31 July 2011

This week in Congress (1 August 2011)

[SLOW WEEK] The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress and in Commissions:

There are no hearings in the U.S. Congress by Committees or Subcommittees involving the subject matter of this blog.

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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (1 August 2011)

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers, veterans or concern military justice issues, relate to freedom of information or national security, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Parliament is in Winter recess and will next sit on 16 August 2011. There are Committee hearings still going during the recess but none this week involve the subject matter of this blog.

High Court of Australia

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Full High Court is hearing cases but none involve the subject matter of this blog. To view the cases being argued today go here.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

No cases are being heard this week which involve the subject matter of this blog.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The DFDAT next sits on 15 and 16 September 2011.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

MINDEF speaks about new HMAS Success sexual harassment allegations

Today Australia Minister of Defence Stephen Smith, MP, was interviewed on Meet the Press concerning the new allegations involving sexual harassment on board the HMAS Success. To read the transcript go here.

28 July 2011

Gillard Gov't to provide tailored package to assist veteran households on impact of carbon price

Australia's Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, MP said the Gillard Government is providing a tailored package of household assistance payments for the veteran and ex service community to deal with the impact of a carbon price.

“The Australian Government has a plan to build a Clean Energy Future for our children and grandchildren by taxing our biggest polluters - and return every cent to assist households, support jobs and tackle climate change. “Because some of these big polluters may choose to pass on these costs to households, we have announced a comprehensive household assistance package to provide support payments to approximately 350,000 veterans, their families, war widows and widowers, said Mr Snowdon."

Payments will commence in May 2012 with the ‘Clean Energy Advance’, an upfront payment of between $140 and $380.

This will go to eligible service pensioners, seniors supplement recipients, war widows and widowers, disability pensioners, permanent impairment recipients and wholly dependent partners (under the Military, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004).

Following the up-front payment, from March 2013, ongoing assistance for this group will be provided through either fortnightly or quarterly payments. These payments will amount to an increase in benefits of between $7.40 and $20.90 per fortnight.

A service pensioner on the single rate will receive $250 upfront in May or June 2012 and after March 2013, $13.50 in ongoing fortnightly payments, with couples receiving $190 upfront each and from March 2013, $10.20 ongoing per fortnight.

For a veteran on a disability pension, their payment will depend on the rate of pension. Veterans receiving up to 100 per cent Disability Pension will receive $140 upfront and $7.40 per fortnight ongoing, while a veteran on Special Rate (TPI) will receive $380 upfront in June 2012 and $20.90 per fortnight in March 2013.

Veterans on a disability pension and service pension receive both payments.

Children of veterans and members receiving payments under the children education schemes will also receive assistance. They will receive two lump sum payments—in June 2012 and 2013—with ongoing assistance commencing on 1 January 2014.

Veterans that earn an income may also benefit from tax cuts. All taxpayers, whose income is up to $80,000 will get a tax cut, with most getting a cut of at least $300.

For more information on the full suite of measures please visit here or call 1800 057 590.

11 July 2011

U.S. appeals court orders Obama Administration to take a position on whether or not DADT is constitutional

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued this order, in the Log Cabin Republican case which challenges the Don't Ask, Don't Tell or DADT policy. I have previously discussed the case here and here.

The federal appeals court ordered the administration to advise it within ten days whether the U.S. government will abandon any defense of the law. And if so, whether the administration will do so in time to enable the U.S. Congress to take up the defense and join in the appeals court’s review. The appeals court also ordered the parties to offer reasons why the case should not now be dismissed as moot or when the repeal law actually takes effect.

Under the repeal law, which is known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 (“Repeal Act”), Pub. L. No. 111-321, 124 Stat. 3515 (2010), its effective date is 60 days after the President, the Defense Secretary, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff formally certifies that the U.S. Armed Forces is ready to implement the law.

This week in Congress (11 July 2011)

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress and in Commissions:

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

House Armed Services Committee, Hearing on Changes to Article 120 and 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 1000 hours, room 2118 Rayburn House Office Building.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Hearing on VA Mental Health Care: Closing the Gaps, 1000 hours, room 418 Russell Senate Office building.

House Armed Services Committee, Hearing on Human Capital Management: A High Risk Area for the Department of Defense, 1300 hours, room 2118 Rayburn House Office Building.

Friday, 15 July 2011

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Legislative Hearing on HR 2433, HR 1941 and HR 169, 1000 hours, room 334 Cannon House Office Building.

House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Military Personnel, hearing on military voting, 1100 hours, room 2212 Rayburn House Office Building.

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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

10 July 2011

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (11 July 2011)

[Winter Recess time!] The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers, veterans or concern military justice issues, relate to freedom of information or national security, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Parliament is in Winter recess and will next sit on 16 August 2011.

High Court of Australia

The Full High Court next sits in Canberra in August 2011.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

No cases are being heard this week which involve the subject matter of this blog.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The DFDAT next sits on 15 and 16 September 2011.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

07 July 2011

Part two of HMAS Success report made available to public

Between March and May 2009, incidents of unacceptable behaviour on board the HMAS Success were brought to the attention of senior Navy brass and civilian leaders.

Allegations included: inappropriate conduct towards women; workforce bullying; tribal culture on board the ship; drunken and disreputable behaviour while ashore; a breakdown in discipline; and serious failures of command.

The incidents have been the subject of an internal Defence inquiry, a Senate Estimates examination and a Senate inquiry. I have previously written about the inquiries here, here, here, here and here.

In March 2010 the then-Chief of the Defence Force, RAAF Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, commissioned Roger Gyles QC to conduct an independent Commission of Inquiry into these matters.

On 22 February 2011, a tabled redacted version of Part One of the Commission of Inquiry report, which can be found here.

Last month Defence Minister Stephen Smith MP received Part Two of the Report.

Part Two deals with Navy administrative inquiries, the management of three landed senior sailors, response to media queries and reporting, the treatment of the legal officer representing the landed senior sailors and Australian Defence Force Investigative Service investigations.

A number of very significant shortcomings have been identified in the management of the three landed senior sailors. As a result they suffered an injustice, for which Mr Gyles recommends both an apology and compensation.

The Report also rejects criticisms of bias made of a 2009 Defence inquiry into allegations on board HMAS Success. Mr Smith has now tabled a redacted version of Part Two of Mr Gyles’ report.

Defence claims the redactions were made on legal advice to prevent the identification of individuals who may be the subject of disciplinary procedures.

The Chief of the Defence Force and the Chief of Navy have accepted the findings and recommendations and will take action on all of Mr Gyles’ recommendations.

This includes an apology to the three landed senior sailors from the Chief of the Navy for the failure to accord them proper process, and an offer to make a payment of monetary compensation for each of them.

It also includes an apology to the authors of the 2009 inquiry from the Chief of the Defence Force and the Chief of the Navy.

To read the redacted report's part two, which was released to the public today, go here.

Part Three of Mr Gyles’ Report will examine in more detail the conduct of administrative inquiries and wider considerations such as the interplay between enforcement of the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982, administrative decisions, redresses of grievance and the role of equity and diversity policy.

U.S. Dep't of Veterans Affairs launches major outreach program for women

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, has embarked on an initiative to reach out to women veterans in order to solicit their input on ways to enhance the health care services VA provides to women Veterans.

“We are taking a proactive approach to enhancing VA health care for women veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We are seeking the input of women Veterans so that VA can continue to provide high quality health care to the growing numbers of women Veterans.”

Representatives at VA’s Health Resource Center or HRC are placing calls to women veterans nationwide, asking them to share their experiences with VA and suggest potential enhancements that will further VA’s mission to provide the best care anywhere.

Women veterans are one of the fastest growing segments of the veteran population. Of the 22.7 million living Veterans, more than 1.8 million are women. They comprise nearly 8 percent of the total veteran population and 6 percent of all veterans who use VA health care services.

VA estimates by 2020 women veterans will constitute 10 percent of the veteran population and 9.5 percent of VA patients. The HRC, which started placing calls on June 1, is contacting women Veterans who have enrolled, but have not begun using VA services.

“Through this contact center, we are placing friendly, conversational calls to women veterans,” said Patricia Hayes, chief consultant of the VA’s Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group. “We want these veterans and their caregivers to talk candidly about why they are not using VA, whether they are aware of the gender-specific services we offer, and what additional services they would like to see VA offer.”

The HRC representatives making the calls are also informing women veterans about the services VA offers and quickly connecting them with appropriate departments if they are interested in trying VA health care. Veterans who have complaints about VA are connected to a patient advocate who helps resolve issues.

VA has trained professionals in all aspects of women’s health, including general primary care, osteoporosis management, heart disease, mental health care, menopausal services and obesity-related issues, such as diabetes. Preventive screenings for breast and cervical cancer are also areas in which VA excels. Soon, all VA facilities will offer comprehensive primary care for women from a single provider.

The Women Veterans Health Care program has made significant changes in the last few years to enhance the health care offered to eligible women veterans. This progress includes:
  • Adopting key policies to improve access and enhance services for women veterans;
  • Implementing comprehensive primary care for women veterans;
  • Conducting cutting-edge research on the effects of military service on women’s lives;
  • Improving communication and outreach to women veterans; and
  • Providing mental health, homelessness and other services designed to meet the unique needs of women veterans

U.S. bariatric surgery study looks at survival impact in older veterans

In the first study to compare survival associated with bariatric surgery in mostly male patients, bariatric surgery was not significantly associated with decreased mortality, according to a research study published in the 15 June 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In recent years, there has been a substantial increase in the prevalence of obesity, which is a challenge to treat. Bariatric surgery is the most effective way for severely obese patients to achieve weight loss.

The bariatric surgery study compared mortality rates for 850 obese veterans who had received the procedure at one of 12 VA bariatric surgery centers between 2000 and 2006. These Veterans were considered to be “high-risk” due to older age and greater weight in comparison to more than 41,000 obese Veterans who had not received bariatric surgery, but had used VA outpatient services. The study also compared mortality rates for 847 obese Veterans who had received bariatric surgery and 847 matched obese Veterans who had not received bariatric surgery. Patients were followed for nearly 7 years.

“By evaluating one important treatment option for obesity, this study represents another significant advance in defining best care approaches for those who entrust their health to VA,” said Dr. Robert A. Petzel, VA’s Under Secretary for Health.

The study was designed to shed light on the benefits of bariatric surgery in a defined group of patients over a limited timeframe. Despite this study’s findings, study investigators are not suggesting VA stop doing bariatric surgery for certain patients.

“Significant weight loss results in improved disease control and quality of life for patients, so there are many reasons why patients like those in our study may still want to undergo bariatric surgery,” said Dr. Matthew Maciejewski, the study’s lead investigator and part of the Health Services Research and Development Center for Health Services Research in Durham, N.C. “ Also, other studies, conducted on different patient populations, have found bariatric surgery to be associated with reduced mortality and have also suggested that survival benefits from surgery-induced weight loss may take longer than six years to become evident.”

An analysis of the 1,694 propensity-matched patients found that bariatric surgery was not significantly associated with reduced mortality. Maciejewski recommends that Veterans who are considering bariatric surgery in VA, and who are similar to Veterans examined in this study, “should be counseled by their VA surgeon that bariatric surgery may not impact their survival in the medium term (6-7 years), but that the long-term association with mortality remains unknown.” Moreover, because a high proportion of Veterans with diabetes or high cholesterol are able to discontinue their medications after bariatric surgery, he suggests that longer-term survival benefits be examined for Veterans who had bariatric surgery after 2006, before VA changes its policy and/or guidelines.

Dr. Joel Kupersmith, VA’s Chief Research and Development Officer, notes that VA considers all associated evidence in any policy decision, but notes this is just one study. “It is by conducting leading-edge research studies such as this one on bariatric surgery, and evaluating the meaning in the context of all rigorous scientific evidence, that VA Research provides the foundation for optimal Veterans’ health care,” he said.

Dr. Maciejewski also does not recommend that insurers stop covering bariatric surgery for high-risk patients based on these study results because, “survival is just one aspect of the cost-effectiveness of bariatric surgery, which has been shown to be cost-effective for eligible patients.”

06 July 2011

Enforcement end to DADT ordered by U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Log Cabin Republican case.

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued this order in a Don't Ask, Don't Tell or DADT case filed by the Log Cabin Republicans or LCR.

The order came from a class action case filed, in Log Cabin Republicans v. U.S., which challenged DADT - the American federal law banning openly gay people from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

In September 2010 a U.S. District Court in California ruled that DADT violated both First and Fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The court ordered the U.S. Defense Department to stop enforcing the ban. However, the Ninth Circuit granted the U.S. Government's request to stay the District Court’s order until the merits of lower court's decision could be appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit agreed to LCR's request to lift its stay of the District Court's order.

Retired ACM Houston named as Chair of ANZAC Centenary Advisory Board

Today the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Centenary of Anzac, Warren Snowdon MP, announced Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, AC, AFC (Ret’d), had been appointed as the Chair of the new Anzac Centenary Advisory Board.

Following a six year tenure as Chief of the Defence Force, ACM Houston accepted the position to lead the planning and development of the ANZAC Centenary commemorations taking place from 2014 to 2018.

“ACM Houston’s reputation is unparallel among the Defence Force community, government and throughout Australia. “He has had an outstanding career in the Australian Defence Force from joining the Royal Australian Air Force as a cadet pilot in 1970 to serving as Chief of the Defence Force from July 2005 until July 2011" said Minister Snowdon.

Mr Snowdon said the Chair of the new ANZAC Centenary Advisory Board has a vital role in leading the planning stages of the commemorations.

“As Chair, ACM Houston will work with the Board to progress the work of the National Commission on the Commemoration of the ANZAC Centenary, which handed its recommendations to Government earlier this year,” he said.

The Australian Government is establishing the Board to provide high level strategic advice to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Centenary of ANZAC regarding the planning and implementation of Anzac Centenary events and initiatives.

The Board will engage with community and business sectors to develop a program of commemorative activities in the years leading into the commemorative period and throughout the ANZAC Centenary program from 2014 to 2018.

“Joining ACM Houston on the Board will be specialists in education, business, local government and Australian history and culture. I look forward to announcing the membership of the Board in the near future,” Mr Snowdon said.

ACM Houston said the main priority for the Board will be to listen to the Australian people – from the ideas already shared with the former National Commission, to consulting with a range of community and business sectors.

“The Board has an important task ahead and I am pleased to be able to be involved to help ensure the ANZAC Centenary is marked in a way that captures the spirit and reverence it so deserves,” ACM Houston said.

ACM Houston will officially take up his new position in August. The appointment will see through the planning and development of the Centenary commemorations until 2018.

New appointments to Australian War Memorial Council made

Two appointments to the Australian War Memorial Council were announced today by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon MP.

Mr Kevin Woods CSC, OAM will join the Council for the first time and Ms Wendy Sharpe has been reappointed, after approval was given by the Governor-General, Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC.

Mr Woods will bring considerable military experience to the Council. His Army career spanned 34 years and included the position of Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army. He is currently a visiting fellow at the Australian Defence College and a member of the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal.

A member of the Council since 2005, Ms Sharpe has been reappointed for an additional two years. She is an artist of distinguished reputation and has been invited to lecture at numerous art institutions and museums.

Mr Snowdon congratulated Ms Sharpe and Mr Woods on their appointments.

“These appointments bring a great breadth of knowledge to the Australian War Memorial Council,“ Mr Snowdon said.

“With such experience and talent at the helm, the Memorial will continue its reputation as a world class institution.”

The Australian War Memorial Council is an independent body responsible for the strategic direction of the Australian War Memorial.

03 July 2011

This week in Congress (4 July 2011)

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress and in Commissions:

Monday, 4 July 2011 - HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY

Thursday, 7 July 2011

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Legislative Hearing on H.R. 1911, H.R. 240, H.R. 1263, H.R. 120, H.R. 2274, H.R. 2301, H.R. 2302, H.R. 2345, and H.R. 2329, 1000 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building.

House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorials, Legislative Hearing on H.R. 923, H.R. 1025, H.R. 1826, H.R. 1898, and H.R. 2349
, 1130 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building.

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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

02 July 2011

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (4 July 2011)

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers, veterans or concern military justice issues, relate to freedom of information or national security, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Parliament is in session this week before it goes on its Winter recess. There are no committee hearings involving the subject matter of this blog.

High Court of Australia

The Full High Court next sits in Canberra in August 2011.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

No cases are being heard this week which involve the subject matter of this blog.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The DFDAT next sits on 15 and 16 September 2011.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.