Friday, December 01, 2017
Sunday, October 01, 2017
“We encourage you to visit our Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, which currently contains 412 resolved and 121 pending instances of workplace-related misconduct by the federal government’s largest contractors.
The government’s top vendors have paid a collective total of $2.7 billion in fines, judgments, and settlements since 1996 for a wide variety of labor violations, including discrimination, health and safety hazards, unpaid wages, and whistleblower retaliation.
The vast majority of the labor misconduct instances in our database did not involve the federal government. About 54 percent were lawsuits filed by private parties, while another 7 percent were enforcement actions by local, state, and foreign governments. One instance we recently added is KBR’s $3.75 million settlement of a lawsuit brought by construction workers who alleged the company stiffed them on wages and meal breaks at a California mining facility.
The Trump administration’s efforts to roll back worker protections and oversight of contractors’ business practices could further shrink the percentage of labor instances involving Uncle Sam in our database. Nonetheless, at least for now, federal enforcers are still on the job.
A few weeks ago, the National Nuclear Security Administration hit National Security Technologies, the managing contractor of the Nevada Test Site, with a proposed $112,500 fine for violations of worker safety and health requirements. In May, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Exxon Mobil $164,775 for violations related to a November 2016 Baton Rouge refinery explosion that injured four workers.
A list of all resolved and pending labor misconduct instances in our database can be found at this link.”
Saturday, September 16, 2017
|Thirty-seven service members from 22 different countries take the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony held at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan on July 4, 2013. (Army/Sgt. Anita VanderMolen)|
"Many of these enlistees have waited years to join a troubled recruitment program designed to attract highly skilled immigrants into the service in exchange for fast-track citizenship.
U.S. Army recruiters have abruptly canceled enlistment contracts for hundreds of foreign-born military recruits since last week, upending their lives and potentially exposing many to deportation, according to several affected recruits and former military officials familiar with their situation.
Wednesday, September 06, 2017
After a careful review by the Intelligence Community for Publication, Drone Warrior has performed a stunning service, giving the reader a gut level feel for the U.S. War on Terror from a decorated soldier's perspective.
Those of us who served in Vietnam and similar conflicts since can totally relate to this masterpiece of honesty.
Brett Velicovich pulls no punches. The mental stress, teamwork, tragedy and after effects in this modern, technological killing process can be felt with every line. The impact on the man himself and on those with whom he worked has not been spared in its detail and its effects.
Having left the service, Brett is now involved in harnessing and controlling the technology for peaceful purposes like wildlife preservation and management. Those of us who have made similar transitions applaud, commend and recommend the book and the man.
Read it to become informed and consider the billions we are spending on this warfare today as well as the impact on our youth and our future.
Friday, September 01, 2017
|Image: American Legion|
"A new law that will bring significant changes to education benefits for service members, veterans and their families.
The legislation known as the “Forever GI Bill” garnered strong bipartisan support in Congress, passing unanimously in both the House and Senate. Here are things you should know about the new GI Bill benefits.
1. There’s no longer an expiration date.
Previously, veterans had to use their Post-9/11 GI Bill within 15 years of their last 90-day period of active-duty service. That requirement is going away.
This portion of the law will apply to anyone who left the military after January 1, 2013. It will also apply to spouses who are receiving education benefits through the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship for family members of service members who have been killed in the line of duty since Sept. 10, 2001.
2. Purple Heart recipients will get more benefits.
The new GI Bill allows anyone who has received a Purple Heart on or after Sept. 11, 2001 to receive 100 percent of the benefits offered under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which includes coverage of tuition costs at a public school’s in-state rate for 36 months and stipends for textbooks and housing.
Previously, Purple Heart recipients were beholden to the same time-in-service qualifications for the GI Bill as other service members. This meant that Purple Heart recipients without a service-connected disability who did not reach 36 months of service were only eligible for a percentage of the benefits and not the full amount.
Aleks Morosky, national legislative director for Military Order of the Purple Heart, said there have been 52,598 Purple Heart recipients who were wounded in action during post-9/11 conflicts, though it’s unclear how many would immediately benefit from this provision. An estimated 660 Purple Heart recipients each year over the next 10 years will be able to take advantage of the increased benefits.
“We think that anybody who has shed blood for this country has met the service requirement by virtue of that fact,” Morosky said. “Everybody sacrifices, everybody puts themselves in harm’s way, but Purple Heart recipients are certainly among the service members who have sacrificed the most.”
This provision will go into effect in August 2018.
3. More people are eligible for Yellow Ribbon.
The Yellow Ribbon Program is a voluntary agreement between schools and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to split school costs not covered by the GI Bill, reducing or eliminating the amount students must pay themselves.
The Forever GI Bill will expand eligibility for this program to surviving spouses or children of service members in August 2018 and active-duty service members in August 2022.
Previously, only veterans eligible for GI Bill benefits at the 100 percent level or their dependents using transferred benefits were eligible for Yellow Ribbon.
4. There’s some extra money — and time — for STEM degrees.
Some college degrees in science, technology, engineering and math fields take longer than four years to complete, which is why the new law authorizes an additional school year of GI Bill funds on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Scholarships of up to $30,000 will be available for eligible GI Bill users starting in August 2018. Only veterans or surviving family members of deceased service members are eligible for this scholarship — not dependents using transferred benefits.
5. Vets hurt by school shutdowns will get benefits back.
A provision in the new GI Bill that will restore benefits to victims of school closures has been a long-time coming for the staff at Student Veterans of America.
“We’ve been getting calls for several years now, beginning with the collapse of Corinthian (Colleges), from student veterans whose lives were put on hold,” said Will Hubbard, vice president of government affairs for the nonprofit, which has more than 500,000 student members. “Every day we wasted until it passed was another day that they had to wait.”
This provision will retroactively apply to GI Bill users whose schools have abruptly closed since January 2015, for credits earned at the shuttered institutions that did not transfer to new schools. This will include the thousands of veteran students who were attending the national for-profit chains Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute when they closed in 2015 and 2016, respectively. It would also provide a semester’s worth of reimbursement for GI Bill users affected by future school closures, as well as up to four months of a housing stipend.
6. The VA will measure eligibility for benefits differently.
Starting August 2018, this bill changes the way the VA uses time in service to calculate eligibility.
Previously, service members with at least 90 days but less than six months of active-duty service would be eligible for up to 40 percent of the full GI Bill benefits. Under new regulations, the same 90-days-to-six-month window is equal to 50 percent of benefits. Service members with at least six months and less than 18 months of service will be eligible for 60 percent of benefits.
This change will tend to benefit reservists more due to the nature of their service, according to a spokeswoman for the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
7. Reservists can count more of their service toward eligibility.
Starting next August, members of the National Guard and Reserve will be able to count time spent receiving medical care or recovering from injuries received while on active duty toward their GI Bill eligibility. This will apply to all who have been activated since 9/11.
The Forever GI Bill also allows individuals who lost their Reserve Educational Assistance Program when the program ended in 2015 to credit their previous service toward their eligibility for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
8. Housing stipends will decrease slightly.
The government will pay for the expansions represented in the Forever GI Bill through a 1 percent decrease in housing stipends over the next five years. This will bring veterans’ housing stipends on par with what active-duty service members receive at the E-5 with dependents rate. (Veterans on the GI Bill currently receive a slightly higher housing allowance rate than active-duty E-5s with dependents.) This change will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018 and will only apply to service members who enroll in GI Bill benefits after that date. No one currently receiving a housing stipend from the VA will see a reduction in benefits.
“On a month-to-month basis, they would never see less money,” said SVA’s Hubbard, explaining that the 1 percent reduction will come off of the total the VA would have spent over five years.
Starting in August 2018, housing stipends previously calculated based on the ZIP code of a student’s school will be based on where a student takes the most classes.
Also in August 2018, reservists will continue to receive their monthly housing allowance under the GI Bill on a prorated rate for any month during which they are activated, preventing them from losing a whole month’s worth of funds.
9. Benefits can get transferred after death.
A provision of the new GI Bill offers more flexibility with the transfer and distribution of benefits in case of death.
If a dependent who received transferred benefits dies before using all of the benefits, this provision gives the service member or veteran the ability to transfer remaining benefits to another dependent. This will go into effect August 2018 and apply to all deaths since 2009.
This provision also gives dependents of deceased service members the ability to make changes to their deceased loved one’s transferred benefits.
Ashlynne Haycock, senior coordinator of education support services for the nonprofit Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, explains that currently, only a service member has the authority to make changes to the benefits they’d like to transfer. So, if a service member dies after transferring 35 months of benefits to one child and one month of benefits to another, for example, the family would not be able to make future changes to the GI Bill’s distribution among that service member’s dependents.
10. Surviving family members will get more money, but less time.
Besides access to Yellow Ribbon, spouses and children of service members who died in the line of duty on or after 9/11 will also see their monthly education stipend from the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program increase by $200.
There’s a downside, however. Though the same program has previously provided 45 months of education benefits, that will decrease to 36 months in August 2018 to bring it in line with the provisions of the GI Bill.
11. School certifying officials must be trained.
Individuals who certify veteran student enrollment at schools with more than 20 veteran students will be required to undergo training. Previously, training was not mandatory.
Monday, August 07, 2017
I have lived at the Hastings Veteran's Home for 11 years. This blog was formed by other veteran's at the home and myself in 2006 and has carried certain issues with regard to veteran's care and world events. As a matter of record, I wish to convey a letter I wrote to my sister. I will let it speak for itself
I am only at the facility in the early morning for breakfast and in the evening for dinner and then sleep. The rest of the time I am gone on other matters. I live across the road from the main building these days in a smaller unit along the river. I get my medications twice a month and take that myself. My glasses, dental care and annual physicals, flu shots and the like are all part of the rent I pay from my pension. The clothing room and similar furnishings are available when I need them. What remains of my monthly check is adequate for me because my needs are very simple these days.
As I got well 11 years ago, I realized part of my recovery required getting as far away from bureaucratic settings and authority as possible. I found over the years in the war zone and in 35 years of corporations and dealing with Washington DC that my tolerance level for it was 0 at age 60.
When Clark Dyrud was Veteran's Commissioner he and I had lunch and exchanged emails over the years since he assisted me out of Washington, but by mutual agreement we never discussed work; only family and friends from high school and our experiences in Vietnam, since he and I went through some of the same trauma during the war. I have never been seen in public with Clark on facility grounds. Now that he is retired I am sure he is relieved. He was a good services officer for over 30 years.
I meet with staff here only twice a year for a care team review. They know what I do and respect me for it. I have received facility volunteer awards for my work in the community each of the years I have been here. All staff I have encountered have been professional at what they do, sincere in their motives and helpful. They have a difficult job. The population here is of vastly varying backgrounds and ages. Many are 20 years younger than I and have a lot of life ahead of them but fell on hard times, addiction, depression and other maladies veterans are particularly vulnerable to.
I have supported both Tony Rose and Louie Klemek with advice, government insights into agencies, correspondence and getting legal help. I got Tony's paperwork released from Homeland Security under the Freedom of Information Act because I know how to do it having worked government agencies in my career. I wrote a letter that resulted in Louie getting some wood working privileges back that had been taken away and a visit from a State Representative. I have done all this behind the scenes and on a personal basis with these men. I also arranged for Tony's Washington D.C. pro-bono legal help, and set up a blog for him and his cause:
I helped both men because I felt the system, from the federal level to the state level, was letting them down. They have appreciated my assistance and have told me so.
This facility to me is a room with a beautiful view of the Vermilion River, a great little small town I enjoy, fishing, photography, writing, and intellectually stimulating non-profit volunteer work in an office supplied by the county at no cost so I can help small business.
I have served over 7000 clients through the non-profit organizations SCORE and Micro Mentor and many local businesses and small enterprises in every state in the union and its territories, receiving the SCORE National Achievement Award shown in the right margin of this site in 2010 for mentoring over 500 clients in the SCORE on-line counseling program. I have American clients in several foreign countries. Roughly 30 % of my client base is veterans. My government contracting web site has received over 700,000 visits.
In short, the Minnesota Veteran's Home is an ingredient in Ken, reinvented in retirement and I am enjoying it very much.
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
Saturday, July 01, 2017
“Mr. Shanahan, you’re not making me happy,” the chairman said. “You just ducked basically every question Sen. Fischer asked you.”
After Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer tried to elicit the nominee’s position on how to respond to Russian violations of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, McCain stepped in.
McCain’s biggest objection to Shanahan, however, was the nominee’s 31 years at America’s second largest defense contractor, Boeing. (Only Lockheed Martin sells more to the Pentagon. And Sen. McCain, thanks to the long-running scandal over Boeing’s former tanker deal, is believed to harbor a deep suspicion of Boeing’s conduct).
“Not a good beginning. Not a good beginning,” Senate Armed Services chairman John McCain told the administration’s nominee for deputy secretary of defense this morning. “Do not do that again, Mr. Shanahan, or I will not take your name up for a vote before this committee. Am I perfectly clear?”
“Very clear,” said Patrick Shanahan, enduring a rocky confirmation hearing for the No. 2 position in the Pentagon, which remains unusually short on senior officials. Other senators at the hearing asked Shanahan about Pentagon procurement, especially about nurturing innovation, continuing the Third Off Strategy for high-tech weapons, and starting the Pentagon’s long-awaited audit this fall. But McCain repeatedly took the mike to berate the Trump nominee for non-answers on Russia and for potential conflicts of interest after his 31 years at Boeing.
In that initial exchange, Shanahan’s specific offense was giving a vague non-answer in his written testimony to the committee’s question on whether he supported providing “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine. In the hearing, ironically, when McCain asked Shanahan to clarify, he stated his support for arming the Ukrainians so swiftly and unequivocally that the irascible but aging senator seemed momentarily thrown before returning to the attack.
“I want to move forward as quickly as I can with your nomination,” McCain told Shanahan at the hearing’s end, “(but) I am concerned. 90 percent of defense spending is in the hands of five corporations, of which you represent one. I have to have confidence that the fox is not going to be put back into the henhouse.”
“Mr. Shanahan, I think you’re a fine man; you have an outstanding record; (but) take a look at your responses that you sent to this committee,” McCain said. “Some of them were less than specific, at least one of them (was) almost insulting.”
Citing US casualties in Afghanistan, Ukrainian casualties against Russian-backed separatists, and the US shoot-down of a Syrian jet, McCain made it clear he wants clear answers on administration policy — and if the committee doesn’t get them, it will find answers of its own as it works on the annual defense policy bill.
“I want some answers, I want some straightforward answers, (and) if they don’t give us a strategy from the people that I admire most, we’re going to put a strategy in,” McCain warned. “I want to work with this administration, I want to work with this president, I want to work with the new secretary of defense, — who I happen to be one of the most ardent admirers of — but I have to tell you, in a couple of weeks, we’re going to mark-up up the defense authorization bill….The president has two choices: Either give us a strategy or we will put a strategy that we develop into the defense authorization bill.”
“Somehow over the last several years, this committee seems to have been treated as sort of a rubber stamp,” McCain concluded. “That’s not what the Constitution of the United States says. The Constitution of the United States says that the Senate would provide advice and consent.”