Metro-East News

Roger That: U.S. Rep. Mike Bost to hold ‘listening session’ at Scott Air Force Base

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, is set to hold a “listening session” with Southern Illinois veterans at Scott Air Force Base from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Scott VFW Post 4183, 1516 Old State Rte. 158. The discussion, which is open to the public, aims to provide veterans an opportunity to share their thoughts and ask questions directly of Bost.

“As we honor America’s fallen heroes this Memorial Day week, it’s important that we pay special attention to ensuring our veterans receive the care and services they deserve,” Bost said in a statement. “I look forward to meeting with as many of Southern Illinois’ heroes as possible to learn how the federal government can better serve their needs, as well as to simply say, ‘thank you.’”

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Meanwhile, Bost has announced his support for the Ruth Moore Act of 2015, which allows victims of military sexual assault to receive disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Bost introduced an amendment in the House Veterans Affairs Committee to advance the bipartisan Ruth Moore Act of 2015 to the House floor. Bost’s amendment also cuts bonuses in half for the VA officials who oversaw the breakdown in veterans’ health care services at facilities across the country in recent years.

“No person who served in America’s Armed Forces should ever be a victim of sexual assault,” Bost said. “For many victims, the emotional impact of a sexual assault can continue for a lifetime, a situation only worsened when the victim is denied the justice and support they need.”

The Ruth Moore Act of 2015 was originally introduced by Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine. The bill would require the VA to submit regular updates to Congress about the current status of claims for mental health conditions relating to military sexual assault.

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About 10 percent of non-elderly veterans lacked health insurance coverage, according to a posting on the HealthAffairs blog.

The uninsured rate found for veterans in 2013 is close to the rate that prevailed 2008 to 2010. The uninsured rate is lower among veterans relative to the general population, in part based on the availability of care through the Veterans Affairs system’s network of hospitals and clinics.

However, some veterans may not use VA services, because they live far from providers, do not meet eligibility criteria, or do not know they qualify for VA care. Like the general population, non-elderly veterans who are younger, unmarried, less-educated and poorer are less likely to have coverage. About 1 in 4 non-elderly veterans below the federal poverty level lacked health insurance coverage of any type in 2013, according to the American Community Survey, as cited in the blog.

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The U.S. government could soon provide photo identification cards to veterans seeking military service discounts at stores across the country, according to a story in the Bucks County (Penn.) Courier-Times.

On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 402–0 on a program to provide photo ID cards for any honorably discharged veteran who requests one. The proposed Veterans ID Card Act of 2015 moves for a vote in the U.S. Senate.

America’s proposed Veterans ID cards wouldn’t be free, however. The measure introduced by Florida Republican Vern Buchanan allows the VA to charge a “small fee” for each ID card.

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Veterans in states such as Illinois, where medical marijuana is legal, would be able to discuss the drug as a treatment option with VA physicians for the first time under an amendment added Thursday to the VA’s fiscal 2016 budget on Thursday, according to a story carried by Aljazeera America.

The measure passed the Senate Appropriations Committee by an 18-12 vote, with several Republicans backing the idea. Earlier this month, a similar proposal failed to pass during House debate on the budget bill, by a 213-210 tally.

The cannabis proposal still must survive a full Senate vote and a conference with House lawmakers before it could be sent to President Barack Obama to become law. Thursday’s vote was hailed by pro-marijuana advocates as a significant step forward. Officials from the Drug Policy Alliance called it an opportunity for veterans to enjoy “full and open discussions with their doctors” about treatment options.

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With the Memorial Day holiday falling on May 25, it would be fitting to recall the history of a day traditionally celebrated with parades, barbecues and the opening of outdoor swimming pools.

The first widely-publicized celebration of a Memorial Day-type observance after the Civil War occurred in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865. During the war, Union had been held at the Hampton Park Race Course, where at least 257 died and were buried in unmarked graves. Black residents of Charleston organized a May Day ceremony in 1865, according to a 2009 article in Time magazine.

“Digging up the soldiers’ mass grave, they interred the bodies in individual graves, built a 100-yd. fence around them and erected an archway over the entrance bearing the words ‘Martyrs of the Race Course,’” the magazine reported. “On May 1, 1865, some 10,000 black Charleston residents, white missionaries, teachers, schoolchildren and Union troops marched around the Planters’ Race Course, singing and carrying armfuls of roses. Gathering in the graveyard, the crowd watched five black preachers recite scripture and a children’s choir sing spirituals and ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ While the story is largely forgotten today, some historians consider the gathering the first Memorial Day.”

Gen. John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the leading group for Union veterans, in 1868 issued a proclamation calling for “Decoration Day” to be observed annually and nationwide. It was observed for the first time that year on Saturday, May 30; the date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle. In addition, May 30 was seen as the optimal date for flowers to be in bloom, according to TechTimes.com.

The holiday’s name over time changed from “Decoration Day” to “Memorial Day,” which was first used in 1882. It did not become more common until after World War II, and it was not declared the official name by federal law until 1967. On June 28, 1968, Congress passed a bill that moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971.

Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 618-239-2533.

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