Metro-East News

Roger That: Air Force will likely triple maternity leave to 18 weeks

The Air Force will likely follow the Navy’s lead and triple maternity leave from six weeks to eighteen, Secretary Deborah Lee James said last week, adding that paternity leave could also increase, according to Air Force Times.

“Stay tuned,” the secretary said. “I believe that’s coming.”

The move to increase maternity leave is under “active consideration” as part of the Force of the Future initiative from Defense Secretary Ash Carter, James told a gathering at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

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The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has reopened its investigation into allegations that Navy SEALs and Afghan police militiamen beat several detainees, including one who died, at an isolated outpost in Afghanistan in 2012, agency officials said last week, according to The New York Times.

The agency’s action came after revelations in an article in The New York Times last month about new Afghan witnesses and questions from congressional leaders about how the Navy handled the case.

The case began when four United States Army soldiers stationed at an outpost with the SEAL team told N.C.I.S. investigators that they saw three SEAL team members kicking several detainees, dropping heavy stones on their chests and firing guns near their heads. The Navy investigators also interviewed several Afghans and Navy personnel who described some of the abuses.

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In the last five years, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has withheld more than $401 million in disability compensation from 24,988 veterans, with $261 million scheduled to be withheld from future benefits, according to Meagan Lutz, a spokesperson for the VA. The department’s public affairs office provided the blog Task & Purpose with statistics breaking down these figures.

The reason for this is due to 10 USC 1174, a federal law precluding duplication of benefits. The law requires that the VA recoup military separation benefits paid by the Department of Defense in cases where a veteran is subsequently awarded VA compensation, explained Terry Jemison, another spokesperson for the VA, in an email to Task & Purpose.

VA disability benefits can be withheld if a veteran receives readjustment pay, non-disability severance pay, separation pay, reservist involuntary separation pay, special separation benefits, voluntary separation pay, or disability severance pay.

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A fast-track discharge upon request for sexual assault victims and a new app that will assist in reporting of sexual harassment and assault are among a handful of new initiatives the Navy is pursuing to crack down on the crime and support survivors, according to Military.com.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said he wants to have a system in place by this spring that will allow survivors to receive an expedited discharge from the service, but still keep access to support programs and counseling them might need. He said he's also working with personnel officials to make sure an alleged sexual assault victim and the alleged perpetrator cannot end up at the same command later in their careers.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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