Category Archives: honor the noble dead

UNDERSERVED: Marines are nearly ten times more likely to be excluded from VA services than their counterparts in the Air Force

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.” – Merriam Webster

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By far more than anyone else, United States Marines and their supporters have reacted to and commented on this solemn, snow-shrouded image that I posted on Facebook mere hours ago. It’s an anecdotal truth for this author that those in and around the USMC are quick, respectful, and openly compassionate when it comes to honoring the noble dead. Collectively, the kind of fight that our Marines take to America’s enemies is a lot different than that we ask of our airmen. So, WTF? The VA has effectively decided that Marines are more than five times more “Dishonorable” than Airmen.

Here’s an excerpt from the following March 2016 report as accessed online 21 December 2018:
Swords to Plowshares, in conjunction with National Veterans Legal Services Program and the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School have published Underserved: How the VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans with Bad Paper.

Complete report available at:

https://www.swords-to-plowshares.org/2016/03/30/underserved/

Not all who have served are “veterans” in the eyes of the Department of Veterans Affairs. If the veteran has less than a General discharge, the VA creates obstacles to getting health care, benefits, homeless resources and other services. Most of these veterans are simply turned away. Congress never meant for eligibility to be so exclusive, it intended that only veterans who served dishonorably be denied access. The VA’s own discretionary policies unnecessarily deny hundreds of thousands veterans benefits, who are often those most in need of the VA’s support. These former service members are more likely to have mental health disabilities and twice as likely to commit suicide. They are more likely to be homeless and to be involved with the criminal justice system.

KEY FINDINGS FROM THE REPORT

  • Marines are nearly ten times more likely to be excluded from VA services than their counterparts in the Air Force
  • Current era service members are excluded at higher rates than other eras– more than twice the rate for Vietnam Era veterans and nearly four times the rate for World War II Era veterans
  • Mental health and combat have little effect on eligibility
  • 3 out of 4 veterans with bad-paper discharges who served in combat and who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are denied eligibility by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals

.  .  .

(Excerpted from p. 12 and following)

VA Regulations Result in Unequal Exclusion Rates Between Branches

The historically unprecedented exclusion rate today
is due almost enti rely to the VA’s discretionary choice
to presume ineligibility for veterans who received
administrative Other Than Honorable discharges.
That choice deprives tens of thousands of veterans of
needed care, despite the fact that their service would
not be considered “Dishonorable”—and was not
deemed Dishonorable by the military. What is more, significant disparities exist among the administrative separati on practices of the various service branches. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps each has its own separation regulations and policies. Moreover, within each branch, different units and commands may implement those regulations and policies in a different manner. Thus, service members who engage in similar misconduct may receive disparate treatment: one may be retained, another may be discharged under General conditions, another discharged under Other Than Honorable conditions.

This is due to different leadership styles, not differences in degrees of “dishonor.” A report of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on discharge characterization documented the range of discharge practices and ascribed disparities to differences in leadership and management styles rather than a measurable difference in “honor” or “character.” The GAO compared Marines and Airmen with the same misconduct, service length, and performance history, and found that the Air Force was thirteen times more likely to give a discharge Under Honorable conditions than the Marine Corps.

Because the VA presumptively excludes veterans
with non-punitive Other Than Honorable discharges,
this discrepancy results in significant differences
in VA eligibility. For service members with equivalent conduct histories, Airmen are 13 times more
likely than Marines to be deemed presumptively
eligible—and recognized as a “veteran”—by the VA.
This results in significant differences in aggregate.
Whereas 98% of veterans who have served in the Air
Force since 2001 can access the VA when they leave
the service, only 88% of Marines from the period are
presumptively recognized as “veterans” by the VA.
(See Table K.9). The VA has effectively decided that
Marines are more than five times more “Dishonorable” than Airmen.

This disparity provides a potent reminder for why Congress decided to exclude only veterans who received or should have received a Dishonorable discharge by Court-Martial. Although there are wide discrepancies among services in their administrative discharge practices, the service branches are remarkably similar in how they use punitive discharges. Congress specifically noted that the discretion given to commanders for administrative separations can result in unfair outcomes, and gave veterans the benefit of the doubt by only excluding those who received or deserved a Dishonorable discharge by court-martial. Because the VA’s regulations have presumptively excluded all veterans with administrative Other Than Honorable discharges, the VA is failing to act in accordance with Congress’s decision.
Eligibility Decisions Fail To Adequately Consider Mental Health Conditions that May Have Contributed to Discharge.

Overall, the VA’s COD regulations prevent consideration—except in narrow and specifi c circumstances—of facts that Congress intended the VA to take into account: mitigating factors, extenuating circum-
stances, and positive facts. As one example, the VA’s regulations provide little room for consideration
of whether any mental health condition explains
or mitigates the conduct that led to the veteran’s
bad-paper discharge. It is deeply unfair—and contrary to Congress’s intent—to exclude veterans from basic veteran services for behavior that is symptomatic of mental health conditions that may be related to their service.

It is well established that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), depression, operational stress, and other mental health conditions can lead to behavioral changes. In some cases, military commanders incorrectly attribute those behaviors to bad character, rather than as signs of distress and disease. Indeed, a 2010 study of Marines who deployed to Iraq found that those who were diagnosed with PTSD were eleven times more likely to be discharged for misconduct and eight times more likely to be discharged for substance abuse than Marines without a PTSD diagnosis.

Yet, the VA’s regulati ons contain only one narrow
provision related to mental health: misconduct
leading to discharge may be overlooked if the veteran
was “insane” at the time of the misconduct leading
to discharge. The VA’s definition of “insanity” is
antiquated—out of step with the practices of modern
psychology and psychiatry, which no longer deem
people “insane.” . . .

Eligibility Decisions Do Not Consider Whether the Veteran Served In Combat or Other Hardship Conditions

Another example of the failure of the VA’s regulations is the absence of any generally applicable provision for considering whether the veteran served in hardship conditions, including whether the veteran served in combat. . . .

https://www.swords-to-plowshares.org/2016/03/30/underserved/

Among additional expert analyses of what bad paper discharges do to those who’ve served and their families is:

“Bad Papers”: The Invisible and Increasing Costs of War for Excluded Veterans

Ali R. Tayyeb and Jennifer Greenburg (2017)
Paper (pdf)
https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/papers/2017/bad-papers-invisible-and-increasing-costs-war-excluded-veterans

In a forthcoming article, this author points to another problem facing those with bad paper discharges:

“Veterans with bad paper discharges can get screwed all the way around. Not only are they often – but not always – excluded from VA services and healthcare, they “may be excluded from access to community resources also; many community programs follow the eligibility requirements set by the VA.”
Research Review: Underserved, How the VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans With Bad Paper. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) iava.org/blog May 3, 2016
https://iava.org/blogs/research-review-underserved-how-the-va-wrongfully-excludes￾veterans-with-bad-paper/

BAD PAPER UPDATE

Veterans may sue over discharges they say were result of untreated mental health problems

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/veterans_may_sue_over_discharges_they_say_were_result_of_untreated_mental_h

“On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation . . .”

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

 

After years of interrogating and defending witnesses in the criminal courts, detecting patterns and pattern breaks in people’s oral and written speech and in their behaviors is instinctive.
But it’s also instinct to identify other types of patterns. So, while at the Southern Arizona Veterans Cemetery last month, I took time to consider some of the patterns that are visible among the granite niche plates of the veterans who share a columbarium with my dad:
  • Too many of the niche plates are hard to read from just ten feet away;
  • The types of diversity among the names suggests that the ethnic, historical, and linguistic heritage among the veterans who share the columbarium with dad is broad, a reminder that those who fight America’s wars come from far and near;
  • These niche plates and others adjacent to them reveal a near, if not total, absence of any identifier that would draw distinctions among veterans based on race;
  • That the decedent be personally identified with, or perhaps insured by, religion or spirituality appears to be, at the very least, important to the good folks he or she came from;
  • As would be expected, most of these men and women who’ve died in the last few years served this nation’s military as enlisted personnel, rather than as officers;
  • Among these niche plates and others adjacent to them, there is a near, if not total, absence of any markings by which one might distinguish among combat warriors and other military veterans based on whether that veteran was gay, straight, or otherwise;
  • Many of the service men and women on these and other columbaria would have experienced the existential threats that this Nation faced during World War II, while they were still children; others came of age and perhaps served, when the U.S. and its allies fought the Communist scourge on and around the Korean Peninsula and around and above an island just 90 miles from the continental U.S.; during more than ten years of the Vietnam War and in the decades that followed, most, if not all of these veterans time and again saw those who mattered to them most die in whole or in part, regardless of which political party held power in Washington; and like every other person on the planet, each of them woke every day with a promise from the nuclear age: mutually assured destruction if any of us screws up; and
  • Among those niche plates that contain additional remarks in the space below the veteran’s official lifespan, almost all forego terms like “hero” and “warrior” in favor of terms that speak to the human connection that those left behind feel and will continue to feel for the veteran they’ve lost.

 

 

 

charles-photo-lawlibrary-150-x-200Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.  http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

“Honor the noble dead.”

The battle of Verdun was the longest, if not the bloodiest, single battle in World War I. Launched by the German Fifth Army on 21 February 1916, it did not come to an end until the final French counterattack was ended on 19 December 1916. For most of 1916, German and French soldiers fought tooth and nail for a few square miles of terrain around the French fortress city of Verdun, in what was the quintessential “battle of attrition” of World War I. Most units of the French army and many of the German army fought in what was described by both sides as the “hell of Verdun.” Between the battle’s start and the end of August (when the Germans ceased offensive operations), some 281,000 Germans and some 315,000 Frenchmen were killed or wounded. . . .” – Dr. Robert Foley, Dean of Academic Studies/Head of Department at the Defence Studies Department, Joint Services Command and Staff College (JSCSC), the Defence Academy of the UK. Dr. Foley is author of “Verdun: The Killing Field.” 66(9) History Today (September 2016). https://www.historytoday.com/robert-foley/verdun-killing-field

Carl Hugh Bloeser 1939 2014 USA USAF dad

 

A word about the American veteran who penned the following 8-paragraph essay:

Like the combat warrior whose name has been entrusted to me, dad was an Army Veteran. But he also served as a medic in the USAF. And some years before brain cancer came calling, several autumns before my mom accepted the thanks of a grateful nation for dad’s faithful and dedicated service, dad wrote these 8 paragraphs about a return visit he made to soldiers who died in combat in what was to have been the last war. Ever.

The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month”[i]

by Carl H. Bloeser, M.P.H, M.A.P.A., U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force veteran, 1939-2014

In the history of warfare no greater insanity is recorded than the Battle of Verdun.[ii] Never have so many died or been maimed for such an insignificant piece of land.[iii]

It was on the 11th day of the 11th month sixty nine years after the Armistace that I found myself once again at Verdun. I had traveled there the previous night under a full moon that did its best to illuminate plowed fields and meadows that were covered with a low and concealing fog. The only movement I could see off the road was a tractor slowly plowing in the distance with its lights disappearing and then re-appearing as it moved along the edges of crafted rows. A thousand ghosts had to enjoy the serenity and the tranquility of that night.

Verdun was ahead and it was late. As in earlier years I would look for a room in a loft and one above the [b]ar and a place to eat. The small hotel I chose brought life to the night in a town where death had consumed so many. The chill so common to that part of France in November was broken by the laughter and the talking of a family around a long and ancient table close to where I had chosen to finish my day with a glass of wine and a sandwich.

Early on the eleventh day of the eleventh month I went out to walk the streets. The very best of Europe I have often found in the quiet of early morning. It was cold. I had to wonder how many armies slept and drank and did what armies do in the streets and the shops and the bars and the homes all in sight of the towers of Verdun’s cathedral. The only sounds I heard were the voices of Arabs talking and laughing with each other. I wondered if they were from Algeria or Morocco or from some other place far from home. In that, we both had something in common. The smell of the morning was from the bakery making [croissants.] The day was just beginning . . . the hour of eleven on the eleventh month of the eleventh day sixty nine years later was still off in the distance.

It was time to return to the warmth of the hotel and a hot cup of coffee. As I passed through the hotel door the proprietor didn’t look in my direction. After all, over many years numbers of people must have come and gone through that door at all times, days and seasons. One more wouldn’t warrant his attention. Breakfast appeared to be his morning obsession. As he walked from behind the hotel bar he seemed determined to maneuver the half-smoked and dangling cigarette away from the coffee pot he carried. Morning bread was already on the table along with jams and jellies of various types and colors in petite bowls of clear crystal. Creamy butters with curled ridges adorned the small plates next to each bowl. At each end of the table two white bowls filled with boiled eggs stood in command over his temporary work of art. Silver, plates, cups and cloth napkins were gathered on a small table nearby. Nothing was packaged. What an insult that would have been to this man. Everything was in its proper place. It was time for the morning breakfast concert to begin. Only then did he look up, say good morning and slowly limp from the room.

After breakfast I toted my bag to where the car was parked, opened the door, tossed the bag in the back seat and reached for an open map. I decided that the day would center around visits to towns and villages of the living, monuments to those who had died, and to those places where the dead are buried. I knew from visits long before [that] I wouldn’t have to drive far in any direction.

As I approached my first mark on the map I found an area in which to park. Walking toward the first place to visit I remember looking up at a nearby building. Of many frosted windows one caught my eye. Lace adorned its glass. A small smiling face pressed her nose against the window and smiled to this stranger walking in the cold. I smiled back. Her smile warmed the moment.

The building of the living wasn’t that far from the graves. Close-by a painted sign read “Cimetieaes Militaires Francais.” Buried there were those who died in the “War to end all Wars.” They would never know of that failure nor did they know that their sons and daughters would join them soon in Flanders [F]ields. A late fall leaf had landed on a boundary wire. The frigid wind poked at it to join the dead. A gentle mist fell from the wire as though shedding tears for those buried here. A small bird nearby searched for food – but even it did so in silence. This was indeed a place of the dead. The eleventh hour had come and gone. . . .

Carl H. Bloeser. “The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month.” Unpublished work. Copyright 2001. Repost 11 November 2018 by Charles LK Bloeser at https://combatresearchandprose.com.

#Verdun #BattleofVerdun #glioblastoma #veteranswrite #WorldWarI #wartoendallwars #carlbloeser #combatstress #combattrauma #PTS #shellshock #KIA #WesternFront

ENDNOTES

[i] Dad died from brain cancer before he could put the finishing touches on this essay. As such, the version of dad’s essay that first appeared on LinkedIn/Pulse contains a parenthetical note that the essay is a “work in progress.” A ninth paragraph that is not necessary to this essay and which doesn’t follow the textual pattern of the 8 paragraphs presented here – has been excluded. The 8 paragraphs presented here are as dad wrote them – except for minor typographic adjustments for clarity and the decision to use common spelling of “croissant.” Because this essay was created after Jan. 1, 1978, copyright protection is asserted on behalf of Carl H. Bloeser from date of creation, i.e., 2001. Endnotes are not part of the original manuscript but have been added to provide further context. Endnotes by Charles Bloeser https://charlesbloeser.com

[ii] Dr. Robert Foley is Dean of Academic Studies/Head of Department at the Defence Studies Department, Joint Services Command and Staff College (JSCSC) at the Defence Academy of the UK. Inter alia, Dr. Foley was awarded the Royal Historical Society’s Gladstone Prize for his work, German Strategy and The Path to Verdun (Cambridge, 2004).

In the preview to a 2012 article about the Battle of Verdun, Dean Foley provides this summary: “The battle of Verdun was the longest, if not the bloodiest, single battle in World War I. Launched by the German Fifth Army on 21 February 1916, it did not come to an end until the final French counterattack was ended on 19 December 1916. For most of 1916, German and French soldiers fought tooth and nail for a few square miles of terrain around the French fortress city of Verdun, in what was the quintessential “battle of attrition” of World War I. Most units of the French army and many of the German army fought in what was described by both sides as the “hell of Verdun.” Between the battle’s start and the end of August (when the Germans ceased offensive operations), some 281,000 Germans and some 315,000 Frenchmen were killed or wounded. The battle ended in obvious defeat for the German army, which led to the replacement of the German chief of the general staff, General Erich Falkenhayn. . . .” Military History: Battle of Verdun | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0021 (published online February 2012); preview accessed Jan. 1, 2018 at: http://oxfordindex.oup.com/view/10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0021# (endnote not original with author of essay)

[iii]Dr. Foley explains that “. . . the British historian A. J. P. Taylor once described the battle of Verdun as “the most senseless episode in a war not distinguished for sense anywhere.Id. (endnote not original with author of essay)

 

Feature Image of Verdun Ossuary accessed 11 November 2018 at http://roadstothegreatwar-ww1.blogspot.com/2013/12/18-december-1916-battle-of-verdun-ends.html (“Right at the heart of the Verdun battlefield is the massive Ossuary. This was inaugurated in 1932, and inside the base of the building are collected the bones recovered from this battlefield – an estimated 130,000 skeletons. Walking around the building one can peer through the small windows to see these grisly reminders of the bloodshed here. Through some of the windows can be seen neatly piled long-bones; through others jumbles and scraps of bones as well as skulls.” http://www.ww1battlefields.co.uk/others/verdun/)

 

A Dare . . .

The featured image from just one alcove of the Douaumont Ossuary at Verdun offers up a sobering challenge. It dares us to see how many fellow human beings, French and German, we can count among the bones. But no matter how many brothers and sons and uncles and fathers and husbands and lovers we can count, the image still isn’t satisfied. Now it demands that we take that number and calculate for each of the fallen our best estimate of how many fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters and lovers and lost-loves have, in one generation after another spanning the last 100 years, been changed because their loved one didn’t come home. Or . . . if he did, because the man who came home was not the man who went to war. 

 

Charles.photo.lawlibrary. 150 x 200Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.  

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam