POW/MIA Update 08: The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced 7 NOV that the remains of three servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and returned to their families for burial with full military honors. Following is a synopsis of the events that led to their death prepared by the P.O.W. Network and updated in 2008. It was compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, and interviews:
By December 1971, U.S. troops in Vietnam had declined dramatically - from the 1968 peak of nearly 55,000 to less than 30,000. The enemy, temporarily on the defensive by the moves into Cambodia in 1970 and Laos in 1971, began deploying new NVA forces southward in preparation for another major offensive. In March 1972, the Vietnamese launched a three-pronged invasion of the South. One NVA force swept south across the DMZ, its goal apparently the conquest of the northern provinces and the seizure of Hue. A second NVA force drove from Laos into the Central Highlands, and a third effort involved a drive from Cambodia into provinces northwest of Saigon. Fierce fighting ensued on all three fronts, with NVA success the greatest in the northern provinces. Fighting continued until by June, the North Vietnamese began withdrawing from some of their advance positions, still holding considerable amounts of South Vietnamese territory in the northern provinces.
On June 11, 1972, Capt. Arnold Holm, pilot, PFC Wayne Bibbs, gunner, and SP4 Robin Yeakley, observer, were aboard an OH6A Cayuse observation helicopter flying from Camp Eagle to the Northern Provinces of South Vietnam on a visual reconnaissance mission. The function of their "Loach" chopper was searching out signs of the enemy around two landing zones (LZ's). The OH6 joined with the AH1G Cobra gunship as "Pink Teams" to screen the deployment of air cavalry troops. On this day, Holm's aircraft was monitoring an ARVN team insertion. During the mission, Holm reported that he saw enemy living quarters, bunkers, and numerous trails. On his second pass over a ridge, at about 25' altitude, the aircraft exploded and burned. It was reported that before the aircraft crashed that smoke and white phosphorous grenades began exploding. After the aircraft impacted with the ground, it exploded again. Other aircraft in the area received heavy anti-aircraft fire. No one was seen to exit the downed helicopter, nor were emergency radio beepers detected.
In another OH6A (tail #67-16275), 1Lt. James R. McQuade, pilot, and SP4 James E. Hackett, gunner, tried to enter the area of the crashed OH6A, but encountered heavy fire and their aircraft was also shot down. McQuade's aircraft was hit, and the intensity of the resulting fire caused white phosphorous and smoke grenades carried aboard their aircraft to explode prior to hitting the ground. The aircraft continued to burn after impact and no crewmen left the ship before or after the crash. No ground search was made for survivors or remains of either aircraft because of hostile fire in the area.
Holm, Arnold Edward Jr. Army Capt. Arnold E. Holm Jr. of Waterford, Conn.; Spc. Robin R. Yeakley of South Bend, Ind.; and Pfc. Wayne Bibbs of Chicago, were buried as a group, in a single casket representing the entire crew, on 9 NOV in Arlington National Cemetery. Scientists from the JPAC used forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence to identify the crew. They recovered human remains, OH-6A helicopter wreckage and crew-related equipment including two identification tags bearing Yeakley's name. Today more than 1,600 American remain un-accounted for from the Vietnam War. More than 900 servicemen have been accounted for from that conflict, and returned to their families for burial with military honors since 1973. There are unanswered questions remaining from Vietnam. Of the Americans who did not return alive or dead, experts venture that hundreds may still be alive. Thousands of reports have been received concerning them. The U.S. government continues to work closely with the governments of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to recover all Americans lost in the Vietnam War. For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703-699-1169. [Source: DoD Bulletin No. 937-11 Nov 07, 2011 ++]
POW/MIA Update 09: The following MIA/POW’s have been identified. For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1420 :
Korea. DPMO announced 28 NOV that the remains of Army Cpl. Theodore A. Reynolds, 19, of Syracuse, N.Y., missing in action from the Korean War, have been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors in his hometown. In November 1950, Reynolds, who was serving in the Company B, 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion attached to the 8th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division, went missing in action during a battle near Unsan, North Korea. In 1951, information obtained from the Chinese showed the Reynolds had been captured, and held as a prisoner of war. In 1953, American soldiers who were returned as part of a POW exchange confirmed that Reynolds had been captured by Chinese forces, and died in POW Camp 5, on the Yalu River of North Korea, from lack of medical care and malnutrition in 1951. In 1954, during Operation Glory, China turned over remains of U.S. servicemen who died in the Korean War. At the time, the Army was unable to identify Reynolds and the remains were buried as "unknown" at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. In 2009, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) re-examined the records and concluded that because of advances in identification technology, the remains could be exhumed and identified. Scientists from the JPAC were able to analyze the remains and identified Reynolds. Along with forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the JPAC used dental records in the identification of Reynolds’ remains.
WWII. DPMO announced 28 NOV that the remains Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. John J. Bono, 28, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors in his hometown. On Sept. 13, 1944, Bono and eight other crew members were on a B-17G Flying Fortress that crashed near Neustaedt-on-the-Werra, Germany. Only one of the crewmen is known to have successfully parachuted out of the aircraft before in crashed. The remaining eight crewmen were buried by German forces in a cemetery in Neustaedt. Following the war, U.S. Army Graves Registration personnel attempted to recover the remains of the eight men, but were only able to move the remains of one man to a U.S. military cemetery in Holland. In 1953, with access to eastern Germany restricted by the Soviet Union, the remains of the seven unaccounted for crewmen were declared Non-Recoverable. In 1991, a German national who was digging a grave in the cemetery in Neustaedt, discovered a metal U.S. military identification tag and notified officials. The U.S. JointPOW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) was not able to gain access to the site until 2007, and in 2008 excavated the area within the cemetery, and recovered human remains, and additional metal identification tags from three of the crewmembers, including Bono. To identify Bono’s remains, scientists from the JPAC used forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, including dental comparisons. Additionally, the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA—which matched that of Bono’s cousin and niece—in the identification of his remains.
Vietnam. DPMO announced 28 NOV that the remains of two U.S. servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors. Army Lt. Col. Glenn McElroy, 35, of Sidney, Ill., and Capt. John M. Nash, 28, of Tipton, Ind., will be buried as a group, in a single casket representing the crew in Arlington National Cemetery. On March 15, 1966, the men were flying an OV-1A Mohawk aircraft that failed to return from a reconnaissance mission over southern Laos in Savannakhet Province. An American forward air controller, operating in the area, reported witnessing the OV-1A aircraft crash after encountering heavy enemy anti-aircraft artillery. He saw one parachute deploy shortly before the crash but he believed the crewman descended into the ensuring fireball. Immediate search-and-rescue teams flew over the crash site but were unable to locate any survivors. Twice in 1988, joint U.S. /Lao People’s Democratic Republic (L.P.R.D.) teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), surveyed the crash site and found OV-1 aircraft wreckage and crew-related equipment—including an identification tag bearing Nash’s name. Records indicate there was only one OV-1 loss within 18 miles of Savannakhet Province. Between 2005 and 2009, joint U.S./L.P.D.R. teams, interviewed witnesses, investigated, surveyed and excavated the crash site several times. They recovered human remains, more aircraft wreckage and crew-related equipment. Scientists from the JPAC used forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence to identify the crew.
WWII. DPMO announced 28 NOV that the remains of Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Stephen L. Pascal, 20, of Hollywood, Calif., a U.S. serviceman from World War II have been identified and returned to the family for burial with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. On April 7, 1945, Pascal was flying a photo reconnaissance mission between Gottingen and Alfeld, Germany, when his P-38 Lightning aircraft, fitted for reconnaissance, went missing. An investigation conducted after the war determined Pascal’s aircraft exploded over the town of Gottingen. Nearby, on the same day, 1st Lt. Newell F. Mills Jr., and his wingman, went missing in their P-51D aircraft. In 1947, the U.S. Army Graves Registration Service (AGRS) exhumed remains of an American pilot, buried by local residents, from a village cemetery in Varrigsen, Germany. The circumstantial evidence led AGRS to believe the remains belonged to be Mills since his aircraft was closer to that village, when it went missing, than Pascal’s. The remains were buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery near Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium. In 2004, a German civilian began excavating the crash site associated with the airman buried in Varrigsen. Aircraft parts recovered from the location were from a P-38 Lightning— Pascal’s aircraft—not the P-51D flown by Mills. In 2007, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) excavated the crash site and recovered human remains, P-38 aircraft parts and military equipment. In 2008, JPAC exhumed the remains thought to be Mills and examined them with the remains recovered in 2007. It was determined that the remains were all Pascal’s. Among forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC used mitochondrial DNA—which matched that of Pascal’s cousin—in the identification of his remains.
Korea. DPMO announced 22 NOV that the remains of Army Pfc. Jimmie J. Gaitan, 21, of San Antonio, Texas, missing in action from the Korean War, have been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors in his hometown. Gaitan was serving with the Clearing Company, 2nd Medical Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, when he was reported missing in action in Feb. 1951, near Hoengsong, South Korea. The 2nd Infantry Division had been fighting to block Chinese advances in the area when Gaitan was captured. Gaitan, and other prisoners, were forced to march north in stages, covering over 300 miles before reaching Changsong on the south bank of the Yalu River in North Korea. Following the end of the Korean War, it was reported that Gaitan, along with more than 400 other servicemen had died in the Changsong prisoner of war camps. Interviews with returned prisoners of war confirmed that Gaitan had died of malnutrition in Camp 1 near Changsong, in late May, 1951. In the fall of 1954, during Operation Glory, China turned over remains they claimed to be those of U.S. servicemen who died in the Korean War. At the time the Army was unable to identify Gaitan and the remains were buried as "unknown" at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. In 2011, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) re-examined the records and concluded that because of advances in identification technology, the remains could be exhumed and identified. Scientists from the JPAC were able to analyze the remains and identified Gaitan. Along with forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the JPAC used dental records and radiography in the identification of Gaitan’s remains.
WWII. DPMO announced 14 NOV that the remains of three U.S. servicemen, from World War II, have been identified returned to their families for burial with full military honors. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Wilson C. Cater, 24, of Jackson, Miss.; Master Sgt. Donald A. Mackey, 28, of Chambersburg, Pa.; and Staff Sgt. Glenn E. Webb, 20, of Wetumpka, Okla., will be buried as a group, in a single casket representing the entire crew in Arlington National Cemetery. On Oct. 16, 1942, Cater, Mackey, and Webb were on a C-47C Skytrain air drop mission to deliver food and supplies to U.S. units. The aircraft crashed into a mountainous location near Kagi, New Guinea. Shortly after the crash, all three men were buried by an Australian Army patrol near the Port Moresby-Kokoda Trail. In 1944, Army Graves Registration personnel moved the remains of Cater and Mackey to a nearby U.S. cemetery but were unable to locate the remains of Webb, which were declared nonrecoverable. In 1949, Cater was buried in Forest, Miss., and Mackey was buried in Honolulu, Hawaii. In 1982, villagers notified U.S. officials of a location containing aircraft wreckage. A team was sent to excavate the site where human remains were recovered along with remnants of a C-47C Skytrain with a tail number matching that of the crew’s aircraft, however given the
technology at the time, the remains could not be identified. A second excavation in 1999 recovered additional remains, and advances in technology allowed for identifications of some of the remains. Among forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used dental analysis and mitochondrial DNA—which matched that of some of the crewmembers’ families—in the identification of their remains.
[Source: http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/ Dec 2011 ++]
TSGLI Update 05: Troops who suffered injuries to their genitals – a type of wound that has increased in Iraq and Afghanistan with the enemy’s use of IEDs – are now eligible for a one-time payment of up to $100,000, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced 2 DEC. The payment, under Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI), will be in addition to VA health care for genitourinary problems and disability compensation for service-related injuries or illnesses involving genitourinary organs. “We recognize that these types of injuries are devastating and can have a long-lasting impact on the servicemember’s quality of life,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said in a statement. “It is for this reason that it is appropriate to include genitourinary injuries in the list of payable losses specified in the TSGLI program.” Both men and women are eligible for the payments. Every member who has SGLI also has TSGLI effective 1 DEC 05
Adding genitourinary injuries to the schedule of covered losses under SGLI comes as military doctors are reporting an increase in these types of injuries, many the results of wounds sustained by improvised explosive devices, according to the VA. Earlier this year the U.S. Army Medical Command released data on genital injuries but would not discuss the wounds, according to a report in The Washington Post. The paper quoted the Army’s chief of public affairs as saying discussing wounds or injuries to genitals “can potentially provide insights to our enemies into the effectiveness of their improvised explosive devices and other weapons they use." The Federal Register announcement on the change includes Defense Department reports indicating that from 2009 to 2010, the proportion of war casualties transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany with these types of injuries increased from 4.8 percent to 9.1 percent. DoD also found that approximately 570 servicemembers sustained genitourinary injuries between October 7, 2001, and May 2, 2011, the announcement states, citing a Joint Theater Trauma Registry report. The announcement also notes that the Army’s Institute of Surgical Research at Fort Sam Houston found that 5 percent of servicemembers on the Joint Theater Trauma Registry who were admitted as a result of trauma in overseas contingency operations between October 2001 and January 2008 had one or more genitourinary injuries.
Under the compensation schedule for genitourinary injuries, physical loss or permanent loss of use of the penis will result in a $50,000 one-time payment. Compensation for loss of a testicle is $25,000; $50,000 for loss of both, according to the Federal Register. Physical loss or permanent loss of the use of the vulva, uterus or the vaginal canal carries a $50,000 compensation payment. Compensation for loss – physical or permanent use – of ovaries is $25,000 each. There is also a $50,000 compensation provision for total and permanent loss of urinary system function. The VA said the first payments for genitourinary losses were going out 3 DEC , with eligibility for the losses retroactive to injuries incurred on or after Oct. 7, 2001, when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks. [Source: Military.com Brynt Jordon article 3 Dec 2011 ++]
NDAA 2012 Update 05: The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (S.1867) has finally been voted on by the Senate after the House passed its version back in late May. The Senate authorized defense spending that is $27 billion less than the President requested and $43 billion less than the amount Congress gave DoD last year. Since the House version was passed before the imposition of new spending limits in August, the Senate shifted a great deal of spending out of the basic defense budget into the separate war-spending bill. The bill now has to go to conference with the House and the differences worked out before it is sent to the President. The President has threatened to veto the bill over provisions it contains regarding the role of the military in handling terror suspects, but the betting is that he will sign the bill in the end. Here are some of the things known at this point:
1. TRICARE Fee Increase - Senator John McCain withdrew his Amendment which would have backtracked on the position previously approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee that the percentage increase in TRICARE Prime enrollment fee should not exceed the percentage increase in retiree COLAs. The McCain amendment would have deleted that provision and tie future increases to a DoD-generated index of health cost growth that would raise fees by an estimated 6.5% per year. This proposal would have quickly eaten into every TRICARE Prime beneficiary’s military retired pay. The letters, e-mails and calls that we all wrote and made seem to have had an effect. Thank you all for responding so quickly.
2. Amendments approved - Many of the almost 400 amendments submitted were blocked when the Senate voted to limit debate and restrict amendments. Of those that survived were numerous important ones that the military community has been watching very closely. Even if they passed and were included in the Senate’s version they will still have to survive conference with the House of Representatives. But this is a first critical step. Here are a few of them.
Amendment submitted by Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) would end the remaining restrictions on receiving both military retired pay and veterans service connected disability. 
Amendment submitted by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) would end the SBP/DIC offset. 
Amendment submitted by Senator James Webb (D-VA) would allow 3 years for submission of TRICARE claims outside of the U.S. Puerto Rico and possessions; 1 year for claims within U.S. Puerto Rico and possessions. 
Amendment submitted by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) that would require the consolidation of the commissaries and exchanges and abolish the commissaries’ dedicated funding. 
Amendment submitted by Sen. Leahy (D-VT) to make the National Guard Bureau Chief a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff .
Amendment submitted by Sen. Brown (R-MA) to bar reduction of the basic housing allowance for National Guard making the transition from active to full-time National Guard duty.
Amendment submitted by Sen. Blunt (R-MO) to protect employment and re-employment rights for certain individuals ordered to full-time National Guard duty.
Amendment submitted by Sen. Pryor (D-AR) to provide a death gratuity and related benefits for Reserves who die during an authorized stay at their residence during or between successive days of inactive duty training.
Amendment submitted by Sen. Casey (D-PA) to direct a review of all current DoD military spouse employment programs.
2. Amendments not approved:
Further expand concurrent receipt (Sen. Reid, D-NV)
Provide servicemembers access to Flexible spending accounts to pay out-of-pocket health and dependent care expenses with pre-tax dollars (Sen. Boxer, D-CA)
Authorize expanded voluntary retirement and separation incentives to ease the negative effects of significant force reductions (Sen. Levin, D-MI)
Acknowledge in law that career military people pre-pay extraordinary premiums for their healthcare through decades of service and sacrifice (Sen. Lautenberg, D-NJ)
Allow SBP payments into a Special Needs Trust for dependent children incapable for self-support (Sen. Webb (D-VA)
Provide veteran status to retired career members of the Guard and Reserves (Sen. Pryor, D-AR)
But this may not be the final word on these and other provisions. Before bill passage, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) stated he would offer separate legislation consisting of 71 pending amendments to the bill that had been agreed to by both sides of the aisle, but which had been blocked by a procedural issue. One that may be included in that group is a Levin amendment that would establish a DoD BRAC-style commission to recommend "modernizing" the military compensation and retirement systems. Although it may have been modified, the original amendment would require an up-or-down vote by Congress, without any amendments – a process the Military Officers Association of America adamantly opposes on issues of such vital concern to long-term retention and readiness. [Source: TREA News for the Enlisted 2 Dec 2011 ++]
NDAA 2012 Update 06: On 8 DEC The Military Coalition (TMC) sent House and Senate leaders a letter highlighting Coalition priorities for resolving differences between the House- and Senate-passed versions of the FY2012 Defense Authorization Bill. The House and Senate are in the process of ironing out their differences with the objective of passing a final defense bill this year. The Coalition letter urged Hill leaders to:
Avoid manpower cuts that will impose greater deployment burdens on troops and families still bearing the strain of wartime operations;
Retain House-approved language recognizing that the unique and extraordinary demands inherent in a multi-decade service career constitute a very large pre-paid premium for their career health benefits – over and above the cash fees paid in retirement;
Retain a Senate-passed provision to end the deduction of VA survivor benefits from Survivor Benefit Plan annuities when the member's death is service-caused;
Authorize voluntary retirement/separation incentives to reduce potential requirements for involuntary separation of servicemembers with substantial service, but less than 20 years;
Retain various House and Senate provisions that would provide greater access to mental and behavioral health care for wounded warriors and their families; and
Retain a Senate-passed provision prohibiting the services from barring reenlistment based on medical conditions that a Physical Evaluation Board had considered and found the servicemember fit for duty.
The Coalition letter also noted that Senate leaders had raised the possibility of including some from a package of 71 amendments that enjoyed widespread bipartisan support but could not be considered during Senate action because of a procedural issue. While it is unknown which amendments those were, the Coalition expressed hope that some action could prove possible on amendments offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to further ease the disability offset to military retired pay. Subsequently, Congress decided there was not enough time to consider such a bill. Finally, the Coalition strongly opposed an amendment offered by Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-MI) that originally entailed establishing a commission to make comprehensive recommendations on military compensation and retirement programs that would be considered in Congress under BRAC-type rules, requiring an up-or-down vote with no amendments and little debate. "The Coalition adamantly opposes using a BRAC-style process to short-circuit important legislative safeguards on issues of such vital concern to long-term retention and readiness," the letter said.
Both the Senate and House have now appointed their conferees. All are from the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. Preliminary negotiations began shortly after the nominations and the committee hopes to have a final bill by 16 DEC. Now is the time to call your members of Congress and urge them again to protect the crucial benefits you earned though a career of service to the nation. Your voice can be very effective especially if your Senators and House member are conferees.
Senate - Senators Levin (D-Michigan), Lieberman (D-Connecticut), Reed (D-Rhode Island), Akaka (D-Hawaii), Nelson (D-Nebraska), Webb (Virginia), McCaskill (D-Missouri), Udall (D-Colorado), Hagan (D- North Carolina), Begich (D-Alaska), Manchin (D-West Virginia), Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Gillibrand (D-New York), Blumbenthal (D-Connecticut), McCain (R-Arizona), Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) Sessions (R-Alabama), Chambliss (R-Georgia), Wicker (R-Mississippi), Brown (R-Massachusetts), Portman (R-Ohio), Ayotte(R-New Hampshire), Collins (R-Maine), Graham (R-South Carolina), Cornyn (R-Texas).
House - Representatives McKeon (R-California), Bartlett (R-Maryland), Thornberry(R-Texas), Akin(R-Missouri), Forbes(R-Virginia), Miller (R-Florida), LoBiondo(R-New Kersey), Turner (R-Ohio), Kline(R-Minnesota), Rogers (R-Alabama), Shuster(R-Pennsylvania), Conaway(R-Texas), Wittman(R-Virginia), Hunter(R-California), Rooney(R-Florida), Schilling(R-Illinois), Griffin (R-Arkansas), West(R-Florida), Smith (D-Washington), Reyes(D-Texas), Sanchez, Loretta(D-California, McIntyre(D-North Carolina), Andrews(D-New Jersey), Davis (D-California), Langevin(D-Rhode Island), Larsen (D-Washington), Cooper(D-Tennessee), Bordallo(D-Guam), Courtney(D-Connecticut), Loebsack (D-Iowa), Tsongas(D-Massachusetts), and Pingree (D-Maine.)
[Source: MOAA Leg Up 9 Dec 2011 ++]
Utah Veterans Homes Update 04: The stars — or at least bad economic conditions elsewhere in the country — aligned to allow the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs to launch two new nursing homes in December. Ground was broken 1 DEC in Ivins for an 108-bedroom home that will serve veterans in nine southern Utah counties. A second ground-breaking is planned 14 DEC in Payson, where a nearly identical home will serve veterans from throughout central Utah. Both are expected to be finished in the spring of 2013. "We just had all the stars align. That’s the reason it’s imperative we move ahead," says Terry Schow, executive director of the department.
The state submitted a request for federal Veterans Administration funding in 2004, and was far down on the list of proposed nursing home projects — 45 and 46 — before the bad economy walloped other states’ ability to kick in their share for such projects. Utah, however, had $13.5 million set aside after finishing the veterans home in Ogden several years ago. At the time, the state fronted all the cost of that home’s construction, and it was later reimbursed more than $13 million from the VA. "If it weren’t for the Legislature front-loading the costs for Ogden and allowing us to use those [reimbursed] funds, we would have been one of those [states] whistling in the wind," Schow said. The VA will provide $18 million for each of the two new nursing homes, and Utah will kick in $6.5 for each. Meanwhile veterans groups are raising money to furnish the veterans’ rooms, which are fairly spartan. The Veterans Coalition of Southern Utah, which represents 11 veterans groups, has raised more than $200,000 and wants to raise $300,000 or $400,000 more, said coalition chairman Bill Toole, a career Marine and transplant from California. The money will make resident veterans’ lives more comfortable by providing such amenities as flat-screen televisions, he said. The nursing homes are wired for television, but none are provided with government funds.
The two nursing homes will share a floor plan with pods of rooms each modeled on a small home. Each room will have its own bathroom — a new VA concept that acknowledges a growing number of women veterans — and each will have at least a modest view of a green area. "It’s not going to be a brick wall or car barn," Toole said. The city of Ivins donated the 10 acres for the nursing home, Schow said. In Utah County, the LDS Church’s Farmland Reserves Inc. donated 10 acres on North Main in Payson for the veterans nursing home. Gary Schwartz, with the American Legion, is among a group of veterans organizing a coalition to raise money to furnish the rooms in the Payson nursing home. People who donate $100 can get a plaque at the nursing home, and those who donate $4,000 to furnish an entire room will be noted in a plaque outside the door, Schwartz said. "We’re trying to get the word out," he said. To help add amenities to veterans rooms in the new homes, contact the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs at veterans.utah.gov or call 801-826-2372.
The Utah Department of Veterans Affairs bases its nursing home efforts on population, said executive director Terry Schow. Salt Lake County has 65,000 veterans and is served by a home built in the late 1990s. Constrained by its location on the VA Medical Center campus in Salt Lake City, it has 81 beds and a typical waiting list of 100. The Ogden home serves more than 40,000 veterans from Davis, Weber, Box Elder and Cache counties. It has 120 beds and is essentially full, Schow said. Utah County has 18,000 veterans and Washington County has 10,000, he said. [Source: The Salt Lake Tribune Kristen Moulton article 30 Nov 2011 ++]
An artist's rendering shows how the new 108-bed Utah State Veterans Home in Ivins will look when completed *********************************
\SBA Vet Issues Update 16: Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs faced harsh words from members of two House subcommittees who accused the VA of failure to comply with a law requiring veteran-owned small businesses to receive priority for contract awards, and throwing up obstacles that delay or deny the certification needed to bid on set-aside contracts. A joint hearing 30 NOV of the subcommittees on economic opportunity and oversight and investigations within the House Veterans Affairs Committee focused on two topics: the VA's interpretation of a law that requires veteran-owned small businesses to receive priority in all contract awards, and a process used by the VA to verify veteran-owned small businesses so that they can bid on contracts set aside by the agency.
In regard to the first topic, House members questioned the VA's refusal to comply with recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office in an 11 OCT protest decision, which stated that the agency violated a 2006 law when it failed to set aside two contract solicitations for service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses. The watchdog agency recommended that the veterans agency cancel and reissue the solicitations as set-aside contracts, a move the VA opted to ignore -- claiming the requirement did not apply to acquisitions made under the General Service Administration's contract schedules. "Please tell us how the VA considers itself exempt from the requirements? The federal government can't be sued for not meeting its goals [to set aside contracts], but it can be sued for not adhering the law, and that is what this committee is concerned about," said Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) who serves as chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. "Obviously there is great disagreement with the VA's interpretation [of the law]. The GAO disagrees; I disagree. You've been told that your interpretation is wrong." The VA's Deputy General Counsel Jack Thompson noted that the GAO recommendations are "just that to federal agencies," but confirmed that the issue is still being discussed. Tom Leney, executive director of the VA's small and veteran business programs, explained the agency's decision to disregard the GAO recommendations by saying that "whenever [the VA] limits competition via set asides, we run the risk of increasing the cost to government."
Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, serves as chairman of the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Members of the subcommittees also questioned Leney about claims from veterans that they were wrongly denied verification, because of decisions by the VA that they did not maintain 100 percent control of their businesses, despite ownership of at least 51 percent. As noted by Leney, more than 90 percent of denials for verification were the function of business control, as defined by the VA, while less than 5 percent related to questions about ownership. "Are [the rules] too rigorous? You're telling me these are real veterans getting thrown out" out of the program, said Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN). "If they have the capability, why are they getting thrown out?" Added Rep. Marlin Stuzman (R-IN) "our veteran businesses are having to scrap. They shouldn't be the ones having to fight so hard." Leney confirmed that there are conflicting perspectives about the policies in place for verifying companies, and that the "nature of the rules is such that it does make it difficult sometimes for a veteran to do business like he or she would like and still meet the requirements ... I've been focused on making sure we communicate, and implement the policy that exists —rather than focusing on how to change that policy," Leney added. "But there are those that would argue the policy should change, and there are also those that would argue it shouldn't."
VA Home Loan Update 37: The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs home-loan program is gaining in popularity among people eligible for it, mostly because its one of few remaining options for zero-down-payment, fixed-rate mortgages, lenders in the Spokane WA area say. Jackie Cardle, real estate manager at Spokane-based Global Credit Union, says she's seen a steep rise in the percentage of mortgages backed by the VA home-loan program. "Years ago, I might have seen one out of 100 loans going through the VA program," she says. "Now, 10 or 15 out of 100 are VA." The percentage of VA-backed loans also is trending upward nationwide, the VA says. VA loans accounted for 10.8 percent of all home loans originated nation-wide in 2010, up from 9.5 percent a year earlier. The agency estimates that rate will increase to 11.5 percent this year. Perhaps more telling, total VA loan originations in the first half of the year were almost triple what they were three years earlier, while loan originations in the rest of the mortgage industry was down more than 25 percent, the Washington Post reported in August.
Veterans, active-duty personnel, reservists, National Guard members, and some surviving spouses are eligible for the program. Mike Fredericks, real estate lending department production manager at Spokane Valley-based Horizon Credit Union, says the financial institution turns to the program as the primary option for veterans seeking home loans. "Some veterans depart from active duty not fully realizing what's available to them," Fredericks says. Cardle says one reason she's seeing a significant increase in the number of veterans contacting Global Credit Union is because the rental market is tight. "Veterans' access to good housing at low rental costs isn't what it used to be," she says. "A good percentage of borrowers we help put into modest housing get permanent homes for less than comparable rent." Conventional home loans usually require a borrower to buy private mortgage insurance when paying less than 20 percent down. During the foreclosure crisis, private mortgage insurance providers tightened restrictions by raising credit-score and down-payment requirements, compelling potential buyers to turn to government-backed options. Instead of mortgage insurance, the VA program charges a funding fee that most borrowers attach to the loan, says
Katie Marcus, residential sales manager at Coeur d'Alene-based Mountain West Bank. Marcus says more than 10 percent of Mountain West's loans are VA loans, and she would expect that only to increase as more troops are discharged and return home and as young veterans enter the home-buying market. Debra Goodrich, executive vice president of the home-loan division at Spokane-based Sterling Savings Bank, says corporatewide VA loan production so far this year totals $141 million, which is just over 30 percent of Sterling's government-backed loan volume. Last year, VA loans made up 22 percent of the government-backed loan volume at Sterling, she says. Goodrich says the dollar volume of VA loans appears to be on track to hold steady at Sterling this year, while total government-backed loans are expected to drop in number, in part because the mortgage-insurance premiums on Federal Housing Administration-backed mortgages are scheduled to increase.
The FHA program offers an option that requires a 3.5 percent down payment. That program also requires an up-front mortgage insurance premium that can be spread over the life of the loan. FHA loans are attractive to low-income and young borrowers who don't have as much money for a down payment as borrowers in the conventional loan market, and such loans have grown into a major sector of the mortgage market, Fredericks says. About 35 percent of Horizon Credit Union's home loans that originated this year are government-insured FHA loans and up to 15 percent are VA loans, he says. While FHA loans have grown at the faster rate, VA loans have more advantages for most veterans, especially be-cause they don't have to bring a lot of cash to the table, Fredericks says. In addition to the zero-down option, VA loans usually are structured so that the seller pays closing costs and loan fees, which can save the borrower thousands of dollars and eliminate most up-front costs, he says. "We have veterans who can get into a home for as little as $550 or $600 out of pocket," Fredericks says. Also, the VA funding fee will drop on 18 NOV to 1.4 percent of the borrowed amount for veterans and to 1.65 percent for reservist and National Guard members, Marcus says. The fee currently is set at 2.15 percent for veterans, and 2.4 percent for reservist and National Guard members.
The VA program doesn't require a credit check, but it does try to determine that borrowers have enough income after other expenses to meet the loan payments, which generally means it encourages homebuyers to buy modest, afford-able homes, Marcus says. Unlike other government programs that are designed to increase housing access for people with low to moderate incomes, however, the VA home-loan program has no upper income limit. Depending on the buyer's income, the zero-down option can be used to buy homes valued at up to $417,000 throughout the Inland Northwest, she says. Marcus says foreclosure rates are lower among borrowers with VA-backed loans than other types of home loans. "We don't hear as much about bank-owned VA homes," she says. "We don't see them too often around here." The Mortgage Bankers Association reported in its most recent mortgage delinquency survey results that 2.3 percent of VA loans were in foreclosure nationwide in the second quarter, compared with 4.4 percent rate of homes in foreclosure for all types of mortgages. Features of Veterans Affairs-backed home-loan program mortgages include:
Qualified Veterans, active-duty personnel, reservists, National Guard members, and surviving spouses are eligible.
No-money-down options for fixed-rate loans up to $417,000 in most of Washington and Idaho.
Funding fee acts as mortgage insurance and can be attached to the lifetime of the loan.
Flexible process for allowing seller-paid closing costs and fees.
No minimum credit score requirements. Loan qualifications are based on income after expenses.
[Source: Northwest Business Press Inc. Mike McLean article 1 Dec 2011 ++]
Home Ownership: Buying your first home looks pretty appealing right now. Interest rates are low, and for-sale signs are touting reduced prices in yards across the country. While it's tempting to compare a mortgage payment to rent, the price of home ownership is made up of additional home expenses that aren't so apparent. "Getting into a house is only the first step," says J.J. Montanaro, Certified Financial Planner practitioner with USAA. "You want to be able to stay in the house. You've got to be able to meet all costs." To do so, Montanaro recommends creating a monthly budget for any house you're considering buying. Use this guide to 10 homeownership costs to know what to expect when you're planning to make the move.
1. Closing costs. These average 3% to 5% of the value of a home loan, depending on the home's location and the type of financing you arrange. The totals typically include fees for title insurance, inspections, legal work and payments to your escrow savings account for property taxes and homeowners insurance premiums, says Greg Herb, former regional vice president for the National Association of Realtors and broker and president of Herb Real Estate Inc. of Pennsylvania. You may be able to save money by asking the seller to pay some of your closing costs, an increasingly popular practice known as a seller assist. Certain government-backed loans limit the amount a seller can pay, so ask your real estate agent or lender for specifics. "In this buyer's market, you have more leverage to ask the seller to cover your closing costs," says USAA Certified Financial Planner practitioner Scott Halliwell.
2. Mortgage payments. If you finance your home, you'll be responsible for a monthly mortgage payment. The payment will go toward the principal (the amount you originally borrowed) and the interest on that principal. The amount of your payment will depend on how much you borrow, the interest rate on your home loan and the amount of time you have to pay off the loan. Use the Federal Housing Administration's handy mortgage calculator to estimate your payment. "But play it safe," warns Halliwell. "Just because the calculator says you can afford a home doesn't mean you really can. You've got to compare your cash flow to all the extra costs of homeownership."
Added to your monthly mortgage payment could be a payment to build an escrow, or reserve, account. Lenders keep the money on deposit, and then pay local governments and insurance companies when their bills are due. Escrow accounts allow you to budget and save incrementally for the costs of private mortgage insurance, homeowners insurance and property taxes. "If these expenses aren't part of your monthly payment and included in an escrow account to the mortgage company, you'll need to budget for them and make sure they are paid on time. Having a lender handle them can ensure they are paid properly and on time," says Halliwell.
3. Private mortgage insurance.If your down payment is less than 20% of the home's price, you usually are required by the lender to take out a private mortgage insurance policy. This policy protects lenders in case you default on your loan. According to the trade group Mortgage Insurance Companies of America, for a $200,000 home, the monthly premium costs between $50 and $100. The bigger your down payment, the lower your monthly payment for private mortgage insurance. Once you've paid off 20% of your home's original value, you can request removal of the PMI requirement in writing with the lender. If you're behind on your mortgage payments or have other liens on your home, you may not qualify.
4. Homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance is critical to protecting your home against perils, like natural disasters and theft. "This coverage is critical in ensuring you're able to cover the rebuilding or repair costs in the event of a major catastrophe," says Halliwell. In addition to protecting the structure and its contents, homeowners insurance also provides liability and medical coverage if someone is injured on your property. If you borrow money from a mortgage lender, you're required to purchase homeowners insurance. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average home insurance premium costs around $800 per year. Before you buy a house, ask your insurance agent for a quote so you can budget accordingly, suggests Montanaro. Depending on where you live, you also should consider adding earthquake and flood coverage policies.
5. Property taxes. Local governments charge real estate taxes to pay for public expenses, such as schools, parks and sidewalks. Municipalities usually calculate a homeowner's annual tax by multiplying the local tax rate by the official assessed value of the home. You can find this public information on your tax assessor's website. The seller or seller's real estate agent can tell you the current annual tax on a property. Also ask when the next assessment is scheduled and whether it will be increased by the sale of the home, suggests Halliwell.
6. Utilities. Once you find the right house, Montanaro recommends asking the seller for a record of a year's worth of utility bills. This way, you can budget for heating, cooling, electricity, natural gas and water expenses. Be sure to account for any differences in family size. A single grandmother will use far less water, for instance, than a family of four.
7. Maintenance. Once you own a home, you can't call the landlord for repairs, which is why it's important to know the condition of a residence before you sign on the dotted line. A qualified home inspector can walk you through what to expect. "Based on the home inspection report, you'll get a pretty good snapshot of what to plan for — the life expectancy of major components, like the roof, heating, plumbing, electrical," says Herb. Even so, you should still have a line item in your budget for ongoing maintenance. Whether it's replacing furnace filters, staining or refinishing decks, painting exterior trim or refreshing the plants and mulch in your landscaping, there's a pretty high likelihood that something will regularly happen that will cost you money. Owning a home magnifies the importance of maintaining an emergency fund equivalent to at least three to six months of routine expenses, says Montanaro.
8. Making-it-mine expenses."One of the biggest categories I've seen catch people off-guard is what I call 'making-it-mine,'" says Halliwell. You might fall in love with a house, but when you move in: Your furniture doesn't fit, you don't like the kitchen counter, and you'd prefer wood floors to carpet. "You could easily spend thousands of dollars if you're not careful," he warns. Halliwell suggests making a list of what you might need to buy once you move in — furniture, rugs and window treatments, for example — and then creating a budget. Too often, says Halliwell, buyers struggle to make a down payment and then put their making-it-mine expenses on a credit card. "The next thing you know, they're buried in credit card debt, and what started out as a happy event turns quickly negative," he says.
9. Landscaping. Now that you have a yard, you have the expense of getting it in shape and maintaining it, such as planting flowers, trimming trees and sodding a lawn. You will need yard equipment — a lawn mower, weed wacker, rakes. It's easy to forget about those expenses."
10. Other costs to consider. "As rewarding as home ownership can be, it does seem to come with an endless stream of expenses that fall into the 'other' category on your budget," says Halliwell. Whether it's a new home security and monitoring system or weekly trips to the local home improvement store, ensure you've built some wiggle room into the budget for your new home. You'll also need to factor in homeowner association dues if you are purchasing a condo or townhome or live in a community with HOA fees. Finally, don't forget about the cost of purchasing extra life insurance. For many families, having enough coverage to pay off the mortgage at the death of the primary breadwinner is almost a necessity. "A new home is definitely a life event," says Montanaro, "and that requires a fresh look at your life insurance coverage."
[Source: https://www.usaa.com/inet/pages/advice_real_home_costs?EID=corp_usaahome_2011_09-04 Dec 2011 ++]
Credit Union Credit Cards: Bank of America’s misstep with debit card fees has brought a lot of attention to credit unions. Even though Bank of America is “taking back” the fee in response to the outcry from the public, Bank Transfer Day still took place on 5 NOV. Even if you don’t switch banks, you can still consider taking a look at credit cards offered by credit unions. In most cases, you’ll need to have good-to-excellent credit, but if you’re turned down, call and ask if they’ll look at your application again. Credit unions have been known to take unusual circumstances into consideration. Here are a few things you need to know about credit union credit cards:
You have to become a member.This isn’t always easy because some credit unions serve only a select group. You can join the Pentagon Federal Credit Union with a one-time $20 donation. But you can’t join Navy Federal unless you’re associated with the military. But there are many others out there that do allow a broader membership so you just have to do some research. You can start your search at A Smarter Choice http://www.asmarterchoice.org, which is associated with Credit Union National Association. You can search by location or even do an advanced search by occupation, school and more.
You usually get lower interest rates.Credit unions are non-profit organizations that are owned by the members. According to the Credit Union National Association, federally chartered credit unions have an interest rate cap of 18 percent on all loans, including credit cards. This fact helps to keep rates low. But the rates are also low because you’re not just a customer, you’re an investor. So many credit unions funnel their profits back to you. This results in savings on various financial products. If you revolve a balance, a credit union credit card is a good choice because you’ll save money on interest expense.
You still have to read the fine print.Don’t assume that since it’s a credit union, you don’t need to worry about protecting yourself. You still need to read the disclosure statements carefully. Shop around and compare the terms to a similar card at a regular bank. When it comes to credit products, it’s always buyer beware.
[Source: Business Insider Beverly Blair Harzog article 5 Nov 2011 ++]
DFAS End-of-Year Mailing: Retirees will be receiving some extra documents in their end of year mailing from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. DFAS officials state that every piece of paper in the mailing is important and will help retirees manage their pay matters through the tax season and beyond. Included in the mailing will be:
A Retiree Account Statement dated Dec. 2 show the new payment amount as of Dec. 30. This includes the cost-of-living allowance adjustment for 2012.
A Retiree Account Statement dated Dec. 12 show the new payment amount as of Feb. 1. This includes any federal income tax adjustments caused by changes to the 2012 tax tables.
Internal Revenue Service Form 1099-R reflecting all payments retirees received in 2011. DFAS officials remind retirees that because of the pay date change approved by Congress earlier this year, the 1099-R will reflect 13 payments rather than 12.
DFAS retiree newsletter including important updates from retired and annuitant pay officials, as well as information about tools people can use to manage their retired pay account year round.
Data availability dates are:
For people with online myPay accounts, the statements will be posted Dec. 4, and the 1099-Rs will be posted Dec. 15.
For people who get these documents via the U.S. Postal Service, DFAS official will mail these documents to retirees Dec. 19 through Jan. 10.
The Annuitant Account Statements and 1099-Rs will be available Dec. 14 on myPay. Annuitants who get these documents via mail can expect to receive them Dec. 19 through 31.
Retirees and annuitants must keep their contact information current, according to DFAS officials who say the top reason a retiree or annuitant doesn't receive their 1099-R is because it is sent to an old address. If a retiree or annuitant does not have their correct address on file with DFAS by Dec. 5, they will experience a significant delay in receiving their end of year documents, said official. People who do not have an active myPay account must call, mail or fax a written request to DFAS-Cleveland; processing a change of address and reissuing a new 1099-R takes at least 30 days, said officials. Retirees and annuitants with an active myPay account can decrease their wait time for an address change and new 1099-R by logging in and updating their own account. Changes take effect in three to five business days, and a copy of their 1099R can be printed directly from myPay. For more information about account maintenance, 1099-R requests, and logging in to myPay, visit the DFAS website at www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary.html, or myPay at https://mypay.dfas.mil/mypay.aspx. People without an online account can contact DFAS at 800-321-1080. [Source: AFRNS article 1 Dec 2011 ++]
Selective Service System Update 07: Under current law, all male U.S. citizens are required to register with Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday. In addition, foreign males between the ages of 18 and 25 living in the United States must register. This includes permanent residents (holders of Green Cards), refugees, asylees, dual citizens, and illegal immigrants. Foreign males in the United States as lawful non-immigrants (international students, visitors, diplomats, etc.) are not required to register. Failure to register as required is grounds for denying a petition for US citizenship. Currently, citizens who are 17 and 3 months old can pre-register so when they turn 18 their information will automatically be added into the system. In 1980, men who knew they were required to register and did not do so could face up to five years in jail or a fine up to $50,000 if convicted. The potential fine was later increased to $250,000. Despite these possible penalties, government records indicate that from 1980 through 1986 there were only 20 indictments, of which 19 were instigated in part by self-publicized and self-reported non-registration. As one of the elements of the offense, the government must prove that a violation of the Military Selective Service Act was knowing and willful. This is almost impossible unless the prospective defendant has publicly stated that he knew he was required to register or report for induction, or unless he has been visited by the FBI, personally served with notice to register or report for induction, and given another chance to comply.
The last prosecution for non-registration was in January 1986, after which many believed the government declined to continue enforcing that law when it became apparent that the trials were themselves causing a decline in registration. Routine checks requiring identification virtually never include a request for draft card. As an alternative method of encouraging registration, federal legislators passed laws requiring that to receive financial aid, federal grants and loans, certain government benefits, eligibility for most federal employment, and (if the person is an immigrant) eligibility for citizenship, a young man had to be registered (or had to have been registered, if they are over 26 but were required to register between 18 and 26) with Selective Service. Those who were required to register, but failed to do so before they turn 26, are no longer allowed to register, and thus may be permanently barred from federal jobs and other benefits, unless they can show to the Selective Service that their failure was not knowing and willful. There is a procedure to provide an "information letter" by the SSS for those in these situations, for example recent citizens who entered the US after their 26th birthday.
Most states, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Virgin Islands, have passed laws requiring registration in order for men 18–25 to be eligible for programs that vary on a per-jurisdiction basis but typically include driver's licenses, state-funded higher education benefits, and state government jobs. Alaska also requires registration in order to receive an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend. Eight states (Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming) as well as Puerto Rico have no such requirements, though Indiana does give men 18–25 the option of registering with Selective Service when obtaining a drivers license or an identification card. There are some third-party organized efforts to compensate financial aid for those students losing benefits, including the Fund for Education and Training (FEAT) and Student Aid Fund for Non-registrants. [Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_Service_System Dec 2011 ++]