding of the Bronze star when he parachuted just behind the enemy’s lines to demolish Germany artillery at Normandy on the D-day, Donald Malarkey has died. The latter was among the several members that were referred to “Easy Company”, portrayed widely in the HBO miniseries, “Band of Brothers”. His son-in-law, John Hill said on Sunday that Malarkey Donald died on the 30th of last month, September and that the cause of his death is Oregon of old age related issues. Donald fought in different fights. He represented the team in the fight across France, the Belgium and the Netherlands and while with Easy Company, he fought off Nazi advances during the battle of the Bulge while surrounded at Bastogne in 1944, December. In 2009, he was presented with the highest honor award by the French government, The Legion of Honor Medal, and was often praised by the state for his actions the times of war. Hill, speaking of his father in law, also said that Malarkey had always been haunted by memories and thoughts of combat and the traumatization of losing family members, friends and fellow soldiers. The release of the “Band of Brothers” miniseries was really beneficial and cathartic for him because it aided him to come into good terms with the emotional scars developed and experienced at the battles during wars. He was born on July 30th, 1921 in Oregon. Before becoming a paratrooper volunteer when drafted to the state army in 1942, he was a freshman at the University of Oregon. After the war, he went back to the University of Oregon in 1948, to accomplish a degree in Business. It is during his student life at the University of Oregon that he met Irene Moore and fell in love with her. He later took her to the altar in 1948 and the marriage bore fruits to four children, named, Michael Malarkey, Marianne McNally, Sharon Hill and lastly Martha Serean. He met with the historian, Stephen Ambrose in 1987 and in 1989, he travelled with the other members of the Easy Company for research and the providence of oral histories of the war happenings and histories in Europe. It is those relocations that are the basis development of “Bands of Brothers” and an earlier book authored by the same name written by Ambrose. Malarkey told Oregon in a Public Broadcast back in 2012 that he could look back and with great pride come to the realization that he had done a very significant thing and acted very responsibly in what amounted to saving the world. May his soul rest in peace.
According to VA, the set ethics law that has been on aid to Veteran to prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs employed members from them receiving monetary or even owning a stake in for- profit colleges that can rake in millions in G.I. Illogical, unplanned and unintended consequences could be resulted to Bill tuition. And for this reason, the VA is determined to push the suspension of the fifty year old statute. The Veteran Advocacy groups have it that if the ethnic law is suspended, the for-profit education industry will have an easier way to exploitation of its biggest cash cow for the veterans. On 14th September this year, in the Federal Register, a proposal was published where the VA claimed that the statute is redundant following the other conflict-of-interest ethnic laws that should apply to all federal staff and to be provided with enough safeguards. The New York Times has it that the statute was enhanced because of a string of scandals that involved the for-profit education industry. The critics of the proposal after its analysis said that the statute gives providence of additional regulations that give protection from abuse and also the transparency provided is more than enough. Student Veterans of American’s Vice President of government affairs, William Hubbard email to the Task and Purpose indicated that the statute is of much importance and benefits because it is one of the many bipartisan reform Congress that are implemented to give protection to G.I. Bill benefits from abuse, fraud and waste. He also noted that a thoughtful and robust public conversation is an important step that should be given a platform so as to ensure that even the interests of student veterans is one of the top priorities considered. The VA argument is that the statute, 38 U.S.C. 3683, when in practice is a punishment to the agency members who do not have anything or take part in any real conflict of interest, and in turn making the statute unjust and detrimental to the VA’s serving ability to the veterans. For instance, a VA doctor who teaches or has ever been involved in teaching at a for-profit school where veteran students attend using G.I. Bill education stands a chance in the statute to be reprimanded. According to Reveal, it is reported that for-profit colleges have a staggeringly low graduation rate of approximate –7.3%. It is however important to note that the for-profit education industry has a record of having the largest recipient of taxpayer subsidies under the post –9/11 G.I. Bill.
One of the major problems that have plagued the veteran community is homelessness. It’s true that nearly every city in the United States has homeless veterans. Even though the VA is trying its level best to deal with the situation, the impact is still not being felt. It is good news for the people of Kent County after several organizations who help veterans who are homeless report that the problem of homeless veterans has at last been solved. The project started in 2015 and by that time, the county had more than 400 veterans who were homeless. Jeffrey King, who is the Director of Communications for Community Rebuilders commented that veterans have been receiving more support and motivation from the whole community. King’s organization hopes to get rid of homelessness in the Grand Rapids area. In 2010 an Obama-era initiative was started to end the chronic homelessness and currently there are about 54 communities nationwide that have played an important role in solving the issue of homelessness among veterans. Vera Beech, the Executive Director of Community Rebuilders, commented on the same saying that giving a helping hand to the ex-service members was just beginning. He says the platform was great and would help in dealing with any form of homelessness in the community. Nan Roman, the CEO and president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, applauded the efforts, but also said that the major challenge that needs to be addressed by the communities are the factors that lead to homelessness. Kent County will be replicated in other states, connect veterans and the whole community to resources. After that, the outreach processes and efforts that have been successful in the past will be used until everyone has all the basic necessities they need before moving on to a new project. More information on how to help with the homelessness has been provided on the National Alliance to End Homelessness' website.
Connecticut is currently boosting of possessing a monument that was built in honor of veterans who were disabled in war. This happens to be the very first memorial that has been exclusively dedicated to all the disabled veterans despite ones’ military branch. The unveiling and dedication took place last Saturday and the venue was Veteran’s Memorial Green on Washington Street. The celebration marked the completion and actualization of the project that took 3 years and had started when two members of the Shea-Cedarholm-Clark Chapter #7 of Disabled American Veterans came up with a similar idea in the exact instant. This was according to a statement by members. It was back in 2014 when both, John DiMauro, chapter commander, and Thomas Goglia, adjutant, had gone to D.C., the two were seated on the front row as the lighting of the ceremonial flame at The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial took place. When the two were heading back they drove past the Veteran’s Green and immediately the idea of a memorial dedicated to the disabled veterans popped up in their head. DiMauro said that the memorial was dedicated to honor all the veterans who have both physical and unrecognizable disabilities. During the ceremony Goglia, a U.S. Air Force veteran and was present during the Vietnam conflict, asked the younger veterans to utilize all the services that they are being offered so that they can enjoy all the benefits they are entitled to. A four gun saluted was part of the ceremony and was done by non-other than a color guard squad from the American Legion Post 256. Hazel Pufahl of Ashford was the 8 year old who sang the national anthem during the ceremony. She had been asked to sing in the ceremony by the Commissioner of Veterans Affairs. She had also been requested to perform during the Memorial Day ceremony in Middletown. According to her father, Jason Pufahl, Hazel has been performing in several memorial ceremonies that have been held in the city. The 8 year old comes from a family of veterans with 3 of her grandfathers being veterans. When interviewed, Hazel commented that she loves singing and had a lot of fun during the whole ceremony. Mayor Dan Drew, was thrilled at said that his town was fortunate to be the humble home of the monument. The Public Works department of the city has come up with a plan to add an accessible sidewalk so that the place can be accessible also to the handicapped.
Last Sunday morning, a photo was sent to Brennan Gilmore. The photo was of his 97 year old grandfather, John Middlemas kneeling in his garden while looking straight at the camera while wearing his cap "World War II Veteran". It was a great picture, but nobody anticipated that it would turn into an internet sensation. This comes after President Trump said that all NFL players who had demonstrated when the national anthem was being sung ought to be fired. The president said the players were disrespectful to the American flag. The crowd might have cheered that the President after he made the comment, but then after that there was a series criticism levelled against his statement. The NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell described Trump’s comments as "divisive." The list of critics was long including players, team owners and veterans. Despite the many criticisms he is facing, the President has refused to back down and still insists on saying the NFL players should be fired. Colin Kaepernick who is the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, started kneeling each time the national anthem was being sung as a way to make people be aware of the police violence experienced by the African Americans. Kaepernick is no longer in the NFL, many have debated on his method of silent protest, with the President commenting on it 4 days consecutively. Gilmore, resides in Charlottesville, according to him the comments made by the President were just a well-orchestrated attempt at using the veterans and patriotism to publicly say that people do not have any right to protest. Gilmore’s grandfather had only one message to the people of America: "Those kids have every right to protest." When Gilmore tweeted his grandfather’s picture with the message, the picture gathered more than 400000 likes and was shared by people on twitter more than 165,000 times, T.I was among the people who posted the on his Facebook commenting that, "It ain't about color, it's about equality & oppression!!!" Last Sunday and Monday, a majority of the NFL players protested against the president’s remarks by kneeling and standing in locked arms as the team owners gave out statements in support of the players' freedom and right to free speech. Trump on the other hand has remained firm and even brushed aside the allegations that his comments might be racially motivated.
The Trump administration has mentioned that the Veterans Choice program will need more funds so as not to disrupt the program. This comes just a few weeks after the veterans’ health initiative was awarded an emergency fund worth $2.1 billion. The report was released by the Department of Veterans Affairs on Tuesday. The statement also said that the department was hoping for a proposal that will bring a long-term legislative fix. The said proposal is currently under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget. The proposal seeks more money for the Choice program to run till next year as the VA department works on implementing wider changes. On Capitol Hill, the House Veterans Affairs Committee had predicted this scenario of the emergency fund not being enough to even last the program for the next 6 months. The emergency fund was approved in August. This has been attributed to past problems associated with the VA making wrong estimates with regards to the cost of the Choice program. The House Veterans Affairs Committee is closely monitoring the situation and so is the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Garry Augustine, who is the Executive Director of the Disabled American Veterans' Washington headquarters, reported that despite the worrying situations earlier discussions with the VA department gave him a certain amount of confidence in the program. The VA statement that was on The Associated Press, did not give a certain or specific date as to when the funds will totally run out, however they gave an estimate of early December or luckily till March next year. So far the VA has started to limit the number of referrals being made to private doctors as funds began to deplete. On the other hand veterans are still complaining of delays in care delivery. The long term fix proposal by the VA will be unveiled in a few weeks. Choice currently gives veterans the privilege of accessing medical services from private health care providers only if they are forced to wait 30 or more days for an appointment in a VA facility, or if they have to drive more than 40 miles to reach the closest VA facility. So far the program has experienced a lot of challenges.