About Us
Mission Statement
Rules of Conduct
Remember Me

Ask a Vet - Snow Day
Author: TriSec    Date: 03/13/2018 12:03:06

Good Morning.

We're holed up here in the AAV Bunker. There's chips, salsa, stew fixins, and lots of good Bourbon for the day.

On to the news at hand.

Noting that even a broken clock is right twice a day, remember last June when Mr. Trump signed actual legislation that would have made it easier to fire poorly-performing or corrupt officials at the V.A.? This was supposed to streamline the disciplinary process, and make it easier to get rid of the "dead wood", as it were.

But remember - this is a Trump Administration. You know the pavement on the Road to Hell. Of course they've used the new rules as an excuse to run a purge.

Last June, President Donald Trump fulfilled a campaign promise by signing a bipartisan bill to make it easier to fire employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The law, a rare rollback of the federal government’s strict civil-service job protections, was intended as a much-needed fix for an organization widely perceived as broken. “VA accountability is essential to making sure that our veterans are treated with the respect they have so richly earned through their blood, sweat and tears,” Trump said that day. “Those entrusted with the sacred duty of serving our veterans will be held accountable for the care they provide.”

At the time, proponents of the bill repeatedly emphasized that it would hold everyone—especially top officials—accountable: “Senior executives,” stressed Senate Veterans Committee chair Johnny Isakson; “medical directors,” specified Trump; anyone who “undermined trust” in the VA, according to Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. Shulkin advocated for the measure, called the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, by highlighting a case in which the agency had to wait 30 days to fire a worker caught watching porn with a patient.

“I do not see this as a tool that’s going to lead to mass firings,” Shulkin said last June. “I would never support that as secretary. I see this as a tool that’s going to be used on a small number of people, who clearly have deviated from accepted practices and norms.”

The law’s effect was nearly instantaneous: Firings rose 60 percent during the second half of 2017, after the law took effect, compared to the first half of 2017. Since June, the VA has removed 1,704 of its 370,000 employees.

But if top officials were the target of the law, a ProPublica investigation suggests the legislation misfired. In practice, the new law is overwhelmingly being used against the rank and file. Since it took effect, the VA has fired four senior leaders. The other 1,700 terminated people were low-level staffers with titles such as housekeeper (133 lost their jobs), nursing assistant (101 ousted) and food service worker (59 terminated), according to data posted by the VA.

VA spokesman Curt Cashour defended the high proportion of low-ranking employees among the terminations. “Culture spans the entire organization,” he said in a statement. “As with any government agency or business, VA has more rank-and-file workers than senior leaders, and we hold them accountable when warranted, regardless of rank or position.”

Some of the fired workers surely deserved it. But some were guilty of minor infractions—such as arriving late to work—that wouldn’t previously have received as harsh a punishment, according to union officials and a letter sent to Shulkin on February 26 by six Democratic senators.

Switching gears, we of course are focused on veterans of the American military. But something new has emerged from overseas. China may well be our near-enemy these days, and they have a large and varied enough military to make a go of it if that day ever comes. But they too are ordinary men and women, and indeed have the same thoughts, concerns, and issues that a good ol' United States G.I. does at the end of his service.

Surprisingly enough, China has never had any formal sort of Veteran's support for their post-military citizens. That's about to change.

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China will set up a Ministry of Veterans Affairs as part of a government reshuffle presented to parliament on Tuesday, aiming to better look after former soldiers whose complaints about poor treatment have flared into scattered protests in recent years.

The new agency will be formed as part of a broad shake-up of government departments that the country's largely rubber-stamp parliament will formally approve on Saturday.

The ministry will centralize the handling of resettlements and finding new jobs for former soldiers and ensuring those in the military are treated as "revered members of society", State Councillor Wang Yong told parliament, unveiling details of the reshuffle.

It will also be responsible for supporting veterans' family members and for taking care of graves and memorials, he added.

The tasks were previously handled by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the Central Military Commission, which President Xi Jinping heads and which has overall command of the armed forces.

In February of last year, Chinese military veterans staged two days of demonstrations in central Beijing, demanding unpaid retirement benefits in a new wave of protests highlighting the difficulty in managing demobilized troops.

Xi announced in 2015 the People's Liberation Army would cut troop levels by 300,000, aiming to make the bulk of the reductions by the end of 2017.

Premier Li Keqiang said last week China had basically completed those efforts.

China hopes the measure will leave it more money to spend on high-tech weapons for its navy and air force, and result in a leaner and more strategic military.

The government this month unveiled its largest defense spending increase in three years, setting an 8.1 percent growth target this year, fuelling an ambitious military modernization program and making its neighbors nervous.

Grievances over military pensions and perceived poor treatment of veterans have been a long-running issue, and have at times led to organized protests.

More than 1,000 veterans also demonstrated outside Defence Ministry headquarters in Beijing in 2016, and reports of protests in parts of the country surface every few months.

Demobilized soldiers who protested have included some who fought against Vietnam in 1979 - China's last major foreign military engagement - and complained about problems with their pensions.

China's defense ministry, responding to the protests last year, said the government cared about veterans' welfare, attached great importance to resolving their difficulties and had done much to better their conditions.

We shall watch this one with interest.

But of course, comparing a totalitarian regime to China will yield interesting results. Here in the United States, the military has always walked a thin line between letting loose lips sink ships, and Congress not making any laws abridging the freedom of speech. The Press has always had a love-hate relationship with the military. It's interesting to compare people like Robert Capa and Ernest Hemingway going ashore at D-Day with the troops, to the more recent days of the media gaggle being spoon-fed "information" at a daily briefing.

So I find it somewhat alarming that the Air Force is issuing a 'gag order' and reducing the information being distributed to the press, and the availability of anyone to talk to about daily affairs. Many of the Founding Fathers actually warned us about the dangers of maintaining a standing army. This is probably what they were alluding to.

The U.S. Air Force is curtailing its media engagements and limiting the amount of information it releases in what it says is an effort to protect operational security, according to a new memo.

The service says its latest move is in line with the new National Defense Strategy, and must "avoid giving insights to our adversaries which could erode our military advantage," according to a seven-page memo obtained by Military.com. The new guidance was first reported Monday by Defense News.

The March 1 memo, titled "Public Affairs Guidance: OPSEC and Public Engagement Reset" highlights for public affairs officers throughout the ranks how to best deal with members of the media. In some specific cases, officers are encouraged to "re-assess" media coverage or stories already in the works.

"PA offices should account for and re-assess all potential media coverage that may result from previous interviews that have yet to be published," the memo says. "The PA office should review all information provided to ensure it protects operational security, and if necessary, work with/advise higher headquarters of the potential coverage."

Media embeds, base visits and interviews are suspended until further notice with limited exceptions.

Combatant commands such as U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa and Pacific Air Forces are to adhere to their existing media practices, according to the guidance; however, in the likelihood that COCOM-approved engagements "may result in coverage of airmen, units and operations," PA officials should consult with "higher headquarters," the memo states.

Exercises and any event that reveals tactics, techniques and procedures have been flagged as "operational security risk" topics. Topics for potential engagement with the media include human interest stories, historical topics or programs that bring awareness such as Black History Month and Sexual Assault and Prevention Month, the memo says.

The guidance comes at a time when services such as the U.S. Navy -- as well as the Defense Department as a whole -- have clamped down on media engagement in recent months.


And now, I have reason to believe I am the most northerly of our wee little corner of the internets, and we seem to be right here at "Ground Zero" today for the storm. Not sure how far down the coast this one is affecting today. (Florida bloggers can shaddup.) Stay Safe out there today!


45 comments (Latest Comment: 03/13/2018 21:27:07 by livingonli)
   Perma Link

Share This!

Furl it!