Military & Veterans News
Illinois Guardsmen receive reserve component transportation corps recognition PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Staff Sgt. Aleah M. Castrejon, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office   
Monday, 04 August 2014 08:03

SPRINGFIELD, IL (08/01/2014)(readMedia)-- SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Two members of the Illinois National Guard's 1244th Transportation Company received recognition as the Reserve Component Transportation Corps Regimental Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) and Officer of the Year for 2013. Transportation Corps Soldiers and civilians, gathered at the annual Army Transportation Ball held at the Richmond Marriott in Richmond, Virginia, to honor the accomplishments of the award recipients, July 25.

Sgt. 1st Class Jose R. Sanchez of Romeoville, Illinois, 1244th Transportation Company (TC) platoon sergeant, in North Riverside, Illinois, was selected as the Reserve Component Transportation Corps Regimental Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) of the Year for 2013.

"Sanchez compiled a record that established him as a pacesetter in our battalion," said Lt. Col. Jose B. Jaques of DeKalb, Illinois, 1144th Transportation Battalion commander in Delavan, Illinois. "His mentorship and example provided a solid foundation for the future of his Soldiers, while also providing outstanding operational results."

Sanchez was nominated for the award by his company commander and received endorsement from Jaques, as well as each level of command up to National Guard Bureau.

"His contributions will surely continue to benefit many and I firmly believe the prestige of this award will be bolstered by his addition to the roles of recipients," said Jaques.

Capt. David Tanner of Williamsport, Indiana, commander of the 1244th TC in North Riverside, Illinois, said Sanchez is an expert in his field.

"Sanchez sets the example as a highly dedicated and professional noncommissioned officer," said Tanner. "He is a key member of the 1244th TC who utilizes his experience from two previous combat deployments and vast occupational knowledge to make his Soldiers and the 1244th TC as a whole, more ready, more resilient and more adaptable."

The Transportation Corps National Guard Officer of the Year for 2013, was Lt. Linden Allen of Chicago, former executive officer with the 1244th TC and recently named commander of the 1644th TC in Rock Falls, Illinois.

"Allen's leadership, coupled with his emphasis on safe execution and the development of Soldiers, improves individual and unit capabilities," said Col. Michael Glisson of Festus, Missouri, 65th Troop Command Brigade commander. "In turn, the Illinois National Guard and United States Army become stronger."

Allen learned many lessons from his deployment to Iraq in the harsh and hazardous environment of the desert, said Jaques.

"Allen consistently demonstrated his knowledge of transportation operations, planning, execution and development," said Tanner. "He epitomizes the selfless service all commissioned officers strive toward in supporting and serving their Soldiers."

Allen and Sanchez are strong examples of what it means to be a Citizen Soldier, said Tanner.

"One of the strengths of the National Guard is our connection to 'Main Street,'" said Tanner. "These awards recognize the value the winners provide in their contributions to those communities, not just their performance within their unit. The 1244th TC is extraordinarily proud of this recognition for two of our own."

These awards, established decades ago by the U.S. Army Chief of Transportation are to recognize outstanding performers in the transportation corps. They are evaluated on nominees' contributions both in and out of uniform. Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers compete against the U.S. Army Reserve for the awards.

"Two Soldiers from the same state, honored in the same year is an outstanding accomplishment," said Tanner. "Both also being from the same unit is remarkable."

Sgt. 1st Class Jose R. Sanchez of Romeoville, Illinois, 1244th Transportation Company platoon sergeant, in North Riverside, Illinois, received recognition as the Reserve Component Transportation Corps Regimental Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for 2013. Transportation Corps Soldiers and civilians, gathered at the annual Army Transportation Ball held at the Richmond Marriott in Richmond, Virginia, to honor the accomplishments of the award recipients, July 25.

Lt. Linden Allen of Chicago, former executive officer with the 1244th Transportation Company and recently named commander of the 1644th Transportation Company in Rock Falls, Illinois, received recognition as the Reserve Component Transportation Corps Regimental Officer of the Year for 2013. Transportation Corps Soldiers and civilians, gathered at the annual Army Transportation Ball held at the Richmond Marriott in Richmond, Virginia, to honor the accomplishments of the award recipients, July 25.

 
Braley Backs Bipartisan Veterans Administration Reform Compromise PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Kirsten Hartman   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 08:37

Congressman urges President to sign bill as quickly as possible

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today voted in favor of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014—the bipartisan reform package, meant to address problems within the Veterans Affairs Administration—as it overwhelmingly passed the House 420-5. Earlier this week, the package was agreed to by Senate VA Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and House VA Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla).

“I’m proud that both parties could come together today and support this legislation aimed at seriously addressing the misconduct that has been exposed at the VA,” Braley said. “Our veterans deserve high quality, efficient, and easy-to-access care and this legislation is a big, bipartisan step in that direction. I urge the President to sign this bill as quickly as possible.”

The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 has four main components:

·         Strengthen VA to meet veterans’ needs: The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 would bolster VA staffing, add new infrastructure and facilities designated for veterans care, and authorize major medical facility leases for 27 new clinics in 18 states and Puerto Rico.

·         Expand access to care: The legislation would allow veterans who have waited more than 30 days for an appointment with the VA, or that live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, to seek care from a private physician, a community health center, a Department of Defense health care facility or Indian Health Center.

·         Support veterans and their families: The legislation would improve the delivery of care for veterans who experienced sexual trauma while in the military; survivor benefits will be expanded so surviving spouses can further their education, rebuild their lives, and take care of their families;  all veterans eligible for education benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill will qualify for in-state tuition; and the legislation would extend a program (set to expire) which provides housing for veterans struggling with traumatic brain injuries.

·         Remove incompetent senior officials: The VA secretary would be granted the authority to immediately remove senior executives based on poor job performance or misconduct and the Merit Systems Protection Board would prevent political firings or other abuses of power including retaliation against whistle blowers.

 

Braley had previously endorsed the framework outlined in the Senate package formulated by Senators Sanders and McCain (R-Ariz).

Last month, Braley called on Congressional leadership to pass his Veterans Access to Care Act to provide solutions to problems at the VA.

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New Analysis Shows For-Profit Colleges Are Top Recipients of Post 9/11 G.I. Bill Dollars PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Wednesday, 30 July 2014 14:19

Two Years After Harkin Report Revealed Questionable Business Practices in For-Profit College Industry

Top Eight For-Profit Colleges Received $2.9 Billion in Post-9/11 G.I. Bill Funds Between 2009 and 2014 and Nearly 25 Percent of all Post-9/11 GI Bill Funds Last School Year; Seven of Top Eight For-Profit Colleges Receiving Post-9/11 G.I. Bill Benefits Are Under State or Federal Investigation

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Two years after a landmark investigation into the for-profit college industry revealed a host of serious problems, including poor student outcomes and high debt burdens, a new report by the majority staff of Chairman Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) Senate HELP Committee shows that for-profit colleges are collecting billions of taxpayer dollars from veterans using their Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits. Although overall student enrollment has decreased at each of the eight top for-profit Post-9/11 G.I. Bill beneficiaries, their enrollment of veterans has dramatically increased—anywhere from 61 to 657 percent—during the same period.

The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which went into effect in 2009, provides veterans with up to $19,200 a year in education benefits for four years. The HELP Committee’s new report raises concerns, given that the previous Committee investigation revealed that many for-profit schools utilize aggressive and often questionable marketing and recruiting tactics, provide programs of questionable value, and often cost far more than comparable programs offered at public schools.  These findings have provided the underpinnings of a nationwide series of investigations and lawsuits by dozens of state Attorneys General and federal enforcement agencies.

“More and more veterans are enrolling in high cost for-profit programs of questionable quality, while the share of veterans enrolling in community colleges and state universities is shrinking,” Harkin said. “While the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill was designed to expand educational opportunities for our veterans and servicemembers, I am concerned that it is primarily expanding the coffers of the big corporations running these schools. It is evident that more needs to be done to ensure that veterans and servicemembers, who have sacrificed so much for our nation, are receiving a quality education—and that taxpayer dollars aren’t wasted on shoddy programs.

“This report, including the findings that $186 million of veteran benefits were squandered and thousands of veterans will be impacted by the failure of Corinthian Colleges, must be a wake-up call for anybody concerned about our nation’s veterans,” Harkin added. “Eight institutions, nearly all of which are under investigation by federal and state law enforcement for questionable business practices, received almost a quarter of all Post-9/11 G.I. Bill dollars last year. It is clear that all stakeholders, and especially Congress, must take action to better protect our nation’s military families.”

“On too many basic measures of value, for-profit colleges fail to meet minimum standards.  The recent collapse of Corinthian Colleges should serve as a warning to students to think twice before enrolling in these schools and to taxpayers who are subsidizing these schools often up to 90% of their total revenue,” said Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), author of the Protecting Our Students and Taxpayers (POST) Act, which would include Post-9/11 GI Bill funding in the current federal 90/10 rule. “By leaving open a loophole that allows Post-9/11 GI bill funding to go unaccounted for, we are incentivizing for-profit education companies to aggressively market to and enroll veterans.  The results laid out in Chairman Harkin’s report show that unfortunately these predatory tactics are working.  We need to close this loophole.”

“Today’s report should be a wake-up call to the federal government. It’s a serious problem that Post-9/11 G.I. Bill dollars are often inflating these companies’ revenues instead of actually providing a meaningful education to the men and women who earned those benefits. The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill should benefit our veterans and their families—not companies like Corinthian that’s gotten $186 million in G.I. Bill funds but is now undergoing bankruptcy proceedings,” said Senator Chris Murphy, a member of the HELP Committee. “The bottom line is that the federal government can’t sit back and let some for-profit colleges get away with deceptive practices that rob our veterans of their education and military benefits in order to pad profits. We need to act now.”

The investigation released today shows that taxpayers are paying twice as much for a veteran to attend a for-profit college as a public college.  For-profit colleges received $1.7 billion in Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits in the 2012-2013 school year, nearly as much as the total cost of the program just four years earlier. Eight of the top ten recipients of Post-9/11 G.I. Bill federal funds are large, publicly-traded companies that operate for-profit colleges. Those companies have received $2.9 billion in taxpayer dollars to enroll veterans in these schools over the past 4 years, including 23 percent—or $975 million—of all Post-9/11-G.I. Bill benefits in 2012-13.

Additional findings from the report include:

Veteran enrollment at for-profit colleges is skyrocketing relative to enrollment at public colleges, with for-profit colleges collecting billions in Post-9/11 G.I. Bill funds:

·         While the total number of veterans attending all colleges on the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill grew rapidly between 2009-10 and 2012-13, both the number of veterans attending for-profit colleges and the amount of benefits these colleges received increased more than in other sectors of higher education.
  • The percentage of veterans attending a public college declined from 62 percent in 2009 to just 50 percent in 2013.  During the same period, the percentage of veterans enrolling in for-profit colleges increased from 23 to 31 percent of total enrollees.

Taxpayers continue to fill the coffers of for-profit colleges: today’s report revealed that many of these companies rely on a loophole and use these benefits to meet a requirement that they not receive more than 90 percent of revenues from the federal college aid programs. Programs at for-profit colleges are also often far more expensive than comparable programs at public schools:

 

  • Taxpayers are paying twice as much on average to send a veteran to a for-profit college for a year compared to the cost at a public college or university ($7,972 versus $3,914).
  • Some large companies that operate for-profit colleges appear increasingly dependent on continued receipt of Post-9/11 G.I. Bill funds to comply with the federal “90/10” requirement, designed to ensure the companies and the schools are not overly dependent on federal education resources. A loophole in federal law allows for-profit colleges to consider funds from the Post 9/11-G.I. Bill and the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) on the “10 percent” side, as non-federal funds. However, at least four of the companies receive an estimated 43 to 63 percent of their “10 percent” revenues from Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits.
  • Amongst the top recipients of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits is Corinthian Colleges, Inc.  Corinthian received $186 million in Post-9/11 G.I. Bill funds from 2009 to 2013, yet recently announced it was in such severe financial distress that it would close or sell all campuses.  In all, seven of the eight companies are currently under investigation by state attorneys general or federal agencies for deceptive and misleading recruiting or other possible violations of federal law.

Further, students at these for-profit colleges, as shown in Harkin’s 2012 report, withdraw from school at a high rate, frequently take on significant debt, and are often left with meager job prospects that leave them unable to repay their loans:

 

  • The federal government does not currently track how veterans are performing at different colleges.  However, overall student outcomes provided by the companies to the HELP Committee for students enrolling between 2008 and 2009 demonstrate reason for concern.  Up to 66 percent of students who enrolled in the for-profit colleges currently receiving the most Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits withdrew in that school year without a degree or diploma.
  • Between 39 and 57 percent of the programs offered by four of the companies receiving the most Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits would fail to meet the proposed gainful employment rule thresholds, suggesting that the students who attend these institutions do not earn enough to pay back the debt they take on.

Harkin’s HELP Committee led a two year investigation into the for-profit college industry, culminating with the release of For Profit Higher Education: The Failure to Safeguard the Federal Investment and Ensure Student Success, an extensive final report. The investigation found that for-profit colleges were the largest recipients of Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits and that many in the for-profit sector targeted veterans and servicemembers with manipulative and misleading marketing campaigns, offered educational programs that were far more expensive than comparable public programs, and failed to provide enrollees with necessary support services.

The final report similarly underscored the questionable value of many for-profit programs, revealing that the majority of associate’s and bachelor’s degree students at for-profit colleges left school with debt but no diploma, while those that did graduate were often unable to find employment that allowed them to pay back their often-sizeable student loan debt. The report showed that students at for-profit colleges accounted for nearly half of all federal student loan defaults.

The full report can be seen here. The appendices to the report can be seen here and here.

###

 
Braley Statement on Compromise VA Reform Bill PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Kirsten Hartman   
Tuesday, 29 July 2014 14:14

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today released the following statement after the announcement of a bipartisan reform package, meant to address problems within the Veterans Affairs Administration, had been agreed to by Senate VA Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and House VA Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla):

“I’ll review this package ahead of a vote later this week, but a bipartisan compromise is exactly what needed to happen,” Braley said. “Our veterans deserve high quality, efficient, and easy-to-access to care—and I’m very hopeful that this legislation moves us toward that goal while addressing the glaring misconduct that was recently exposed.”

 

Braley had previously endorsed the framework outlined in the Senate package formulated by Senators Sanders and McCain (R-Ariz).

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Eight Illinois National Guard Soldiers earn Expert Infantryman Badge PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Illinois National Guard PAO   
Friday, 18 July 2014 14:40

Three awarded additional Army Achievement Medal for perfect performance

CAMP ATTERBURY, IND (07/18/2014)(readMedia)-- After five continuous days of testing, eight Illinois National Guard Soldiers earned the Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB) at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, July 17. Three of the Soldiers performed each of the 39 tasks to standard on the first attempt and was awarded an Army Achievement Medal.

"It really brings out the best of us as infantrymen," said Spc. Michael Schaefer of Mundelein, Illinois, an infantryman with Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment in Aurora, Illinois. "It is a lot of helping each other out and getting each other squared away for each day's tasks. Everyone has really worked together to try and get each other as far as they can."

Seventy-seven Infantrymen from the Illinois National Guard put forth their greatest effort to wear the prestigious badge. The Soldiers hailed from the 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment; 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment; and 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment, all units within the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

The EIB test measured Soldiers' physical fitness and ability to perform to standards of excellence in a broad spectrum of critical infantry skills. The Army Physical Fitness Test and land navigation was held the first day, followed by lanes the next three days.

During EIB lanes, Soldiers were tested on the M9 Pistol, M4 Carbine Rifle, M240B Machine Gun, M249 Machine Gun, MK19 40mm Grenade Machine Gun, M136 (AT4) Rocket Launcher, .50-Caliber M2 Machine Gun, and M320 Grenade Launcher.

"There is a lot of memorization and getting the sequences right and doing the steps in the right order that takes a lot of mental ability along with physical," said Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Wells of Glen Carbon, Illinois, a platoon sergeant with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment in Litchfield, Illinois. "Staying focused and on task was the key to success."

In addition to skills testing on multiple weapons, Soldiers were evaluated on a range of tasks such as move under direct fire, identify and react to possible improvised explosive device, provide tactical combat casualty care, employ an M18A1 Claymore Mine and hand grenade, perform voice communications and use visual signaling techniques.

"These are tasks these guys do in their job all the time, so they should have good fundamental knowledge and then we work on refining it to standard," said Sgt. 1st Class Aric Schwab of Plainfield, Illinois, a EIB grader with Company D, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment in Woodstock, Illinois. "The task is on them. They just have to perform the task to time and standard and we are here to give them feedback on how they performed."

After performing the skills testing, Soldiers ended with a 12-mile foot march in less than three hours to secure their goal of wearing an EIB.

"It's such a coveted thing for an infantryman to get," said Schaefer. "There is such a huge history and it's by no means easy to achieve. You really have to be focused and determined and that's what boils down to an infantryman; working hard everyday and staying focused, working together to achieve a common goal. The EIB is what an 11 Bravo is."

This is the first time in many years Illinois National Guard Soldiers had the opportunity to earn an EIB. Infantrymen from both Active Duty and National Guard units participated in this year's 205th Infantry Brigade, Camp Atterbury, Indiana, Regional EIB competition.

"The goal is to continue sending Illinois Soldiers to EIB next year," said Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Beck of Eagle, Wisconsin, the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team sergeant major. "It was a great opportunity for our Soldiers to experience camaraderie with Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division who is partnered with the 33rd IBCT for the Total Force Partnership."

No matter if the Soldier received a badge or not, there were valuable skills gained.

"When they come here and go through the training, they know about everything they need to know to take back and teach their unit," said Schwab. "They don't have to come back with their badge to be a better Soldier. They are better off either way."

Infantrymen who earned the EIB and Army Achievement Medal include:

• Staff Sgt. Anthony Henner of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a sniper section leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment in Chicago

• Spc. Michael Schaefer of Mundelein, Illinois, an infantryman with Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment in Aurora, Illinois

• Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Wells of Glen Carbon, Illinois, a platoon sergeant with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment in Litchfield, Illinois

Infantrymen who earned the EIB include:

• 1st Lt. Michael Kuvales of Palos Hills, Illinois with Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment in Dixon, Illinois

• 1st Lt. Lavern Meissner of Niles, Illinois, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment in Chicago

• Spc. Anthony Miller of Springfield, Illinois, with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment in Litchfield, Illinois

• Sgt. Uriah Porter of Du Quoin, Illinois, with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment in West Frankfort, Illinois

• Pfc. Steven Smith of Washington, Illinois, with Company A, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment in Bartonville, Illinois

 
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