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MILITARY TIMES — Veterans Affairs’ independent watchdog office is accusing department leaders of improperly withholding records dealing with employee complaints, saying the action could be covering up potential criminal misbehavior. Veterans Affairs leaders have responded by accusing the inspector general of overstepping its authority and improperly issuing reports that “recklessly cast the VA and its employees in an unfavorable light.” Lawmakers pulled into the fight this week call the conflict concerning.
LAKE COUNTY NEWS — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs released findings from its most recent analysis of veteran suicide data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This report yields several important insights: Suicide rates increased for both veterans and non-veterans, underscoring the fact that suicide is a national public health concern that affects people everywhere. The average number of veterans who died by suicide each day remained unchanged at 20. The suicide rate increased faster among veterans who had not recently used Veterans Health Administration health care than among those who had.
STARS AND STRIPES — The acting secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the agency’s inspector general are engaged in a power struggle, each accusing the other of withholding access to information and impeding VA oversight. The rift was revealed this week when Inspector General Michael Missal sought help from Congress to obtain information that he argues VA leaders have been unlawfully withholding for months.
MILITARY TIMES — The upcoming confirmation hearings for the next Veterans Affairs secretary won’t be nearly as contentious as they would have been with the last nominee, but Robert Wilkie still faces a host of tough questions before he steps back into the department’s top leadership spot. Wilkie, who serves as the Pentagon’s under secretary for personnel and readiness, was announced as President Donald Trump’s pick for the Cabinet post in May after a tumultuous stretch for VA. His confirmation hearing is set for June 27, after his formal nomination arrived on Capitol Hill this week.
NEW YORK TIMES — On an afternoon in late February, Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon, who goes by Dan, got in his truck and drove down the dirt road near his house in Westcliffe, Colo., to meet his son’s school bus at the bottom of the hill. It is one of few tasks Dan, who is 54 and retired, can still manage on his own after being wounded in Iraq in 2004. As he waited, he checked his mailbox, where he found a letter addressed to him from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, an office within the Defense Department. When he opened the letter, his stomach dropped. It said Dan owed the government money for something called the Survivor Benefit Plan and that the department would start deducting the program premiums from his monthly entitlement for combat-related disabilities. The notice also said he owed $23,451 in unpaid premiums, plus interest, that he was expected to pay.
CHICOER — Roughly a year after the groundbreaking ceremony, the walls of the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic are going up in southeast Chico. After months of foundation, underground and street work, the clinic is moving toward its opening in 2019. It is located on about seven acres, west of Bruce Road, just north of the North Butte County Courthouse in the area of Meriam Park. The project is on schedule, according to Will Martin, public affairs officer for the VA Northern California Health Care System in Sacramento.
STARS AND STRIPES — Democrats are calling for an investigation into a one-year-old law that gave Department of Veterans Affairs leaders more power to discipline employees, citing a lack of transparency from the agency about how it’s being put to use. Congress passed the bipartisan VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act last June, creating more repercussions and a quicker firing process for poor-performing VA employees. Advocates saw it as a way to root out a perceived culture of corruption at the VA, but four senators said they’re worried it’s been used to punish staff inappropriately for minor offenses or whistleblowing.
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER — As Irvine officials try to decide where to build a long-promised veterans cemetery in their city, a new location elsewhere is getting more serious consideration. On Tuesday, Orange County supervisors will hold a closed-door discussion on whether to explore using a 288-acre, county-owned parcel near the 91 freeway and 241 toll road interchange for an official military cemetery, Supervisor Todd Spitzer said. The land was part of a gift of open space the Irvine Company made to the county in 2014. Spitzer said the terms of the donation would allow a cemetery.
MILITARY TIMES — House lawmakers plan to form a new oversight panel to track Veteran Affairs officials’ work on modernizing their electronic health records system, saying that Congress needs to closely monitor the years-long process. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, R-Tenn., had mentioned the idea in recent hearings before the panel, but on Wednesday formally announced the process to add the new subcommittee. The full congressional panel will take up the proposal at a July 12 meeting.
MILITARY.COM — Eleven veterans organizations have adopted a “Veteran’s Creed” that acknowledges pride of service and a continuing shared commitment to values that strengthen the nation. The fourth tenet of the creed states that “I continue to serve my community, my country and my fellow veterans.” The creed, which was adopted on Flag Day last week at an event at the Reserve Officers Association, was the result of extensive discussions among veterans groups that began last fall at Georgetown University.
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH — Each Saturday, before Bob Dole sets off on his latest vocation, he has cornflakes, a little sugar on top, and a bottle of chocolate Boost. It takes less time to get dressed now that the 94-year-old finally allows a nurse to help him, but it remains a rough half-hour on a body racked by injury and age. The blue oxford has to be maneuvered over the dead right arm and the shoulder that was blown away on an Italian hillside. The pressed khakis over the scarred thigh. A pair of North Face running shoes, the likes of which his artillery-blasted hands have been unable to tie since 1945.
TASK & PURPOSE — BrightView’s Gregory Jacquin knows what it takes to adapt, persevere and overcome to achieve high aspirations. His journey — from serving in the United States Marine Corps to taking on the role of senior vice president of the country’s leading commercial landscaping company — didn’t happen overnight; it was an uphill climb that took years of hard work, humility and personal sacrifice.