Meanwhile Lindsay Wise (Houston Chronicle) reports on the increase in suicides in the Texas National Guard and Wise offers this comparative statistic: since 2001, the Texas Army National Guard has experienced 12 deaths "in action" while 18 members have taken their own lives with seven of those taking place in 2010. As last month wound down, John Donnelly (Congress.Org) reported, "For the second year in a row, the U.S. military has lost more troops to suicide than it has to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan." Last week Gretel C. Kovach (San Diego Union-Tribune) reported on military suicides and noted some specific examples:
When the body of an 18-year-old Marine, Pfc. Derek Capulong, was found hanging from a rifle range watch tower in July, the pain reverberated far beyond Camp Pendleton.
Months later, the young private’s family in Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., is still trying to make sense of his death.
Zenaida Capulong, who helped raise Pfc. Derek Capulong and spoke to him weekly, said she didn’t learn that her grandson was upset until it was too late. He had broken up with his high school sweetheart and been rebuked by a Marine supervisor, “but he had all his dreams,” she said.
Wilfredo Capulong still can’t accept that his grandson took his own life. “He was really determined to finish his ambitions,” he said.
Meanwhile Iraq War veteran Kevin Schrock has entered a plea agreement where he admits guilt and agrees to repay money he's stolen. Adam Ashton (News Tribune) reports the money was stolen from CERP funds (walking around money in Iraq used to bribe the locals which Congress has repeatedly noted is not accounted for rigorously enough). He raised the attention of authorities due to deposits in his bank accounts. He's admitted to stealing $47,000. Problem with the case? No problem for Schrock who appears to have received a sweet deal. But if prosecutors believed his claim that he stole the money to pay off loans, care to explain why the amount if $47,000? He put the money into his accounts in small increments over the years. A major in the US military should be aware of the risks of that. And certainly anyone stealing to pay off loans would most likely not be funneling the money through a bank. You'd make loan payments in cash, you'd do them via money orders from the local 7-11. You wouldn't put money in your checking account to then write a check for if it was stolen money and you were already cautious (cautious enough to take approximately 4 years to put your stolen $47,000 into the bank). Maybe Schrock struck them as extremely stupid. But, as Ashton presents the details, it would appear Schrock got a very sweet deal where he admitted to guilt only over what the prosecution would have had no difficulty proving in a court of law and to a sum that seems incredibly low when you examine the details.
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And we'll again note the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee issued the following yesterday:
"Families of wounded warriors are waiting for these new caregivers' benefits," said Chairman Murray. "And with each day of delay the strain
from the sacrifices they make only grows. Congress heard the concerns
and problems of family caregivers and responded. This delay in putting
the program in place is simply unacceptable. Responding to the needs of
those injured while serving their country is a cost of war that must be
Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), who has served as the Ranking Member
of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs since 2007, said: "The long delay in getting this program up and running is a disservice to veterans
and their families. Caregivers need training and instruction so they can provide the men and women who were severely wounded while serving our country a better quality of life."
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said "Many families are making enormous sacrifices to care for their loved ones. They are often forced to give up their full-time jobs, bear the cost of home care and even move across the country
in search of treatment. It is past time for our nation to step forward and provide support to these families. Any further delay in distributing these benefits is a disservice to the brave men and women who have served our country."
The full text of the Senators' letter follows:
February 07, 2011
The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs 810 Vermont Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20420
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
The Honorable Jacob J. Lew
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Secretary Shinseki and Director Lew:
We are writing regarding the status of the family caregivers program mandated by the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, Public Law 111-163, which was enacted on May 5, 2010. To date, implementation of this program is significantly behind the schedule required by law. The statutory deadline for the full implementation of this program was January 30, 2011, yet not even an initial plan has been completed to this point. We are troubled by this apparent inaction.
Among the critically needed benefits and services that are being withheld from family caregivers are instruction and training in the provision of care, respite care, technical assistance, counseling, and a living stipend for those who must give up their jobs or work limited hours to provide care to their loved one. This law also requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to submit a plan for the implementation of the family caregiver program. That report was due to the Committee 180 days after the enactment of the law, which was November 1, 2010. At this point, the report is more than three months late.
We also note that the National Defense Authorization Act, Public Law 111-383, tied the Department of Defense's stipend for caregiver services to the amounts of the caregiver stipend to be developed under Public Law 111-163. As a result, any further delay in implementing the caregiver program hinders the implementation of the Defense Department's program as well.
We know you share our view that very seriously injured veterans and servicemembers should not be made to suffer by being denied care essential to daily living. Indeed, we noted the commitments made in the President's most recent State of the Union address, and his comments on the recent release of the report on services for military families, which seem to support prompt assistance to those who have served the nation. The caregivers program is one of the most important ways to assist the families of our servicemembers and veterans and we ask for the immediate completion of any further work so that efforts to implement this program can proceed.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Roger Wicker (R-MS), James Inhofe (R-OK), Mark Begich (D-AK), John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Scott P. Brown (R-MA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
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