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Amid Pressure, VA Inspector General Retires: Military Connection

Military Connection: oig

By Debbie Gregory.

The acting director of the Veterans Affairs Department’s investigative arm said that he will step down after facing criticism from both whistleblowers and members of Congress that he has interfered in the agency’s investigations to protect VA leadership.

Richard Griffin, appointed deputy inspector general in 2008, has served as the office’s acting head for 18 months amid allegations that he’s done little to uncover fraud and abuse in the agency. He retires after more than 43 years of federal service.

In a statement, Griffin said, “I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to serve with you at the VA OIG for more than 14 years and to have worked with such a dedicated team of men and women who have constantly demonstrated their courage, integrity and passionate commitment on behalf of our nation’s veterans.”

Griffin has faced harsh words from critics in recent years for ineffectiveness in dealing with VA leadership for well publicized issues such as patient wait times, overprescribing by physicians, and medical records manipulation.

Concerned Veterans for America applauded the departure of Mr. Griffin and reissued a call to the president to nominate a permanent inspector general. A bipartisan group of senators echoed that sentiment, stating that nominating a permanent VA inspector general is “long overdue” calling for the president to choose someone to take over the vacant position.

Linda Halliday, previously the assistant inspector for audits and evaluations, replaced Griffin on July 6th . Halliday holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from the University of Bridgeport (CT) and is currently a Certified Internal Auditor. She also completed the VA’s Executive Leadership Program, the Federal Executive Institute’s Executive Development Program, and American University’s Key Executive Leadership Certificate Program in the School of Public Affairs. This year, Halliday began completing executive development course work at the Harvard Business School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, MA. She has worked in the inspector general’s office for the last 23 years.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Amid Pressure, VA Inspector General Retires: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

The “Use it or Lose it” Mentality: Military Connection

Military Connection: dollars

By Debbie Gregory.

If you had millions of dollars in an account, would you need an auditor to remind you that you had it?

It seems that the Veterans Health Administration “parked,” (and then seemed to forget about) more than $43 million at the Government Printing Office over three years ago. “Parking” refers to the transfer of funds to a revolving fund through an intra-agency agreement, in an attempt to keep the funds available for new work after the period of availability for the funds expires.

The Department of Veterans Affairs had set aside the funds to produce “tailored handbooks.” These handbooks were supposed to provide veterans with information about VA benefits, though they were never made. In fact, the authorizations never specified the quantity of handbooks to be produced or the dates for delivery.

There was a surplus of funds to cover the costs of the handbooks, but the funds sat in an account until an agency financial manager happened to notice.

Money budgeted for one account is not supposed to be spent for other needs without congressional approval.

The Inspector General’s office cited a “breakdown of fiscal controls” and “lack of oversight” in concluding that VA officials had “no need” for the $43.1 million. At least not for the purpose they claimed

“A breakdown of VA fiscal controls and a lack of oversight led to the parking of funds for an excessively long period and the failure to detect and properly use and manage these funds,” auditors wrote in their June 17 report. They cited a “lack of supervisory review” to ensure that the money was spent properly.

The VHA, it turned out, had “no current need” for the money and wanted to save it for another year, a strategy that’s considered poor financial policy.

The biannual handbooks provide each veteran with information about his or her health benefits and other services. They list contacts for the veteran’s preferred clinic, instructions on how to schedule appointments, information on the Affordable Care Act, any co-pays and other information. VA officials are now looking at whether they have any unpaid bills for fiscal 2011 they can use the money for. If not, it must be returned to the Treasury, auditors said.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

The “Use it or Lose it” Mentality: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Bonuses for AF Reservists: Military Connection

Military Connection: af airmen

By Debbie Gregory.

Ever since 2013’s sequestration threat, many Air Force airmen questioned whether they wanted to commit to long-term careers in active duty. Still desiring to serve in uniform and have the benefits of a military service, the Air Force Reserve offered the best of both worlds.

And now, the Air Force Reserve is offering large bonuses for in high-demand career fields. For many service members, joining the reserve components fills an obligation they incurred when they first signed up for active duty.

At bases across the country, reservists are picking up more of the slack and flying missions alongside active-duty airmen, and in some cases becoming even busier than their active counterparts.

Last October, the Air Force Reserve raised its enlisted affiliation bonus for seven jobs on the critical skills list from $15,000 to $20,000. Active duty airmen who agree to serve six years in the reserve can get up to $20,000 bonus if they are 1A1X1 flight engineers, 1A4X1 airborne battle managers, 1T2X1 pararescue airmen, 2A2X2 special operations forces/personnel recovery airmen, 2A5X2 helicopter maintainers, 2A6X4 aircraft fuel systems, and 3E8X1 explosive ordnance disposal airmen. Officer affiliation bonuses remain at $10,000.

The reserve’s effort was bolstered by the Air Force’s drawdown last year, which included an expanded Palace Chase program. Palace Chase normally makes enlisted airmen serve two years in the Guard or reserve for every year of active duty they have left, and officers typically must serve three years for every year left. But the expanded program allowed active-duty airmen to serve out the rest of their time in the Air National Guard or reserve.

The promise of money and the ability to use education benefits is the largest thing that gets airmen to join the reserve, along with the ability to continue to wear the uniform.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Bonuses for AF Reservists: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Flowers, Funerals, and Flowing Tears: Military Connection

military connection: funeral

By Debbie Gregory.

An anonymous donor from New York gave 3,000 flowers to the city of Chattanooga to be used for memorial and funeral services for the five service members slain in the attacks on the Navy/Marine operations center. The flowers, echoing the colors of the American flag, were donated on behalf of the staff and residents at the Col. C. David Merkel, MD Veterans’ Residence program in Saranac Lake, N.Y. The center treats veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as earlier conflicts, who have post-traumatic stress disorder and addictions.

A group of some 40 volunteers organized by the United Way of Greater Chattanooga crowded into a room, stripping and snipping and placing red, white and blue blossoms into pails of water.

Staff Sgt. David Wyatt of Delaware was laid to rest last Friday at Chattanooga National Cemetery in Chattanooga, TN. Hundreds of people lined the funeral procession route from the church to his final resting place.

Visitation for Marine Sgt. Carson Holmquist was held on Saturday at Grantsburgh High School in Wisconsin. More than 60 people in military uniforms saluted as an honor guard of Marine pallbearers carried Sgt. Holmquist’s flag-draped coffin to a hearse on the way to a private burial with military honors.

Lance Cpl. Squire “Skip” Wells was buried on Sunday, his funeral held at First Baptist Church of Woodstock. He was the youngest of the group, at only 21 years old.

Also on Sunday, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan was buried at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Massachusetts, following funeral services at Holy Cross Church in Springfield.

Visitation and funeral services for Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith will be held tomorrow, July 28th at First Baptist Church in Fort Oglethorpe, GA. with burial immediately following at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke has declared memorials at Lee Highway and Amnicola Highway as “protected memorial services” which will shield them from any protests.

Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of these five patriotic Americans who selflessly chose to serve their country.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Flowers, Funerals, and Flowing Tears: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

A Most Heroic Ride: Military Connection

 

Military Connection: toran

By Debbie Gregory.

U.S. Marine Sgt. Toran Gaal, a corporal infantry rifleman in 15 Charlie Company with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, was badly injured four years ago during his second deployment to Afghanistan. An IED claimed his left leg and severely damaged his right leg. He also sustained a crush injury to the left side of his head and lost part of his brain.

Gaal is currently on a 3,000 mile trek, using a hand cycle, across the U.S. Brian Riley is his one-man support crew.

Riley, a fellow Marine, was on foot patrol in Afghanistan in 2011 when machine gun fire penetrated his left leg, which had to be amputated.

A former athlete, Gaal spent two and a half years in physical therapy at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. It was at Freedom Station, where veterans re-acclimate to civilian life, that he met Riley.

Although they didn’t much care for each other at the beginning, they shared a common goal to compete in adaptive sports. They had something else in common: a desire to support other veterans and their families the way they had been supported by the Semper Fi Fund.

The two veterans began planning a coast-to-coast trip, where Gaal would ride an adapted bike, and Riley would provide vehicular support.

Their journey began on June 1st in San Diego, with plans to arrive in Arlington, Virginia, on August 2nd , where they will visit the Iwo Jima and Marine Corps memorials. At the end of the ride, Gaal will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

To date, Gaal has raised $35,000 of his $40,000 goal, but he wants to raise more.

“I challenge every person in each city we visit to donate $1,” Gaal said.

“Not just for us — for the next generation of warriors who are going to have to endure the hardships we did for recovery.” As Gaal’s website says, “The only limits in life are those we set for ourselves.”

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

A Most Heroic Ride: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

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