From a November 7 joint press release by ACLU national, SWAN, and ACLU of CT: The Department of Veterans Affairs grants disability claims for military sexual trauma-related PTSD at significantly lower rates than other PTSD claims, according to a new report released today. Women veterans are disproportionately denied compensation based on PTSD, as they are more likely to file military sexual trauma-related PTSD claims, but male survivors who file military sexual trauma-related PTSD claims face particularly low grant rates, compared to female veterans who file MST-related PTSD claims. The report by the American Civil Liberties Union, Service Women’s Action Network, the ACLU of Connecticut, and the Veterans Legal Service Clinic at Yale Law School details new findings resulting from two recently settled Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against the VA. “The VA must treat a veteran’s disability claim fairly when it is based on sexual violence,” said Sandra Park, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “It’s inexcusable that the VA discriminates against survivors who have sacrificed so much for our country, but we’re hopeful this report will lead to reform by shining a light on the terrible hurdles these veterans face.”
Three key findings include:
- the VA granted disability benefit claims for PTSD related to military sexual trauma at a significantly lower rate than claims for PTSD unrelated to military sexual trauma every year from 2008 to 2012. The grant rate for military sexual trauma-related PTSD claims has lagged behind the grant rate for other PTSD claims by between 17 and 30 percentage points every year;
- because female veterans’ PTSD claims are more often based on military sexual trauma-related PTSD than male veterans’ PTSD claims, female veterans overall are disparately impacted by the lower grant rates for military sexual trauma-related PTSD. For every year between 2008 and 2011, a gap of nearly 10 percentage points separated the overall grant rate for PTSD claims brought by women and those brought by men;
- among those who file military sexual trauma-related PTSD claims, male veterans face particularly low grant rates when compared to female veterans who file military sexual trauma-related PTSD claims.
The report is available at: aclu.org/womens-rights/battle-benefits-va-discrimination-against-survivors-military-sexual-trauma
[ACLU/SWAN Press Release]
The Nevada Office of Veterans Services (NOVS) Veterans Outreach “ROVER” Program will visit Winnemucca and Pershing Community Center in Lovelock. Those visits will allow veterans and family members to meet with a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) and learn about benefits and services they may be eligible for which they may be unaware.
“We continue to ask local businesses, city officials and anyone willing to help us spread the word, to post a flyer [Winnemucca Flyer, Lovelock Flyer] at their location or download and email the flyer to their personal network,” says Executive Director, Kat Miller.
To download; go to the NOVS ROVER page at http://www.veterans.nv.gov/rover.html to find the ROVER schedule and scroll down to the date of the event.
- Tuesday, SEPTEMBER 3 - 9 am – 4 pm …. Winnemucca Armory – 735 West Fourth Street
- Wednesday – SEPTEMBER 4 - 10 am – 2 pm …. Lovelock, Pershing Community Center – 820 6th Street
Veterans and family members can make an appointment to meet with a Veterans Service Officer to discuss their benefits and PRE- SCHEDULED APPOINTMENTS ARE SUGGESTED. Walk-in appointments are welcome, but can only be seen as time permits.
“Appointments at some recent locations have filled up prior to the date,” says program supervisor, Scott Fincher. “With help from the community, the word has been getting out and we really encourage veterans or family members to consider making an appointment in advance.”
To schedule an advanced appointment, contact Pamela (775) 688-1653 ext 6 or Barbara at (775) 321-4880. Veterans are advised to bring a copy of their DD-214 discharge document, current VA paperwork, medical information and banking account information. If the claim involves dependants, bring birth certificates, current and prior marriage certificates, divorce decrees, and social security numbers.
The ROVER Program is funded by donations to the Veterans Gift Account that is supported by the Nevada Veterans License Plate Program. With mission-focused employees, NOVS is responsible for the administration of two State Veterans Memorial Cemeteries, a State Veterans Home, and a State-wide Veterans Service Officer program. NOVS is instrumental in connecting Nevada’s veterans and their families with benefits and assistance from both the State and Federal government. For more information, call (866) 630-VETS or visit www.veterans.nv.gov<http://www.veterans.nv.gov/>.
Charles Pullen, Public Information Officer Nevada Office of Veterans Services
Serving America’s Heroes.
The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geo-spatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting.Our classified assessments have been shared with the U.S. Congress and key international partners. To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence – but what follows is an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of what took place.
Syrian Government Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21
A large body of independent sources indicates that a chemical weapons attack took place in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental organizations.
A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.
We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. We assess that the scenario in which the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely. The body of information used to make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime’s preparations for this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place.
The Syrian regime maintains a stockpile of numerous chemical agents, including mustard, sarin, and VX and has thousands of munitions that can be used to deliver chemical warfare agents.
Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is the ultimate decision maker for the chemical weapons program and members of the program are carefully vetted to ensure security and loyalty. The Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) – which is subordinate to the Syrian Ministry of Defense – manages Syria’s chemical weapons program.
We assess with high confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year, including in the Damascus suburbs. This assessment is based on multiple streams of information including reporting of Syrian officials planning and executing chemical weapons attacks and laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin. We assess that the opposition has not used chemical weapons.
The Syrian regime has the types of munitions that we assess were used to carry out the attack on August 21, and has the ability to strike simultaneously in multiple locations. We have seen no indication that the opposition has carried out a large-scale, coordinated rocket and artillery attack like the one that occurred on August 21.
We assess that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons over the last year primarily to gain the upper hand or break a stalemate in areas where it has struggled to seize and hold strategically valuable territory. In this regard, we continue to judge that the Syrian regime views chemical weapons as one of many tools in its arsenal, including air power and ballistic missiles, which they indiscriminately use against the opposition.
The Syrian regime has initiated an effort to rid the Damascus suburbs of opposition forces using the area as a base to stage attacks against regime targets in the capital. The regime has failed to clear dozens of Damascus neighborhoods of opposition elements, including neighborhoods targeted on August 21, despite employing nearly all of its conventional weapons systems. We assess that the regime’s frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21.
We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC – were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack.
Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks. Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to use chemical weapons.
Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.
Local social media reports of a chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs began at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 21. Within the next four hours there were thousands of social media reports on this attack from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area. Multiple accounts described chemical-filled rockets impacting opposition-controlled areas.
Three hospitals in the Damascus area received approximately 3,600 patients displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure in less than three hours on the morning of August 21, according to a highly credible international humanitarian organization. The reported symptoms, and the epidemiological pattern of events – characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers – were consistent with mass exposure to a nerve agent. We also received reports from international and Syrian medical personnel on the ground.
We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack, many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure. The reported symptoms of victims included unconsciousness, foaming from the nose and mouth, constricted pupils, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. Several of the videos show what appear to be numerous fatalities with no visible injuries, which is consistent with death from chemical weapons, and inconsistent with death from small-arms, high-explosive munitions or blister agents. At least 12 locations are portrayed in the publicly available videos, and a sampling of those videos confirmed that some were shot at the general times and locations described in the footage.
We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos, physical symptoms verified by medical personnel and NGOs, and other information associated with this chemical attack.
We have a body of information, including past Syrian practice, that leads us to conclude that regime officials were witting of and directed the attack on August 21. We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence. On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations. At the same time, the regime intensified the artillery barrage targeting many of the neighborhoods where chemical attacks occurred. In the 24 hour period after the attack, we detected indications of artillery and rocket fire at a rate approximately four times higher than the ten preceding days. We continued to see indications of sustained shelling in the neighborhoods up until the morning of August 26.
To conclude, there is a substantial body of information that implicates the Syrian government’s responsibility in the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21.As indicated, there is additional intelligence that remains classified because of sources and methods concerns that is being provided to Congress and international partners.
- Syria warns United States that it’s prepared to confront any aggression – @CNN (edition.cnn.com)
- Britain to release info on chemical weapons attack (cnn.com)
- Syria’s chemical weapons program was built to counter Israel (reuters.com)
- Obama “sure Syria behind chemical attack”..Putin to Cameron: “No evidence”..three new “chemical attacks” by rebels (seeker401.wordpress.com)
- Syria: UK intelligence blames Assad regime for chemical attacks (theguardian.com)
- U.S. Admits It Has No Idea WHO Carried Out Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack (washingtonsblog.com)
- Why Doesn’t the U.S. Wait for U.N. Test Results in Syria Before Striking? (sparkingtheleft.com)
With just a few weeks left before the August break, Congress will try this week to pass a few spending bills for the next fiscal year. And the Senate may address the student loan interest rate hike that took place July 1.
|While work continues on 2014 spending bills, chances are slim that they will be completed by the end of September, when the current continuing resolution expires. Most expect that Congress will again pass a continuing spending resolution to ensure 2014 funding.|
|•||Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (S 1243): this bill would spend $54 billion in 2014, $10 billion more than the House version, and is the first spending bill for next year that the Senate has considered.|
|•||Defense Appropriations Act (HR 2397): This bill spends $512 billion in non-war funding, down about $5 billion from last year’s bill but up $28 billion from current spending levels that include the sequester.|
|As part of the debate on the defense spending bill, House members will be considering amendments to reduce military aid to Egypt and Syria — and limit NSA surveillance. Learn more in this week’s What to Watch with Charlie Mitchell.|
In the Senate
|•||Student Loan Interest Rates (S 1334): Congress might also finally pass a bill modifying the interest rate on student loans from the current 6.8 percent. A group of senators said they agreed to a bill last week that would peg the interest rate to the government’s borrowing rate, and the Senate may be in a position to pass this bill.|
|Many Democrats oppose the compromise, however, as it could lead the student rate to rise above 6.8% should interest rates rise higher. However, several key Democrats said last week that they support the bill, which would have the immediate effect of lowering the rate from 6.8 percent. The Senate compromise is very similar to a House-passed bill that many Democrats and President Obama said they oppose. As a result, Senate passage of the bill this week, could let the House quickly pass it as well.|
In the House
The House may also take up to energy deregulation bills this week:
- Energy Consumers Relief Act (HR 1852): would block regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency if they have an impact of $1 billion or more and would hurt job creation.
- Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act (HR 2218): would give states permission to set their own standards for managing coal runoff.
Finally, the House will consider up to six, less controversial suspension bills throughout the week:
- Three Kids Mine Remediation and Reclamation Act (HR 697): conveying park land in Nevada to the city of Henderson, Nevada.
- HR 1300: amending the Fish and Wildlife Act to reauthorize wildlife volunteer programs.
- California Coastal National Monument Expansion Act (HR 1411): adding land in California to the National Landscape Conservation System.
- WMD Intelligence and Information Sharing Act (HR 1542): establishing intelligence activities in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis in the Department of Homeland and security, related to weapons of mass destruction.
- HR 2353: allowing vehicles currently allowed to operate on Route 41 in Wisconsin to remain legal even if a segment of the road is designated as a route on the Interstate System.
- HConRes 44: A resolution allowing the Capitol grounds to be used for the Olympic torch run.
Last week, the House voted last week to delay parts of Obamacare, the 2010 health care law, after the Obama Administration decided to delay the employer insurance mandate.
A new Pentagon document indicates that contingent plans for the use of nuclear weapons are being made, with the self-evidently impossible task of minimizing collateral damage.
— by Peter Weiss
Soon after President Barack Obama began his first term, he called for a world free of nuclear weapons. His address, which quickly became known as Obama’s Prague Speech, helped him win the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
Then, he dropped the ball.
The Pentagon finally followed up in late June with a strange document that fails to explain how Obama intends to make progress toward full nuclear disarmament.
Even though the Report on Nuclear Employment Strategy of the United States doesn’t do that, it still should have been news. Instead, the mainstream media took a pass.
In the past, these documents, the last of which the Pentagon issued in 2010, were called “Nuclear Posture Reviews.” They focused largely on the role of nuclear weapons for deterrence. Now for the first time the word “employment” — another word for “use” — is in the title.
Is this a not-so-subtle way of telling our enemies, actual and potential, that we are not afraid to use these weapons of mass annihilation?
To drive home that point, the report states that, while the “2010 Nuclear Posture Review established the (Obama) administration’s goal of making deterrence of a nuclear attack the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons…we cannot adopt such a policy today.”
Instead, this report explains, “the new guidance re-iterates the intention to work towards that goal over time.”
What are the other purposes of U.S. nuclear weapons besides trying to stop nuclear attacks by others?
Alas, the report doesn’t really say. Instead, it vaguely states that while the threat of global nuclear war has become remote since the Cold War ended, the risk of nuclear attack has increased.
Presumably, this refers to nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists rather than governments. But it doesn’t explain how U.S. nuclear weapons could be “employed” to deter the use of nuclear weapons by, for instance, al-Qaeda.
The phrase “new guidance” appears repeatedly in the report. But it leaves readers guessing about the nature of such guidance as it relates to the most important goal of U.S. nuclear-weapons strategy: “strategic stability” with Russia and China.
The report indicated that our government is sticking with its longtime concept of “extended deterrence,” a commitment to also use our nuclear arsenal for the benefit of U.S. allies and partners. But what does “partners” mean in this context? The report doesn’t say.
And it looks like the government remains sold on the idea that it must maintain a stockpile of non-deployed nuclear warheads in case deterrence with deployed ones should fail.
There are other mysteries.
The Pentagon’s report states, “The new guidance makes clear that all plans must also be consistent with the fundamental principles of the Law of Armed Conflict. Accordingly plans…will seek to minimize collateral damage to civilian populations and civilian objects.”
Thus, plans for the use of nuclear weapons are being made, but the planners have been given the self-evidently impossible task of minimizing collateral damage.
In February, Germany sponsored a conference in Berlin on creating the conditions for a nuclear-weapons-free world. Washington didn’t participate.
In March, Norway held a conference in Oslo on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. Delegates from 127 countries attended. None were from the United States.
In May, the Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament created by the UN General Assembly held its first meeting in Geneva. The United States skipped it.
Obama’s recent declaration in Berlin that Washington might be willing to reduce its stockpile of more than 1,500 deployed nuclear warheads by one-third to 1,000 drew applause from some arms-control supporters. I’m holding my applause until he demonstrates the political will to work on the goal of scrapping nuclear weapons altogether.
Peter Weiss is the President Emeritus of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy. Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org