Biden urges Congress to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits
President Joe Biden is urging Congress to pass legislation that would expand health benefits for U.S. military veterans exposed to toxic burn pits without forcing then to jump through hoops to prove their illness is linked to that exposure. It would provide greater access to specialized medical care for veterans exposed while serving in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Chemicals and other pollutants in the waste created toxic smoke that many veterans have blamed for causing chronic diseases after returning home. An estimated 3.5 million veterans have been exposed to burn pits, according to a 2015 VA report. A bill that would give PFAS-exposed veterans presumptive health benefits, the VETS PFAS Act, has failed to gain traction in past sessions and has not been reintroduced this year.mlive.com
Advocates in US push new efforts to bring back deportees
With President Joe Biden in office, advocates are pushing new campaigns and proposals to bring back immigrants they believe were unfairly deported from the U.S. One of them urges creating a centralized Department of Homeland Security office to consider requests from deported immigrants trying to reunite with their families in the United States.
Trump impeachment trial confronts memories of Capitol siege
(Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool photo via AP)WASHINGTON – The impeachment trial of Donald Trump is more than an effort to convict the former president of inciting an insurrection. It's a chance for a public accounting and remembrance of the worst attack on the U.S. Capitol in 200 years. Trump is long gone, ensconced at his Mar-a-Lago club, and Democrat Joe Biden is the new president in the White House. "A public trial serves a vital purpose," he said. Pelosi led Democrats in impeaching Trump, the only president twice impeached, and the first in history to face trial after leaving office.
Biggest vets groups step up pressure on Trump to fire Wilkie
FILE - In this July 7, 2020 file photo, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Richard Wilkie speaks at the National Press Club in Washington. Confronted with a sexual assault allegation at a veterans hospital, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie repeatedly sought to discredit the female congressional staffer who made the complaint. The groups pressed Trump to act in the last weeks of his administration since Wilkie had refused to accept responsibility and was refusing to resign. Wilkie and other senior officials had declined to fully cooperate with the investigation by VA Inspector General Michael Missal. Wilkie is Trump’s second VA secretary after David Shulkin was fired in 2018.
American Legion, Pelosi joining calls for VA chief's ouster
“It is unfair to expect accountability from the nearly 400,000 VA employees and not demand the same from its top executive. Wilkie and other senior officials had declined to fully cooperate with the investigation by VA Inspector General Michael Missal. Wilkie is Trump’s second VA secretary after David Shulkin was fired in 2018. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to rebuild trust in the VA when he takes office on Jan. 20. He has selected Denis McDonough, who served as President Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff, to be VA secretary.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie tried to discredit House aide who alleged sexual assault, watchdog finds
Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie attempted to discredit a House aide who alleged she was sexually assaulted inside a VA hospital, the department's Office of the Inspector General found. Six of these witnesses in sworn testimony attributed the remarks to Secretary Wilkie himself," the report states. "In this shocking abuse of power, Secretary Wilkie publicly revictimized the very people that the agency that he leads is supposed to serve." According to the report, VA officials investigating the assault did not consider past complaints about the alleged perpetrator, a VA contractor. "VA officials did not examine this information, readily available in VA's files."cbsnews.com
Vets groups demand Wilkie's dismissal after scathing audit
“The accountability, professionalism and respect that our veterans have earned, and quite frankly deserve, is completely lost in this current VA leadership team,” said B.J. Wilkie and other senior officials had declined to fully cooperate with the investigation by VA Inspector General Michael Missal. Wilkie is President Donald Trump’s second VA secretary after David Shulkin was fired in 2018. “VA can and must do better,” said Randy Reese, executive director of Disabled American Veterans’ Washington headquarters. He has selected Denis McDonough, who served as President Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff, to be VA secretary.
Watchdog faults VA chief over handling of sex assault report
“The response of Secretary Wilkie and senior VA officials to the veteran’s complaint of sexual assault was troubling,” Missal said in a statement. “The tone set by Secretary Wilkie appears to have influenced aspects of the initial VA police investigation and the conduct of other VA employees,” the report said. On Thursday, Biden said he will nominate Denis McDonough, who served as President Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff, to be VA secretary. VA officials did not examine the information, the report said. A study released by the VA last year found 1 in 4 female veterans using VA health care reported inappropriate comments by male veterans on VA grounds.
Chinese Americans who served in WWII honored by Congress
That law made it illegal for Chinese laborers to immigrate to America and limited the Chinese population in the U.S. for more than 60 years. Chinese Americans served in all major branches of the military, including the so-called Flying Tigers, the 14th Air Service that flew missions in the China-Burma-India Theater. For their service to the nation during the war, Chinese-American veterans were honored at a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony Wednesday. Francis B. Wai had been awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military award given by the United States. She and other Chinese Americans “answered the call to duty when our country faced threats to our freedom,″ Chin said in a videotaped presentation at Wednesday’s ceremony.
House condemns racism against Asian Americans amid pandemic
WASHINGTON – The House voted Thursday to condemn racism against Asian Americans tied to the coronavirus outbreak, approving a Democratic resolution on a mostly party-line vote. Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., called Republican opposition to the resolution “disgraceful.”“The president is fueling racism and inspiring violent attacks on Asian Americans and Asian immigrants,” Takano said. Republicans said Trump was turning his ire toward China's government and not Asian Americans. Trump in March insisted that Asian Americans were “amazing people” and not at fault for spreading the virus. Anti-discrimination groups have reported hundreds of actions against Asian Americans, especially in the early days of the outbreak.
Gaps in federal oversight add to virus woes at vets homes
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)WASHINGTON Big gaps in federal oversight of long-term care facilities for aging veterans may have contributed to rampant coronavirus infections and more than 200 deaths at state-run homes, according to a congressional watchdog agency. Many of the COVID-19 outbreaks happened after asymptomatic staff unknowingly brought in the virus from hot-spot communities, underscoring the need for robust testing, said Melissa Jackson, president of the National Association of State Veterans Homes. Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., who heads the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on health, called the disparities unacceptable. But it's not known how many of these happened at state-run veterans homes because not all of them are required to report coronavirus infection and death rates to VA. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provides oversight for about two-thirds of state-run veterans homes that receive Medicare or Medicaid payments.