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1.Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel Names New Director of DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. The Department of Defense announced today that Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow will become the new director of the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office in January 2014. The current director, Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, plans to retire next spring after serving for nearly 35 years in the U.S. Army. “Throughout his long and successful Army career, Maj. Gen. Patton has demonstrated total commitment to mission accomplishment, the readiness of the force and the welfare …
2. DOD downplays South China Sea incident involving USS Cowpens and Chinese warship. The Defense Department on Monday sought to downplay a recent near-collision of a Chinese warship and the USS Cowpens in the South China Sea.
3. Judge: NSA program is likely unconstitutional . In the first ruling of its kind, a federal judge declared Monday that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records is likely to violate the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable search. The program probably isn’t effective in fighting terrorism either, the judge said in a lengthy opinion filled with blistering criticism.
4. Millions spent on incinerators in Afghanistan that were never used. Troops and personnel at Forward Operating Base Sharana in Afghanistan resorted to hazardous open-air burn pits to dispose of waste after the U.S. Army spent $5.4 million on faulty incinerators that couldn’t be used, a government watchdog said in a report released Monday.
5. Survey aimed at understanding veterans’ first civilian jobs. Veterans unemployment has dropped steadily over the last two years, but no one knows whether the jobs they are finding are any good.
6. Veterans to Receive Increase. Hyperlink to Article Military.com: Veterans, their families and survivors receiving disability compensation and pension benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs will receive a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase in their monthly payments beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
7.Rep. Paul Ryan should help put veterans funding first. Hyperlink to Article Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: This urgently needed legislation will lift veterans out of the partisan gridlock afflicting Congress by implementing advance appropriations for the VA involving the administration of disability and pension benefits, information technology (including medical IT), construction, medical and prosthetic research, and cemetery administration.
8.Bill targets ‘pension poachers,’ but some worry it doesn’t go far enough. Hyperlink to Article Bellingham Herald (Cronkite News Service): Lawmakers hope to make it harder for “pension poachers” to hide the assets of elderly veterans, but some advocates worry that the proposed fix may end up hurting the vets it is designed to protect.
9. VA eases rules for claims on some TBI-related health problems. Veterans Affairs officials are easing disability filing rules for brain injured veterans with additional combat complications like depression, dementia or Parkinson’s disease.
10. New Rule Eases Claim Requirements for Vets with Traumatic Brain Injury. Hyperlink to Article Government Executive: The Veterans Affairs Department is trying to make it easier for veterans diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and certain other ailments connected to TBI to obtain more disability pay, according to a new regulation.
Have You Heard?
How Happiness Battles the Holiday Blues: Dr. Ron Pekala, a VA researcher, helps his patients find happiness and is concerned about how the holiday blues affect them. He helps them understand happiness and what it takes to be happy.