White House To Soften Military Consumer Protections

Photo courtesy of FBI.gov

The following is the introduction to an NPR report on the White House rollback of regulations that protected service members from predatory lenders.

By Chris Arnold, NPR

The Trump administration is taking aim at a law designed to protect military service members from getting cheated by shady lending practices.

NPR has obtained documents that show the White House is proposing changes that critics say would leave service members vulnerable to getting ripped off when they buy cars. Separately, the administration is taking broader steps to roll back enforcement of the Military Lending Act.

The MLA is supposed to protect service members from predatory loans and financial products. But the White House appears willing to change the rules in a way that critics say would take away some of those protections.

“If the White House does this, it will be manipulating the Military Lending Act regulations at the behest of auto dealers and banks to try and make it easier to sell overpriced rip-off products to military service members,” says Christopher Peterson, a law professor at the University of Utah, who reviewed the documents.

You can read the full NPR story here.

Evidence Of Housing Discrimination Against Veterans


Quil Lawrence, NPR Veterans Correspondent. Photo by David Gilkey/NPR

The following audio is a report by Quil Lawrence from National Public Radio.

It had long been suspected.

There was even anecdotal evidence.

But it wasn’t until the Washington state attorney general set up a “sting” that officials had proof that landlords were discriminating against veterans using federal housing vouchers.

The HUD vouchers were part of the Department of Veterans Affairs effort to end homelessness among veterans.

But because of the high cost of housing and the unwillingness of landlords to accept vouchers, Lawrence reports that homelessness increased last year.

You can listen to his NPR report here.

NPR Series Shines Light On VA ‘Choice’ Program


Quil Lawrence – NPR reporter. Photo courtesy of NPR.

National Public Radio reporter Quil Lawrence took the lead on an investigation into the Veterans Health Administration plan to lessen wait times at VA medical clinics and hospitals by allowing veterans to see private medical providers.

It was called the “Choice Program.”

However, as the title of the first three stories shows, the hastily assembled program left veterans without more medical options: “How Congress And The VA Left Many Veterans Without ‘Choice.'”

Another part of the investigation looked at how attempts to improve the system has instead prolonged wait-times for veterans trying to get a medical appointment: “Despite $10B Fix Veterans Are Waiting Even Longer To See Doctors.”



Marine Commandant Calls for Reawakening of Core Values

Official portrait, uncovered, of the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos. Gen. Amos is the first aviator in Marine Corps history to be selected for the post, and the first assistant commandant to be promoted to the position in more than 20 years. (U.S.Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alvin Williams/RELEASED)

The 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos. (U.S.Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alvin Williams/RELEASED)

General James Amos, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, greeted me front and center Monday morning. He was the prime-time interview on NPR’s Morning Edition.

The interview with NPR host Renee Montagne runs for almost nine minutes. The transcript is available, but it’s worth taking the time to listen as Montagne questions the general about his letter where the general called for help: … (to) reawaken the soul of our corps against an enemy emerging from within our ranks. Who or what is the enemy?

Gen. Amos’ response: First of all, the 98 percent of the Marine Corps is absolutely on what I call a moral compass heading of true north. We’re really talking about those 2 percent that are out there on the fringes of our institution, they wear our cloth, and they’re not living up to our standards. And it’s being manifested in a variety of different kinds of poor-choice behaviors. It can be hazing. It can be sexual assault. I mean, it can be abusive behavior, not only to Marines, but perhaps to yourself or your family. So that’s what we’re talking about.

You can read the full transcript and listen to the interview here.

NPR Report on ‘Other Than Honorable Discharge’

NPR correspondent Quil Lawrence.

NPR correspondent Quil Lawrence.

This week, NPR’s Quil Lawrence is reporting on veterans who did not receive an honorable discharge after service in the military.

Eric Highfill spent five years in the Navy, fixing airplanes for special-operations forces. His discharge papers show an Iraq campaign medal and an Afghanistan campaign medal, a good conduct medal, and that he’s a marksman with a pistol and sharpshooter with a rifle.

None of that matters, because at the bottom of the page it reads “Discharged: under other than honorable conditions.”

The “other-than-honorable discharged” have been turned away from medical care at the Department of Veterans Affairs and from programs offered by other veterans’ organizations.

… more than 100,000 other troops left the armed services with “bad paper” over the past decade of war. Many went to war, saw combat, even earned medals before they broke the rules of military discipline or in some cases committed serious crimes. The bad discharge means no VA assistance, no disability compensation, no GI Bill, and it’s a red flag on any job application.

Yet, many with a bad discharge said it is due to post traumatic stress and other conditions directly tied to their military service.

You can read the full story and listen to the report here.

Air Force Trains Advocates for Sexual Assault Victims

Courtesy Dept. of Defense

Courtesy Dept. of Defense

The Air Force has taken a page out of the civilian court handbook by creating advocates for victims of military sexual trauma (MST).

The hope is by providing an advocate – Special Victims’ Counsels (SVC) – victims will be more willing to report assaults and testify in military court according to NPR’s Larry Abramson.

“We know 85 percent of our victims don’t report,”┬áLt. Gen. Richard Harding says. “Maybe if they understood the value of an SVC, some of them might feel a little bit more comfortable about reporting.”

That’s the long-term hope for the Special Victims’ Counsel program, which is currently limited to the Air Force but could expand to other services. The immediate goal is to train around 50 lawyers who will help victims get through the legal process.

You can listen to the full NPR story here.

The Department of Defense has a three-part Safe Helpline campaign to help any military member who has been the victim of military sexual assault. Continue reading

Women in the Military: An NPR Series Continues

Photo courtesy of the BBB Military website.

Photo courtesy of the BBB Military website.

The NPR series on women in the military continues with a look at the problem of sexual assault. Quil Lawrence reported Wednesday that the Pentagon’s own research showed that more than 1 in 4 women in the military will experience sexual assault during their careers.

About 19,000 sex crimes take place in the military each year, according to the Pentagon’s most recent estimate. Many of the victims are male, but men in the service face the same risk of sexual assault as civilian men do. It’s a different story for women. Women who join the military face a much higher risk of sexual assault than civilian women.

“It’s a complex problem because it involves a culture change,” says Maj. Gen. Gary Patton, the head of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “We have to see a culture change where those victims of this crime are taken seriously at their unit level by every member of their unit, so you don’t see the divisiveness and the lack of support and the feeling of isolation that these victims feel.”

How U.S. families adjust to having a mother or daughter or wife head off to war is the topic of Tuesday’s story. And Monday, the series looked at the battle women have had to wage to get recognized for serving in combat. It dates back to 1779. Continue reading

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