RAO Bulletin 15 January 2021

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Bulletin 210115 (HTML Edition)
Vet State Benefits – WA 2021
Military History Anniversaries 0116 thru 013121
Mil Hist – WWII Iwo Jima’s Jack Lucas

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Bulletin 210115 (PDF Edition)
Vet State Benefits – WA 2021
Military History Anniversaries 0116 thru 013121
Mil Hist – WWII Iwo Jima’s Jack Lucas

THIS RETIREE ACTIVITIES OFFICE BULLETIN CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES

Pg Article Subject

. * DOD * .
04 == Military Exchange Access —- (DoD Civilian Use Proposal Dropped)
05 == MOH Awards [22] —- (Still-Missing WWII Recipient Family Asks DOD to Stop Using His Name)
07 == NDAA 2021 [15] —- (Senate Overrides Trump’s Veto)
08 == POW/MIA [125] —- (Unknowns’ In Philippines Returned To Hawaii for Identification)
09 == DoD My MilLife Guide —- (Text Message Program to Boost Wellness Launched)
11 == POW/MIA Recoveries & Burials —- (Reported 01 thru 15 JAN 2021 | Four)

. * VA * .
13 == VA Lawsuit | Vance Perry —- (Family Sues Over Wisconsin Veterans Hospital Cold-Weather Death)
13 == VA Lawsuit | Gerald Culhane —- ($1.95 Million Awarded in Misdiagnosis Case)
15 == VA Presumptive AO Diseases [36] —- (Parkinsonism, Bladder Cancer, & Hypothyroidism)
18 == VA COVID-19 Cases [10] —- (JAN On Pace to Be the Agency’s Deadliest Month)
19 == Sleep Apnea [07] —- (VA’s Telehealth RPM Effort to Help Veterans with OSA)
20 == VA Appeals [39] —- (What to Expect During a Board of Veterans’ Appeals Hearing)
21 == VA Blue Water Claims [86] —- (As of 30 NOV 39,061 of 75,205 Received Claims Processed)
22 == VA Obesity Initiative [03] —- (Just Released | New Overweight/Obesity Guidelines)
23 == VA Registries [08] —- (Gulf War Era Vet’s Access to Care)
24 == VA Fraud, Waste & Abuse —- (Reported 01 thru 15 JAN 2021)

. * VETS * .
26 == Vet Benefits ~ Remarriage —- (Impact on SBP, TRICARE, and More)
28 == Merrill’s Marauders Vet Passes —- (James E. Richardson | Only 7 Survivors Left)
29 == Coronavirus Vaccines [23] —- (Veterans — Avoid COVID-19 Vaccine Scams)
31 == Gen. William L. Shepard Statue —- (Vet Returns Stolen Sword)
32 == Vet Jobs [270] —- (Human Resources Managers Sought at VA Facilities Nationwide)
33 == Vet Employment [13] —- (Jobless Rate Improved in December)
33 == Vet Outdoor Recreation —- (S.1263 Will Bring U.S. Vets to the Outdoors for Healing and Recovery)
34 == Vet Fraud & Abuse —- (Reported 01 thru 15 JAN 2021)
36 == Vet Discharge Upgrade Lawsuit —- (Settlement Allows Iraq/Afghan Vets to Reapply for Honorable Status)
37 == WWII Vets [[244] —- (Joe Vandever |Navajo Code Talker)
38 == WWII Vets [245] —- Bob Teichgraeber | Survived POW Camps and Forced March)
40 == Vietnam Vets [47] —- (Billy Walkabout | Most Decorated Native American Soldier)
41 == Military Retirees & Veterans Events Schedule —- (As of 16 JAN 2021)
42 == Vet Hiring Fairs —- (Scheduled as of 16 JAN 2021)
43 == State Veteran Benefits —- (Washington 2021)

. * VET LEGISLATION * .
44 == Vet Benefits Legislation [06] —- (H.R.7105 | Vets Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act Signed)

. * MILITARY* .
45 == BAH [06] —- (Military Housing Allowance 2021 Rates Released)
46 == USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) 01 —- (Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt to Assume Command)
47 == Somalia Ops —- (New Year’s Day Airstrikes)
48 == Navy Arctic Strategy —- (More Regional Navy Activity as Competition from Russia, China Increases)
49 == Military Housing Lawsuits [03] —- (2nd Poor Housing Conditions Lawsuit Filed at Randolph AFB)
50 == Navy Terminology, Jargon & Slang —- (‘Re-up’ thru ‘Royal Baby)

. * MILITARY HISTORY * .
51 = MOH Awards [21] —- (Jack Lucas | WWII’s Youngest Recipient)
52 == WWII Internment Camps —- (Japanese-American Jean Mitoma’s Experience)
54 == Desert Storm 30 —- (Shield Turns Into Storm)
56 == Desert Storm 30 [01] —- (Happy Trails)
58 == USS Indianapolis (CA-35) [04] —- (Navy Honors Hero Priest of World War II)
59 == Military History Anniversaries —- (16 thru 31 JAN)
60 == Every Picture Tells A Story —- (WWI Telephone Electricians Training)
60 == WWII Bomber Nose Art [67] —- (Mission Belle)
61 == Medal of Honor Awardees —- (Larry Smedley | Vietnam)

. * HEALTH CARE * .
62 == Coronavirus Vaccines [24] —- (TFL Seniors 75 and Older Now Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine)
63 == TRICARE Overseas Program —- (Online Enrollment Now Available)
64 == TRICARE Shingles Coverage [01] —- (Under TFL Where You Get It Makes a Difference)
65 == Cancer [01] —– (Often Overlooked Symptoms)
68 == Prostate Cancer [18] —- (Know Your Risk)
69 == Cervical Cancer [05] —- (Did You Get Your HPV Shot?)
70 == Cancer Prevention [ 02] —- (Foods to Avoid)
72 == Shoulder Pain [01] —- (Five Ways to Combat It)
75 == Vitamin Supplements [08] —- (Study Finds Multivitamins Have Zero Health Benefit)
75 == Gulf War Illness —- (As Many as 1/3 of Gulf War Vets are Affected)
77 == Exercise —- (Five Stretches to Do Every Day)
79 == Post-COVID-19 Syndrome —- (What to Expect After Testing Negative)
80 == Covid-19 Headgear [14] —- (Adverse Effects of Wearing a Face Mask)
82 == Covid-19 Treatment [08] —- (Smell & Taste Restoral Q&A)
83 == Covid-19 Testing [09] —- (Amazon Offers Saliva-Based At-Home Test)
84 == Coronavirus [41] —- (May Invade, Damage Blood Vessels – Not Nerve Cells)

. * FINANCES * .
85 == Car Insurance [27] —- Accident Impact on Insurer’s Rate Increases)
87 == Unclaimed Money [05] —- (How to Find It in States Where You’ve Been Stationed)
89 == Service Providers —- (14 Most Likely to Lower Your Bill If You Ask)
90 == College Costs [01] —- (Five Strategies and Tips on How to Pay for College)
93 == State Income Tax Changes —- (Effective January 1, 2021)
94 == IRS Income Tax Changes —- (10 Ways They Will Be Different in 2021)
96 == State Tobacco, Vapor, & Marijuana Tax Changes —- (Effective January 1, 2021)
97 == State Property & Wealth Tax Changes —- (Effective January 1, 2021)
99 == Decluttering Scam —- (Don’t Let Your Decluttering End in a Scam)
100 == Tax Burden for Massachusetts Retired Vets —- (As of JAN 2021)

. * GENERAL INTEREST * .
104 == Notes of Interest —- (January 01 thru 15, 2021)
105 == Map Comparisons —- (Canadian Population Density)
105 == A New Year —- (It’s Only Jan. 8, What the Heck Else Can Happen?)
107 == Afghan Taliban [04] —- (Troubled Peace Talks Resume amid Violence, Accusations)
108 == Senkaku Islands —- (Japan Moving On Pledge to Strengthen Defense In Face of China Claims)
109 == U.S. China Military Tensions [03] —- (Need for “Full-Time Combat Readiness” Stressed by Xi Jinping)
110 == DPRK-U.S. Relations [01] —- (Leader Calls United States “Our Biggest Enemy”)
111 == Ear Cleaning —- (Things You Need To Know)
114 == Gum Chewing —- (Pros & Cons)
116 == Termite Checking —- (What, Where, & How to Look For)
118 == Vocabulary —- (Some Words to Enhance Yours)
118 == News of The Weird —- (Jan 01 thru 15, 2021)
120 == Have You Heard or Seen? —- (Humorous Stories (1) | Military Humor 14 | Latest Satirical Cartoons)

NOTE

1. The page number on which an article can be found is provided to the left of each article’s title

2. Numbers contained within brackets [ ] indicate the number of articles written on the subject. To obtain previous articles send a request to [email protected] ‘or’ [email protected]

3. Recipients of the Bulletin are authorized and encouraged to forward the Bulletin to other vets or veteran organizations

. * ATTACHMENTS * .

Attachment – Washington Veteran Benefits

Attachment – Military History Anniversaries 16 thru 31 JAN (Updated)

Attachment – Iwo Jima’s Jack Lucas

* DoD *

Military Exchange Access

Update 03: DoD Civilian Use Proposal Dropped

A proposal to give military exchange shopping privileges to more than a half million Department of Defense civilians is dead, according to defense officials. “DoD is not pursuing military exchange access for DoD civilian employees at this time,” said DoD spokeswoman Lisa Lawrence, in response to a question from Military Times. She had no comment about why the proposal has been dropped. This is a reversal in direction for DoD since October, when an official said the proposal to give exchange shopping privileges to DoD civilians was working its way through the final stages of the approval process.

At that time, the official said it would probably be after Election Day before the initiative got final approval. It was expected to bring in about 575,000 new eligible customers into exchanges, said Berry Patrick, who works in the DoD Office of Morale, Welfare and Recreation and Nonappropriated Fund Policy, during an Oct. 20 virtual conference of the American Logistics Association. There are about 796,000 DoD civilians in the U.S., but about 221,000 of those employees already have exchange benefits resulting from another beneficiary category such as retiree or military spouse, he said. The new benefit would have applied to both appropriated fund and nonappropriated fund employees, he said. The shopping benefit would have applied only for exchanges, not commissaries. DoD civilians stationed outside the U.S. have exchange shopping privileges.

Nicole Russell, government relations deputy director for the National Military Family Association, said the organization is aware of the differing opinions surrounding the proposal, while acknowledging that NMFA represents the interests of military families, not DoD civilians. Some active duty members and family members contend that the benefit was not intended for DoD civilians, she noted. Commissaries and exchanges exist primarily for active duty service members and their families. However, there’s an argument that expanding the shopping base to include DoD civilians would also bring more sales revenue to the military exchanges, providing more money for morale, welfare and recreation programs on installations. Part of the profits from the military exchanges goes back to the service branches for MWR programs, and exchanges and MWR programs have been hit hard by the pandemic. “Any move or policy change that would increase revenue for exchanges, thereby increasing the funding available for MWR is positive for our military families,” she said.

DoD civilians are on the base every day, DoD’s Patrick noted in October. Based on projections of the civilians’ buying patterns, he said, DoD estimated exchange sales could increase by about $287 million a year, with a potential increase of $48 million in profits going back to support the services’ MWR programs. DoD has been deliberating the policy change for about three years. The American Logistics Association will continue to pursue expanding shopping privileges to DoD civilians, said Steve Rossetti, president of the association, which represents businesses that sell to commissaries, exchanges and retail MWR activities. “The stores have sufficient capacity and would provide a great convenience and source of vital products for these DoD civilians, especially critical during the pandemic,” he said.

“Civilians work side by side with their military counterparts, making huge contributions in service to the nation,” he said. “For exchanges, civilian patronage would increase contributions to vital on-base MWR programs that have suffered huge financial losses due to the loss of traffic during the pandemic.” The American Federation of Government Employees had no comment on DoD’s move to drop the proposal. One indicator of the popularity of the benefit among DoD employees was the situation in March as the pandemic hit, when DoD gave base commanders temporary authority to give commissary and exchange privileges to DoD civilians and contractor employees considered mission critical. Many people misinterpreted that to mean that every DoD mission-critical civilian employee automatically got those privileges, and DoD officials were getting phone calls from those potential customers, Patrick said.

But it was up to each installation, and some commanders gave the privileges while others didn’t, for various reasons such as concern about the strains on the supply chain’s ability to provide enough products for the stores during the pandemic. In May, 2019, officials in the Department of Homeland Security took a step for its civilian employees similar to the proposal that DoD has rejected, giving access to all Coast Guard exchanges to the more than 200,000 civilian employees in all DHS agencies. [Source: MilitaryTimes | Karen Jowers | January 12, 2021 ++]

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MOH Awards

Update 22: Still-Missing WWII Recipient Family Asks DOD to Stop Using His Name

The descendants of World War II’s first Medal of Honor recipient are requesting the federal government remove the soldier’s name from all public buildings and installations, a move coming after what they call a decades-long “bureaucratic logjam” in bringing his remains home from the Philippines. First Lt. Alexander “Sandy” Nininger, serving with the 57th Infantry Regiment, Philippine Scouts, died in battle on Jan. 12, 1942, near Abucay on the Bataan peninsula of Luzon Island, during the Japanese invasion.

He was given a hasty burial and subsequently became the war’s first service member to receive the Medal of Honor in the early days of the conflict when Imperial Japan invaded and occupied a huge swath of Asia. “They needed a hero,” John Patterson, Nininger’s 84-year-old nephew, told Stars and Stripes during a phone interview 11 JAN from his home in Rhode Island. “They needed somebody to talk about. They needed help with morale in terms of all of the disasters in the Pacific.” Nininger’s Medal of Honor citation describes the young officer moving single-handedly against the invaders. “Though exposed to heavy enemy fire, he continued to attack with rifle and hand grenades and succeeded in destroying several enemy groups in foxholes and enemy snipers,” the citation said. Patterson has spent his adult life working to bring his uncle’s remains home from the Philippines, a mission he inherited from his mother — the soldier’s sister — who had taken up the work from her father.

On 12 JAN — the 79th anniversary of Nininger’s death — Patterson sent a letter to Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams and other officials requesting on behalf of the family that Nininger’s name be removed from federal properties. Nininger was a 1941 graduate of West Point, where stands the namesake Nininger Hall, among other memorials at the academy. The family is also asking the Veterans Administration to no longer use Nininger’s name for a veterans nursing home in South Florida.

“This is not what my family wanted to do and we gave this decision a lot of thought but we no longer believe that it is appropriate for the government to use Sandy’s name to represent the highest military ideals if they aren’t willing to lift a finger to identify him,” Patterson wrote. “His case has been stuck in a bureaucratic logjam for more than 70 years and we are beyond frustrated.” “[W]e are aware that while Sandy’s memory continues to be used to inspire future leaders, the government itself has failed miserably to live up to the ideals he exemplified in life,” he wrote. A spokesperson for the Army secretary told Stars and Stripes on 12 JAN that McCarthy was not available to comment on the letter.

Patterson spent years researching the death and burial of Nininger, reviewing early documentation and interviewing veterans with firsthand knowledge of events in January 1942. In the 1990s, while working in the Philippines for the U.S. government, he investigated burial grounds near the battle site. He became convinced that the remains in an unknown grave designated Manila X-1130 are those of Nininger. The U.S. government has denied Patterson’s repeated requests to exhume the remains for analysis. In 2017, Patterson was one of seven plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to force the federal government — including the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the entity primarily tasked with identifying remains — to conduct DNA tests on sets of remains buried as “unknowns” in the Philippines.

In July 2019, the judge dismissed the case in a summary judgment for the defendants.

Both DPAA and its precursor, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, have maintained for years that a physical description of the remains documented during the years immediately after the war is not a close enough match to Nininger’s build to warrant exhumation. This fall, Patterson took his quest for disinterment of X-1130 to Defense Department officials above the level of DPAA. He was assisted by Jed Henry, a successful MIA investigator and founder of the nonprofit PFC Lawrence Gordon Foundation. In an email to Henry on Dec. 23, DPAA director Kelly McKeague reiterated the agency’s stance, writing that disinterring X-1130 “still cannot be validated by DPAA’s research, which, as you know, shows significant stature, ancestry, and recovery location discrepancies for the X-1130 remains to belong to First Lieutenant Nininger.”

McKeague said the agency was continuing to “actively explore” possible burial sites used by the U.S. Army in the Philippines in 1942, and DPAA’s historians had submitted six other disinterment proposals from the Manila American Cemetery “for which Mr. Patterson’s uncle is a candidate.” Responding to McKeague, Henry wrote that conducting DNA testing on X-1130 would be a “win-win situation.” “If DPAA is committed to living up to ‘the fullest possible accounting’ it will one day have to disinter X-1130 so why not do it while the family is alive and can pay their respects?” Henry wrote. “If X-1130 would unfortunately turn out not to be Nininger then the DNA test can be used to identify one of his comrades.”

Patterson argues that DNA testing on X-1130 might cost a few thousand dollars, a tiny sum compared to what DPAA spends annually. “It’s also worth noting that in the last 6 years DPAA has been appropriated more than $832 million dollars and with that money have only made 962 identification[s], which shows it’s costing more than $865,000 per identification,” Patterson wrote in his letter to defense officials. “Sandy’s country has failed him and because of that we ask that the U.S. Government promptly begin the process of removing the name of Lt. Alexander R. Nininger Jr from all Federal facilities and cease trading on his good name and reputation,” he wrote in conclusion. “Further, if the U.S. Government is unable to find and identify the remains of Lt Nininger, please allow my family to hire our own professionals to do the job and we will cover whatever the costs may be.” [Source: Stars & Stripes | Wyatt Olson | January 12, 2021 ++]

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NDAA 2021

Update 15: Senate Overrides Trump’s Veto

The Senate on 1 JAN rejected President Donald Trump’s attempted derailment of the $740.5 billion defense bill that boosts pay and benefits for troops and adds care for thousands of Vietnam-era veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. In a 81-13 vote, the Senate overrode Trump’s veto of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, joining the House in delivering a bipartisan rebuke of the president in his final days in office. It is the first and likely only veto of the Trump presidency. The NDAA sets annual spending and policy priorities for the Pentagon and originally passed both chambers of Congress earlier this month with veto-proof majorities. The House on 28 DECy voted 322-87 to override Trump’s veto of the legislation.

The 2021 fiscal year began 1 OCT and the government has been operating under a continuing resolution that keep agencies funded at the previous year’s amounts. The congressional override doesn’t need any further input from the White House and the 2021 NDAA is now law. Trump vetoed the defense bill after lawmakers refused to include his demand to terminate Section 230, a law that shields social media companies from liability over the content of third parties. Some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle support repealing or reforming the legal shield, but through a separate bill. They argued that stripping protections for online companies doesn’t fall into the military’s jurisdiction.

Trump also rejected the bill over provisions that would scrub the names of Confederate leaders from military bases and curbing his ability to quickly reduce troop numbers in Afghanistan and Germany. Last week, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking Democrat of the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed irritation over Trump seemingly random and last-minute objections to the NDAA, which takes months for lawmakers to negotiate. “It’s hard to keep track of President Trump’s unprincipled, irrational excuses for vetoing this bipartisan bill,” Reed said in a statement. “Donald Trump is showing more devotion to Confederate base names than to the men and women who defend our nation.”

There are enough Republicans on Capitol Hill to side with Trump and stop the bill, but lawmakers from both parties closed ranks to guard the NDAA, which has been approved for 60 consecutive years. The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry of Texas, urged the GOP to dig in and not cave to pressure from the White House to switch their support of the defense bill. “It’s the exact same bill, not a comma has changed,” Thornberry said.. Yet, 26 Republican House members who originally supported the NDAA sided with Trump’s veto.

“I felt responsible to ensure our national defense and military were properly funded, which is why I voted for the NDAA earlier this month,” Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) said in a statement. “However, no one has a better pulse on the security of this nation and our military than the president of the United States, and I believe his objections to the bill are reasonable and intended to protect all Americans.”

Ahead of the video to override the veto, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned that not passing the NDAA would immediately hinder pay and benefits, mostly due to a provision boosting hazardous duty pay. “More than 200,000 military families will see smaller paychecks in January,” Inhofe said on the Senate floor. He added that going after social media companies through the NDAA was a lost cause from the start. “It’s a complicated thing, the majority of Americans don’t know what that is about. Section 230 has nothing to do with the military, nothing at all,” Inhofe said. [Source: Stars & Stripes | Steve Beynon | January 1, 2021 ++]

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POW/MIA

Update 125: Unknowns’ In Philippines Returned To Hawaii for Identification

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency recently conducted an “honorable carry” ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for about 40 sets of “unknown” World War II U.S. remains that were returned from the Philippines for identification. The repatriation from Manila American Cemetery and Memorial represents one of the large disinterment projects being carried out by the accounting agency, which has a forensic identification lab and administrative offices at Hickam. Other major World War II exhumation projects have been conducted for the 1943 Battle of Tarawa and 1943 Operation Tidal Wave bombing of oil refineries in Ploiesti, Romania. Large-scale disinterments also take place at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl involving World War II and Korean War “unknowns.”

The Defense POW /MIA Accounting Agency, which has hundreds of personnel in Hawaii, investigates, recovers and identifies missing Americans from the nation’s past wars. For a heavily coronavirus-affected fiscal year 2020, which ended at the end of September, the accounting agency, with an operations and maintenance budget of $169 million, said it made just 120 identifications, with 82 from World War II, 36 from the Korean War and two from the Vietnam War. In fiscal year 2019, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, DPAA recorded 218 identifications, the highest yearly total reached by the agency.

In March 2018 a team of eight Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency personnel traveled to the Manila cemetery and spent 13 days disinterring 20 unknown graves related to prisoners of war killed in the Cabanatuan POW Camp. Between November 2019 and January 2020, 55 exhumations were conducted. Some headstones at the Manila cemetery read, “Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.” Each of the transfer cases containing remains that were brought back to Hawaii from the Philippines on an Air Force cargo jet was topped by a folded American flag in a sign of the military’s respect for fallen comrades. The remains will be examined by forensic anthropologists and odontologists at the accounting agency’s lab with the hope of making an identification. World War II remains from the Philippines are periodically returned to Hawaii.

In 2019 the accounting agency identified Army Sgt. Cread Shuey, 23, of Norton, Kan., who was a member of the 60th Coast Artillery Regiment serving in the Philippines when Japanese forces invaded. “Intense fighting continued until the surrender of the Bataan Peninsula on April 9, 1942, and of the Corregidor Island on May 6, 1942”, the agency said. Thousands of U.S. and Filipino service members were taken prisoner and sent to POW camps. Shuey was captured after the surrender of Corregidor and held at Cabanatuan POW camp. More than 2, 500 POWs perished in the camp during the remaining years of the war.

Shuey died Sept. 27, 1942, and was buried with fellow prisoners in the Cabanatuan camp cemetery. Shuey and others were reburied several times as attempts were made to identify the service members, but commingling of remains and limited identification technology hampered those efforts. In 2016 the Army granted permission to exhume six graves at Manila American Cemetery, and Shuey was identified using dental, anthropological and mitochondrial DNA analysis.

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died in the war, the accounting agency said. Approximately 73,000 are still unaccounted for, with about 30,000 assessed as possibly recoverable. The United States is one of the few nations, along with South Korea, that undertakes the effort to retrieve and identify past war dead. Some families wait decades for the return of a relative for hometown burial.

[Source: The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | William Cole | January 4, 2021 ++]

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DoD My MilLife Guide

Text Message Program to Boost Wellness Launched

Finding the right support to ease the stress of navigating daily COVID-19-related challenges can be a challenge itself. To support the military community, the Department of Defense recently launched — My MilLife Guide. This new program that sends text messages designed to help the military community boost overall wellness while navigating stresses related to COVID-19. The program is only available for a limited time in early 2021, and will allow service members and spouses to directly receive motivational messages and helpful resources on their phones.

My MilLife Guide was developed by one of the military’s flagship support programs, Military OneSource, in partnership with the Military Health System. From now until Feb. 12, 2021, users can opt in to receive messages four times a week, for a total of eight weeks. To sign up:

  • Service Members — text MilLife SM to GOV311 (468311)
  • Spouses — text MilLife Spouse to GOV311 (468311)
  • Or sign up online

My MilLife Guide starts each week with a text asking users to set a small goal, such as accomplishing a task on their to-do list or taking a small step to improve their sleeping habits. Topics covered over the course of the eight-week program include:

  • Stress relief
  • Sleeping soundly
  • Self-care
  • Virtual health tools
  • Strengthening relationships
  • Managing finances
  • Getting support
  • Prepping for the future

These text messages are specifically tailored for navigating the unique circumstances of service members and spouses as they aim to improve their physical and emotional health. “We are excited to begin 2021 by offering a new way for service members and spouses to get support for easing stress and navigating COVID-19-related challenges texted directly to their phones,” said Lee Kelley, director of Military Community Support Programs for Military Community and Family Policy. “My MilLife Guide is like a portable health and wellness coach, supporting service members and spouses as they take care of themselves and their families.”

“Our service members and their families deserve the best possible care. I want to utilize all available tools to ensure their health, wellness, and readiness records are easily accessible,” said Army Col. (Dr.) Neil Page, deputy and military chief, Clinical Support Division, Medical Affairs at the Defense Health Agency. “The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that sometimes these tools are best provided through digital health services. We in the Military Health System are excited to partner with Military OneSource to provide a text-based wellness program that puts valuable resources at our beneficiaries’ fingertips, in a new and innovative way.”

My MilLife Guide participants are encouraged to provide feedback on the program. The DOD will use this insight to help inform the development of possible future evolutions of similar text-based initiatives. Part of the DOD, Military Community and Family Policy offers a suite of programs, tools, and services – including the My Military OneSource app and MilitaryOneSource.mil – that connect the military community to resources they can use every day, from relocation planning and tax services to confidential non-medical counseling and spouse employment. These initiatives contribute to force readiness and quality of life by providing policies and programs that advance the well-being of service members, their families, survivors, and other eligible members of the military community.

Military OneSource is a DOD-funded program that is both a call center and a website providing comprehensive information, resources, and assistance on every aspect of military life. Service members and the families of active duty, National Guard, and reserve (regardless of activation status), Coast Guard members when activated for the Navy, DOD expeditionary civilians, and survivors are eligible for Military OneSource services, which are available worldwide 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at no cost to the user.

[Source: Health,mil | Connected Health Communications Office | January 11, 2020 ++]

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POW/MIA Recoveries & Burials

Reported 01 thru 15 JAN 2021 | Four

“Keeping the Promise“, “Fulfill their Trust” and “No one left behind” are several of many mottos that refer to the efforts of the Department of Defense to recover those who became missing while serving our nation. The number of Americans who remain missing from conflicts in this century as of FEB 2019 are: World War II 73,025 of which over 41,000 are presumed to be lost at sea, Korean War 7665, Vietnam War 1589 (i. e. VN-1,246, Laos-288, Cambodia-48, & Peoples Republic of China territorial waters-7), Cold War 111, Iraq and other conflicts 5. Over 600 Defense Department men and women — both military and civilian — work in organizations around the world as part of DoD’s personnel recovery and personnel accounting communities. They are all dedicated to the single mission of finding and bringing our missing personnel home.

For a listing of all missing or unaccounted for personnel to date refer to http://www. dpaa. mil and click on ‘Our Missing’. Refer to https://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/Recent-News-Stories/Year/2020 for a listing and details of the 120 accounted for in 2020. If you wish to provide information about an American missing in action from any conflict or have an inquiry about MIAs, contact:

== Mail: Public Affairs Office, 2300 Defense Pentagon, Washington, D. C. 20301-2300, Attn: External Affairs

Call: Phone: (703) 699-1420

== Message: Fill out form on http://www.dpaa. mil/Contact/ContactUs.aspx

Family members seeking more information about missing loved ones may also call the following Service Casualty Offices: U. S. Air Force (800) 531-5501, U. S. Army (800) 892-2490, U. S. Marine Corps (800) 847-1597, U. S. Navy (800) 443-9298, or U. S. Department of State (202) 647-5470. The names, photos, and details of the below listed MIA/POW’s which have been recovered, identified, and/or scheduled for burial since the publication of the last RAO Bulletin are listed on the following sites:

LOOK FOR

Navy Mess Attendant 3rd Class Isaac Parker, 17, of Woodson, Arkansas, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941. The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Parker. Parker will be buried June 8, 2021, in St. Louis. Read about Parker.

Navy Fireman 3rd Class William L. Barnett, 21, of Fort Scott, Kansas, was assigned to the battleship USS West Virginia, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941. The USS West Virginia sustained multiple torpedo hits, but timely counter-flooding measures taken by the crew prevented it from capsizing, and it came to rest on the shallow harbor floor. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 106 crewmen, including Barnett. Barnett will be buried May 29, 2021, in his hometown. Read about Barnett.

Army Pfc. William J. Sharp, 18, was a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. He was reported killed in action on July 24, 1950, after his unit sustained heavy casualties while defending against the North Korean army’s advance near Hwanggon, South Korea. He was declared non-recoverable in January 1956. Interment services are pending. Read about Sharp.

Army Cpl. Roy H. Thomas, 22, was a member of Company M, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. He was reported missing in action on Dec. 12, 1950, after his unit was attacked by enemy forces as they attempted to withdraw near the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea. Following the battle, his remains could not be recovered. Interment services are pending. Read about Thomas.

[Source: http://www.dpaa.mil | January 2020 ++]

* VA *

VA Lawsuit | Vance Perry

Family Sues Over Wisconsin Veterans Hospital Cold-Weather Death

The family of a Georgia veteran who died in Madison nearly three years ago when he wandered away from the Veterans Hospital in bitterly cold temperatures filed a lawsuit 29 DEC against the federal government, alleging the hospital’s negligence led to the man’s death. The adult children of Vance Perry Sr. sued the federal government in the Madison-based U.S. District Court of Western Wisconsin after the 57-year-old mentally ill man walked away from the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital on the Near West Side and was eventually found dead in a Downtown parking garage.

According to the lawsuit, Perry, of Covington, Georgia, was admitted to the Veterans Hospital on Dec. 28, 2017, for ongoing mental health problems, which caused him to experience confusion, disorientation, severe memory problems and other cognitive difficulties. His mental health problems, which the Veterans Hospital was aware of, put Perry at risk of wandering or going missing, the lawsuit says. The hospital had an assessment for Perry that required staff ensure he got into a taxi or another means of transportation to take him home, according to the lawsuit. But when Perry, who served in the Army between 1978 and 1984, was discharged on Dec. 30, 2017, hospital staff “failed to make sure that Mr. Perry actually got in the cab which had been called to take him home” and were unaware for hours after his discharge that he didn’t take the taxi, the lawsuit alleges.

He was found dead the next morning in a Downtown parking garage about 2 1/2 miles from the hospital. At the time, a Madison police spokesman said Perry was “not dressed for the frigid conditions,” wearing a light jacket and ball cap with no gloves. The temperature on the night Perry wandered off was 6 degrees below zero, the lawsuit says. The lawsuit, filed by Perry’s five adult children, alleges hospital staff failed to follow policies and also failed to contact police or make efforts to locate Perry. It seeks an unspecified amount in damages. The hospital did not immediately return a message late Tuesday.

Perry’s family told an Atlanta news station in early 2018 that he had paranoid schizophrenia and had moved from Georgia to Madison a month before his death, according to a report from 11Alive. Perry’s death was the third in the Madison area over three days involving hypothermia during a cold snap at the end of 2017. And it’s not the first to result in a lawsuit. An 84-year-old resident of a Sun Prairie assisted living center was found dead outside the facility two days before Perry died. The family of Alice McGaw, who had dementia, sued Faith Gardens in 2018, and the facility closed in early 2019. [Source: The Wisconsin State Journal | Logan Wroge | December 30, 2020 ++]

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VA Lawsuit | Gerald Culhane

$1.95 Million Awarded in Misdiagnosis Case

It was during a doctor’s appointment seven years ago when Gerald Culhane complained about a three-month-old lump in his neck. His primary care doctor at the Buffalo VA Medical Center, worried it could be a tumor, ordered a CT scan. So the report back from the radiologist in September 2013 came as a relief: “Good news,” the doctor wrote in her primary care note. “No evidence of a … tumor that will require biopsy.” No follow-up was scheduled. In April 2015, Culhane called his primary care provider about “a growth on the left side of my face which seems to be growing fast.” This time — after another scan of his neck proved worrisome — an ear, nose and throat specialist at the medical center did a biopsy, and it came back consistent with squamous cell carcinoma. The 2013 CT scan of Culhane’s neck “does not discuss this mass,” the specialist noted, according to federal court records. Doctors eventually found the primary malignancy in his left tonsil.

Twenty months after first complaining about the lump in his neck, the Orleans County resident began 40 radiation treatments and seven cycles of weekly intravenous chemotherapy, which he completed in August 2015. When the cancer recurred in his tonsil in January 2017, he underwent a radical tonsillectomy and a left modified neck dissection. Culhane sued the U.S. government in 2017 over his care at the Buffalo VA Medical Center, which his lawyers described as a “total system failure” that included misinterpreted scan results and a lack of follow-up that would have diagnosed his cancer sooner. A federal judge on 28 DEC awarded him and his wife, Carol Culhane, $1.95 million, mostly for pain and suffering.

“They were doctors. I took their word,” said Culhane. “They said there wasn’t anything to worry about.” Now he always worries. “I think about it every day,” said Culhane, 76, who served as a Marine in Vietnam. “If they had caught this thing early, it’s a 93% cure rate. Now they tell me I have a 50/50 chance of it coming back. Every time I get a pain somewhere, I wonder what it is. Is it coming back?” In her decision, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford called it an undisputed fact that the abnormal enlargement of Culhane’s left cervical lymph node, clearly visible on the September 2013 neck CT scan, was not identified and acted upon when it should have been. The diagnosis and treatment of his throat cancer was delayed by 20 months, she wrote.

The matter in dispute in Culhane’s lawsuit was whether the 20-month delay caused the recurrence in Culhane’s throat cancer necessitating surgery in 2017. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary E. Fleming, in her closing argument for the bench trial, acknowledged the mistake at the Buffalo VA Medical Center in 2013. After the primary care doctor ordered the CT scan with and without contrast dye, Fleming told the court, a CT scan without contrast was performed by a radiologist “who determined — incorrectly as the government acknowledges — that Mr. Culhane did not have cancer.” Because the radiologist “determined that no cancer was present, no ear-nose-throat consultation was ordered.”

The failure to diagnose his carcinoma in 2013 departed from the standard of care, according to a written submission to the court from the government. But the government offered expert testimony asserting Culhane had an 80% to 85% chance of survival had the diagnosis been made in September 2013, and Culhane’s chance of survival remains the same. “Although the government has conceded that it delayed in diagnosing Mr. Culhane’s tonsil cancer, the proof at trial showed that Mr. Culhane was not damaged by that delay as his chance of survival remains the same whether he was diagnosed in 2013 or 2015,” Fleming said in her closing argument.

Culhane’s lawyers, John T. Loss and Andrew M. Debbins of Connors LLP law firm, argued at the trial that the 20-month delay increased Culhane’s chance of recurrence. “Isn’t it something that the government could not find a single head-and-neck oncologist to support its defense that a 20-month — 20 months! — delay didn’t matter?” Loss said in his summation. “No, it isn’t. Because early detection saves lives. Early treatment saves lives. No medical literature … states that a 20-month delay doesn’t matter.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined comment since the judge asked for additional briefings.

In her decision, Wolford said she found persuasive the testimony from the medical expert brought in by Culhane’s lawyers. In the expert’s opinion, the amount of time between September 2013, when Culhane could have been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, and May 2015, when Culhane was diagnosed, caused the 2017 recurrence of his cancer. The enlargement of a lymph node, nearly double its September 2013 size, showed that Culhane’s cancer progressed and that the number of cancer cells increased during the 20-month delay in diagnosis, the judge said, citing the medical testimony. The medical expert noted Culhane’s recurrence happened in the area where he had received radiation treatment, evidence of resistant cells.

When Culhane underwent the radical tonsillectomy and a left modified neck dissection in March 2017 at Erie County Medical Center, the surgical procedure took five hours, longer than the usual three to four hours. “Based on these opinions, the court finds that it is more likely that Mr. Culhane will have another recurrence because he has already had a recurrence,” Wolford said. “Further, the court finds that if Mr. Culhane does have a second recurrence, it would increase the chances of him dying as a result of the cancer.”

On a separate claim, the judge ruled Culhane failed to establish medical malpractice that the medical center failed to timely diagnose his malignant melanoma when a skin lesion on his right temple was examined. The medical center’s dermatology clinic determined it was benign in April 2014. Ten months later, a dermatologist in Rochester, seeing Culhane for a different skin issue, noticed the lesion, performed a biopsy and confirmed the diagnosis of a malignant melanoma. Culhane said he hopes the verdict will help other veterans get proper care and treatment. “There’s a lot of good people who work there and take veterans’ care at heart,” he said. “There’s a few who don’t seem to care, don’t seem qualified to do the job they’re doing. And they seem to stay on.” [Source: The Buffalo News | Patrick Lakamp | January 3, 2021 ++]

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VA Presumptive AO Diseases

Update 36: Parkinsonism, Bladder Cancer, & Hypothyroidism

On January 1, 2021, H.R. 6395–the FY 2021 NDAA, containing the Tester/Harder Amendment—was passed into law. At long last, Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange who have been diagnosed with Parkinsonism, Bladder cancer, and/or Hypothyroidism will be deemed service-connected and be eligible for healthcare and compensation:

Title XCI—Veterans Affairs Matters, Section 9109 reads as follows: Additional Diseases Associated with Exposure to Certain Herbicide Agents for Which There is a Presumption of Service Connection for Veterans Who Served in the Republic of Vietnam. Section 1116(a) (2) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subparagraphs: (I) Parkinsonism. (J) Bladder cancer. (K) Hypothyroidism. This and the below other highlights of the bill are contained in the conference report at https://republicansveterans.house.gov/uploadedfiles/hr_7105_vets_division_section_summaries_final.pdf:

  • Modification of licensure requirements for Department of Veterans Affairs health care professionals providing treatment via telemedicine.
  • Additional care for newborn children of veterans.
  • Expansion of eligibility for HUD–VASH.
  • Study on unemployment rate of women veterans who served on active duty in the Armed Forces after September 11, 2001.
  • Access of veterans to Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs report on undisbursed funds.
  • Transfer of Mare Island Naval Cemetery to Secretary of Veterans Affairs for maintenance by National Cemetery Administration.
  • Comptroller General report on Department of Veterans Affairs handling of disability compensation claims by certain veterans.
  • Additional diseases associated with exposure to certain herbicide agents for which there is a presumption of service connection for veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam.

On Jan. 5, 2021, President Trump signed into law H.R. 7105, The Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvements Act of 2020. “This is the culmination of two years of bipartisan work,” noted Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.). “There is something in this bill for just about every one of our nation’s veterans and their loved ones.” View bill conference report at: https://republicans-veterans.house.gov/uploadedfiles/hr_7105_vets_division_section_summaries_final.pdf. This bill will:

  • Require VA to return Disability Based Questionnaires to their public-facing website and requires the VA to accept Disability Based Questionnaires as evidence in disability compensation claims, even when completed by non-VA medical providers.
  • Increase the timeframe of the Vietnam War Era of military service, stating that the Vietnam Era began on November 1, 1955, instead of February 28, 1961, which will extend benefits to the more than 3,200 U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG ) who served in the Vietnam War during November 1, 1955 – February 27, 1961.
  • Eliminate the 12-year time limit governing applications for Veteran Readiness & Employment (VR&E) benefits for veterans who separated from military service after January 1, 2013 (i.e., making VR&E the same as the “Forever G.I. Bill”).
  • Set new limits on when the VA’s Debt Management Center may initiate debt collection proceedings against veterans.
  • Lower the age to 55 at which a remarried surviving spouse of a Veteran may still receive Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC).
  • Agent Orange Exposure Fairness Act S. 332 and H.R. 566; requires a GAO briefing and report on repealing the manifestation period for presumptions of service connection for certain diseases associated with exposure to herbicide agents.
  • Increase the federal government’s special pensions for the surviving spouses of Medal of Honor recipients.
  • Require the Veterans Benefits Administration to establish specialized teams for processing Military Sexual Trauma claims.
  • Allow veterans filing a claim for a physical or mental health condition resulting from sexual trauma to choose the gender of their Compensation & Pension Exam provider.
  • Allow National Guard and Reserve service under Title 32 orders to count for VA Home Loan eligibility.
  • Require the VA to allow veterans to update dependent information via the eBenefits website.
  • Require the VA to study cancer, diseases, or illness experienced by those who served at the Karshi-Khanabad (K2) Air Base in Uzbekistan between October 1, 2001, and September 30, 2005, and expands VA’s open burn pit registry to include burn pits located in Uzbekistan.
  • Specify circumstances under which a Service Member, including members of the National Guard and Reserves, is considered service-connected for a disability or death from COVID-19.
  • Order the VA’s Under Secretary for Benefits to ensure every paper or electronic document relating to the receipt of non-service-connected pension include a notice that the Department does not charge any fee in connection with the filing of an initial claim for benefits.
  • Services for Women Veterans
  • Devotes $20 million for retrofitting healthcare facilities “to make it safer and easier for women veterans to get care” and requires the Veterans Health Administration to submit plans for approval regarding how they will designate these funds.
  • Mandates that every VA facility have at least one women’s health primary-care provider.
  • Creates a permanent Office of Women’s Health within the Veterans Health Administration, tasked with providing oversight over all Women’s Health Programs within the VA
  • Requires VA leaders to create “an anti-harassment and anti-sexual assault policy” and designate officials to take responsibility for any related complaints.
  • Requires VA to create a training module for community healthcare providers that is specific to women veterans.
  • Expands the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans’ mandate to include examining the effect of intimate partner violence on women veterans, and creates a VA pilot program to care for survivors of intimate partner violence.
  • Ensures that servicemembers and veterans seeking access to care and counseling related to Military Sexual Trauma can seek this care at any VA healthcare facility, not limited to Vet Centers.
  • Requires VA to enter into agreements with public or private entities, to provide free legal services to Women veterans to meet the following unmet needs: Child Support, Eviction & Foreclosure Prevention, Discharge Upgrade Appeals, Financial Guardianship, Credit Counseling, and Family Reconciliation Assistance.
  • Improves access to prosthetic items made specifically for women at VA medical facilities.
  • Enhanced Healthcare Services
  • Waives VA requirements for receipt of per diem payments for domiciliary care at State Veterans Homes and modification of eligibility for payments.
  • Prohibits the Veterans Health Administration from collecting co-payments from veterans who are members of a Native American tribal nation.
  • Makes permanent a pilot program to provide childcare to veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare system and gives the Veterans Health Administration five years to implement the provision of childcare at every VA medical center.
  • Requires State Veterans Homes to report on COVID-19 cases within these facilities to the VA.
  • Requires the VA to pay for emergency transportation of newborns.
  • Requires VA medical facilities to have drop-off locations for controlled substances medications.
  • Mandates an annual audit of facility-level appointment scheduling, which the Veterans Health Administration must share with Congress.
  • Services for Homeless Veterans & Veterans at Risk of Homelessness
  • Expands the HUD-VASH voucher program to veterans with Other Than Honorable characterizations of discharge.
  • Increases the amount of grant funds awarded to organizations providing services to homeless veterans to 115 percent of the State Veterans Home domiciliary rate, and allows for additional increases of grant funds in higher cost-of-living areas.
  • Allows the VA to award grants to legal services organizations assisting veterans who are homeless and veterans at imminent risk of homelessness.
  • Requires the VA to study existing programs that provide assistance to Women veterans who are homeless, with a goal of identifying continued areas of need.
  • Extends contracts for VA Homeless Veteran Case Managers to prevent gaps in services for homeless veterans during COVID-19.

[Source: VVA Government Relations Department | News Flash | January 8, 2021++]

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VA COVID-19 Cases

Update 10: JAN On Pace to Be the Agency’s Deadliest Month

More than 7,000 Department of Veterans Affairs patients had died of the coronavirus as of 7 JAN– equating to about 24 people killed each day since the first veteran’s death in March. The VA reported 7,099 total deaths Thursday and nearly 16,000 active coronavirus cases. Only seven days into the new year, January is already on pace to be the agency’s deadliest month. About 1,300 VA patients died of the virus in December, and the year ended with 6,500 dead VA patients. The department has recorded about 600 deaths in January with 24 days to go. In addition, the VA has reported 13 employee deaths so far this month, bringing the total employee deaths to 104. December was previously the deadliest month for employees, with 16 deaths.

Deaths and cases are increasing at the same time the department is working to vaccinate its health care staff and most vulnerable patients. The VA had administered 146,000 vaccines as of this week, including to 132,000 health care workers and 14,000 veterans. The vaccines are being administered at 195 VA sites across the country. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has praised the pace of his agency’s efforts to vaccinate employees and veterans. “This is a massive undertaking that is happening at a rapid pace,” Wilkie said in a statement 5 JAN.

Other officials, though, have acknowledged that vaccine distribution has gotten off to a sluggish start. About 2 million Americans received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine by the end of 2020, falling far short of expectations that 20 million people would be vaccinated by that time. “We agree that number is lower than what we hoped for,” Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, said 30 DEC. “We know it should be better, and we’re working to make it better.” The VA is first vaccinating residents and staff of the agency’s long-term community living centers, as well as spinal cord injury centers. After that phase, the VA will shift its focus to vaccinating VA employees who treat coronavirus patients.

Of the nearly 16,000 active coronavirus cases among VA patients as of 7 JAN, the facilities reporting the highest numbers were in Loma Linda and Long Beach, California. The numbers reflect nationwide trends showing multiple days of record-setting coronavirus deaths in those areas. The VA’s data on cases and deaths does not include all veterans in the United States, nor does it include the hundreds of deaths that have occurred at 162 state-run veterans’ homes. Because of a bill signed into law this week, the VA is required to publicize coronavirus deaths and cases at state-run veterans’ homes for the first time by 4 FEB. [Source: Stars & Stripes | Nikki Wentling | January 7, 2021 ++]

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Sleep Apnea

Update 07: VA’s Telehealth RPM Effort to Help Veterans with OSA

Man with sleeping apnea and CPAP machine

VA is working to help Veterans with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) sleep better at night – using telehealth. OSA is a condition in which a person’s airway sometimes narrows or closes while they sleep. OSA can disrupt sleep and decreased airflow can strain the heart, lungs, and other organs. The strain can lead to problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. At the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois, Home Telehealth Lead Care Coordinator Nina Giustino, Pulmonary Nurse Practitioner Shireen Long, and Quality Coordinator Mary McCabe have launched a pilot program to improve care for Veterans with OSA.

Veterans who have OSA breathe easier at night by using a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine prescribed by their VA providers. The CPAP machine is a small portable pump that sends air through a hose held over the nose and/or mouth by a mask. The mild air pressure widens the airway to relieve symptoms. But providers have found that Veterans don’t always use their CPAP machines on a regular basis. And they don’t always know how to recognize and troubleshoot issues such as an ill-fitting mask.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a condition in which a person’s airway sometimes narrows or closes while they sleep. OSA can disrupt sleep and decreased airflow can strain the heart, lungs, and other organs. The strain can lead to problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. As a solution, Giustino, Long and McCabe developed a pilot program. Veterans were enrolled into the Remote Patient Monitoring – Home Telehealth (RPM-HT) program and assigned the Obstructive Sleep Apnea Disease Management Protocol (DMP) developed by Cognosante, one of the two RPM-HT vendors.

DMP sessions transmit via RPM technology, which then transmits the information and data regarding their OSA. In addition, the pulmonary program has technology that captures CPAP machine data that is added to the Veteran’s medical record. This process then allows the RPM-HT care coordinator to review device compliance and trouble shoot barriers with Veterans as well provide education and feedback to the Veteran to help improve compliance and symptoms. Veterans with OSA often don’t have an in-person follow-up with their provider until three months after their CPAP treatment starts. If the care coordinator detects an issue, they can schedule a telehealth appointment with the Veteran between in-person appointments and coach them on how to use the CPAP machine.

“With sleep apnea patients, one of the challenges was not being able to have a more immediate response or follow-up to address issues with their CPAP machine,” said Long. “So we wanted to find a solution because, if a Veteran doesn’t use their device, the disease gets worse and there’s not enough oxygen in their bloodstream.” Giustino, Long and McCabe developed guidelines to educate nursing staff on OSA, CPAP machines and how to troubleshoot problems with device use. This training aids in early detection of a Veteran’s noncompliance to treatment and prevents worsening symptoms. The goal is for Veterans to use their CPAP machines for four or more hours per night for at least 21 nights over a 30-day period.

With the addition of telehealth, VA providers at Hines have seen an increase in CPAP machine use. Over a 30-day period, CPAP machine use increased from 49% to 57%, and CPAP machine use for more than four hours per night increased from 28% to 41%. Thanks to the pilot program, RPM- HT nurses can solve device issues faster. For more information on VA telehealth, visit the VA Telehealth Services website https://telehealth.va.gov which addresses Remote Patient Monitoring:

  • You are assessed for Home Telehealth remote monitoring services.
  • If deemed appropriate, VA provides a device to fit your needs and gives you training on how to use it.
  • VA assigns you a Home Telehealth remote monitoring care coordinator.
  • Your care coordinator contacts VA hospitals and providers and helps you arrange treatment changes, clinic appointments and hospital admissions.

[Source: Vantage Point | Treva Lutes | January 5, 2021 ++]

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VA Appeals

Update 39: What to Expect During a Board of Veterans’ Appeals Hearing

If you disagree with the initial decision VA made on your claim and decide to appeal the decision to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board), you have a few different options to choose how your appeal proceeds. But many people don’t know what to expect, which could cloud their ability to choose the best option for them. In the video at https://youtu.be/UDI3C_ytJt8 Judge Tanya Smith, a Veterans Law Judge, explains to Veterans what to expect, what to prepare, and what happens after a hearing.

As explained in the video, one option is to have a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge (VLJ). Hearings are entirely optional and aren’t necessary to receive a decision from the Board. (Some Veterans elect to a potentially quicker decision and, to save time, they can choose one of the other options the Board offers. Instead of a hearing, the VLJ will simply review any evidence/statements you have submitted before deciding your appeal.) If you decide you want a hearing, consider choosing a virtual tele-hearing. Virtual tele-hearings are safe and secure, and they allow you to have your hearing from the comfort of your home instead of traveling to a VA facility. Virtual tele-hearings are a great option, especially during a pandemic. They do not negatively affect your appeal, so don’t postpone your hearing and delay your decision – choose a virtual tele-hearing.

What can you expect during a Board Hearing?

  • At the start of the hearing, the judge will ask you to raise your right hand, if possible, and swear you in. The judge will ask you to take an oath, or affirm that you’ll tell the truth during the hearing.
  • During the hearing, you, your representative – if you have one, and the judge will have a conversation about the issues on appeal. These hearings are an opportunity for you to tell your story, and you should be comfortable in doing so. The judge will listen to your testimony and may ask you a few questions to better understand your appeal.

What should you do during the hearing?

  • Tell the judge why you think you qualify for the VA benefits in your appeal.
  • Answer any questions the judge has about your appeal.
  • Share any new evidence with the judge: You can choose to add new and relevant evidence, either at the hearing or within 90 days after the hearing. Adding evidence is optional.

What happens after your hearing?

  • Please understand that the judge will not issue a decision on your appeal the moment the hearing has ended.
  • When the 90-day time period for submitting new evidence after your hearing has ended, your appeal will be placed on the docket for a decision by a judge.
  • You will receive your decision in the mail and your representative will also receive a copy. You can track the status of your appeal by signing in at www.VA.gov.

[Source: Vantage Point | Cheryl L. Mason | January 5, 2021 ++]

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VA Blue Water Claims

Update 86: As of 30 NOV 39,061 of 75,205 Received Claims Processed

On Jan. 1, 2020, the Blue Water Navy (BWN) Vietnam Veterans Act went into law, supporting Veterans who may be eligible for benefits based on presumption of herbicide exposure. One year later, VA reflects on its progress. As of Nov. 30, 2020, VA has processed 39,061 of 75,205 claims received. Of those, 27,366 were granted – awarding more than $724 million in retroactive benefits. The most common granted claims included medical conditions diabetes, malignant growth of the lung, coronary bypass surgery, malignant growths of genitourinary system and coronary artery disease. In addition, the law provides benefits for children born with certain health conditions whose parent was a Veteran with verified herbicide exposure while serving in Thailand.

The law affects Veterans who served on vessels operating not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia, as defined in Public Law 116-23. Veterans, their dependents, and survivors who meet this criteria can apply for these approved benefits. Veterans – and survivors of deceased Veterans – who served in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone from Sept. 1, 1967, to Aug. 31, 1971, can apply for benefits.

To help implement the law, VA collaborated with the National Archives and Records Administration to digitize all Navy and Coast Guard deck logs for ships with known Vietnam service. Digitization of the Navy deck logs was completed in December 2019; Coast Guard deck logs were completed in September 2020. As part of the agreement, VA provided digital images of the deck logs to NARA to make them digitally available in the National Archives Catalog. Veterans may contact [email protected] if the deck log they are seeking is not available in the National Archives Catalog. Learn more about Agent Orange exposure and VA disability compensation or call 800-827-1000 for more information. [Source: Vantage Point | Mychael Lee Askew | January 7, 2021 ++]

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VA Obesity Initiative

Update 03: Just Released | New Overweight/Obesity Guidelines

Forty-one percent of Veterans receiving care from VA have obesity. There’s a brand new eight-page booklet right here that can help bring that number down. The Management of Adult Overweight and Obesity booklet at https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Guidelines-Cover_r1.jpg provides clear and comprehensive evidence-based recommendations. The updated guidelines booklet describe the critical decision points. It provides clear and comprehensive evidence-based recommendations to inform weight management practices throughout the DoD and VA Health Care systems.

This is not about trying to fit into your old uniform. This is about your health. There are important health benefits that result from weight loss. These include improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, the risk of developing diabetes and other chronic conditions, and even overall quality of life. The new guidelines answer your questions.

  • What is consider overweight?
  • What is obesity? (Having a weight that is higher than what is considered healthy for a given height is described as overweight or obesity.)
  • What should you ask your health care team?
  • What is Body Mass Index? (There’s a great chart in the guidelines.)
  • What should be my weight loss goal? (For many people with overweight or obesity, an initial goal is to lose just 5% of their body weight.)
  • What is a Comprehensive Lifestyle Intervention? (Comprehensive lifestyle interventions are programs that combine changes to habits and behaviors as well as dietary intake, and physical activity, with support from a health coach or other member of a health care team.)

Overweight and obesity are terms that describe different degrees of carrying extra fatty tissue – or body fat – above an ideal weight. Healthy eating is an important part of weight loss. Weight loss is achieved when you take in less energy (fewer calories) than your body needs to maintain your current weight, especially if you also increase your level of regular physical activity. A comprehensive lifestyle intervention (such as VA’s MOVE! Weight Management Program) is an essential aspect of any effective overweight or obesity treatment program. These programs help you to identify and make lasting changes in diet, physical activity and other behaviors, like regular weighing, to help you stay on track. VA’s MOVE! program can help you reach a healthy weight.

The guidelines also emphasize the value of specific medications, as well as surgical procedures for treating overweight and obesity, though these treatments should always be combined with a comprehensive lifestyle intervention. Remember when you pushed back from the table and said, “Well, next year I’m going to get in shape?” Well, this is next year. If you need some inspiration, check out these success stories from Veterans who achieved significant weight loss after participating in the MOVE! program. Some are amazing and inspiring. [Source: Vantage Point | Hans Petersen | January 8, 2021 ++]

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VA Registries

Update 08: Gulf War Era Vet’s Access to Care

Desert Storm was a short war, but Veterans from that era still have many different avenues and programs to connect with VA. Below is information on how Desert Storm Veterans can engage with VA.

Get a free health exam

VA’s Gulf War Registry Health Exam alerts Veterans to possible long-term health problems that may be related to environmental exposures during their military service. The registry data helps VA understand and respond to these health problems more effectively. Important points about registry health exams:

  • Free to eligible Veterans and no co-payment.
  • Not a disability compensation exam or required for other VA benefits.
  • Enrollment in VA’s health care system not necessary.
  • Based on Veterans’ recollection of service, not on their military records.
  • Veterans can receive additional registry exams, if new problems develop.
  • Veterans’ family members are not eligible for registry exams.

VA’s Gulf War Registry Health Exam alerts Veterans to possible long-term health problems that may be related to environmental exposures during their military service. The registry data helps VA understand and respond to these health problems more effectively. Contact your local VA Environmental Health Coordinator at https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/coordinators.asp about getting a Gulf War Registry health exam.

Register for the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry

Veterans who are eligible for the Gulf War Registry may also join the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, which includes additional data related to airborne hazards.

  • The registry is a database of information about Veterans and service members collected through a questionnaire.
  • OEF/OIF/OND/OFS Veterans and service members who have deployed to the Southwest Asia theater of operations on or after August 2, 1990, as well as those who have deployed to Afghanistan or Djibouti after September 11, 2001, can use the registry.

At https://veteran.mobilehealth.va.gov/AHBurnPitRegistry check your eligibility and sign up through an online questionnaire. Learn more about the burn pit registry in this Borne the Battle Benefits Breakdown.

Get a mammogram or prostate exam

  • ll women over 45 should get regular mammograms. VA recommends yearly mammograms by age 45, every other year by age 55, and regular mammograms at age 75+.
  • For men, screening tests often include a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. For men between ages 55 and 69, talk with a healthcare provider about the pros and cons of screening.

More ways to engage with VA

[Source: VAntage Point | Adam Stump | January 11, 2020 ++]

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VA Fraud, Waste & Abuse

Reported 01 thru 15 JAN 2021

Gavel

Washington – TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corp. has agreed to pay the United States $179,700,000 to resolve claims that it received overpayments from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in connection with its administration of certain VA health care programs, the Department of Justice announced 31 DEC. TriWest, an Arizona corporation headquartered in Phoenix, is in the business of administering government health care programs, including those operated by the VA. TriWest is responsible for administering certain portions of the VA Patient-Centered Community Care Program (PC3) and the VA’s former Veterans Choice Program (Choice). Both programs have enabled veterans to obtain medical care from providers in their communities. As an administrator of these programs, TriWest is paid by the VA to coordinate medical appointments and make payments to health care providers.

The settlement resolves allegations that TriWest retained overpayments from the VA in connection with its administration of the PC3 and Choice Programs. The alleged overpayments included payments by the VA to TriWest twice for the same services as well as payments for services for which TriWest received full or partial reimbursement from certain health care providers.

“The VA’s PC3 and Choice Programs have provided significant benefits to our nation’s veterans,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The department will continue to support the VA and its Office of Inspector General in ensuring that the VA’s programs are administered properly and that taxpayer funds are used as intended.” “The VA provides invaluable assistance to those who have sacrificed on our behalf,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Bailey for the District of Arizona. “It is vital that those who administer programs for the VA be held accountable to do so with the utmost care and integrity.” The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, the Department of Justice Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, and the VA and its Office of Inspector General. The claims resolved by the settlement agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability. [Source: DoJ Office of Public Affairs December 31, 2020 ++]

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Fayetteville NC – A 73-year-old Fayetteville man who pleaded guilty to obtaining nearly $1 million in VA health care benefits was sentenced to probation and community service Tuesday, according to a news release. Willie Dosher Cain was ordered to five years of probation and 250 hours of community service for defrauding the Department of Veterans Affairs, according the release from U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin. Cain is a veteran of the U.S. Army and the Fayetteville Police Department, Martin said.

Cain pleaded guilty on 17 JUN to one count of embezzlement. U.S District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the defendant’s age and prior military service as factors in determining the sentence, according to the release. Cain also was ordered to pay $903,668.08 in restitution and forfeited $155,041.30 in cash, a modified 2018 Toyota Sienna van and a mobility scooter. He also received a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $150,000 and forfeited a Carolina Beach condominium in a related civil action.

The release said Cain represented to the VA that, as a result of shrapnel wounds sustained in Vietnam in 1965, he had suffered the loss of use of both legs, as well as loss of bowel and bladder control, that he was unable to perform daily activities such as dressing and bathing without assistance, and that he was dependent on a wheelchair or motorized scooter for mobility. However, Cain in fact maintained an active lifestyle throughout this time, including working as a firearms and concealed carry instructor, enjoying beach activities, playing basketball, dancing, and attending social events, officials said in the release.

He also bought a Carolina Beach condominium on the third floor of a building that had no elevator, according to officials. The investigation revealed that Cain received hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent VA benefits in the form of direct payments for aid and attendance, modifications to his home and the purchase and adaptation of vehicles. This case was investigated by the Veterans Affairs — Office of the Inspector General. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frank J. Chut and Meredith Ruggle. [Source: News & Record, Greensboro, N.C. | U.S. Attorney’s Office | December 17, 2020 ++]

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Seattle, WA — A respiratory therapist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Seattle was sentenced 11 JAN in U.S. District Court in Seattle to three months in prison and nine months of home confinement for theft of government property, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. GENE WAMSLEY, 42, of Bonney Lake, Washington, admits stealing a ventilator and other respiratory medical equipment in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and selling it for his own gain. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart said, “This is an extremely serious offense, quite independent of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was exploiting patients.”

“This type of fraud strikes at the heart of our efforts to care for our elderly—especially our veterans,” said U.S. Attorney Brian Moran. “Stealing money is bad enough, but stealing equipment needed for life-saving therapies shocks the conscience.” According to records filed in the case, the investigation began in January 2020 when VAMC reported two bronchoscopes, used for examining a patient’s airway, went missing from the hospital. A third bronchoscope was reported missing in April 2020. In all, WAMSLEY admits stealing and selling three bronchoscopes worth over $100,000 for just $15,750. WAMSLEY sold the scopes to a Florida resident via eBay. When WAMSLEY’s home was searched in June, law enforcement seized a fourth bronchoscope and a $6,000 sleep apnea device called a WatchPat that had been stolen from the VA Medical Center. Further investigation revealed that in April 2020, WAMSLEY also stole a $9,950 respirator and sold it via eBay to an Ohio man for just $6,000. Records from online sales indicate WAMSLEY sold five ventilators—three of which were stolen from the VA.

In their sentencing memo prosecutors wrote that WAMSLEY was involved in the care of COVID-19 patients during the pandemic. Therefore, his “decision to steal respiratory therapy devices for personal monetary gain is rather confounding as he was an eyewitness to the tremendous suffering of those inflicted. By repeatedly stealing equipment from a population of ill veterans at such a critical point in time, Mr. Wamsley violated not only federal law, but ethical obligations held by nurses since the inception of the profession.” The total loss to the United States from the thefts is $132,291; WAMSLEY was ordered to pay that amount in restitution. [Source: DoJ Western District of WA | U.S. Attorney’s Office | January 11, 2020 ++]

* Vets *

Vet Benefits ~ Remarriage

Impact on SBP, TRICARE, and More

Recent changes in law, including some stemming from legislation signed this month, have changed what remarriage will mean for you and your earned benefits. MOAA has heard from members seeking remarriage guidance, with many covered by the situations listed below. These represent some of the top remarriage concerns as they relate to finance.

Situation 1: A retiree is remarrying, and their former spouse holds the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP).

Once a former spouse is awarded SBP due to a legal divorce document, only a change to the legal document — or the death of the former spouse — will release the SBP back to the retiree. These actions allow the retiree to change the beneficiary to the current spouse. The ex-spouse and current spouse cannot be covered simultaneously.

Situation 2: A surviving spouse wants to remarry and has concerns about SBP and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) payments.

One’s age at remarriage can affect survivor benefits. If you are 55 years old or greater, SBP and DIC payments will continue after you get remarried. If you are younger than 55, both SBP and DIC payments will be suspended. If the remarriage ends, payments can start again. (While it’s a completely different topic, those with questions about the process eliminating the DIC offset from SBP payments can find answers at this link.)

Unless you remarry another military retiree, all other military benefits stop during the remarriage (TRICARE and ID card-related). If the remarriage ends, ID card-related benefits will return, but TRICARE benefits are lost forever. If you have remarried a military retiree, all of these benefits will continue. If the retiree dies, survivor programs and benefits (including TRICARE) will start — unless the SBP is owned by a former spouse.

Regarding Social Security: Survivor payments continue for remarriages at/after age 60 (or age 50 if you’re disabled). If you are the divorced spouse of a worker who dies, you could get survivor benefits as long as your marriage lasted 10 years or more. To collect a survivor benefit, you must be age 60 or caring for a child under age 16. As for retirement benefits, at age 62-plus, you can get retirement benefits on your new spouse’s work if those benefits are higher. As a former spouse, you also have eligibility to a retirement benefit based on your ex-spouse’s work record beginning at your age 62. See the Social Security pamphlets (downloadable PDFs) on retirement and survivors for more details.

Situation 3: A former spouse is awarded retired pay from a military retiree and is concerned about what happens to the retired pay if the former spouse remarries.

Was the retired pay awarded by the divorce court? If so, the retired pay was awarded to the former spouse by legal means and is in the divorce decree. Unless something about remarriage was stipulated in the divorce decree, the retired pay will continue to the ex-spouse. The only ways to change or stop the retired pay to a former spouse are:

  • The former spouse gives up the payment through legal means (amended decree), or
  • The former spouse dies. Upon the death of a former spouse, notify the pay agency with a death certificate and retired pay will be restored to the retiree.

If the retired pay is being given voluntarily to the former spouse by the retiree with no legal direction, then the retiree controls where the money goes. All servicemembers can find information on former spouse issues via the Defense Finance and Accounting Service at https://www.dfas.mil/Garnishment/usfspa.

Situation 4: A retiree remarries and wants to start spouse benefits?

The SBP is suspended and no premiums are paid when a retiree does not have a beneficiary, like after a divorce or death of a spouse. To restart your SBP, make sure you notify DFAS (or your Coast Guard pay agent) within the first year of your remarriage. SBP will start again on the first anniversary unless your former spouse has the SBP. You can only have one SBP beneficiary: your spouse or your former spouse, not both. You will owe back premiums if you forget to notify your pay agency until after the first anniversary. Retirees have three SBP options after remarriage:

  • Stay at your current coverage level.
  • Increase your coverage level if your current coverage is less than the maximum coverage. The higher premium is retroactive, so you will owe the back premiums, plus interest.
  • Cancel the coverage with spouse approval.

Take your new spouse to the ID card office for an ID card and enrollment in the DEERS-TRICARE registration system.

Situation 5: You divorced a servicemember and qualified for benefits upon divorce (20/20/20 rule).

Upon remarriage, TRICARE health care is lost forever. Other ID card benefits are suspended until the remarriage ends. If you remarry a military retiree, all of these benefits will continue.

[Source: MOAA Newsletter | January 14, 2021 ++]

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Merrill’s Marauders Vet Passes

James E. Richardson | Only 7 Survivors Left

James E. Richardson, one of only eight living veterans of the famed Merrill’s Marauders from World War II, died 27 DEC in Knoxville, Tenn., at the age of 99. Richardson had returned about a week before Christmas from a hospital stay to his home in Jacksboro, Tenn., where his health had been steadily improving, his daughter Judy Robinson said in a statement issued 30 DEC. She and her husband Larry were his live-in caregivers. “On Christmas day, he suddenly got sick that evening, and I took him back to the hospital,” Robinson said. “My brother was with him when it happened.”

The Marauders were named for Brig. Gen. Frank Merrill, who led the Army unit as it fought behind Japanese lines in Burma during the war. The unit’s ultimate mission was to capture the Myitkyina airfield in northern Burma, which they did May 17, 1944, after a 1,000-mile trek over the Himalayan foothills, through jungles and enemy resistance. But more damaging than the Japanese enemy was the disease, exhaustion and malnutrition that winnowed their ranks to fewer than 200 by the time they seized the airfield.

On 17 OCT 2020, the nearly 3,000 men of the 5307th Composite Unit, as the Marauders were formally known, were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal “in recognition of their bravery and outstanding service in the jungles of Burma during World War II.” The medal also honors the more than 2,000 replacements flown in to join the 5307th to hold the airfield and capture the town of Myitkyina. With Richardson’s death, only seven Marauders are known to be living, according to Jonnie Melillo Clasen, daughter of Vincent Melillo, a Marauder who died in 2015 at age 97. She serves as an informal liaison to the still-living Marauders and their families after the group of surviving veterans grew too old and too few to maintain an association and plan reunions. Marauder veteran Fred Randle, died at age 97 on 23 NOV in Hot Springs, Ark.

James Eubaun Richardson was born July 22, 1921, one of seven brothers — six of whom served in the armed forces during World War II. All returned from the war but John “J.C.” Richardson, who was killed in France on D-Day and is buried there. Richardson was one of the few Marauders who made it all the way to the capture of the airfield, though he was wounded by a gunshot in a shoulder. He received a Bronze Star for his individual valor during combat. He returned to the United States from India in December 1944 and was stationed at Camp Rucker in Alabama at the time the war ended. He was discharged in October 1945.

He ran Richardson’s grocery at Jacksboro Station from 1961 to 1975 and after retirement kept busy by volunteering with the Salvation Army and at East Jacksboro Baptist Church, where he was a lifelong member. He was preceded in death by his wife, Jewell Richardson, and is survived by four children, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. A graveside service will be held 31DEC at Campbell County Memorial Gardens in Jacksboro, with military honors conducted by the Campbell County Honor Guard. [Source: Stars & Stripes | Wyatt Olson | December 30, 2020 ++]

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Coronavirus Vaccines

Update 23: Veterans — Avoid COVID-19 Vaccine Scams

Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is becoming available, scammers are calling, texting and emailing Veterans with promises of vaccine availability and early access to vaccines. These promises are lies. The people sending these messages are identity thieves. They are after your sensitive personal information, such as your Social Security Number, and your money. How can you know if the message you receive about a vaccine is a real VA message or a scam? Here are some tips on how to how to avoid scams and how to tell the difference.

Here’s how VA will contact you

  • VA is beginning contact with Veterans to offer and administer COVID-19 vaccinations. You can sign up for vaccine updates by visiting https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/stay-informed. This is a valid and reliable source of information about VA’s COVID-19 vaccine response.
  • Plus, individual VA medical facilities will soon start contacting Veterans about the vaccine. Outreach will most likely come through the VA.gov website, VEText, MyHealtheVet or VA emails. VA may also reach out to you via the US Postal Service through letters and postcards. Or you may get a phone call.

What VA will never do

  • No matter how we contact you, VA will never request money or your full Social Security Number through phone, email, or text message.
  • VA will never ask for your full Social Security Number or personal health information through a vaccination request call.
  • VA will never include hyperlinks in texts or emails that will take you to unofficial or non-secured web pages that ask you to provide personal information. Non-secured sites look like this: “http://.” Secured sites look like this: “https://.”
  • VA will never require payment in exchange for providing the vaccine early and will not require payment to become eligible for the vaccine.

The information you provide is up to you

If you do receive a phone call from a VA medical center, you may be asked to provide the last four digits of your Social Security Number or your date of birth. It is up to you if you choose to provide that information. To be safe, we recommend that you politely hang up and then call the medical center back so that you can be sure you are actually speaking with a real Veteran health provider. Use the number you have saved in your contacts or search for the facility contact information on their website.

Don’t just click that link

If you receive an email or text that directs you to click a hyperlink to a website, don’t. You have no way of knowing if it’s actually the website it’s supposed to be. Instead, open your browser, type in the address of the site and visit it directly. Veterans can get up-to-date information and sign up to receive updates on VA’s COVID Vaccine webpage https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine.

Scams to look out for

COVID-19 vaccine scams come in many forms: emails, website traps, texts and phone calls. Here are the top vaccine scams the FBI warns about:

  • Payment to be added to a vaccine waitlist.
  • Ads, websites, texts, phone calls and emails offering early access to the vaccine for a fee.
  • Emails or phone calls from people claiming to work at a medical center or insurance company offering the vaccine but requiring personal medical details to check eligibility.
  • Messages, calls or emails claiming that the government is requiring you to get the vaccine.
  • Ads on social media for the vaccine.

Avoid all these types of outreach and do not engage with the scammer at all. To learn more about how to protect yourself from vaccine scams:

[Source: VAntge Point | Steve Tokar | January 4, 2021 ++]

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Gen. William L. Shepard Statue

Vet Returns Stolen Sword

https://www.stripes.com/polopoly_fs/1.657433.1609792815!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_900/image.jpg

A veteran returned a sword he stole from a statue of a Revolutionary War general 40 years ago, telling the head of the Massachusetts town’s historical commission that he regretted taking it. Cindy P. Gaylord, the chair of Westfield’s Historical Commission, said a man contacted the city hall saying he had the sword stolen from the town’s statue of Major Gen. William Shepard in 1980, the Springfield Republican reported on 3 JAN. Gaylord agreed to give the man anonymity if he returned the bronze sword and arranged for him and his wife to drop it off at her home, she said.

“He had a great deal of shame and remorse,” Gaylord told the newspaper. “He is a veteran and told me the fact that he did this to another soldier troubled him. He wants the story printed to remind people that something you do in your youth could haunt you for the rest of your life.” The man, who Gaylord described as a “great big bear of a guy,” told her he had worked at a bar in the town while he was enrolled as a student at Westfield State University. After a night of drinking, he and a group of friends went to steal the sword, which he said he wrenched loose with just his own strength. When they realized what they had done the next morning, they were not sure how to return the sword without facing consequences.

The stolen sword was replaced with the help of a local sculptor and paid for by an anonymous donor, the newspaper reported. The returned sword is likely to be preserved by a local museum, the newspaper reported. Shepard was born in the area in the 1730s and fought as a militia man and solider in multiple wars, including the Revolutionary War inclusive of wintering at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where he commanded the 4th Division of the Massachusetts militia. The town erected the bronze statue of him in 1919. [Source: Associated Press | January 4, 2021 ++]

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Vet Jobs

Update 270: Human Resources Managers Sought at VA Facilities Nationwide

One of our highest priorities at VA is recruiting and retaining top talent so we can fulfill our mission of providing superior health care to millions of Veterans. But we can’t do that without the help of skilled and dedicated human resources (HR) professionals. HR managers are one of the most sought-after nonclinical positions at VA, with nearly one in four VA health care systems indicating they need to recruit and hire more staff in this position. The occupation has increased by nearly 8% over the last three years and is expected to continue growing.

“VA service begins with VA people. HR managers help ensure that we attract, employ and retain the best and most qualified people, so that we can continue to provide the highest level of care to Veterans across the country,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of recruitment marketing. Hiring of HR managers has been expedited and streamlined under the Direct Hire Authority.

Critical need

Our HR teams are charged with every aspect of the employee experience at VA – from hire to retire. As an HR manager, you’ll serve as an essential link between our management and our employees, while serving an organization with the noble mission of caring for our nation’s heroes. We employ HR managers in a range of capacities to help maintain our administrative functions – from recruitment and labor relations to compensation. Duties could include:

  • Helping to plan and coordinate the VA workforce.
  • Planning and overseeing employee benefit programs.
  • Advising other managers on human resources issues, such as equal employment opportunity and sexual harassment.
  • Coordinating and supervising the work of HR specialists and support staff.
  • Overseeing our recruitment, interviewing, selection and hiring processes.
  • Handling staffing issues, such as mediating disputes and directing disciplinary procedures.
  • Assisting with strategic planning.

Begin your VA career

You can find HR manager jobs at VA facilities across the country. Whether you want to live in the country, city or somewhere in between, you’ll be able to discover a VA location that fits your needs. These well-paying positions come with an excellent array of benefits, including an excellent three-tier retirement plan, generous paid time off and robust health insurance. To help us recruit talented HR professionals, we are often able to offer you recruitment and relocation incentives, loan repayment assistance through the Education Debt Reduction Progra, scholarship support and telework options.

Work at VA

There’s no better time to consider continuing your HR career at VA. We’re hiring HR managers across the nation, and you could be one of them.

[Source: Vantage Point | January 8, 2021 ++]

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Vet Employment

Update 13: Jobless Rate Improved in December

The jobless rate among U.S. veterans improved in December even as national employment numbers showed discouraging signs of sluggishness amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The unemployment rate among all American veterans fell to 5.3 percent in December, according to estimates released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number was 6.3 percent in November and had been as high as 11.7 percent last spring, when widespread layoffs and furloughs related to virus precautions severely hurt U.S. businesses.

The unemployment rate among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan War era showed even greater improvement, decreasing from 6.9 percent in November to 5.1 percent in December. Veterans of the first Gulf War era saw their unemployment rate drop to 4.4 percent.

The positive veterans news comes as the American economy lost about 140,000 jobs last month, the first overall decline for the nation since April. The national unemployment rate now sits at 6.7 percent. In a statement, BLS officials blamed the job losses on “the recent increase in coronavirus cases and efforts to contain the pandemic.” More than 21.2 million Americans have been infected by the virus in the last 10 months and more than 360,000 have died from complications related to it. Many of those deaths and cases have come in just the last few months, as nearly every state in the country has seen dramatic spikes due to holiday travel and relaxed restrictions in public areas. BLS officials reported that 15.8 million Americans were unable to maintain full-time work because “their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic.”

The veterans employment numbers, while better than the general population, are still significantly worse than one year ago. In December 2019, the overall veterans unemployment rate was 2.8 percent, nearly half of what was reported last month. Lawmakers inserted several economic stimulus measures related to veterans’ pandemic challenges in a recently-passed omnibus bill, including new job training programs for out-of-work veterans and new protections for student veterans whose college classes were disrupted by pandemic closures. That legislation was signed into law by President Trump, but implementing those measures is likely to take several months. [Source: MilitaryTimes | Leo Shane III | January 8, 2021 ++]

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Vet Outdoor Recreation

S.1263 Will Bring U.S. Vets to the Outdoors for Healing and Recovery

A bill signed into law 5 DEC stands to bring U.S. veterans to the outdoors for healing and recovery. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), author of the Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act S.1263, and co-sponsor Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) praised the passage of the bill which strives to increase veterans’ access to federal lands for therapeutic use. “Research has increasingly shown that outdoor recreation can be an effective form of treatment, rehabilitation and healing for veterans,” Smith said.

The new law will require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish an interagency task force on the use of public lands to provide medical treatment and therapy to veterans through outdoor recreation. After undertaking a comprehensive analysis, the task force will submit recommendations to Congress, within one year, on how to eliminate barriers and provide more public outdoor space for use by our veterans. “While many nonprofit organizations, veteran service organizations and private companies have used the outdoors to help heroes heal, providing greater coordination among key federal agencies will open new opportunities for veterans on public lands and other outdoor spaces,” said Smith said, who has twice served as chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Smith’s bill was included in the Veterans’ COMPACT Act, which is a package of veterans’ legislation that will implement new Department of Veterans Affairs programs that address suicide care, mental health education and treatment, health care and the needs of women veterans. Through the program, the Veterans Administration must carry out a program that shares information regarding assistance and benefits available to veterans. The VA must also pay for emergent suicide care, establish an education program for caregivers and family members; establish a task for the AVROA regarding the use of public lands for veterans’ therapy; promote health exams; educate VA police about suicide; and analyze and report on the needs of women veterans.

During the House floor vote on the measure, Smith recounted the story of a veteran suffering from PTSD, and his positive encounter with nature. “By the time he was 20, Blake was suffering severe depression, anxiety and PTSD and he made three visits to VA psychiatric wards and a substance abuse rehab,” Smith said about the veteran. “But, it was a backpacking trip led by the Sierra Club Military Outdoors that changed his entire perspective.”

“In every Texas sunrise in the desert or a sunset next to an alpine lake, I found more beauty and serenity than I thought existed,” Smith said. “I found camaraderie with my other veterans in sharing our stories on the trail. The darkness of what I had experienced couldn’t compare to the light I saw in watching a trout swim in the Merced River with Half Dome looming nearby. And when the depression, anxiety and everything else that comes with PTSD creeps back into my life, I know just what do…strap on a pack and get outside.

The Sierra Club praised the passing of the COMPACT Act. In response, Sierra Club Military Outdoors campaign manager Rob Vessels released the following statement: “This is a victory for military veterans and families,” said Rob Vessels, Sierra Club Military Outdoors campaign manager. “For many veterans, the path towards healing from service-related trauma goes through public lands. Today, that path got a little easier. We can celebrate our victory today, but our work does not end here. The outdoors can be a powerful place for healing and respite, and we have high hopes for the task force’s recommendations.” [Source: Grand Canyon News | Wendy Howell | December 29, 2020 ++]

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Vet Fraud & Abuse

Reported 01 thru 15 JAN 2021

Polk County FL — Two Polk County men are in jail on charges that they desecrated graves and stole remains of veterans from a Mount Dora graveyard to use in religious rituals. Polk County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Brian Tolentino, 43, of Davenport, and Juan Burgos-Lopez, 29, of Lake Wales while executing a search warrant 6 JAN. DNA evidence from a cigar led authorities to Tolentino, who then also named Burgos-Lopez as an accomplice, the Sheriff’s Office said. The thefts occurred on Dec. 6 at Edgewood Cemetery in Mount Dora.

Detectives said the suspects told them they use the human remains in their religion, Palo Mayombe, and that they chose the graves of veterans because their religion demands that the remains be from those that have “done something heroic.” The suspects went on to tell detectives that they drove to the cemetery on 6 DEC and used a crowbar to remove the lids of the tombs. They removed the heads and other remains, and placed them in plastic bags, took them to Lake Wales and placed them in the shrine, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The shrine was located at Burgos-Lopez’s residence at 5170 Timberlane Road in Lake Wales. Detectives found a shed with a religious shrine and seven skulls, four of which the suspects admitted taking from graves in Mount Dora, the Sheriff’s Office said. Two others were determined to be fake, and the investigation is ongoing as to the identity of the other. The shed contained cauldrons filled with dirt and other items such as bones, sticks, feathers, rocks, turtle shells and small animal skulls, along with the human skulls. Detectives also found other religious symbols and shrines. The deceased were identified as:

  • Henry Brittain, 1929-1983, a private in the U.S. Army and Korean war veteran.
  • Elbert Carr, 1896-1988, a sergeant in the U.S. Army and World War I veteran.
  • Calvin McNair, 1935-1992, a military police officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, buried in his dress blues; he was also a police officer for 11 years in Ansonia, Connecticut.
  • Annie Faniel, 1935-1988, a good Samaritan and caretaker, according to her family.

Tolentino has an arrest history that includes charges of cocaine possession, drug possession with intent to distribute, grand theft and armed robbery of a bank in 2000, for which he was released from probation in 2011. Both suspects were booked into the Polk County jail on their Lake County charges of four counts each of disturbing the contents of a grave and abuse of a dead body. They also were charged in Polk County on one count of disturbing the contents of a grave, and Burgos-Lopez was charged with an additional count of trafficking in dead bodies. [Source: The Ledger | Ray Beasock | January 9, 2021 | \ ++]

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Palm Harbor, FL — A Florida-based group running a supposed charity for wounded veterans has settled allegations that it deceived donors and has agreed to close its doors, Attorney General Mark Herring said. The settlement also bans Healing Heroes Network Inc.’s directors, Stacey Spiegel, Allan Spiegel, and Neal Spiegel, from running any entity soliciting charitable donations for five years. It includes a company, Hero Giveaways, LLC, that Stacey and Neal Spiegel set up to continue the operation after a multi-state investigation into the business started. The Spiegels agreed to pay $95,000 to a charity that does help wounded vets.

Donors contributed millions of dollars in response to deceptive sweepstakes mailers and telephone solicitations, Herring said. The group said it would use the money to help wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan get medical care that the Veterans Administration did not readily provide. Its social media postings falsely claimed that it dedicated all the donations it received to wounded veterans, but investigations showed most of the money went to pay professional fundraisers, online advertising fees, T-shirts from a family member and salaries for Stacey Spiegel and her son, Neal. Charity Watch said Healing Heroes Network spent 9% of its funds on charitable programs.

A Tampa Bay Times investigation in 2013 found Stacey Spiegel was paid $110,000 a year to serve as treasurer while her physician husband received more than half of the sum the charity spent on medical services. The organization is not related to Project Healing Heroes, a veteran-run group that helps veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. “Organizations and individuals who deceive kind-hearted Virginians who only want to help veterans and service members are despicable and must be held accountable,” Herring said. Joining Virginia in the settlement are the states of Washington, Florida, Ohio, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico and California.

The settlement grew out of Operation Donate With Honor, a law enforcement sweep to combat veterans’ fundraising fraud that was coordinated in 2018 by the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of State Charities Officials. The Spiegels could not be reached immediately for comment. [Source: Daily Press | Dave Ress | January 12, 2021 ++]

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Vet Discharge Upgrade Lawsuit

Settlement Allows Iraq/Afghan Era Vets to Reapply for Honorable Status

The Army will review thousands of discharge records of veterans affected by military sexual trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and other behavioral health conditions following a class-action lawsuit, the service announced 12 JAN. The review is part of a settlement reached in the lawsuit Kennedy v. McCarthy, which was preliminarily approved 28 DEC, according to the Army. The service will look at discharges of veterans affected by PTSD, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma or other behavioral health conditions.

“Under the agreement, the Army will automatically reconsider certain discharge-status-upgrade decisions made by the Army Discharge Review Board between April 17, 2011, and the effective date of settlement that partially or fully denied relief to Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans with less-than-fully-honorable discharges,” the statement reads. Veterans who were discharged and did not receive an upgrade to honorable from the review board between Oct. 7, 2001 and April 16, 2011, will also be able to reapply due to the settlement. The lawsuit was filed April 2017 in the U.S. District Court of Connecticut by Army combat veterans Steve Kennedy and Alicia Carson, both of whom suffered from PTSD and other health conditions, but where given a general discharge despite their medical issues, according to the complaint. Their case was handled by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School.

  • Kennedy served in the Army from 2006 to 2009, including a deployment to Iraq in 2007 and 2008. He returned home from the deployment with PTSD and major depression but was not properly diagnosed or treated by the Army, according to the court document. “Mr. Kennedy continued to lead his team to top performance marks but began abusing alcohol, self-isolating, and self-injuring, which ultimately led to him going absent without leave for two weeks,” the document states. His commander ordered a psychiatric evaluation and he was diagnosed with major depressive disorder but not PTSD, despite his symptoms. Kennedy was then discharged due to his two-week absence, according to the document.
  • Carson deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and served with a Special Forces unit as a gunner, taking part in more than 100 missions, according to the court document. She was diagnosed with PTSD and a TBI by Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs doctors after returning from her deployment. Despite receiving a doctor’s note to excuse her from National Guard drills, the Guard discharged her due to her absences, according to the document.

Their appeals to the review board to have their discharges upgraded to honorable were both denied, according to the court document. Now due to the settlement, Army, National Guard, and Reserve veterans who received a discharge that was downgraded from honorable while having a diagnosis or showing symptoms of military sexual trauma, PTSD, TBI or other behavioral health conditions, might be eligible for relief, according to the Army. Upgrades to a discharge are not guaranteed and will be decided on a case-by-case basis, the service said.

The Army has also agreed to change the procedures for how veterans apply to have their discharge status upgraded in the future and how the review board addresses these cases, according to the statement. Some of these changes include allowing veterans to appear via telephone to their review board hearings, more training for review board members and “updated protocols for decision making in cases involving symptoms or diagnoses of PTSD, TBI, MST or other behavioral health conditions.” A hearing to give final approval on the settlement will occur March 24 at 10 a.m. EST. For more information on the settlement, veterans can go to at http://www.kennedysettlement.com and https://arba.army.pentagon.mil/adrb-overview.html. [Source: Stars & Stripes | Caitlin M. Kenney | January 12, 2021

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WWII Vets 244

Joe Vandever |Navajo Code Talker

Joe Vandever was born in New Mexico and drafted into the Marine Corps at 19 to serve as a Navajo Code Talker during World War II. Vandever went through basic training in Fort Wingate, New Mexico, before continuing training at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California. In October 1943, Vandever joined the 6th Marine Division, 3rd Raider Battalion. He was the translator of all incoming Navajo messages for his commanding officers. By applying the Navajo words for common English, Code Talkers could encode and transmit messages as fast as Morse code. The Japanese never deciphered this code. Throughout his service, Vandever traveled on 16 different battleships and was stationed in New Caledonia, the Samoan Islands, Bougainville, Guadalcanal, Emirau Island, Guam; Okinawa, Japan; and China.

Vandever had strong faith throughout his service. Before being drafted, a medicine man blessed him for protection for his challenging journey. When Vandever was with the 4th Marines Regiment Brigade in Guam, he saw a gray and yellow Cassin’s kingbird land in front of him. He believed the bird to be a spiritual symbol assuring him that he would return home safely thanks to the ceremonies performed in Navajo Nation. Vandever did return home safely upon discharge on Jan. 22, 1946. He returned home to his family in Navajo Nation and, on Sept. 20, 1946, married his sweetheart Bessie, a Navajo weaver and herbalist. He returned to his family heritage and faith by becoming a Navajo medicine man. He also continued a family farm while working different jobs at an oil company, as a uranium prospector, and as a chauffeur. For Vandever, the Navajo language was compelling and he continued to advocate for younger generations to learn to speak the language for the rest of his life.

The Navajo Code Talker program remained classified until 1968 and Code Talkers were instructed not to talk about it. In the 1980s, Code Talkers started to receive recognition for their monumental service by being honored at parades. Vandever also participated in the Navajo Code Talker Day celebrations held on August 14th, the day that President Ronald Reagan declared National Navajo Code Talker Day. He also received the Congressional Silver Medal in 2001.

By 2020, Vandever was one of the few remaining Navajo Code Talkers remaining, from a group of between 375 to 420. He died on Jan. 31, 2020, at the age of 96. His wife died the year prior. They were married for 73 years. Vandever was honored by Navajo Nation leadership, Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for his incredible service to the nation. To view a short video of Joe talking about his service go to https://youtu.be/DIja-NSN3V8. We honor his service. (Note: Go to https://youtu.be/GuXc3IenURc to view President Trump’s meeting with the surviving code talkers in the White House where they talked about their experiences). [Source: Vantage Point | Annaleigh Cummings | November 12, 2020 ++]

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WWII Vets 245

Bob Teichgraeber | Survived POW Camps and Forced March

This was no “milk run” trip on the B-24 Liberator bomber. The 10-man U.S. Army air crew, which included Bob Teichgraeber of Collinsville, was on a mission with dozens of other American planes on Feb. 24, 1944, to bomb a factory where Messerschmitt 110 fighter planes were produced in Gotha, Germany. They faced heavy flak from the ground. In the air, they faced German fighters trying to repel the bombing raid. Teichgraeber, who served as a gunner on the plane, said they were able to drop their bombs in the daylight attack but about 10 minutes later, a German fighter shot the oxygen tanks on the B-24 and a fire broke out. Teichgraeber and five others successfully parachuted from their burning bomber, but that was his last day of freedom for more than a year. He survived a severe injury to his right foot that hit part of the plane when he parachuted. He survived 421 days as a prisoner of war. And he survived a forced march when his weight dropped from 135 pounds to about 90 pounds before he could escape on April 15, 1945.

Today, Teichgraeber is 100 and still lives in his own home with Rose, his wife of nearly 70 years. He is one of about 325,000 World War II veterans who are alive today, according to an estimate from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. More than 16 million Americans served in the war. On Veterans Day, Teichgraeber remembered his wounded and fallen comrades along with his fellow World War II veterans who are mostly in their 90s today. “I’m proud to be a part of them,” he said. “They’re still living. I think Tom Brokaw said we were what the ‘Greatest Generation’ and all that good stuff. You gotta give them credit. “I think they did a heckuva job through all these years. You’d have to say they persevered.”

Before going to England, Teichgraeber received training at Army bases in Mississippi, Texas, Colorado and Nebraska. One of his highlights occurred in Colorado in 1943 when he saw one of his heroes, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The 32nd president flashed a big smile and waved a white hat as his motorcade went by. “He was kind of my pride and joy, a four-term president,” Teichgraeber said. “I always thought that they should put another face on those rocks up there in South Dakota,” he said in reference to Mount Rushmore.

Teichgraeber’s 10-man crew formed stateside before they took a southern route to England via Brazil and Africa. He believes he is the last living member of the crew. After the German Messerschmitt 109 fighter plane hit Teichgraeber’s bomber, the crew realized the B-24 could not be saved and they had to parachute. Teichgraeber was captured and taken to Frankfurt in central Germany and then to a POW camp in what was then known as East Prussia. Three other non-commissioned crew members also were sent to this camp. In July 1945, he recalls hearing Russian gunfire as the Germans moved him to a POW camp in Poland. It was during this transfer that he was separated from his B-24 crewmates.

In early February 1945, the Germans forced Teichgraeber and about 2,000 other POWs to march hundreds of miles across northern Poland and northern Germany toward the Elbe River. There wasn’t much food. They slept in fields and barns in the winter weather, and they suffered from frostbite and dysentery. “It was rough,” Teichgraeber said. They eventually made it to a POW camp near the Elbe River but they only stayed there for about five days before the march resumed. After nearly 65 days on the march, Teichgraeber and a friend from Texas, John Bulla, were able to escape when a disturbance occurred during a head count. They slipped into a barn and, on the next day, were rescued by British soldiers.

Teichgraeber said the British were welcoming and gave him a uniform to wear. One of his cherished possessions is a photo of him in the British clothing.“They cleaned me up,” he said. “I looked human again.” On April 19, 1945, he was repatriated with American soldiers. After rest stops in Belgium and France, he boarded a ship home. “I was very close to New York when the war ended,” Teichgraeber said. Teichgraeber was discharged with a rank of staff sergeant.

After the war, Teichgraeber returned to National Cash Register, or NCR, and worked in the service department. He’s now been retired for the same amount of time he worked at NCR — 39 years. Teichgraeber and his wife, Rose, were married on May 12, 1951, so they are looking forward to their 70th wedding anniversary next spring. They have one son, James, who is retired. It wasn’t until three years ago that Teichgraeber talked openly about his experience as a prisoner of war. “This picture came out of the cabinet three years ago,” he said of the photo of him in the British uniform. That’s when word spread about his service. He was featured in The American Legion magazine in January 2018.

Teichgraeber said he and Rose, 98, appreciate all of the help they have received from friends and people they don’t even know. “We’ve been so blessed,” he said. Caregivers visit their home each day and Teichgraeber said he can still mow his lawn and drive his car that features an Illinois ex-POW license plate. Teichgraeber is thankful for the recognition he’s received as an ex-POW. They include a proclamation by Madison County to declare Aug. 22 as “Bob Teichgraeber Day” in honor of his 100th birthday; a plaque from the city of Collinsville and a banner of his picture displayed on a street light; an Honor Flight on Nov. 11, 2011, to Washington, D.C.; a Quilt of Valor he received when he turned 97; and he was this year’s honoree for the 24-hour vigil run for the National POW/MIA Recognition Day at Scott Air Force Base, although he couldn’t attend the ceremony because of the coronavirus concerns.

As Teichgraeber reminisces on his 100 years, he’s grateful for people like Robbie Wetzel, a Mount Zion nurse who accompanied him on his Honor Flight trip. On a subsequent trip she held photos of Teichgraeber at sites in Washington and sent him photos of her doing that. He thinks about his late friend, John Bulla, who was a successful businessman in Texas, and how they endured the hunger march across northern Europe. “Well, looking back, I said, ‘I think the Good Lord is looking after ol’ John and me,’” he said. “You know, you had to have hope and faith. You can’t get down on anything.” [Source: Belleville News-Democrat | Mike Koziatek | November 24, 2020 ++]

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Vietnam Vets [47]

Billy Walkabout | Most Decorated Native American Soldier

Billy Walkabout was born in March 1949 in Cherokee County, Oklahoma, and was born into the Cherokee tribe of Anishanoi, or Blue Holly Clan. He was the son of Warren Walkabout and Bobby Jean Chaudion Walkabout. After graduating in 1968 from U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City, Walkabout enlisted in the U.S. Army. In the Army, Walkabout first served as an infantryman in Vietnam, serving in Company F, 58th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). He later became a SP4 and distinguished himself with valorous actions on Nov. 20, 1968, when he ambushed an enemy squad on a jungle trail during a long-range reconnaissance patrol southwest of Hue. As a helicopter extraction arrived, the enemy attacked Walkabout and the other men.

The soldiers fought back against the enemies and successfully escaped despite injuries. On the helicopter, he administered first aid to the wounded soldier. When the aircraft received heavy fire, Walkabout distracted the enemy so they concentrated their assault and placed continuous fire on the opposition. A command-detonated mine tore through the team, killing three soldiers and wounding many. While severely hurt from the explosion, Walkabout went to his men and administered lifesaving first aid to the soldiers. He also managed gunship and tactical air strikes on the enemy’s positions. When the next evacuation helicopters arrived, Walkabout and his fellow soldiers were still under hazardous enemy fire. Despite his injuries, he helped the wounded soldiers to board the aircraft. After the dead soldiers were aboard the helicopter, Walkabout extracted and returned to safety.

During his service, Walkabout received many medals, including the Distinguished Service Cross. He left the Army after reaching the rank of second lieutenant. In a 1986 interview with the Associated Press, Walkabout shared that his 23 months in Vietnam left him with disabling injuries and scarring memories. He said, “War is not hell, it’s worse.” Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders, suicidal thoughts and years of self-isolation, the only solace Walkabout found was in Native American powwows.

In April 2000, Walkabout married Juanita Medbury-Walkabout, and the couple had three children, Amy Rene, Justin and Trista. He was also a life member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Disabled American Veterans, Legion of Valor and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. Walkabout lived with his wife in Montville, Connecticut, near other Native American tribal members like the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan. He passed away March 13, 2007, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. According to the Department of Defense, he was the most decorated Native American soldier of the Vietnam War. We honor his service. [Source: VAntge Point | November 17, 2020 ++]

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Military Retirees & Veterans Events Schedule

As of 16 JAN 2021

The Military Retirees & Veterans Events Schedule is intended to serve as a one-stop resource for retirees and veterans seeking information about events such as retirement appreciation days (RAD), stand downs, veterans town hall meetings, resource fairs, free legal advice, mobile outreach services, airshows, and other beneficial community events.   The events included on the schedule are obtained from military, VA, veterans service organizations and other reliable retiree\veterans related websites and resources.

The current Military Retirees & Veterans Events Schedule is available in the following three formats. After connecting to the website, click on the appropriate state, territory or country to check for events scheduled for your area.

Note that events listed on the Military Retirees & Veterans Events Schedule may be cancelled or rescheduled.   Before traveling long distances to attend an event, you should contact the applicable RAO, RSO, event sponsor, etc., to ensure the event will, in fact, be held on the date\time indicated.   Also, attendance at some events may require military ID, VA enrollment or DD214.   Please report broken links, comments, corrections, suggestions, new RADs and\or other military retiree\veterans related events to the Events Schedule Manager, [email protected] [Source:  Retiree\Veterans Events Schedule Manager | Milton Bell | January 15, 2020 ++]

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Vet Hiring Fairs

Scheduled As of 16 JAN 2021

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. To participate, sign up for the workshop in addition to registering (if indicated) for the hiring fairs which are shown on the Hiring Our Heroes website https://www.hiringourheroes.org for the next month. For details of each you should click on the city next to the date Listings of upcoming Vet Job Fairs nationwide providing location, times, events, and registration info if required can be found at the following websites. Note that some of the scheduled events for the next 2 to 6 weeks have been postponed and are awaiting reschedule dates due to the current COVID-19 outbreak. You will need to review each site below to locate Job Fairs in your location:

First Civilian Job

Forty-one percent of veterans surveyed indicated they left their first post-military job within one year. Another 31% indicated said they left their first civilian job to make ends meet and never intended to stay. Another 30% left as the result of finding a better job, while 19% left because the job did not align with their expectations. Only 12% left because the position was terminated or they were laid off. The reasons for staying at a job depend greatly on financial and long-term opportunities in the company. Sixty-five percent of veterans say they will stay at a company for better pay, while 55% stay for a clear path of career growth. Other activities, like veteran resource groups and volunteer activities, seem to have less impact on whether veterans remain or leave their jobs.

[Source: Recruit Military, USCC, and American Legion | January 15, 2020 ++]

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State Veteran’s Benefits

Washington 2021

The state of Washington provides several benefits to veterans as indicated below. To obtain information on these plus discounts listed on the Military and Veterans Discount Center (MCVDC) website, refer to the attachment to this Bulletin titled, “Vet State Benefits– WA” for an overview of the benefits in the below categories. Benefits are available to veterans who are residents of the state. For a more detailed explanation of each of the below refer to http://www.dva.wa.gov

  • Housing
  • Financial Assistance
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Recreation
  • Burial
  • Other State Veteran Benefits

[Source: http://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-state-benefits/washington-state-veterans-benefits.html | JAN 2021 ++]

* Vet Legislation *

capitol-hill-600x400

Vet Benefits Legislation

Update 06: H.R.7105 | Vet Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act Signed

President Donald Trump signed a sweeping legislative package 5 JAN that aims to help veterans facing a variety of challenges, including homelessness, access to care for women and Native Americans, toxic exposure and the coronavirus. The legislation gained unanimous approval in Congress on 17 DEC and was sent to the White House on 24 DEC. Tuesday 5 JAN was the final day for Trump to signal his support for the legislation. Presidents are given 10 days to sign bills before they become law without their signatures.

“Congress passed this critical end-of-year veterans’ package to enact changes and provide support for every corner of our veteran community,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), leader of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “I applaud President Trump for signing this important legislation into law.” The package is more than 340 pages long and includes dozens of measures – some of which have been in the works for nearly four years. It’s titled “The Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020,” named for former Republican leaders of the House and Senate veterans’ affairs committees.

This bill addresses the administration of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs and benefits for homeless veterans during the COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019) public health emergency. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, the bill authorizes the VA to

  • Reallocate specified grant funds to provide homeless veterans and veterans participating in the Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program with transportation, assistance required for safety and survival, and communications equipment and services;
  • Collaborate with organizations to manage use of VA land for homeless veterans for living and sleeping;
  • Provide a maximum rate, in certain situations, for per diem payments that is three times the rate authorized for state homes for domiciliary care;
  • Provide amounts for additional transitional housing beds to facilitate access to housing and services provided to homeless veterans; and
  • Waive certain inspection and safety code requirements to allow grant recipients and therapeutic housing facilities to make adjustments (e.g., facilitating social distancing or isolation needs).

Per diem payments may be used to provide assistance required for safety and survival (e.g., food) for homeless veterans and formerly homeless veterans residing in a facility operated by a grant recipient or entity that receives per diem payments for furnishing services to homeless veterans. The bill requires the VA to ensure that veterans participating in or receiving services under a program for homeless veterans have access to telehealth services. The VA must ensure telehealth capabilities are available to such veterans, VA case managers, and community-based service providers.

The bill under its Title 5 section also focuses on improving services for female veterans. It creates a dedicated Office of Women’s Health at the Department of Veterans Affairs, provides $20 million to retrofit VA hospitals with women’s health spaces and makes permanent a program to provide childcare at VA facilities, among other measures. It also mandates that every VA hospital hire a dedicated women’s health provider. “For nearly four years, IAVA has been working hard to see this legislation finally cross the finish line, and we can now send a powerful message to women veterans that our nation respects their service and will not tolerate substandard care for them at the VA,” said Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

In addition to improving health services for women, the bill aims to address a negative culture for women at VA facilities. It would require the VA to create an anti-harassment and anti-sexual assault policy and designate someone at each facility to receive reports of harassment. A working group will be created to help implement the policy.

The bill also aims to help veterans suffering from military sexual trauma. In 2018, the VA Office of Inspector General reported that the department wrongfully denied benefits to thousands of veterans who filed claims for military sexual trauma – rejection that potentially caused stress and psychological harm, the IG said. The legislative package requires teams who specialize in military sexual trauma to process those benefits claims. It also allows veterans who must be examined during the claims process to choose the sex of the medical provider examining them. [Source: Stars & Stripes | Nikki Wentling | January 6, 2021 ++]

Note: To check status on any veteran related legislation go to https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress for any House or Senate bill introduced in the 116th Congress. Bills are listed in reverse numerical order for House and then Senate.  Bills are normally initially assigned to a congressional committee to consider and amend before sending them on to the House or Senate as a whole. To read the text of bills that are to be considered on the House floor in the upcoming week refer to https://docs.house.gov/floor.

* Military *

http://ts2.mm.bing.net/th?id=H.4724091579336357&pid=15.1

BAH

Update 06: Military Housing Allowance 2021 Rates Released

Twentynine Palms, the southern California desert locale that hosts the Marine Corps’ largest base, is atop the list of military housing areas that will see the largest percentage increases in the housing allowances paid to servicemembers and their families in the New Year, according to a Federal News Network analysis of Defense Department data. Service members in every paygrade will see a double-digit percentage point increase in their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) in their first paycheck of 2021. The average increase across all ranks is 15.2%. And the substantial increase is in line with private sector data. According to the real estate firm Redfin, home prices in Twentynine Palms jumped 19.6% in the past year. Other areas with large military populations that will see large BAH increases in 2021 include:

  • Huntsville, Alabama (average 12.8% increase)
  • Fort Huachuca, Arizona (average 12.3% increase)
  • Fort Gordon, Georgia (average 9.8% increase)
  • Washington, D.C. metro area (average 9.7% increase)
  • Fort Bragg, North Carolina (average 8.1% increase)

Nationwide, averaged across all military housing areas, the 2021 rates represent an increase of 2.9%, and DoD said it will spend $23 billion on housing allowances next year. But the raises — and sometimes decreases — vary dramatically by housing area. DoD bases the annual rates on surveys of rental costs and utilities in each market. Indeed, based on that same data, 2021 BAH rates will decline in 83 of DoD’s 300 housing areas, and in some places, they’ll fall significantly. No service member will see an actual pay cut, because federal law requires them to be grandfathered in with at least the same allowance they received in the previous year until they move. Areas with substantial BAH decreases in 2021 include:

  • Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi (average 6.2% decrease)
  • Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina (average 5.7% decrease)
  • Hampton/Newport News, Virginia (average 5.2% decrease)
  • New London, Connecticut (average 4.9% decrease)
  • Camp Lejeune, North Carolina (average 4.3% decrease)

Refer to https://airtable.com/shr8NRJhNJF7AUTP8/tbloR1Slwuc3HMqXf to determine the percentage of rate change for your military housing area and paygrade. The calculations are based on DoD’s rates for servicemembers with dependents. [Source: Federal News Network | Jared Serbu | December 30, 2020 ++]

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USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72)

Update 01: Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt to Assume Command

portrait

The Navy announced 25 DEC that Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt will assume command of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) marking the first time a female commanding officer will lead the crew of one of the Navy’s 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. Bauernschmidt will take command of Lincoln this summer, upon completion of the nuclear power, aviation, and leadership training required of aircraft carrier COs. “I am incredibly honored and humbled to be selected,” said Bauernschmidt. “I love leading Sailors and I take that responsibility extremely seriously.” Bauernschmidt was also the first woman to serve as the executive officer aboard an aircraft carrier, a position she held from September 2016 to January 2019, also on the Lincoln. Bauernschmidt is a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and graduated from the United Stated Naval Academy in May 1994, the first graduating class in which women were allowed to serve aboard combatant ships and aircraft. She was designated as a Naval Aviator in 1996 and served with several helicopter squadrons throughout her career. She has previously commanded the “Spartans” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 70 and amphibious transport dock USS San Diego (LPD-22). [Source: Federal News Network | December 31, 2020 ++]

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Somalia Ops

New Year’s Day Airstrikes

At least three members of the Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group were killed and half a dozen buildings used by the militants were destroyed in U.S. airstrikes on New Year’s Day, U.S. Africa Command said. The twin airstrikes launched in coordination with the Somali government targeted al-Shabab compounds near the town of Qunyo Barrow, AFRICOM said in a statement released 2 JAN. “Current assessments indicate the strikes killed three and wounded one al-Shabab members and destroyed six and damaged one al-Shabab compound buildings,” the statement said. No civilians were killed or injured in the strikes, an initial assessment found. At https://youtu.be/WEr_6dQT-0M can be viewed video of one of the strikes.

The first U.S. strikes of the year against al-Shabab were carried out as American troops withdraw from Somalia, following a 4 DEC Defense Department directive. Most of them will be relocated to countries elsewhere in East Africa, from where they can rapidly move in and out of Somalia, AFRICOM has said. The pullout is expected to be completed before President-elect Joe Biden takes office 20 JAN. But the departure of American ground forces doesn’t mean an end to operations in Somalia, officials have said. A U.S. drone site in neighboring Djibouti is capable of launching attacks against al-Shabab, which for years has sought to overthrow the U.S.-backed government in Mogadishu.

Last year, the U.S. conducted around 50 airstrikes against the extremist group, which has ties to al-Qaida. The 1 JAN airstrikes underscored the “continuing commitment to Somalia and our regional partners,” U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Joel Tyler, director of operations for AFRICOM, said in Saturday’s statement. “We retain the means and the will to strike the al-Shabab terrorist network when necessary to protect the region and ultimately, our own nation,” he said. AFRICOM has said it believes al-Shabab to be the most “dangerous, capable, and imminent threat” on the continent, according to a Defense Department inspector general report released Nov. 25.

Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned last month at a virtual event hosted by a Washington think-tank, that, “left unattended, (al-Shabab) could conduct operations against not only U.S. interests in the region but also against the [U.S.] homeland.” A day after the airstrikes, a suicide bombing in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killed five people, including two Turks, officials said. Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack. [Source: Stars & Stripes | Corey Dickstein | December 15, 2020 ++]

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Navy Arctic Strategy

More Regional Navy Activity as Competition from Russia, China Increases

The U.S. Navy released its strategy 5 JAN on how the service plans to become more active in the Arctic as the region opens up to more economic and military competition from Russia and China. “In the face of increasing aggressive activity in the high north from both Russia, which is an Arctic nation, and China, which claims to be a near Arctic nation, we in the United States must maintain a favorable balance of power in this region for ourselves and for our allies,” Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite told reporters ahead of the document’s release.

With more navigable waters due to melting sea ice, the Navy’s strategy refers to the region as a “Blue Arctic.” Russia and China, both nations mentioned in the 2018 National Defense Strategy as “great-power” competitors with the United States, have increased their military and economic presence in the Arctic in recent years due to the opening of arctic waters, the Navy said. “Without sustained American naval presence and partnerships in the Arctic region, peace and prosperity will be increasingly challenged by Russia and China, whose interests and values differ dramatically from ours,” according to the 25-page document.

The United States is an Arctic nation and for decades has maintained a presence there, including submarines and the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreakers. The Navy’s recently reestablished 2nd Fleet and 6th Fleet also operate and participate in exercises with other Arctic countries in the region, according to the document, which was referred to by officials as a “blueprint.” The strategy was signed by Braithwaite, Adm. Michael Gilday, the chief of naval operations, and Gen. David Berger, the commandant of the Marine Corps, and it lays out the economic and military necessity of a greater Navy presence in the Arctic in the next two decades.

About 90% of trade travels across the oceans and that is expected to double within 15 years, according to the Navy document. The Arctic has the potential to “connect nearly 75% of the world’s population” as ice melts and trade routes open up shorter routes to and from Asia, Europe and North America. The area also has an “estimated 30% of the world’s undiscovered national gas reserves, 13% of global conventional oil reserves, and [$1 trillion] in rare earth minerals,” the document states. Russia has been reopening old military bases and moving forces there and it operates a large icebreaker fleet. China is increasing its shipbuilding and port infrastructure in the region. The document also states the U.S. Navy expects to see more Chinese naval deployments in the Arctic, both on the surface and underwater.

In his previous position as U.S. ambassador to Norway, Braithwaite said he saw the increased presence of the Chinese at a northern Arctic port due to more open trade routes. “So that presence is formidable. And the U.S. Navy…although we’ve operated up there, we have not had the kind of presence that the current situation requires,” he said. The Navy document also states the United States has a limited window of opportunity to reassert itself in the region through increased presence and partnerships. “Left uncontested, incremental gains from increased aggression and malign activities could result in a fait accompli, with long-term strategic benefits for our competitors,” the document states.

In the next 20 years, the Navy will increase participation in exercises, port calls, and training of its personnel, according to the document. Braithwaite also said the Navy is looking at sharing infrastructure at bases that are already located in the region by other services or countries instead of reopening and rebuilding bases. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), an advocate for increased military presence in the Arctic, praised the strategy in a statement Tuesday, saying the country needs to better protect its sovereignty and homeland in the north. “Although I believe the department’s new blueprint lacks some of the urgency needed to drive the development of critical capabilities that are required to effectively compete with our rivals in the Arctic, it rightfully acknowledges the need to evolve our forces to more adeptly project and sustain naval power throughout the high latitudes,” he said. [Source: Stars & Stripes | Caitlin M. Kenney | January 5, 2020 ++]

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Military Housing Lawsuits

Update 03: Second Poor Housing Conditions Lawsuit Filed at Randolph AFB in Texas

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Five military families filed a lawsuit against the private companies that manage housing at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Air Force Base, making it the second lawsuit in the past two years to allege poor housing conditions at the Texas base. Each family signed a lease between 2016 and 2018 and was told the home they were renting was safe and had “no unresolved issues,” according to the federal lawsuit filed Dec. 29 in the Western District of Texas against three companies affiliated with Hunt Military Communities. After moving in, the families learned they homes had “long-standing maintenance issues.”

The houses exposed the families to dangers such as lead paint, mold, roach infestations and sewage that led to health problems including difficulty breathing, asthma, bronchitis, serious allergic reactions, nosebleeds and gastrointestinal issues, according to the lawsuit. When repairs were made, the company only provided “band-aid measures” that did not solve root problems in the home. The families on the suit are James C. Hill Jr. and his wife, Kari D. Hill, and their three children; Michael English and his wife, Elldwinia English, and their seven children and one grandchild; Sean Skillingstad and his wife, Ressia Skillingstad, and their two children; Rodolfo Castillo and his wife, Latasha Castillo, and their five minor children and minor nephew; and Bradley Oliver and his wife, Deborah Oliver, and two children. The lawsuit did not include the ranks of the service members involved.

“There is a common theme here of reporting serious problems that any landlord should know could lead to health problems,” said Jennifer Neal, an attorney with Watts Guerra in San Antonio, who is representing families on both Randolph lawsuits. “An overwhelming number of our clients have said, ‘We reported mold, they came in, sprayed bleach on it, painted over it and called it a day.’ That’s simply not how you remediate mold properly. It’s a pattern and practice of the privatized military housing companies. We have clients who were on these bases over a span of many years, so it’s clearly something that’s been going on for a while.”

The lawsuit requests a trial by jury to award compensation for actual damages in the past and future, economic damages, mental anguish damages, reasonable and necessary attorney fees and costs of court, among other requests. Many of the families also want the suit to protect future military families from experiencing these same issues, Neal said. Hunt Military Communities could not be reached for comment on the allegations in the lawsuit. This lawsuit joins at least eight other cases that have been filed against private companies contracted by the military to provide housing on stateside military bases since a 2018 Reuters news investigation exposed the dangerous conditions of some of base housing. Other bases where lawsuits are pending include Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Meade, Md.; Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune, N.C.; and MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

Though Congress has intervened, creating a tenant bill of rights and enacting other reforms to improve oversight, the lawsuits state that some of the issues plaguing base housing continue to persist. Nine families filed the previous lawsuit against Hunt for housing at Randolph in October 2019 and the two suits share many of the same attorneys. The first lawsuit is now in the discovery phase, Neal said. “The only way for us to vindicate the rights of military families harmed by substandard housing is by showing these privatized companies that there are many more families behind those who are in active litigation,” she said. “It’s important the court system understands the scope as well.” [Source: Stars & Stripes | Rose L. Thayer | January 7, 2021 ++]

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Navy Terminology, Jargon & Slang

‘Re-up’ thru ‘Royal Baby

Every profession has its own jargon and the Navy is no exception. Since days of yore the military in general, and sailors in particular, have often had a rather pithy (dare say ‘tasteless’?) manner of speech. That may be changing somewhat in these politically correct times, but to Bowdlerize the sailor’s language represented here would be to deny its rich history. The traditions and origins remain. While it attempted to present things with a bit of humor, if you are easily offended this may not be for you. You have been warned.

Note: ‘RN’ denotes Royal Navy usage. Similarly, RCN = Royal Canadian Navy, RAN = Royal Australian Navy, RM = Royal Marines, RNZN = Royal New Zealand Navy, UK = general usage in militaries of the former British Empire

Re-up – Reenlist.

Rhubarb – Originally, the codeword for a ground attack mission over Europe during WW II, carried out by fighter aircraft—not the favorite mission of the fighter pilots, as the missions suffered high loss rates. Now, the term for an argument or disagreement.Rig for Angles and Dangles – Submarine usage: to prepare for sharp, swift dives, ascents, and turns, or to practice same.

Rig For Red – In submarines, to ensure all interior lighting is red and of low intensity so as to preserve night vision.

Ring Knocker – US Naval Academy graduate

RIO – Radar Intercept Officer, the NFO in a fighter aircraft. Aka the ‘GIB’.

Roach Coach – Mobile food vendor’s vehicle or gedunk stand.

ROAD – aka ‘ROAD Program.’ Retired On Active Duty. A (non)work strategy employed by some senior members of the naval service.

Rocket – A letter or memo of reprimand.

Rogue’s Gun (or Salute) – (UK) The single gun salute fired at the commencement of a court martial.

Roll – Dynamic movement of a ship or aircraft about the lateral axis, i.e. a tilting of the deck from side to side. See also LIST.

Rollers – Hot dogs.

Roll In On – (1) An aviation term referring to the initial maneuver of an attack. (2) To make a play for the attentions of a member of the opposite sex.

RON – Remain overnight.

Rope (vs. line) – Natural or synthetic, woven, braided, or twisted (or some combinations), it is called ‘rope’ as long as it is on the spool. As soon as you unroll a piece and cut it off, it becomes ‘line.’

Ropeyarn Sunday – Early liberty or an early knockoff of ship’s work. Refers to the days of sail, when Sunday was generally a day for “make and mend,” i.e. personal admin. rather than ship’s work.

Rotorhead – Helicopter pilot or crew. Aka “Rotor Maggot.”

Round-Down – See RAMP.

Royal Baby – The junior (or, often, the fattest) member of KING NEPTUNE’s court. During the LINE-CROSSING CEREMONY, all POLLYWOGS must kiss his belly, which is usually smeared with grease, oil, or salad dressing.

[Source: http://hazegray.org/faq/slang1.htm | January 15, 2020 ++]

* Military History *

MOH Awards

Update 21: Jack Lucas | WWII’s Youngest Recipient

Though people often get the two mixed up, Veterans Day is a time for honoring those who have served in the armed forces, while Memorial Day is a time for tributes to those who paid the ultimate price during their service. Sometimes, though, the line between the two can get a bit blurry when talking about individuals who were clearly willing to give up their lives, and almost did, to save their brothers and sisters in arms. Case in point, the story of Jacklyn “Jack” Lucas, who threw himself on not one, but two grenades to shield his fellow Marines from the blasts during the Battle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific Theater during the latter stages of World War II. For this monumental act of heroism, Lucas was awarded the Medal of Honor, becoming the youngest recipient of this honor since the Civil War. The U.S. Navy is now set to get an Arleigh Burke class destroyer named after him. To learn more about Lucas an d the events that ;led up to his receiving his award refer to the attachment to this bulletin titled, “Iwo Jima’s Jack Lucas” [Source: The Drive | Joseph Trevithick | November 11, 2020 ++]

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WWII Internment Camps

Japanese-American Jean Mitoma’s Experience

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On Mother’s day May 10, 1942 Jean Mitoma finally packed the last of her belongings into a cotton bag she’d sewn in school and stepped onto a Greyhound bus outside the YMCA in San Francisco. The past six months had been grueling. The dry-cleaning shop her parents owned in San Francisco was forced to close. They lost their house and secondhand store owners had ransacked it for valuable furniture as Mitoma’s family faced eminent eviction. The family dog was given to another family. Friends were disappearing. And Mitoma’s college career, just two semesters away from completion, was put on permanent hold.

As the four tin cups and four tin plates in Mitoma’s bag rattled against the seat of the Greyhound, she deduced where she was going: Tanforan Racetrack in San Bruno. “We heard just rumors,” she said of the racetrack, which the army turned into a holding camp for the Bay Area’s roughly 120,000 residents of Japanese ancestry. “Horrible rumors.” Stepping off the bus, army officials told Mitoma the track had run out of room. She’d be sleeping in a horse stall with her family, where she would spend the next five months before being transferred to an internment camp in Utah. She’d spend the rest of the war in a desert-hot, dust-filled barracks as the world passed her by.

As the most tumultuous year of many of our lives comes to an end and she reflects on her life at the eve of her 100th birthday, Mitoma spoke about her time at the Japanese Internment camps and the seemingly idyllic suburban life she’d build in Palo Alto afterward. Born in Fukuoka, Japan on Jan. 1, 1921, Mitoma came to America as a toddler and settled just a block away from the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. Every summer, Mitoma would attend day camps, go shoe shopping with her mother in Union Square and roam around Golden Park.

At Polytechnic High School in San Francisco, Mitoma was the only Japanese student because “it wasn’t a very mixed neighborhood,” she said. She admitted that she was “probably more ignored than anything else” and wasn’t bullied. She didn’t go to any social events — in fact she didn’t know what a senior prom was until after she graduated — and didn’t feel an attachment to American school outside getting good grades. Aside from the pressure of competition at her Japanese school, which she would attend for a few hours after Polytechnic, “I had a good life in San Francisco,” Mitoma said. But her life there at the eve of a world war that would pit her two home nations against each other would not be without its challenges for long. Though she’d experienced some discrimination in the past, it was getting worse and more frequent.

Then everything escalated when the Japanese Empire attacked Pearl Harbor less than a month before Mitoma’s 21st birthday. “I was scared. Really scared,” she said. “I stayed home most of the day and most of the days and weeks after. It was a difficult time. We just never went anywhere.” As months went by, tensions grew and the focus turned against Japanese Americans with many people accusing long-time residents with Japanese ancestry of being spies and having dual loyalty. Mitoma described seeing Japanese people burn heirlooms and newspapers, books, poems and anything else written in their language. It was bittersweet when she got to Tanforan. On one hand she only had the clothes on her back and the small cotton bag, but at the same time she was seeing friends she hadn’t seen in years.

“At first, it was exciting to be there,” she said. “We saw people we hadn’t seen for a long time. The kids I went to school with, I saw them there. It was a lot of mixed emotions.” Just as she was getting settled, Mitoma was uprooted again. Everyone knew Tanforan would be a temporary spot for the Bay Area’s Japanese population, but no one had any idea of where they were going after that. Mitoma would spend the next three years in the Topaz Internment camp in Utah before being transferred to Tule Lake Internment Camp in California and then eventually let go at the end of the war. The day she left the camp to look for an apartment for her parents in San Francisco, her future husband Chozo Mitoma departed for Berkeley to finish his degree at the same time. She married him in 1950 after the Big Game between Cal and Stanford — a testament to their love of college football — and raised four children in an Eichler Home in Palo Alto she bought for $28,000 in 1959. She still lives there today.

In 2010, she was among the 41 Japanese American senior citizens who received honorary bachelor’s degrees from UC Berkeley as they were not able to finish their degrees after being sent to the internment camps. “She is my role model,” said granddaughter Caroline Jensen. “She’s faced impossible difficulty in the camps, being stripped of her independence to go to school, and still kept such an amazing outlook on life being an amazing mother and grandmother.”

Asked if she could share the secret to reaching the age of 100, Mitoma said “I never exercise.” She eats cereal for breakfast with orange juice and coffee, or maybe two pancakes she makes from scratch and pork sausage. She spends most of her time watching the Warriors and catches every Cal game she can. She doesn’t eat fried foods, doesn’t drink and eats a lot of vegetables. But she questioned why anyone would want to reach her age “It doesn’t excite me much to turn 100,” she said. “I’ve appreciated everything that’s happened to me in my life. I couldn’t be luckier. One thing I know is how happy I am of my kids and my family.” Even in the toughest of times, Mitoma said “be kind to each other. It’s the most important thing.” [Source: Mercury News | Aldo Toledo | December 31, 2020 ++]

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Desert Storm 30

Shield Turns Into Storm

The U.S did not take long to respond to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein occupying neighboring Kuwait Aug. 2, 1990. Five days later, President George H.W. Bush ordered Americans to the region to start Operation Desert Shield. Air Force Veteran Howard “Pip” Pope, commander for the 71st Tactical Fighter Squadron, was among the first American forces to arrive. Leading a squadron known as the “Ironmen” flying F-15s, they deployed with little notice in a matter of days. After a 14-hour flight from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, they arrived at Dhahran Air Base in Saudi Arabia. Pope kept a diary of the events, excerpts of which follow. The diary paints a picture of how quickly U.S. forces deployed to the region, changing from an eight-plane deployment to an entire squadron of F-15s. The entries have been lightly formatted for clarity.

2 AUG 90 — Recalled by the wing for a battle staff meeting. Subject: Lightning Recall regarding the invasion of Kuwait. A situation update was presented by wing intel. The wing commander directed the 71st to put all Lightning players on crew rest immediately and alluded to the fact that there was more than just a little confusion on exactly what plan we were going to deploy under. Gathered all 71st personnel in the main briefing room and relayed the wing commander directive as well as the current situation as it was known. By 1130 hours all the pilots had been selected and departed for quarters, and the remaining squadron personnel began preparation for a Lightning deployment to the Middle East, location TBD.

5 AUG 90 (SUN) — 0900 HRS. Wing intel presents the situation update. The wing commander gives his assessment of what’s going on and where we stand. At the conclusion the Lightning boys head back into crew rest and quarters by 1200 hours. Inform the wing director of operations that there has been no preparation for this deployment and we need to get into the squadron and do some preparation and study. He plans on bringing everyone in on Monday AM unless told otherwise.

6 AUG 90 (MON) — The Lightning pilots begin detailed study of Southwest Asia, the threats and the entire spectrum of what might be expected in this deployment. The squadron is still under the impression that if we deploy it will be a Lightning Package, i.e., eight planes and pilots. 2030 hours. The wing director of operations calls LTC Pope at home and informs him that the wing is being recalled and that the entire 71st pilot continent is to stay at home in crew rest. LTC Pope informs the squadron to stay in crew rest and that only essential personnel are to report for work the next day.

7 AUG 90 (TUE)

  • AT 0230 hours the squadron mobility officer calls and tells me we need to meet. At my quarters the mobility officer informs me that the deployment will not be a Lightning Package as planned, but the entire squadron and the first chock time in 1130 hours. Immediately begin to replan the deployment to include the entire squadron. A recall is initiated at 0400 hours with all the deployment changes in place.
  • At 0500 the wing deputy director of operations calls and tells me that there has been a change to the deployment plan and that he might need to reorganize the pilot deployment roster. YGBSM! Thanks. At 1030 hours call LTC Smith, 94th commander, who is working in the command post, to find out what is going on. LTC Smith informs me that the entire squadron is being deployed and the deployment briefing is scheduled for 1330hrs. LTC Smith thought the information had been passed along. Well, not exactly!
  • At 1300hrs everyone shows for roll call except one pilot who was late getting the word. He arrives late but gets the essential information. The briefing begins at 1330hrs, it lasts 20 minutes. It took 3 days to prepare and this is the first time we get to hear any of it. The briefing is fairly complicated, but there are not a lot of questions to be asked because there is no time to ask them. We step to our jets and strap in and are promptly put on a 30-minute hold as a result of the tankers having problems. Finally, we take off (1730hrs) for the midnight ride to sand land. We deploy in four cells of six aircraft, 30 minutes apart, loaded for bear, 4x4xGuns. It’s going to be a long ride, but we’re finally enroute!

A Shield becomes a Storm

For the next few months, the squadron flew training missions, preparing for war. By Jan. 16, the crews received the word: execute Desert Storm. Behind each date, Pope wrote down the number of sorties the squadron flew, along with the number of hours.

16 JAN 91 (WED) 14 SORTIES/55.8 HRS. — Got the word today, “EXECUTE DESERT STORM AT 0130 IN THE MORNING.” Talked to all the troops and told them they could expect some kind of retaliation by tomorrow morning. We’re ready. Tensions are high, but we’re glad to get this underway. Looks like it will be an Air Force/Navy air play for the first week or so.

17 JAN 91 (THR) 34 SORTIES/166.0 HRS(DAY 1) “OPERATION DESERT STORM” — First bombs fell at approximately 0300. Lots of triple A, but not many surface-to-air missiles. Must have caught them flat footed? Capt. Steve Tate shot down an F-1 on his first mission. Great job. Nobody else got much of a chance, everybody that got airborne on their side (not many) basically ran away when they were targeted. We’re working 24hrs a day and it will take its toll on jets and people before too long. No retaliation so far, I think we’re really hammering them. Almost got a couple of MIGs this afternoon but the Eglin boys were out in front and they bagged two.

18 JAN 91 (FRI) 42 SORTIES/ 191.9 HRS. (DAY 2) — We’re still flying strong and the jets are holding up fairly well. We’ve taken no casualties so far and I hope it stays that way. They shot a Scud at us this morning, but the Patriot missiles took it out. Those who saw it said it was pretty impressive. The Patriots are on automatic and nobody even knew the Scud was inbound, but the Patriot launched on its own and knock(ed) it down. They launched seven missiles at Israel this morning and although they weren’t shot down, they didn’t do much damage. We’ve taken out the fixed Scud launchers we could find and we’ve destroyed more mobile launchers this afternoon.

20 JAN 91 (SUN) 31 SORTIES/130.0 HRS. (DAY 4) — The guys are starting to get tired and the wing commander is going to send for a few more pilots from the 94th Squadron. We’re flying twenty-four hours a day and getting sleep whenever we can. There is nobody that does not have something to do almost 18-20 hours a day, it’s a tight schedule and anybody that goes DNIF (Duties Not Including Flying) really throws a wrench in the plans. The flight docs have been very helpful in that regard and they are doing a great job with the guys. We’re flying a lot of sorties and hours, caps, sweeps, escorts, and search and rescue. I don’t think there is a mission we haven’t flown yet. The guys are doing a marvelous job.

Weeks pass, then the end: Over the next several weeks, Pope and other members witnessed burning oil fields, retreating Iraqi aircraft and the start of the ground war. By March 3, the squadron received word they were headed home. They took off March 7, with a stopover in Spain and then on to Langley the next day. Pope’s final daily entry covered their return.

8 MAR 91 (FRI) 24 SORTIES/ HRS — We launched at 0830 and flew 9.5 hours into Langley. The president wasn’t able to make it down, but the welcome was nothing short of unbelievable. The wing commander led us in and parked up front in designated spots in front of a large stage. A lot of tears, hugs and speeches. Later we all retired to our homes to watch the TV’s showing us arriving and talking to all the media. The welcome was really incredible, and it really put frosting on the support we had been getting throughout the war.

  • COMBAT TOTAL: 1235 SORTIES/6640.3 HRS
  • DESERT SHIELD/STORM CUMULATIVE: 3438 SORTIES/14020.1 HRS

POST SCRIPT

Even though there were a few hiccups along the way and we almost missed our departure briefing there was never a doubt that the Ironmen were ready and able to step up to the tasks delivered to our doorstep with regard to Desert Storm. One day we were preparing for a deployment to Denmark and a great experience working and exercising with our allies in Europe, the next day we were in crew rest wondering what Saddam was going to do next. There was not much time to prepare for what was going to happen next and to say that the ”Fog of War” was in our midst… was probably an understatement when it came to the 71st and what was happening within the wing. Through the efforts of a lot of great people and dedication the 1st Fighter Wing and its squadrons were able and prepared to deploy successfully to Saudi Arabia on the 7th of August 1990.

[Source: Vantage Point | Adam Stump | January 1, 2021 ++]

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Desert Storm 30

Update 01: Happy Trails

On the evening of Jan. 16, 1991, Jacky Frawner was in a weight room when he heard his skipper come across the shipboard public address circuits, also known as the 1MC. The alert let the sailors aboard USS Paul F. Foster know that they were about to transition from Operation Desert Shield to Operation Desert Storm. USS Wisconsin was supposed to fire the first Tomahawk missile. However, the mission shifted to the USS Paul F. Foster. Within hours, Frawner and his shipmates would be part of the opening shots of Desert Storm.

Born in California, Frawner moved to Indiana. After losing his father at 11, his mother raised him on a limited income as a widow. Frawner, influenced by living close to Mare Island Navy Shipyard in Vallejo, California, decided to enlist, joining the Navy in 1988. The crew departed Dec. 8, 1990, from Long Beach, California. After stops in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and Subic Bay in the Philippines, the ship headed to the Indian Ocean. The ship raced to the Middle East while Frawner celebrated his 21st birthday 12 JAN, the day the ship navigated the Straits of Hormuz Eastern Patrol Area into the Persian Gulf. Along the way, Frawner was one of the crew helping get USS Paul F. Foster to its destination. As an engineman, Frawner maintained equipment, took readings and did regular service. The largest piece of equipment his division had on the ship were the two vapor compression distillers. Frawner’s division also made the fresh water to drink on board.

Like any sailor aboard a ship, Frawner had other responsibilities as well. These included serving as a flight deck crewmember, refueling helicopters, emergency response member, fire party team member and securing damage for the Vertical Launching System, which held the ship’s Tomahawk Land Air Missiles.

Leading up to Desert Storm In the days leading up to Desert Storm, Frawner said the ship continually performed drills – something his younger self didn’t appreciate. “As a young sailor, 20 years old, I was annoyed with the frequency we were doing drills,” he said. “The old salt in me today realizes doing the drills, countless times on different locations of the ship, only prepared us to the highest level to respond in a muscle memory sort of way.”

“We were sailing through the Straits of Hormuz Eastern Patrol Area (SOHEPA) on my birthday,” he said. “We went to General Quarters due to small boats being suspicious in the area. It was this same type of small boat threat that leveled a blow against the USS Cole in October 2000 in Yemen while refueling. This was my first realization that this is not a drill.” A few days later, the drill was real. In the ship’s weight room, Frawner and a half dozen other shipmates heard a message from the commanding officer: the ship would send a message to Saddam Hussein. Over the next few hours, the crew started executing all those drills they practiced repeatedly. At 12:30 a.m., the commander sounded reveille for an attack against Iraq. By 1 a.m., the commander set General Quarters, Navy lingo for ordering sailors to battle stations.

Frawner’s battle station was in repair locker 2, the forward most of the three repair lockers onboard for damage control, firefighting, flooding and other repairs. By 1:30 a.m. all topside personnel exited inside the skin of ship safely and quickly. At 1:41 a.m., sailors aboard USS Paul F. Foster launched the first of nine Tomahawk missiles that night. Over the strike radio, the words “happy trails” came over to signify the missiles were on their way. Those nine from USS Foster were part of the 47 launched in the opening hours of the war. “In my position as the missiles were being fired, I was at repair two inside the skin of the ship on the starboard side,” Frawner said. “As a Tomahawk was fired it sounded like a distinctive ‘swish’ sound. I did have a very chilling feeling of we are firing, when will they return fire. I waited and waited with my helmet on, gas mask on my person with flash, hood and gloves. We did not receive any fire back at us that morning.”

Over the next few weeks, the USS Paul F. Foster continued supporting the war effort. For Frawner, he was frequently topside on flight deck evolutions, assisting with helicopters. Unfortunately, that also meant seeing the horrors of war, recovering dead bodies. “This happened about a handful of times,” he said. “The body was usually in bad shape from bloating and burns. The smell is certainly something that doesn’t leave you. As a flight deck crewmember with experience in working under a hot helo, meaning the rotors are going, I assisted in carrying the bodies to the helo.” For the 44 days spent in combat from Jan. 17 to Feb. 28, the USS Paul F. Foster earned a combat action ribbon.

Frawner separated from the Navy in August 1992, and then moved to Houston. He carried around the memories of Desert Storm, burying the stress of his service time by turning to alcohol. He finally sought help. “I was struggling with things and decided to see a counselor to better myself as a father, employee and person,” he said. “I dove into therapy, attended a Lone Survivor Foundation retreat for combat Vets and applied for a service animal.” After Frawner’s improvement, he proposed to his girlfriend, Lyndi, on a reunion in September 2019 – aboard the bridge of the USS Foster. It was also the place he shared the last picture with his mother, the day he left for Desert Storm.

“It felt so amazing to have all of his shipmates be there to witness and celebrate that special moment with us,” Lyndi said. “He even put me in the captain’s chair afterwards! We ran into the captain that was on the ship right after he left and took our picture with him and they put the event in the ship’s log. It was a perfect trip especially after all of the hardships we had experienced in the past. It took a long road for us to get to that point, but it was very special knowing that his mother and I were there with him in that same spot.”

Jacky and Lyndi married Nov. 11, 2019 – Veterans Day, joined by another family member: Jacky’s service dog, Tex. Lyndi said their happy trails are due to Jacky seeking help. “A lot of men are in denial that they need help or just scared to get help,” she said. “PTSD causes daily struggles and it doesn’t go away, so I am proud that he has chosen to fight his way out of the dark and be in the light with the rest of us who have never had to endure that kind of pain.” For the pair, the happy trails are just beginning. [Source: Vantage Point | Adam Stump | January 4, 2020 ++]

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USS Indianapolis (CA-35)

Update 04: Navy Honors Hero Priest of World War II

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The Rev. Thomas Conway, Waterbury native and heroic chaplain of the ill-fated USS Indianapolis, was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously on 8 JAN for his selfless courage. Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite presented the medal, the Navy’s second highest award, in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Local veterans and government leaders had been trying for years to obtain the honor for Conway, and Braithwaite apologized for the long delay in recognizing the chaplain’s extraordinary valor and devotion to duty. “I am here to correct the record and right a wrong,” he said.

On July 30, 1945, the heavy cruiser Indianapolis, scarred from an earlier kamikaze attack that killed nine sailors, was headed to the Philippines after stopping at the island of Tinian to deliver parts for the atomic bomb, “Little Boy,” later to be dropped on Hiroshima. Lt. Conway, 37, was among the crew of 1,196. At 12:15 a.m., a Japanese submarine loosed two Long Lance torpedoes into the ship’s starboard side. The Indianapolis sank in 12 minutes, dropping 18,000 feet to the bottom of the Philippine Sea. Into the oil-slicked sea went about 880 men, Conway among them. Only 316 would survive the ordeal of shark attacks, dehydration and madness that finally ended with rescue on 2 AUG.

Braithwaite said the sea at night is often serene and beautiful, but he could not imagine the Indianapolis sailors’ terror in that dark hour. Conway, he said, became a beacon of hope for his shipmates. The citation for the Navy Cross reads:

“Completely disregarding his own well-being, Chaplain Conway continually swam between the clusters of adrift sailors — many of whom were severely injured, delirious and dying — to provide them encouragement and comfort, pray with and for them and administer them sacraments. After three days of tireless exertion to aid his shipmates, he finally succumbed to exhaustion and his body was committed to the deep.

“His efforts were credited as a major reason 67 of the shipmates in his group were ultimately rescued,” the citation says. Despite accounts about Conway’s bravery from survivors, U.S. Navy officials had said a senior officer who served with the chaplain had to sign a request for him to receive the Navy Cross. When the effort to honor Conway began, however, none of the survivors was an officer, according to articles in The Courant. Speakers at the ceremony Friday cited the work of the Waterbury Veterans Memorial Committee and U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy, who both attended. Ultimately, Blumenthal told the audience, it was Braithwaite who made the honor possible.

Blumenthal also said Conway’s story highlights the importance of chaplains in the military service. Doug Stanton, author of a book about the sinking of the Indianapolis, “In Harm’s Way,” wrote of the clergyman’s popularity among the crew. “Fr. Conway… was relentless and fearless in his duty,” Stanton wrote. “Once, while saying Mass, battle stations had been called suddenly, and the astute Father shouted out, ‘Bless us all, boys! And give them hell!’ The boys loved him for this. He was a priest, it was true, but he was a priest with grit.” [Source: Hartford Courant | Jesse Leavenworth | January 9, 2021 ++]

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Military History Anniversaries

16 thru 31 JAN

Significant events in U. S. Military History over the next 15 days are listed in the attachment to this Bulletin titled, “Military History Anniversaries 16 thru 31 JAN”. [Source: This Day in History www.history.com/this-day-in-history | January 2021 ++]

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Every Picture Tells A Story

WWI Telephone Electricians Training

https://historydaily.org/content/183810/a0a9157c844fee0a6b443ddf538e722d.jpg

Here’s a pole climbing class for telephone electricians back in 1918. These students from the Army Training Corps at the University of Michigan are learning how to climb telephone poles, which isn’t really a life skill that many people think about but it makes sense that there would be a class for something as important as climbing phone poles. These students were learning how to climb poles and repair phone lines at the tail end of World War I, a time when it was important for people to be knowledgeable about setting up phone lines as well as making sure methods of communication could stay open. How long do you think these students were posing?

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WWII Bomber Nose Art

[67] Mission Belle

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/72/69/79/726979e1ab3ee05ce7b1584a171db4ac--airplane-art-ww-planes.jpg

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Medal of Honor Awardees

Larry Smedley | Vietnam

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the

MEDAL OF HONOR

To

Cpl. Larry E. Smedley

Organization: U.S. Marine Corps, Company D, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines,

1st Marine Division (Rein) FMF

Place and date: at the mouth of Happy Valley, near Phouc Ninh (2), Quang Nam Province, Republic of Vietnam DEC 20-21 1967

Entered service: 1966

Born: March 4, 1949, Front Royal, Warren County, VA

A man in a uniform and a cap looks at the camera.

On the 106th anniversary of Congress authorizing the Medal of Honor for sailors and Marines, young Marine Corps Cpl. Larry Smedley earned it by giving his life to protect his comrades in Vietnam. Smedley was born on March 4, 1949, in Front Royal, Virginia. When he was young, his family moved him and his two siblings to Georgia before settling in Union Park, Florida, just outside of Orlando. Smedley’s family said he was really interested in the military, so, in 1966, the 17-year-old dropped out of high school and joined the Marine Corps.

Smedley first served as a rifleman and fire team leader with the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. By July 1967, he was in Vietnam. Two months into his deployment, Smedley was promoted to corporal and served as a rifleman and squad radioman with Company D, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. On the evening of Dec. 21, 1967, Smedley led a six-man squad to an ambush site at the mouth of an area known as Happy Valley near Phuoc Ninh, west of the vital Da Nang military complex. During the night, they noticed about 100 enemy fighters carrying 122-mm rocket launchers and mortars toward a hill that was within range of the complex.

Realizing the enemy was about to launch an attack on Da Nang, Smedley immediately radioed for a reaction force; he then maneuvered his men to a better position so they could attack the enemy – even though they were outnumbered 15 to 1. The squad quickly drew heavy machine gun fire, wounding several of the men. At the same time, an enemy grenade exploded, knocking Smedley to the ground and seriously hurting his right foot. He ignored the injuries and struggled to his feet while shouting encouragement to his men. Smedley then led a charge toward the enemy machine gun emplacement, firing his rifle and throwing grenades until he was again knocked to the ground by enemy fire.

By this point, Smedley was gravely wounded. He was losing a lot of blood and getting weak, but he refused to give up. He stood up and proceeded to single-handedly attack the machine gun nest, which he managed to destroy. Unfortunately, he was struck a third time by enemy fire and died on the spot. Smedley’s body was returned home, and he was buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Although he was only 18 at the time, Smedley managed to inspire his injured comrades into action to thwart the enemy, despite certain death. Those actions earned him the Medal of Honor on June 20, 1969. His family received the medal from President Richard Nixon during a White House ceremony.

Smedley’s home state of Florida has not forgotten him. The Cpl. Larry E. Smedley National Vietnam War Museum (formerly the National Vietnam Veterans War Museum) in Central Florida was renamed in his honor in 2000. In 2004, a nearby section of highway was also named for him. Various other roads and facilities throughout the country have been named in Smedley’s honor. Perhaps the biggest honor, however, came in 2008 when Orange County Public Schools awarded him an honorary diploma. [Source: DOD News & https://www.cmohs.org | Katie Lange | December. 21, 2020 ++]

* Health Care *

Coronavirus Vaccines

Update 24: TFL Seniors 75 and Older Now Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine

Adults age 75 and older should now receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Military Health System are now making the vaccine available to the 1.13 million beneficiaries who are age 75 or older. These beneficiaries use the TRICARE For Life health plan. “The vaccination of DoD health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities is well underway,” said Air Force Col. Tonya Rans, chief of the Immunization Healthcare Division at the Defense Health Agency. “If you’re age 75 or older, you’re now encouraged to access COVID-19 vaccines at your closest military hospital or clinic.”

According to the CDC, adults age 75 and older are at eight times higher risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 infection than younger, healthy adults. All COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available in the U.S. have shown to be highly effective at preventing the virus. There are currently two authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S., and each require you take two doses to be fully effective.

Where can I get the vaccine?

The availability of the vaccine may vary by location. The DHA is developing several options to assist military hospitals and clinics in reaching out to you. If you’re age 75 or older, you can watch for news from your local military hospital or clinic. You can visit your military hospital’s website, news media, or social media to stay informed about vaccine updates. You should contact your local military hospital or clinic for their vaccination process and availability. The vaccines will be more broadly available in the coming months.

TRICARE is working to ensure you have no out-of-pocket costs for the COVID-19 vaccine. Eventually, all TRICARE beneficiaries will be able to get the vaccine at:

Wherever you eventually receive your vaccination, please remember you need to check availability before showing up.

What can I do if I’m not included in this vaccination phase?

You should continue to follow healthy habits to prevent COVID-19. This will help slow the spread of the virus. Some of the best practices for how to protect yourself and others are to wear a mask, wash your hands properly, and practice physical distancing. Continue these practices even after you’ve been vaccinated as experts still need to better understand the level of protection the vaccines provide. You can learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine efforts. Also, sign up for email alerts for more COVID-19 vaccine news as it becomes available.

[Source: TRICARE Communications | January 14, 2021 ++]

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TRICARE Overseas Program

Online Enrollment Now Available

Are you a TRICARE Overseas Program (TOP) beneficiary? If so, you’ll be pleased to know you have a new way you can enroll in your health plan. Online enrollment through Beneficiary Web Enrollment (BWE) is now available for overseas plans on milConnect. “This is good news for overseas beneficiaries,” said Michael Griffin, program analyst with the TRICARE Overseas Program Office at the Defense Health Agency. “The availability of BWE gives you another convenient option to complete enrollment in a health plan as well as a variety of other enrollment actions from home.” To get started, all you need to do is follow the steps below:

  • Log in to milConnect.
  • Click on the “Benefits” tab.
  • Choose “Beneficiary Web Enrollment (BWE)” from the menu.
  • Pick the plan that you’re eligible for.

BWE not only makes it easy to enroll in a TRICARE plan, it also serves as a convenient way to handle other enrollment-related tasks on your own at any time. Through BWE, you can also:

Keep in mind, some of these features may be limited in some locations. And you can still enroll in overseas plans by phone, mail, or in person at an overseas TRICARE Service Center. You can check out the TRICARE Overseas Program Handbook to learn more about plan eligibility, coverage, and how to enroll.

Need to make enrollment changes outside of open season? If so, remember to follow the TRICARE rules for enrollment. As described in the TOP Handbook, you can only enroll in or change enrollment to TOP Prime, TOP Prime Remote, or TOP Select after a Qualifying Life Event (QLE) or during TRICARE Open Season. If you experience a QLE, you must update your information in DEERS before you can enroll in a plan.

BWE will support new TRICARE Select enrollments, but it doesn’t support fee payment arrangements if you’re a Group A retiree who failed to set up your TRICARE Select enrollment fees last year. If you need to set up payment, you should call the TRICARE overseas contractor whose number is listed at http://www.tricare-overseas.com/contact-us. (Note: If you or your sponsor’s initial enlistment or appointment occurred before January 1, 2018, you are in Group A). If you have any questions about overseas enrollment or plan eligibility, remember you can get help from your TOP Regional Call Center. Enrolling in a TOP plan has never been easier. Take command of your health, and make use of BWE and other features available to you through milConnect. [Source: TRICARE Communications | January 7, 2020 ++]

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TRICARE Shingles Coverage

Update 01: Under TFL Where You Get It Makes a Difference

How coverage of the shingles shot works under TRICARE is a common question among retirees. TRICARE covers the shingles vaccine two different ways – under your medical coverage, or under your pharmacy coverage. The guidance below can help you understand which one you want to use and take the appropriate action.

Age 64 and Under, and Not on TRICARE For Life (TFL)

All TRICARE Prime plans, U.S. Family Health Plans (USFHP), and TRICARE Select plans cover the full cost of the shot, at no cost to you, whether administered by a pharmacy under the pharmacy coverage or at a doctor’s office under the medical coverage. Beneficiaries using any TRICARE Prime plan can go to any TRICARE network pharmacy, primary care manager, or network provider. USFHP members must use their USFHP pharmacy or primary care manager. Those using a TRICARE Select plan can go to any TRICARE network pharmacy or any TRICARE-authorized provider.

On TRICARE For Life (Normally Age 65 and Over)

Medicare is your primary health coverage under Parts A and B. Medicare covers the shingles shot but does so as a pharmacy issue under the pharmacy Part D insurance, not under Parts A or B (learn more at this link). Most military retirees do not have Part D coverage because we use our TRICARE pharmacy plan. In our cases, Medicare will not cover the shot; the entire cost falls to TRICARE For Life as your Medicare supplement. For those of you still under the USFHP, stay within your USFHP plan pharmacy or primary care managers for your coverage. Having another pharmacy program besides our TRICARE pharmacy plan disqualifies us from the TRICARE home delivery program and can cause us to file manual claims to TRICARE pharmacy for reimbursement (learn more at this link). So, we do not want a Part D plan.

Based on the above, TRICARE becomes your shingles shot insurance. You have two TRICARE options to get the shot.

1. The easiest and cheapest option: Use your TRICARE pharmacy benefit coverage by going to a TRICARE network pharmacy for the shot. You can get the shingles vaccine for free at a participating TRICARE network pharmacy. That’s it.

2. Go to your doctor for the shot. This isn’t the best option, because Medicare will not be picking up any of the cost for retirees. Under this option, TFL covers the shingles shot as a medical coverage, not pharmacy coverage. So, the process goes like this:

  • You get the shingles shot at the doctor’s office.
  • Medicare won’t cover the shot because you do not have Part D Medicare, so the total cost falls to TFL.
  • TFL covers the shot as a medical cost not covered by Medicare Parts A nor B.
  • When medical costs are not covered by Medicare, TFL deductibles and cost shares apply. The deductible is $150 for individual coverage ($300 for families), and you may face a 20% co-pay after the deductible (learn more about costs at this link). Bottom line: You pay for the shot.

Choose wisely under TFL. Whether pharmacy or medical coverage is used makes a big difference. [Source: MOAA Newsletter | January 7, 2021 ++]

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Cancer

Update 01: Often Overlooked Symptoms

Cancer is characterized by the abnormal growth of cells that multiply in profusion and can malfunction or destroy healthy body tissues. Often it spreads in the whole body. It is the second major cause of death across the world. The good news is that cancer screening and treatment have improved significantly. According to the American Cancer Society, the overall chances of cancer patients’ survival have increased in the last couple of years, and the diagnosis rate has increased. The subtleness of specific cancer symptoms causes several patients not to be diagnosed until it gets very late. Such situations can be avoided by looking at their symptoms, signs that are not visible and properly start precautions, and medication with experts.

The most common signs that people tend to overlook are: Abnormal monthly cycles, bloating, changes in the breast, chronic headache, frequent fevers, skin discoloration, persistent fatigue, stomach pain or nausea, loss of appetite, unexpected weight loss, and unusual lumps. You have to be generally aware of your body and frequent changes happening. The body typically gives some signs of sickness in any part of the body. Regular checkups can scan cancerous situations in the body even before symptoms appear. You can get it on early warning symptoms by close attention in your body—lookout for new or different body changes lasting weeks. Immediately consult your health practitioner. However, not every symptom is cancerous that looks like cancer. It is advisable to pay attention to all the signs and visit your doctor if such as the symptoms stay longer than two weeks.

Weight Loss

Although you might be delighted to see the numbers on the weighing scale go down, if you’re not on a diet or intentionally trying to lose weight, it could be a sign of cancer. Be watchful of a sudden weight-loss or a drastic drop in your appetite. Nothing happens all of a sudden.

Bloating

If you’re suffering from persistent protruding of your stomach out of virtually nowhere, it is recommended that you consult with your doctor. Abdominal bloating is a common symptom indicating pancreatic cancer and can be linked to cancers of the colon, liver, uterus, and stomach.

Chronic Coughing

Though having a cough is hardly anything out of the ordinary, if you have one which won’t go away, it is ideal for you to consider medical consultation and involve a professional. Chronic cough is generally one of the earliest lung cancer symptoms, as stated by the neuro-oncologist Dr. Santosh Kesari, whose M.D. at John Wayne Cancer Institute.

Acid Reflux

Even though acid reflux is an overall experience for adults living in the U.S., a sudden outbreak of the condition without any significant modifications to your diet should not be disregarded. Bilchik comments, tumors of the liver, stomach, and esophagus can all be sources of a sudden acid reflux outbreak.

Difficulty in Remembering

Although it is right that people generally find it harder to remember things as they age. Suppose you start experiencing issues out of nowhere in retaining a thing. It could be a sign of an undercurrent. According to Santosh Kesari, MD, one of the initial symptoms individuals with brain tumors experience is memory loss, which is neither associated with an injury or age.

Yellowing Of the Eyes

If the whites in your eyes appear to have a yellowing tint, it could be caused by jaundice, which is a standard indicator of the early stages of pancreatic cancer.

Skin Discoloration

If you discover your skin color taking on a yellow or orange hue, it could be possible that what you’re dealing with is a sign of a tumor that could be blocking the bile channel, which leads the bile to enter into your bloodstream. Bilchik says, “It is typically a bad sign since it generally points to more advanced cancer. However, some people who suffer from smaller cancers which block the bile duct can be treated with surgery.”

Abdominal Pain

If you’re experiencing constant discomfort or pain in your midsection, it is not a symptom that should be disregarded, as it is a common symptom indicating stomach cancer. Bilchik says, “if you don’t generally experience an issue with abdominal pain or bloating which is not going away, it could be a warning signal.”

Loss Of Appetite

A sudden lack of interest in appetite or food is another common symbol of stomach cancer and a general indicator of other health issues. Bilchik says, “If an individual suddenly lacks an appetite for wine or food, there is generally a reason behind it that may warrant a workup.”

Persistent Headaches

Everyone experiences a headache now and then. However, if you’re facing severe and frequent headaches, it could be a symptom of a larger issue at hand. Santosh Kesari says, “Suffering from chronic headaches is one of the main indicators of a brain tumor.”

Nosebleeds

Unexplainable bleeding, especially from your nose and bruising, can generally be linked to low blood count, leukemia, and bone marrow disorders.

o-o-O-o-o-

Diseases enter the body for various reasons, starting from eating habits, genetic disorders, toxins in food, pollutants, and mental stress. Frequently changing environments give so much tension and stress that adds to the severity of the issue. You have to be extra careful about your health. Early detection of the disease is quite a significant step towards eliminating sickness. The body gives some signs; listen to your body. Watch for these signs: sudden weight loss, too much abdominal pain, having difficulty in swallowing food, persistent pain in a particular part of the body, and a difference in breast size are all signs of types of cancers to be watchful for.

According to the American Cancer Society, new melanoma cases, thyroid cancer, pancreatic cancer, and endometrial cancer have increased since last year. Few cancers don’t show up early. No early signs of the disease are there to document. For all such cases where several patients aren’t identified as cancerous in all cases to avoid such scenarios, experts have suggested some most common cancer symptoms that often are overlooked. In a healthy body, all the body functions are regular, like digestion, respiration, blood circulation, excretion, etc.

On the contrary, when cancerous cells develop in the body, it destroys the body’s organic functioning. All significant vital organs start malfunctioning resulting in a traffic jam kind of situation in the body. I strongly suggest everyone take care of their body, eating habits, lifestyle, and regular health checkups. Besides this, keep a watch on your weight, skin discoloration, infections, and fevers. Most importantly, take care of your happiness, be happy, have a grateful attitude towards life, don’t stress yourself, and smile often. [Source: https://aginghealthytoday.com | January 2, 2021 ++]

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Prostate Cancer

Update 18: Know Your Risk

Prostate cancer is the most common type of non-skin cancer in the United States. One out of every nine men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime. Unfortunately, there usually aren’t any early warning signs for prostate cancer. The growing tumor does not push against anything to cause pain, so for many years the disease may be silent. That’s why screening for prostate cancer is such an important topic for all men and their families. In rare cases, prostate cancer can cause symptoms. Contact your doctor for an evaluation if you experience any of the following:

  • A need to urinate frequently, especially at night, some- times urgently
  • Difficulty starting or holding back urination
  • Weak, dribbling, or interrupted flow of urine
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Difficulty in having an erection
  • A decrease in the amount of fluid ejaculated
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Pressure or pain in the rectum
  • Pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, pelvis, or thighs

Remember: urinary symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have cancer. Prostatitis or BPH (Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy, also known as enlargement of the prostate) are benign diseases but can cause similar symptoms and are very common. What about difficulty in having an erection? Again, this is most likely not caused by cancer but by other factors such as diabetes, smoking, cardiovascular disease, or just plain getting older. That said: Symptoms are symptoms, and no matter what’s most likely to be causing them, you should get them checked out by a doctor. Refer to https://www.cancer.va.gov/CANCER/pcf.asp for more info on screening, the PSA Test, Prostate Exams, VA and PCF Partnership Videos, and special information for Veterans

VA has teamed up with the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) to encourage men (and their families) to better understand prostate cancer risk and to take proactive measures to protect their health. 2021 will come with new ideas and goals, and there’s no better time to know your risk. Now is the time to make a plan to talk to your doctor at your next checkup about whether prostate cancer screening is right for you.

Gulf War Veteran Milton “Trey” Wilborn III, who lost his battle to an aggressive form of prostate cancer at the age of 49 in 2020, generously volunteered to share his story with other Veterans. Wilborn urged men to get checked, regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms or feel they are too young. “I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 45,” Wilborn said. “I never even knew what a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) was. I didn’t know what a prostate was until I got sick … VA does take care of their Veterans. Their treatment is the best, you have all the newest, latest, greatest equipment and everything in all the treatments.”

VA partnered with PCF in 2016 to advance best-in-class research and care for Veterans at risk for prostate cancer. Oncologists at 12 VA PCF Centers of Excellence (COE’s) are collaborating to bring the latest breakthroughs to Veterans. To date, PCF has committed more than $50 million to this collaboration and recently publicly announced a commitment to help stand up 21 total COEs. So far, hundreds of Veterans have been seen by a doctor for precision oncology at one of 12 COEs across the country. These centers are working to ensure every Veteran can access cutting-edge advances in prostate cancer research and treatment.

When PCF started working with the Washington DC VA Medical Center, Wilborn and his wife Shawni stepped up to work with PCF to champion prostate cancer awareness. You can read more about their touching story at https://www.pcf.org/c/love-story. Milton shared how the message of early detection, if it reached just one Veteran, could save lives. “God put me in a position to be able to tell my story,” he said, adding that he was grateful for the opportunity to help educate other men and their families.

Among those that VA and PCF hope to reach: African American men remain the hardest hit by prostate cancer. They are 79% more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasian men, and are more than twice as likely to die from the disease compared to men of other ethnicities. Precision screening is the best defense for men against prostate cancer. Awareness of your risk and talking to your doctor about screening are the next steps every man can take in 2021. Learn more at https://www.pcf.org/vets . In addition, PCF has a variety of resources to help. [Source: Vantage Point Blog | January 1, 2021 ++]

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Cervical Cancer

Update 05: Did You Get Your HPV Shot?

Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). With increased use of the Pap test, the cervical cancer death rate has dropped significantly. However, approximately 13,800 new cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed annually, and more than 4,000 women die from the disease each year, numbers from the ACS indicate. Cervical cancer affects the uterine cervix, a part of the uterus, which can create problems with infertility and blockage of the urinary and bowel tracts. Early detection and prevention methods are key to help women fight and prevent this form of cancer.

According to the Director of Gynecologic Oncology at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Air Force Col. (Dr.) Yovanni Casablanca, early stages of cervical cancer could display no symptoms, which is why regular visits with an OB/GYN are important. “Usually the way we know something is going on is that the cervical pap tests are abnormal,” Casablanca said. While cervical cancer is usually seen in women in their 30s, 40s and after menopause, there are preventative measures a woman can take to reduce their risk. “There are over 60 different strains of HPV, but only certain types, high risk types, are associated with cervical and other cancers,” said Casablanca, about the cancer causing Human Papillomavirus. “I tell my patients that HPV is a ‘part of life,’ it is very common and everyone who has had skin-to-skin contact with another human has likely been exposed to some strain of HPV. Folks who are exposed to higher risk strains, smoke, or have immunosuppression might be susceptible to the consequences of HPV.”

Casablanca encourages both men and women to get the HPV vaccine in early puberty, before sexual activity begins. Available vaccines protect against either two, four, or nine types of HPV. All vaccines protect against at least HPV types 16 and 18, which cause the greatest risk of cervical cancer. It is estimated that the vaccines may prevent 70% of cervical cancer, 80% of anal cancer, 60% of vaginal cancer, 40% of vulvar cancer and possibly some mouth cancer. They additionally prevent some genital warts, with the quadrivalent and nonavalent vaccines that protect against HPV types HPV-6 and HPV-11 providing greater protection. HPV vaccines are approved for males in several countries, including Portugal, Canada, Australia, Ireland, South Korea, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the United States.[

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends HPV vaccines as part of routine vaccinations in all countries, along with other prevention measures. The vaccines require two or three doses depending on a person’s age and immune status. Vaccinating girls around the ages of nine to thirteen is typically recommended. The vaccines provide protection for at least 5 to 10 years. Cervical cancer screening is still required following vaccination. Vaccinating a large portion of the population may also benefit the unvaccinated. In those already infected, the vaccines are not effective. HPV vaccines are very safe. Pain at the site of injection occurs in about 80% of people. Redness and swelling at the site and fever may also occur. TRICARE covers shots but for those without insurance the shots can run $200 to $300.

Infection to HPV can be increased through tobacco use, multiple sexual partners, and early onset of sexual activity. “Any age, race, and ethnicity can get cervical cancer, and it only takes one partner to expose you to HPV,” explained Casablanca. Treatment for cervical cancer can involve invasive surgeries, which a portion of the cervix is removed. For women who don’t wish to retain fertility, they may sometimes opt for a hysterectomy, removal of the uterus. Like most cancers, in a more advanced phase, chemotherapy and radiation treatments are used. For more information about cervical cancer, refer to the National Cancer Institute’s site https://www.cancer.gov/types/cervical. [Source: Health.mil & Wikipedia | Walter Reed National Military Medical Center | January 7, 2021 ++]

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Cancer Prevention

Update 02: Foods to Avoid

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As claimed by the World Health Organization, cancer is the second cause of death worldwide. If we consider the WHO website’s statistics, nearly 9.6 million people succumbed to cancer in 2018. According to experts, the leading causes behind the increased cancer cases are our daily lifestyle and food consumption habits. From packaged food items to adulterated products, they create a disbalance in the body leading to various health problems, and cancer is undoubtedly one of the most severe health problems. The following nine specific food items could directly expose you to a life-threatening disease like cancer, and you should avoid them as much as possible.

Microwave Popcorn

We all enjoy binge-watching with a bag of microwave popcorn in our hands as we believe that it makes up for the perfect movie-time munch, but after knowing the surprising fact behind it, you will surely think differently about it. The popcorn bag usually used to prepare popcorn in the microwave is lined with a PFOA product from the inside. PFOA is one of the leading causes of developing prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and even cancer in the liver and bladder. When you make popcorn out of those bags, the PFOA saturates the corn kernels, which are already coated heavily in artificial butter loaded with trans fat. Therefore, popcorn is considered a healthy snack only when prepared yourself on the stove and not in the microwave popcorn bags.

Soda

It is no surprise that consuming too much of aerated drinks can severely deteriorate your health. Soda not only affects your waistline but also develops a greater risk of cancer. It contains a high amount of sugar, which aggressively multiplies the cancer cells present in the body. Additionally, excessive consumption of soda also leads to obesity, which is again a leading cause of cancer. An extensive study conducted by the Cancer Council Victoria and the University of Melbourne examined that among more than 35,000 Victorians, 3,283 cancer cases were diagnosed within 12 years. All these cases were of obesity-related cancers developing in the ovaries, pancreas, and even the gallbladder.

Potato Chips

Potatoes have a large amount of starch, and starchy food targets lung cancer in the body. In addition to that, various organizations and officials have started red-flagging food items like potato chips and french fries. They contain a significant amount of acrylamide, a carcinogenic chemical in food items cooked at a high temperature. Such a chemical is extremely harmful as it increases the risk of developing cancer. In case it does not sound convincing, you should know that the same chemical is present in cigarettes and plastic products, which are undoubtedly highly harmful to human health.

White Flour

Foods containing white flour can raise blood sugar levels, which results in insulin resistance. Such an occurrence can substantially increase the risk of developing colon cancer or kidney cancer. Additionally, grains are a significant source of fiber in most people’s diets, but white flour is overly processed, which reduces the nutritional value of grains and adds a cancerous element. While the processing takes place, the white color comes from a blast of chlorine gas, which can cause severe damage to the body. Additionally, it has a high glycemic index, which raises blood glucose and insulin levels in the body to a hazardous level.

Alcohol

Overconsumption of anything negatively impacts the body, and the same applies to alcohol. An excessive amount of liquor destroys the liver and enforces tremendous pressure on the kidneys. Alcohol itself is cancerous, and therefore, what type of drink you consume does not matter. It increases the risk of various kinds of cancers such as the liver, esophagus, colon, rectum, and mouth. You may be surprised after reading that alcohol causes cancer in unexpected body parts as well. Still, the reason behind this is that, after consuming alcohol, it gets into the bloodstream. Thus, its cancerous properties can reach all the body parts, making it a life challenging consumption habit.

Processed Meat

A study conducted in 2015 by the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, salami, etc., cause cancer. It also suggests that red meat items like beef, pork, and lamb can also increase cancer risk. Smoked and processed meat uses a high amount of nitrates, which are closely linked to cancer. They are also high in fat, which is terrible for the heart and digestive system. The heterocyclic amine present in processed meat is also highly cancerous. As per the Cancer Council, to prevent cancer, you should not consume more than one serving of lean meat in a day and just two servings of red meat three to four times in one week.

Canned Food

A study conducted on over 250 canned food items reported that around 40% of the cans are lined with BPA, an industrial compound used to prevent the food items from corrosion and breakage. BPA is a leading cause of congenital disabilities, diabetes, heart ailments, and obesity. To put things in the context of cancer, BPA severely interferes with the production of sexual hormones in the body. Such an interference significantly increases the risk of developing breast cancer and prostate cancer from the disruptions in the body’s hormonal system. Therefore, avoid excessive consumption of canned food to prevent the development of cancer in your body.

Farmed Salmon

Scientists suggest that those who frequently consume farmed salmon raises their risk of developing cancer. Salmon raised on fish farms are highly contaminated with the use of carcinogenic chemicals. A major study has concluded that it would be unwise for consumers to eat them more than once every other month. In case you have been eating farmed salmon and believe that your eating habit is healthy, you should know that a thorough study has confirmed that farmed salmon increases cancer risk. Besides, farmed salmon are also criticized for other problematic practices, such as the feed content, which is usually supplemented with chemicals to give the salmon fish a pink color. Wild salmons develop it naturally and, therefore, should be preferred over farmed salmon.

Pickled Food

Excessive intake of pickled food increases the risk of developing gastric cancer because of its nitrate and nitrite content, resulting in the generation of gastric carcinogens and N-nitroso compounds (78). Some experts perceive pickling as a healthy process, but health experts reflect that it is just another form of intoxicating the food. Store-bought pickled food contains nitrates, salt, and artificial coloring and is rapidly linked to digestive tract cancer that targets the stomach and colon. If you enjoy consuming pickles a lot, it is recommended to prepare them at home to ensure complete safety.

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In a nutshell, excessive consumption of anything can negatively impact the body, if not immediately, then in the longer run. The food items mentioned above can severely affect your overall health and increase the risk of developing cancer, and therefore, its consumption should be controlled as much as possible. [Source: https://aginghealthytoday.com | January 8, 2021 ++]

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Shoulder Pain

Update 01: Five Ways To Combat It

Shoulder pain is a very common joint problem that can affect anyone at any time. It can involve the ligaments, cartilage, muscles, nerves, and tendons. This pain can also extend from your shoulder blade to your neck, arm, and hand. The pain that people experience in their shoulders depends on the severity of the problem that has occurred. A shoulder injury can occur as a result of any repeat or sudden movements. It can occur when you’re exercising, playing sports, falling, or even during routine activities such as gardening or reaching for something on a shelf. Shoulder pain also occurs as a result of poor posture and constant slouching of the shoulders.

However, regardless of what the cause behind the shoulder pain is, early treatment is vital. It can take eight weeks or even longer for shoulder pain to heal completely.

1. Take Pain anti-Inflammatory Medication

Whether its muscle or ligament pain in your shoulder, pain medications can help provide some relief. Medications such as aspirin or acetaminophen can help you cope with a shoulder injury and get better sleep during the recovery process. However, these medications can also have side effects for some people, including heartburn and stomach problems. So, if you’re taking pain medication to combat shoulder pain for longer than four weeks, you need to consult a doctor.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are another type of medication that can help lower inflammation and relieve shoulder pain. Some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications include ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. Reducing inflammation is vital when you have rotator cuff injuries, arthritis, tendonitis, and other shoulder injuries. If you aren’t a fan of oral pain medication, you can also try using pain-relief creams and gels that are applied topically. The benefit of using topical medications is that they don’t have the same side effects as oral pain medication.

2. Try Cold Compress or Heat Therapy

Cold compress and heat are both great options to relieve shoulder pain. Cold compresses help reduce swelling in the shoulder and also numbs sharp pain. You can apply a cold compress by placing an ice pack on your shoulder for about 15 to 20 minutes, around 4 to 5 times a day. If you don’t have a frozen gel pack, you can use ice cubes in a plastic bag or even a bag of frozen peas for a cold compress. Remember not to apply the cold pack directly to your skin; wrap it in a soft cloth or towel, and then place it. Heat therapy includes a heating pad, a heated gel pack, or a hot water bottle. Applying heat to your aching shoulder can help relax tense muscles and soothe the stiffness. Moreover, heat can also help with arthritis pain in your shoulder.

Cold Compress or Heat Therapy (left) and Compression

3. Apply Compression

Compression is quite helpful when it comes to reducing shoulder pain. You can wrap your shoulder around with an elastic medical bandage to reduce swelling and combat pain. A regular ACE bandage or cold compression bandage are both good options. You can also get a shoulder wrap for more support. Remember to wrap the bandage snugly. Wrapping it too tight can block the blood flow, making your arm or hand feel numb or tingly.

4. Take a Muscle Relaxant

Shoulder pain may also occur as a result of muscle tension or spasms around the shoulder joints. In such cases, common muscle relaxants, such as tizanidine, cyclobenzaprine, and baclofen, can help treat your shoulder pain. However, these medicines require a prescription from your doctor. Also, muscle relaxants cause drowsiness, so you should avoid taking them when driving or operating heavy machinery.

5. Get Rest and Change Your Activities

Shoulder pain can be really terrible. What’s even more dangerous is being unaware of what’s causing the pain. You need to refrain from engaging in any physically-demanding activities that can exert more stress on your shoulder, making your pain even worse.

Also, if you are aware of what activity triggered your shoulder pain in the first place, you should either change the activity or stop doing it altogether. However, don’t forget to gently move your shoulder from time to time to keep your shoulder muscles strong and flexible.

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When to Consult a Doctor

Some common conditions that cause shoulder pain are:

  • Muscle strain
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Arthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Tendinitis
  • Rotator cuff injury

While medication can temporarily help with the pain, some shoulder injuries can worsen over time. This is why you need to visit your doctor to diagnose your shoulder pain properly. You can’t expect your shoulder pain to vanish overnight. Depending on the extent of your injury and pain, you will require a combination of home remedies and medical treatment. However, it’s best to visit your doctor, especially if you have any of the following.

  • Consistent pain: If your shoulder pain doesn’t improve even after getting ample rest and medication.
  • Repeated shoulder pain occurrences: If you have experienced shoulder pain more than once in the past few months.
  • Stiffness in your arms: If your shoulder is stiff, preventing you from lifting or rotating your arm normally.
  • Weakness in shoulder or arm: If your arm, shoulder, or hand feels weaker than the other normal side.
  • Dislocated shoulder: A dislocated shoulder feels like your arm will slide out of your shoulder at any time.

The Bottom Line

Shoulder pain can be excruciating at times. Even though you can prevent certain causes of shoulder pain, such as muscle strain, by exercising to build stronger shoulder muscles, injuries can happen out of nowhere! The above five ways to combat shoulder pain are considered quite effective when offering you pain relief and lowering your risk of injuring your shoulder again. However, you should consider consulting a doctor immediately in the case of a serious injury or growing pain!

[Source: https://aginghealthytoday.com | January 1, 2021 ++]

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Vitamin Supplements

Update 08: Study Finds Multivitamins Have Zero Health Benefit

If you are taking a multivitamin, there is a good chance you feel great. But there’s an even higher likelihood that those positive feelings are all in your head. In fact, multivitamins have zero health benefit, according to findings from a recent study published in the online medical journal BMJ Open at https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/11/e039119. However, the study — which looked at people with dozens of physical and mental illnesses, and how multivitamin use impacted their well-being — found that adults who regularly take multivitamins self-reported 30% better overall health than people who don’t take such vitamins.

As part of the study, researchers looked at data on more than 21,000 people. The data was collected as part of the 2012 U.S. National Health Interview Survey. Of these people, nearly 5,000 regularly took multivitamins, while the rest did not. On average, those who took multivitamins were:

  • Significantly older
  • Had higher household incomes
  • Were more likely to be women, college graduates and married
  • Were more likely to have health insurance

After assessing the physical and psychological health of the people in the study — based on participant responses to survey questions — the researchers concluded that those who took multivitamins were no healthier than those who did not, although the first group reported feeling better.nThe researchers said they could not determine exactly why people who took multivitamins reported feeling healthier. It is possible that people who take multivitamins trick themselves into thinking they feel better due to the pill.nOr, those who take multivitamins may on average just be naturally more positive than those who do not take vitamins.

Around one-third of Americans take a multivitamin regularly, the researchers report. Lead researcher Manish Paranjpe, a student at Harvard Medical School in Boston, told HealthDay that those who take multivitamins are wasting money: “We believe that money could be better spent on things that we do know have a positive health benefit, such as eating a healthy diet.” Exercising and socializing also are likely to pay bigger dividends than taking multivitamins, Paranjpe says. [Source: MoneyTalksNews | Chris Kissell | January 14, 2021 ++]

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Gulf War Illness

As Many as 1/3 of Gulf War Vets are Affected

Nearly 700,000 men and women served in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s. Now, three decades later, as many as a third of that population are affected by a cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms that have plagued them following their return from deployment. The symptoms can include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, bowel discomfort, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, skin problems and memory impairment. VA clinicians and researchers often call this condition “Gulf War illness” in medical literature. VA researchers have been conducting various types of studies to better understand Gulf War illness (GWI), for which there are no proven treatments. The following is a sampling of the diverse nature of these studies.

Clinical trials

Deployed Gulf War Veterans experienced environmental and toxic exposures involving smoke, chemicals and other substances that are known to cause an excess of free radicals in the body’s cells, a scenario known as oxidative stress. Excess oxidative stress can damage cells, proteins, and DNA, contributing to an early onset of aging-related ailments. Exploratory studies using methods that support cell functioning and prevent or repair stress mediators suggest a role for targeted strategies, such as the coenzyme Q10, also known as CoQ10. The primary goal of this double-blind, Phase 3 trial is to determine if a treatment with ubiquinol, a form of CoQ10, is effective in increasing physical function and improving the quality of life for Veterans with Gulf War illness.

The U.S. military considered the drugs that were intended to protect soldiers from a chemical attack and from insects to be safe at the doses administered. But those drugs combined, together with the stress of war, may have contributed to the development and persistence of Gulf War illness years later. Neurological symptoms of GWI include cognitive impairment, attention deficits, depression, and anxiety. These symptoms have been linked to abnormal immune function and chronic inflammation in GWI patients. Dr. Alpaslan Dedeoglu of the VA Boston Healthcare System and his team have provided evidence that an inflammatory process occurs in the brain using a mouse model of Gulf War illness. He’s now leading a study into whether GWI can be treated with fingolimod, an anti-inflammatory drug used for patients with multiple sclerosis. If successful, this project will provide data for comprehensive clinical trials for treating Gulf War illness using an anti-inflammatory strategy.

Rehabilitation

Veterans with GWI are at risk of developing chronic physical health conditions. Exercise is a cost-effective way to reduce the risk of many chronic ailments. But a major challenge for Veterans with Gulf War illness is that symptoms can worsen when one tries to become physically active, a phenomenon known as post exertion malaise (PEM). This study is measuring the link between aerobic exercise intensity and PEM. The researchers hope to take a first step toward providing a proven exercise plan for Veterans with Gulf War illness.

This study about the health experiences and treatment of Gulf War Veterans with chronic multi-symptom illness is expected to yield major insight into the features of effective care models and treatments, as well as satisfaction with care. “It will also create a rich, ongoing resource that can inform VA’s effort to improve customer service and care for Gulf War Veterans, including a specific focus on those with multi-symptom illness and their caregivers,” the researchers write. This research will identify better illness-specific health measures and promising therapeutic approaches that are appropriate to VA settings. Finally, the goal is to alert Veterans to be more engaged with the health system and VA research and policy processes, and to improve Gulf War Veteran communication with VA care providers.

Epidemiological research

One of the most telling VA epidemiological studies on the health of Gulf War Veterans is a 2016 study by researchers in VA Post-Deployment Health Services. The study, based on data that were collected about 20 years after the Gulf War in 2012, found that Gulf War Veterans continue to report poorer health than those who served at the same time but did not deploy to the Persian Gulf. The study found that as many as 300,000 Veterans, or nearly 44% of those who took part in the Gulf War, self-reported that they have Gulf War illness, based on the latest data.

Observational

The Department of Defense estimates that more than 41,000 Veterans were likely overexposed to pesticides during the Persian Gulf War. In addition to pesticides, Gulf War Veterans were potentially exposed to many other chemicals and toxicants during the conflict. Research suggests a possible link between chemical exposures and Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that short-circuits the body’s motor system. The researchers for this study are investigating the link between toxic exposures during Gulf War deployment and prodromal Parkinson’s disease, which is when a person shows early signs of the health condition. The study includes 140 Gulf War Veterans with high levels of exposure to deployment-related chemicals. They are taking part in a series of experiments over a four-year period that are expected to provide important information on the long-term consequences of Gulf War illness in relation to aging and neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Parkinson’s.

Registry enrollment

Veterans of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm are highly encouraged to enroll in two distinct and important VA clinical registries: the Gulf War Registry and the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. All Gulf War Vets are eligible to take part in both. The Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry includes an online questionnaire and an optional health exam at a VA medical center. Gulf War Veterans can contact their local environmental health coordinator to schedule an Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry health exam and to enroll in the Gulf War Registry. Learn more about the burn pit registry in this Borne the Battle benefits breakdown.

[Source: Vantage Point | Mike Richman | January 9, 2021 ++]

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Exercise

Five Stretches to Do Everyday

Every morning as you get out of bed or get off your desk in the evening, you know when you need a stretch. Now think of what this simple stretch does to your body. How it can loosen up your muscles, and you end up relieving the muscle stiffness in your neck and back that you experienced all day. Well, this is precisely what stretching can do to your body. It loosens up muscles, relieves tension, and improves joint mobility. These benefits are backed by research that also indicates that regular stretching can improve blood circulation. As a result, your muscles get more oxygen and nutrients to strengthen your muscles, improve body balance, and relieve stress.

On the other hand, if stretching is not a part of your daily routine, you are more prone to experiencing reduced joint mobility, affecting your body balance and risk of falls and injury as you age. So set up your morning alarm a few minutes earlier or skip the last part of your favorite late-night TV show and incorporate five easy and beneficial stretches in your daily routine. Performing these five stretches might only take a few minutes of your time during the day, but the results you get are bound to improve your overall health in the long run.

Toe Touch

Toe touch is an excellent stretch to get started. This simple stretch brings numerous benefits to your entire body, including arms, shoulders, back, and legs. All you have to do is to sit on the floor or stand upright. Then bend and reach out for your toes. Now hold the stretch for 10 seconds and return to your original position. Repeat this stretch a few times to loosen up your arm and leg muscles.

Downward Dog

This all-time favorite yoga pose is popular for good reasons. This stretch involves a wide range of muscles, including the back, hamstrings, arms, neck, and shoulders. It is an excellent stretch to improve blood circulation and get you started for the day. Even if you are not an expert yogi, you can do this simple stretch at home. Start with a plank position. Now push your legs forward and hips upwards to form a triangle. With your head between your arms, you will feel the blood flowing towards your upper body. Make sure your heels are tucked to the floor. Feel the stretch for good 10 seconds, move back to plank, and repeat downward dog stretch a few times.

Cat and Cow

Do you wake up with a stiff back? Then this stretch is for you. It boosts blood circulation, strengthens your back muscles, and enhances mobility. Get into the tabletop position (on your hands and knees) on an exercise mat. Your wrists should be in line with the shoulders and knees aligned with the hips. Now tuck in the pelvis, look down to the floor, and round your back. You should get an upward bend in your spine. Next, bend your spine inwards as you exhale. Look up with a full stretch in your neck. Repeat this pose a few times, and continue to inhale and exhale as you transition between cat and cow.

Spinal Twist

Want to strengthen the core and improve spine flexibility? Add a spinal twist to your daily stretching routine. Start by lying flat on your exercise mat and bend your knees such that the feet are flat on the floor. Then, with the upper body still, twist your left knee to the other side of the body in a way that you feel a stretch in your lower back. Hold the position and count till 10. Now repeat the position with your right knee. Complete 5-10 sets of spinal twists to get moving after a long night’s sleep.

Side Oblique Stretch

With this standing side oblique stretch, you get your hips and waist muscles working. Start by standing with feet shoulder-distance apart. Start by lifting your right arm overhead and your palm facing inward. Feel the stretch on your arm and side and bend towards the left side. Hold and count till 10, then switch sides.

[Source: https://aginghealthytoday.com | January 3, 2021 ++]

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Post-COVID-19 Syndrome

What to Expect After Testing Negative

The world today, as we all know, is currently grappling with COVID-19, an ongoing pandemic that has taken a massive toll on literally everything and everyone. Thousands of people have been affected by a coronavirus, where some have fully recovered, some are still in recovery, and many have lost the battle against it. In most cases, people have recovered completely within a few weeks, but there are many instances in which some have continued to experience COVID-19 symptoms post-recovery.

COVID-19 symptoms can sometimes persist for months, thereby increasing the risk of long-term health problems. This condition has been termed as ‘long COVID-19” or “post-COVID-19 Syndrome,’ and people experiencing this condition are referred to as ‘long haulers.’ What’s surprising is that these people continue to experience symptoms that linger well after even testing negative for coronavirus. According to Dr. Sandeep Lahoti, a gastroenterologist leading the COVID-19 Recovery Clinic at Houston Methodist, “We’re seeing continued evidence that a fair number of people who have had COVID-19 continue to feel the effects of this illness for weeks to months after recovering from the worst of their symptoms or complications.”

While doctors are still unsure as to how long these symptoms can persist, reports and evidence show that they can last at least six months and even longer in some people. The cause of these lingering COVID-19 symptoms is also unclear, and doctors don’t know for sure as to why the post-COVID-19 syndrome occurs. However, hypotheses suggest that it could due to prolonged inflammatory response and hidden areas of infection. Furthermore, the question about the long-term outcomes of these lingering symptoms is also not so clear, given that there aren’t any such outcomes. Although doctors and researchers know that coronavirus can certainly impact the quality of life, it is too soon to assume that it could cause ongoing organ damage or other such severe effects.

Just like how COVID-19 brings with it a host of mild to debilitating symptoms, the same way the post-COVID-19 syndrome also comes with a range of lingering symptoms. The most common symptoms that one can experience after being positive for COVID-19 include:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of taste and/or smell
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep issues
  • Brain fog also includes an inability to concentrate.
  • Impaired memory
  • Diarrhea/nausea
  • Congestion
  • Body ache

According to what doctors have said about the post-COVID-19 syndrome, people with serious medical conditions, and older people are most likely to experience lingering symptoms. However, even young and healthy people without any medical history tend to feel unwell and tired post-initial recovery. In terms of life-threatening COVID-19 cases, doctors assumed that patients who suffered a stroke or severe pneumonia are the only ones who would require post-recovery specialized care after being discharged. It isn’t exclusive to those people; people with mild COVID-19 symptoms also run a high risk of experiencing lingering symptoms.

Dr. Sandeep Lahoti has said that “Some studies show that only 10% of people with COVID will go on to develop the post-COVID syndrome, while other studies are showing much higher percentages — some even suggest that up to 70% of people experience persistent symptoms.” However, if we were to narrow it down to particular groups of people, individuals that are most at risk of developing post-COVID syndrome include:

  • Adults over the age of 50
  • People who experienced a more severe case
  • Individuals with underlying health conditions, particularly cardiopulmonary issues, hypertension, diabetes, or obesity

Regardless of how quickly COVID-19 has spread worldwide, a lot is still unknown about this virus. Doctors are suggested to closely monitor people affected by COVID-19 so that they can observe how their organs work and function post-recovery. Furthermore, numerous medical centers in different parts of the world are opening up specialized clinics and care centers to help and provide care to people experiencing lingering symptoms after recovering from COVID-19.

What to Do When Experiencing Post-COVID-19 Syndrome?

If an individual happens to experience lingering symptoms after recovering from COVID-19, the first thing they should do is schedule an appointment with their primary care physician. A medical professional will help determine the severity and intensity of your symptoms. If the symptoms are mild, they will probably prescribe you some medications and suggest some self-care treatment options. However, if the symptoms are severe, they might hospitalize you or refer you to a specialist who has experience in advanced COVID-19 cases. Since this virus’s symptoms are so diverse, and it’s such a unique kind of condition unlike any other that the world has seen before, you must get immediate help if you experience the post-COVID-19 syndrome. [Source: https://aginghealthytoday.com | January 6, 2021 ++]

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Covid-19 Headgear

Update 14: Adverse Effects of Wearing a Face Mask

Everyone is being protected because your face is working double the duty to do so. It prevents you from spreading the germs that you carry around and can keep the germs from others from getting to you. Wearing of face masks are effective, The Department of Health and Human Services stated this, The Center for Disease Control stated this and The World Health Organization stated this. However, if used in the incorrect way without any thought, the face masks could also cause unwelcomed side effects.

They Mess Up Your Sight

While wearing a face covering the air exhaled may go into your eyes, as the masks covers your mouth and nose and the warm air is seeking somewhere to escape. This can generate feelings of discomfort and result in the desire for you to put your hands to your face. If your hands are tainted, then you will be infecting yourself. You must fight against the urge to put your hand to your face, also clean your hands thoroughly with water and antibacterial or antimicrobial soap for at least twenty seconds, after coming into contact with surfaces such as elevator buttons, door handles, or anything where germ may thrive.

They Can Restrict Airflow

Face masks can make breathing much more difficult, especially for those that suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD, which can result in reduced airflow, making them very intolerable to have on as they exacerbate their breathlessness. What is more is that a small fraction of the carbon dioxide that was formerly exhaled is then breathed back into with every respiratory cycle. Both of these singularities increases the deepness and breathing frequency, therefore amassing the quantity of exhaled and inhaled air. This situation could worsen the already burdened impact of the coronavirus if people that are infected wearing face masks continue to spread more tainted air. It may also cause the medical ailment of those infected to become worse if the boosted breathing drives the virus-related load into the lungs. If you believe that you have the symptoms of COVID-19, quarantine yourself, take your mask off and seek medical advice for the ensuing steps.

They Can Cause Your Glasses to Fog

When you normally breath out warm air not wearing a face mask, it simply disperses into the environment. When the same is done with a mask on, the air tends to follow the path upwards and straight into your glasses, resulting in them fogging up. You should wash your glasses with water and soap and then allow them to thoroughly dry. This film should stop the fogging. Another option is to rethink the fit of the mask on your face, to inhibit the breath you exhale from actually getting to your glasses. One simple hack is to insert a tissue that is folded between your mask and your mouth, this will allow the tissue to absorb the moist, warm air, stopping it getting to your glasses. You can also ensure that the bottom of you mask is loose while the top is a bit tighter, this aids the air in finding a path downward away from the eyes.

They Force You to Inadvertently Draw Closer During Conversations

The volume and the quality of communication between individuals that are both wearing face masks is significantly compromised and they might unintentionally draw closer to each other simply to understand what is being said. It is advised that persons stay at least six feet apart from each other when in conversation. You should think of a twin bed to gauge the distance you should be from that person.

They Can Foster A False Sense Of Security

Do not consider your face covering as some sort of invincible covering that can shield you from the COVID-19 pandemic. Face masks should be worn at all cost, as well as the proof based recommendations that currently exist, that center around social distancing, repeated disinfecting of surfaces that are touched consistently and frequent handwashing.

They Spread the Disease If Not Washed

Wearing a face mask that is dirty is not providing favors for you or anyone close to you any good. These are designed to prevent the spread of the virus, instead of spreading the germs themselves. Dependent on the regularity of use, face masks should be washed routinely, you can use a washing machine to properly wash your face masks and persons should be very vigilant when removing their face coverings, as to not touch their mouth, nose or eyes and wash their hands directly after removing the face covering.

They Can Cause Harm To Children Under The Age Of Two

Face coverings that are manufactured from cloth should not be used to cover the mouth and nose of any child under the age of two, they should not be used on anyone that is unconscious, having issues with breathing, incapacitated or in any other way incapable of removing the mask themselves without help. Under these conditions face masks should never be used.

They Can Result In Skin Irritation

Before placing your mask on, you should apply moisturizer, especially if you suffer from dry skin. Doing this will assist in the preventing of irritated skin from the position the mask makes contact with your skin. Leave out the makeup that would be directly under the mask, for those that suffer from sensitive skin, your skin should also clean your face prior to and subsequently wearing a face mask. Furthermore, the foundation from the makeup could wipe off on the mask, resulting in a declined filtration of air, increasing the difficulty in breathing.

[Source: The Outdoor Wear Team | December 15, 2020++]

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Covid-19 Treatment

Update 08: Smell & Taste Restoral Q&A

Temporary loss of smell, known as anosmia, is a commonly reported indicator of COVID-19. Losing your sense of smell and taste can be jarring and emotional, and adjusting to the seemingly muted world can be difficult at first. However, research looks promising for COVID-19 patients with anosmia, though scientists say there’s still a lot unknown. Here’s what we know about anosmia related to COVID-19 thus far:

How does it happen?

The novel coronavirus likely changes the sense of smell in patients not by directly infecting neurons, but by affecting the function of supporting cells, said Sandeep Robert Datta, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurobiology at Boston-based Harvard Medical School. Dr. Datta co-authored a study published July 31 in Science Advances, and its findings identify the olfactory cell types in the upper nasal cavity as most vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Justin Turner, MD, PhD, associate professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and medical director of Nashville-based Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Smell and Taste Center, said May 21 that the primary cause of smell loss appears to be from an inflammatory reaction inside the nose that can lead to a loss of the olfactory neurons.

Who loses their smell?

Smell loss can be one of the first or only signs of disease and may precede symptoms such as cough and fever, Dr. Turner said, citing spring data from VUMC’s Smell and Taste Center. A study published 5 JAN in the Journal of Internal Medicine found that 86 percent of patients with mild COVID-19 cases experienced anosmia, compared with 4 percent to 7 percent of those with moderate to severe cases. The research analyzed data from 2,581 patients in France, Belgium and Italy.

Will COVID-19 patients get their sense of smell back?

Of 2,581 COVID-19 patients studied, 95 percent of patients regained their sense of smell within six months, according to the study in the Journal of Internal Medicine. For most patients, COVID-19 infection is unlikely to permanently damage olfactory neural circuits and lead to persistent anosmia, Dr. Datta said, adding, “Once the infection clears, olfactory neurons don’t appear to need to be replaced or rebuilt from scratch. But we need more data and a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms to confirm this conclusion.”

If so, when do COVID-19 patients get their sense of smell back?

The average time of olfactory dysfunction reported by patients was 21.6 days, according to the study in the Journal of Internal Medicine. Nearly a quarter of the 2,581 COVID-19 patients studied didn’t regain smell and taste within 60 days of infection.

Are there any long-term physical or psychological risks?

“If you have a gas leak, you can’t necessarily smell it,” Nina Shapiro, MD, a pediatric head and neck surgeon at University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, told NBC News. “And if people lose their appetites because food tastes like cardboard or even rotting meat, they might develop vitamin deficiencies. What’s more, people might not know when food is, indeed, spoiled or burning.” “Anosmia seems like a curious phenomenon, but it can be devastating for the small fraction of people in whom it’s persistent,” Dr. Datta said. “It can have serious psychological consequences and could be a major public health problem if we have a growing population with permanent loss of smell.”

[Source: Becker’s Hospital Review | Gabrielle Masson | January 11, 2021 ++]

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Covid-19 Testing

Update 09: Amazon Offers Saliva-Based At-Home Test

Amazon users can now purchase an $110 at-home COVID-19 test that determines results based on a saliva sample. Four things to know:

  • DxTerity Diagnostics developed a saliva-based COVID-19 test that was used by employers to screen workers for the disease. The company began selling the test on Amazon Jan. 5.
  • The FDA approved the test Dec. 9 for people who have and do not have COVID-19 symptoms.
  • A single test costs $110 on Amazon. A discount is available allowing the purchase of 10 tests for $1,000.
  • Once a customer receives the test in the mail, it is registered via an online portal to ensure results are reported accurately and that a healthcare provider authorized a prescription for the test. Once a saliva sample is collected, the test taker must drop the sample off at a FedEx location the same day it was collected. Test takers are notified by email that their results are ready for viewing within 24 to 72 hours of when the laboratory receives the sample.

[Source: Beckers Hospital Review Newsletter | Katie Adams | January 14, 2021 ++]

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Coronavirus

Update 41: May Invade, Damage Blood Vessels – Not Nerve Cells

COVID-19 symptoms such as headaches and “fuzziness” or brain fog that linger following recovery may be caused by damage to the brain’s small blood vessels, not nerve cells, according to a study by the Uniformed Services University and the National Institutes of Health. The study, “Microvascular Injury in the Brain of Patients with COVID-19,” was published Dec. 30, 2020, in the New England Journal of Medicine. Persistent symptoms lasting beyond recovery from the acute respiratory symptoms have baffled scientists, but until now were believed to be a result of direct damage to nerve cells.

Knowing COVID-19 could potentially cause inflammation in and around blood vessels elsewhere in the body, according to other studies, the researchers took a closer look at the brains of 13 patients who died from COVID-19. With high-resolution MRI scanning of brain tissues obtained from these patients, the researchers identified focal hyperintensities, which corresponded to small blood vessels showing evidence of inflammation and damage to their walls. Damage to these vessels included leakage of a protein, fibrinogen, from the blood into adjacent brain regions. Despite using very sensitive techniques, the researchers were not able to detect significant levels of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the brains of the cases they studied — and they found very little evidence of damage to nerve cells.

Also of significance, the brains of the patients studied were mostly from people who died without being hospitalized for the disease. Prior studies have mostly looked at patients who endured lengthy hospitalization, including being on ventilators. Such factors could make it difficult to interpret the direct effects the virus has on the brain and the consequences that lengthy hospital stays can have on the body, explained Dr. Dan Perl, a professor of pathology at USU and director of the USU Brain Tissue Repository.

  • “COVID-19 seems to have a propensity to damage small blood vessels in the brain, rather than the nerve cells themselves,” Perl said. “While it was tempting to connect our findings of specific brain locations of involvement to specific clinical manifestations, the cases examined had very little associated clinical information. So this could not be done.”
  • “These findings address important concepts for understanding the acute and persistent neurologic manifestations of COVID-19. The pandemic is raging in both civilian and military populations and producing considerable mortality and long-term effects among those who have recovered from the infection. The results are of interest and importance to both communities,” Perl added.

The study was a collaboration between USU, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health, the University of Auckland in New Zealand, the University of Michigan, the Joint Pathology Center, the New York University School of Medicine and the University of Iowa. To read the full study, visit: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2033369.

[Source: DOD News | Sarah Marshal | January13, 2021 ++]

* Finances *

U.S. Dollar banknotes are seen in a box at the Money Service Austria company's headquarters in Vienna

Car Insurance

Update 27: Accident Impact on Insurer’s Rate Increases

Car accidents cause harm to you and your vehicle, and they can also do significant damage to your car insurance premium. Drivers involved in at-fault bodily injury or pricey property damage incidents currently average an increase of 34% in their car insurance rates. There are ways to reduce the impact of an accident on your car insurance. Some car insurance providers offer accident forgiveness programs that help minimize increases in your insurance premium following an accident, so it may still be possible to find cheap car insurance after an accident.

How much will your insurance go up after an accident

It’s hard to predict exactly how much your car insurance rate will increase after an accident. According to Laura Adams, a financial and insurance expert, “Having an accident or a moving violation on your driving record is a red flag to insurers, which typically causes your auto rate to increase significantly. How much it goes up depends on a variety of factors, including your insurer, the state where you live, having prior accidents or moving violations and your age. Younger drivers tend to pay the most after accidents because insurers view them as potentially risky customers.” Here are average annual premiums before and after an accident and their difference:

  • Before an accident: For minimum coverage: $563 For full coverage: $1,738
  • After an accident: For minimum coverage: $803; For full coverage: $2,299
  • Difference: For minimum coverage: $240; For full coverage: $561

Some states might increase far more than the average, however. The more damage you do in your accident, the more you can expect to see your premiums increase. If you have a history of accidents, you can expect an even steeper rate hike because you will look like a risky driver. Comprehensive coverage steps in when damage befalls your car that isn’t related to a collision. You might file a comprehensive claim because your car was stolen or vandalized or because a tree limb fell on it, for example While these claims can increase your premium slightly, it’s still worth filing with your insurer to get the coverage you need to restore your car to its pre-incident glory.

How much your rate go up based on your insurance company?

While nearly every auto insurance company will raise your rates after an accident, the amount can vary noticeably between companies. The range of rate increase can be as big as between $200 and $900, depending on the company. Following are 11 of the top auto insurance companies with their average annual premiums for full coverage shown both before and after an auto accident:

  • Allstate — Before: $1,920 & After: $2,366
  • American Family — Before: $1,827 & After: $2,023
  • AAA — Before: $2,007 & After: $2,883
  • Geico — Before: $1,325 & After: $1,925
  • Erie Insurance — Before: $1,207 & After: $1,428
  • Farmers Insurance — Before: $1,912 & After: $2,841
  • Nationwide — Before: $1,475 & After: $2,258
  • Progressive — Before: $1,419 & After: $2,353
  • State Farm — Before: $1,422 & After: $1,773
  • Travelers — Before: $1,428 & After: $1,962
  • USAA — Before: $1,252 & After: $1,754

Why insurance rates go up after an accident?

Insurance providers don’t raise rates to punish you. Instead, insurers adjust your rates after an accident to reflect the new data you gave them by getting into a collision. Now they know you drive in a way that you may cause an accident, they perceive you to be a riskier driver — and they have your accident to back that perception. “Having an accident or a moving violation on your driving record is a red flag to insurers, which typically causes your auto rate to increase significantly,” says Adams. If you’re riskier, providers pass that risk on to you in the form of higher premiums. This increase isn’t permanent, however. Most rate increases will fall off after a few years. However, you might be able to avoid a huge rate increase by switching providers. Adams says, “It might also be an excellent time to shop for a new auto policy because every insurer factors rates after an accident differently.” There are both pros and cons to switching insurance providers, so make sure you weigh both sides before you do it.

Accident forgiveness programs

If the vehicle accident wasn’t your fault, and in some cases, even if it was, you may qualify for accident forgiveness if you were enrolled in the program with your insurer. Accident forgiveness occurs when your insurance provider waives the surcharges incurred by the first at-fault accident of an eligible driver on your policy. The program is commonly extended for free to long-time members with good driving records. Drivers new to the insurance company or with less-than-stellar driving records may be able to add the service for an additional monthly fee. The following companies extend some form of accident forgiveness program to enrolled and eligible drivers:

Note: State Farm accident forgiveness is only extended to accident-free drivers who have been with the company for at least nine years

How long an accident stay on your record?

On average, car accidents stay on your driving record for 3-5 years. However, the exact length of time depends on your state and the severity of the incident. For example, in New York State, an accident or traffic violation will stay on your record until the end of the year when the incident occurred, plus three years after. In Oregon, an accident or violation will stay on your record for five years. If you’re involved in a DUI or reckless driving crash, expect the incident to stay on your record for up to 10 years. You can check your state’s DMV website for information about driving record requirements where you live.

Lowering your car insurance rates after an accident

The bigger question other than how much your car insurance will rise after an accident is how you get the lowest possible premium now that your accident is behind you. Even if you don’t qualify for accident forgiveness from your car insurance provider, there are still ways you can lower your insurance rate after a surcharge is implemented. “If your car insurance rates go up after getting into an accident, speak to your insurer about potential ways to offset it,” says Adams. “You might qualify for discounts such as driving fewer miles, being a good student or having one in your household, and working in certain service-related occupations (such as teaching, healthcare, or the military).” Here are some ways to lower your car insurance rate after an accident: By using one or more of these strategies, you can help reduce the sting of higher rates after an accident.

  • Improve your credit: Your credit rating plays a role in determining your car insurance rate in some states. Stay within your spending budget, pay debts and address any discrepancies on your credit report to better your credit score.
  • Increase your deductible: The higher your deductible, the lower your premium. Before raising your deductible, know you can cover more out of pocket expenses before your insurance pays.
  • Look for discounts: Most car insurance companies offer a variety of discounts, including good-student discounts and multi-policy discounts. Many also offer safe driving discounts that leverage technology. Examples include Progressive Snapshot, State Farm Drive Safe and Save, Allstate Drivewise® and Nationwide SmartRide.
  • Lower your coverage: If you absolutely need to lower your insurance premium, you can consider cutting down your coverages. Most states require a certain level of liability insurance to operate a vehicle, but you can cut out or lower your comprehensive or collision coverage if necessary.
  • Shop around: It’s always a great idea to shop around and find the best prices currently being offered from company to company. You may also find that some companies offer different discounts and coverage options than others.
  • Consider a different car: It costs more to insure more-expensive vehicles. If you need to cut down the cost of your coverage, consider getting one of these cheap-to-insure options instead.

[Source: Bankrate.com | Joshua Cox-Steib | January 7, 2021 ++]

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Unclaimed Money

Update 05: How to Find It in States Where You’ve Been Stationed

How to Find Unclaimed Money in States Where You’ve Been Stationed

Could there be some unclaimed money or other property waiting for you in a state where you’ve lived? It’s a real possibility — whether you’re current military, part of a military family, or left the service years ago. And it might be a few dollars or thousands. For example, the Arizona Department of Revenue’s Unclaimed Property program recently put out a notice that the agency has identified more than 14,000 current or former military members who have unclaimed funds in their names — with last known addresses of Fort Huachuca, Luke Air Force Base, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Yuma Proving Ground, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, and Camp Navajo.

This military-connected Arizona unclaimed property is valued at $7 million, and some of it dates back 30 years. The largest amount of property due to an individual is $136,217. And that’s just one state. According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, one in 10 people nationwide have unclaimed property; and states return $3 billion a year to owners. This property could include a wide variety — such as money left sitting in accounts in banks and credit unions, refunded deposits for rent and utilities, stocks and other investments, uncashed checks, rebates, tax refunds, life insurance, credit balances and dormant safe deposit boxes.

Companies are required to try to reach people who have unclaimed property, but often the company has outdated or wrong forwarding address information. So after several years of inactivity, the companies turn the property over to the state. There are a few ways to search for any unclaimed property, including going to each state’s unclaimed property site. Note: These are free, legitimate searches; there is no need to pay money to do this, although many other websites want you to pay.

  • Visit the website of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, and click on their map of states where you’ve lived to check for property at that state’s website for unclaimed property. NAUPA is a network of the National Association of State Treasurers.
  • In addition, NAUPA sponsors a website, MissingMoney.com, where you can check multiple states’ databases at once for unclaimed property. MissingMoney.com searches those databases using the name. The search results show possible unclaimed property for someone with that name in any of those states, associated with specific previous addresses. If you lived at that address, you can be directed to your state’s unclaimed property site, to start the process for verifying your identity. States have various requirements to claim the property, including providing documentation.

Be patient. You’re dealing with various processes and bureaucracies, and states want to be careful to make sure they pay the funds to the rightful owner. Currently 41 states participate in MissingMoney.com, said David Milby, project manager for the website, which is operated by Avenu Insights & Analytics. Milby was the former director of NAUPA. The company works in partnership with state unclaimed property administrators to help them manage the millions of records they take in from companies each year, he said.

The military is a prime group of people who unclaimed property programs are intended for, Milby said, because of the frequent moves. “All unclaimed property programs are extremely excited when they can reunite military members and former military with their unclaimed property.”

Navy reservist Brad Earl knows from his personal and professional experience that money could be waiting for military members to claim it. Years ago, after hearing about unclaimed property, he checked it out, and found $250 all told in three states where he had been stationed on active duty. He’s currently a senior chief legalman in the Navy Reserve. But his full-time job in the civilian world is director of Unclaimed Property for the Virginia Treasury, and he encourages people to check for unclaimed property every chance he gets. Earlier this year when he attended the senior enlisted academy, he touted the MissingMoney.com site to his classmates. “Some of my classmates told me later they’d found money,” he said.

It especially applies to service members and family members, retirees and other veterans who have left the service. “It’s the nature of the environment they operate in… They move every three or four years, and more than likely rent their residence,” Earl said. “They may leave deposits behind, and sometimes it’s difficult to reach them.” It’s even more important now, during the pandemic and the economic hardships. “Every penny counts,” he said. “You don’t know what you don’t know. I’ve also seen retired IDs come through, when we ask for identification” when people are claiming their property, he said.

“States are protecting your money,” Milby said, noting that until about 50 years ago, companies would keep this money. But by the 1970s, every state had an unclaimed property law and program in place to give the money back to the rightful owner, he said. “The liability to pay that rightful owner never goes away,” said David Lemoine, vice president of finance and revenue solutions for Avenu. The states “are the custodians of that owner’s property. It’s always there, in perpetuity.” That includes safe deposit boxes, which may hold military medals, papers and other items.

Brad Earl recalls when, as unclaimed property director in Arkansas, a World War I Victory Medal was turned in to the state. “It was phenomenal just to be able to put my hands on that,” he said. Unfortunately they hadn’t been able to connect it to the rightful owners by the time he left the position earlier this year. “Someone would love to have that, especially one of the family members,” he said. “A lot of unclaimed property just doesn’t get claimed. “But when we can return it, it’s very rewarding.” [Source: Moaa Newsletter | Karen Jowers | December 31, 2020 ++]

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Service Providers

14 Most Likely to Lower Your Bill If You Ask

Feeling sticker shock every time a phone, cable or internet bill arrives? Depending on which company provides the service, lower rates may be just a phone call away. Earlier this year, LendEDU analyzed data from Truebill, a personal finance tracker, budget planner and bill reminder app that helps people manage their subscriptions, to determine which service providers are most likely to drop their prices if asked.

The bad news is that if you use T-Mobile, you’re unlikely to get a price break. T-Mobile customers had a 10% to 19% success rate when trying to negotiate down their bills. LendEDU says that’s “far and away the lowest success rate” of the 17 service providers included in the analysis. However, you’ll have better luck with the following 14 service providers, which had the highest negotiation success rates:

  • SiriusXM: 80% of customers, or more, are successful in negotiating down their bill with this company, LendEDU’s analysis found.
  • Suddenlink: 80% or more
  • CenturyLink: 80% or more
  • Dish Network: 80% or more
  • Optimum Cable Vision: 70%-79%
  • Sprint Wireless: 70%-79%
  • ADT Security: 70%-79%
  • DirecTV: 70%-79%
  • AT&T: 60%-69%
  • Cox Communications: 60%-69%
  • Verizon Wireless: 60%-69%
  • Frontier: 50%-59%
  • Charter Spectrum: 50%-59%
  • RCN: 50%-59%

So, how much money do you stand to save by asking a service provider for a better rate? For 16 of the 17 companies included in LendEDU’s analysis, customers received 10% to 29% in savings, on average. However, SiriusXM was willing to drop prices by an average of 40% or more for those who asked.

How to negotiate your bills. When it comes to this method of lowering bills, you have two options: Negotiate them yourself, or use a service that will do the negotiating for you. Negotiating yourself is technically as simple as picking up the phone and asking for a lower rate. Companies may be more likely to do so if, as leverage, you mention that you’re thinking of canceling their service or that you’ve received a better offer from a competitor. If you’d rather not make those calls, you could enlist the help of a third-party service such as Trim or BillCutterz. These services do all the negotiating on your behalf. If they succeed, they take a cut of the money they save you.

You can read more about Trim in “This Tool Makes It Easy to Slash Bills and Build Savings.” [Source: MoneyTalksNews | Maryalene LaPonsie | December 24, 2019 ++]

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College Costs

Update 01: Five Strategies and Tips on How to Pay for College

Woman Student Loan

Figuring out how to pay for college can be one of your biggest financial challenges, whether you’re a student or a parent who’s preparing to send one of your kids to school. According to CollegeBoard, the average cost of tuition and fees for in-state students attending public four-year universities and colleges was $10,440 for the 2019-20 academic year. The cost for out-of-state students climbed to $26,820, while students attending private colleges paid $36,880 per year on average. With the costs of higher education continuing to climb, researching all the options for covering college expenses can help to ease the financial pressure. Contacting a financial adviser who understands the ins and outs of paying for college can also ease such financial pressure as well as save time.

How to Pay for College: Start With the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is what’s used to determine financial aid eligibility for students. Completing this form is a good idea even if you don’t think you (or your student) will qualify for financial aid, which could include:

  • Federal student loan
  • Work-study aid
  • Grants
  • School-based aid
  • State-based aid

You can complete the FAFSA online and the deadline for doing so is the end of June each year. The earlier you get your FAFSA in, the better, since some schools award financial aid packages on a first-come, first-served basis. When completing the FAFSA as a student, you’ll need to include information about your income, your parents’ income, your assets and their assets. Student assets are weighted more heavily than parent assets, so not having bank accounts or other assets in your name could work in your favor when attempting to qualify for more aid. If you’re approved for a financial aid package but it’s less than what you’ll need to cover your costs of attendance, don’t panic. Instead, consider appealing your financial aid award. You’ll need to write an appeal letter explaining why you believe more aid is merited or needed and send it to your school’s financial aid office.

Research Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants can be one of the best options for how to pay for college, since these funds typically don’t need to be repaid. There are numerous places to find scholarships and grants, including:

  • Your school
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Public and private companies
  • Fraternal organizations
  • Government programs

Some of these programs may require you to submit a FAFSA to qualify, so you’ll need to do that if you haven’t yet. And keep in mind that some scholarships may be merit-based while others are need-based. Merit-based programs are awarded based on academic achievement and potential while need-based awards are tied to your financial need. When researching scholarships and grants, pay attention to what requirements are needed to maintain your award. For example, some government-sponsored awards, such as the National Health Service Corps Scholarship, require you to agree to a work commitment after graduation. If you accept a scholarship or grant that has a required work commitment and don’t follow through on it, you may be expected to pay back some or all of the money you received.

Apply for Work-Study

When you complete the FAFSA, you’ll have the option to apply for work-study. A work-study program is the equivalent of a full- or part-time job you take on while in school to help pay for college costs. This is a need-based funding program. Work-study positions can be on-campus jobs or off-campus. These positions are usually limited, which is another good reason to get your FAFSA in as early as possible. If you’re approved for a work-study job, make sure you check the pay and the hours you’ll need to work to maintain your participation.

Open a College Savings Account

College savings accounts can help you save money for college on a tax-advantaged basis. There are two main options for how to pay for college with savings: a 529 plan or a Coverdell Education Savings Account.

  • With a 529 college savings plan, the money you save can grow-tax deferred until you or your student is ready to go to college. Once you begin withdrawing the money, those withdrawals are tax-free as long as they’re used for qualified education expenses. You can contribute to any state’s 529 plan, regardless of whether you live in that state or attend school in that state. The lifetime contribution limits for some of these plans can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, giving you plenty of leeway to save for college.
  • Coverdell ESA has a $2,000 annual contribution limit. You can make contributions to one of these plans for a student under 18. Like a 529 plan, withdrawals for qualified education expenses are tax-free. But you have to use up all the money by the time the beneficiary student turns 30; otherwise, you’ll face a hefty tax penalty. Speaking of taxes, there also are three back-to-school tax breaks parents of college students should be sure not to miss.

Be Strategic With Student Loans

Taking out student loans may not be ideal if you want to avoid debt while paying for college, but it may be a necessity. If you’re considering student loans to pay for college, it helps to start with federal student loans first. You can apply for these loans by completing the FAFSA. Federal student loans can offer low interest rates and you typically don’t have to make payments toward them if you’re enrolled in school at least half-time. There are limits to how much you can borrow with federal loans each year, however. If you need more money to pay for college you could also research private student loans as an option.

Private student loans can offer higher borrowing limits but do require a credit check to qualify. If you’re applying as a student and you don’t have credit established yet, you may need a co-signer to get approved. The upside is that having a co-signer with good credit could help you secure lower interest rates on private student loans. When applying for private student loans, pay attention to the interest rates and repayment terms. Also, keep in mind that private student loans aren’t required to offer the same benefits and protections as federal loans. Those include grace periods, deferments and temporary forbearance periods.

The Bottom Line

Deciding how to pay for college is no easy task but fortunately, there are multiple ways to approach it. Besides these ideas, other options for paying for college include getting a part-time job or starting a side hustle if you’re a student. If you’re a parent, you might consider taking out federal PLUS loans in your name or withdrawing money from your retirement accounts. Before pursuing any one way to pay for college, however, consider both the pros and cons first.

[Source: MoneyTalksNews | Rebecca Lake | December 30, 2020 ++]

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State Income Tax Changes

Effective January 1, 2021

Arizona

During the November 2020 election, Arizona voters approved Proposition 208, a ballot measure creating a so-called income tax “surcharge” for education spending. Specifically, Proposition 208 establishes a new, fifth income tax bracket with a rate of 8 percent, up from the current top rate of 4.5 percent, with revenue from that marginal rate dedicated to education rather than to the General Fund. The ballot measure, which is set to take effect with the proclamation of the governor, is currently being challenged in court, where challengers are seeking an injunction to prevent the tax increase from taking effect. As of this writing, the judge has not ruled in this case. If Proposition 208 is upheld in court, the tax increase will apply to income earned starting January 1, 2021.

Arkansas

The 2019 tax reform law that phases down the state corporate income tax rate also reduces individual income taxes over time. Arkansas is unique among states in that it has three entirely different rate schedules depending on a taxpayer’s total taxable income. As taxpayers’ income rises, taxpayers not only face higher marginal rates but also shift into an entirely different rate schedule. As of January 1, 2021, for taxpayers with taxable income in excess of $79,300 (the highest of the three rate schedules), the top marginal individual income tax bracket has been repealed, thus leaving three brackets instead of four. As a result, the top marginal rate for taxpayers with income above $79,300 is now 5.9 percent (applying to taxable income exceeding $8,000). Previously, an additional rate of 6.6 percent applied to marginal income above $79,300.

Connecticut

Connecticut is continuing to phase in an increase in its income tax exemption for pension and annuity income. The exemption increased to 42 percent for 2021, up from 28 percent in 2020.

Iowa

A change to Iowa’s individual income tax code that was adopted as part of the state’s 2018 tax reform package is continuing to phase in this year. With the adoption of Senate File 2417, Iowa conformed to the federal pass-through business income deduction that was enacted as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). For 2019 and 2020, Iowa offered a state deduction equal to 25 percent of the federal deduction. That amount has phased up to 50 percent for 2021 and is set to increase to 75 percent for 2022 and beyond. Iowa lawmakers continue to debate the acceleration of individual income tax rate reductions provided for in the 2018 reforms but made conditional on meeting certain revenue targets.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts has a new income tax deduction for charitable contributions as of tax year 2021. The deduction uses the federal charitable deduction as its starting point but will be available to Massachusetts taxpayers regardless of whether they itemize their deductions or claim the standard deduction. The restoration of the state charitable deduction was triggered by a law that was put in place just shy of two decades ago that required the income tax rate to fall to 5 percent before the charitable deduction could be restored. The income tax rate reached 5 percent in 2020 upon certain revenue growth criteria being met.

New Mexico

As of January 1, under a tax increase package adopted in April 2019 (House Bill 6), New Mexico has added a fifth individual income tax bracket at a new top rate of 5.9 percent. Previously, the top rate of 4.9 percent kicked in at $16,000 in marginal taxable income (for single filers). Now, the 4.9 percent rate will be limited to marginal income above $16,000 but not exceeding $210,000, and the new 5.9 percent rate will apply to all taxable income exceeding $210,000 (single filers). This tax increase is taking effect because New Mexico failed to meet revenue growth levels specified in the underlying law. Specifically, the tax increase took effect because fiscal year 2020 revenue levels did not exceed fiscal year 2019 levels by more than 5 percent.

Tennessee

Effective January 1, Tennessee is one of eight states that does not levy any individual income tax at all. Tennessee’s Hall Tax (an income tax on interest and dividend income but not wage income) was phased down by one percentage point per year between 2016 and 2020 and has been completely repealed as of January 1.

[Source: Tax Foundation | Katherine Loughead | January 5, 2021 ++]

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IRS Income Tax Changes

10 Ways They Will Be Different in 2021

It’s been a year like no other, and taxes will be no exception. Your federal income tax return for 2020 — the one due by April — will be a little different from recent years past due to new laws stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the usual inflation adjustments. So, here’s a look at some ways the return you will file in 2021 will differ from your prior return.

1. Waived RMDs

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act of 2020, better known as the CARES Act, waived required minimum distributions (RMDs) from retirement accounts for 2020. RMDs generally count as taxable income. So, this one-time reprieve means that some retirees will have lower taxable incomes for 2020 and thus possibly owe less in federal income taxes in 2021.

2. A charitable deduction available to all

Usually, you can only write off tax-deductible donations to charity on your federal tax return if you itemize your deductions rather than take the standard deduction — and the latter has become far more common since the 2017 overhaul of the federal tax code. But in an effort to encourage Americans to donate money to charity during the coronavirus pandemic, the CARES Act enabled taxpayers to deduct up to $300 in monetary donations in 2020 — even if they take the standard deduction. To learn more, check out “You’re Almost Out of Time for This Coronavirus Tax Break.”

3. Higher standard deductions

Standard deductions generally rise each year on account of adjustments for inflation. The IRS reports that for 2020, the standard deduction amounts for the following tax-filing statuses are:

  • Married filing jointly: $24,800 — up $400 from 2019
  • Married individuals filing separately: $12,400 — up $200
  • Head of household: $18,650 — up $300
  • Single: $12,400 — up $200

The standard deduction reduces the amount of your income that’s subject to federal taxes. So, if a single person is eligible for and chooses to take the standard deduction (as opposed to itemizing deductions) on their 2020 tax return, they would not be taxed on the first $12,400 of their income from 2020.

4. Higher income brackets

Income tax brackets also tend to rise annually. For 2020, the income brackets are as follows for folks whose tax-filing status is single:

  • 37% tax rate: Applies to taxable income of more than $518,400
  • 35%: More than $207,350 but not more than $518,400
  • 32%: More than $163,300 but not more than $207,350
  • 24%: More than $85,525 but not more than $163,300
  • 22%: More than $40,125 but not more than $85,525
  • 12%: More than $9,875 but not more than $40,125
  • 10%: Income of $9,875 or less

For complete 2020 tax rate tables for all tax-filing statuses, see Pages 5-7 of IRS Revenue Procedure 2019-44. If you want to compare them with the 2019 tables, see Pages 8-10 of Internal Revenue Bulletin 2018-57.

5. Higher contribution limits for (some) retirement accounts

You could save more money in several types of workplace retirement accounts in 2020. The base contribution limit for 401(k) plans, for example, is $19,500 — up from $19,000 for 2019. The limit for catch-up contributions, which taxpayers age 50 and older can make, is an additional $6,500 — up from $6,000. So, folks who are at least 50 can contribute a total of $26,000 to a 401(k) in 2020.

6. Higher contribution limits for HSAs

Workplace retirement accounts are not alone. Contribution limits for health savings accounts (HSAs) also tend to increase each year — and 2020 is no exception. The 2020 contribution limits for folks who are eligible for an HSA and have the following types of high-deductible health insurance policies are:

  • Self-only coverage: $3,550 — up from $3,500 for 2019
  • Family coverage: $7,100 — up from $7,000

7. Higher income limits for the saver’s credit

For 2020, the saver’s credit, formally known as the retirement savings contributions tax credit, has higher income limits. That effectively makes this little-known tax credit available to more people. You might be eligible for this credit in 2020 if your adjusted gross income, or AGI (found on your tax return), is not more than:

  • Married filing jointly: $65,000 — up from $64,000 for 2019
  • Head of household: $48,750 — up from $48,000
  • All other tax-filing statuses: $32,500 — up from $32,000

8. A more valuable adoption tax credit

The tax credit for qualified adoption expenses is more valuable for 2020. The maximum allowable credit amount is $14,300 — up from $14,080 for 2019.

9. A more valuable earned income tax credit

For 2020, both the income limits and the maximum credit amount for the earned income tax credit (EITC) are higher. You might be eligible for the EITC on your 2020 return if your AGI is not more than:

  • Married filing jointly: $56,844 — up from $55,952 for 2019
  • All other tax-filing statuses: $50,594 — up from $50,162

The maximum amount that the EITC is worth for 2020 is $6,660 — up from $6,557.

10. A higher cap on Social Security payroll taxes

One bit of bad news for some folks: The maximum amount of a worker’s income that is subject to Social Security payroll taxes rose to $137,700 for 2020 — up from $132,900 for 2019.

[Source: MoneyTalksNews | Karla Bowsher | December 30, 2020 ++]

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State Tobacco, Vapor, & Marijuana Tax Changes

Effective January 1, 2021

Arizona

Arizona voters approved Proposition 207 in November 2020, legalizing recreational marijuana and establishing a framework for a legal market and tax structure. Limited possession of recreational marijuana is legal as of November 30, 2020, but it will likely be several months before the state begins approving applications for the retail sale of cannabis products.

Colorado

Colorado Proposition EE was adopted by voters in November 2020. This ballot measure increased several taxes as of January 1 and set in statute further rate increases through 2027. As of January 1, 2021, Proposition EE increased the cigarette tax from $0.84 to $1.94 per pack, set a minimum after-tax retail price for cigarettes at $7.00 per pack, increased the tax on other tobacco products from 40 percent to 50 percent of wholesale value, created a new tax on nicotine products at 30 percent of wholesale value, and established a policy by which FDA-certified modified-risk tobacco products will be taxed at half the statutory tobacco tax rate.

Under this measure, the cigarette tax is scheduled to increase to $2.24 per pack in 2024 and $2.64 per pack in 2027, with taxes on vapor products and other tobacco products increasing to 56 percent of wholesale value in 2024 and 62 percent of wholesale in 2027. The mandatory minimum cigarette retail price is set to increase to $7.50 in 2024, and the nicotine products tax is scheduled to phase up to 35 percent in 2022, 50 percent in 2023, 56 percent in 2024, and 62 percent in 2027.

Georgia

As of January 1, Georgia is among the states imposing an excise tax on vapor products. Senate Bill 375, enacted in June 2020, established a tax structure whereby closed system products are taxed at a rate of 5 cents per fluid milliliter, while open system products and single-use devices are taxed at 7 percent of the wholesale price.

Montana

With the adoption by voters of I-190 in November 2020, possession of recreational marijuana is legal as of January 1, 2021. However, retail sales will not begin until 2022. Once retail sales begin, sales will be subject to taxation at 20 percent of the retail price.

New Jersey

In November 2020, New Jersey voters approved Public Question 1, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that legalizes recreational marijuana as of January 1. The ballot measure specifies that the general sales tax will apply to marijuana sales, and local option sales taxes of up to 2 percent may also be collected. The measure prohibits the imposition of excise taxes on marijuana purchases at the retail level but does not prohibit further taxes from being adopted at the wholesale or manufacturer levels. The House and Senate have both passed legislation that would impose an additional “excise fee,” as well as a gross receipts tax (GRT) style “local transfer tax” on cannabis products. As of this writing, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has not acted on this bill.

Oregon

Measure 108, which was approved by Oregon voters in November 2020, took effect on January 1. This ballot measure imposes a new tax on vapor products at 65 percent of the wholesale price. It also raises the cigarette tax from $1.33 to $3.33 per pack while doubling the tax cap on cigars from $0.50 to $1.00 per cigar.

Virginia

As of January 1, Virginia newly taxes heated tobacco products—or products in which tobacco is heated rather than burned—at 2.25 cents per stick. In addition, under legislation enacted in November 2020, Virginia now requires remote sellers to collect not just sales taxes but tobacco excise taxes as well. As of January 1, out-of-state sellers who sell tobacco products into Virginia and exceed the de minimis exemption threshold will be required to collect the state’s other tobacco products (OTP) tax, or the tax imposed on non-cigarette tobacco products.

[Source: Tax Foundation | Katherine Loughead | January 5, 2021 ++]

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State Property & Wealth Tax Changes

Effective January 1, 2021

Colorado

In November 2020, Colorado voters approved Amendment B, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment repealing the so-called “Gallagher Amendment” from the state constitution. The Gallagher Amendment previously limited residential property to 45 percent of the statewide property tax base and set forth a process by which property assessment ratios were adjusted to maintain the required ratio. Prior to Amendment B’s adoption by voters, a corresponding bill was adopted by lawmakers establishing that the 2020 property tax assessment ratios—7.15 percent for residential property and 21 percent for non-residential property—would be used starting no later than January 1, 2021, contingent upon the adoption of Amendment B. Absent this change, the residential property tax assessment ratio had previously been set to drop to 5.88 percent for 2021.

Connecticut

As of January 1, 2021, Connecticut now offers an income tax credit to offset real estate transfer taxes paid for certain qualifying taxpayers. Under legislation adopted in 2019 (Public Act 19-117), taxpayers who pay the state’s conveyance tax (Connecticut’s real estate transfer tax) at the new top marginal rate of 2.25 percent may be eligible for the credit if they remain in Connecticut following the sale of their property. Specifically, starting the third year after the sale, eligible taxpayers can claim a credit equal to one-third of the amount of conveyance taxes paid at the 2.25 percent rate, and this credit can be claimed for up to three years, thus potentially offsetting the full amount of conveyance taxes paid at the top marginal rate.

Connecticut is also phasing in an increase in its estate tax exemption. As of January 1, the exemption has increased from $5.1 million to $7.1 million. Next year, it is scheduled to increase to $9.1 million, and by 2023, it will match the federal exemption amount. However, as the exemption amounts are increasing, the minimum rate at which the tax is applied is also increasing. Last year, Connecticut’s estate tax rates ranged from 10 to 12 percent. This year, the rates range from 10.8 to 12 percent. By 2023, a flat rate of 12 percent will be imposed. Connecticut is also beginning to phase out its franchise tax this year, reducing the tax rate from 3.1 mills to 2.6 mills per dollar of capital holdings. Further reductions are scheduled for 2022 and 2023, and the tax is set to be fully repealed by 2024.[20]

District of Columbia

The District’s estate tax exemption has dropped to $4 million for 2021. (Previously, the exemption was close to $5.8 million, matching the pre-TCJA federal level and adjusted for inflation.) While the exemption has been reduced, the rates have also dropped. In 2020, the rates ranged from 12 to 16 percent, but they now range from 11.2 to 16 percent.

Illinois

Illinois is continuing to phase out its franchise tax (also known as a capital stock tax) under legislation adopted in 2019 (S.B. 689). As of January 1, 2021, the franchise tax de minimis exemption has increased from $30 to $1,000.[22] Although this is a very modest change, further de minimis exemption increases are scheduled for January 2022 and 2023, with the tax scheduled to be completely repealed in 2024.

Louisiana

Louisiana is among the states that imposes economically harmful tangible personal property (TPP) taxes on the value of certain business inventory. To mitigate the impact of these taxes, Louisiana offers an income tax credit to offset inventory taxes paid. In 2020, unused credit amounts could be carried forward up to five years, but starting in 2021, the carryforward period has extended to 10 years under legislation adopted in November 2020 (Act 50).

Mississippi

Mississippi is continuing its ongoing franchise tax phaseout with a rate reduction to $1.75 per $1,000 of capital value, down from $2.00 per $1,000 of capital value in 2020. Mississippi’s franchise tax rate is scheduled to continue decreasing by 25 cents per $1,000 in value until the tax is completely repealed in 2028.

New York

As of 2021, New York no longer levies a capital stock tax. In 2014, New York lawmakers adopted a corporate tax reform package that included a multiyear phaseout of the capital stock tax. The tax rate was reduced incrementally every year between 2016 and 2020 and now is no longer levied.

Texas

Several changes to Texas’ property tax took effect on January 1. House Bill 639, adopted in June 2019, tightens the definition of “qualified open-space land” for property tax purposes. In addition, some of the property tax transparency measures included in Senate Bill 2, a property tax reform law that was adopted in June 2019, also took effect at the beginning of this year.

Vermont

Vermont has been phasing in an increase in its estate tax exemption. As of January 1, the exemption is $5 million, up from $4.25 million in 2020 and $2.75 million in 2019.

[Source: Tax Foundation | Katherine Loughead | January 5, 2021 ++]

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Decluttering Scam

Don’t Let Your Decluttering End in a Scam

If you are decluttering your home by selling unwanted items online, be on the lookout for buyers wanting to pay you more than the listed price. If the offer seems “just too good to be true,” it probably is.

How the Scam Works

  • You post an item for sale online (BBB is seeing a lot of recent scam reports that mention Facebook Marketplace, but this applies to other services, as well). It might be clothes, a vehicle, electronics, or another item. You are contacted by a buyer who seems trustworthy, nice even. They offer you more money than what you are asking for. The reasons vary. The scammer may claim they want to cover shipping or other fees for you “because you’ve been so helpful.” Or they may overpay through a digital wallet, such as PayPal or Cash App, claiming it’s a policy of the service. Or they may mail a check for more than the asking price and then insist it was by mistake.
  • In any case, once you are overpaid, the buyer will ask for their extra funds back. After you’ve returned their money, you’ll likely find the initial payment was false – the check will bounce or the buyer’s online payment will be denied. You will have lost the money you “returned” along with the item you sold.

Protect yourself from government imposters:

  • Don’t ship an item before you receive payment. Make sure any payments you receive are legitimate before you ship your item. If you ship before they pay, you will have no way to get your item back.
  • Don’t believe offers that are too good to be true. Unless you a selling a rare or highly desirable item that several people are bidding on, you should not expect anyone to offer to pay more than what you are asking. If someone tries to overpay you, consider it a red flag.
  • Look out for counterfeit emails. Scammers are skilled at imitating emails from popular payment services, such as Venmo or PayPal. Examine all emails carefully. If an email comes from a domain that isn’t official or contains obvious typos and grammatical errors, it’s probably a scam.
  • Report scams to the online marketplace. Be sure to report suspicious activity including dishonest buyers or sellers.

For More Information

Report suspicious activity to Facebook and see their Tips for Buying and Selling Responsibly on Marketplace  and follow their guidelines when making sales. Read the BBB Tip: Selling Used Items Online and get informed about fake check scams. If you come across a scam, report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Even if you didn’t fall for the scam, your report can help protect others from scams. [Source: BBB Scam Alerts | January8, 2020 ++]

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Tax Burden for Massachusetts Retired Vets

As of JAN 2021

Many people planning to retire use the presence or absence of a state income tax as a litmus test for a retirement destination. This is a serious miscalculation since higher sales and property taxes can more than offset the lack of a state income tax. The lack of a state income tax doesn’t necessarily ensure a low total tax burden. States raise revenue in many other ways including sales taxes, excise taxes, license taxes, intangible taxes, property taxes, estate taxes and inheritance taxes. Depending on where you live, you may end up paying all of them or just a few. Following are the taxes you can expect to pay if you retire in the state of Massachusetts:

Sales Taxes

The Massachusetts state sales tax rate is 6.25% which is higher than 63.5% of states.

  • Groceries and prescription drugs are exempt from the Massachusetts sales tax.
  • Food, clothing items under $175, admissions sales, and most utilities and heating fuel are exempt from the Massachusetts sales tax.
  • Clothing has a higher tax rate when you spend over $175and a special local sales tax of 0.75% may apply to meals purchased in some localities. A special sales tax on alcoholic beverages was repealed in 2010.
  • Unlike many states, Massachusetts treats both candy and soda as groceries for sales tax purposes. Other items including gasoline, alcohol, and cigarettes are subject to various Massachusetts excise taxes in addition to the sales tax.
  • Massachusetts has one sales tax holidays, during which certain items can be purchased sales-tax free. For more details, see the Massachusetts sales tax holiday calendar.
  • Prepared Food is subject to a higher state sales tax of 7%. The MA sales tax applicable to the sale of cars, boats, and real estate sales may also vary by jurisdiction.
  • Counties and cities are not allowed to collect local sales taxes
  • Massachusetts has no special sales tax jurisdictions with local sales taxes in addition to the state sales tax

Excise Taxes

An excise tax is a tax directly levied on certain goods by a state or federal government. The most prominent excise taxes collected by the Louisiana state government are the fuel tax on gasoline and the so-called “sin tax” collected on cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. An excise tax is not the same thing as the Massachusetts Sales Tax. The Sales Tax is collected as a percentage of the final purchase price of all qualifying sales, and is collected directly from the end consumer of the product. Excise taxes, on the other hand, are flat per-unit taxes that must be paid directly to the Massachusetts government by the merchant before the goods can be sold. Even though excise taxes are collected from businesses, virtually all merchants pass on the excise tax to the customer through higher prices for the taxed goods. Massachusetts collects an average of $372 in yearly excise taxes per capita, lower than 72% of the other 50 states.

  • Alcohol: Liquor $4.05 per gal | Wine: $0.55 per gal | Beer: $0.311 per gal. The excise tax on liquor lower than 68% of the other states and is ranked #34out of the 50 states. The excise tax on wine is lower than 68% of the other states and is ranked #32 out of the 50 states. The excise tax on beer is one of the lowest in the country and is ranked #44 out of the 50 states.
  • Cannabis Tax: none
  • Cellphone: The average tax collected on cell phone plans in Massachusetts is $7.81 per phone service plan, lower then 72% of the other 50 states. Massachusetts’ average cellphone tax is ranked #36 out of the 50 states. The Massachusetts cellphone tax is already included in the service plan price you pay to your service provider, and may be listed as “Misc. taxes and Fees” or “Other” on your monthly bill.
  • Cigarettes: The Massachusetts excise tax on cigarettes is $3.51 per 20 cigarettes, one of the highest cigarettes taxes in the country. Massachusetts’ excise tax on cigarettes is ranked #2 out of the 50 states. It is applied to every 20 cigarettes sold (the size of an average pack of cigarettes). If a pack contains more than 20 cigarettes, a higher excise tax will be collected.
  • Fuel: The Massachusetts excise tax on gasoline is 24.00¢ per gallon, higher than 52% of the other 50 states. Massachusetts’ excise tax on gasoline is ranked #24 out of the 50 states. This gas tax is included in the pump price at all gas stations in Massachusetts and is in addition to the federal excise tax of 18.4¢ per gallon on gasoline and 24.4¢ per gallon, on diesel. For all state and federal taxes by type of fuel refer to https://www.salestaxhandbook.com/vermont/gasoline-fuel
  • Vehicle: Massachusetts collects a registration fee and a title fee on the sale or transfer of cars and motorcycles, which are essentially renamed excise taxes. Unlike standard excise taxes, however, the end consumer must pay the tax directly to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and receive documentation (registration and title papers) proving the fees were paid.

Personal Income Taxes

Massachusetts collects a state income tax at a flat tax rate of 5%, on all taxable income. Unlike the Federal Income Tax, Massachusetts’ state income tax does not provide couples filing jointly with expanded income tax brackets. Notably, Massachusetts has the highest maximum marginal tax bracket in the United States.

Seven states have a flat income tax, and of those seven Massachusetts has the highest. While the tax rate is set explicitly by the Massachusetts legislature, the Massachusetts personal exemption is indexed to inflation and changes every year. The average family pays $2,078.00 in Massachusetts income taxes

Tax Rate Range: Effective for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2020, the tax rate on most classes of taxable income is changed to 5%.

Income Brackets: Gross income greater than $8,000 for joint returns, the taxes are twice the tax imposed on half the income.

Personal Exemptions: Single$4,400, Married $8,800, HOH $6,800, Blind $2,200 each, Age 65 or older $700 each, and Dependents $1,000 each.

Standard Deduction: none

Other Deduction:

  • Not more than $2,000 each paid into SSA, Medicare, Railroad, U.S. or Massachusetts retirement programs
  • Not more than $3,600 each up to two dependents under age 12, or dependent(s) age 65 or over (not you or your spouse) as of December 31, 2020, or disabled dependent(s)
  • Not more than $1,500 each for 50% of rental expense (not to exceed $3,000).

Medical/Dental Deduction: None

Federal Income Tax Deduction: Full. None

Retirement Income Taxes: Income from most private pensions or annuity plans is taxable in Massachusetts. Certain government pensions, however, are exempt under Massachusetts law. In general, exempt pensions include contributory pensions from the U.S. Government or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and its political subdivisions, and noncontributory military pensions.

Retired Military Pay: Not taxed.

Military Disability Retired Pay: Retirees who entered the military before Sept. 24, 1975, and members receiving disability retirements based on combat injuries or who could receive disability payments from the VA are covered by laws giving disability broad exemption from federal income tax. Most military retired pay based on service-related disabilities also is free from federal income tax, but there is no guarantee of total protection.

VA Disability Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: VA benefits are not taxable because they generally are for disabilities and are not subject to federal or state taxes.

Military SBP/SSBP/RCSBP/RSFPP: Generally subject to state taxes for those states with income tax. Check with state department of revenue office as not mentioned specifically on their website

Delinquent Fee: The penalty for late payment is 1% per month (or fraction thereof) of the tax due, up to a maximum of 25%.

Website: Massachusetts Department of Revenue https://www.mass.gov/personal-income-tax

Tax Forms:

Property Taxes

The median property tax in Massachusetts is $3,511.00 per year for a home worth the median value of $338,500.00. Counties in Massachusetts collect an average of 1.04% of a property’s assessed fair market value as property tax per year. Massachusetts has one of the highest average property tax rates in the country, with only five states levying higher property tax. Massachusetts’s median income is $83,915 per year, so the median yearly property tax paid by Massachusetts residents amounts to approximately 4.18% of their yearly income. Massachusetts is ranked 9th of the 50 states for property taxes as a percentage of median income.

The exact property tax levied depends on the county in Massachusetts the property is located in. Middlesex County collects the highest property tax in Massachusetts, levying an average of $4,356.00 (1.04% of median home value) yearly in property taxes, while Berkshire County has the lowest property tax in the state, collecting an average tax of $2,386.00 (1.15% of median home value) per year.

Property taxes are collected on a county level, and each county in Massachusetts has its own method of assessing and collecting taxes. As a result, it’s not possible to provide a single property tax rate that applies uniformly to all properties in Massachusetts. For more localized property tax rates, find your county on the property tax map of Massachusetts to the left or in the county list below. Jump to county list at http://www.tax-rates.org/massachusetts/property-tax#Counties. Tax exemptions in varying amounts are available upon approved applications to blind persons, qualifying seniors citizens over 70; qualifying Surviving Spouses, Minor Children and Elderly Persons; and qualifying Veterans as well a tax deferrals to qualifying persons as delineated at https://www.mass.gov/guides/massachusetts-municipal-property-taxes#-exemptions-

Massachusetts does not provide for a general homestead exemption but does have a Homestead Act.  The Homestead Act permits a homeowner who occupies a house as his/her principal residence to shield up to $500,000 in equity in that house from creditors.  By simply filing a Declaration of Homestead with the appropriate Registry of Deeds, a homeowner may be able to protect his/her residence from the claim of a future creditor.  The Homestead Act permits only one spouse to file for the equity protection if each has an ownership interest in the home.  The protection offered to the disabled and the elderly is even more comprehensive because it allows a husband and wife who own their own home to each file for the $500,000 equity protection.  For details refer to http://www.sec.state.ma.us/rod/rodhom/homidx.htm.

Inheritance and Estate Taxes

There is no inheritance tax and a limited estate tax on estates valued at $1,000,000 or more. To file on an estate exceeding $1,000,000 refer to https://www.mass.gov/how-to/file-an-estate-tax-return.

Other State Tax Rates

To compare the above sales, excise, income, and property tax rates to those accessed in other states go to:

-o-o-O-o-o-

A guide for new residents is available at http://www.mass.gov/dor/individuals/taxpayer-help-and-resources/tax-guides/guide-for-new-residents. For additional information regarding your state income tax liability, visit the Massachusetts Department of Revenue website which can be found at https://www.mass.gov/orgs/massachusetts-department-of-revenue or call (617) 887-6367 / (800) 392-6089 (toll-free in Massachusetts) M-F 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

[Source: https://www.retirementliving.com/taxes-kansas-new-mexico#MASSACHUSETTS | JAN 2021++]

* General Interest *

Notes of Interest

January 01 thru 15, 2021

  • Federal Pay Raise. Almost all federal employees will receive a 1 percent raise under an order President Donald Trump issued 31 DEC. The raise will not apply to senior political appointees nor to U.S. Postal Service employees, whose pay is determined in bargaining. A separate cost-of-living adjustment of 1.3 percent will be paid to most federal retirees effective in JAN, the same increase going to Social Security beneficiaries and military retirees. A 3 percent raise for active-duty military personnel was contained in the recently enacted budget bill, effective 1 JAN.
  • U.S. Capitol Rioters. The top federal prosecutor for the District of Columbia said Thursday that “all options are on the table” for charging members of the violent pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol — including sedition charges. Other possible charges for the pro-Trump mob include civil disorder, destruction of property and rioting, experts say.
  • NATO. Russian military activity near the alliance’s airspace increased slightly this year as its jets across Europe scrambled more than 400 times to escort or shadow unknown aircraft. Almost 90%, or about 350 of these missions, were connected to flights by Russian military aircraft. “This is a moderate increase from 2019,” NATO said. “Russian military aircraft often do not transmit a transponder code indicating their position and altitude, do not file a flight plan, or do not communicate with air traffic controllers, posing a potential risk to civilian airliners.” NATO air operations centers monitor all air movements across Europe.
  • Trump. Democrats laid plans 8 JAN for impeaching President Donald Trump, even as he’s headed out of the White House. Nancy Pelosi said she had spoken to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about preventing an “unhinged” Trump from ordering a nuclear strike in his final days. She said she had also spoken with Gen. Mark Milley “to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes” for nuclear war. She said Milley assured her longstanding safeguards are in place.
  • Stimulus Check. To determine the status of your second stimulus $600 check go to https://sa.www4.irs.gov/irfof-wmsp/status. If the second Economic Impact Payment was sent to an account that is closed or is no longer active the financial institution must, by law, return the payment to the IRS, they cannot hold and issue the payment to an individual when the account is no longer active. The IRS advises people that if they don’t receive the full Economic Impact Payment they should file their 2020 tax return electronically and claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on their tax return to get their payment and any refund as quickly as possible.
  • Stimulus check. Refer to https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/second-eip-faqs for answers to your questions about the second Economic Impact Payment

[Source: Various | January 15, 2021 ++]

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Map Comparisons

Canadian Population Density

50 Percent Of Canadians Live South Of The Red Line.

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A New Year

It’s Only Jan. 8, What the Heck Else Can Happen?

https://i.dailymail.co.uk/1s/2021/01/06/21/37689800-9119427-image-a-73_1609967846468.jpg

Humanity is supposed to start the year full of vim and vigor. A new year, a fresh start and all. Instead, we’re already out of breath, as we process, well, chaos. That now infamous speech by President Donald Trump on 6 JAN followed by protests that sent Congress scurrying for safety — all followed by endless assessments and speeches, many histrionic or self-serving.

It’s all a lot to take in, but heaven help us, it wasn’t the burning of the Reichstag. Disasters produce signature images. The fireman cradling an infant in his arms after the domestic terror, and terrible, bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995. The weird smoke billows from the World Trade Centers on 9/11. But now? That numbskull sitting in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office chair with his feet propped on her desk.

Blame is zig-zagging around the Capital of the Free World like laser beams at a rock concert. They’re mostly landing on the president. Everyone blames Trump for inciting the riotous crowd. I keep thinking of the children’s poetry line by A. A. Milne: “King John was not a good man, And no good friends had he.” Or the narrated line from a 1950’s movie about attack by Martians: “It was the beginning of the rout of civilization.” That fictional incident ended, wouldn’t you know, because the invaders were felled by exposure to earth’s bacteria, a sort of coronavirus for Martians.

Police are coming in for their blame. By 7 JAN, Pelosi had asked for and obtained the resignations of the Capitol Hill Police Chief Steven Sund and the House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving. She’s also among many gunning for Trump, threatening a sort of lightning round impeachment if the cabinet doesn’t invoke the 25th Amendment. The cabinet members, though, are starting to exit in the aftermath, starting at this writing with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But this first week of 2021 was overlaid with what in medical terms you’d call a pre-existing condition. Namely, the pandemic with its still-potent danger having hauled itself like a lumbering crocodile into the new year.

My thoughts go to the beleaguered federal career people, still mostly working isolated at home, bound by the intermittent and ersatz connection of Zoom, or whatever. A Federal News Network survey shows people generally like teleworking, at least part of the time. A majority said they have no idea when their agencies’ offices would reopen normally. The rest have a vague sense. So, feds are going to be scattered for a while, with a sizable portion perhaps never returning to how it was pre-pandemic. Because pandemics don’t respect arbitrary calendars, the ongoing way of work can have a dampening effect just when the cold air should put a bounce in the step.

Senator — and now majority leader — Chuck Schumer declared 6 JAN a new day to “live forever in infamy.” President-elect Joe Biden called itone of the darkest days in American history. Boy was he mad at Trump, going on for nearly an hour. Guys, a little perspective. The republic will survive another 14 days of the Trump administration. Recall we made it through the last days of the Nixon administration, when the president was purported to drink Scotch heavily and talk to the portraits on the White House walls. Whole blocks of Washington were in flames in the spring of 1968, after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Just one set of events in a year in which it seemed like the country’s wheels were coming off. Riots went on for nearly a week in 1863 when New York City mobs protested military conscription.

I make these comparisons not to trivialize or say anything was good about 6 JAN. I found it as jaw-dropping as you. I just want to help maintain a bit of that perspective. Except for police procedures and probably the installation of a hundred million dollar fence, the Capitol riot won’t change history. Its purported stimulus will soon be a private citizen without so much as a Twitter account. But it’s only January 8th. [Source: Federal News Network | Tom Temin (Opinion)| January 8, 2021 ++]

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Afghan Taliban

Update 04: Troubled Peace Talks Resume amid Violence, Accusations

Afghan delegates flew to Qatar on 5 JAN to reopen peace talks with Taliban leaders amid a rash of mutual recriminations, mixed signals from U.S. officials and a continued spate of assassinations targeting prominent civilians. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. diplomat who brokered a separate U.S. deal with the Taliban in February, also arrived in Kabul on 5 JAN from Doha, the Qatari capital and Taliban political base. He tweeted that he hoped “both sides” would make “real compromises” that would lead to “tangible progress” in the talks, which began in September but have failed to address any major issues.

But while both Afghan and Taliban officials have issued recent statements saying they were committed to the talks and hoped to settle the 19-year conflict through discussions, their messages were tinged with anger and blame that boded ill for the new round. Some observers in Kabul predicted that the talks, which are resuming after a two-week holiday hiatus, would probably collapse. The “demand of Afghanistan’s people is that the bloodshed should end forever in this country,” Massoom Stanekzai, a former national intelligence chief who heads the Kabul delegation, said in a video message posted 5 JAN on Twitter. “Afghanistan’s people suffer from the terror that the war has created every day, every night, every moment.”

The Taliban, sidestepping the issue of civilian killings, issued a harsh statement 4 JAN that lashed out at the U.S. government, denouncing what it said were U.S. military airstrikes on civilian areas. It warned that “such pernicious actions” could both threaten their February pact and “jeopardize” progress in resolving issues among Afghans, “turning nascent hopes to despair.” American military officials here responded with unusual speed and sharpness, saying 4 JAN that U.S. stated policy is to “defend Afghan forces” against Taliban attacks. For the first time, they also directly blamed the insurgents for a recent spate of targeted killings of journalists, civic leaders and government officials.

Taliban spokesmen have denied similar charges by Afghan officials and suggested that they amount to a “survival tactic” by the government of President Ashraf Ghani, who narrowly won reelection last year but has lost public support as violence and economic problems persist. “The Taliban’s accusations [that] the US violated the US-TB agreement are false,” tweeted Col. Sonny Leggett, the U.S. military spokesman here. “The Taliban’s campaign of unclaimed attacks; targeted killings of government officials, civil society leaders and journalists must also cease for peace to succeed.”

The status of the U.S.-Taliban pact, while seemingly unrelated to the domestic issues of religion, power-sharing and democratic freedoms that Afghan and Taliban leaders are slated to negotiate, is a critical but highly contested factor in the Afghan talks. Under that deal, the Trump administration agreed to gradually withdraw most U.S. troops by early this year, acceding to the insurgents’ most important demand. There are now about 5,000 troops in the country, and that number is slated to drop to 2,500 by next month. In return, Taliban negotiators agreed to reduce violence, avoid targeting American forces and cut ties with al-Qaida and other extremists.

Many Afghans say the Taliban has failed to fulfill those pledges and that the U.S. concessions gave the religious militia too much leverage over a weak Afghan government at the current talks. The insurgents, meanwhile, are worried that the incoming Biden administration will set further conditions before continuing the promised troop drawdown. At the moment, though, the message from Washington, amid a tense and contested presidential transition, is confused. On 3 JAN, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised the Taliban for not killing any Americans since the pact was signed, suggesting that it will hold. The next day, the U.S. military denounced the rash of civilian killings as an obstacle to peace.

Khalilzad, who is meeting with Pakistani, Afghan and Taliban leaders during his current regional visit in an effort to improve the chances for revived talks, called the targeted killings “unacceptable” but did not directly accuse the Taliban. He also hinted at problems on the Afghan side, including disputes between Ghani and some negotiators, who insist that an interim government must be installed because the Taliban refuses to recognize his administration and will never make peace with it. Other divisions exist about how hard to press the Taliban for a nationwide cease-fire, which it has resisted. In a statement Tuesday welcoming the resumption of talks, the U.N. special representative for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, said a “cessation in fighting would create a better atmosphere for talks” and allow emergency winter aid to reach rural areas.

On 4 JAN, Interior Minister Massoud Andarabi told a group of lawmakers that the Taliban is preparing to launch a “full-scale” war in the coming months, ordering fighters to keep going through the bitterly cold winter instead of waiting for their traditional spring offensive. Taliban officials declared 4 JAN that they are now “in a relatively stronger political and military position” than at any previous time. Their efforts to act as a “responsible party” and resolve differences through talks, they warned, “should never be read as weakness.” [Source: The Washington Post | Pamela Constable | January 5, 2021++]

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Senkaku Islands

Japan Moving On Pledge to Strengthen Defense In Face Of China Claims

Location of Senkaku Islands

Japan’s Cabinet pledged recently to add new ships and aircraft to the nation’s coast guard this year in response to an increasing Chinese naval presence in the East China Sea. Chinese vessels in 2020 made a record 333 trips to the area around the Senkaku Islands that Japan claims as its contiguous waters, besting the previous year’s record of 282, according to the Japan Coast Guard website. Taiwan and China also claim the uninhabited chain, which China knows as Diaoyu Dao.

The Chinese stayed in those waters a record 111 consecutive days while periodically harassing Japanese fishing boats, according to the Japan Coast Guard. “The situation at the Senkaku Islands and Yamato Bank has been pretty serious and we will make sure to execute the 2016 plan to strengthen maritime security so that our maritime officers can fulfill their duties with adequate equipment like a new patrol ship,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said at a Dec. 21 meeting at his Tokyo office. “We will keep adding the supplemental budget as necessary to strength our maritime security.” Yamato Bank is an underwater mountain range in the center of the Sea of Japan, between the Japan’s Honshu island and the Korean peninsula.

In 2020 the Japan Coast Guard added four new boats and a helicopter, and this year plans an additional large patrol craft with a helicopter pad, another helicopter and a jet aircraft, according to the coast guard website. It plans another seven large patrol ships through fiscal 2023, Japan public broadcaster NHK reported 2 JAN. “We feel more assurance by strengthening maritime security in such a critical situation,” Foreign Affairs Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said at the Tokyo meeting. “We will continue to take calm but firm action against other countries when they invade our territories.”

Suga, Motegi, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and coast guard commissioner Takahiro Okushima at that meeting discussed progress on a 2016 plan to bolster the coast guard, according to the minutes posted on the coast guard website. Kishi promised greater cooperation with the coast guard. Japan in the past few years has launched its own version of the Marine Corps, under the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force banner, floated the idea of sending the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force to patrol the area, and begun development on underwater drones and supersonic glide bombs to monitor and defend the southern island chain. Japan has also commissioned new military bases on Miyako Island, which is part of Okinawa prefecture, and in two spots on Kagoshima prefecture’s Amami Oshima Island.

Japan controls the uninhabited Senkakus, 230 nautical miles west of Okinawa, and purchased three of its islands from a private owner in September 2012. The U.S. has declined to take a position on the islands’ sovereignty; however, Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both have said they fall under the U.S.-Japan security alliance. Japan planned to launch a new unit of “highly trained,” submachine-gun toting cops in Okinawa in fiscal 2020, which runs until April, tasked with defending the southern island chain, NHK reported in September 2019. As of April 1, 2020, 151 officers were deployed for this border security force, an Okinawa Police Station spokesman told Stars and Stripes on 5 JAN. [Source: Stars & Stripes | Matthew M. Burke & Aya Ichihashi | January 5, 2021 ++]

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U.S. China Military Tensions

Update 03: Need for “Full-Time Combat Readiness” Stressed by Xi Jinping

In his first order of the New Year to the country’s armed forces, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the need for “full-time combat readiness” and said the People’s Liberation Army must use frontline frictions to polish troop capabilities. Xi, who also chairs China’s Central Military Commission (CMC), the top command body, said the PLA must be ready to “act at any second” as the country’s armed forces kicked off the year’s military training and exercises on 4 JAN. He also ordered the PLA to “substantially increase” the use of technology in its exercises, and to keep up with the latest developments in military and hi-tech knowledge. These included the use of computer simulations and online combat in drills, as well as exploration of more opportunities to add hi-tech and the internet – known as tech+ and web+ – in training.

“The PLA must increase the integration of new equipment, new forces and new combat realms into training and combat systems,” he said.

Notably, Xi’s remarks about the PLA’s current “frontline military struggles” were a departure from previous year-opening orders – including 2020 – which instructed the armed forces to “manage crises and deter war”. While he did not specify the frontline struggles, 2020 saw the worst conflict in decades with India, in the southwestern border region, which led to more than 20 Indian deaths and an undisclosed number of Chinese casualties. The two sides remain locked in a prolonged stand-off in the frozen Himalayas. The PLA also stepped up exercises and air force fly-by operations targeting Taiwan during 2020, as its navy continued to counter US navy patrols in the South China Sea while military tensions between Beijing and Washington reached a new high.

Since taking over as president and head of the CMC in late 2012, Xi has consistently pushed the PLA to be prepared for war. He also initiated a massive overhaul of the PLA in 2015 to modernize the Chinese military, planned for completion in 2020. Hong Kong-based military commentator Song Zhongping said Xi’s 2021 order showed the leadership was intending to take all measures to upgrade the PLA’s capability of winning a war. “China is indeed facing a great risk of war, which has been seriously implied in this order,” he said.

The PLA had increasingly adopted the use of simulators to imitate real equipment, connecting them online so that a drill could be as “real” and intense as possible, under its tech+ and web+ strategy. “Exercises in a new era must be diversified and equipped with hi-tech, even war games,” Song said. In the order, Xi also emphasised that military exercises must highlight cooperation across forces to forge joint operation capabilities, and the safety of soldiers in training must be well managed. The PLA, as the military force of the Communist Party of China, must “resolutely implement” the orders from the CMC and CPC, to mark the 100th anniversary of the party’s founding on July 1 with “excellent performances”, he said. [Source: China Morning Post Online (Hong Kong) | Liu Zhen | January 5, 2021 ++]

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DPRK-U.S. Relations

Update 01: Leader Calls United States “Our Biggest Enemy”

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un called the United States “our biggest enemy,” and said Washington’s hostile policy toward his country won’t change whoever is in the White House, state media reported on 9 JAN. Kim, speaking at a rare ruling party congress, also called for North Korea to continue to expand its nuclear arsenal and long-range missile, although he said North Korea would not “misuse” its nuclear weapons unless its sovereignty was threatened, the Korea Central News Agency reported.

“Our foreign political activities ought to be focused and directed on subduing and defeating the United States, our biggest enemy, and the main obstacle to our revolutionary developments,” Kim said 8 JAN. “No matter who is in power in the U.S., the true nature of the U.S. and its fundamental policies towards North Korea never change.” President-elect Joe Biden called Kim a “thug” during the election campaign, and North Korean state media last year called him a “rabid dog” who needs to be put down.

https://www.stripes.com/polopoly_fs/1.653462.1610169863!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_900/image.jpg

Some experts worry that Kim might greet the incoming U.S. leader with a long-range missile test, in order to get his attention, while others argue there could be a window of opportunity for the two sides to explore diplomacy. In October, North Korea displayed a huge, new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at a military parade in Pyongyang, although the weapon has yet to be tested. Friday’s speech is a reminder that North Korea is not about to give up its nuclear arsenal. “There is no more foolish and dangerous act than not reinforcing our own forces while clearly seeing development of state-of-the-art weapons of our enemies,” Kim said. “The reality is that we need to tirelessly strengthen our national defense capabilities in order to deter military threats from the U.S. and achieve peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.”

Indeed, Kim called for expanding the country’s nuclear arsenal, including “preemptive” and “retaliatory” strike capabilities, so that its warheads can “accurately hit and extinguish arbitrary strategic targets” within 15,000 km (9,320 miles), a range that would comfortably include Washington. Kim vowed to develop solid-fuel ICBMs that can be launched from land and sea. He called for more research and development into advanced military equipment, including spy satellites, hypersonic weapons and reconnaissance drones, and said research had nearly been completed on a nuclear submarine.

“We ought to augment our nuclear technology and further develop the nuclear weapons to be lighter and smaller … while continue producing tactical nuclear weapons and super-large nuclear warheads,” he said. Kim said the key to better relations with the United States was for Washington to withdraw its hostile policy, while also stressing the need for North Korea to expand a coalition with “anti-imperialist and independent forces.” [Source: The Washington Post | Simon Denyer | January 9, 2021 ++]

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Ear Cleaning

Things You Need To Know

Do you feel any blockages in your ear? Can you hear a weird buzzing sound in your ear? Since your ears produce ear wax to keep themselves clean, you need to make a very minimal effort when it comes to cleaning your ear. However, excess wax can sometimes accumulate, making it difficult to hear. So, when it comes to cleaning your ears, you need to be extra careful to avoid any permanent damage or increased infection risk. Ears are very sensitive organs that require additional care, especially during the cleaning process. Here is everything you need to know about how you can safely clean your ears, best practices, and things to avoid.

Impaction

Cerumen, also known as earwax, is a self-cleaning substance that is produced by your ears. This agent helps collect bacteria, dirt, and other fragments that would otherwise settle in your ear. It gathers all these damaging agents naturally by chewing and other motions. Most people don’t even need to clean their ears. However, sometimes excessive ear wax buildup reaches a certain level that can impact your hearing. This is known as impaction. Impaction causes you to experience certain symptoms such as.

  • Aching in your ear
  • Ringing and fullness in your ear
  • Impacted hearing
  • A foul odor
  • Cough
  • Dizziness

Those who wear earplugs or hearing aids are more likely to suffer from impaction. Moreover, older people and individuals with developmental disabilities are more susceptible to excess earwax buildup. Additionally, your ear canal’s shape can make it more difficult for the natural removal of wax.

Best Practices to Safely Clean Your Ears

Firstly, let’s make one thing clear: contrary to popular usage, cotton buds aren’t a good choice to clean your ears from the inside. Visiting your doctor is the best way to get rid of excess wax from your ears. Doctors use special equipment such as forceps, a cerumen spoon, or a suction device to clear up the blockage in your ear. Some doctors also provide the service of irrigation. If you don’t want to visit a doctor, you can try removing earwax at home by trying out these safe methods.

  • Damp Cloth — The problem with cotton swabs is that they push earwax even further in your ear canal, causing various problems. So, you should either use cotton swabs on the outside of your ear, or you should wipe the area using a warm and damp cloth.
  • Earwax Softener — You can also soften your earwax for easy extraction by using an earwax softener. Over-the-counter ear drops are available at many pharmacies that work effectively at softening earwax. These drops are basically a solution that may contain Saline, Hydrogen peroxide, Peroxide, Baby oil, Mineral oil, Glycerin, or a combination of these ingredients. The eardrops come with instructions that specify the number of drops you’re supposed to put in your ear. After putting the drops in your ear, you are supposed to wait for a little while and then rinse and drain out your ear. You must follow the instructions giving on the packaging of the eardrops. Call your doctor in case you don’t experience any improvements.
  • Syringe — You can also rinse your ears with a syringe containing saline solution. This will help you gently rinse out your ear canal, clearing it out properly. The syringe method is considered more effective when using a wax softener about half an hour before irrigating. Also, warm the saline solution a bit to avoid dizziness.

Things to Avoid

Here are a few rules you need to follow to ensure the safe cleaning of your ears.

1. Don’t Clean Your Ears Every Day. Just because you see a cotton swab lying around doesn’t mean that you need to clean your ears! While most people don’t need to clean their ears every day, some people don’t need to clean them at all. Earwax usually takes care of itself by trapping dirt and bacteria and moving it out of the ear canal. However, the main concern is that earwax can be quite unsightly, which is why people desperately try to remove every trace of its existence from their ears. Not only does this pose a high risk of infection for your ears, but it is also counterproductive as cleaning your ears leads to increased production of earwax.

2. Don’t Use Small Items to Clean Your Ears. It’s been established that the use of cotton swabs isn’t favorable for cleaning your ears, but many people still use them in addition to other small items such as bobby pins and even napkin corners. This can be quite detrimental for your ear as small objects push earwax even deeper inside your ear canal, causing impaction. Moreover, cotton swabs and other sharp objects can potentially injure your eardrum, causing permanent damage to your ear.

3. Avoid Irrigating Your Ears under Certain Conditions. While irrigation is a good option for some people to clean up their ears, it isn’t suitable for everyone. You shouldn’t opt for irrigating your ears if you certain conditions such as diabetes, a compromised immune system, a hole in your eardrum, or tubes in your ear. Consult your doctor to see if your eligible for irrigation.

4. Don’t Use Ear Candles. Many people also use ear candles to get rid of their earwax. An ear candle is a long, cone-shaped candle inserted into the ear canal and is then fire up to pull out earwax through suction. Ear candles are pretty dangerous as the fire could potentially injure you, or you could end up getting the wax from the candle inside your ear.

When to See Your Doctor

Cleaning your ears recklessly can lead to ear infection with the rapid development of symptoms. If you experience pain or notice draining from your ears, don’t attempt to treat it yourself. The best solution for you is to make an appointment with your doctor to get a proper diagnosis and medication.

[Source: https://aginghealthytoday.com | January 5, 2021 ++]

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Gum Chewing

Pros & Cons

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The minty sweet kind of biting gum is a low-calorie approach to supplant pastries, battle longings, or manage pressure. Nowadays “solid” biting gums are even accessible in wellbeing sustenance stores, either without sugar or with some helpful fixings. Obviously, essentially in light of the fact that something is without calorie or sans sugar doesn’t mean it’s sound. Similarly, as with pretty much everything, there are advantages and disadvantages to biting gum. As with most inquiries in regards to wellbeing, it’s, in any event, conceivable to investigate the exploration and make an educated (rational) choice.

The Proven Benefits of Chewing Gum

1. Lessens Anxiety — There’s no uncertainty biting gum can offer some relief from the nerves, and this is affirmed in clinical examinations. In a little investigation of 50 youthful grown-up volunteers, the individuals who bit gum two times per day for about fourteen days evaluated their tension as altogether lower than the individuals who did not. Another examination found that in addition to the fact that chewing gums diminish tension it lessens cortisol levels. Tragically, the nervousness decreasing advantages don’t last, as the examination demonstrated no huge contrast in tension following a month. Best case scenario, information on the impacts of biting gum on feelings of anxiety seem, by all accounts, to be blended.

2. Builds Serotonin in the Brain — Since biting gum lessens pressure, it has additionally been demonstrated that it can expand serotonin, the “glad” synapse. Expanded serotonin thus mitigates the nerves that lead torment. In this way, truly, biting gum could really fill in as an agony reducer!

3. Increments Cognitive Performance — Similar investigations that discovered biting gum diminishes uneasiness likewise discovered gum chewers experience less mental weakness. Researchers are as yet exploring the association. It may be on the grounds that biting increments oxygenated blood in the cerebrum, or in light of the fact that biting signs the arrival of more insulin (since it envisions sustenance), which thus enables the mind to ingest more glucose.

4. Initiates the Vagus Nerve — Biting when all is said in done can invigorate the vagus nerve. Poor vagus nerve initiation is one of the reasons for every single present-day infection. The vagus nerve meanders between the mind and a few significant organs, for example, the heart and the stomach related framework. It controls gut development and discharge of stomach related juice, in addition to other things. It is accepted to be one of the ways that gut wellbeing and gut microscopic organisms influence the mind. This may clarify the impacts of gum biting on inclination. By actuating the vagus nerve, gum biting can likewise expand gut development and emission of stomach related catalysts. One examination recommended that biting gum could even enable new moms to reestablish gut works after C-segments.

5. Improves Dental Health — Studies recommend that without sugar gum use may decrease the dangers of dental rot. The proof is as yet hazy for other dental medical advantages (and the drawn-out presentation to acidic fixings in certain gums may really expand the dangers). It might be that biting gum essentially invigorates additional spit creation and enables the mouth to clean itself. Gum containing erythritol or xylitol may likewise execute awful oral microscopic organisms and increment the great ones.

The Flip Side of Chewing Gum

Prepared to go get a pack of gum? One moment! There are drawbacks to consider.

1. Not Effective for Weight Loss — While it appears as though keeping the mouth occupied with something low calorie would battle longings and gorging, biting gum had no noteworthy impact on weight reduction in a randomized control preliminary including overweight and large grown-ups. Biting gum fairly diminished self-detailed craving, yet generally speaking, had no impact on calorie utilization.

2. Contains (Potentially) Toxic Ingredients — There are numerous flawed fixings in biting gums (counting the natural ones you find in wellbeing nourishment stores!). Here are a couple of regular ones:

  • Gum base, a restrictive blend of 46 unique synthetic substances that the FDA permits under the name “gum base.” These substances could be regular plant tars, beeswax, or oil-based synthetics.
  • Fake cell reinforcements, for example, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). BHT is connected to malignant growth dangers, asthma, and conduct issues in youngsters.
  • Fillers, for example, powder and cornstarch (which could be hereditarily adjusted)
  • Titanium dioxide to keep up the lively white shading
  • Counterfeit sustenance hues including FD&C shading and caramel shading
  • Furthermore, obviously, fake sugars like aspartame

3. Vestiges Metabolism — Counterfeit sugars like aspartame and acesulfame K are important to influence gum to stay sweet for in excess of a couple of minutes. Indeed, even a fake sweet taste can trigger the body to discharge insulin, which can bring down glucose and compound insulin opposition. Likewise, counterfeit sugars are commonly lethal to great gut microbes.

4. “Traps” the Digestive System — As referenced, biting kicks the stomach related framework off by initiating the vagus nerve. The gut at that point secretes compounds and begins to move. This can decline some stomach related issues like stomach ulcers or bad-tempered gut disorder … a really awkward drawback.

5. Prompts Swallowing Excess Air — Gassy? Gum biting can prompt gulping more air, which can cause stomach torment and swelling.

6. Disturbs Sleep — Sound circadian mood and quality rest are significant for wellbeing, and one of the manners in which our bodies recognize day from evening time is eating. Studies have demonstrated that gum biting expands sharpness, which is something to be thankful for amid the day however not around evening time. So you should need to have that bit of gum in the first part of the day!

7. Causes Jaw Problems — Gum biting may feel better, however, our jaws aren’t made to bite constantly for quite a long time. Over the top biting can prompt tight jaw muscles, and jaw muscle irregular characteristics in the event that one has the propensity for biting just on one side. This can prompt a temporomandibular joint issue (TbMJ) and pressure cerebral pains.

8. Not Biodegradable — 80 to 90% of biting gum available is made of plastic and not biodegradable, which can display serious issues for the earth. Indeed biting gum is artificial to the point that creepy crawlies won’t eat it, yet fish and winged creatures may eat it and potentially gag.

So … What to Do Instead?

Despite the fact that biting gum has some medical advantages, at last everything about biting gum is fake. Run of the mill biting gums are made of a few hurtful counterfeit fixings, and the biting background itself can trigger negative reactions in the body. To put it plainly, the drawbacks that accompany biting gum truly exceed the advantages. Furthermore, the advantages can be increased all the more adequately in different ways. Attempt These Instead:

  • The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can help relieve pressure and lower tension.
  • Splendid light presentation (i.e., the sun) and exercise can improve serotonin levels, which improves temperament and diminishes nervousness.
  • Eating gradually and biting nourishments altogether can give the useful impacts of vagus nerve actuation without the negative impacts of biting gum.
  • Profound breathing and contemplation can help increment bloodstream to the mind and in this way improve subjective execution.
  • Improved vagus nerve movement can emerge out of singing, petitions, and different types of quiet contemplation.
  • Improved oral wellbeing can be accomplished by strategies that help great oral microbes vegetation, for example, oil pulling, custom made remineralizing toothpaste, homegrown mouthwash, and supporting dental wellbeing healthfully.

[Source: Aging Healthy Today | December 16, 2020 ++]

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Termite Checking

What, Where, & How to Look For

As soon as you notice the little creepy crawlies in your home, you know that home is infested with termites. Although the tiny creatures do not pose an immediate danger to the structures in your home, it is surely a dangerous sign in the long run. Therefore, it is important that you make an effort to find out the source and take measures to get rid of termites in your home. In the post below, you will find out find out how to check for termite infestation in your home. If you are unable to do it on your own, it is a good idea to seek professional service.

What Will You Need? If you are trying to check for termites in your home, you don’t need a special gear but some of the things that will make your job easier include the following.

  • Flash light
  • Flat blade screwdriver
  • Gloves
  • Hammer
  • Ladder (for inspection of ceiling)
  • And it is best to have a coverall.

Where to Look for? Termites can be found in a number of places in your home. So have provided you with a list of all the potential places in your home that can be home to termites as well.

  • Walls outside the house
  • Attic floor
  • Cracked foundation and slab

Some of the places that demand special attention and are more susceptible to pest infestation include the following.

  • Wooden floors
  • Ceilings
  • Wallpaper bulges (if any)
  • Places in your house where you notice leaks (termites love moisture)
  • Walls around wooden structures such as windows and doors
  • And any other wooden structure in your house including your furniture.

How to Go About it? – Inspection Technique

Ideally you should go for a termite inspection every year even if you don’t find any crawling termites in your home. Termites when left unnoticed can cause severe damage to your home. Let’s take a look at how to go about termite inspection at home.

  • Before you jump start into inspection, make sure you use the right gear to cover yourself. You should ideally use gloves and coverall to protect your skin from any possible allergic reaction.
  • Now with a flash light and a hammer in your hand, start the inspection from the most susceptible sites. Using the hammer, tap all the wooden surfaces in your house. One important thing to keep in mind is to beware of the sound as you tap the surface. If you listen a hollow sound as you tap, this might be an indication that the site has termite infestation. Professionals use specialized equipment such moisture meter and thermal imaging camera for a thorough inspection. But since most people don’t have these equipment at home, they can use a fat headed screw driver to probe. If the screwdriver easily gets into the surface, then the surface has been eaten out by the termites.
  • In all, to check for termite infestation, make sure you tap all wooden surfaces in your house. If you hear a hollow sound, this means your house is infested. Also as you probe the surface using a screwdriver only to see translucent, moving creatures, know that this is what you were looking for and take adequate measures to get rid of the termites.

[Source: Home Guide Plan | June 14, 2020 ++]

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Vocabulary

Some Words to Enhance Yours

  • Abrogation [ ab-ruh-gey-shuhn ] — the act or an instance of abrogating, or repealing.
  • Acquisitive [ uh-kwiz-i-tiv ] — tending or seeking to acquire and own, often greedily; eager to get wealth, possessions, etc.
  • Copious [ koh-pee-uhs ] — large in quantity or number; abundant; plentiful.
  • Demarcate [ dih-mahr-keyt ] — to determine or mark off the boundaries or limits of.
  • Dingy [ din-jee ] — of a dark, dull, or dirty color or aspect; lacking brightness or freshness.
  • Gelid [ jel-id ] — very cold; icy.
  • Juxtapose [ juhk-stuh-pohz ] — to place close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.
  • Lethargic [ luh-thahr-jik ] — affected by lethargy; drowsy; sluggish; apathetic.
  • Milieu [ mil-yoo ] — surroundings, especially of a social or cultural nature.
  • Punctilious [ puhngk-til-ee-uhs ] — extremely attentive to punctilios; strict or exact in the observance of the formalities or amenities of conduct or actions; showing great attention to detail or correct behavior.
  • Rambunctious [ ram-buhngk-shuhs ] — difficult to control or handle; wildly boisterous
  • Sisyphean [ sis-uh-fee-uhn ] — endless and unavailing, as labor or a task.
  • Tyro [ tahy-roh ] — a beginner in learning anything; novice.
  • Zealot [ zel-uht ] a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals.

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News of the Weird

Jan 01 thru 15, 2021

Battery Alert – Police in Corvallis, Oregon, said Dylan Milota was high on marijuana when he crashed the 2019 Tesla S he was driving at more than 100 mph into a utility pole on Nov. 17, breaking the pole and spraying hundreds of small batteries through the windows of two nearby residences.

Tesla S Battery Module

One landed on a bed, starting a fire in the bedsheets, KMTR reported. A tire from the car struck the second story of a nearby apartment building so forcefully it broke water pipes inside the wall, destroying the bathroom on the other side and causing flooding in the lower level, police said. Citizens were warned not to pick up any stray batteries, which can stay hot for up to 24 hours and release toxic fumes. Milota fled on foot but was quickly apprehended and charged with various offenses. [KMTR, 11/19/2020]

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Moose Lickers — “Do not let moose lick your car,” say the flashing electronic signs along roads in Jasper (Alberta) National Park, where park spokesman Steve Young told CNN: “(Moose are) obsessed with salt. … They usually get it from salt lakes in the park, but now they realized they can also get road salt that splashes onto cars.” Officials say if moose become accustomed to licking cars, they’ll lose their fear of vehicles, putting the animals in danger. In Jasper, where drivers often stop to get photos of the moose, officials recommend driving away if the animals start to approach. [CNN, 11/22/2020]

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Hand Sanitizer — College student Benjamin LaRose of Millis, Massachusetts, is recovering from third-degree burns he suffered at an outdoor party with friends this fall when someone used hand sanitizer as an accelerant in the fire pit they were gathered around, Boston25 reported. “It was rather sudden how quick it reacted,” LaRose said, “very much like napalm,” catching his leg and shorts on fire and requiring skin grafts to treat the burns. LaRose’s pediatrician, Dr. Lester Hartman, warned of the dangers of using hand sanitizer and then being exposed to open flames: “Alcohol is very volatile and explosive … and people that are doing a barbecue or even lighting a cigarette or lighting a candle” need to let the alcohol evaporate first. Or, experts say, use soap and water. [Boston25, 10/5/2020]

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COVID-19 lockdown rules – French police in Lannion, Brittany, became suspicious when they spotted a man lurking near a parked car at a time when France’s COVID-19 lockdown rules required him to be at home on Nov. 20. Upon questioning, the 39-year-old unnamed man produced the legally required “attestation,” including his full name, the time he left home and his written-in reason for being out: to “smash a guy’s face in.” Local police chief Daniel Kerdraon said, “He was trying to fulfill the letter of the law, in his own way,” The Guardian reported, “but we told him his reason for going out was not valid.” He was fined not only for violating the curfew but also for being drunk in public. [The Guardian11/23/2020]

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Compelling Explanations — Holly Venderley, 20, of Bloomington, Indiana, told park rangers that she knew Mount Rushmore National Memorial was closed, and she knew she wasn’t allowed to climb the South Dakota monument — which is why she did it at night. The Rapid City Journal reported that a ranger monitoring security cameras saw a flashlight’s beam moving along the slope of broken rocks just beneath George Washington on 3 JAN and ran to the area, where he saw Venderley climbing to the base of Washington’s lapel, about 200 feet up. The ranger demanded she get down, which she did. Venderley was sober and cooperative, and the next day she was fined $1,250 after pleading guilty to climbing the monument in federal court. [Rapid City Journal, 1/4/2021]

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Creme de la Weird — Ending a dispute that began in 2014, Judge Luo Shengli of the Beijing Xicheng District People’s Court ruled in late December that a man identified only as Tian and his family must leave the hospital room they had been squatting in for six years. Tian had undergone a medical procedure at the hospital and spent a few days recovering there, accompanied by his family, but at discharge, Tian disputed the hospital’s bill and refused to leave, Oddity Central reported. Tian’s parents settled in with him, bringing pots and pans, groceries and other personal items from home. Over the years, the hospital took the family to court on multiple occasions and in 2019 even waived its fees in an effort to expel them, but the family countersued. In his ruling, the judge found the family was entitled to compensation of about $73,000, which they accepted, and they were taken home in a hospital ambulance. [Oddity Central, 1/5/2021]

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Unsocial Media — Caleb Burczyk, 29, of Williston, North Dakota, was arrested and charged with burglary and terrorizing on Dec. 26 for kicking in the front door of a former co-worker’s home after the man apparently failed to answer Burczyk’s Facebook friend requests, according to court documents. “Accept my friend request or I’m going to murder you,” read one message, according to the affidavit, and another message said Burczyk would “come at” Thomas if he didn’t accept. The Smoking Gun reported Burczyk pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for an April appearance in District Court. [The Smoking Gun, 12/31/2020]

[Source: https://www.uexpress.com/news-of-the-weird | January 13, 2020 ++]

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Have You Heard or Seen?

Humorous Stories (1) | Military Humor 14 | Latest Satirical Cartoons

Humorous stories (1)

Teacher: Why are you late?

Student: There was that old man who lost a hundred dollar bill…

Teacher: Were you helping him to search for it? How nice of you.

Student: Actually I was sitting on it, waiting for him to give up searching and leave.

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When I was single, I kept praying to find a good husband until I found my husband. My husband never prayed to have a good wide, so he got me.

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Q. If your wife is shouting at the front door, and your dog is barking at the back door, who should you let in first?

A. The dog of course. At least he will be quiet after you let him in.

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Husband calls his wife. She picks up and angrily says: – “I told you I’ll be back in 5 minutes, so sop calling me every half hour”.

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At the expensive restaurant:

Guy: – “So lets go to my place next”.

Girl: – “Do you really think that you can go to bed with me, just for taking me out to a fancy dinner and a couple of drinks in a fancy restaurant?”

Guy: – “Oh what are u talking about? I wouldn’t even think about this. Would ou please give us two separate bills?

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He told her: – I’m not rich, and I have no fancy cars, and I don’t own a company, and I don’t have a big house like my friend John, but I truly love you”.

She got touched, she hugged him very tight, started crying and whispered to him – “If you really love me, then introduce me to your friend John”.

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Wife calls her husband and tells him: – The car doesn’t start. Maye there’s water in the engine”.

Husband asks: – “Since when do you know about cars and mechanics? Where is it now?

Wife replies: – “It parked at the bottom of the lake”.

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Wife: – “I’m so happy. I was at the doctor rand he told me that, for a 40-year-old woman, I still have the breasts of an 18-year-old girl”

Husband: – “And what did he say about your 40-year-old ass?”

Wife: – “We didn’t really get the chance to talk about you during our conversation”.

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A man went to a shop to buy a gift for his daughter. He asked the shop assistant: – “How much does a Barbie doll cost?”

The shop assistant replied: – “Barbie Goes to the Gym costs $10, Barbie Goes Shopping costs $10, Barbie Goes to the Beach costs $10, Barbie Goes Skiing costs $10, and Divorced Barbie cost $200”

Surprised the man asked: – “Why does Divorced Barbie cost $200 when all the other ones just cost $10?”

The shop assistant replied: – “That’s because Divorced Barbie comes with Ken’s house, Ken’s car and Ken’s boat”.

Military Humor 14

1. How many Air Force pilots does it take to change a light bulb? One. He just holds it while the world revolves around him.

2. How do you play Air Force Bingo? “A-10… B-52… F-16!”

3. What’s the difference between God and an Air Force pilot? God doesn’t think he’s a fighter pilot.

4. Emergency management: “Always remember that if one engine fails on a dual-engine plane, you’ll still have enough power to safely reach the scene of the crash.”

5. Air Force Fact: The only time you can have too much fuel is when you’re on fire.

6. An Airman and a Marine walk into the restroom at the same time.

  • The Airman finishes up and heads out.
  • When the Marine is finished, he washes his hands and then catches up to the Airman.
  • “Hey, buddy. In the Marines, they teach us to wash our hands after we take a leak.
  • ” The airman responds, “In the Air Force, they teach us not to pee on our hands.”

7. What do pilots and air traffic controllers have in common? If pilots screw up, they die. If air traffic controllers screw up, pilots also die.

8. It’s 1955 at a SAC B-36 base and an F-86 pilot is requesting landing instructions.

  • He is low on fuel and asks for priority.
  • The tower tells him he is second in line behind a B-36 with an engine out.
  • The Jet pilot’s response, “Ahh, the dreaded 9 engine landing.”

9. How do you know when your date with a fighter pilot is half over? He says, “Enough about me. Want to hear about my plane?”

10. An F-16 comes careening down the runway. It’s anything but smooth — fishtailing and leaving a line of burnt rubber and sparks behind it.

Tower: “Need any assistance, Airman?”

Pilot: “I don’t know, Tower, we’re not done crashing yet!”

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Latest Satirical Cartoons


Thought of the Week

Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional

Roger Crawford

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