Monday, August 26, 2013

SSgt. Ty Carter: Medal Of Honor Recipient; Infantry Training Will Open For Women Marines; VA Employees Get Bonuses As Backlog Of Claims Still A Problem

"When good men are dying all around you, you have to decide what your last moments are going to be like...Are you going to die behind something or are you going to die standing and firing."...SSgt. Ty Carter

SSgt. Ty Carter: Medal of Honor For Gallantry In Afghanistan

"Ty Carter ran low and fast across an American outpost  (Combat Outpost Keating) while overwhelming numbers of Taliban fighters closed in (estimated to be over 300). He sprinted over ground where he could see bullets piercing the dust in front of him, gambling on getting ahead of the shooters' ability to target him. It worked. A dozen times, Carter ran a gantlet of heavy machine gun and sniper fire---carrying ammo, recovering a field radio, cradling a wounded comrade in his arms---sometimes zigzagging to dodge exploding rocket-propelled grenades or mortar rounds. When he wasn't moving through enemy fire in the battle in 2009, Carter and another soldier made their stand in an all-but-shredded armored vehicle---a last defensive bastion in a far corner of the fort. Surrounded by dead Americans and running low on ammunition, they shot and killed enemy fighters breaching the walls."  Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY

Carter, who was also wounded in the battle, was the second recipient of the Medal of Honor for that battle. Earlier this year, SSgt. Clinton Romesha (whom we also honored on this blog) was a recipient of our nation's highest award for gallantry that same day. The battle became known as the battle of Kamdesh. Eight Americans died that day. A ninth, Spec. Edward Faulkner, Jr., would battle PTSD for a year after the battle and later commit suicide.

Marines To Open Infantry Training For Women

Marines announced they will allow enlisted women to take part in basic infantry training beginning this fall.

"Female Marines will have the opportunity to go through the same infantry training course as their male counterparts," as stated in the official Marine planning document.

The Marine Corps operates two infantry schools. One is Camp Geiger in N. Carolina and the other is at Camp Pendleton in Southern California. The school last eight weeks. It includes a combination of physical training, classroom work and overnight field exercises that involved live-fire events. Skills training includes the handling of weapons, patrolling and land navigation including how to spot and react to improvised explosives.  Marine Corps Times

Ailing Veterans Still Await VA To Clear Backlog

Several months ago, I reported on the backlog of VA claims. At the time, the backlog had approached almost 900,000 claims.  While the Department of Veteran Affairs recently reported the backlog had decreased by 20% since March, a backlog of claims more than four months old now stands at almost 500,000.  In 1997, the average VA employee processed 135 claims per year. As of 2012, that dropped to approximately 73 claims per year even as the VA hired thousands of new employees to handle the disability claims according to the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Just as disturbing, the Washington Post reported this week that VA employees continued to receive millions of dollars in bonuses for excellent performance that encouraged them to avoid claims that needed extra work to verify veterans' injuries. The VA employees approximately 11,000 claims processors or assistants. Even more disturbing, according to the Washington Post, some of the worst performing offices gave bonuses averaging $1,100.00 each to 40% of its workforce.

Allison A. Hickey, undersecretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the VA is aggressively addressing the backlog of claims.

The fact is the VA's delays in processing these claims is unacceptable. The VA needs to start walking the talk.

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