military

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Michigan's female veterans can now take a survey to help policymakers develop services that will better fit their needs.

The Michigan Women's Commission is conducting the survey.

Susy Avery is the executive director of the commission. She says the main goal of the survey is identify service gaps, and fix them.

"I think awareness is critical," Avery said. "So many times when you're hearing a lot of stories about veterans, women are kind of left out of it because they just don't realize that there are so many of them."

“The programs we offer are the ones that (veterans) desire,” says Garland Williams, the University of  Phoenix’s vice president for military affairs.
Carlos A. Moreno / CIR

Update 10:30 p.m.

The showed has already aired on Michigan Radio. If you missed it, you can catch it again here.

Original post- 11:30 a.m.

Who’s really benefiting from the GI Bill? Why does the U.S. Coast Guard have some explaining to do? How much arsenic in our water is actually safe? There’s always more to the story.

“Reveal,” the radio show dedicated to investigative reporting, is back. Brought to you by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, the third pilot episode examines the value of a degree from a for-profit colleges reaping millions of dollars from GI Bill funds, explores the Coast Guard’s shaky safety record, exposes the backroom deals over arsenic in our water and delves into the secrecy around lethal injection drugs.

Catch Reveal tonight on Michigan Radio at 7 p.m.!

Here’s a rundown of the stories you’ll hear:

John M. Cropper / Flickr

Let's continue our look at military veterans in Michigan. Yesterday on the show, we talked about the disconnect between saying that we want to help veterans and actually putting policy into place that does that.

Today, we turned our focus to mental health.

Data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates about 22 vets a day are committing suicide.

And it's estimated one in five veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

There are dozens of programs the military has set up to help treat the mental illnesses and troubles vets are suffering.

But a panel of experts studied programs from the U.S. Department of Defense and came to a very unsettling conclusion: There is no evidence these programs actually work.

The report shows the programs were not created from evidence-based research, and do not have an evaluation process to see if they are effective or not.

Kenneth Warner chaired the research panel. He's also in the Department of Health Management and Policy in the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan.

*Listen to the interview above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There is no shortage of attention showered upon our veterans. A true bipartisan show of support happened during the State of the Union speech, when President Obama singled out wounded Army Ranger Cory Remsburg for a standing ovation.

We stand up to offer ovations, we wave flags, we cheer our vets, but what are we really offering them in terms of support?

When it comes to per-capita spending for veterans, Michigan is last in the nation.

What should we be doing for the 700,000 military veterans who call Michigan home?

Kristin Hass joined us today. She’s the American Culture Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Michigan. And she’s the author of "Sacrificing Soldiers: New War Memorials on the National Mall."

*Listen to our interview above.

user foqus / Flickr

Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel unveiled his latest budget proposal. And it is clear that as the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan continues, the Obama administration's priority is now reducing military size and spending.

Secretary Hagel declared that budget reductions cut “so deep, so quickly, that we cannot shrink the size of our military fast enough.”

For instance, the active-duty Army would shrink to its smallest level since just before the U.S. entered World War II. There would be base closings, troop cuts, trimmed salary increases, and the complete elimination of several Air Force aircraft fleets.

That includes the A-10, an aircraft that dates back to the Cold War.

The A-10, also known as "The Warthog," was designed to take out Soviet tanks.

Twenty-four of America's 300 Warthogs are at Selfridge Air National Guard Base near Mt Clemens in Macomb County. Eliminating that fleet would be a gut punch to Selfridge.

Here to explain is Detroit News Washington Bureau Chief David Shepardson.

Listen to the full interview above. 

courtesy Tim Fazio

The Department of Veteran Affairs may be overprescribing opiates to veterans — and in some cases, prescribing to those with known opiate addictions.

An investigative report from PRX and the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that the VA agency “has issued more than one opiate prescription per patient, on average, for the past two years.”

Twitter

In October 2010, the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines deployed to Afghanistan. They were sent to relieve the British Royal Marines in the southern Helmand Province, a hotbed of insurgent fighters and IEDs.

Twenty-five Marines in the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines did not come home.

One of those who did come home went on to become a student at Michigan State University. Former Marine sniper Logan Stark is now a senior in MSU's Professional Writing Program.

As a class project, Logan formed a three-member team that produced a documentary called "For the 25" dedicated to his fallen brothers in the "Dark Horse" battalion, which suffered the highest number of casualties in 2010 during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Logan Stark joined us in the studio today.

You can watch "For the 25" below.

Listen to the full interview above.

Field of Flight facebook page

The effect of the federal budget sequestration can be seen this week at a popular air show in Battle Creek.

Or more accurately, won’t be seen.

Since the late 1980’s, the Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon festival in Battle Creek has featured high performance military aircraft.  Not this year.

The federal budget sequestration has grounded a lot of the aircraft the U-S military routinely sends to airshows.

Detroit Institute of Arts
Maia C/Flickr

You can almost feel the parental summer panic start to kick in. 

School is almost out.

And there are only so many times you can take the kids to the pool before you all go insane.

Those long, hot days can be especially tough for military families, who may only have one parent at home.

That's why 50 Michigan museums are opening their doors, free of charge, to active military personnel and their families this summer.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Update 5/29/13: This story has been corrected to reflect Wright’s rank as Specialist, not Sergeant. Wright misrepresented his rank during the formal event.  

Memorial Day was particularly special for an injured Iraqi war veteran from Allegan.

Hundreds huddled close at Oakwood Cemetery Monday morning. Some wept as Amy Wright finally pinned a Purple Heart on her husband’s uniform. He kneeled so his 7-year old daughter Torin could pin on the other one.

Former Marine Adam Fields, 27, of Modesto, Calif., has been waiting since November 2010 for a ruling on his claim for benefits for traumatic brain injury.
Michael Short / Center for Investigative Reporting

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., says we are failing when it comes to providing health care to those who have served in the military:

"Our nation has a moral obligation to provide quality health care to the men and women who put on our nations uniform and are injured and wounded fighting our nations wars… Our responsibility ends only when the wounds are healed…I am sad to say that we as a nation are not meeting this obligation."

He made these remarks in early April during an opening statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee Joint Hearing on Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs.

Back in August of 2012, we reported on the long wait time for veterans filing disability claims.

At the time of our report, veterans in our area were waiting an average of 319 days for a decision from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs on their disability claims. The national average was 257 days.

Unfortunately, there have been few improvements.

Today, the average wait time in our area is 321 days, a slight increase since 2011. And according to a Missouri Watchdog report published last week, the national average has increased to 290 days.

This map shows the number of backlogged VA claims around the country. The Center for Investigative Reporting updates the map every Monday to show changes in each office's pending claims.

Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial

Organizers are hoping to build a World War II memorial in Michigan.

The Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial would be built in Royal Oak's Memorial Park along Woodward Avenue.

The memorial would honor Michigan's role in building what FDR called the "Arsenal of Democracy" and the men and women who served. From the group's website:

U.S. Dept. of Defense

That's money military contractors in Michigan have received in the last week. Most of the money is coming from foreign governments, according to Crain's Detroit Business:

Sterling Heights-based General Dynamics Land Systems won a $37.6 million single-bid modification to a previous contract to fund a coproduction effort on the M1A1 Abrams main battle tank in Egypt.

The company has had an agreement with the Egyptian government dating back to the early 1990s for the M1A1, which generally involves some component production in the U.S. and final vehicle assembly in that country.

Including Egypt, other Michigan related contracts are coming from Iraq and Israel, according to Crain's.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

While politicians argue over who knew what and when with regard to the FBI's investigation into CIA Director David Petraeus' extra-marital affair, many insiders are speculating over who his replacement will be.

Today, the chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times David Sanger wrote about possible replacements.

And way down at the bottom of his article, Sanger lists Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers (R-8th District) as a possible replacement:

Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan, is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a former F.B.I. official and could sail through confirmation hearings and give a bipartisan air to the administration’s efforts, as Mr. Petraeus did.

A Rogers appointment seems less likely next to names like Michael J. Morell, Mr. Petraeus' deputy, and retired C.I.A. operative John O. Brennan.

MLive said Rogers' office had no immediate comment.

In the meantime, Congressman Mike Rogers is one of those on the Capitol working to find out why members were not briefed on the FBI's investigation. From the NYTimes:

A spokesman for Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who heads the House Intelligence Committee, said the lawmaker had summoned Sean Joyce, the F.B.I.’s deputy director, and Michael J. Morrell, the deputy C.I.A. director, for closed briefings on Wednesday about the investigation.

Kurt Stepnitz / Michigan State University News

After a year's deployment in Afghanistan, 600 members of Michigan's National Guard are coming home. They'll join the ranks of 19,00 local Guardsmen and women who’ve served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But this particular unit will soon embark on a new mission. And this time, they're bringing their families.

For 3 years, the veterans, their spouses, and children will be part of a Michigan State University study on how families cope with life after combat.

Former Marine Adam Fields, 27, of Modesto, Calif., has been waiting since November 2010 for a ruling on his claim for benefits for traumatic brain injury.
Michael Short / Center for Investigative Reporting

We've written before about the "unfinished business" of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan... caring for thousands of vets who are coming home after multiple tours with symptoms of PTSD or other disabilities.

Vets seeking benefits to help with their disabilities can face long wait times.

Thanks to a new analysis released today by the Center for Investigative Reporting, we can get a sense for how long those wait times are.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

President Obama and leaders in Congress will need to agree on a way to reduce the federal budget deficit to avoid automatic, sweeping cuts in January. There’s concern that the cuts could have a damaging effect on the economy and military programs.

The cuts are looming because Congress authorized the federal government to borrow more money last summer. In exchange, a bi-partisan super committee (Michigan Congressmen Dave Camp and Fred Upton served on the committee) was supposed to come up with a plan to cut the federal deficit. But that committee failed.

Congressman Justin Amash says, yeah, he called it.

"…That they would raise the debt ceiling, borrow more and then later on say ‘oh we don’t want to do these cuts’ and that’s exactly what’s happening,” Amash said.

Amash, who represents Michigan’s 3rddistrict, was the only Republican from Michigan to vote against what he says was a “phony plan” to begin with.

Ruth Johnson has faced criticism over the citizenship question on Michigan ballots this year.
user jdurham / MorgueFile.com

Local governments that missed a June deadline to send absentee ballots to Michigan members of the armed forces still can count the votes if they're returned after Tuesday.

A federal judge in Grand Rapids approved a compromise Monday between the U.S. Justice Department and the state of Michigan. The government filed a lawsuit after learning that dozens of clerks missed the deadline.

ADDISON, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan memorial service is Saturday for a U.S. Army nurse who died suddenly in Afghanistan during a computer video chat with his wife.

The service for 43-year-old Capt. Bruce Kevin Clark is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Addison Middle School, about 70 miles southwest of Detroit. He grew up in Michigan.

Clark was assigned to a medical center in El Paso, Texas, and then deployed to Afghanistan in March. His wife, Susan Orellana-Clark, was in Texas chatting with him via Skype on April 30 when he collapsed. The death is under investigation.

A funeral is scheduled for Tuesday in western New York.

Clark's wife is from Spencerport, N.Y. He and his family lived there for six years before he joined the Army in 2006.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Free Press reports that Gov. Snyder has made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan to visit the troops, his spokesman confirmed today.

Snyder is in Afghanistan after a stop in Kuwait and will next move to Germany with a delegation that includes the governors of Rhode Island and South Dakota, Ryan Kazmirzack said.

Snyder is to do a conference call with reporters in Michigan early this afternoon.

The trip was organized through the Department of Defense, Kazmirzack said.

Every Monday morning we speak with someone who is trying to change their community. Today, as our Seeking Change series continues, we speak with Ariana  Bostian-Kentes. She's the co-founder of the group Military Partners and Families Coalition. It’s a support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and  transgender partners of active military service members. The founders came together after testifying in Washington D.C. before  the group analyzing the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, and what would happen post-repeal.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s 15 members of congress are questioning proposed cuts that affect the state’s air national guard bases. They sent letters to both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees Monday. The congressional delegation joined Governor Rick Snyder, who questioned Secretary of Defense Leon Penetta about the cuts (along with other governors) in a letter last week.

The cuts would eliminate more than 600 positions; although most are part-time jobs with the Michigan Air National Guard. The two bases affected are in Battle Creek and near Mt. Clemens.

U.S. Army

The unemployment rate has been high since the recession hit in 2008, but it's been especially high for young veterans in Michigan. According to the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion in Lansing:

A study conducted by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress reports that nearly 30% of 9/11 era veterans are unemployed in the state of Michigan.  This is nearly 3 times the national average of 11.5%.  The state of Michigan unfortunately tops the list of veterans out of work.

Numbers like these are the reason behind tomorrow's job fair. The Great Lakes Army Recruiting Battalion and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation have partnered on the first ever Great Lakes Veterans Job Fair:

The job fair is open to veterans from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm at VFW Post 345, located at 27345 Schoolcraft Rd. in Redford Township.  This job fair is focused on veterans, but no job-seekers will be turned away. For more information on the Veteran’s Job Fair, please call the U.S. Army’s Great Lakes Recruiting Battalion Public Affairs Office at 517-887-5782.

DETROIT (AP) - A Veterans Affairs conference this summer in Detroit is expected to bring $3 million of spending to the area.

The National Veterans Small Business Conference will be held June 25-29 at Cobo Center. Organizers say more than 6,000 veterans, business owners and federal employees are expected to attend.

Nearly 5,000 people attended the conference last year in New Orleans.

Mayor Dave Bing and Veterans Affairs Chief of Staff John Gingrich announced the conference  Wednesday. Gingrich says the conference and a hiring fair "will provide veterans with on-the-spot job opportunities and interviews" in the public and private sectors.

A partnership of federal agencies and private industry attracted more than 4,100 veterans and resulted in over 2,600 on-the-spot interviews and more than 500 tentative job offers earlier this month in Washington D.C.

ACME TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder has ordered the lowering of U.S. flags in Michigan on Friday in honor of Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew S. Schwartz.

The Pentagon says the 34-year-old Traverse City native and two others died last Thursday when an improvised explosive device hit their vehicle in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

Reynolds Jonkhoff funeral home in Traverse City says visitation for Schwartz will be 5-8 p.m. Friday at Christ the King Catholic Church. It's in Grand Traverse County's Acme Township.

The funeral is at the church at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Schwartz was an explosive ordnance disposal specialist assigned to F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.

He was a 1996 Traverse City Central High School graduate with 12 years in the Air Force and on his sixth deployment.

Twenty-five members of the Michigan National Guard are off to west Africa to  help train Liberia’s fledgling military force. The nation was established in 1822 by freed U-S slaves. It is now recovering from many years of civil war.

Captain Corissa Barton is with the Michigan Guard. She said the project is a welcome change from the Guard’s normal deployments in recent years.

“This just is not, especially in the last 10 years, not our typical mission. We’re used to going to Iraq and Afghanistan, so being able to do something like this - that’s a little bit different, the troops get excited about it,” said Barton.

The Michigan Guard was assigned Liberia as a partner by the U.S. military as part of a project to establish closer ties with emerging national governments.

The Michigan team is expected to spend a year in Liberia. Its members come from units all across Michigan.

mortuary.af.mil

A young Army soldier from Boyne City died in Afghanistan last month (November 21) - just two months into his deployment.

U.S. Army Pvt. 2nd Class Jack Lee Diener was 20 when he was killed by small arms fire in Kandahar province.

Diener graduated from Boyne City High School in 2009.

Flags in Michigan are flying at half staff today in his honor.

In Boyne City, flags were lowered the day the town heard of his death on November 22.

From the November 22 PetoskyNews.com:

U.S. Navy

People around the country are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor today.

It was December 7, 1941 when the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the island of Oahu.

Many of the surviving veterans of that battle are now in their late 80s to 90s. The New York Times reports that 7,000 survivors were on hand at the USS Arizona Memorial for the 50th anniversary. For the 70th anniversary, they're expecting 125 survivors.

The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association announced today that they're disbanding. From the Times:

“We had no choice,” said William H. Eckel, 89, who was once the director of the Fourth Division of the survivors’ association, interviewed by telephone from Texas. “Wives and family members have been trying to keep it operating, but they just can’t do it. People are winding up in nursing homes and intensive care places.”

The Muskegon Chronicle has a nice feature story today on a Pearl Harbor survivor from Hart, Michigan.

Buck Beadle is 91. He's a retired Oceana County Sheriff's deputy. Beadle was aboard the USS Hull on the morning of the attack.

From the Chronicle:

As Beadle remembers it, the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, dawned warm and sunny in Pearl Harbor, like “any other day” in tropical Honolulu, Hawaii. He and the other 220 men aboard the USS Hull were “relaxing, lying on our bunks and reading the newspaper” when all hell broke loose.

“It was scary at first,” Beadle says. “We didn’t know what was going on. But when we heard those four-barrel machine guns going, that told you something was radically wrong.”

After the attack, the U.S. declared war on Japan and Beadle spent four years at sea on the USS Hull.

He's being honored today at a gathering at the Oceana County Historical and Genealogical Society where some of his photographs are on display.

user csuspect / Flickr

Michigan lawmakers are working  to fine-tune a law intended to protect both freedom of speech and the dignity of military funerals.

The Grand Rapids Press reports:

The bill on Tuesday cleared the Senate's Military and Veterans Affairs Committee by a 3-0 margin, with two Democratic senators absent.

The original law came in response to members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, which has staged controversial protests at military funerals. Church members assert that military deaths are God’s punishment for tolerance of gays.

Michigan’s law keeps such protesters at least 500 feet from a funeral ceremony, but lawmakers have said other people could have been affected – such as a person parked near a funeral home with an an anti-war bumper sticker on their car, or someone mowing their lawn near a cemetery.

The new version of the bill which cleared the House would make it clear that the actions must be intended to intimidate, threaten, or harass people attending a funeral, service, viewing, procession, or burial.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that the law is in accordance with a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Westboro members' rights to conduct their controversial protests.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

More than 150 Michigan Army National Guard members are preparing to head to Fort Bliss, Texas, for additional training before leaving for a one-year deployment to Kuwait.   

The 1462nd Transportation Company will be sent off by family and friends Saturday at Parker Middle School in Howell. The soldiers will serve in Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.   

More than 1,150 Michigan National Guard soldiers and airmen are deployed across the globe in support of the war on terrorism, nearly five percent of the entire state force.   

More than 95 percent remain in Michigan to respond to a state emergency, including a terrorist event.

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