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April is:

As reported on April 5 by Paul Shinkman, the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive (ODNI) released new federal security clearance guidelines that will provide an immediate change for the victims of sexual assault. The new guidelines revise Question 21 (Mental and Emotional Health) on the Questionnaire for National Security Positions (Standard Form 86) that had required service members to disclose any counseling that they had received in the past seven years. The new national interim guidance from ODNI goes into effect immediately. The new guidance allows victims of sexual assault to answer "No" to Question 21 on the Standard Form 86, "Questionnaire for National Security Positions," which asks if applicants have consulted a health-care professional or were hospitalized regarding an emotional or mental-health condition in the past seven years. Previously, the only exemptions were for family, grief, and marital counseling unrelated to violence, and counseling for post-military combat service.

Link to U.S. News and World report here

On April 8, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that he is directing the Department of Defense Office of General Counsel to prepare legislation for Congress to amend Article 60 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in two ways: "First, eliminating the discretion for a convening authority to change the findings of a court-martial, except for certain minor offenses that would not ordinarily warrant trial by court-martial. In this circumstance, the convening authority should retain the authority to set aside and dismiss one or more specifications or findings of guilt with respect to the minor offense(s), and impose an alternate form of accountability (e.g., non-judicial punishment or adverse administrative action) that is more appropriate for the minor offense. Second, the legislative proposal should require the convening authority to explain in writing any changes made to court-martial sentences, as well as any changes to findings involving minor offenses."

This article recently came under great public scrutiny when Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, a convening authority, overturned the sexual assault conviction of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, a former Inspector General at Aviano Air Base in Italy. On November 2, Wilkerson was found guilty of abusive sexual contact, aggravated sexual assault, and three instances of conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman in an incident involving a civilian employee. Wilkerson has since been quietly reassigned to a position as a safety chief at an Arizona Air Force base.

Read article by Karen Parrish of American Forces Press Service at:  Hagel Seeks to Limit Convening Authority Powers Under UCMJ

As reported by Guy Gugliotta on April 7, in trying to cope with a surge in psychological needs of veterans, the VA has vowed to hire 1,600 additional mental health care professionals by the end of June, but some experts say the pool of qualified candidates is too small, and the federal effort could jeopardize already understaffed community health organizations. The VA told a Senate committee in late March that it had hired 1,089 additional staff with four months remaining until the deadline, and Michael Culpepper, the VA's chief officer for workforce management, said in an interview the agency "feels optimistic about meeting our goals." 

Read the whole story at:  Kaiser Health News  

In an economy that created just 88,000 jobs in March, the jobless rate for Post-9/11-era veterans slightly improved. For veterans of all generations, the Labor Department reported on April 5 that the unemployment rate in March was 7.1 percent, a slight increase over the 6.9 percent rate in February. However, for veterans who have left the military since Sept. 11, 2001, the March jobless rate was 9.2 percent, down slightly from 9.4 percent in February.

To read the entire story click here

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED-FOR: There are still 1,651 personnel listed by the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War. DPMO recently posted the accounting for Major Larry J. Hanley, USAFR, listed as MIA in Laos on November 4, 1969, while flying an F105D Thunderchief. His remains were recovered February 24, 2012, and identified on March 8, 2013. The number of Americans announced by DPMO as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 932. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of remains repatriated from the Vietnam War to 995. Of the 1,651 missing and unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam – 1,278 (VN-469, VS-809); Laos – 313; Cambodia – 53; PRC territorial waters – 7; 450+ over-water losses are among 630 DPMO lists as No Further Pursuit. 

To read the full April 9 Update, go to:

Check the League Website:

From HVAC Media Release, April 8:  On Wednesday, April 10, 2013, at 2:30 p.m., in Room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs will hold a hearing examining the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s (VAOIG) report regarding a National Cemetery Administration (NCA) audit of all NCA burial sites. Last year, Congress and VA agreed that NCA would conduct an audit of all its burial sites following the discovery of 47 improperly placed grave markers at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.

A subsequent VAOIG report revealed that NCA’s audit lacked impartial and independent review procedures and found that the time frame in which NCA conducted the audit did not take into account the various sizes of national cemeteries, resulting in some large cemetery directors feeling overwhelmed and rushed. This hearing will examine whether NCA’s audit methodology and scope were effective, and it will explore the preventative measures NCA has implemented to avoid future problems with improperly placed grave site markers and grave site audits. The hearing will also serve to provide an update on the state of other cemeteries within the Subcommittee’s jurisdiction, including Arlington National Cemetery and American Battle Monuments Commission cemeteries.

On April 1, veterans, faith leaders, and elected officials joined thousands of active and retired union members, families, veterans, and concerned citizens in a rally and subsequent march to the offices of Patriot Coal in Charleston, West Virginia. The VVA West Virginia State Council presented the colors for the rally, sponsored by the United Mine Workers of American (UMWA). The Fairness at Patriot campaign is focused on saving health care for retired mine workers and securing decent wages, health care, and working conditions for active miners.

Photo: David Kameras


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