Proposed Law Would Help In Battle Against Soldier Suicides

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A United States Senator from Ohio has introduced a measure that would make it easier for veterans to demonstrate they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Now whether or not the Veterans Administration will ever get organized enough to provide the treatment these former service members need is an open question, and one best saved for another discussion.
For the present, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown’s Significant Event Tracker Act would itself be a significant event in the ongoing effort to reduce suicide among combat veterans.
The proposed law was itself suggested by a veteran who “began pushing for the change after struggling with his own issues from service in Afghanistan and after a close friend killed himself two years after returning home from war duty,” according to an announcement from Brown’s office.
“We’re hope this (bill) is something that can really make a difference, if done right,” C. Michael Fairman of Columbus was quoted as saying.
Fairman and a friend have started the nonprofit Summit for Soldiers, in which they climb the highest peaks in the United States and around the world to bring attention to the plight of those experiencing PSTD.
“Ohio’s Democratic U.S. senator says early documentation of military service incidents could help veterans later when they seek treatment,” the announcement stated. “Sen. Sherrod Brown is promoting legislation about creating records of exposure to events that could result in post-traumatic stress disorder, mild traumatic brain injuries or other issues.
“What’s called the Significant Event Tracker Act would have unit commanders document incidents, with the Defense Department sending the information to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Having the information on record could help in making medical diagnoses later.”
Fairman has said that one of the best things about the proposed act is that it would cost very little to implement, using for the most part records that are already being kept.

Members Of Military Particularly Vulnerable To Identity Theft

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Navy ID card (Photo credit: Lee Bennett)

More and more states as well as the federal government are taking steps to protect military personnel and their family members from identity theft.
That’s because it’s becoming more and more of a problem.
“When your day job is protecting our country, you shouldn’t have to worry about being attacked by identity thieves,” according to an item on the website of the North Carolina Department of Justice. “Members of the U. S. military can take preemptive action to minimize the risk of becoming an identity theft victim. Security freezes and active duty alerts are two of the weapons that can be deployed in this fight, but utilizing both at the same time could lead to unnecessarily complications.”
Legislators in Ohio recently passed, and the governor signed, a measure that establishes harsher penalties for identity thieves when their targets are active-duty service members and their spouses.
“These changes will make Ohio one of the toughest states for punishing felons who commit identity fraud against active-duty service members,” Attorney General DeWine was quoted as saying in a press release. “I applaud the governor and the General Assembly for recognizing the importance of this issue. Military service members and their families sacrifice so much to protect our country, and it’s our job to do all we can to protect them.”
The Federal Trade Commission offers a brochure to help military personnel and their families deal with identity theft.
“Identity theft is a serious crime,” the FTC notes. “It can disrupt your finances, credit history and reputation, and take time, money and patience to resolve.
“The rigors of military life can compound the problems that identity theft creates.”
One of the suggestions offered in the brochure is for service men and women to place an “active-duty alert” on their credit reports when they are on deployment.
“The alert requires creditors to take steps to verify your identity before granting credit in your name,” the brochure indicates. “It lasts for a year but can be renewed.”

Problem Of ‘Pension Predators’ Is Growing

The American Association of Retired Persons is warning older Americans to be wary of what the organization is labeling “pension predators.”

Veterans Day Ceremony

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A recent item in the AARP Bulletin focused on the case of a disabled Navy retiree from Laurel, MD, named Darryl Henry, who served his country honorably for two decades and then was dishonorably treated by a predatory firm out of California.
“In 2003 he read an ad and arranged to get a cash advance in exchange for signing over almost all of his $1,083 monthly pension for eight years,” the article states. “Henry, who spent 20 years in the Navy, agreed to pay a company associated with Structured Investments Co. of Southern California $1,070 a month in return for money upfront. The repayment cost for the $42,131 advance: $102,720.”
The story went on to relate how Henry served as lead plaintiff in a case brought by a total of 61 retired people who had all fallen victim to the same scam. They won, and a California Superior Court issued an order in 2011 that they should be repaid nearly $3 million.
“The victory was sweet, but brief,” the AARP Bulletin stated. “Within weeks, Structured Investments declared bankruptcy. None of the victims has received any restitution.”
The Walnut Creek, Calif., attorney who filed the suit on Henry’s behalf has vowed to get his client and the others their money, even going so far as to spend $225,000 of his own money in pursuing the case, according to the article.
“Henry is one of an unknown number of people who have signed over their pensions to a growing army of pension predators who go after veterans and other retirees who have a steady income stream,” the story stated. “Smooth talkers encourage them to tap their future income for a cash lump sum now, often at an exorbitant cost.
“The good news is that Congress and some states are beginning to go after those who prey on people with pensions. AARP supports efforts to license lenders and ensure that they comply with federal and state consumer disclosure laws, state small-loan interest rate caps and usury laws. AARP also has urged the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to issue regulations ‘to eliminate unfair, deceptive and abusive practices in the alternative financial services industry.’ For now, though, people with pensions need to be their own first line of defense.”

Supreme Court Ruling Unintentionally Harmed Disabled Veterans

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling made three years ago is coming back to haunt a group it wasn’t even aimed at: disabled veterans.

Disabled veteran, ca. 1943

Disabled veteran, ca. 1943 (Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives)

“The court’s decision concerned a convicted murderer who had beaten a man to death,” according to a story in The New York Times. “But now it is being applied to bar claims from disabled veterans who fumble filing procedures and miss deadlines in seeking help from the government. The upshot, according to a dissent in December from three judges on a federal appeals court in Washington, is ‘a Kafkaesque adjudicatory process in which those veterans who are most deserving of service-connected benefits will frequently be those least likely to obtain them.’ ”
The original ruling said that some filing deadlines are so rigid that even those caused by bad information from a federal judge don’t excuse missing them, Adam Liptak wrote in the story.
Relief, at least for disabled veterans if not convicted murderers, may be on the way, however.
“The Supreme Court will soon consider whether to hear an appeal from David L. Henderson, who was discharged from the military in 1952 after receiving a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia,” the story stated. “He sought additional government help for his condition in 2001, and he was turned down in 2004. Mr. Henderson, who served on the front lines in the Korean War, had 120 days to file an appeal, but it took him 135 days. He had a pretty good excuse.
“His psychiatrist has said under oath that he is ‘incapable of rational thought or deliberate decision-making.’ As a consequence, the psychiatrist added, “Mr. Henderson has been incapable of understanding and meeting deadlines.”
In conclusion Liptak wrote:
“Before the Supreme Court leaves for its summer break, the justices are likely to decide whether they will hear Mr. Henderson’s appeal. If they do, they will consider whether they really meant to shut the courthouse door on veterans as well as murderers.”

Longtime War Widow At Last Finds Some Peace

In a heart-warming story out of Los Angeles late last year, a war widow of 63 years who never remarried finally got to say goodbye to the love of her life.

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On Friday, Dec. 20, 94-year-old Clara Gantt stood up from the wheelchair she must sometimes use to weep over the flag-draped coffin of her late husband, Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph E. Gantt.
Joseph Gant was a field medic who went missing in action on Nov. 30, 1950, during the Korean War while serving with Battery C, 503rd Field Artillery, 2nd Infantry Division, according to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office in Washington, D.C., Fox News reported.
“According to the office, elements of the 2nd Infantry Division were attacked by greater numbers of Chinese forces near the town of Kunu-ri, North Korea,” the story continued. “The division disengaged and withdrew, fighting its way through a series of Chinese roadblocks. Numerous U.S. soldiers were reported missing that day in the vicinity of Somindong, North Korea. After a 1953 exchange of prisoners of war, returning U.S. soldiers reported that Gantt had been injured in battle, captured by Chinese forces and died in a POW camp in early 1951 from malnutrition and lack of medical care. His remains were only recently identified.
“Information on when they were found was not immediately available from the missing personnel office.”
The story goes on to point out that there may be other Clara Gantts out there who might not be fortunate enough to be reunited with their remains of their missing loved ones.
“Nearly 7,900 Americans are still unaccounted for from the Korean War,” Fox News stated. “According to the Defense Department, modern technology allows identifications to continue to be made from remains turned over by North Korea or recovered from that nation by American teams.”
“Sixty-some odd years and just receiving his remains, coming home, was a blessing and I am so happy that I was living to accept him,” Clara Gantt was quoted as saying.

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