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Author: TriSec    Date: 07/24/2012 11:10:47

Good Morning.

Today is our 3,943rd day in Afghanistan.

We'll start this morning as we always do; with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing war, courtesy of Antiwar.com:

US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 2,050
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,044

We find this morning's Cost of War passing through:

$ 1, 355, 490, 575, 000 .00

Raine has taken point on this issue, but nevertheless, there are some updates to the ongoing sex abuse scandals within the military. Unfortunately, there's no real improvement. Abused female veterans are no different than men concerning their care; they are entitled to all the benefits and support through the VA as anyone else. However, since most sex abuse is "blue on blue" rather than at the hands of the enemy, it seems that getting care is extremely difficult.

Victims of sexual assault have more difficulty getting benefits than veterans suffering other service-connected trauma disabilities, a former military officer told a House panel Wednesday.

Only one in three claims for post-traumatic stress related to military sexual trauma are approved by the Veterans Affairs Department, compared to half of all other PTSD claims, said former Marine Capt. Anu Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network, or SWAN.

In testimony before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s disability assistance panel, Bhagwati said there also are signs of gender bias in the disability rating provided to PTSD victims.

“Women were more likely to receive a 10 to 30 percent rating and men were more likely to receive a 70 to 100 percent disability rating,” she said.

The problem for sexual assault victims is proving their trauma is a result of an incident that occurred during military service. Part of that involves providing the right kind of evidence, and having it accepted, she said. But there are other issues, such as VA rules that can require victims to have new exams to verify they have PTSD.

“We know from talking to countless veterans that these exams serve no purpose, and in fact often unfairly reverse the diagnosis” made by a VA sexual trauma counselor, she said.

“These experiences often take years or even decades for veterans to come to grips with or to talk comfortably about,” she said. “Veterans should not be forced to repeat them to complete strangers who often lack the sensitivity or professional qualifications to speak to survivors of sexual trauma. It is an absolutely murderous process. It is not an issue of requiring more evidence; it needs requiring less evidence.”

A Navy veteran, Ruth Moore, provided a prime example of what sexual assault victims face. Moore said she was raped in 1987 on her first overseas assignment by a supervisor, “not once, but twice.”

Moore said she was discharged from the Navy after suffering from depression, being treated for a sexually transmitted disease she got during her alleged rape, and after attempting suicide. “No prosecution was ever made against the perpetrator,” she said. “In hindsight, it was easier for the military to get rid of me than admit to a rape.”

Moore said she was diagnosed just before her discharge with a borderline personality disorder, which she said “was the standard diagnosis” for sexual assault victims. “I did not have a personality disorder,” she said.

Moore filed for veterans disability benefits in 1987 for PTSD but was denied. She was denied again in 2003, because “I did not submit enough evidence to prove that I was raped.”

She did receive a 30 percent disability rating for depression after she sought the help of Disabled American Veterans in preparing her claim.

Her disability was increased to 70 percent in 2009 after her records were reviewed by a military sexual trauma coordinator at a VA hospital in Vermont, and ultimately she was determined to also qualify for additional benefits based on unemployability — a determination that came after she enlisted the help of Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vermont.

“This process took me 23 years to resolve, and I am one of the fortunate ones,” she said. “If I had been treated promptly and received benefits in a timely manner back at the time of my discharge, my life would have been much different.”

But at long last, Congress might be inclined to listen. The next story is a few days old, so she has already testified before Congress, but the aforementioned Ms. Moore has told her story.

WASHINGTON — A Maine native who spent more than two decades battling with the Navy after being raped by a fellow service member will share her emotional stories with members of Congress this afternoon during a hearing on military benefits for sexual assault survivors.

The hearing, scheduled to start at 2 p.m., will be broadcast live online.

Ruth Moore, of Milbridge, was an 18-year-old new enlistee when she was sexually assaulted by her immediate supervisor while stationed in the Azores. The supervisor was never punished and assaulted Moore again in retribution for reporting the incident to a chaplain.

Traumatized by the event, Moore was honorably discharged from the Navy based on a false diagnosis of mental illness. She has since struggled personally to overcome the scarring psychological trauma of the rape and to get the military to grant her disability benefits.

Moore, who has only recently begun telling her story publicly, will testify in front a subcommittee of the House Veterans Affairs Committee that is looking into the military’s handling of benefits requests from service members who were sexually assaulted. The hearing is entitled “Invisible Wounds: Examining the Disability Compensation Benefits Process for Victims of Military Sexual Trauma.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-District 1, has sponsored a bill to make it easier for service members who have been sexually assaulted to receive benefits.

"I want to be there for other women and men so they know there can be a good outcome from this," Moore, 43, recently told the Press Herald’s Bill Nemitz. "I know my testimony is important.”

Since we are still at war in Afghanistan, there's news from that front. You may have seen news out of Baghdad this week, as there was a series of bombings that claimed almost 100 lives in the ongoing sectarian violence. However, a smaller attack in Western Afghanistan resulted in the deaths of NATO soldiers and contractors. This never seems to make the news. (note the source.)

A person wearing an Afghan national security force uniform turned his weapon Sunday against civilian contractors with the U.S.-led military coalition, killing three.

In other incidents, five NATO service members were killed in roadside bombings over the past two days.

NATO said the attack on the civilian coalition workers occurred in western Afghanistan but disclosed few other details.

The gunman was killed during the incident, which is still being investigated. No further information about the civilians who died was released.

Afghan security forces or militants dressed in their uniforms have been killing a rising number of coalition forces, but they have not been specifically targeting contractors working for the coalition. So far this year, 26 foreign troops have been killed in this type of attacks.

In other violence, a spokesman for the governor of eastern Wardak province said insurgents had kidnapped five Afghan men working a base jointly operated by Afghan and NATO forces and killed them. Spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said their bodies were discovered early Sunday.

Finally this morning....with the Olympics starting up this Friday, how about a little good news? There are 11 active-duty soldiers that made the Olympic Team. Good luck, guys!

FORT CARSON, Colo. — Dremiel Byers’ twin careers as an Olympic wrestler and a soldier in the U.S. Army overlap at a crucial place, where athletic ambition and the military mission run head-on into the forces that combat and competition can muster.

“Never quit. Keep driving, keep pressing. Focus on the mission. Find another gear,” Byers said Monday as he and 10 other Army athletes and coaches prepared to leave for the London Olympics.

“It’s definitely something that you don’t turn off,” said Byers, a Greco-Roman wrestler who will represent the U.S. in the 120-kilogram (264.5-pound) class in London. “At this point, I’m just being who I am. It makes you who you are.”

Byers and the other Army Olympians are members of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program, with headquarters at Fort Carson outside Colorado Springs, Colo.

They got a formal send-off Monday from their three-star boss, Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter.

“We’re very proud of all of you,” Ferriter told them.

Byers is a quartermaster and sergeant first class. He is also a 10-time national champion who competed in the 2008 Olympics. He knows how dangerous the distractions can be at a flamboyant event like the Summer Games, and he has learned how to shut them out.

“Ready. I’m just ready,” he said. “Keep chasing the medal. Keep chasing the medal.”

Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson, who will represent the U.S. in the rapid fire pistol event in London, said having the entire Army on your side doesn’t necessarily produce a competitive edge, but it’s good to know the military has his back if he’s hurt.

Civilian athletes who suffer a career-ending injury are on their own, but soldier-Olympians have a backup, he said.

“If we get hurt, we’re still soldiers,” he said.

For Sanderson, who also competed in the 2008 Summer Games, his military and athletic skills overlap directly. His Army job is marksmanship instructor.

Byers and other Army wrestlers also use their Olympic skills in the Army, training the trainers in the Army’s Combatives School.

“Sometimes you may have to grab somebody,” he explained. “You may have to wrestle somebody to the ground.”

The Army’s World Class Athlete Program has seven training sites scattered across the nation, including Fort Carson. The headquarters are at Fort Carson partly because of its proximity to the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters in Colorado Springs.

65 comments (Latest Comment: 07/25/2012 02:36:23 by clintster)
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