This Dec. 16, 2013, file photo shows John Donald Cody speaking during his sentencing on racketeering, theft, money laundering charges in Cleveland. *********************************
Fireworks-Free 4th of July ► Michigan State Parks PTSD Vets Offer This Independence Day weekend (July 3-5), several Michigan state parks will offer Fireworks-Free** Fourth of July celebrations. Located farther away from urban areas that often host large local firework displays, these participating parks are ideal camping locations for veterans and others who prefer a quieter holiday celebration. The idea for the Fireworks-Free Fourth was the result of a conversation with a veteran, who mentioned how fireworks and other loud noises could bring up distressing memories from military experiences. Fireworks-Free Fourth of July celebrations are made possible by a partnership between the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “While fireworks are a traditional Fourth of July festivity, some veterans and others prefer a calmer celebration with a little less excitement,” said DNR Parks and Recreation Division Chief Ron Olson. “We are pleased to honor our veterans and offer that opportunity in several of our beautiful state parks.”
One in five veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress injury. Sometimes known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSI is a condition that can occur after a person has been through a traumatic event. Even when removed from the stressful situation, similar sounds or experiences can trigger intense feelings of fear, stress, anger or sadness. In honor of Michigan’s 660,000 veterans, including those with PTSI, the following parks this year are celebrating without loud fireworks:
Bewabic State Park (Iron County)
Brighton Recreation Area-Bishop Lake Campground (Livingston County)
Cheboygan State Park (Cheboygan County)
Craig Lake State Park (Baraga County)
Hayes State Park (Lenawee County)
Lake Hudson State Park (Lenawee County)
Leelanau State Park (Leelanau County)
Menominee River State Recreation Area (Dickinson County)
Orchard Beach State Park (Manistee County)
Rifle River Recreation Area (Ogemaw County)
Sleepy Hollow State Park (Clinton County)
Wells State Park (Menominee County)
For camping reservations at these and other parks, visit https://www.midnrreservations.com (all regular camping fees apply). “Everyone has their own Fourth of July traditions, and we’re excited to partner with Michigan state parks to offer veterans and their families a way to enjoy the holiday without worry or stress,” MVAA Director Jeff Barnes said. “PTSI is a normal reaction to abnormal circumstances and it can affect anyone, and an event like the Fireworks-Free Fourth is a great alternative when celebrating our nation’s freedom.”
To learn more about services for Michigan veterans visit http://www.michiganveterans.com or call 800-MICH-VET (800-642-4838). For more information about Fireworks-Free Fourth celebrations, contact Stephanie Wirtz (DNR) at 989-686-2790 or Lauren DeVol (MVAA) at 517-242-6869. DNR and MVAA encourage Fireworks-Free Fourth campers to join the conversation online and spread the word with the hashtag #FireworksFree4th.
** Michigan state parks cannot guarantee that no fireworks will be set off near the state parks, but the participating Fireworks-Free Fourth state parks are located far away from urban areas where there are large local fireworks displays. Aerial fireworks (such as Roman candles and bottle rockets) are not allowed in Michigan state parks at any time, but small novelty fireworks (such as fountain fireworks, sparklers and ground spinners) may be set off in the campground. Michigan DNR encourages campers to refrain from setting off fireworks in participating Fireworks-Free Fourth state parks during this special weekend in honor of veterans.
[Source: Michigan Press Release | May 13, 2015 ++]
Retiree Appreciation Days ►As of 13 JUN 2015 Retiree Appreciation Days (RADs) are designed with you 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 schedule is provided in the attachment to this Bulletin titled, “Retiree Activity\Appreciation Days (RAD) Schedule”. 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. For more information call the phone numbers of the Retirement Services Officer (RSO) sponsoring the RAD as indicated in the attachment. An up-to-date list of Retiree Appreciation Days can always be accessed online at
[Source: RAD List Manager | Milton Bell | June 13, 2014 ++]
Vet Hiring Fairs ► 16 Jun thru 15 Jul 2015 The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s (USCC) Hiring Our Heroes program employment workshops are available in conjunction with hundreds of their hiring fairs. These workshops are designed to help veterans and military spouses and include resume writing, interview skills, and one-on-one mentoring. For details of each you should click on the city next to the date in the below list. To participate, sign up for the workshop in addition to registering (if indicated) for the hiring fairs which are shown below for the next month. For more information about the USCC Hiring Our Heroes Program, Military Spouse Program, Transition Assistance, GE Employment Workshops, Resume Engine, etc. visit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s website at http://www.hiringourheroes.org/hiringourheroes/events .
Columbia, SC - Columbia Hiring Fair
June 16 - 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Register_Fort_Gordon,_GA_-_Fort_Gordon_Transition_Summit'>Details Register
Buffalo, NY - Buffalo Hiring Fair
June 18 - 8:30 am to 1:00 pm Details Register
Nashville, TN - Nashville Hiring Fair
June 18 - 8:30 am to 1:00 pm Details Register
Fort Gordon, GA - Fort Gordon Transition Summit
June 24 - 4:00 pm to June 25 - 4:00 pm Details Register
Arlington, VA - Transitioning Senior Military Leadership Networking Reception
June 25 - 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm Details Register
East Rutherford, NJ - Greater New York City Hiring Fair
June 27 - 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Details Register
New York, NY - New York Hiring Expo with New York Mets
June 30 - 9:30 am to 3:00 pm Details Register
Honolulu, HI - Hawaii Transition Summits
July 7 - 5:00 pm to July 9 - 5:00 pm Details Register
Cleveland, OH - Cleveland Hiring Fair
July 10 - 8:00 am to 2:00 pm DetailsRegister
Montgomery, AL - Montgomery Hiring Fair
July 14 - 8:30 am to 1:00 pm Details Register
Ft. Worth, TX - Fort Worth/Dallas Hiring Fair
July 14 - 8:30 am to 1:00 pm Details Register
[Source: U.S. Chamber of Commerce Assn June 14, 2015 ++]
WWII Vets 88 ► Charles P. Clark A 107-year-old World War II veteran has been living at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center Community Living Center since November and has pretty much seen it all. Charles P. Clark is the oldest living confirmed WWII veteran receiving health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Administration. Living WWII Veterans experienced the most widespread war in the nation’s history and are among the steadily declining veteran population in the world. WWII African-American veterans fought a global war when segregation was still among the ranks in the United States.
Charles P. Clark, the oldest living confirmed WWII Veteran recei
Charles P. Clark, the oldest living confirmed WWII Veteran Clark was born in August 1907 in Hamilton, Va. He is one of seven children of a sharecropper and a housemaid. At 32 years old, Clark was drafted into the U.S. Army, and on Dec. 12, 1944, he was called to serve in WWII after graduating from basic training in Fort Lee, Va. “When I left, I was on a big ship with about 5,000 men of different cultures and backgrounds,” said Clark. “There were 53 ships in the convoy and we landed in Liverpool, England, at about quarter to seven in the evening. It was a month after D-Day.” Clark’s unit was the 3238 Quartermaster Service Company, an all-Black unit of the 9th Armored Division. Clark and his unit were part of the over 2.5 million African-American men registered for the draft during WWII and among the 125,000 African-American men who served overseas during WWII. The unit delivered, supported and served food to the troops, but was not allowed to fight upfront in combat.
“My main duty was kitchen patrol,” said Clark. “I furnished food to the men and guarded food and supplies when we traveled on convoys. “I remember one time we got a little too close to the front while we were serving food, and a Colonel came over and told us to get back; they didn’t allow us to serve up front.” Clark’s commanding officer and two lieutenants were white, but his first sergeant and the rest of his unit were Black. Clark said he wasn’t mistreated while serving in WWII and most people were nice to him. “It didn’t bother me too much,” said Clark. “My commander was a nice guy; he was from Baltimore, Md., and his brother was captured by the Germans before we even got there. We were all there fighting the war.” Clark provided food service support in England, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland under the most hostile conditions. One night he thought he was going to fight because he could hear the Germans getting closer. “I was on guard duty one night and I told my buddy that we’re going to fight tonight because I felt the Germans were right on us,” said Clark. “My commander told us to get ready, but we never did.”
Clark served 22 months during WWII and returned to Purcellville, Va., after his military discharge. Once home, Clark worked on an apple orchard, became a neighborhood barber and drove a county school bus for 25 years. On 16 MAR, the Martinsburg VAMC director presented Clark with a certificate of appreciation and a coin for his military service and contributions during WWII. “Mr. Clark’s service and contributions during the world’s largest conflict are nothing less than extraordinary,” said Timothy Cooke, medical center director. “Just like so many other men and women, he served our country with great honor and distinction and it’s a privilege to have him at our medical center.” Clark’s daughter-in-law, Della Clark attended the presentation. “I believe Pop’s longevity secret is that he never gets angry and he loves to graze all day long,” said Clark. “I’ve known him since 1964 and have never seen him raise his voice nor get upset.”
According to the VA’s population analysis and statistics, by 2038, WWII veterans will be no longer available to share their story. Roughly 16 million Americans served during WWII and a little over a million WWII veterans are still living. “It is important that we thank and listen to the stories of all men and women, especially those who served during World War II, while they are alive, because soon we will only hear their story in our history books,” said Cooke. “Preserving their history is up to all of us.” Clark said he believes his service in WWII helped him to become a better man. When Clark was asked his secret to living a long life he smiled and simply said, “Eat good food and not a lot of junk food.” [Source: Associated Press | March 23, 2015 ++]
State Veteran's Benefits & Discounts ► Maine The state of Maine provides several benefits to veterans as indicated below. To obtain information on these refer to the attachment to this Bulletin titled, “Veteran State Benefits –ME” for an overview of the below those benefits. Benefits are available to veterans who are residents of the state. For a more detailed explanation of each refer to http://www.mdva.state.md.us/index.html.
[Source: http://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-state-benefits/maine-state-veterans-benefits.html May 2015 ++]
* Vet Legislation *
DoD 2016 Budget Update 02 ► H.R.2685 Passes House On 11 JUN, the House passed H.R.2685, its version of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2016. The House legislation funds national security needs, military operations abroad, and health and quality-of-life programs for the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families. In total, the bill provides $578.6 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $24.4 billion above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $800 million above the President’s request. This includes $88.4 billion in Global War on Terrorism funding for war efforts and related costs, which is within the level assumed in the House and Senate budget conference agreement. The House fiscal 2016 Defense spending bill, approved by the House this week, fully funds the Defense Health Program to provide medical care for our troops, military families, and retirees. The bill also calls for a NAUS endorsed 2.3 percent increase for troops, rejecting the administration’s proposed a 1.3 percent pay boost for service members next year. [Source: NAUS Weekly Watchdog | June 12, 2015 ++]
VA Accountability Update 05 ► H.R.1994 | All Misbehaving Employees A House panel on 2 JUN discussed at length legislation that would make it easier to fire employees at the Veterans Affairs Department. H.R.1994, sponsored by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., would give the VA secretary much more flexibility to fire corrupt or poor-performing employees. The 2015 VA Accountability Act would make it easier to fire, not just top officials. The 2014 Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which became law last year, makes it easier to get rid of senior executives at the department engaged in wrongdoing; H.R. 1994 expands that authority to the rest of the VA workforce. The Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity on Tuesday reviewed nine pieces of legislation, including H.R. 1994. During the session, Republicans and Democrats asked several questions about the Miller bill related to accountability, due process and firing federal employees.
Lawmakers and other stakeholders have grown increasingly frustrated that the department has not fired any employees in connection with the data manipulation and excessive wait times for vets that erupted last year at the Phoenix, Ariz., facility. Problems involving data manipulation, mail mismanagement, drug over-prescriptions and retaliation against whistleblowers have come to light since then at several other VA facilities across the country. According to Miller, VA has only attempted to discipline eight people for wait time manipulation. “From Philadelphia to Reno, Nev., to Nashville, Tenn., to Phoenix, VA’s tradition of transferring problem workers, putting them on paid leave or simply allowing them to go virtually unpunished continues because current civil service rules make it extremely difficult to properly hold employees accountable,” Miller said in an earlier statement about the legislation. “I know this because high-ranking VA officials – people who work directly for the secretary – have told me so behind closed doors.”
On Tuesday, Miller said that he believes “99 percent of the more than 300,000 VA employees are dedicated and hardworking, and are not part of the problems that exist at VA.” But the department’s “tradition” of transferring bad apples or putting them on paid administrative leave makes H.R. 1994 necessary. The legislation would:
Allow the secretary to remove any VA employee based on performance or misconduct; the employee could file an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board within seven days of his or her removal. MSPB would have to rule within 45 days of the appeal filing. Due process for most of the federal workforce now requires that agencies notify employees within 30 days of an adverse action (including removal), provide them with seven days to respond and an opportunity to defend themselves.
Extend the probationary period for new VA employees from one year to 18 months, and allow the secretary to extend that even further. “When an employee’s probationary period ends, their immediate supervisor would be required to make an affirmative decision that the employee is qualified for their position before full civil service protections are granted,” according to a press release summarizing the bill. During Tuesday’s hearing, Miller said the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service suggested the probationary period extension to give managers more flexibility. Most VA medical professionals already have a two-year probationary period.
Include a provision limiting the secretary’s authority to fire or demote an employee who is a whistleblower.
The American Federation of Government Employees, which strongly opposes the bill overall, said H.R. 1994 would have an adverse effect on whistleblowing. Reducing the rights of front-line employees will “chill disclosures” because of a fear of firing, as well as destroy morale and undermine employee retention, said AFGE General Counsel David Borer. “Stripping job protections from non-management employees will result in more mismanagement in the form of retaliation, discrimination, patronage and anti-veteran animus,” Borer said during the hearing. He rejected the idea that it is impossible to fire federal employees, pointing to a recent Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) report that explained due process in the federal civil service. The upshot of that report was that removing poor performers and those engaged in misconduct while also protecting employees from discrimination and retaliation are not hopelessly incompatible goals. But they’re also not easy to accomplish efficiently. Still, MSPB said that agencies already have tools at their disposal to discipline and fire employees. More than 77,000 full-time, permanent, federal employees were discharged as a result of performance or conduct issues from fiscal 2000 to fiscal 2014, according to the MSPB report. In fiscal 2014, 2,572 VA employees were terminated or removed for disciplinary or performance reasons, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
Several veterans’ groups, including Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Concerned Veterans for America expressed support H.R. 1994. The bill has 44 co-sponsors, including three Democrats. The VA has “significant” concerns with the bill related to due process because it allows the secretary to fire employees “with no notice, pretty much on the spot,” said Catherine Mitrano, the department’s deputy assistant secretary for resolution management, on Tuesday. Still, panelists and lawmakers questioned how the VA culture can change if poor actors aren’t held accountable. “There are good people [in VA], but nothing happens to the bad guys – ever,” said Rick Weidman, executive director of policy and government affairs at the Vietnam Veterans of America. [Source: GovExec.com | Kellie Lunney | June 02, 2015 ++]
Veteran Status for Guard Update 06 ►S.1376 NDAA Amendment Senator John Boozman (AK) has filed a Senate floor amendment for the Senate Defense Authorization bill (S.1376) that grants full veteran status to members of the Reserve Component who have served at least 20 years, but have not been called up for active duty. As of now, these individuals that served 20 or more years cannot legally call themselves veterans. The Fleet Reserve Association as well as many other organization support full veteran status for Reservists with 20 years or more of service. FRA members and others are urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their legislators to support this important legislation. If you agree with this action you are encouraged to go to http://www.capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=65343651 and forward theie preformatted editable message to your legislators requesting them to support the amendment. [Source: FRA | Making Waves | June 04, 2015 ++]
CRDP Update 48 ►S.1376 NDAA Amendment Senator Harry Reid (NV) has filed an amendment to the Senate Defense Authorization bill (S.1376) that provides full military retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation for all disabled retirees. The amendment expands concurrent receipt to include disabled retirees with CRDP less than 50 percent and Chapter 61 medically retired (less than 20 years). Members are urged to use the Action Center to ask their Senators to support this important amendment. The Fleet Reserve Association fully supports expanding concurrent receipt for less than 50% rated veterans. FRA members and others are urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their legislators to support this important legislation. If you agree with this action you are encouraged to go to http://capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=66296711&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id] and forward their preformatted editable message to your legislators requesting them to support the amendment. [Source: FRA | Making Waves | June 05, 2015 ++]
Texas Veteran Tuition Update 04 ► S.1735 | Trim Benefits Texas House and Senate negotiators can't agree — and therefore won't change — a program offering free college tuition to veterans and their children, even amid concerns it's too expensive to be sustainable. Sen. Brian Birdwell said Saturday there are "irreconcilable" differences on how to change the Hazlewoood Act. Rep. John Zerwas said the chambers were "not going to get anywhere near agreement, so it's going to die." The benefit offers veterans free tuition at Texas' public universities. In 2009, it was changed to allow veterans' children to use unused college credit hours, and costs have since ballooned. [Source: The Association Press | Eva Ruth Moravec | June 01, 2015 ++]
Louisiana Vet College Attendance ► House Bill 485 Passes It could become easier for veterans to get a college degree in Louisiana, under a bill that has received final legislative passage. The bill by Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, will create a "Governor's Military and Veteran Friendly Campus" designation for schools that meet a list of requirements intended to ease the transition to campus for students with a military background. For veterans, the campus will be required to waive application fees, provide specialized orientation programs, offer priority class scheduling and adopt policies that allow for quick readmission after deployment, among other things. The Board of Regents will handle the application review. The designation will apply for one year and will need to be renewed annually.
The House gave final passage to the bill with an 85-0 vote 4 JUN, sending the measure to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who was pushing the legislation and is expected to sign it into law. [Source: The Associated Press | June 05, 2015 ++]