IAVA Daily Brief 2.18.11
Posted by Isabel Black on February 18
Here are some of today's top stories and happenings at IAVA. Prefer to receive real-time updates about major stories and legislation that IAVA is tracking? Follow us on Twitter @IAVAPressRoom or subscribe at www.IAVA.org/DailyNewsBrief.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki apologized Thursday for delays in the new caregivers benefits plan, pledging that families of wounded troops remain a top priority for the department. Under the legislation passed last year, the VA was mandated to begin awarding caregiver benefits- living stipends, medical training and counseling support- to select families of wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans by January 31. However, that deadline passed without officials even presenting basic details of how the program would be administered.
Veterans who apply for disability compensation could receive an immediate payment if they are willing to accept a reduced amount, or they could hold out for a bigger check if they are willing to wait for a full review of their claim, under a proposal offered by Rep. Bob Filner, former chairman and now ranking minority party member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. He suggested that anyone who takes an immediate benefit would receive disability compensation calculated as if they had a 30 percent disability. By accepting the payment, they would be ineligible for a bigger payment.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told a Senate committee Thursday that everything the United States has accomplished in Iraq is potentially at risk if the State Department does not get the money it has requested to fund its work there as US forces exit this year. In an impassioned plea during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on next year’s Pentagon budget, Gates cited the loss of more than 4,000 American lives in Iraq and the expenditure of some $900 billion.
Military commanders in Afghanistan are launching an initiative in March to ferret out criminals and infiltrators from Afghan security forces.
Every Friday, Afghan clerics wade into the politics of their war-torn country, delivering half-hour sermons that blend Islamic teaching with often-harsh criticism of the US presence.
Iraq’s capital wants the United States to apologize and pay $1 billion for the damage done to the city not by bombs but by blast walls and Humvees since the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Iraqi officials likely will request thousands of US troops remain in that country into next year to provide security and train indigenous forces, a senior lawmaker said Thursday.
The Army’s top general kicked off the service’s training program Thursday on the new law allowing gays to serve openly in the military, and officials said they hope to have the whole force trained by mid-August.
JPMorgan Chase will reduce interest rates to 4 percent for service members whose loans qualify under the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act, going even further than the 6 percent cap called for under that law.
House Armed Services Committee members from both parties pushed back on the Pentagon’s cost-saving plans to reduce the size of the Army and the Marine Corps to make room in tighter-than-projected future budgets for other high-priority investments.
Determined to reduce deficits, impatient House Republican freshman made common cause with President Obama, scoring their biggest victory to date in a vote to cancel $450 million for an alternative engine for the Pentagon’s next-generation warplane.
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