Archive for June, 2012

John Gonsalves started this organization in 2004 after watching a news report of a severely injured veteran who had returned from Iraq. He thought to himself "What now, what happens to this person now?". He searched for an organization that he assumed was already in place where he could donate his building expertise for a few weeks. When he found out that none existed and started Homes for Our Troops (HFOT) and registered it as a national non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization. HFOT is committed to helping those who have selflessly given to our country and have returned home with serious disabilities and injuries since September 11, 2001. They feel it is their duty and an honor honor to assist severely injured Veterans and their immediate families. This they accomplish by donations of money, building materials and professional labor and to coordinate the process of building a home that provides maximum freedom of movement and the ability to live more independently. Most of the projects they undertake are the building of new homes. In rare cases, especially in areas with very high land costs, it is more cost effective to buy an existing home and renovate it with all the special modifications needed as dictated by the particular disabilities and injuries of the veteran. Eligible veterans or service member may receive a Veterans Administration Specially Adapted Housing Grant up to a maximum amount of $63,780. HFOT assistance covers all costs over and above this grant to ensure that the home is provided at no cost to the recipient. For a list of completed and current home building/home adaptation projects refer to
Charity Navigator, one of the premiere charity rating agencies in the country, has reviewed HFOT’s finances and awarded them with its highest rating of 4 stars. Charity Navigator analyzes the most recent four years of a charity's finances in areas such as percent of funds spent directly on programs, overhead costs and other important factors that measure if a charity is prudently managing the funds entrusted in the hands of a charity. HFOT received a score of 68.96 out of a possible 70 points – a grade of 98.5%. The Charity Watch, one of the country’s premier charity watchdog organizations, has included HFOT in their "Top-Rated Veterans & Military Charities" listing. Only 7 of the 40 Veterans charities rated by AIP are included in the Top-Rated Category. Because of their stringent review process, the AIP is described as "the pit bull of watchdogs" by the New York Times. Newsweek said "It's the toughest of the bunch. Because it disregards certain, potentially suspect, expenses and donations, it fails some nonprofits that the other raters. For more info on Homes for Our Troops refer to or contact them via email, Tel: 1- 508-823-3300, or visit their office at 6 Main Street, Taunton, MA. [Source: Jun 2012 ++]


The Homes for Our Troops (HFOT) organization recently added a “Home Award Program” that will allow them to provide the "American Dream" of home ownership to a broader population of our nation's wounded and injured Veterans and to the spouses of our fallen service members, completely mortgage-free. HFOT will soon begin receiving donations of homes that are currently owned by national banks. These top-quality homes are in move-in condition and located throughout the country. The banks want to donate these homes to HFOT for Veterans and their families, mortgage-free! HFOT would like to help as many applicants as possible and need your help in disseminating this word. Basic Qualification Criteria is:
 You are a Veteran that sustained injuries during combat or while deployed in support of combat operations after September 11, 2001.
 You are Widow/Widower or dependent of a service member due to injuries sustained in combat or while deployed in support of combat operations after September 11, 2001.
 You plan to make your new "HFOT Home Award" home your primary residence for a minimum of three years.
 You accept the responsibility of home ownership and have the resources to maintain a home. (ongoing maintenance and upkeep, taxes, utilities etc.)
Applications are being accepted now. Potential Home Award Candidates need to fill out the open application at and provide the required documentation to start the application process. The open application gives applicants the opportunity to become pre-qualified for a "Home Award Program" home by the selection committee at no cost to the applicant. When HFOT receives notification from their banking partners that a home becomes available that fits the criteria specified in an application, they will send an email notification to the applicant with all the information on the home(s). Applicants will then have seven (7) calendar days to notify HFOT if they want one of the homes on the list. If you have questions about this program refer to or to contact HFOT at [Source: CFLNewsChat Michael Isam article 7 Jun 2012 ++]


VA Budget 2013

Posted: June 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

By a vote of 407-12, the House on 31 MAY overwhelming passed the Military Construction/VA funding bill despite threats of a veto by the Administration. To see how your representative voted, click on The bill, H.R.5854, provides $146.4 billion dollars for FY 2013, which is a 10-percent increase above last year's levels. VA funding includes $54.5 in Advanced Appropriations for medical care, a boost for medical services and increases for jobs and disability programs for veterans. House members voted to withhold funding on the DOD-VA integrated medical record project until both departments implement recommendations made by GAO earlier this year. This voted amount is $1.5 billion less than the AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States annual Independent Budget recommendation of $3.2 billion to meet increased demand and rising health care costs . The approved amount also provides:
 $6.2 billion for mental health services
 $5.8 billion for homeless veterans programs
 $35 million for continued research on the effects of PTSD and TBI
 $174 million for expansion of Arlington National Cemetery
 $1.1 billion for major and minor construction projects
 $1.7 billion for family and military personnel housing
House Adopted Amendments to the bill included:
 Blumenauer (D-OR) – The amendment makes a symbolic funding cut of $10 million to the Defense-wide Planning and Design, and then adds the funding back to the same account. The purpose of the amendment is to express support for the Department of Defense (DoD) efforts for continued improvement to energy security and renewable energy initiatives. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
 Hayworth (R-NY) – The amendment allows non-active duty National Guard and Reservists to purchase government memorial headstones. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
 Welch (D-VT) – The amendment allows funds to be used for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to comply with statutory energy management requirements and report on the inventory of energy efficiency in VA buildings, to be published online. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
 Terry (R-NE) – The amendment requires a VA Inspector General report on cost overrides on faulty bidding. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
 Blumenauer (D-OR) – The amendment makes a symbolic funding cut of $35 million, and then adds the funding back to the same account, to encourage VA to increase their efforts on researching the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, as increasing numbers of veterans return from the battlefield. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
 Schock (R-IL) – The amendment makes a symbolic funding cut of $16 million to the Veterans Health Administration, and then adds the funding back to the same account. The purpose of the amendment is to draw attention to importance of pilot programs – Project ARCH and Project HERO – that provide veterans’ health care through local and/or private providers. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
 Grimm (R-NY) – The amendment strikes a provision in the bill that prohibits funding for the DoD or VA to solicit construction contracts that either favor or oppose project labor agreements (PLAs). The amendment would allow the Administration to continue to use PLAs in the consideration of federal contract bids. The amendment was adopted on a vote of 218-198.
 Fitzpatrick (R-PA) – The amendment prohibits funding for federal contracts that do not give veteran-owned small businesses all available preferences. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
 Poe (R-TX) – The amendment prohibits funds to employ a new national cemetery director who is not a veteran. The amendment passed on a voice vote.
 Poe (R-TX) – The amendment prohibits funds from being used to stop any veteran service organization from participating in the funeral or memorial service of a veteran. The amendment passed on a voice vote.
 Runyan (R-TX) – The amendment prohibits funding for DoD to informally close any military bases. The amendment passed on a voice vote.
 Flores (R-TX) – The amendment prohibits funds to implement a regulation under the Energy Independence and Security Act (section 526). The regulation prohibits federal contracts for alternative fuels, unless the alternative fuels are proven to produce less greenhouse gas than conventional fuels. This overly burdensome regulation would limit the ability of the federal government – including the Pentagon – from exploring and using alternative fuel options. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
 Webster (R-FL) – The amendment requires the director of construction and facilities management in the Department of Veterans Affairs to meet the employment requirements of current law. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
 Stearns (R-FL) – The amendment prohibits the use of funds for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide performance awards for employees of the Senior Executive Services. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
[Source: VFW Washington Weekly 1 Jun 2012 ++]


The House on 31 MAY approved a measure offered by the Ocala Republican that would do away with salary bonuses to senior administrators within the VA. Stearns' amendment to a bill containing the VA's 2013 budget passed on a voice vote without opposition, according to House records. In a statement, Stearns, a longtime member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said the agency's top management should not be rewarded when military veterans are receiving less than exemplary service from the agency. "I want to ensure the best care for our veterans, but the VA continues to have an unmanageable backlog, extremely long wait lists and a poor record on oversight," Stearns said. "Given this troubling record, the VA should discontinue paying bonuses to its top executives." Stearns' amendment targets staffers within the senior executive service, or SES, the level of managers just below presidential appointees that administer policy and oversee the rest of the federal civil service. Stearns noted that SES workers are already paid between $120,000 and $180,000 a year.
He also highlighted testimony given last November to the Veterans Affairs Committee by Carl Blake of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, who said that the average bonus for VA employees within the SES was $14,000. Yet the VA has a current backlog of more than 567,000 claims, and the average wait time for a veteran to have a claim resolved is eight months, according to Stearns. "This is why there should be no bonuses for VA's top executives," said Stearns, who represents one of the most veteran-heavy districts in the country. "The VA should focus its resources on caring for veterans and not on bonuses for its highest paid employees," he said. The amendment would not affect Stearns' district. According to Stearns' office, Thomas Capello was the only SES-level employee at a VA facility in Stearns' North Florida district. Capello, who retired earlier this year, made $179,900 last year — more than six times the per capita income in Florida — while serving as director of the VA district that included the Malcom Randall Medical Center in Gainesville and the Lake City VA hospital as well as three regional outpatient clinics and seven community-based facilities in Florida and Georgia. He managed a $797 million yearly budget and almost 4,700 employees who served more than 121,000 veterans. The Senate must still consider the VA budget bill. The House version passed by a lopsided 407-12. [Source: Ocala Star-Banner Bill Thompson article 2 Jun 2012 ++]

Trice up:

To secure bunks by hauling them up and hanging them off (securing them) on their chains.  To make or sucure a bed.  Thus "….all hands heave to and tirce up."  Was to get up and make your bunk and secure them.

More than 20 years after the end of the first Gulf War, veterans of Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield don’t have a national memorial honoring their war experience. Now, one Tennessee lawmaker wants to change that. Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) on 8 JUN introduced new legislation to create a memorial “dedicated to the valor and sacrifices” of troops who fought in that conflict. The measure would establish the National Desert Storm Memorial Association, to handle fundraising, planning and construction for the marker. No federal funds would be used for the work under Roe’s plan. According to Defense Department Statistics, nearly 700,000 troops served in that war. A total of 382 troops gave their lives during the operations, including 147 combat deaths. Another 467 troops were wounded in the fight. [Source: Stars & Stripes Leo Shane article 8 Jun 2012 ++]

Cold Enough to Freeze the Balls off a Brass Monkey

on the old ships the cannon balls were stacked in a triangular position so as to be ready if needed. In order to keep them from rolling around the ship, they were fitted on a base called a monkey. This was traditionally made out of brass. When the weather got cold enough the brass would contract and thus would no longer hold the cannnon balls in place. Thus is was"cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey".


Brass Monkey:

The word "monkey" is of uncertain origin; its first known usage was in 1498 when it was used in the literary work Reynard the Fox as the name of the son of Martin the Ape. "Monkey" has numerous nautical meanings, such as a small coastal trading vessel, single masted with a square sail of the 16th and 17th centuries; a small wooden cask in which grog was carried after issue from a grog-tub to the seamen's messes in the Royal Navy; a type of marine steam reciprocating engine where two engines were used together in tandem on the same propeller shaft; and a sailor whose job involved climbing and moving swiftly (usage dating to 1858). A "monkey boat" was a narrow vessel used on canals (usage dating to 1858); a "monkey gaff" is a small gaff on large merchant vessels; a "monkey jacket" is a close fitting jacket worn by sailors; "monkey spars" are small masts and yards on vessels used for the "instruction and exercise of boys;" and a "monkey pump" is a straw used to suck the liquid from a small hole in a cask; a "monkey block" was used in the rigging of sailing ships; "monkey island" is a ship's upper bridge; "monkey drill" was calisthenics by naval personnel (usage dating to 1895); and "monkey march" is close order march by US Marine Corps personnel (usage dating to 1952). [Sources: Cassidy, Frederick G. and Joan Houston Hall eds. Dictionary of American Regional English. vol.3 (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1996): 642; Wilfred Granville. A Dictionary of Sailors' Slang (London: Andre Deutch, 1962): 77; Peter Kemp ed. Oxford Companion to Ships & the Sea. (New York: Oxford University; Press, 1976): 556; The Oxford English Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press, 1933; J.E. Lighter ed. Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang. (New York: Random House, 1994): 580.; and Eric Partridge A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. 8th ed. (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company): 917.]

"Monkey" has also been used within an ordnance context. A "monkey" was a kind of gun or cannon (usage dating to 1650). "Monkey tail" was a short hand spike, a lever for aiming a carronade [short-sight iron cannon]. A "powder monkey" was a boy who carried gun powder from the magazine to cannons and performed other ordnance duties on a warship (usage dating to 1682). [Source: The Oxford English Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press, 1933.]

The first recorded use of the term "brass monkey" appears to dates to 1857 when it was used in an apparently vulgar context by C.A. Abbey in his book Before the Mast, where on page 108 it says "It would freeze the tail off a brass monkey." [Source: Lighter, J.E. ed. Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang. (New York: Random House, 1994): 262.]

It has often been claimed that the "brass monkey" was a holder or storage rack in which cannon balls (or shot) were stacked on a ship. Supposedly when the "monkey" with its stack of cannon ball became cold, the contraction of iron cannon balls led to the balls falling through or off of the "monkey." This explanation appears to be a legend of the sea without historical justification. In actuality, ready service shot was kept on the gun or spar decks in shot racks (also known as shot garlands in the Royal Navy) which consisted of longitudinal wooden planks with holes bored into them, into which round shot (cannon balls) were inserted for ready use by the gun crew. These shot racks or garlands are discussed in: Longridge, C. Nepean. The Anatomy of Nelson's Ships. (Annapolis MD: Naval Institute Press, 1981): 64. A top view of shot garlands on the upper deck of a ship-of-the-line is depicted in The Visual Dictionary of Ships and Sailing. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1991): 17.

"Brass monkey" is also the nickname for the Cunard Line's house flag which depicts a gold lion rampant on a red field. [Source: Rogers, John. Origins of Sea Terms. (Mystic CT: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1984): 23.]

VAMC Orlando

Posted: June 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

Contractors are attributing the Orlando VA Medical Center's "much-delayed" opening to politicians and VA officials' "poor oversight." Delays have pushed the completion date of the 1.2 million-square-foot facility back a year and half. Now the date has been pushed into March or April 2014 Quinco, the project's electrical contractor, owner David Deese said the VA's "slow approvals" on orders and many construction
suspensions forced him to lay off 60 workers; and extensive changes to the electrical drawings caused the contact cost, which "started at $45 million" to nearly double. Project Manager George Paulson said the VA "had a chance to prevent all that" last October, when the primary subcontractors developed a two-phase plan that would have cost the VA a "little more," but would have ensured the VAMC was finished by the original October 2012 completion date. Deese concurred. "We thought it was a no-brainer," he said. But the VA "said no, according to those involved." [Source: Orlando Sentinel Marni Jameson article 5 Jun 2012 ++]


Posted: June 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

"Keeping the Promise", "Fulfill their Trust" and "No one left behind" are several of many mottos that refer to the efforts of the Department of Defense to recover those who became missing while serving our nation. More than 83,000 Americans are missing from World War II (73,000+), the Korean War (7,900+), the Cold War (126), the Vietnam War (1,666), 1991 Gulf War (0), and OEF/OIF (6). Hundreds of Defense Department men and women — both military and civilian — work in organizations around the world as part of DoD's personnel recovery and personnel accounting communities. They are all dedicated to the single mission of finding and bringing our missing personnel home. For a listing of all personnel accounted for since 2007 refer to 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 or call (703) 699-1420. The remains of the following MIA/POW’s have been recovered, identified, and scheduled for burial since the publication of the last RAO Bulletin:
 DPMO announced 30 MAY that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, were identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Arden K. Hassenger, 32, of Lebanon, Ore., burial was scheduled for 8 JUN in his hometown. On Dec. 24, 1965, Hassenger, and the crew of the AC-47D aircraft nicknamed “Spooky” failed to return from a combat strike mission in southern Laos. After a “mayday” signal was sent, all contact was lost with the crew. Two days of search efforts for the aircraft and crew were unsuccessful. In 1995, a joint U.S./Lao People’s Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) team investigated a crash in Savannakhet Province, Laos. Local villagers recalled seeing a two-propeller aircraft, similar to an AC-47D, crash in December 1965. One man had found aircraft wreckage in a nearby field while farming, and led the team to that location. The team recovered small pieces of aircraft wreckage at that time and recommended further investigative visits. Joint U.S./L.P.D.R. investigation and recovery teams re-visited the site four times from 1999 to 2001. They conducted additional interviews with locals, recovered military equipment, and began an excavation. No human remains were recovered, so the excavation was suspended pending additional investigation. In 2010, joint U.S./L.P.D.R. recovery teams again excavated the crash site. The team recovered human remains, personal items, and military equipment. Three additional excavations in 2011 recovered additional human remains and evidence. Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command used dental records and material evidence to identify Hassenger. With the accounting of this airman, 1,666 service members still remain missing from the Vietnam War.
 DPMO announced 5 JUN that the remains of two U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, were identified and will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors. Air Force Lt. Col. Edward D. Silver, 34, of Junction City, Ore., will be buried on June 6, in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington D.C. On June 7, there will be a group burial service at Arlington National Cemetery honoring Silver and the other crew member, Maj. Bruce E. Lawrence, 25, of Easton Pa. Lawrence was buried on Sept. 21, 2011, in his hometown. On July 5, 1968, Silver and Lawrence, were flying the lead F-4C Phantom II aircraft of a two-ship formation, on a night armed-reconnaissance of enemy targets, in Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam. Other pilots flying in the area reported that they witnessed anti-aircraft fire striking the aircraft shortly before it crashed. No parachutes or signs of survivors were seen. In 1993, a joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) team traveled to Quang Binh Province to investigate a possible site related to the crash. Harsh terrain and safety concerns limited access to the location of the aircraft. From 1998 to 2000, joint U.S./S.R.V. teams interviewed witnesses, excavated several aircraft crash sites in the area, and recovered human remains. Additional recovery of military equipment, related to Silver and Lawrence’s crash, confirmed that two individuals were in the aircraft at the time of the incident. Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA – which matched that of both Lawrence and Silver’s living relatives –as well as nuclear DNA to identify the two men.
 DPMO announced 7 JUN that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, were identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors. Navy Lt. William E. Swanson, 27, of Zimmerman, Minn., will be buried June 11, at Fort Snelling in Minneapolis. On April 11, 1965, Swanson was the pilot of an A-1H Skyraider aircraft that crashed while on an armed reconnaissance mission over Khammouan Province, Laos. Other Americans in the area reported seeing his aircraft being struck by enemy fire and no parachute was deployed prior to the crash. Recovery efforts were not possible due to enemy presence in the days following the crash. In October 2000, a joint U.S./Lao People’s Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) team was investigating a different crash in Khammouan Province. Local villagers reported an aircraft crash site nearby, in the mountains north of the town of Boualapha. The team surveyed the site and found small pieces of aircraft wreckage, and unexploded bombs and rockets of the same type that Swanson’s A-1H had been carrying. In 2009, a joint U.S./L.P.D.R. recovery team excavated the site and found material evidence and military equipment. In 2010, another U.S./L.P.D.R. team completed the excavation and recovered human remains and additional evidence. Two data plates, with numbers matching Swanson’s aircraft, were found at the site. Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command used circumstantial and material evidence to identify Swanson’s remains.
 DPMO announced 7 JUN that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, were identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors. Air Force Capt. Virgil K. Meroney III, 25, of Fayetteville, Ark., will be buried June 9, in his hometown. On March 1, 1969, Meroney was a crew member aboard an F-4D Phantom II aircraft that crashed while carrying out a nighttime strike mission in Kahammouan Province, Laos. Nearby U.S. aircrews reported seeing Meroney’s aircraft hit by enemy fire. No parachutes were seen after the aircraft was hit. Heavy enemy presence in the area prevented recovery efforts. In 1994, a joint U.S./Lao People’s Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) team investigated the crash site in Khammouan Province, Laos. The team located aircraft wreckage of an F-4 and military equipment, which correlated with Meroney’s aircraft. From 2000 to 2011, additional joint U.S/L.P.D.R recovery teams investigated and excavated the crash site multiple times. Teams recovered human remains, and military equipment, including an engine data plate, a radio call-sign plate, and a military identification card bearing Meroney’s name. Scientists from the JPAC used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools including dental comparisons, and radiograph comparisons in the identification of Meroney.
 DPMO announced 5 JUN that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the KoreanWar, were identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors. Army Cpl. Dick E. Osborne, 17, of Brookville, Pa., will be buried June 6, in Sigel, Pa. On Nov. 2, 1950, Osborne and members of the 8th Cavalry, 3rd Battalion, L Company, were fighting Chinese forces near the Kuryong River, North Korea, in an area known as “Camel’s Head.” Following the fighting, Osborne was listed as missing in action. His body was not recovered at the time, and he was likely buried on the battlefield by Chinese or North Korean forces. On April 12, 2007, North Korea gave the United States six sets of human remains believed to be U.S. servicemen. North Korean documents, turned over with some of the boxes, indicated that some of the remains were recovered from the area where Osborne had reportedly died in battle. Evidence such as military items and uniform fragments were included with the remains. To identify the remains, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial evidence, and forensic identification tools such as dental records, and mitochondrial DNA – which matched Osborne’s living nephew.
World War II
 DPMO announced 5 JUN that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and were scheduled to be returned to his family for burial with full military honors. Marine Corps Pfc. John A. Donovan, 20, of Plymouth, Mich., will be buried June 8, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Donovan was a crewmember aboard a PBJ-1 aircraft that failed to return from a night training mission over the island of Espiritu Santo, in what is known today as Vanuatu. None of the crew was recovered and in 1945 they were officially presumed deceased. In 1994, a group of private citizens notified the U.S. that aircraft wreckage had been found on the island of Espiritu Santo. Human remains were recovered from the site at that time and turned over to the Department of Defense. In 1999, a survey team traveled to the site, which was located at an elevation of 2,600 ft. in extremely rugged terrain, and determined that recovery teams would need specialized mountain training to safely complete a recovery mission. In 2000, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) team visited the site and recovered human remains. From 2009 to 2011, multiple JPAC recovery teams excavated the site and recovered additional remains, aircraft parts and military equipment. Scientists and analysts from JPAC used circumstantial evidence and dental records in the identification of Donovan’s remains.
[Source: Jun 2012 +]