Vet Fraud & Abuse ► 16 thru 31 May 2016 Dayton, KY — The caretaker of an Air Force veteran has been sentenced to four years in prison for using the veteran's credit card as he lay buried underneath a northern Kentucky home for nine months. News outlets report that 41-year-old Christy Russell was sentenced 16 MAY and ordered to pay back $32,822 in restitution. Russell pleaded guilty in April to fraudulently using 55-year-old Steven Reis' credit card to take advantage of his veteran benefits. Authorities aren't sure how Reis came to be buried underneath a vacant Dayton home. Reis' body was discovered in September and authorities believe he died in January 2015. Police said in a statement that an autopsy couldn't determine his cause of death. Police say others had also lived in the house with Russell, but no one has been charged. [Source: The Associated Press| May 17, 2016 ++]
Famous Vets ►USMC | Steve McQueen Steve McQueen's legacy as the "King of Cool" began early in his acting career and carries on to this day. He loved racing, frequently got in trouble, had three wives, and donated to the California Junior Boys Republic. Born to a stunt pilot and an alleged alcoholic prostitute, his childhood was tumultuous. His father left both he and his mother after six months, and McQueen lived with his grandparents until he was eight. His step-father beat him and his mother which drove McQueen to live on the streets for a time. He was later sent to the California Junior Boys Republic where he began to mature.
"It was all very pleasant just lying in the sun and watching the girls go by, but one day I suddenly felt bored with hanging around and went and joined the Marines." After drifting from job to job, he decided to join the Marines in 1947. He was promoted to Private First Class and served with an armored unit, but he was demoted back to private seven times. His rebellious nature came to a head when he let a weekend pass turn into a two week tryst with his girlfriend. Shore patrol apprehended him, but he resisted and spent 41 days in the brig; the first 21 were spent living off of bread and water. His time in the brig served to reform as he attempted to improve himself and embody Marine values. Later on his unit was performing a training exercise in the Arctic which turned disastrous. The ship McQueen, his unit, and their tanks had boarded hit a sandbank which threw several tanks and their crews into the water. Many drowned immediately, unable to get out of their tanks, but McQueen jumped in and saved the lives of five men.
In recognition of his actions, McQueen was chosen to partake in the Honor Guard protecting Harry S. Truman's yacht. McQueen stayed with the Marines until 1950 when he was honorably discharged. "The Marines gave me discipline I could live with. By the time I got out, I could deal with things on a more realistic level. All in all, despite my problems, I liked my time in the Marines," McQueen said. After leaving the Marines, McQueen used money earned through the G.I. Bill to study acting at Sanford Meisner's Neighborhood Playhouse. He began entering races at the same time and brought home about $100 home per week in winnings. McQueen became steadily employed on the show "Wanted: Dead or Alive". Later on his Hollywood break came by way of Frank Sinatra who hired him for the part of Bill Ringa in "Never So Few".
McQueen's career was prolific -- he starred in numerous roles and maintained his star status up until his untimely death in 1980. McQueen suffered from mesothelioma and underwent surgery to remove multiple tumors in his neck and midsection. Doctors had warned him that his heart could not withstand the surgery, and hours after the tumors were removed, McQueen died of cardiac arrest. [Source: Military.com | May 2016 ++]
Vet Toxic Exposure | Lejeune Update 59► VA to Accept Claims The Veterans Affairs Department has determined that eight medical conditions are linked to service at Camp Lejeune, N.C. from 1953 to 1987, and veterans with these diseases who were stationed at the sprawling Marine Corps base are eligible for disability compensation. VA officials said 19 MAY that these eight diseases that have been determined to be service-connected to consuming contaminated drinking water at the base: kidney cancer, liver cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, scleroderma, Parkinson's disease and aplastic anemia or other myelodysplastic syndromes.
VA Secretary Robert McDonald said research by health experts at the Veterans Health Administration and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicated that the risk of developing these illnesses is elevated by exposure to contaminants found in the water, including perchloroethylene, trichlorotheylene, benzene and other volatile organic compounds. "The water at Camp Lejeune was a hidden hazard, and it is only years later that we know how dangerous it was," McDonald said. "We thank ATSDR for the thorough review that provided much of the evidence we needed to fully compensate veterans who develop one of the conditions known to be related to exposure to the compounds in the drinking water."
Nearly a million people, including troops, family members and civilian employees working at Camp Lejeune from the 1950s through the 1980s were exposed to these chemicals and other cancer-causing agents in the base's drinking water, supplied by two water treatment facilities polluted by dry cleaning compounds, leaking underground storage tanks, industrial spills and poor disposal practices. The VA has provided health care or reimbursement for medical costs for veterans who served at Camp Lejeune at least 30 days during the affected period or family members with 15 illnesses related to exposure to water contaminated by solvents and fuels, but it had not awarded "presumptive status" to any condition until now.
The changes will take effect after VA publishes regulations regarding these presumptions, and will apply to new disability claims. Veterans who have previously been denied on such claims may seek to be re-evaluated. Also, any pending claims that might be denied under current regulations will be placed on hold until the VA issues its final rules, according to a department press release. The bedrock eligibility rules will be that veterans must have one of the eight specified conditions and must have served at Camp Lejeune between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987. The new rules also will expand eligibility to reserve and National Guard members who served at Camp Lejeune for any length of time during that period.
A VA spokeswoman said compensation awarded as a result of the proposed regulations, if adopted, will "be effective no earlier than the date the final rule is published." Veterans have expressed frustration over the low rate of claims approvals for illnesses related to the Camp Lejeune water. Hundreds of veterans attended a meeting of the Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel on Dec. 5 in Tampa to express frustration with the VA's handling of claims and plead with VA officials to improve the process. Paul Maslow, a veteran who walks with a cane and said he has inoperable tumors on his spine and elsewhere, said he and thousands of former troops need assistance. "You are not helping us, you are hurting us," Maslow told VA officials attending the meeting. "And the more you delay, the more of us ... are going to die."
Two senators who pressed VA to change its policies regarding benefits for Camp Lejeune veterans said Thursday they applaud the VA's decision, calling it a "victory for those who have suffered." "The VA has conceded that it will no longer deny disability benefits to Camp Lejeune victims based on ridiculous scientific claims,” Sen. Richard Burr, (R-NC) said. "VA is finally granting some justice to veterans who were exposed to contaminated drinking water while assigned to Camp Lejeune,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). "The victims of this tragedy have waited far too long to receive disability benefits." [Source: Military Times | Patricia Kime | December 17, 2015 ++]
WWII Vets 109 ► Edwin Shifrin Edwin Shifrin’s family knew he successfully escaped from a Nazi prison camp during World War II, but it wasn’t until one of his children started digging into his wartime past that they learned the details of the clever escape. Shifrin, 93, seldom discussed his time at war, but he received a prisoner-of-war medal in FEB 2016 after son Dan Shifrin dug through old news reports and his father’s military records and pieced together what happened. “It is an amazing story,” said Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who expedited the medal process after hearing about it from Shifrin’s daughter in January. Shifrin received the award during a family-only ceremony in the suburban St. Louis apartment that he shares with his wife of 67 years. “This is the very best part of my job,” McCaskill said by phone from her Senate offices in Washington.
Edwin Shifrin’s memory is fading, so his son Dan shared his story: Assigned to the Army’s 30th Infantry Division, 1st Battalion, 117th Infantry Regiment, Company C, Shifrin landed on France’s Normandy beach in June 1944 a week after the D-Day invasion and then fought the Germans in battles at St. Lo and Mortain. The Germans captured him on 7 AUG, and Shifrin was sent from a prison camp to his final stop, Poland lockup Stalag IIIC, which was about 90 miles from Berlin. Telegrams to U.S. family members notified them he was missing in action. Shifrin was among the camp’s roughly 1,000 prisoners, many of whom formed “an escape committee” and drew up a getaway plan.
This February 2016 photo provided by Dan Shifrin shows his father, 93-year-old Edwin Shifrin at home in Clayton, Mo., looking at a prisoner-of-war medal he just received for his World War II military service.
Each morning when the Germans did simply a numerical headcount – no actual names were called out – a prisoner designated by the committee would hide, touching off what turned out to be a futile search by guards. The hiding prisoner would later quietly rejoin the others, but the befuddled guards would lower the next day’s headcount by one.
On the second day, two prisoners would hide, touching off another futile search and getting the guards to lower the next day’s head count by one again. That continued with three and four prisoners hiding and the guards classifying them as escaped. Eventually, four men actually escaped, but the guards didn’t notice because they had already lowered the roll-call numbers to account for the prisoners who had hidden. Shifrin and some other prisoners got their chance in mid-January 1945, just weeks before the Russians liberated the camp. Dan Shifrin said “the rest of their journey is pretty hazy,” but what’s known is they hitchhiked on Allied supply trucks and purloined rides on horses and bikes on their way to Italy. By that April, Shifrin was back on U.S. soil, in Boston.
After getting his law degree, he became a St. Louis attorney and worked well into his 80s. He seldom discussed his time at war. “We knew he’d been in the war, that he had been captured and that he escaped. That’s about it. He didn’t talk about it,” said Dan Shifrin, who lives in the Denver area. “My guess is he figured it was just part of his life – many went through it, many didn’t return. Many of those who did return didn’t return in one piece.” Chronicling his dad’s past, Dan Shifrin added, “gave me much greater appreciation for what he and others went through.” “I guess also it’s that these men and women are dying at an unbelievable rate and their stories are being lost. This is one more story we can tell and keep alive.” [Source: The Associated Press | Jim Suhr | April 3, 2016 ++]
Obit: Donna Barr Tabor ► 19 MAY 2016 For nearly 20 years, Donna Barr Tabor was the expert on all things Fort Bragg. But the longtime post historian was more than a keeper of history, she was part of it herself, a trailblazer for female paratroopers. Mrs. Tabor, 58, died early Thursday in Fayetteville. She is survived by her husband of 35-years, Edward; and three children, Amanda, Joshua and Jacob. Her family, in a obituary that ran in the Observer, called her "a dreamer, a rationalist, a romantic and a source of uncommon wit until the very end."
Mrs. Tabor became the command historian for the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg in 1997. But her history with the post runs much deeper. While serving on active duty between 1979 and 1981, Mrs. Tabor spent the majority of her service on Fort Bragg, completing 32 jumps and earning the rank of specialist 4. She met her husband, Edward, on a Fort Bragg drop zone after one of those jumps. In an interview with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro's Women Veterans Historical Project, Mrs. Tabor said she was drawn to the Army because she wanted to do something for which most women hadn't had the opportunity. "I just wanted to go in the Army. Because it wasn't normal," she said. "I mean a lot of people went in World War II and there were Army nurses but this was - the all-volunteer Army had just started."
When a recruiter advised her against becoming an Army photographer, she instead picked a very different job, one she didn't see many other women choosing: she became a telephone lineman. "I thought, 'At least when I get out I could work for the phone company, that's kind of different.' So I signed up for that," Mrs. Tabor told the Women Veterans Historical Project in 2011. "I didn't want to be somebody's secretary. I didn't want to work in a factory. I didn't want to work at a drug store I had worked at. You know, that would be my life just working at a drug store," Mrs. Tabor added. "I wanted to do something that women don't do all the time. I mean it was the '70s and women's lib and all that."
Mrs. Tabor joined the Army in 1979 and trained at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and Fort Gordon, Georgia. It was there she encountered a recruiter from the airborne. At first, she said she felt overlooked because of her gender. "He told us all about how great it would be to jump out of airplanes and everything, but he kept ignoring me being in the room next to the four guys. He passed out the paperwork to the four guys and I said, 'But what about me?'" Tabor said. "And he said, 'Well, you're not going to go, are you?' I said 'Gimme the paper.'" In a class of more than 300 men, Mrs. Tabor was one of only a dozen women. While women had been allowed in the airborne since 1973, she said she had to battle harassment and discrimination. Mrs. Tabor described being subjected to extra harsh treatment and having to fight to be kept in the class. In one instance, Mrs. Tabor was tripped while running in a formation. Other soldiers tried to say she passed out and would need to be hospitalized and "recycled" to another class. "I just went back to training. I told them, 'No, isn't anything wrong with me.' They couldn't say there was something wrong with me anymore," Mrs. Tabor said.
At 5-foot-3, Mrs. Tabor said she stood apart among her paratrooper colleagues, but she said she proved just as good as they were. "Look, they don't have special little pink planes that fly three feet above the ground for girls, you know; we jump out of the same plane," she said. "We do all the same stuff y'all do. So, this is one thing where you can't say that." At Fort Bragg, she said she was assigned to the 35th Signal Brigade and filled a variety of roles with that unit and the 82nd Airborne Division before leaving the Army while pregnant with her first child. Looking back on her service, Mrs. Tabor said she was unaware at the time just how few female paratroopers there were then, but she said there was no doubt women could do the job.
"I never believed in lowering the standards to let women get in and let women pass because then you're not really doing it. You have to do the same thing or they won't treat you the same," Mrs. Tabor said. "But if she wants to and she can do it, there are women that can do this stuff and want to bad enough. I wanted to bad enough it made me able to do everything without being as big as they were. If you want to do it, you should be allowed to do it. I don't think it matters what it is; if you are qualified and you can, do it." [Source: The Fayetteville Observer | Drew Brooks | May 24, 2016 ++]
Obit: Melvin Rector ► 6 MAY 2016 U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Melvin Rector long carried Britain in his heart after he helped defend it during World War II, but 70 years passed without him stepping foot in the country. The 94-year-old finally decided to leave his home in Barefoot Bay, Fla., to visit Britain earlier this month. The National World War II Museum in New Orleans conducts a travel program through which interested parties can visit certain sites of the war. He signed up for one, in hopes of visiting the Royal Air Force station Snetterton Heath, in Norfolk.
He served there with the 96th Bomb Group in 1945 as a radio operator and gunner on B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, flying eight combat missions over Germany during the spring of the war’s final year. On four of these missions, his plane came under heavy fire. One almost proved catastrophic, and the plane returned to base with holes dotting its wings. At one point during his military career, he served as a gunner for the Memphis Belle, the first heavy bomber to complete its tour by flying 25 missions with its crew intact. It went on to have a post-war career in raising morale and money for the U.S. Army. The B-17 Flying Fortress garnered such attention that not one but two films were made about it: a documentary in 1944 and an eponymously titled drama in 1990, starring John Lithgow, Matthew Modine and Harry Connick Jr.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Melvin Rector Rector was excited for his return to the place that made this great plane famous. “He planned it for like the last six months,” Darlene O’Donnell, Rector’s stepdaughter, said of the trip, according to the Florida Today newspaper. “He couldn’t wait to go.” On Rector’s long flight over the Atlantic, the pilot of his American Airlines flight summoned him to the cockpit so that the two could take a photograph together. “The flight attendant stopped us and said, ‘Mr. Rector, the captain would like to meet you,'” Susan Jowers told Florida Today. She had become almost a daughter to Rector after serving as his guardian during a 2011 Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C., and she accompanied him on this tour.
On 6 MAY, Rector stepped foot on British soil for the first time in 71 years. The group first visited RAF Uxbridge in the London borough of Hillingdon. Rector toured Battle of Britain Bunker, an underground command center where fighter airplane operations were directed during D-Day. After climbing back into the sunlight, he told Jowers he felt dizzy. She grabbed one of his arms, and a stranger grabbed the other. There, just outside the bunker where Winston Churchill famously said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” Rector died quietly. “He walked out of that bunker like his tour was done,” Jowers said. Sandy Vavruich, Rector’s daughter, said it’s how he would have liked to die, even though he sadly never did make it to RAF Snetterton Heath. “He couldn’t have asked for a better way to go,” she told Florida Today. “It was quick and painless. He had just gotten to see two planes, and he passed away between them.”
Before repatriating his remains to the United States, a small service for the fallen hero was planned in Britain. It did not remain a small service. “They just wanted something very simple. And when I found a little bit of background out about Melvin, there was no way we were going to just give him a very simple service,” Neil Sherry, the British funeral director in charge of Rector’s service, told ITV London News. “I wanted it to be as special as possible.” Though Jowers expected no more than four people, word of Rector’s war record reached the American and British armed forces. The U.S. Embassy donated a flag to drape over his coffin, and the room filled with servicemen and women and London historians who had never met Rector but wanted to pay their respects to their spiritual brother in arms.
One of them was U.S. Army Maj. Leif Purcell. He may not have known Rector, but he attended the funeral May 18. “Representation from the Royal Air Force and the British Army I saw here was phenomenal,” Purcell told ITV London News. “I was expecting just to see myself and maybe two or three other U.S. service members and a priest, and that was it. So it was very delightful to see.” Speaking to the congregation, one U.S. serviceman said, “I do know of his sacrifice and his family’s sacrifice, so you do him and his family a great honor by being here today.” “He certainly got a beautiful send-off,” Jowers told Florida Today. “People everywhere, from Cambridge to London, heard his story.” Vavruich, who lives in Gloversville, N.Y., was also touched by the outpouring of respect. She, along with Rector’s five other children, will have the opportunity to pay their respects June 9 at First Baptist Church in Barefoot Bay. Rector’s remains were repatriated to the United States on 24 MAY. [Source: The Washington Post | Travis M. Andrews | May 26, 2016 ++]
Retiree Appreciation Days ►As of 29 MAY 2016
Retiree Appreciation Days (RADs) are designed with all veterans in mind. They're a great source of the latest information for retirees and Family members in your area. RADs vary from installation to installation, but, in general, they provide an opportunity to renew acquaintances, listen to guest speakers, renew ID Cards, get medical checkups, and various other services. Some RADs include special events such as dinners or golf tournaments. Due to budget constraints, some RADs may be cancelled or rescheduled. Also, scheduled appearances of DFAS representatives may not be possible. If you plan to travel long distances to attend a RAD, before traveling, you should call the sponsoring RSO to ensure the RAD will held as scheduled and, if applicable, whether or not DFAS reps will be available. The current updated schedule for 2016 is available at:
Note that this schedule has been expanded to include dates for retiree\veterans related events such as town hall meetings, resource fairs, stand downs, etc. To get more info about a particular event, mouseover or click on the event under Event Location. (NOTE: Attendance at some events may require military ID, VA enrollment or DD214. "@" indicates event requires registration\RSVP.) For more information call the phone numbers indicated on the schedule of the Retirement Services Officer (RSO) sponsoring the RAD.
To quickly locate events in your geographic area just click on the appropriate State\Territory\Country listed at the top of the schedule. They will look like this: