Facilities Maintenance Backlog at $10.8 Billion


By Debbie Gregory.

The number of military facilities that are so poorly maintained that they now meet the Pentagon’s definition of “failing” has steadily been on the rise. The maintenance backlog for Army facilities alone has grown substantially, rising from approximately $7 billion to $10.8 billion in just the last year.

Army experts guestimate that it will take a decade of sustained funding in order to repair and upgrade barracks, office buildings, airfields, training areas, roads and numerous other types of facilities.

Since the 2011 Budget Control Act set caps on Defense expenditures, facility upkeep has been among the lowest spending priorities.

Facility sustainment is just one function that will be forced to compete with others in the operations and maintenance (O&M) accounts. O&M Appropriation Funds cover the cost of operating and maintaining equipment at a state of readiness, paying for everything from combat training and ammunition to health care and civilian payroll.  Even within the small subset of O&M dollars that makes up the Army’s facilities budget, most funds are going toward activities the Army deems most vital to current military operations.

“Because of inadequate funding, right now, what we’re doing is prioritizing those infrastructures and services that directly correlate to readiness,” said Lt. Gen. Gwendolyn Bingham, the Army’s Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. Bingham serves as the principal adviser to the Chief of Staff of the Army for Installation Management, Facilities Investments, Morale, Welfare, Recreation and Family Support Programs.

“We find ourselves looking at operations and training facilities, depot maintenance and production facilities, other types of facilities that directly impact readiness,” Bingham said. “That’s how we’re prioritizing.”

Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff in charge of operations and training said the service does not expect to achieve “full spectrum” readiness until sometime between 2021 and 2023.

The Defense Department and Congress have jointly decided to defer facility maintenance for several consecutive years.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.


Generals Oppose Bill That Provides Mentally Ill Veterans Easy Gun Access


By Debbie Gregory.

A coalition of retired admirals and generals are protesting “irresponsible and dangerous” legislation they say that would put mentally ill veterans in harm’s way by providing them easy access to firearms.

The United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 1181, the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act, sponsored by Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate.

The Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act would prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from reporting veterans’ records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System after they’ve been deemed incapable of managing their financial affairs because of a disabling mental disorder.

In a letter, members of the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense wrote:

The bill you are debating comes at a time when an average of 20 veterans commit suicide each day, two-thirds of whom do so by using a firearm. We know that non-deployed veterans are at a 61 percent higher risk of suicide compared to the American civilian population, and deployed veterans are at a 41 percent higher risk. When vulnerable veterans have access to firearms, they can do harm not only to themselves but also to family members and loved ones. The impact of these tragedies is felt in communities across our nation.”

The coalition is a national initiative launched by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and her husband Mark Kelly, a Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut. The letter is signed by fourteen veterans representing all branches of the military.

The National Rifle Association, which is backing the bill, says it protects veterans from having their rights “arbitrarily revoked by a government bureaucrat.”

But the actual language of the bill remains vague, without defining what constitutes mentally incapacitated or mentally incompetent. The bill “prohibits, in any case arising out of the administration of laws and benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs, any person who is mentally incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent, or experiencing an extended loss of consciousness from being considered adjudicated as a mental defective for purposes of the right to receive or transport firearms without the order or finding of a judicial authority of competent jurisdiction that such person is a danger to himself or herself or others.”

What do you think?   Is opposing this common sense or taking away rights?

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Immigrants Who Served In US Military Fight Deportation Orders

p1By Debbie Gregory.

Immigrants serving in the United States military have deep historical roots. Non-citizens have fought with the United States Armed forces since the Revolutionary War, and offer greater racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity than citizen recruits. This diversity is particularly valuable given the military’s increasingly global agenda.

But now, the futures of those immigrants who have served and their families are in question.

Gold Star mother Olivia Segura grasped the box containing the flag that draped the coffin of her daughter, Ashley Sietsema, who was killed in November, 2007 while serving in Kuwait.
Ashley Sietsema’s father is under a deportation order.

Segura, other veterans and veterans’ families met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus hoping for exemptions from deportation for veterans who are legal permanent residents and their families, particularly for Gold Star families, families of military personnel killed in action.

Although President Trump has emphasized his focus is on deporting “criminals” he has vastly expanded the definition of what constitutes a criminal.

Some of the veterans being deported are legal permanent residents who become deportable after they committed a crime categorized as a felony under immigration law or because a conviction from their past emerged.
For many of these deported veterans, home is a place called the Bunker, a Tijuana support house for US military veterans, who have nowhere else to go when they land back in Mexico.

Veterans are subject to the same laws as everyone else when it comes to immigration. Anyone with a green card can be deported when they commit crimes. “Because they served the United States they do generate some sympathy from points of view that may not be generally pro-immigrant. But the fact is, the law is very much stacked against them.

According to advocates for immigrant veterans, soldiers who are legal permanent residents are not always connected with the naturalization process or even made aware of it. For some, their service does little to help their families remain in the United States.

We want to know what you think about this issue so please comment.

Veteran Who Warned of ‘Burn Pit’ Hazards Dies


By Debbie Gregory.

National Guard veteran Amie Muller succumbed to pancreatic cancer last month.  She believed it was a result of deployments to Iraq and exposure to burn pits.

Burn pits produced billowing toxic smoke night and day at an air base in northern Iraq. After returning to Minnesota, she began experiencing health problems usually not seen in a woman of age.  Muller was thirty-six and died nine months after being diagnosed with Stage III pancreatic cancer.

Muller battled to win recognition from the United States government for victims of the burn pits, which have the potential of becoming the Iraq and Afghanistan wars’ equivalent of the Vietnam War’s Agent Orange.

In an interview last August, Muller spoke about the frustrations of a life put on hold. Fatigued from chemotherapy and complications from medical procedures, she also talked about getting the word out about what she believed is the burn pits’ toxic legacy.

“It’s kind of like what you’d imagine what hospice would feel like, where you are just waiting and waiting and you don’t have any energy,” she said. “But I want to make sure other people are getting their voices heard, too.”

The burn pit near her living quarters was one of the most notorious of the more than 230 that were constructed at military bases across Iraq and Afghanistan before their use was restricted in 2009.  Materials including metals, Styrofoam, rubber and medical waste stoked with jet fuel were burned in an open pit daily.

Muller was easily fatigued after returning home and began to wonder whether a host of ailments from migraines to fibromyalgia were connected to her military service at Balad.

Julie Tomaska, who deployed with Muller in 2005 and 2007 also suffered from chronic fatigue, headaches and digestive problems. Her disability claim with the VA was approved with a diagnosis of “environmental exposures.”

United States Senators Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced bipartisan legislation, the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act that would create a center of excellence within the VA to better understand the health effects associated with burn pits and to treat veterans who become sick after exposure.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Former Camp Lejeune Veterans Affected By Tainted Water Can Apply for Disability

Camp Lejeune

By Debbie Gregory.

Former service members exposed to contaminated water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune over a 35-year period can now apply for Veterans Disability Benefits, under a new federal rule.

For decades, complaints blamed on the water at Lejeune, including serious ailments such as cancers, infertility, neurobehavioral effects, and deaths, have plagued the base. The Marine Corps has said the contamination was unintentional, occurring when federal law didn’t limit toxins in drinking water.

The move is expected to affect as many as 900,000 veterans and cost more than $2 billion over the next five years.

In a statement, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin called the move “a demonstration of our commitment to care for those who have served our nation and have been exposed to harm as a result of that service.”

It comes after years of lawsuits and lobbying by veterans groups who said tens of thousands of troops and their families were exposed to unhealthy levels of contaminants from leaky fuel tanks and other chemical sources while serving at the North Carolina base from the early 1950s to the late 1980s.

In 2012, Congress passed a bill that was signed into law by then-President Obama extending free VA medical care to affected veterans and their families. But veterans were not automatically provided disability aid or survivor benefits.

The disability benefits may supplement VA health care already being provided to eligible veterans who were stationed at the Marine base for at least 30 cumulative days between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987. Veterans will have to submit evidence of their diagnoses and service information.

The new rule covers active duty, Reserve and National Guard members who developed one of the eight diseases: leukemia; aplastic anemia (and other myelodysplastic syndromes); bladder cancer; kidney cancer; liver cancer; multiple myeloma; non-Hodgkin lymphoma; and Parkinson’s disease.

Veterans have a year to file the benefits claims, and if approved will receive payouts from their date of filing.

Tell Us What You Think About This  New Benefit

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.



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