Today is our 138th day back in Iraq.
3 contractors were recently killed in Afghanistan, but there have been no new military casualties in either theatre.
Today's Cost of War has passed yet another milestone, as you can see: $ 1, 600, 902, 500, 000 .00
Today the Senate is expected to take up the Clay Hunt act, which passed the House back on January 7. We'll see what kind of commitment this New Congress has to our veterans this day.
The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act is a significant piece of legislation that aims to help reduce military and veteran suicides and improve access to quality mental health care.
Developed by IAVA and our allies on Capitol Hill, and driven by qualitative and qualitative data from IAVA’s annual member survey, the SAV Act will:
Increase access to mental health care by, among other things, creating a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning servicemembers as well as a one-stop, interactive website of available resources.
Better meet the demand for mental health care by starting a pilot program to repay the loan debt of students in psychiatry so it is easier to recruit them to work at the VA.
Boost the accountability of mental health care by requiring an annual evaluation of VA mental health and suicide-prevention programs.
The House version of the SAV Act (H.R.203) was re-introduced on Jan. 7, 2015, by Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN1), House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL1), and Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL8). On Jan. 12, the bill unanimously passed the House and was sent to the Senate for consideration.
The Senate version of the SAV Act (S.167) was re-introduced on Jan. 13, 2015, by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and 18 co-sponsors.
But that's not the only move on the VA front. The Administration itself has proposed a new budget for the next fiscal year
....which doesn't begin until this October, so Congress has plenty of time to argue over it. It's time for Congressional Republicans to put up or shut up, I would think.
The Veterans Affairs Department's budget plan for health care next year would boost spending on mental health treatment and services, caregiver programs and health care for female veterans.
The budget request for fiscal 2016, which starts Oct. 1, includes $56 billion in spending for veterans health care as well as $63.3 billion in advance funding for 2017. That advance funding is included each year in the VA spending plan to protect the health budget in the event of a government shutdown.
The funding includes $7.2 billion to improve mental health treatment in the primary care setting as well as provide "more intensive interventions in specialty mental health programs" for severe or chronic mental health disorders.
It also provides $598 million for continued construction and improvement projects and $36 million to improve customer service programs for online access and call centers.
The department expects to have 9.4 million veterans enrolled in VA health care in the coming year, including 1.4 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Along with increasing funding for its brick-and-mortar hospital operations, the proposal includes more money — totalling $1.2 billion — for telehealth technologies to increase access to medical care for veterans with chronic conditions who live in remote or rural areas, and $446 million for women's health programs, an increase of 8.3 percent.
While the spending request is substantial, the budget proposal also warns that more resources will be needed to ensure that the VA health system continues to provide quality health care.
Noting that the Veterans Choice Act put aside $5 billion in mandatory funding to hire more physicians and staff and improve infrastructure, as well as $10 billion for the Veterans Choice program, designed to improve access to health care by allowing veterans to be seen in civilian health care settings, VA officials said more investments will be needed.
President Obama did not specify where the additional funding is needed but said his administration will submit legislation in coming months to ensure the VA can continue to make "essential investments."
I suppose if we had one less aircraft carrier, or if we retired the A-10, or maybe even grounded the F-22 or F-35, the money could be found....but God forbid we do something sensible like that. After all, the defense industry wouldn't make any money!
And finally this morning, since we always have to plan for the next war, NATO has decided to start poking at the Russian beehive with a stick
. For all our histrionics, I don't believe the US and Russia have ever fired on each other in anger....but just keeping heading down that path, boys.
BRUSSELS — NATO said Friday it will deploy small units in six eastern European nations to help coordinate a spearhead force set up in response to Russia's actions in Ukraine.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the units in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania will be the first of their kind there.
Defense ministers from the 28-nation military alliance will discuss the full force, which can react quickly to any hotspots in Europe, when they meet on Feb. 5.
Stoltenberg said countries responsible for providing the several thousand troops should be known next week. Norway, Germany and the Netherlands are ready to contribute.
The forward units will comprise a few dozen troops only. They will plan and organize military exercises, and provide command and control for any reinforcements the force might require.
"They're going to be key, because they're going to be the link between national forces and NATO forces. They're going to plan, they're going to organize exercises, to provide ... some key command elements for reinforcements," Stoltenberg said.
NATO forces conducted some 200 military exercises in 2014 and Stoltenberg, speaking at his regular monthly press conference, vowed that this would continue as the Alliance adapts to the increased presence of Russian war planes in European skies.
On Thursday, British fighter jets scrambled to intercept Russian bombers which did not make contact with British air traffic control.
"The increased air presence of Russian military planes near European borders is part of a pattern where we see a more assertive Russia conducting more exercises, more snap exercises," said Stoltenberg.