The official blog of American Veteran Magazine, the national quarterly publication of AMVETS.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Stop Loss Pay Deadline Extended AGAIN

Yesterday Congress once again extended the Stop Loss Special Pay deadline to March 4, 2011.

Stars & Stripes reported that the Pentagon's Defense Finance and Accounting Service has only received claims from 71,000 eligible veterans, compared to nearly 145,000 who are eligible to receive the special benefit.

AMVETS leaders continue to urge all potentially eligible veterans who served after 9/11 to apply for the benefit, which is worth $500 for each month a service member was extended beyond his or her original contract under the controversial Stop Loss program.

This is the fourth time that the deadline has been extended and the Pentagon estimates that the average benefit for eligible troops is about $3,500.

As of the time this story was published, the Pentagon had removed its Special Stop Loss Pay Web site, In the interim, the Pentagon's Office of Reserve Affairs offers all the pertinent contact information to apply for the benefit by Clicking Here.

American Veteran will continue to follow this story as it develops into the new year.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Big Weekend For American Veterans: G.I. Bill Fixes and DADT

This weekend proved to be historic for American veterans, with the passage of a bill to repeal the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, or DADT, and the passage of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvement Act of 2010.

This morning, AMVETS issued its reaction to the repeal of DADT, calling for the Pentagon to work responsibly in implementing a new policy that will ensure continued mission success and equitable service for all patriotic Americans.

AMVETS reiterated concerns over the impact of a drastic policy shift on kinetic operations and urged the Pentagon to work pragmatically to properly implement a new, mission-centric policy.

This weekend also marked the passage of critical fixes for the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill through the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvement Act of 2010, offering more equitable benefits for today's student veterans, closing loopholes for National Guard soldiers who served on active duty stateside, and opening up benefits for veterans seeking non-degree accreditation programs.

AMVETS leaders applauded the passage of the bill, which many analysts believed would die with the current Congress. AMVETS has consistently advocated for these improvements as outlined in both the 2010 and 2011 legislative priorities books available on the "Legislative" page at

AMVETS has testified in support of the legislation since its infancy and also sent letters to legislators voicing support to the bill, such as last week's letter urging House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-Calif.) to support the bill.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign both bills into law this week. American Veteran will continue to follow each of these stories. Check back regularly for updates.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AMVETS Supports G.I. Bill Fixes

Yesterday, AMVETS Acting Legislative Director Christina Roof sent a letter to House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-Calif.) voicing AMVETS' support for legislation to improve the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. Here is a copy of Roof's letter:

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvement Act of 2010, or S. 3447, passed the Senate last week and could be considered by the House prior to the closing of the lame duck session of Congress on Friday.

The bill was conceived by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Legislative Director Patrick Campbell, and received staunch support from the nation's other leading veterans' advocates, including AMVETS.

AMVETS has called for many of the bill's provisions--such as expanding eligibility to National Guard members who served under Title 32 orders, creating a more equitable tuition and fees reimbursement process, and opening educational options to include apprenticeships, certificate and other non-degree programs--in both the 2010 and 2011 Legislative Priorities books, available on the AMVETS National Web site.

The House is scheduled to consider the bill today, and Roof said that she hopes the bill will pass, ensuring equitable G.I. Bill benefits for today's war fighters.

American Veteran will continue to follow this bill closely. Check back regularly for updates, as Congress considers this critical series of Post-9/11 G.I. Bill updates.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bradley Manning, Wikileaks, Berkeley and Hypocrisy

Please read my thoughts on the Bradley Manning situation, but also please feel free to take the poll or leave your comments:

Do you believe Bradley Manning should be hailed or jailed for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks? free polls

Yesterday, I spoke with Fox News on a recent proposal by the Berkeley, Calif., City Council to hail disgraced soldier Bradley Manning as a hero for allegedly leaking more than 250,000 classified documents to the self-proclaimed watchdog Web site Wikileaks.

In response to the proposal I labeled Manning a traitor with blood on his hands for our Afghan allies sought out by the Taliban as a result of the leak.

Though Manning has not been convicted, he bragged in online chats to reformed hacker Adrian Lamo that he had copied the files to expose what he perceived as wrongdoing by the American government. Regardless of what Manning perceived to be his benevolent purposes, copying the files was a crime and distributing them for use against the United States was treason.

Manning's security breach was indiscriminate. He didn't simply target documents he had reviewed or thought contained questionable actions; he copied everything he could get his hands on and blindly turned it over to a subversive anti-American group without consideration for the contents.

Since the leaks, American lives in the combat zone have been compromised, American diplomatic ties have been weakened, and allies have been killed. Immediately following the irresponsible publishing of documents related to Afghanistan--a country in which Manning had never set foot--the Taliban began to scrub records for names of informants to, as Newsweek reported, hunt down and "punish" them.

Whether Manning thought he was serving a greater good, the wet-behind-the-ears private severely violated the terms of his security clearance and utterly disgraced the U.S. Army uniform he had volunteered to wear on one short year before. He has given aide and comfort to enemies of the United States, which, to me, makes Manning a traitor.

Though I certainly do not pity the boy who now sits in the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico awaiting his Article 32 hearing, I do feel he may have been manipulated by a greater enemy of the United States, Wikileaks and its ego-maniacal front man Julian Assange.

What's curious to me about Wikileaks and the operations of self-proclaimed activist-journalist Assange is that he and his company rely on similar security protocols and secret operations which they rail against in the U.S. government.

For example, the paranoid Assange would routinely change his appearance and travel under aliases and Wikileaks continues to conceal its operational infrastructure, boasts military-grade encryption and even distributed a failsafe code should Assange or the Web site be compromised. I must ask Assange that if such protocols are critical to his success, wouldn't it follow that similar protocols would be necessary in government operations to ensure security and success in an unstable world?

We all have secrets. How would you feel if every candid, private moment of your life was available for public consumption? (I've seen the indignation on Facebook each time the site's security settings are updated, so I know we'd all be at the very least perturbed.)

But keep in mind, we're not simply talking about publicizing gossip, we're talking about classified exchanges critical to preserving national interests. When I was enlisted in the U.S. Army, I sat through briefings on the nuts and bolts of the classification process. It's serious business.

Classification levels do not exist to propagate some nebulous sweeping government conspiracy. They exist to protect lives; the lives of covert informants, the lives of American service members, and, most importantly, the lives of American citizens.

For American interests, the information stolen and distributed by Manning was not Top Secret in nature. Though some of the information is salacious--such as candid diplomatic cables--the information may not directly compromise national security. Unfortunately, for our allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the consequences from some of the leaked information have been dire, as indicated by the Newsweek story.

It's very confusing to me why anyone could hail Manning or Assange as cult heroes, as these pariahs and their supporters launch cyber attacks on entities that disagree with their tactics. (Seems hypocritical that cyberterrorists would seek to silence dissenting ideas in the name of "free speech.")

This whole situation is appalling; and Berkeley, in particular, should be ashamed for openly endorsing such ridiculous and dangerous behavior. It’s tragic that the same rights and liberties afforded to Berkeley’s citizens through the sacrifices of our service members and veterans can be manipulated and exploited for such an absurd purpose.

AMVETS has tangled with the bastion of ultraliberal thought in the past, when Past National Commander J.P. Brown III stood up for the Marine Corps recruiters being harassed by the city. The Berkeley City Council ultimately rejected the proposal to tell the Marines they were unwelcome in the city. Hopefully in this instance city counselors will once again act reasonably and reject Bradley Manning as their hero.


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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

AMVETS Reflects on Pearl Harbor

This afternoon, AMVETS National Commander Jerry Hotop and AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary National President Dee Kreiling laid a memorial wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in honor of the 69th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This year's somber event coincided with the original time of the attacks in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941.

Sixty-nine years ago today the Japanese Empire launched a brutal attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor.

The attack, which drew the United States into the Pacific Theatre of World War II, claimed the lives of more than 2,400 American servicemen--1,200 of whom remain entombed within the sunken USS Arizona in Hawaii.

Born out of WWII, AMVETS played a critical role in commissioning the memorial that now stands over the wreckage of the USS Arizona. AMVETS also helped to finance maintenance of the USS Arizona Memorial in the 1980s.

AMVETS National Headquarters also plays host to artifacts from the USS Arizona, which are housed in a special room dedicated to the sailors and Marines killed in the attack. The room contains an original inscription plaque from the memorial in Hawaii and a section of anchor from the USS Arizona.

This morning, Hotop shot a quick video in the USS Arizona Room at AMVETS National Headquarters discussing the significance of Pearl Harbor Day:

Hotop said it was important for AMVETS to remember the sacrifices of those who perished at Pearl Harbor and the men and women who went on to ensure American victory in the theaters of WWII.

AMVETS posts and departments around the country also played host to services honoring the sacrifices of American service men and women at Pearl Harbor.

AMVETS leaders continually say that remembering days such as Pearl Harbor Day are critical to preserving the legacy of our nation's bravest--particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice on Dec. 7, 1941.

AMVETS leaders are already planning to be on hand at the memorial for next year's 70th anniversary of the attacks for a special ceremony in honor of those who made the ultimate sacrifice at Pearl Harbor and those who went on to fight and win the war in the Pacific.

(Photo: AMVETS National Commander Hotop and AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary National President Kreiling lay a memorial wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns this afternoon at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by Jay Agg.)

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Fall NEC Highlights: Camp Hope, Healing Heroes, Riders & Sons

This weekend AMVETS hosted its fall meeting of the AMVETS National Executive Committee at the Hilton Washington Dulles Hotel in Herndon, Va. Representatives from the six AMVETS national districts and 48 departments came together to tend to the regular business of the organization.

Below is video from AMVETS National Commander Jerry Hotop's NEC report, calling for support to his national program, Camp Hope, the wounded warrior outdoor retreat in Hotop's home state of Missouri founded by Gold Star father William White in honor of his fallen son, Marine Pfc. Christopher Neal White.

In addition to the requisite reports from each organizational leader, AMVETS heard from leaders across the AMVETS family of organizations.

AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary Past National President Patty Piening presented a $25,000 check to AMVETS Healing Heroes, the national project for her term in office last year.

AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary National President Dee Kreiling also introduced her national program for the coming year, Sharing & Caring, which she discusses in the fall issue of American Veteran.

AMVETS Riders National President Victor "Dutch" Stivason asked for the NEC's support in applying uniform standards for the fledgling Riders organization to ensure compliance with the Confederation of Clubs, or CoC, the sanctioning body for motorcycle riding groups.

Sons of AMVETS National Commander Robert Hammett and AMVETS Department of California Commander Charles Ramos signed the charter for the new Sons of AMVETS squadron at California AMVETS Post No. 113.

Finally, AMVETS welcomed other special guests, Choice Hotels, University of Phoenix and the pilot veterans' benefits IT solution, TurboVet.

TurboVet is a web-based data exchange system designed by Stratizon which could enable VA, claims service officers, and veterans to easily process benefits claims, potentially replacing the cumbersome paper-based process. The commonwealth of Virginia and AMVETS Department of Virginia are working closely with Stratizon on the implementation of TurboVet, learning how to best integrate the data-exchange system with the current VA claims process.

University of Phoenix, which currently offers $350,000 in scholarships to veterans and their families through its partnership with AMVETS, also announced an additional ten percent tuition discount for AMVETS members.

Choice Hotels, an AMVETS partner which offers room discount rates for AMVETS members, also discussed potential entrepreneurship opportunities for veterans interested in the hospitality industry.

(Images: Top: Nebraska NEC Representative Albert Christner delivers his report to the floor of the AMVETS Fall NEC. Middle: Past National Commander Jimmy T. Smith accepts the $25,000 donation to AMVETS Healing Heroes from Past National President Piening. Bottom Right: AMVETS Riders President Stivason discusses the proposed uniform standards while Cmdr. Hotop display's Stivason's regulation Riders vest. Bottom Left: Sons of AMVETS National Commander Hammett and AMVETS Department of California Commander Ramos review the new charter for the Sons squadron at Post 113. Photos by Ryan Gallucci.)

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Monday, December 6, 2010

AMVETS National Commander Visits Far East Allies

This fall, AMVETS National Commander Jerry Hotop and AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary National President Dee Kreiling made their annual visit to American troops stationed in South Korea and met with allied leadership from South Korea and the Republic of China (Taiwan).

Hotop and Kreiling's visit to the Korean Peninsula came at a critical time, as tensions between the communist north and the allied south have come to a head in recent weeks.

Hotop said that from his visit with troops serving along the demilitarized zone, that American troops were on constant vigil, but remained upbeat about their mission.

While in South Korea, Korean Veterans Association (KVA) Chairman Park Se-Hwan, a retired Korean Army general, presented Hotop with a certificate of honorary membership in KVA for his efforts to foster international cooperation with the allied veterans' group.

Next, Hotop and Kreiling visited long-time allies in Taiwan to coincide with the nation's Veterans Day. Hotop delivered remarks prior to touring facilities that play an integral role in Taiwanese veteran support initiatives, alongside Kreiling.

On the return from the Far East, the AMVETS delegation stopped in Hawaii to visit with American troops stationed at Schofield Barracks and to pay their respects to those who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

AMVETS played an integral role in fund-raising, construction, renovation and maintenance of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

(Photos: Top: Cmdr. Hotop and President Kreiling meet with leaders from the Korean Veterans Commission in Seoul, South Korea. Bottom: Cmdr. Hotop receives his honorary membership to KVA while touring the Far East. Photos courtesy of KVA.)

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Friday, December 3, 2010

American Veteran Introduces Video Blogging

American Veteran finally has its hands on a minicam to start video blogging! Here's our first entry. We'll be bringing you more updates from this weekend's meeting of the AMVETS National Executive Committee at the Hilton Washington Dulles in Herndon, Va.

As always, let us know what you think and check back regularly for updates.

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UPDATE: Stop Loss Pay Deadline Extended AGAIN

Here's the latest countdown to the deadline:

Last night, Congress passed legislation once again extending the deadline for Stop Loss Special Pay benefits until midnight, Dec. 18.

Many eligible veterans still have not claimed their $500-per-month benefit for involuntary extension after 9/11, which could be worth up to $3,500 or more, according to the Pentagon.

AMVETS encourages all potentially-eligible Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans to apply for the benefit. To learn more about Stop Loss Special Pay, Click Here.

For more about Stop Loss Special Pay extensions, check out Military Times' coverage by Clicking Here.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

One More Day to Collect Stop Loss Pay

Tomorrow, Dec. 3, is the last day for eligible Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans to claim Special Stop Loss Pay benefits from the Department of Defense. To apply for benefits, Click Here.

The benefit, authorized by Congress, entitles all personnel held under the military's stop loss policy after 9/11 to $500 per month for each month of their mandatory extension of service. Pentagon analysts believe the average benefit is about $3,500.

The original deadline was Oct. 21, but Congress extended it to Dec. 3 after most of the money remained unclaimed. The Pentagon also sent out letters to all personnel they believed would be eligible for the payment and President Barack Obama filmed a message encouraging all potentially eligible veterans to apply.

Veterans contacted AMVETS about the certificate verification prompts on the Pentagon's Special Stop Loss Pay Web sites, voicing concerns that their personal information could be compromised on the internet. The Army, Navy and Air Force have since remedied the system, creating a more user-friendly portal for eligible veterans to apply. However, the Marine Corps Web site still prompts applicants to accept a security certificate exception. Marines who wish to apply online should simply add the exception to their Web browser to access the secure system.

AMVETS leaders encourage all potentially-eligible service members and veterans to apply for the benefit. Pentagon officials have indicated that all applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3.

(Image: Screengrab of the U.S. Army Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay Web site, Countdown clock created using OnePlusYou.

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