September 16, 2014

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft,
What can be done to about WWII veterans who are being denied recognition by the military? Requests are being answered by the U.S. Army with denials by applying guidelines after the fact since 1948 and as recent as February 2013.

Veterans and family members of veterans (who are no longer with us) across this country have pursued recognition by most every avenue including members of Congress.

The Bronze Star Medal [with] the Combat Infantryman badge and Purple Heart are involved.

Regards,
Robert J.
Surprise, Arizona

Dear Robert,
I referred your missive to the Honorable John McHugh, Secretary of The Army and asked him to look into your concern relating to the award of the Bronze Star for those like you, who have received the Combat Infantry Badge and/or the Purple Heart.

Shaft Notes
 U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today called for an immediate suspension of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for countries that have large numbers of Islamic extremists actively fighting alongside groups such as ISIL in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Congresswoman Gabbard, an Army National Guard captain who has served two tours of duty in the Middle East, said, “As things presently stand, Islamic extremists holding British, German, French or other European passports can simply get on a plane and fly to America without a visa. This Visa Waiver Program puts the American people in great danger.

“I urge the Administration to immediately suspend the Visa Waiver Program for countries such as Great Britain, Germany, and France, which have thousands of citizens fighting alongside Islamic extremist groups like ISIL, in the Middle East or around the world. By suspending the Visa Waiver Program, all visitors from these countries will have to go through a visa application process before they are allowed to step on U.S. soil. Simultaneously, I will work with my colleagues to take action in Congress to address this issue and plug this gaping hole in our national security.”

The VWP, administered by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, has 38 countries participating. The program enables eligible citizens or nationals of those countries to travel to the United States and stay for up to 90 days without first obtaining a visa.

In addition the Congresswoman Gabbard voted to pass H. Res. 644 expressing disapproval of the illegal May 31 freeing of five top-level Muslim terrorist leaders from detention at Guantanamo Bay.

Gabbard said, “Contrary to those who defend the release of these terrorist leaders, recent events in the Middle East make it painfully clear that our war with Muslim extremists is far from over. In fact, they are more powerful and dangeroustodaythan ever. Assessed in this light, the freeing of five high-level Muslim extremists was short-sighted and further evidence that our leaders have forgotten that we are at war and who the enemy is. I’m deeply concerned about the very real possibility that we will see one of these released terrorists beheading yet another American on YouTube. Negotiating with and giving in to the demands of these terrorists has set a very dangerous precedent since it is an established fact that such terrorists specifically targeted the citizens of nations who are willing to negotiate with them. It has put more Americans at risk.”

On August 21, the Government Accountability Office concluded the administration did not follow the law in failing to notify the relevant congressional committees.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is introducing a plan to incorporate Accelerated Learning Programs (ALP) as a way to bridge the gap between Veterans’ separation from service and successful civilian employment outcomes. In general, ALP learning is a non-traditional form of education that employs, and incorporates, varied learning styles. Individuals pursue intensive or self-paced learning in curricula that focus on developing career and industry skills. The ALP form of learning takes advantage of technologies, blended learning environments and innovative curricula that support the President’s priority to ensure that America’s Veterans find meaningful civilian employment.

“We must do all that we can to make sure our Veterans who were ready for war are also ready for life outside the military,” said VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, who participated today in a joint VA and White House roundtable discussion on ALP, as part of the White House Skills and Demand-Driven Training Initiative. “We talk a lot about how hiring Veterans is the right thing to do. The fact is hiring Veterans is the smart thing to do, and we must do all that we can to support them.”

Today’s roundtable discussion brought together key government agencies, education entrepreneurs and thought leaders, social impact subject matter experts and private sector employers to discuss the potential benefits of ALPs. Preliminary research by VA which focused on information technology (IT) training as an in-demand, high-growth industry, suggests that accelerated learning could provide a viable alternative to traditional education that may yield competitive job skills and employment opportunities for some Veterans. VA is developing a strategy to leverage accelerated learning and test its effectiveness for Veterans in projects over the next two years, targeting communities where VA can best support Veterans and transitioning Servicemembers.

Next steps include additional research and evaluation of these non-traditional modes of education. Evaluation of ALP performance requires a baseline to understand Veterans as they enter a program, their current employment status, and the types of jobs they qualify for prior to ALP completion. Capturing this information requires partnerships between employers and ALP providers, along with participation of Veterans in pre- and post-program data collection. VA will continue to work with education innovators and employers to share leading practices and define the economic outcomes that indicate long-term success for Veteran and transitioning Servicemember participants.

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