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USS Midway Museum: The USS Midway Museum got an earful -- and a roomful - of San Diegans 29 NOV, eager to weigh in on the $68 million plans for Navy Pier next to the retired aircraft carrier on the downtown waterfront. While most of the nearly 70 people at the first of three town halls planned at port headquarters liked the idea of a park on top of the existing parking lot and a new venue for the Summer Pops concerts, opinions were generally negative on the 500-foot-tall "Wings of Freedom" sculptural element proposed at the west end of the 989-foot-long pier. Some called the two sail-like wings -- one 500 and the other 400 feet tall and both made out of steel and titanium -- out of scale, a "monstrosity." Others said they would become a new icon for the region. Businessman Denny Sanford has pledged $35 million to cover the cost of the wings. The balance of the project's cost is yet to be raised.
However, there are critics. Ian Trowbridge, who co-chairs the Navy Broadway Complex Coalition told 10News the project is not consistent with the California Coastal Act, especially since the sculpture will block the public view of the San Diego Bay. "I don't think that it is iconic," said Trowbridge. "I think that it's just ugly." McLaughlin admits there are some people who do not like the project. "If you're standing right on the opposite side of it looking out, certainly, of course it will block the bay," he said. "But we like to say the same thing we said about the Midway when the Midway came. Everybody was complaining that it was going to block the views. All they say now is this is the view and we think if you build the right iconic structure out here, it would become the new view of San Diego and enhance the view by bringing more of the public down here to the bay." Midway President and CEO Mac McLaughlin said the plan is open to revision based on the public's input.
McLaughlin was pleased with the turnout for the 29 NOV meeting and promised to take the comments into consideration as plans progress. "I heard a more balanced approach than I anticipated," he said. "What we heard was a lot of support for the 5 acre Veterans Memorial Park on top of the Navy pier parking lot next to the carrier, the San Diego Symphony (amphitheater for the Pops) and some disagreement about the iconic symbol." One speaker called the scale of the twin, sail-like wing structures designed by Tucker Sadler Architects "excessive," while other audience members minced no words, calling them a "monstrosity." One of the few to praise the structures without reservation said, "I think the wings are fantastic ... I've been waiting for something like this in San Diego." Other speakers suggested changing the titanium sheets on the wings to make them transparent, adding stairs and elevators to reach the top for a bird's eye view or seeking different designs that would not compete with the iconic status of the Midway itself. Two other town hall meetings are planned . In a change of plans, the Midway staff said it won't present its final proposal until the 10JAN meeting of the San Diego Unified Port District board; 13 DEC was the original date for the presentation. The pier plan would be part of a larger port master plan amendment for the entire North Embarcadero, between Lindbergh Field and Seaport Village. It will undergo months of environmental impact analysis before the California Coastal Commission gets the final say. [Source: Sign On San Diego & articles 29 & 30 Sep 2011 ++]

this is an alternate version of the this is an alternate version of the

Wings of Freedom" with and without the sheets of titanium on the steel superstructure
VA Mental Health Care Update 07: Even with thousands of new veterans clamoring for mental health care each month, Veterans Affairs leaders haven’t yet found ways to speed up appointment scheduling and appear unwilling to partner with outside counselors, critics say. The charges, leveled by mental health experts and irritated lawmakers at a Senate Veterans Affairs committee hearing 30 NOV, came as the department released new data showing that the number of veterans seeking mental health help jumped by more than 300,000 in recent years. That translates into more than 1.2 million veterans currently receiving mental health services, and likely tens of thousands more who will seek similar assistance the years to come. “As thousands of veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan, you can see the number of PTSD appointments steadily rise each quarter,” said committee chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) “This problem isn’t going anywhere.” According to a USA Today analysis of data, 10,000 veterans sought help for post-traumatic stress disorder at VA hospitals every three months this year. Since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began, more than 200,000 combat veterans from those fights have been treated for the disorder, roughly 16 percent of the 1.3 million troops who fought there.
VA officials said they have made significant progress in helping those veterans, hiring thousands more counselors and setting goals of getting new patients into treatment within 14 days. Dr. Michelle Washington, PTSD coordinator at the VA medical center in Wilmington, Del., said effective mental health treatment often requires weekly visits, but veterans rarely can schedule more than one session a month because of the demand on the department’s mental health professionals. Scheduled appointments for returning patients are routinely bumped for new ones, she said. Long waits and frustrating rescheduling can scare away mentally unstable patients from seeking further help, or send them into an even worse state. Defense Department officials have worked to supplement their mental health care offerings by partnering with outside groups like Give An Hour, which provides free psychiatric counseling to veterans through private practices. But Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, founder of that charity, said VA officials have not been open to similar outreach efforts.
John Roberts, vice president at the Wounded Warrior Project, said a recent survey of his group’s members found that one-third of veterans who sought mental health services through the department either could not schedule appropriate appointments or gave up trying. But he said officials still seem insistent on finding internal solutions to the issue, rather than allowing veterans to seek private practice help. “They’re still so short-staffed,” he said, “it’s like trying to put a band-aid on an amputation.” Dr. Mary Schohn, director of mental health operations at the Veterans Health Administration, said officials are committed to finding solutions and reducing those wait times. Leaders have established a new policy group to look at appointment flexibility issues, new staffing models and better reporting of wait-time data. But lawmakers said that work should have been completed years ago, before the problem grew to unacceptable levels. “We promised these veterans that we would take care of them when they came home,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). “Then we’re sticking them in a system where they’re the first ones to lose confidence in it.”
Senators gave a public scolding to the director of mental health operations for the nation's veterans, saying the federal government must speed up services for those with PTSD and other afflictions. Faced with a 34 percent increase in the number of veterans who have sought mental health services since 2006, the Department of Veterans Affairs has not kept pace, said Sen. Murray. Schohn said the department has made mental health care a high priority but added that 'we recognize we have much more to do.' The hearing was the latest in a yearlong series by the committee on mental health issues and VA care. Murray said the committee will continue that work into next year. [Source: Stars & Stripes Leo Shane article 30 NOV 2011 ++]
Commissary Magazine/Newspaper Sales: Starting in February, commissaries overseas will stop carrying magazines and most newspapers due to declining sales and the expense of airlifting the periodicals from the States, Defense Commissary Agency officials said this week. Commissaries in the United States will continue to sell magazines and newspapers, officials said. Overseas, those items will still be available at Army and Air Force Exchange Service retail stores. Over the last four years, magazine sales at overseas commissaries have steadily dwindled, from about $1.98 million in fiscal 2008 to about $1.46 million in fiscal 2011, according to information from DeCA. That is due in part to DeCA purchasing fewer magazines, but stores still only were selling about half the magazine inventory, said Kevin Robinson, a DeCA spokesman at the agency’s corporate headquarters in Fort Lee, Va. Between January and March of last year, for example, 49 percent of magazines on commissary shelves overseas went unsold, according to DeCA. “No business model in the world could survive” with that type of sales rate, Robinson said. DeCA was also spending over half a million dollars on getting the magazines overseas, officials said. In fiscal 2011, DeCA spent about $673,000 in taxpayer dollars — money appropriated by Congress — to airlift magazines to commissaries in Europe and the Pacific, according to figures from DeCA.
With budget cuts looming across the Defense Department, agencies are scrambling to find ways to cut costs. While stopping magazine sales overseas will save money, Robinson said, it’s also a decision that makes good business sense “regardless of the budget climate ... DeCA recognizes that it has an inherent responsibility to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars,” he said in a written statement.“This was something we could do as an agency to drive down our costs and not impact the customer as much,” added Leslie Brown, DeCA-Europe spokeswoman. She said customers can read magazines online or purchase them at the base exchange. Customers shopping at the Vogelweh commissary near Kaiserslautern on 29 NOV said being able to buy magazines with their groceries was convenient, but something they could live without. “I used to buy a lot of magazines (at the commissary) but stopped about three years ago,” said Air Force spouse Niki Gould. “You can see everything online. It’s kind of a waste of $5 or more, depending on the magazine.” Commissaries in Europe and the Pacific will continue to sell Stars and Stripes newspaper, which is published overseas and not shipped from the States, officials said. [Source: Stars and Stripes Jennifer H. Svan article 29 Nov 2011 ++]
Civil War: As the breeding ground for modern warfare, the Civil War has long been known for its "firsts." It has been credited with dozens like these:

  • A workable machine gun

  • A steel ship

  • A successful submarine

  • A "snorkel" breathing device

  • A wide-ranging corps of press correspondents in battle areas

  • American conscription

  • American bread lines

  • American President assassinated

  • Aerial reconnaissance

  • Antiaircraft fire

  • Army ambulance corps

  • Blackouts and camouflage under aerial observation

  • Cigarette tax Commissioned

  • American Army chaplains

  • Department of justice

  • Electrically exploded bombs and torpedoes

  • Fixed ammunition

  • Field trenches on a grand scale

  • Flame throwers

  • Hospital ships

  • Ironclad navies

  • Land-mine fields

  • Legal voting for servicemen

  • Long-range rifles for general use

  • Medal of Honor

  • Military telegraph

  • Military railroads

  • Naval torpedoes

  • Negro U.S. Army Officer (Major M.R. Delany)

  • Organized medical and nursing corps

  • Photography of battle

  • Railroad artillery

  • Repeating rifles

  • Revolving gun turrets

  • The bugle call, "Taps"

  • The Income tax

  • The wigwag signal code in battle

  • The periscope, for trench warfare

  • Telescopic sights for rifles

  • Tobacco tax

  • U.S. Navy Admiral

  • U.S. Secret Service

  • Withholding tax

  • Wire entanglements

  • Wide-scale use of anesthetics for wounded

[Source: Rhode Island Veterans Sentinel May-Jun 2010 ++]
Veteran Support Organizations: Pets to Vets is an organization which features a veteran helping veterans, but in a different way. P2V (for Pets to Vets) matches veterans with animals-mainly dogs-from local animal shelters to help service members cope with their mental struggles. The founder suffered for eight years with depression and thoughts of suicide, but having a canine buddy helped him manage and begin the road to recovery. To make sure anyone who needs help receives it, P2V requires no diagnosis; the only qualification is having served. The program currently is active in the Washington, D.C. area, New York and San Diego with plans to expand to other cities. It partners with certain shelters, but if those lack the right animal for the veteran, "we go to any other shelter in the area and pay the adoption cost," explains Rebecca Forrest, the executive director. It also pays for a year's worth of veterinary care at PetSmart animal clinics and has deals for reduced-cost care after that. Though the dogs are not trained to official service dog level, they do have some training and certification allowing them to live in places with no-pet or size-restriction policies.
Forrest explains that "Our organization is founded on the belief that heroes should have a choice." Because of the philosophy, P2V says no to many well-meaning people who want to donate pet-care items. She says the organization instead gives each beneficiary a gift card so they can buy what they want. Making choices and the comfort of a pet can help veterans deal with the effects of PTSD, which can include fear, depression and violent outbursts. But P2V has a message for the public: "You shouldn't be afraid of these people," Forrest says. "That's the last thing you should be. These people need our help, and we should be there for them." In addition to pets, P2V offers a support network. The program checks up on participants one day, one week, three months, six months and one year after a pet adoption. The veterans are welcome to contact P2V at any time for any reason. Forrest explains that one veteran called because of a problem with her neighbor's dog. "They can call us for anything, not just their dog," she says. For additional information about Pets to Vets refer to or contact them at (877) 311-4728| [Source: AFCRA Veterans Focus Rita Boland article Nov 2011 ++]
Vet License Plates NV: A new license plate honoring female veterans was unveiled 11 NOV by Gov. Brian Sandoval during Veterans Day ceremonies at the state Veterans Home in Boulder City. The plate won't be available for purchase until Dec. 7, but Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, D-Las Vegas, said it was displayed first on Veterans Day to bring greater attention to the plate. Anderson, a Marine Corps veteran of Afghanistan, introduced the enabling legislation for the special plate during the legislative session last spring in response to concern by female veterans. People would see their veterans license plates at gas stations and ask if their husbands or sons were veterans, he said. Nevada currently has nine special plates available for veterans. "A lot of women are veterans and inadvertently they were insulted by those questions," Anderson said. There are 24,000 female veterans in Nevada. Funds raised by the sale of the license plate will be given to the state Office of Veterans Affairs for a fund to help veterans. Buyers must be female veterans. When they first order the plate, they pay the regular cost of the plate plus an extra $60 that goes to the veterans fund. Upon renewal, they will pay an extra $30 annually to the fund. During hearings that led to passage of the bill, veteran Cheryl Gardner testified the Marines have a motto of the "few and the proud," but for women Marines it is "the fewer and prouder." She said several states already honor female veterans and Nevada should join them. "It is very disturbing women veterans are not recognized more," Gardner said. Nevada has 18 different veteran related license plates . Pictures of each plate and ordering information can be found at or in the attachment this Bulletins titled,“Vet License Plates - NV”. Source: Vegas Review-Journal article 12 Nov 2011 ++]
Veteran Hearing/Mark-up Schedule: Following is the schedule as of 9 DEC of Congressional hearings and markups pertaining to the veteran community. Congressional hearings are the principal formal method by which committees collect and analyze information in the early stages of legislative policymaking. Hearings usually include oral testimony from witnesses, and questioning of the witnesses by members of Congress. When a U.S. congressional committee meets to put a legislative bill into final form it is referred to as a mark-up. Veterans are encouraged to contact members of these committees prior to the event listed and provide input on what they want their legislator to do at the event. Membership of each committee and their contact info can be found at

  • Hearing – December 15, 2011. HVAC, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, will hold an oversight hearing entitled “Reviewing the Implementation of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act” with an emphasis on progress toward completing the VA-Department of Labor agreement under Section 211(h). 10:00 a.m. (tentative), 334 Cannon HOB


Vet Toxic Exposure~TCE: As early as WWII, United States Air Force and other Military bases used and disposed of chemical degreasers and other toxic substances that were later determined to contaminate drinking water and pose multiple health risks including: Cancers, Reproductive disorders, Birth defects, and Multiple other serious difficulties. Countless military personnel, their families, and private individuals living and working in the near vicinity of the bases may have been affected by these contaminates, through drinking water, general water usage and exposure through vapor seepage. The four most alarming contaminants are: Trichloroethylene (TCE), Tetrachloroethylene (PCE), Vinyl Chloride, and Benzene. Scientific studies show that some or all of these chemical compounds have breached the ground water supply on several of our US Military Bases and in some instances, have affected civilian properties adjacent to the bases including churches, schools and private wells. Currently, on-going research is being conducted on military bases around the country and on properties directly adjacent to these bases to identify just how wide spread this contamination may be.

Wurtsmith Air Force Base (Wurtsmith) is a 5,223 acre site, located on the northeastern part of Michigan's lower peninsula about two miles west of Lake Huron. To the north and northeast of the site is Van Etten Lake, to the southwest is Allen Lake, and to the southeast and east is the village of Oscoda. Of the 5,223 acres, 1,943 acres are owned by the U.S. Air Force. The rest of the facility consists of 2,466 acres that are leased primarily from the state and 814 acres that are registered as easement tracts.  Wurtsmith has operated since 1923 under several different names, beginning as a subsidiary of Selfridge Field, called Camp Skeel. Until World War II, Camp Skeel was used for gunnery practice, winter maneuvers, and aircraft landings. According to The Emergency War Order, the primary mission of the base was to maintain full readiness to conduct strategic bombing operations worldwide. Support activities at the base included aircraft and vehicle maintenance, bombardment crew and unit training, and air refueling support. The base was renamed Oscoda Army Air Field when the Continental Air Command began using it as a transient aircraft stopover. In 1953, the base was renamed back to Wurtsmith Air Force Base when it came under the command of the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command. 

In November 1977 while collecting groundwater samples, the Air Force detected trichloroethylene (TCE) in three of the seven drinking water wells on the base. Additional samples collected in 1979 and 1980 also detected TCE. In 1985 during the early stages of base closure, the Installation Restoration Program Phase I records search for Wurtsmith identified 29 sources of concern including the Weapons Storage Area, two former 6,000-gallon tank trailers, the Northern Landfill Area, the Building 43 Area, and the Building 5008 Area. During the 1950s and early 1960s, the Air Force used the Weapons Storage Area as a jet fighter maintenance area, possibly using TCE for degreasing and deicing the jets. The U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) identified a TCE-contaminated groundwater plume that appeared to be emanating from this area. In 1971, two 6,000-gallon tank trailers were buried in the center of the Northern Landfill Area to create a central depository for waste solvents. The tanks were removed in 1977. The Northern Landfill Area served as a disposal pit from 1960 to 1979 into which the Air Force disposed of domestic and industrial wastes, including solvents, metals, and paints. In 1987, the USGS sampled monitoring wells downgradient of the Northern Landfill area and identified TCE, 1,1-dichloroethane, 1,1,1- trichloroethane, and vinyl chloride. The Air Force used a 500-gallon underground storage tank in the Building 43 Area from 1962 to 1977 to store waste TCE, which it used as a degreaser for the maintenance of fire control equipment in the Building 5008 Area. After removing the tank, a leak was discovered near the fill pipe on the top of the tank. In addition, the Air Force apparently dumped solvents, including TCE, near buildings in the Building 5008 Area for weed control. Pumping drinking water wells in this area caused the contaminants to be drawn toward these wells, resulting in the contamination of additional drinking water wells with TCE. The Air Force officially closed the base in 1993.  
The Air Force detected TCE in the drinking water and monitoring wells at the Building 43 Area and at the Building 5008 Area. The USGS identified a TCE-contaminated groundwater plume at the Weapons Storage Area. While sampling monitoring wells downgradient of the Northern Landfill Area where two 6,000 gallon tank trailers were buried, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) also detected the volatile organic compounds TCE, 1,1-dichloroethane, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, and vinyl chloride. Since the soil at the site is primarily sand, any spills or leaks at the surface will move rapidly to the groundwater. Therefore, contaminated soil has not been frequently encountered at the site.  A Consolidated Remedial Action Plan (C-RAP), which addresses the disposition of all areas of known or potential contamination, has been reviewed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). The C-RAP provides a summary of 88 sites at Wurtsmith. They include 29 remedial action sites, 57 sites where no further RA is planned, and two sites closed under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Seven of the 88 sites have been deferred due to ongoing investigations.
The site contamination is being addressed by several long-term remedial actions.  A groundwater pump and treat system was installed in 1981 to clean up a TCE spill near Building 43 and to halt its movement offsite. A second pump and treat system was installed in 1988 to clean up TCE and fuel spills, originating near the operational apron and Building 5008. A third pump and treat system began operation in 1992 to clean up spills at the POL Bulk Storage Area. In 1993, the Air Force connected residents, located between the base and Van Etten Lake, to a potable water supply. A low volume hydrocarbon skimmer operated from 1991 until 1992 to remove spilled jet fuel from the water table. Ex-situ bioremediation was used to clean up excavated soil contaminated with diesel fuel from a leaky underground storage tank in 1991. The Air Force removed all of the storage tanks from the site. The fuel hydrant system and the oil/water separators have been cleaned.  
The soils at and near the petroleum, oil, and lubricant bulk storage yard are currently undergoing remediation through soil vapor extraction (SVE) and bioventing to remove organics. The SVE and bioventing systems were installed in November 1999. A biosparging system, installed to cleanup residual fuel from the groundwater in this area, also began operating in 1999. The air sparging/SVE systems were installed at the Strategic Air Command (SAC) Operational Apron area in November 1999 to treat groundwater contaminated with volatile organics. The system was shut down in November 2001 when cleanup objectives were met. Post-closure monitoring is being conducted to ensure the treatment remains effective. A SVE system was installed at the Fire Training Area to cleanup soil contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The system began operating in May 2001.

Bioventing and biosparging systems were installed at the Base Operational Apron in 2003 to treat soil and groundwater contaminated with petroleum constituents.  These systems became operational in 2004.

Groundwater contaminated in the Northern Landfill Area discharges into Van Etten Lake at the YMCA property boundary. An 80-well barrier air sparging curtain was installed at the base boundary downgradient of the landfills and commenced full-time operations in May 2002. The primary intent of the system is to inject/add oxygen to the subsurface as a means to help restore groundwater table aquifer. In-situ stripping of VOCs is a secondary outcome of air sparging operations. A small groundwater and extraction treatment system was also installed at the base boundary north of the air sparging curtain to capture groundwater contaminated with chlorinated solvents in a narrow plume originating at the landfills that is traveling offsite. Monitoring is being conducted to measure the performance of the systems. Groundwater from the Northern Landfill area discharging to Van Etten Lake at the YMCA beachfront has caused aesthetic impacts (iron staining) at the beach. Remedial actions performed at the YMCA beach include one sand removal/replacement (April 1999), and three sand placements (January 2001, January 2002, and January 2003). Oxygen Release Compound (ORC) was injected slightly upgradient of the beach to increase the dissolved oxygen levels in the aquifer so that staining would not occur. 4,770 pounds of ORC were injected through 97 points in February 2001 and 4,860 pounds of ORC were injected through 109 points near the beach in October 2001. Monitoring is being conducted to determine the impacts of the ORC application. The Air Force is evaluating/investigating:

  • Options for closure of the Landfill 30/Landfill 31 areas and is working with U.S. EPA and the Michigan DEQ on closure requirements. Although the air sparge system continues to operate downgradient of the landfill areas,

  • Options to better address groundwater contamination that moves from the landfill area toward the YMCA beach. The Air Force is currently investigating groundwater contamination associated with the LF-27 area. LF-27 primarily contains non-hazardous fill. However, the MDEQ is concerned that low-level metal contamination (esp. manganese ) in groundwater could pose a threat at the groundwater discharge point in Clark’s March. MDEQ is also concerned about aesthetic impacts from “yellow boy” staining from elevated iron concentrations.

  • The groundwater “pump and treat” systems in operation (Arrow Street, Benzene Plant, and Mission Street) to ensure that the systems are capturing plume areas and operating efficiently.

A base wide five-year review was completed in September 2004.   A second base-wide five year review is planned for 2009. Studies of the nature and extent of contamination at a few sites are still underway. These investigations will result in the selection of remedies for final cleanup of the site. Cleanup actions, including the operation of groundwater pump and treat systems, the connection to the potable water supply, the operation of the hydrocarbon skimmer, and the ex-situ bioremediation of the soil, have reduced the threat to human health and the environment while site investigations are underway. [Source: Dec 2011 ++]

Saving Money: Federal law requires that credit card issuers allow their customers to request a transaction be reversed for fraud and billing errors, among other things. While most chargebacks are related to stolen credit cards and identity theft, disputing a merchant’s transaction is your most potent weapon – and the merchant’s worst nightmare. Goods and services that are charged to your credit card can be refunded if they weren’t received – or if what the merchant provided wasn’t what he said it was. In those circumstances, it’s your right to contact your bank and request a reversal of those charges, a process known as a chargeback. For example, when an airline goes out of business, customers holding tickets for future flights can easily receive a refund, provided they used their credit card. But ticket holders who used other methods of payment rarely get reimbursed.
This is how it works: Assume you ordered something from a website. You enter your credit card information and receive a confirmation of the order, yet it never arrives or is defective upon arrival. Multiple attempts to contact the company go unanswered or fail to rectify the situation. At that point you call your credit card provider and request a chargeback. Normally, you will be asked to submit documentation supporting your claim. The merchant is contacted to get their side of the story. If the merchant cannot provide proof of shipment or other information substantiating they met their contractual obligation it will most likely be approved. Merchants try to avoid chargebacks. Each time a chargeback is requested, their account is debited and they have to defend themselves to their credit card processor. Furthermore, credit card transaction fees, which retailers hate, rise dramatically when a merchant has too many chargeback requests. A chargeback should never be your first course of action when you’re having a problem with a merchant. You should always make multiple good-faith attempts to contact the merchant, speak to a supervisor, and give them the opportunity to “make it right.” Additionally, informing a company’s management that you intend to request a chargeback can maycause them to reconsider their unreasonable position.
Just because you requested a chargeback – and received a temporary credit – doesn’t guarantee you’ll prevail. You’ll still need to produce supporting documentation to back up your claim. If you contend that the goods or services were never delivered, it will fall upon the merchant to prove otherwise. However, if you’re claiming that the goods or services received weren’t as described, you must show some significant deficiency. It can’t just be buyer’s remorse. Providing photographs or supporting documentation from a third party is a great way to win these disputes.

When you encounter a merchant who has charged your credit card and not delivered the goods, you have recourse. Once the business has proven itself to be unresponsive, evasive, or just obtuse, only then should you pull out your secret weapon in order to save the day. And this is one reason why you should always use a credit card for online and major purchases. [Source: MoneyTalksNews Jason Steele article 10/20/11 ++]

Notes of Interest:

  • Vet Cemeteries. CENLA Veterans Cemetery has completed construction. New employees are currently being trained and materials and equipment are being purchased and received. Anticipated grand opening to held in February, 2012 - date should be set and announced by end of year.

  • Express Scripts. TRICARE beneficiaries should use the address Express Scripts, P.O. BOX 52132, Phoenix, AZ 85082 to submit PAPER claims to Express Scripts. All other Express Scripts addresses remain the same.

  • McDonald’s. To keep kids healthy, San Francisco banned McDonald’s from selling Happy Meals, which offer a free toy with its fast food. “McDonald’s answer? It will charge 10 cents for the toy,” MSNBC reports. “The proceeds will be donated to Ronald McDonald House, the company’s charity for children with cancer.” The clown wins.

  • Competition. If you ever doubted that competition is good for consumers, check this out: “Right now, $118 will buy you a round trip ticket on the 45-minute US Airways jaunt from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia,” CNN reports. “Starting on Jan. 8, the price of that same ticket will skyrocket to $698.” Why? Because Southwest is dropping the route, leaving only US Airways as the only nonstop carrier. That’s their new price.

  • Icelandic Phallological Museum. Would you pay to see a nearly 6-foot-long sperm whale penis that weighs about 120 pounds? You can at the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which draws about 12,000 visitors a year, according to USA Today. “On the other end of the scale, a hamster penis is so tiny it requires a magnifying glass to spot.” Admission 1000 KSL (~$8.46)

  • TDP. The TRICARE Dental Program (TDP) Benefit Booklet is an 88-page booklet that provides an overview of the TDP for active duty family members and National Guard and Reserve members and their families. The booklet includes information about service areas; benefits and exclusions; eligibility and enrollment; filing claims; and costs. Stateside and overseas contact information is included. This handbook is available for download at:

  • TRICARE. The TRICARE Standard Handbook is an 80-page guide for beneficiaries using TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Extra. This handbook is available for download at:

  • TRICARE Pharmacy. There are no ongoing negotiations between TRICARE’s contractor ESI and Walgreens so it looks like there is not going to be an agreement. If there is no new contract on January 1, 2012 Walgreens will be out of the network.

  • Donations: UNICEF CEO receives $1,200,000 per year plus all expenses, including a Rolls Royce automobile! Less than 5% your donation goes to the cause! The American Red Cross President and CEO has a salary of $651,957, plus expenses. The United Way President receives a $375,000 base salary, along with numerous expense benefits. The Salvation Army's Commissioner receives a salary of $13,000 per year, (plus housing) for managing this $2 billion dollar organization! 96% of donated dollars go to the cause!! The National Commander's of: The American Legion; The Veterans of Foreign Wars; The Disabled American Veterans; The Military Order of Purple Hearts; and, The Vietnam Veterans Association . . . ALL receive $0.00 zero salary per year. Your donations to any of these organizations go to help veterans and their families and youth!

  • Money. The new U.S. currency bill real under ultraviolet light glows: $5 bill glows blue, $10 bill glows orange, $20 bill glows green, $50 bill glows yellow, and$100 bill glows red.

[Source: Various 1-15 Dec 2011 ++]

Medicare Fraud Update 81:

  • Miami FL - Patient recruiter Santiago Villa-Restrepo, 33, pleaded guilty 29 NOV to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud for his participation in a Medicare fraud scheme operated out of three Detroit-area health care clinics. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. According to the plea documents, Villa-Restrepo recruited Medicare beneficiaries for three Detroit-area health care clinics owned by co-conspirators. In exchange for cash bribes paid by Villa-Restrepo and others, the beneficiaries agreed to attend the clinics where they provided their Medicare provider numbers and other information, which allowed the clinics to bill for diagnostic tests that were medically unnecessary, and in some cases, not provided at all. Medicare was billed $5.4 million for medically unnecessary diagnostic tests by the clinics associated with the scheme.

  • Detroit MI - Dora Binimelis, 53, of Miami, pleaded guilty 6 DEC to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. At sentencing, Binimelis faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. According to the plea documents, Binimelis was an owner of Blessed Medical Clinic, which purported to be a medical clinic that specialized in diagnostic testing. Binimelis admitted that the clinic defrauded Medicare by billing for expensive and medically unnecessary tests. The owners and operators of Blessed paid patient recruiters, who paid cash bribes to Medicare beneficiaries. In exchange for the cash bribes, the beneficiaries agreed to attend the clinic where they provided their Medicare provider numbers and other information, which was used to bill Medicare for unnecessary tests and services. According to her plea, Binimelis knew that the purpose of the clinic was not to treat sick patients, but to make money by defrauding Medicare. Binimelis provided diagnostic testing equipment and the capital infusion to open Blessed. In exchange for her contributions, she received a share of the Medicare fraud proceeds. According to court documents, Blessed billed Medicare $2.4 million for medically unnecessary diagnostic tests.

  • Miami FL - The owner of a Miami-area mental health care company will be spending the next 35 years behind bars after she was sentenced in a $205 million Medicare fraud scheme. Judith Negron, 40, was sentenced 8 DEC by U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King, who also ordered her to pay over $87 million in restitution. Negron, along with two other owners and executives with American Therapeutic Corporation, was arrested in October 2010 in the scheme that prosecutors said billed Medicare for mental health treatments that patients didn't need. Prosecutors said dating back to 2002, Negron and fellow owners Lawrence S. Duran and Marianella Valera paid bribes and kickbacks to owners and operators of assisted living facilities and halfway houses and to patient brokers in exchange for delivering ineligible patients to their facilities. Negron was found guilty of 24 felony counts in August, including conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive illegal health care kickbacks, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and structuring to avoid reporting requirements. Duran and Valera were also found guilty and sentenced in September to 50 and 35 years, respectively, for their roles in the scheme.

  • Minneapolis MN - Medtronic Inc has agreed to pay $23.5 million to settle allegations that it paid kickbacks to doctors to encourage them to use its pacemakers and defibrillators. The company was accused of seeking physicians to participate in studies and registries and paying doctors fees of between $1,000 to $2,000 per patient for information and data collected as long as they used Medtronic's devices, according to the Justice Department. Medtronic caused false claims to be submitted to the federal healthcare programs Medicare and Medicaid, the Justice Department said. The settlement resolves two whistleblower lawsuits against the company. The company previously disclosed the anticipated settlement and recorded a $24 million expense in its 2011 fiscal year, according to its securities filings. "We are happy that the investigation is behind us so we can continue to design and execute clinical trials that generate evidence to improve patient care, outcomes and cost effectiveness," said Medtronic spokesman Chris Garland. The resolution comes as Medtronic is facing another probe by the Justice Department and the U.S. Senate over questions about whether doctors who were paid by the company failed to report significant side effects of its spinal surgical product called Infuse.

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