Are we headed towards a possible military confrontation against ISIS OR Russia?
Jessie Jane Duff
Financial Aid for Prisoners, is this really necessary?
Aren’t they supposed to be PAYING THEIR debt to society?
When will the officials finally announce we have jihadists in the US?
We have witnessed years of domestic terrorist attacks – from a uniformed Arkansas Army recruiter murdered in 2009, Nidal Hasan murdered 13 and wounded 30 at Ft Hood also in 2009, a New Jersey teen murdered in June 2014 for revenge of military attacks, and just yesterday in Oklahoma a woman was beheaded in America’s heartland at her workplace for refusing to convert to Islam.
We have many calling out that there are jihadists in the United States NOW.
A new English-language Al Qaeda magazine features a how-to article on making car bombs and suggests terror targets in the United States, including casinos in Las Vegas, oil tankers and military colleges, and implies that an attack is imminent.(http://townhall.com/tipsheet/leahbarkoukis/2014/08/28/al-qaeda-magazine-hints-of-looming-attack-n1884524)
This magazine teaches the lone wolf jihadist, how to create pressure cooker bombs, like the Boston Marathon bombers used. It features a 9 page article “How to build a bomb in the kitchen of your mom.” It encourages home grown terrorists to detonate bombs in crowded places such as New York Times Square, outside Vegas casinos, military colleges, and a defense contractor in California. The article states specific stores to bomb in Britain and to attack on Fridays during prayers so that Muslims won’t be killed.
The Administration has failed to secure peace in the region as we have seen with the vacuum ISIS was quick to fill in Iraq. We have no coherent, long term strategy to deal with the growing ISIS threat. The unrest in Iraq, Syria, Israel, and Libya and all across the region is a result of projection and weakness this Administration has telegraphed.
If I had one thing to say to the President: Mr. President, leaving Iraq didn’t mean the threat was over. Your enemy will decide when they won’t attack you anymore. Walking away, quitting, or announcing we won’t put boots on the ground is not a strategy. The enemy has a say in killing us.
If the US military is going to do something, it needs to be free to do it right. These slow “drip drip drip” responses by the White House will NEVER drown ISIS and similar terrorist groups, it will only prove our hesitancy to stand against threats to our freedom and prevent genocide against innocent civilians.
American’s have largely seen bombings from afar – we are on the verge of seeing exactly what has happened overseas now on our own shores. The horrific views we’ve seen of jihadists killing all over the world, now is an imminent threat here on a regular basis.
We have limited options now for the use of force and no coherent long term strategy to deal with the ISIS threat. ISIS/ISIL has made it clear: they don’t fear us in any way.
EVIDENCE OF DOZENS of U.S. veterans dying as they waited months for appointments and treatment are just the tip of the iceberg – and the real number of deaths could be in the thousands – according to a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who closely follows the issue.
Jessie Jane Duff spent 20 years in the Marines, rising to the rank of gunnery sergeant. She is now on the organizing committee at Concerned Veterans for America. While the government is essentially admitting to about 40 deaths in Phoenix due to long waits and dozens more facilities are under investigation, Duff said the real number of veteran deaths due to the VA bureaucracy in recent years is exponentially higher.
“Yes, I do estimate it’s in the thousands,” she said. “Let’s go to the backlog that they had. Fifty-three veterans died a day just waiting on their benefits in 2011. The VA itself has those numbers. We’re talking about egregious mismanagement, a culture of corruption that was allowing all these executives to give the impression that they had 14 days of waiting time, not months and months of waiting time, so they could get bonuses. So I expect it will be several hundred, if not thousands.”
Duff said another reason the numbers are likely to soar is because of systemic bureaucracy that grinds the system to a crawl. “In Albuquerque, N.M., veterans were waiting over four months with gangrene, heart disease, brain tumors. I didn’t even know you could wait that long with any of those predicaments. In Harlingen, Tex., in 2010, they decided that men had to come back with three screenings that came out positive before they could get in for a colonoscopy. By that time, it was a Stage Four cancer,” said Duff, who elaborated further on some of the red tape veterans are forced to navigate in Albuquerque. “It came out that they had eight cardiologists on staff. But only three would work a day, and they would see only two patients per day. I’m not sure if that was two patients per cardiologist or two total. Regardless, the report I read determined that they were seeing in a week what most medical facilities could see in two days,” she said.
“What disappoints me the most out of this is that it was deliberate. I used to think it was just mismanagement. I’ve been reporting on mismanagement for the past year. Now I realize it was all deliberate and it was all in the name of an almighty dollar,” she said. “I’m so shocked and saddened to know that executives at the highest level were training their employees to hide numbers, training their employees to make it look like veterans were only waiting 14 days.”
Duff said a final death count may prove difficult since many vets ultimately gave up on the VA system and sought care in the private sector. Duff said the most troubling aspect of this story is not just incompetent mismanagement but the blatant deceit perpetrated by VA officials around the nation.
Reprinted from World News Daily: http://onlinedigeditions.com/publication/?i=214566&p=11
I remember serving under President Ronald Reagan, who was my first commander in chief. Everyone old enough to remember can recall how the American hostages held by Iran were released shortly after Reagan won the election. That act taught me a big lesson: Leaders can convince the world they are serious by the way they carry themselves. A few years after the hostages were released; I had the honor of joining the Marines while Reagan was still in office.
When America’s interests were threatened by the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Reagan took swift action against Gaddafi. Again, I respected his candid and lead-from-the-front demeanor. Sadly, one has little hope that there will be a similar outcome in resolving our current Middle East conundrum.
We have to ask, how on earth did we end up on the world stage unprepared to handle our own threats made against a foreign dictator?
All military is on high alert, trying to stay prepared for the decision to perform limited attacks on Syria, if indeed that’s the order that comes down. Yet everyone who has served our country can appreciate the absolute anxiety that faces the young men and women who don’t have clear leadership from the commander in chief.
Last Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry made a clear statement that we must answer the chemical attack in Syria. He argued that the world is watching us, and expects us to engage in strikes against Syria. After hearing Kerry’s speech, an American strike appeared imminent.
But just one day later, President Obama contradicted Kerry, to the country’s complete shock. He gave an ambiguous message that we might attack, maybe in a week, or a month, but first he wanted Congressional approval. He knew that no such approval could come until Congress returned to Washington (which was still more than 10 days away), but he didn’t ask them to cut their vacations short.
I sat and stared at my television and thought, “What just happened?” At that time, we had four warships in the Mediterranean with a fifth on the way. Every Marine and sailor on those ships had to be thinking, “So are we or aren’t we doing this?” No one on active duty likes a leader who isn’t clear and comprehensive in his or her words. A commander in chief must convince us we are going into harm’s way for the right reasons; otherwise frustration and apathy can prevent success.
This begs the question: “Who is Syrian dictator’s Bashar al-Assad’s opposition?”
After all, that would effectively be the side we were joining. The answer is troubling. Two years ago, the Free Syrian Army was formed to remove Assad as president of Syria. They appeared moderate in nature and sought our support. However, we didn’t intervene at that time to help overthrow Assad. Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and a plethora of other militants filled the vacuum within Assad’s opposition. The Supreme Military Council evolved and branded themselves as moderates fighting for freedom and democracy. Unfortunately, we know now that these militants are far from “moderates” but could be more accurately characterized as terrorists by western standards. If things couldn’t get worse, a video has surfaced with Syrian rebels admitting to using chemical weapons on more than one occasion.
What’s happened in Syria is a tragedy. There are 100,000 dead. We’ve known of this carnage, and in fact we knew of chemical attacks as early as June 2013, but it wasn’t until 1,400 Syrians were killed in August that the president started considering following through on his “red line” warning.
Yet a warning isn’t a battle plan. And essentially, we don’t have a plan to replace Assad, or to make real progress in Syria, and even worse, the perception by many is we may end up being used by al Qaeda to strike Assad. There hasn’t been a strategic argument made about how to replace the current Syrian leadership and there are unanswered questions on how will we engage with Iran, Syria’s close ally, should they decide to strike Israel in retaliation to our attack.
The administration’s vague threats have sent unclear messages beyond the civil war in Syria. We have seen uprising in Egypt against President Morsi who was supported by the administration all of the way up until his overthrow on July 3. We still have unresolved terrorist attacks on our embassy and the assassination of our ambassador and four other Americans in Libya. We still face a potential nuclear threat from Iran, and Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan. The world isn’t watching us because of 1,400 dead Syrians. They are watching us because they believe we are no longer reliable and capable of decisive leadership in our foreign policy.
Congressional leaders are concerned that the limited strike the president wants to make will not deter Iran’s nuclear program or Syria’s chemical weapons program. They are right to be concerned since no one has been able to articulate any vision for how such a strike would advance our goals.
Put simply, the administration has created a strategic mess with its poor foreign policy and false threats. The result is we have projected our weakness to the world, reduced our credibility, and may put American lives at risk if we are drawn into military action over this debacle. We’ve come a long way from the surefooted, results-oriented leadership of President Reagan.
In 2008, President Obama vowed to fix the VA claims backlog. Instead, it grew 2,000 percent in just four years.
When General Eric Shinseki was confirmed as secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), he pledged to streamline the claims process. The VA promises the backlog will be resolved by 2015.
Yet, after all of these promises, there remain close to 760,000 pending claims and almost 62 percent are in the backlog.
Monday’s Washington Post reports that despite the benefits backlog, VA gave two-thirds of the claims processors $5.5 million in bonuses in 2011 despite a 155 percent increase in the claims backlog. VA employees fear the aggressive push to eliminate all year-old claims by October 1st and the entire backlog by 2015 will emphasize quantity over quality.
I served 20 years as a U.S. Marine. No medal was awarded until after a mission was complete. No bonuses were ever granted for exceptional performance. Doing our job at the highest level ensured we would see our next promotion. Yet somehow, the government agency that represents veterans rewards their employees who haven’t resolved a serious problem that faces our veterans today.
Obviously, the promises made by the President and Secretary Shinseki have been broken. The VA needs a dramatic overhaul to ensure efficiency and a reasonable turnaround for those veterans who have sacrificed so much for their country.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) realizes the VA is trying to push the claims through quickly. But we wonder if this rapid-fire method will just end up shuffling numbers from “first time claims filers” into “supplemental claims filers” as seen in their Monday Morning Workload report.
Will VA push their employees to rush through and give claims a rating to reduce the backlog, but at the expense of accuracy? This approach will only result in an increase in future appeals. It isn’t solving the problem if veterans have to file an appeal when they are assigned an unjust or inaccurate rating.
While VA has reportedly made progress in trimming the backlog, we must question how the department was able to process most of its two-year-old claims in just 60 days. If two months was all VA needed to adjudicate these claims, why did the VA let them sit for such long periods of time and create a backlog in the first place?
VA employees are working overtime to resolve the backlog, but what will happen to future claims once VA employees are taken off of mandatory overtime and returned to regular duties? Without key improvements in streamlining the process, there is no evidence that this problem won’t reveal itself again after 2015.
Funding is not the problem; the VA has the second largest budget after the Department of Defense, and Congress substantially increased investment in VA over the last five years (by an additional $25 billion). Yet the department has failed to automate its services and has continued to give out bonuses to senior managers.
When it comes to ensuring the VA has complete success eliminating the benefits backlog, the only numbers that matter are zero and 2015. This means the backlog must be at zero by 2015, just as VA leaders promised.
Does the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) require a distinct camouflage pattern to excel on the battlefield? I doubt it. Nevertheless, the USMC adopted its own pattern around 2002, when I was on active duty, in keeping with a trend for distinctive camouflage patterns among the military branches.
Since 2002, two camouflage patterns have grown into TEN camouflage patterns between all military branches of service. Many of the patterns and fabric have proven to be ineffective in field/ship environments. Creating multiple camouflage uniforms has turned into a perfect example of how rampant duplication in the Pentagon leads to more wasteful government spending.
Today, Congressional budget-watchers are questioning the military’s expanding catalog of camouflage patterns, Timothy Homan reports at Bloomberg News. That’s good news for those of us who care about intelligent and effective spending in the Pentagon.
While this may sound like a small issue, it’s important to note that small spending issues can quickly turn into millions—or even billions—of wasted taxpayer dollars.
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), “the Pentagon spent about $300 million procuring new camouflage uniforms in fiscal 2011 and more than $10 million since 2002 developing different designs,” Homan notes.
“The Army alone may save an estimated $82 million if another branch worked with it to develop a new camouflage design, the GAO said in a report published in September 2012,” the Bloomberg report notes. “The government watchdog agency also said that if the Army selects a new design it would cost as much as $4 billion over five years to replace existing ones and the associated protective gear.”
The GAO report prompted the effort by lawmakers to cut spending and costs. With sequestration, budget cuts and defense employees taking furlough days, the Pentagon can’t continue wasteful and frivolous spending. Thus, Congress is taking note of wasteful spending, like the proliferation of camouflage patterns.
But we can expect push back from the service branches. For example, Marine Corps Sergeant Major Mike Barrett said earlier this year there is a reason Marines want to look distinctive on the battlefield: “Like our dress blues, the [combat uniform] is a visible indicator of our identity as United States Marines, globally,” he said. “It’s part of our Corps’ identity.”
That’s a typical response from too many within the Department of Defense: “Don’t touch mine.”
The fact is that there is no evidence that the pattern of the USMC’s “MARPAT” camouflage pattern alone enhanced a single Marine’s performance on the battlefield at any point in the last 10 years.
If the distinct “Marines” patch sewn over the left breast pocket isn’t enough to identify who we are, then we’ve forgotten what makes the Marines the unique service they were long before they had their own distinct camouflage pattern. After all, the Marines thrived for more than two centuries without this unnecessary frill.
Military men and women don’t always like change. When I was on active duty, I witnessed firsthand that resistance to change. When Marines had to sew name tags and branch of service onto their uniforms, many protested. Some Marines said the name tags made their uniform look like those of the Army, which had the tags over each breast pocket.
And when the new digital uniform were introduced, many non-commissioned officers protested, since the new uniform wouldn’t require ironing or starch to maintain creases. They actually believed the pressed uniform was the mark of a professional Marine. Any Marine that didn’t press or have their camouflage uniform dry cleaned and starched was considered a “[expletive]-bird.” Looking back, I have to laugh. Not one of us carried an iron and can of starch in our pack when we went to the field.
As I often heard as a Marine, “Choose your hill to die on.” The camouflage problem is one of many expensive and unnecessary items blended into our bloated defense budget. It’s time to get serious and knock off the territorial fashion statements. Unique service pride should not come at a cost that rests on the backs of hard-working taxpayers.
Jessie Jane Duff gives her impression of the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal and the impact on his campaign for NY City mayor.
Jessie Jane Duff served 20 years on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps and retired a Gunnery Sergeant and is on the Organizing Committee for Concerned Veterans for America. Jessie provides political analysis on national issues.
It’s tough to know anymore what is real and what is just a PR stunt when it comes to sequestration cuts.
Last week, ABC News reported furloughs are coming to our nation’s premier military hospital, Walter Reed National Medical Center.
There is little information on what exactly these cuts will include, but plenty of questions: Are the furloughs for the nurses caring for wounded warriors or are they for support staff, janitors, and cafeteria workers? What will these cuts mean for patients and those waiting for treatment?
Walter Reed has a month to implement cuts and says it’s not yet able to say exactly how many hospital employees are being furloughed — or how this will impact patient care.
The bottom line is it won’t hurt our wounded warriors if a hospital administrator is furloughed for one day a week for a few months. But if they decide to furlough people directly involved with patient care, it might and it will be obvious that Walter Reed is making cuts with politics in mind, to “hurt as much as possible,” instead of protecting the interests of patients.
We’ve seen how this has worked before when Janet Napolitano announced that there would be long delays at the airport due to cuts to air traffic controllers. Clearly there were other better ways to make the numbers add up, but the priority was embarrassing lawmakers who agreed to sequestration in order to make a political point.
We shouldn’t allow this to occur at Walter Reed. Our veterans already deal with inadequate medical care. They are being failed by the government in other ways too: Currently we have over 850,000 veterans waiting for benefits from medical claims submitted to the Veterans Administration; 20,000 a year are dying waiting on their claims and some claims can even take over 600 plus days to resolve.
Our nation’s veterans deserve better from our nation’s leaders. Politicians should get down to serious business of cutting government inefficiency and wasteful spending. And they should do so without using the veterans’ medical care system as a political pawn.
In recent months, we’ve written a lot about the deteriorating situation at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), where the number of veteran awaiting processing of their disability benefits claims remains unacceptably high. In total, more than 778,000 veterans are awaiting claims.
The numbers alone are shocking: The nationwide average wait is 332 days—almost a year. More than 500,000 veterans have waited longer than 125 days for their claim to be processed; almost 225,000 have waited a year or longer.
On Monday, I was pointing out the VA’s shortfall in service to our veterans on Twitter, using our #MillionVetBacklog hashtag. That prompted a response from the folks at the VA’s @VAVetBenefits account, who posted their claim that the backlog is shrinking. I won’t recount all the details of our exchange—you can see some of the back and forth here.
But mere numbers simply don’t go far enough to tell the story—after all, each of these claims represents a veteran (along with his or her family and dependents) who is anxiously awaiting action from a bureaucracy that is sluggish, unresponsive and ineffectual. The VA wants us to believe they have everything in hand, and that things are getting better. But most veterans I deal with report a far different experience.
So how do we capture a better sense of what veterans think about their VA experience? We asked them.
Recently, Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) conducted a survey of 545 people around the nation, asking about wait times, the quality of the experience and how they would improve the VA’s performance.
The response was illuminating. On a scale of 1 (very poor) to 5 (excellent), our respondents ranked their experience with the VA at an average 2.29—roughly “poor to average.”
We also asked veterans to describe their experience in one word. What was the most common word they used? “Frustrating.” To give you a visual grasp of the words veterans selected, check out the word cloud we created from their responses at the top of the post.
Note that some veterans did, in fact, report positive experiences—you’ll see that some chose “good,” “great” and “satisfactory” to describe their VA experiences. I’m glad to hear it. If I were a VA executive, I wouldn’t rest until I could figure out what we had done to earn those plaudits, and then figure out how we can replicate those successes for a larger population of vets.
Maybe the VA’s time would be better spent trying to figure out how to improve its customer service to veterans rather than arguing with their critics on Twitter—especially when the department’s performance gives them so little to boast about.
Because those positive responses are vastly outnumbered by negative experiences. “Poor,” “disgusting,” “slow,” “disappointing” and “nightmare” were all-too-common responses. And those responses portray the reality for far too many veterans in their dealings with the VA benefits system.
Overall, the survey paints a picture of a VA that is staggeringly dysfunctional and failing in its mission of service to veterans. We can—and must—do better.