Military & Veterans News
Harkin Welcomes Senate Approval of Bipartisan Veterans Care Act PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Friday, 13 June 2014 12:44
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued the following statement after the U.S. Senate approved the bipartisan Veterans Care Act by a vote of 93 to 3. “I am very glad that the Senate took quick action on a plan to ensure that veterans are able to quickly access the medical care they deserve. This bill is a compromise and I hope it will bring new focus to addressing the current shortage of primary care doctors in the VA system that is at the root of the unacceptable wait times that the Veterans Health Administration audit documented earlier this week. I urge the U.S. House of Representatives to pass this critically needed measure to address the problems plaguing the VA system.” ###

 
Following in father's footsteps, Jacksonville Soldier retires as sergeant major PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sgt. 1st Class Kassidy L. Snyder, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs   
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 09:58

SPRINGFIELD, IL (06/11/2014)(readMedia)-- "Who I am and what I've become is due to the military," said Sgt. Maj. Eric L. Walls, a native of Jacksonville, Illinois, with Joint Force Headquarters in Springfield, Illinois, who will retire in June after 32 years of military service. "This has been my whole life. This is all I've ever done since I was 17 years old."

After heavy encouragement from his father, a retired sergeant major from the Illinois Army National Guard, Walls enlisted in June 1982 as a fire control computer specialist and a small wheel vehicle mechanic with the 3637th Maintenance Company in Springfield, Illinois.

In 1984, Walls became a temporary full-time technician that resulted in a permanent full-time position as a supply specialist at Camp Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois.

"He has always been very focused and driven," said Master Sgt. David E. Purdy of Rochester, Illinois, with Joint Force Headquarters, who has worked at Camp Lincoln with Walls since 1988. "He wanted to learn everything we could teach him."

Walls held many positions during his military career, with his last position as the support services branch supervisor for the director of information management at Camp Lincoln.

The most rewarding position was his last, he said.

"I have a great team that knows what they have to do every day and they do a great job at it," said Walls. "They make my life easy."

Walls made his way up the ranks, serving as squad leader, platoon sergeant, and first sergeant of Joint Force Headquarters and as the task force sergeant major during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2010.

He and his team co-deployed with its Polish counterparts and worked together cohesively in Afghanistan, he said. Walls considered Poland one of the best countries visited during his military service.

"Poland stands out the most," said Walls. "We had a good mission, training with the Polish Army Brigade to go to Afghanistan and got to see a lot of the country."

Looking back, Walls said he was very grateful for his father setting him in this direction.

"I got three degrees, a lot of experience, great friends, and opportunities to do many things and learn a lot," said Walls. "It has been great."

He spent a lot of time educating himself and ended up following in his father's footsteps retiring as a sergeant major, said Purdy

After his military retirement, Walls intends to pursue other career options and see where the road leads. For future Soldiers he leaves advice to be as diverse as possible and get as much experience in different positions.

 
Braley Pushes for Veterans Access to Care Act in Search for Solutions at VA PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Kirsten Hartman   
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 09:55

Congressman: It’s not enough to complain, we have to offer solutions

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today is calling on Congressional leadership to pass his Veterans Access to Care Act in an attempt to make it easier to hire health care providers at VA hospitals and clinics around the country.

“Complaining about the problems at the VA on the sidelines isn’t enough—we’ve got to get in there and offer solutions,” Braley said. “We’ve seen recent reports from VA facilities in many parts of the country that it can be difficult to recruit medical providers—this bill is a commonsense solution that would help solve that problem and ensure our veterans are getting the care that they deserve.”

 

In a letter to the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Braley urges the committee to take up legislation that would make veterans’ care facilities eligible to hire National Health Service Corps fellows, helping attract health care providers to careers helping veterans. 

The National Health Service Corps is a national scholarship and loan repayment program operated by the US Department of Health and Human Services that pays medical school expenses for future doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and health practitioners who agree to work in medically underserved areas. Braley’s bill would simply add Veterans Administration facilities and state veterans’ homes as eligible “underserved areas” in which the Corps fellows would be eligible to serve.

“Given what we’ve discovered in recent months, it’s nonsense that some of these VA hospitals and clinics don’t qualify as ‘underserved areas’,” Braley said.

Recent reporting by the Des Moines Register indicated that initial wait times for appointments at the Iowa City VA facility were longer than the national average. Braley believes that the passage of this legislation could help facilities like Iowa City more easily recruit medical providers and reduce wait times.

“Iowa’s veterans and all American veterans shouldn’t have to fight when they come home to receive the care that was promised to them,” Braley’s letter reads.

Braley has consistently been a strong advocate for veterans. In 2011, Braley wrote the Combat Veterans Back to Work Act to provide employers with a payroll tax break if they hired recently returned veterans, including members of the Iowa National Guard. The bill was incorporated into new tax credits signed into law in November 2011.

A link to the letter can be found HERE.

# # #

 
Illinois National Guard teams with employers for hiring event PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Spc. Ian Withrow, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Illinois Army National Guard   
Tuesday, 10 June 2014 15:25

SPRINGFIELD, IL (06/09/2014)(readMedia)-- PEORIA, Ill. – Members of the Heroes 2 Hired (H2H) program, a Department of Defense initiative aimed at helping unemployed veterans find jobs, teamed up with Goodwill's Veteran Services program to host a job fair at the Goodwill Commons building in Peoria, Illinois, June 5.

Darrell Melrose of Washington, Illinois, the H2H employment transition coordinator for Illinois, said he believes veterans bring a wide variety of skills to civilian employment.

"Military trained employees are more likely to show up on time, ready to accomplish tasks in a safe and efficient manner," said Melrose. "Servicemembers are adept at teamwork, working in austere environments, adapting to their surroundings, accustomed to receiving and conducting training and much more."

Melrose, who is also a captain with the Illinois Army National Guard's 65thTroop Command in Springfield, Illinois, has been a part of the H2H program since its inception as the Employment Initiative Program in 2011.

Melrose said the H2H program's robust website helps Soldiers translate their military skills into civilian terms. The site also allows Soldiers to register with the program.

"Beyond the H2H website, registered job seekers are assigned a case manager, who can assist them in any number of ways with their career search, such as resume help, interview assistance, navigating the website, and providing opportunities," said Melrose.

Melrose said he works closely with his counterparts at Goodwill and the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program.

Dick Franzen, of Germantown Hills, Illinois, the ombudsman director of Employer Support for Guard and Reserves (ESGR) for Illinois was also at the event. Franzen, who retired as a lieutenant colonel from the Army Reserves, said he has been volunteering for the ESGR for nine years and has worked with Melrose on many occasions.

"We get our funding from the same pot, so we work together," said Franzen.

Franzen said one function of the ESGR is to help mediate any issues that might arise between a Soldier and an employer.

Representing Goodwill at the fair was Johanna Wagner, of Rock Falls, Illinois. Wagner serves as the veteran services manager for Goodwill of Central Illinois.

Wagner said she doesn't think many veterans consider Goodwill when they are unemployed.

"I wish more would come in when they are underemployed or unemployed. We could get many of them a better job within their skillsets," said Wagner.

While this is the first event of its kind in this facility, Wagner said she believes it has been very successful and she would like to see more events like it in the future.

Wagner said they had so much interest from employers they had to turn down a few offers of booths because of space limitations.

One of the employers present was Volt Workforce Solutions, a staffing agency that has offices across the country. Christopher Page of Indianapolis, Indiana, is a military program liaison for Volt. Page was present alongside his colleague Shelby DuBois of Pekin, Illinois, a liaison to Volt from the Caterpillar company.

Page said Volt has hired approximately 3,100 veterans within the past year and has committed to hiring 10,000 within the next three years. DuBois and Page are both veterans themselves. DuBois retired from the Marine Corps as a chief warrant officer after 22 years of service, while Page retired as a staff sergeant from the Army after 26 years of service.

DuBois said he works with more than just veterans. However, he said he feels veterans bring skills that their civilian counterparts might not have.

"(Veterans) bring a certain level of maturity over their peers. They have real-world common sense and that is sorely needed," said DuBois.

A representative from Congressman Aaron Schock's office, Michael Gilmore, was at the fair as well. Gilmore, who is also a staff sergeant with the Illinois Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment in Chicago, is a military and veterans affairs specialist for the 18th district. He offers constituent services to veterans in Schock's district.

"I help vets who are having issues with their GI Bill, the VA, even their employers," said Gilmore.

Many veterans don't realize they have resources through their representatives in government, Gilmore said.

With close to a dozen vendors and more than 300 estimated visitors, Wagner said the event went better than she could have anticipated. She also said this event is a small precursor to a much larger event slated to take place Aug. 8.

Melrose said the sponsors of this event, which include Goodwill Industries of Central Illinois, Hero 2 Hired, ESGR, and the Illinois Department of Employment Security will partner with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce employment initiative program known as Hiring our Heroes and will conduct a large veteran hiring event at the Peoria Civic Center where there will be more than 100 vendors and veteran service organizations.

 
ILLINOIS / IOWA DELEGATION: ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL RECEIVES $110 MILLION IN FEDERAL FUNDING TO ENSURE COMPETITIVENESS & STEADY WORKLOAD IN FUTURE PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Kristine Ahlfield, Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 10 June 2014 15:17

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – The bipartisan, bi-state delegation that represents the Rock Island Arsenal today announced that the United States Army has allocated $110 million in funding for the Arsenal through the Arsenal Sustainment Initiative, which will help ensure that the Arsenal remains competitive as it bids on additional workload through its partnerships with the private sector.

Today’s announcement was made by the members of the Illinois / Iowa Congressional Delegation: U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17), Bruce Braley (D-IA-01), and Dave Loebsack (D-IA-02). The funding is made available through a Durbin-authored provision that he included in the Omnibus Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2014.

“As our nation’s military draws down overseas and transitions to peacetime, the Rock Island Arsenal needs critical investments like this to adapt to a changing workload and remain competitive with the private sector,” said Durbin. “The funding announced today will allow the Rock Island Arsenal to more effectively pursue public-private partnerships and make certain the Arsenal remains a powerful economic engine for our state and a leader in supporting the defense of our nation.”

 

“This Industrial Mobilization Capacity funding will strengthen Rock Island Arsenal and aid in the promotion of public private partnerships – a critical component of ensuring the continuity of the Arsenal’s peacetime workload,” Kirk said. “The Rock Island Arsenal hugely contributes to the Quad Cities economy, and Senators Durbin, Grassley, Harkin and I will continue this bipartisan effort to protect this Illinois facility.”

 

“Together, these provisions will help maintain the Rock Island Arsenal in the state of readiness that our nation needs,” said Grassley. “The capabilities of the Rock Island Arsenal have proven their value time and again and are a vital backstop in wartime. It’s important to help secure the long-term viability of the Arsenal.”

 

“As conflicts overseas wind down, Rock Island Arsenal needs to transition to peacetime operations in a way that protects jobs and ensures the long term sustainability of the Arsenal. This funding bridges that gap between urgent wartime operations that the Army assigns to the Arsenal and a future where the Arsenal survives as a competitive enterprise. It also ensures that the Arsenal maintains important manufacturing capacity should our nation have to confront another challenge in wartime,” said Harkin.

“The Rock Island Arsenal and its workers not only manufacture equipment that arms and protects our troops, but it is also the engine that drives our region’s economy,” Bustos said. “This critical investment will bolster the Arsenal’s competitiveness and help guarantee a steady workload for years to come. I’ll continue to partner with Senator Durbin and leaders in our bi-state region to ensure the Arsenal and our local economy remain strong in peacetime as well as wartime.”

 

“The Rock Island Arsenal is an essential national security asset and a source of good-paying jobs in the Quad Cities region,” Braley said. “These additional resources will allow the Arsenal to continue its storied history of aiding in our nation’s security and sparking economic growth throughout Eastern Iowa.”

 

“As the only member from Iowa on the House Armed Services Committee, I have fought to expand the number of public-private partnerships the Arsenal can enter into. I am pleased this funding will support these partnerships and help ensure continued economic growth for the Quad Cities and protect the Arsenal’s future as a strategic asset to the Army,” said Loebsack.

 

The funding announced today was included in the Omnibus Appropriations bill for Industrial Mobilization Capacity, a fund which helps arsenals keep their work rates competitive. The allocation of IMC funding for Rock Island and other arsenals was based on the Army’s analysis of each facility. This will help Rock Island Arsenal and other arsenals compete more effectively for public-private partnerships and other business to help sustain capacity, cost efficiency and technical competence in peacetime, while preserving the ability to provide an effective and timely response to mobilizations, national defense contingency situations and other emergent requirements.

Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a mark-up for the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. At Durbin’s request, the legislation includes two provisions to help ensure the long-term health of the Rock Island Arsenal:

  • Ensuring a Steady, Higher Level Workload: The legislation makes permanent a provision Durbin included last year in Fiscal Year 2014 Defense to require the Secretary of the Army to maintain a minimum workload at Rock Island Arsenal (and the arsenals in New York and Arkansas). The bill dictates that workload levels should be set to allow the arsenals to maintain critical capabilities and remain healthy, specifically those levels consistent with the Army Organic Industrial Base Strategy Report.

The Army Organic Industrial Base Strategy Report, which has not yet been released, was first proposed by Durbin and U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) as part of the Army Arsenal Strategic Workload Enhancement Act of 2012. The study was authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 which directed the Secretary of Defense to create a strategic plan to ensure arsenals, including Rock Island, receive the workload they need to keep workers’ skills sharp. The Army does this type of systematic planning for some of its components but not for arsenals.

  • Putting Arsenals on a Level Playing Field with Other Military Installations: The legislation eliminates the Secretary of the Army’s current authority to close an arsenal if he deems it necessary. This provision puts arsenals on a level playing field with other military installations, and ensures that any change in status can only be made through a standard process.
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