By Ken Greenberg, National Executive Director

JWV advocacy and outreach to Capitol Hill, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Defense, and other VSOs continued to be robust during the last few months. JWV has been at the forefront with House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees as staff were engaged on high profile issues including, Electronic Health Records, Toxic Exposure and the PACT Act, Concurrent Receipt (Richard Star Act), Caregivers, and ANC new eligibility rules which will be published shortly. JWV continues to encourage members to contact their Senators and Congressman on these important issues. Updates can be found on JWV’s posts on Facebook and Twitter, as well as in JWV’s weekly e-newsletter. JWV’s strong work with The Military Coalition, and the TEAM and NMVA coalitions continues to improve our relations with VSOs as we successfully negotiate program changes and legislative improvements. JWV continues to hold VA accountable on previous legislation including the MISSION Act requirements (Caregivers, AIR Commission), the Deborah Sampson Act, and Suicide Prevention and mental health.

JWV joins the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans
JWV recently joined the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans (NCHV) and helped sponsor its annual meeting June 1-3, 2022. NC Paley was interviewed and JWV will be featured in an upcoming NCHV newsletter. NCHV is one of the most important organizations in fighting veterans’ homelessness, as it brings together all of the resources of VA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other government agencies.

Honoring our PACT ACT Major Win for JWV and Veterans on Toxic Exposure
On June 16, the Senate passed the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022, by a vote of 84-14. This is the largest bill in American history to address service members’ exposure to burn pits and other toxic substances. The bill is estimated to cost $278.5 billion over 10 years.

The bill will provide expanded access to health care and disability benefits for veterans harmed by certain toxic exposures, whether in the jungles of Vietnam or the mountains of Afghanistan. It will also let the Department of Veterans Affairs move more quickly and comprehensively in the future to determine if illnesses are related to military service, and it will offer critical support to survivors who were harmed by exposures, including from water contamination at Camp LeJeune. Importantly, the bill includes the tools and resources to ensure that the VA can effectively implement it.

JWV is proud to be a leader in supporting veterans as this legislation makes good to care for veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors. JWV applauds Chairman Tester and Ranking Member Moran for their hard work to pass the PACT Act. The House is expected to swiftly pass the Senate version so that it can be sent to the President for signature.
The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 will:

  • Expand VA health care eligibility to Post-9/11 combat veterans, which includes more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans;
  • Create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure;
  • Add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to VA’s list of service presumptions, including hypertension;
  • Expand presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure;
    • Includes Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll as locations for Agent Orange exposure;
  • Strengthen federal research on toxic exposure;
  • Improve VA’s resources and training for toxic-exposed veterans; and
  • Set VA and veterans up for success by investing in:
    • VA claims processing;
    • VA’s workforce;
    • VA health care facilities.

Call to Action Time is Now – Richard Star Act (Concurrent Receipt)
JWV continues to participate in the work of the Richard Star Act Working Group. We need your help to get this legislation passed. As of June 17, we have 58 cosponsors in the Senate and 243 cosponsors in the House. Please contact National Programs and Public Relations Director Cara Rinkoff at (202) 265-6285 or crinkoff@jwv.org if you are interested in writing a letter/calling your member of Congress to ask them to become of a sponsor of the Richard Star Act.

JWV’s Hard Work Pays Off – VA Suspends Caregiver Reassessments on June 9, 2022
Veterans Affairs officials will suspend all annual reassessments of families in their caregiver stipend program, citing continued work into revising rules and policies associated with the benefit.

The move comes after months of controversy over the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, which provides monthly financial support to about 33,000 veterans in need of full-time at-home care. JWV was one of nine VSOs to participate in three days of roundtable discussions with Veterans Health Administration, General Counsel and Congressional Affairs staff, that also included a presentation by Deputy Secretary Donald Remy.

VA officials also repeated their promise not to discharge or reduce stipends for any families based on earlier reassessments. Currently the program is open only to veterans who served after 2001 or before 1976, but it is scheduled to expand it to all veterans on October 1, 2022. In preparation for that, officials last year began a review of all existing post-9/11 veteran participants to ensure they still qualified for the stipend under amended rules.

In March, in response to complaints from JWV and families about the process, VA leadership acknowledged that roughly 90% of families who underwent the reviews were scheduled to be booted from the program based on decisions by administrators. That would have dropped almost half of all current families from the program.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough responded by suspending plans to remove any families from the program and promising to develop new eligibility criteria that is more flexible and less punitive for families.

The stipends — awarded to veterans with service-connected injuries that limit their ability to live independently — vary based on where veterans live, but generally hover around $3,000 a month for the most severely wounded individuals and $1,800 for others in need of around-the-clock care.
Advocates have said that losing the stipend could force infirm veterans and their families into financial distress, since many spouses and parents cannot work full-time and care for their loved ones.

McDonough’s announcement in March was met with praise from families, but the reassessments continued in the following weeks, causing confusion among families about whether the promise not to process out participants was still in effect.

In addition, several groups reported families had received notices that they could still be kicked out of the program in coming months. VA’s announcement ends those reviews.

VA officials said caregiver support staff will continue to initiate reassessments for veterans and family caregivers for some purposes, such as when they request to be considered for an increase in stipend levels or if there is evidence of an increased need for personal care services.
And staff will continue to conduct wellness visits to ensure that veterans are receiving the care needed to address their medical needs.
In a statement to program participants, officials wrote that they are “listening to concerns and working diligently to address them as we continue to ensure veterans and their caregivers get the support they need and deserve.”

JWV Strongly Supports Congressional Action Ordering VA to Report Performance of Troubled Electronic Health Records System to Congress
Under new legislation, the VA will need to provide regular reports to Congress on the performance of the Electronic Health Medical Records (EHMR) a. Are you a JWV member in Washington State or Columbus, Ohio that is impacted by VA’s issues in deploying the new records system? We want to hear from you. Please contact us with any feedback you may have.

JWV Commends VA Launch of $20 Million Mission Daybreak Grants to Reduce Veteran Suicide
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has launched Mission Daybreak, a $20 million challenge to reduce veteran suicides. VA calls on innovators to develop suicide prevention solutions that meet the diverse needs of veterans. Mission Daybreak is part of VA’s 10-year strategy to prevent veteran suicide through a comprehensive, public health approach.

Eligible solvers — including veterans, researchers, technologists, advocates, clinicians, and health innovators — should submit detailed concept papers that address one or more of the challenge focus areas by 4:59 p.m. EDT on July 8, 2022. Multidisciplinary panels of reviewers and judges will assess submissions according to Phase one evaluation criteria. Judges will recommend 30 finalists to each receive $250,000 and advance to Phase two, where they will join an eight-week virtual accelerator. An additional 10 teams will each receive a Promise Award of $100,000.

JWV Completes Audit
I am pleased to report that Clifton, Larsen and Allen LLP completed the audit for JWV, the Foundation, and the National Museum of American Jewish Military History for the period ending June 30, 2021. National also filed all 990 forms due to the IRS before the May 16, 2022, deadline. Copies are available by request, by sending an email to jlasher@jwv.org.

Anniversary Dinner and NED Retirement
I enjoyed working with many of you on the 125th Anniversary Dinner which also honored the retirement of former National Executive Director Herb Rosenbleeth on May 5. Congratulations to Herb on his 31 years of service to JWV. On a personal note, thank you for your 20 plus years of friendship, leadership in TMC and in the VSO community. I will do my best to carry on your advocacy and legacy of support for veterans and service members.

I am also pleased to report that the JWV office renovation began in April. Special thanks to Director of Operations Greg Byrne, Melody Jackson, and Janet Greenberg for all their hard work in coordinating new carpet, ceiling tiles, and furniture to renovate the fourth-floor office space. It looks outstanding!

As NED I want to hear about the issues you care about. Are you having difficulty getting VA or DoD to address your benefits or health care concerns? Don’t be silent. Let JWV help by using our contacts to work for you. I am just an email away – so write to me at kgreenberg@jwv.org.

Volume 76. Number 2. 2022

By Larry Jasper, National Editor and Cara Rinkoff, Managing Editor

At JWV’s National Convention in New Orleans last month, the Resolutions Committee approved 12 resolutions which will inform our organization’s legislative priorities moving forward. One of the resolutions called on Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to reinstate the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. Since he did that on August 14th, we have removed that from our resolutions, leaving just 11 you should talk to your members of Congress about.

The Department of Defense has ordered a review of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) concerning extremist activities. JWV supports both the review and possible amendments to the UCMJ as appropriate to address extremism in the military.

JWV wants to immediately stop the deportation of veterans and servicemembers who committed or were found guilty of drug offenses that numerous jurisdictions have already decriminalized. Also, veterans who committed these acts due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or other issues related to their military service should be pardoned and given a path to citizenship. Immigration judges should also be required to consider an individual’s honorable military service when they are deciding whether to issue a deportation order.

Congress should immediately pass the Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act (S. 437 and H.R. 2436). This would require the VA to give benefits to all veterans who were in locations where they may have been exposed to toxic substances unless the department can prove they were not. The burden of proof would be on the Department of Veterans Affairs instead of the veteran.

JWV is asking the Secretary of Defense to pay members of the reserve component of an armed force a special bonus or incentive pay in the same monthly amount as what is paid to a member in the regular component of the armed forces performing comparable work requiring comparable skills. Congress should pass the National Guard and Reserve Incentive Pay Parity Act (S.1859 and H.R. 3626).

Our organization wants to make sure non-veteran members of the National Guard and National Reserve have the option of being interred in VA cemeteries without cost and to extend their families the same rights and privileges extended to families of other veterans.

JWV is calling on both the House and Senate to pass the Brandon Act (S. 2088 and H.R. 3942). The goal of the Brandon Act is to expand the current law regulating how service members are referred for mental health evaluations to make sure service members can self-report mental health issues in a confidential manner. This would help service members avoid the stigma associated with seeking mental health services.

The Department of Veterans Affairs should be required to provide reproductive counseling to female veterans to address issues arising from difficulty conceiving and/or the loss of a pregnancy due to their service in uniform.

Another resolution indicates that we support efforts by the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation to have Congress allow the creation of such a memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Congress should therefore pass the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act (S. 535 and H.R. 1115).

Congress should resist any changes to the formula which calculates Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) which could mean that over time retired pay for former military service members would not keep pace with rising prices, causing quality-of-life issues for veterans.

JWV supports the passage of the ‘Six Triple Eight’ Congressional Gold Medal Act (S.321 and H.R. 1012). The African American women who served in the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion in Europe during World War II deserve to receive the Congressional Gold Medal for their work setting up a system to handle mail for deceased servicemembers and also clearing a three-year backlog of mail.

Our organization also calls for the removal of cannabis from the list of controlled substances in the case of medical usage.

For assistance with writing letters to your members of Congress about any of these issues, or about how to talk with them in person, you can contact Membership Director Harrison Heller at hheller@jwv.org or Programs and Public Relations Director Cara Rinkoff at crinkoff@jwv.org.

The committee also approved a resolution opposing all forms of extremist behavior within our organization’s membership. It states that JWV reaffirms that “our members must not actively advocate supremacist, extremist, antisemitic, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes, including those that advance, encourage, or advocate illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, ethnicity, or national origin or those that advance, encourage, or advocate the use of force, violence, or criminal activity or otherwise advance efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.”

You can find details on all of these resolutions at www.jwv.org.

Volume 75. Number 3. 2021

By COL Herb Rosenbleeth, USA (Ret.), National Executive Director

As my retirement approaches, there are many people to thank. I have been blessed to know so many truly wonderful people! I have lots and lots of good memories for and much gratitude to the Jewish War Veterans of the USA. Being a staff member of JWV has been a huge honor!

Each and every member of JWV since I started here has my highest thanks and appreciation. Every single one of you has been and remains vitally important. Both those who are active and those who are not.

My sincere thanks to each of the National Commanders under whom I have served. You have each been unique, yet you all had a few things in common. You cared deeply for all veterans, and you cared deeply for JWV and for our museum. Each one of you was dedicated to your position as NC. And a number of you have continued to serve JWV and the museum. My gratitude and pride to each of you!

To those who served, and to those who are serving as Post and Department Commanders, and to those who served in post and department staff positions, I extend my sincere thanks and appreciation.

My very special thanks and appreciation to Congressman Ben Gilman, who served as JWV’s Legislative Chairman for many years. The Honorable Mr. Gilman, a combat veteran of World War II, and his staff, always had their doors open for me. Other members of Congress whom JWV could always count on were Senators Arlen Specter and Joe Lieberman, and Congressmen Mike Bilirakis, Lane Evans, Tim Walz, and Bob Filner.

JWV’s support for the head of the VA to be a cabinet level position and Rep. Ed Derwinski becoming the first Secretary of the VA will always be in my memory. We were involved!

Each annual national convention that I attended was a wonderful experience! I used to be able to name each city and the year and visualize something from each one. Now, although the various conventions run together in my mind, I have many, many fantastic memories from our conventions. My brother, Sam, a member of Post 373 in Tampa, has been with us for the last dozen or so conventions, which has meant the world to me. And, having our sister, Lea, an Auxiliary member, join Sam and I a few times, was icing on the cake!

To the 25 plus members of Congress whom we honored at our extremely popular Congressional Receptions, beginning with Chairman Sonny Montgomery of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, we had an excellent array of congressional honorees. Many attendees from other veteran organizations and military associations enjoyed our lively receptions!

Along with our receptions, we started our Capitol Hill Action Days in the early 1990s. JWV members could be seen all over Capitol Hill! We wore our caps with great pride! Most of our Departments were solidly involved.

I am grateful for each Veterans Day and Memorial Day which I attended at Arlington National Cemetery. My favorite was the Veterans Day marking JWV’s 100th Anniversary at which JWV was the host organization. NC Bob Zweiman gave a rousing speech, and the entire amphitheater gave Zweiman a standing ovation!

Knowing three recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor has been a special privilege. Jack Jacobs and I have a mutual friend, Major General Stanley Hyman, whom Jack knew from the Army and with whom I was friends during college. Stan got us together and knowing Jacobs has been a distinct honor and pleasure. Tibor Rubin was singularly honored at the first National Commander’s banquet I ever attended. Seventeen years later, in 2005, Rubin was finally awarded the Medal of Honor he so rightly deserved for heroism in Korea. A wonderful guy! VFW Executive Director Bob Wallace introduced me to John Levitow, who immediately said, “I’m Jewish, my name is Levitow, I am a Levite.”

The Military Coalition (TMC) holds a special place in my heart. Colonel (USAF, Ret) Paul Arcari, with whom I had served in the Pentagon, and Sergeant Major (USMC, Ret) Mack McKinney, brought JWV into the Coalition. I am grateful to have worked with a host of truly outstanding men and women, to have served on the Taxes and Social Security Committee, as a Co-Chair of the influential Membership and Nominations Committee, and very honored to have been elected a couple of times to be the President of the Coalition’s Board of Directors. I am grateful to have been JWV’s representative at the Coalition.

I will be forever grateful to four outstanding chaplains, Colonel (USA, Ret) Sandy Dresin, Captain (USN, Ret) Irv Elson, Colonel (USA, Ret) Jacob Goldstein, and Captain (USN, Ret) Bruce Kahn. Each one is a long-time member of JWV and each one has helped us over the years. Four remarkable people!

Five trips to Israel will always stick in my memory – twice on my own and three times on trips with JWV. Each JWV Mission is especially embedded in my mind. I am thankful for the opportunities to visit Israel.

I am most grateful to our staff members, past and present, with whom I have served. Especially to our present staff! Each of our present staff stuck with us throughout the entire pandemic! The JWV office was covered and, when permitted by the DC government, the museum was open to the public. Very few organizations were able to maintain their personnel during the pandemic. Special recognition goes to Director of Operations Greg Byrne, Director of Accounting Julia Lasher, Executive Assistant Christy Turner, Assistant to the Director of Operations Melody Jackson, and Membership Assistant Andria Clarke, our longest serving staff members. Kudos also to our Director of Communications Iryna Apple, and to our museum staff Pam Elbe and Mike Rugel. And many, many thanks to each of the more recent members of the staff.

Special recognition goes to my mentor of many years, JWV icon PNC Bob Zweiman, and to my hero, PNC Norman Rosenshein, who faces and overcomes adversity while keeping his warm smile. Norman’s creativity, excellent judgement, and steady determination make him a great leader! I salute Bob Zweiman and Norman Rosenshein!

Last, but most certainly not least, my appreciation, gratitude, and love go to my wife, Francie, for her 24 years of putting up with me and the Jewish War Veterans! Francie is a member of the Ladies Auxiliary and participated with me at our conventions. Thank you, Francie!

Volume 75. Number 2. 2021

By Herb Rosenbleeth
National Executive Director

One of my all-time heroes, Rep. Sam Johnson, passed away a few months ago (not related to the COVID-19 pandemic). I will always remember Colonel Johnson as a heroic Air Force pilot during Korea, a courageous prisoner of war during Vietnam, and for his statement, “I proudly stand with Israel.” For sure, one of my heroes!

Johnson served 14 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1991-2019. When he retired last year, Rep. Johnson was the oldest member of Congress and had served nearly 28 years. As a member of Congress, Johnson always showed strong support for the military.

Johnson was born in San Antonio, a proud Texan from the beginning. He graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he had joined in the Air Force ROTC. After graduating in 1951, he soon became involved in the fighting in Korea. During the Korean War, Johnson was a superb fighter pilot who flew 62 combat missions. Later, he joined the elite Air Force Thunderbirds aerobatic team. Only the very best pilots become one of the Thunderbirds.

In Vietnam, on April 16, 1966, Johnson was on his 25th mission over North Vietnam when his F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber was shot down. Badly injured, he was taken to the Hanoi Hoa Lo, called the Hanoi Hilton by U.S. prisoners. For more than seven years, he remained in prison under sub-human conditions, including 42 months in solitary confinement. It took two years before his wife and family found out he was still alive. During that time and to this day, I participate in events and activities of the National League of Families on behalf of JWV. When participating, I often think of PNC Mike Berman, who is JWV’s representative at the Vietnam Wall and one of our strongest advocates for the prisoners and the missing.

I first learned of Johnson and Navy pilots Everett Alvarez, George Day, Jeremiah Denton, and others through my involvement for JWV with the National League of Families and its phenomenal Executive Director Ann Mills Griffiths. Those men were all heroes before, during, and after their captivity.
During the last 18 months of his captivity, Johnson shared a cell with John McCain, a Navy pilot shot down in 1967. When Johnson and the other POWs were released on February 12, 1973, he weighed only 120 pounds. His right hand was permanently disabled, and he walked with a limp for the rest of his life. During his outstanding military career, Colonel Johnson’s military decorations included two Silver Stars, two awards of the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, and two Purple Hearts.

After retiring from the Air Force in 1979, Johnson settled in Plano, Texas, where he was elected to the state legislature in 1984. In 1991, he won his seat in the U.S. Congress. He served as a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee. He helped pass the Military Tax Relief Act of 2003, which reduced taxes and increased death benefits for the families of our military personnel. He gained political and moral authority from his experiences as a combat veteran of two wars and as a long-time prisoner subjected to extremely brutal treatment.
I dedicate this column to Congressman, Colonel Sam Johnson, USAF(Ret).

Volume 74. Number 4. 2020

By Herb Rosenbleeth

This summer marks 30 years since the beginning of the Gulf War, which began as Operation Desert Shield and was soon followed by Operation Desert Storm, the combat part of the conflict.

On August 2, 1990, Iraqi forces invaded and occupied Kuwait, an act which the United Nations Security Council condemned. President George H. W. Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher deployed forces to Saudi Arabia and urged other countries to do so as well. The goal of the Gulf War was to prevent Saddam Hussein from completely capturing Kuwait and to throw Iraqi forces out of the area of Kuwait which they were occupying.

Desert Storm, the name given to the combat operation, began on January 17, 1991, with an exceptionally powerful aerial and naval bombardment. There was great fear of what dangers U.S. and coalition forces might encounter. The Washington Post published a big editorial on the potential casualties we would face if Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against our ground forces. Many also believed that Iraqi forces were solidly dug in and that it could be a lengthy, hard fought battle to dislodge them.

Thankfully, the ground assault did not take long. The U.S.-led coalition quickly liberated Kuwait and advanced into Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s forces were defeated and a ceasefire was declared only 100 hours after the ground campaign started. Aerial and ground combat were confined to Iraq, Kuwait, and to some areas on the border with Saudi Arabia. Iraq launched Scud missiles against certain military targets in Saudi Arabia and against Israel.

The Scud missiles targeting Israel resulted in the death of 74 Israelis and approximately 230 Israelis were injured. Most of these were indirect casualties, such as heart attacks. In response to the threat of Scud attacks against Israel, the U.S. sent a Patriot missile air defense artillery battalion to Israel along with two batteries of MIM Patriot missiles to protect civilians. One of the most damaging attacks caused by a Scud missile occurred in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, when a Scud missile hit the barracks of the 14th Quartermaster Detachment, a reserve unit from Pennsylvania. The attack killed 28 soldiers and wounded more than 100 others.

While U.S. casualties from the fighting turned out to be extremely low, many returning soldiers reported a phenomenon known as Gulf War illness. This is a very important issue to this day, generally covered in various legislative proposals targeting burn pits.

I would like to give a shout out to those members of JWV whom I know were part of in the Gulf War victory.
Rochel Hayman is JWV’s Gulf War Committee Chairperson. During the Gulf War Hayman served in the Air Force as a broadcaster with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) in Dahran, Saudi Arabia. She recently completed her term as the Commander of the JWV Department of the Southwest.

Jeff Sacks served as a reservist who was activated for Desert Shield. Sacks was the Company Commander of the 822nd Military Police Company throughout Desert Storm. The 822nd guarded Iraqi prisoners of war. Sacks recently served as the JWV Department Commander of Illinois. Retired Major Sacks is also active at the national level of the Jewish War Veterans.

Chaplain Jacob Goldstein was mobilized with the New York State National Guard. The U.S. Army assigned Goldstein to the Patriot Battery in Israel. Goldstein became the senior Jewish Chaplain in the U.S. Army and completed his service career as a full Colonel.

Cliff Crystal was an Army reservist from the Washington, D.C. area. He used to come by the museum and JWV headquarters regularly. Cliff was mobilized for the Gulf War. When he returned he was very sick and he died soon thereafter. In retrospect, he may well have been a casualty of the burn pits.

Steve Robertson served on the legislative staff of the American Legion when he was mobilized. His unit was the 276th Military Police Company of the Washington, D.C. National Guard. Robertson says that in Passover of 1991, Jewish personnel in the gulf area were given the opportunity to participate in Passover services and a Seder on a ship. Robertson says approximately 450 attended. The program lasted for three days. Robertson had an outstanding career as an advocate for veterans and eventually became the Staff Director of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Nelson Mellitz served with the Defense Logistics Agency as a Command Service Contracting Officer during the Gulf War. He is an outstanding JWV leader who has recently been the Department Commander of New Jersey. Retired Colonel Mellitz currently serves as JWV’s National Quartermaster.
The Jewish War Veterans of the USA is very proud of those of you who helped win the Gulf War! We are eager to see your participation in JWV and your number of members continue to grow, and we look for our Gulf War veterans to move into positions of leadership in JWV.

Volume 74. Number 2. 2020

By Herb Rosenbleeth

The U.S. military now has another branch. The United States Space Force (USSF) is now the sixth branch of the U.S. military. It is the newest armed service since the establishment of the U.S. Air Force in 1947. I had a cousin who served in the Army Air Corp in World War II and remember him becoming a member of the U.S. Air Force when it was created.

Like the U.S. Marine Corps falls under the Secretary of the Navy, the U.S. Space Force will fall under the Secretary of the Air Force, who heads up one of the three military departments within the Department of Defense.

The mission of the U.S. Space Force is to “organize, train, and equip space forces in order to protect U.S. and allied interests in space…” The responsibilities of the U.S. Space Force include developing military space professionals, acquiring military space systems, maturing the military doctrine for space power, and organizing the space force to present to the Combat Commands.

For now, the 16,000 active duty airmen and civilians who work at Air Force Space Command will be assigned to the Space Force. Eventually, members of the Army and Navy will also be detailed to the Space Force. The Space Force will establish independent procedures for manning equipment, training personnel, and creating a new uniform, logo, patch, and official song. The Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) has been assigned to control operations and the Space and Missile Systems Center, which is responsible for research and acquisitions.

The idea of an independent service for U.S. military space operations has been under consideration since 2001. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld chaired the 2001 Space Commission, which was created to examine the national security space organization of the United States.

The commission concluded that the military needed to develop a space specific doctrine, including the development and deployment of space-based weapons. The Space Commission concluded that the Air Force treated space operations as a secondary mission to air operations.

In 2017, following nearly two decades of inaction, Representatives Mike Rogers and Jim Cooper put forth a bipartisan proposal to create the U.S. Space Corps. The proposal cleared the House, but not the Senate.

Then, in a June 2018 meeting of the National Space Council, the Department of Defense was directed to establish the U.S. Space Force as a branch of the Armed Forces. On February 19, 2019, Space Policy Directive-4 was signed. Legislative provisions for the Space Force were included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law on December 20, 2019. Air Force General John “Jay” Raymond became the first Chief of Space Operations. Although it took three years to get the Air Force formed after its establishment in 1947, the U.S. Space Force intends to be off and running in 18 months or less.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper believes the first shots in the next war will be fired from space. At the Reagan Forum on December 7, Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said that China’s number one threat to the U.S. is space attack.

There are several ways the U.S. can be attacked. These include bumping a U.S. satellite, jamming their links, hitting our satellites with laser beams, hitting them with high-power microwave bursts, and command intrusion.

JWV will be a strong supporter of the U.S. Space Force.

Volume 74. Number 1. 2020

By Sheila Berg

Women are the fastest growing demographic in the military today. Most jobs are open to military women, but non-acceptance and barriers persist. Women have served as defenders of this country since the American Revolutionary War.

Deborah Sampson disguised herself and enlisted in the Continental Army as Timothy Thayer in Middleborough, Massachusetts. She was discovered and reenlisted again in 1782 as Robert Shirtliff. She joined the Light Infantry Company of the 4th Massachusetts Regiment, which was a group of elite troops. They were required to provide rapid flank coverage for advancing troops. She was wounded after serving 17 months and honorably discharged at West Point in 1792.

The Deborah Sampson Act represents her desire to serve under difficult situations. This act provides guidance for the Department of Veterans Affairs to update services for female veterans including the expansion of group counseling for veterans and family members, improving quality child care, increasing the number of days of maternity care VA facilities provide, eliminating barriers of care by increasing the number of gender-specific providers in VA facilities, and retrofitting VA facilities to enhance privacy and improve the environment where they care for female veterans. The act would also authorize additional grants for organizations that support low-income female veterans and their families, as well as improve the collection and analysis of data regarding women veterans. As the chairwoman of JWV’s Women in the Military Committee, I support the immediate passage of this legislation.

On November 12, 2019, the Deborah Sampson Act passed in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 399 to 11.

Volume 73. Number 4. 2019

By Larry Jasper

The U.S. House of Representatives Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunities held a field hearing in New Port Richey, Florida, on September 16. The hearing on combating homelessness in the Tampa Bay area focused on the best practices utilized throughout Tampa Bay and identifying gaps where more targeted intervention is needed.

The panel consisted of Chairman Mike Levin, D-CA, Ranking Member Gus Bilirakis, R-FL, and Rep. Vincent Spano, R-FL. The committee’s ten other members were not present.

Those who were called to testify included Joe Battle, Director of the James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa, Danny Burgess, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, David Lambert, Chairman of the Pasco County, Florida Housing Authority, Michael Raposa, CEO of St. Vincent DePaul CARES, Brian Anderson, Founder and CEO of Veterans Alternative, and Mary White, a former homeless veteran and single parent.

White spoke courageously about her life as a homeless veteran and single parent to an infant. She outlined the long process of getting aid, her difficulties with affordable childcare, and a lack of public transportation. After several years of taking advantage of support available to homeless veterans, White is now finishing her master’s degree and is on her way to supporting herself.

Some of the key points made during the hearing:

    • A non-veteran can get temporary housing for all members of their family, but the VA will pay for temporary housing only for the veteran, not his or her family.
    • The Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, which combines Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the VA has helped reduce the homeless veteran population in the Tampa Bay area by about 70%. Since 2011, homelessness among veterans in Florida has been cut in half.
    • There is no federal standard or method for accurately counting homeless veterans.
    • To get a veteran into housing under the HUD-VASH program takes approximately three months. In most areas, there is no temporary housing available while a homeless veteran waits for approval.
    • In many areas apartment owners will not rent to someone using HUD-VASH vouchers because the program does not keep up with fluctuating housing prices. Also, HUD-VASH does not provide for move-in costs.
    • There are no transitional programs for incarcerated veterans.
    • St. Vincent DePaul CARES has tried to purchase housing for homeless veterans but no bank is willing to provide loans, even though HUD-VASH vouchers will cover the payments. The organization asked the subcommittee to work out a loan guarantee for such housing, similar to the VA home loan guarantees.

The subcommittee also discussed the June 6, 2019 launch of the new Veterans Community Care Program. This will strengthen the nationwide VA Health Care System by empowering veterans with more health care options.

After the formal hearing I had an opportunity to speak with both Bilirakis and his Outreach Director, Rob Fleege, about what my post, the Department of Florida, and JWV as a whole, can do to help with the issue of homeless veterans.

I feel this hearing was an excellent example of bipartisan cooperation for the benefit of veterans, especially homeless veterans. It is apparent that the lawmakers hold veterans in high esteem and are genuinely interested in honoring veterans in any way possible.

Volume 73. Number 3. 2019

By Dr. Marsha Schjolberg, CAPT, MSC, USN (Retired)

In the last issue of The Jewish Veteran, it was reported that suicide prevention and homelessness among veterans are the top two issues that the VA is focused on eliminating. Clearly, these issues are interrelated. We all know that despair and a sense of emptiness hastens the loss of life.

Despite the current climate of economic growth, homelessness among veterans continues to be a growing phenomenon. Although veteran disfranchisement, which plays out as “homelessness” effects every state, the sunbelt states have the largest populations of homeless veterans. It’s hard to be homeless in the winter in North Dakota; not so much on the beaches of Southern California, Florida, and the warm dry climate of Arizona.

As an example, California, which currently represents less than 4% of all enlistees, hosts 24% of all homeless veterans in the United States! According to numerous government studies previously submitted to JWV, 99% of all homeless veterans are enlisted and have served only one enlistment before separating from the service. 98% of all homeless veterans in California are NOT from California. Moreover, the face of the homeless veteran has changed. No longer are we seeing large numbers of Vietnam veterans, but rather young men and a growing number of women with children are sleeping on the streets.
Veterans’ organizations have stepped up to develop post enlistment training centers and homeless shelters. The military has stepped up and enhanced its Transitional Assistance Program (TAP) which helps military forces transition to civilian jobs, and the GI Bill has been enhanced to support both academic universities and technical training programs. Yet the problem grows. Government and support agencies have developed food banks, housing units, training programs as well as psychosocial services, but these agencies often feel like they are swimming against the tide. Why?

An “all volunteer” force attracts a cross section of people. Patriotism with the desire to serve has always been the overriding reason to join the service, but many also join to improve their personal circumstances by leaving undesirable environments and unpleasant family circumstances. The military becomes the new “family.” Once the enlistment ends, the “new family” breaks up. Then what?

As a career Medical Service Corps officer of 28 years with a background in public health, and a doctorate in at risk education/ educational leadership, the issues seems clear. Disenfranchisement is the big nut. In the military each person is part of a team, a family, with a specifically defined role and set of expectations. We are “all in this together.” As a civilian, that same level of support often does not exist.

Moreover, homelessness not only affects that individual veteran and his/her family, but has a major impact on the VA medical system and the veterans living in the area. VAMC’s in sunbelt states are often overwhelmed with long waits to access care, where other states with fewer veterans are not as severely impacted and may have services that are underutilized.
For 25 years I have been volunteering at STAND DOWN, which is part of a national movement to help homeless veterans. Each year, several thousand homeless veterans and their families (kids under 16) gather in cities up and down the coast of California as well as other states.

Veterans spend four days living in a tent city being assisted by physicians, dentists, psychologists, clergy, counselors, and veterans court services. Additionally, they are able to obtain new clothes, job counseling, hair cuts, showers, food, housing information, VA benefit information and even the opportunity to obtain a “free ticket” back home. Last year, I befriended a homeless veteran and his teenage girls at STAND DOWN. He was a former Marine. We talked for a long time. He was part of the unit who brought down Manuel Noriega. He left the service in the 90’s and has been homeless ever since. He thought he could “make it” in San Diego but had no skills beyond being an infantryman and just couldn’t get it together. “Suddenly, I had no one to tell me what to do,” he said. I asked him if he wanted free plane tickets for his family so that he could go home to Kansas City. He declined. He told his parents and friends back home that he was successful and felt that he couldn’t go home a failure. Sadly, his story is not unique. In fact, it is all too common.

However, distance and time change people. We mature and grow. The importance of psycho/social network cannot be overstated. The veteran has a network of high school friends and family to help guide them, provide them with a couch if necessary, and the local veterans groups would be welcoming. Familiarity and a sense of belonging is paramount. It’s a win- win.

So what to do? In 2017, Jewish War Veterans of the United States passed a resolution that would require one time enlistees to be discharged at their place of entry unless they had unique circumstances that would demonstrate a need to stay in their current state. Those circumstances included being married to a working spouse, being accepted to college or trade school in the area, having a post enlistment job offer, or having a medical condition that could only be handled locally. What have we done with that resolution? To my knowledge, nothing!

Fellow veterans, talk is cheap. Let’s be bold and mindful of the end game: the elimination of suicide and homelessness among our fellow veterans. And let’s move forward with our resolution.

Volume 73. Number 2. 2019

By Herb Rosenbleeth

The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia will be turning 50 next year. The League’s sole mission, fully supported for decades by JWV, is “to obtain the release of all prisoners, the fullest possible accounting for the missing and repatriation of all recoverable remains of those who died serving our nation during the Vietnam War.”

JWV has been and is a supporter of the National League of Families in every way we can. Our national commander almost always speaks of the POW-MIA issue during our presentation to a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees each year. JWV flies the POW-MIA flag at every meeting of our national convention and at every meeting of our National Executive Committee. I personally participate at the League’s annual national meeting each June. Our departments and posts keep those who are MIA in their minds.

The National League of Families was founded in the late 1960’s. The US government’s policy was to keep a low profile on the POW/MIA issue and urged families not to publicly discuss the issue. Realizing that this approach was not working, the first POW/MIA story was published in October 1968. Because of that publicity, the families began reaching out to each other and the group began to grow. Some POW/MIA family member groups were able to meet in Paris with the North Vietnamese representatives. Also, thousands of Americans sent telegraphic inquiries concerning the prisoners and the missing, marking the beginning of the issue becoming more widely known.

In May 1970, the League’s charter and by-laws were adopted in a meeting at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. Since that time, a seven-member board of directors has provided guidance and management of the organization.
The League’s national office is in Falls Church, Virginia. It operates under the direction of the Chairman of the Board and is staffed by two full-time employees and two part-time archival document specialists. Ann Mills-Griffiths, MIA sister, is the Chairman of the Board and the principal spokesperson of the League. Ann has been the League’s mainstay since the late 1970’s. Another mainstay of the National League of Families is Richard Childress, who served in Vietnam with JWV’s National Judge Advocate, Harvey Weiner.

As of February, there were still 1,589 American missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. I remember when the number was around 2,500, and I recall going to meetings where live sightings were reported. I also vividly recall when the POW/MIA flag, with the words, “You are not forgotten,” first appeared. The League’s POW/MIA flag is the only flag, other than “Old Glory,” to ever fly over the White House. On March 9, 1989, a POW/MIA flag that had previously flown over the White House was permanently installed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. On August 10, 1990, the 101st Congress passed U.S. Public Law 101-355, which recognized the League’s POW/MIA flag and designated it “as the symbol of our Nation’s concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia…” The Department of Veterans Affairs displays the POW/MIA flag 24/7. The National Vietnam Veterans, Korean War Veterans, and World War II Memorials also display the POW/MIA flag daily.

I still have a vivid recollection from my childhood of a POW/MIA case. My mother’s close friend, Mrs. Birnbaum, had a son who was a navigator on bombing missions over Germany. His name was Sanford Birnbaum. Sanford was last seen bailing out of his shot-up plane and was never seen or heard from again. After the war, Mr. and Mrs. Birnbaum traveled to civilian hospitals in Germany to see if they could find him. A missing, unaccounted for individual is a tragedy.
As long as one person remains unaccounted for, JWV will be a supporter of the League.

Volume 73. Number 2. 2019