MESSAGE FROM A READER: THE VA UNLAWFULLY DENIES VETERANS HEALTH CARE

 

MESSAGE FROM A READER:

THE VA UNLAWFULLY DENIES VETERANS HEALTH CARE

How the VA unlawfully denies veterans healthcare
By Dana Montalto


A veteran with a fever and hacking cough that suggest a possible coronavirus infection tries to make a doctor’s appointment, only to be turned away by a receptionist who personally decides the would-be patient can’t see a physician.
A former service member and sexual assault survivor at risk of suicide is denied access to mental health services by a bureaucratic gatekeeper stationed at the therapist’s front desk.


These are two of thousands of examples of veterans seeking the Veterans Affairs healthcare they’re legally entitled to — and being wrongly refused it. This is due to a pervasive misunderstanding, and misapplication, of the rules regarding other-than-honorable discharges.
Among veterans this refusal is based on what is known as having “bad paper.” The “bad paper” designation can be based on minor misconduct, such as being late to morning formation or showing disrespect to a superior.


Being turned away is an institutional shortcoming that can be easily remedied — not by an act of Congress, or time-consuming changes to federal rules, but instead through administrative corrective steps that can be taken at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
An estimated 400,000 former service members are at risk of wrongly being denied VA healthcare and other benefits, according to a 2020 study by OutVets, a group of LGBTQ+ military veterans.


It showed that gay and lesbian veterans and victims of military sexual assault are disproportionately at risk. So are veterans who served in the Navy or Marines, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Once burdened with “bad paper,” such veterans are more likely to be homeless and suffer mental health problems, and are at greater risk of suicide.
Here’s how the denial of care happens. Veterans who receive other-than-honorable discharges — a designation applied to roughly 7% of them since 1980 — can still qualify for VA healthcare and are legally entitled to individualized eligibility reviews and written notification of the determination.
Though that group includes some with bad conduct and dishonorable discharges, which can involve the commission of serious crimes while in uniform, more than 80% of them bear the burden of an administrative determination made without full due process.
The majority of “bad paper” veterans includes many of the estimated 100,000 LGBTQ service members discharged for purported misconduct between the end of World War II and the 2011 official repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that banned gay people from openly serving in the military.


Though there should be consequences for military misconduct, they shouldn’t include an across-the-board denial of healthcare — especially if a person has a service-related disability, is experiencing homelessness or dealing with the effects of military sexual trauma or PTSD.
Yet the OutVets study found that VA gatekeepers in more than a dozen states — including California, Florida, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas — incorrectly told “bad paper” veterans they were ineligible for benefits.


In one case, a Vietnam veteran endured untreated PTSD for more than 50 years after he was wrongly told he didn’t qualify for VA healthcare. The situation was rectified only after a pro bono lawyer intervened. Just as no one should need a lawyer to apply for a driver’s license, or enroll a child in public school, a veteran shouldn’t need an advocate solely to access VA healthcare for which they qualify.
A new report released last week by Legal Services Corp.’s Veterans Task Force further documents the lingering stain of “bad paper” on veterans.
The report notes that, often because of service-related mental health conditions and other hardships, these veterans are often in greater need of supportive services. Yet their “bad paper” status prevents them from receiving the vital assistance they need to recover and reintegrate into civilian society.


In response to the OutVets report, VA officials described an “updated enrollment system” that would better identify and track those with other-than-honorable discharges. Such promises aren’t enough.


The VA must also work to overhaul the training, guidance and oversight of its staff and improve how it communicates with veterans. Its outreach to those who have been unlawfully refused care should include social media campaigns and easy-to-understand letters that outline who is eligible to receive care.


Congress and the military have started to take notice of the need for reform. In April, a federal court in Connecticut approved a class-action lawsuit settlement requiring the Army to reconsider thousands of less-than-honorable discharges issued over the last 20 years after failing to properly account for whether mental health conditions played a factor in those discharges. A similar class-action suit on behalf of Navy and Marine Corps veterans is pending.


Military service members dedicate their lives to defending our country. Once they return home, they shouldn’t have to fight for access to justice and basic benefits earned from their selfless service.


Dana Montalto is a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Veterans Legal Clinic, which published the OutVets report “Turned Away” with Veterans Legal Services.

BIOGRAPHY OF DANA MONTALTO

Dana Montalto is an Attorney and Clinical Instructor in the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. She represents veterans with less-than-honorable discharges in seeking military discharge upgrades and federal and state veteran benefits. Dana also founded and directs the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership, which connects veterans who wrongfully received less-than-honorable discharges with pro bono attorneys seeking to give back to those who served. She authored Underserved: How VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans with Bad Paper on behalf of Swords to Plowshares and the National Veterans Legal Services Program and co-authored With Malice Toward None: Revisiting the Historical & Legal Basis for Excluding Veterans from “Veteran” Services, 122 Penn. St. L. Rev. 69 (2017).

Dana received her bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Wellesley College and her law degree from Yale Law School, where she participated in the Veterans Legal Services Clinic and the International Refugee Assistance Project. She joined the Legal Services Center in 2014 as an Arthur Liman Public Interest Fellow after completing a clerkship for the Honorable F. Dennis Saylor IV of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

DAWG SAYS: THIS WAS SENT TO ME FROM A READER AND WAS FACT CHECKED AS AN ORIGINAL BY THIS ATTORNEY. ANYONE WITH ANYMORE INFORMATION OR AN EXPERIENCE PLEASE CONTACT ME.


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US REMOVING TROOPS IN MIDDLE EAST

US REMOVING TROOPS IN MIDDLE EAST

US announces further drawdown of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq before Biden takes office

US REMOVING TROOPS IN MIDDLE EAST BY JANUARY

Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller announced Tuesday that the US will withdraw thousands more US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq by Jan 15, 2021 — just days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, confirming plans first reported by CNN on Monday.

Miller said the withdrawal of 2,500 troops from both countries “does not equate change” to US policies or objectives.

Currently there are approximately 4,500 US troops in Afghanistan and 3,000 troops in Iraq.

A senior defense official said the announcement is “consistent” with what President Donald Trump has publicly announced earlier this year and is “consistent with his promise to the American People.”

A series of sweeping changes at the Pentagon last week that started with the firing of Defense Secretary of Mark Esper saw Trump loyalists installed in influential. Knowledgeable sources told CNN’s Jake Tapper last week that the White House-directed purge at the Defense Department may have been motivated by the fact that Esper and his team were pushing back on a premature withdrawal from Afghanistan, which would be carried out before the required conditions on the ground were met.

A COLLABERATIVE DECISION

The senior defense official claimed that “there is no reduction in capability” as a result of the drawdown, calling the reduction a “collaborative” decision while refusing to address a recent Pentagon memo that said conditions on the ground in Afghanistan did not warrant additional drawdowns.

Prior to his firing, Esper sent a classified memo to the White House asserting that it was the unanimous recommendation of the chain of command that the US not draw down its troop presence in Afghanistan any further until conditions were met, sources familiar with the memo tell CNN.

The assessment from the chain of command — Esper, US Central Command leader Marine Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie and commander of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan Gen. Austin Miller — stated that the necessary conditions had not been met. Others agreed, sources have told CNN.

Earlier on Tuesday, a newly released report from the Pentagon inspector general said the terrorist group al Qaeda is supportive of the Trump administration’s plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan as well the US agreement with the Taliban, adding that the Taliban carried out attacks on US and coalition personnel since it was signed.

“The DIA reported that al-Qaeda leaders support the agreement because it does not require the Taliban to publicly renounce al-Qaeda and the deal includes a timeline for the United States and coalition forces to withdraw—accomplishing one of al-Qaeda’s main goals,” the report said, referring to the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.


 

VETERANS THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE

VETERANS THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE

History of Veterans Day


Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities. This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect

VETERANS THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

CONGRESS’S DECLARATION

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

FIRST PROCLAMATION

Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first “Veterans Day Proclamation” which stated: “In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible.”

President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. From left: Alvin J. King, Wayne Richards, Arthur J. Connell, John T. Nation, Edward Rees, Richard L. Trombla, Howard W. Watts

On that same day, President Eisenhower sent a letter to the Honorable Harvey V. Higley, Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), designating him as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee.

In 1958, the White House advised VA’s General Counsel that the 1954 designation of the VA Administrator as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee applied to all subsequent VA Administrators. Since March 1989 when VA was elevated to a cabinet level department, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has served as the committee’s chairman.

The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.

The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.

NOVEMBER 11th WAS DECIDED

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

DAWG SAYS: ALWAYS HONOR OUR VETERENS PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE- THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR SERVICE.


AMERICAN RESCUED BY SEAL TEAM SIX


American hostage rescued in West Africa by SEAL Team 6 in daring raid

An American hostage has been rescued in Nigeria by SEAL Team 6 in a daring raid, Fox News has learned.

NO CASUALTIES BY AMERICANS

Without suffering any casualties, the elite commandos parachuted into Nigeria and rescued Philip Walton, 27, who had been taken hostage by armed men last week, officials told Fox News.

“We had to get him before any potential trade or sale,” one U.S. official said.

President Donald Trump tweeted out a show of support, calling the SEAL team members “brave warriors,” and saying that “our nation salutes the courageous soldiers behind the daring nighttime rescue operation.” In a separate tweet, Trump described the operation as a “big win” for the elite force.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told “Fox & Friends” that the decision to pull the trigger on the operation was “tough,” but that ultimately the president prioritizes the safety of American citizens.

“They’re very tough ones to make because … it has to be conducted just perfectly,” McEnany said.

She added: “A lot of keeping things quiet until that moment when you get the go-ahead, and I was talking to some of our soldiers and they said to me, ‘We pray to get the green light.'”

Walton was kidnapped in Niger, where he lives. The rescue took place in northern Nigeria, which neighbors Niger, early Saturday, officials said.

MANY CAPTORS KILLED

The SEALs rescued Walton after killing a number of his captors. SEAL Team 6 was chosen for the operation because they are responsible for West Africa, Fox News has learned.

“U.S. forces conducted a hostage rescue operation during the early hours of 31 October in Northern Nigeria to recover an American citizen held hostage by a group of armed men,” Jonathan Hoffman, chief Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

“No U.S military personnel were injured during the operation,” Hoffman added. “We appreciate the support of our international partners in conducting this operation.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the government made good on its pledge to safely return all American citizens taken captive.

“We delivered on that commitment late last night in Nigeria, where some of our bravest and most skilled warriors rescued a U.S. citizen after a group of armed men took him hostage across the border in Niger,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“Thanks to the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our military, the support of our intelligence professionals, and our diplomatic efforts, the hostage will be reunited with his family. We will never abandon any American taken hostage,” he said.

DAWG SAYS: THESE GUYS ARE THE REAL AMERICAN BADASS’S


 

IRAN: BOUNTIES ON AMERICAN SOLDIERS

IRAN: BOUNTIES ON AMERICAN SOLDIERS

Intelligence: Iran paid bounties for targeting US troops

REPORTS NOT OFFICIALLY CONFIRMED YET

U.S. intelligence reportedly indicates Iran’s government offered bounties to Taliban fighters to target U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

A Pentagon briefing document said a foreign government paid the Haqqani network,

Led by a top Taliban leader, to attack Bagram Air Base last December, CNN reported.

While the government in question is classified in the memo,

Two sources familiar with the intelligence told the network it was in reference to Iran.

Four U.S. personnel and more than 75 others were injured in the Bagram attack,

IRAN: BOUNTIES ON AMERICAN SOLDIERS TO TALIBAN

Which occurred less than a month before the U.S. killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani,

The commander of Iran’s Quds Force, in a drone strike in Baghdad.

Both a current administration official and a former senior official told CNN,

That Iran-Taliban ties were cited as part of the justification for the strike against Soleimani.

In March 2020, the Defense Department reportedly made the decision not to take any specific action in response to the intelligence,

To avoid complicating peace talks with the Taliban.

National Security Council officials recommended against a strike,

And also said the escalating coronavirus pandemic would likely limit the Afghan government’s options for a diplomatic response, according to the network.

The briefing document stated that the Bagram attack likely qualified for compensation from the foreign government,

“based on the nature of the attack and agreed upon bounties.”

Although U.S. intelligence said the Haqqani network had reason to target the base without a financial motivator,

CNN noted that the document states the alleged funding “probably incentivizes future high-profile attacks on US and Coalition forces.”

DAWG SAYS: IRAN PAYS FOR AMERICAN SOLDIERS KILLED,

BUT YET THE PRESIDENT IS WIDELY CRITICIZED FOR TAKING OUT THE IRANIAN GENERAL BEHIND IT.


PENTAGON: SEND TROOPS HOME

Pentagon orders remaining active-duty troops to leave DC area

PENTAGON: SEND TROOPS HOME: The Pentagon will be sending back the remaining 900 active-duty troops who were sent to the Washington, D.C., area to potentially respond to civil unrest, and they are expected to start heading back to their home bases, a U.S. official told Reuters.

The official said on condition of anonymity that U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper had made the decision and the troops would be heading back to Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Drum in New York.


JUDGE BLOCKS PENTAGON/MICROSOFT CONTRACT…….

$10 BILLION CONTRACT FOR

MILITARY COMPUTING NETWORK

A federal judge on Thursday blocked the Pentagon from going forward with a $10 billion contract for a military computing network while Amazon makes its case that President Donald Trump interfered to send the contract to Microsoft to harm Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

The sealed motion from Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith temporarily blocks the Pentagon from going forward with the contract while Amazon’s challenge plays out in court. The fight is before the Court of Federal Claims, a special court in Washington, D.C. that hears suits against the government, particularly disputes over the award of federal contracts.

The Pentagon as seen from air from Air Force One.

Amazon Web Services filed the suit in November, challenging the award of a contract to develop the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, to Microsoft. The 103-page complaint claims that Amazon was the best company for the job, but that Trump stepped in to direct the contract to its top competitor out of personal animus towards Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.

In seeking to block the contract from going forward while the case is litigated, Amazon argued that its claims are likely to succeed and that allowing Microsoft to start work would effectively prevent Amazon from being made whole if it does prevail.

“This is not the typical bid protest where a disappointed offeror complains about subjective judgments made by the government regarding the relative qualities of technical solutions,” Amazon Web Services said in its memorandum in support of its motion for preliminary injunction. “Here, DoD placed its thumb firmly on the source selection scale and skewed the evaluation in Microsoft’s favor.”

Trump has long been critical of Bezos and his companies, particularly the Washington Post, which he sees as treating him unfairly. Amazon and Microsoft were the finalist candidates for the contract, which the Pentagon ultimately awarded to Microsoft in October after Trump said in July that he was “very seriously” looking at the contract following complaints about the award process and Amazon.

As is common for cases before the Court of Federal Claims, where decisions often hinge on sensitive business information, the parties will have until Feb. 27 to file proposed redactions to Campbell-Smith’s sealed opinion before it becomes public.

Amazon Web Services is represented by Kevin Mullen of Morrison & Foerster. Mullen and Amazon Web Services did not immediately return requests for comment on the decision.

Lt. Col. Robert Carver, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, said the agency is disappointed with the setback but confident it will ultimately prevail in the case.

“We are disappointed in today’s ruling and believe the actions taken in this litigation have unnecessarily delayed implementing DoD’s modernization strategy and deprived our warfighters of a set of capabilities they urgently need,” Carver said in a statement. “However, we are confident in our award of the JEDI Cloud contract to Microsoft and remain focused on getting this critical capability into the hands of our warfighters as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The Justice Department declined to comment on the ruling.

BOWE BERGDAHL TO ADMIT DESERTION…….

DECIDED TO PLEA GUILTY, FACES PRISON

10-7-2017


Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for half a decade after abandoning his Afghanistan post, is expected to plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, two individuals with knowledge of the case said.

Bergdahl’s decision to plead guilty rather than face trial marks another twist in an eight-year drama that caused the nation to wrestle with difficult questions of loyalty, negotiating with hostage takers and America’s commitment not to leave its troops behind. President Donald Trump has called Bergdahl a “no-good traitor” who “should have been executed.”

The decision by the 31-year-old Idaho native leaves open whether he will return to captivity for years – this time in a U.S. prison – or receive a lesser sentence that reflects the time the Taliban held him under brutal conditions. He says he had been caged, kept in darkness, beaten and chained to a bed.

Bergdahl could face up to five years on the desertion charge and a life sentence for misbehavior.

Freed three years ago, Bergdahl had been scheduled for trial in late October. He had opted to let a judge rather than a military jury decide his fate, but a guilty plea later this month will spare the need for a trial.

Sentencing will start on Oct. 23, according to the individuals with knowledge of the case. They weren’t authorized to discuss the case and demanded anonymity. During sentencing, U.S. troops who were seriously wounded searching for Bergdahl in Afghanistan are expected to testify, the individuals said.

It was unclear whether prosecutors and Bergdahl’s defense team had reached any agreement ahead of sentencing about how severe a penalty prosecutors will recommend.