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PostPosted: Wed Apr 27, 2011 2:15 pm 
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For Immediate Release
Contact: David Kurtz (608) 697-6319
Legion Opposes Assembly Bill 96
Proposal to Allow Governor to Appoint
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
PORTAGE (April 27, 2011) – The American Legion, the state’s largest veterans service organization, has polled its’
statewide leadership and is announcing its’ opposition to AB 96 as currently drafted. The Wisconsin American Legion’s
Executive Committee is comprised of 22 members and voted unanimously this week to oppose AB 96 as written.
Current law vests authority over the Wisconsin Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the hands of a seven member Board of
Veterans Affairs, members of which are appointed by the Governor to staggered six year terms.
Assembly Bill (AB) 96 would give full authority for appointing and terminating the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to the
Governor. Legion leadership opposes this and another aspect of the proposed legislation which would reduce board member
terms to three years. The actual motion unanimously adopted by The American Legion leadership reads as follows;
“The American Legion, Department of Wisconsin Executive Committee is opposed to those provisions contained in AB 96
that would reduce the terms of the Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs members from six (6) years to three (3) years and
further, The American Legion, Department of Wisconsin Executive Committee opposes the proposal contained in AB 96 that
would allow the Governor to appoint the Secretary and remove the authority of the Board of Veterans Affairs as contained in
Wisconsin Statute 15.49 which places the Wisconsin Department of Veterans affairs and its’ Secretary under their direction
and supervision.”
“The American Legion opposes the passage of Assembly Bill 96 as written, specifically the hiring and termination authority
being shifted to the Governor’s office”, said Legion State Commander Robert S. Batty of the Peter Wollner Post No. 288 of
Cedarburg. “Our 12 districts span the entire State of Wisconsin and represent over 65,000 active members. Many of the
Legion’s District Commanders and Past State Commanders were animated in expressing their opposition to shifting this
authority away from the veteran’s community over to a politically elected position.”
6th District Commander Roy Helms of Oshkosh stated; “This measure as written would mean sacrificing something
Wisconsin veterans have fought for in the past. I seriously doubt this will work to the benefit of Wisconsin’s veterans in the
long haul.” The 6th District consists of Calumet, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Manitowoc, Marquette and Winnebago counties.
The District has a membership of nearly 4,500 wartime veterans.
Teddy Duckworth of New Lisbon, a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam conflict, served as Chairman of the Board of
Veterans Affairs and is a past Legion State Commander. Mr. Duckworth echoed the stated concerns of other Legion officers.
“I’m absolutely opposed to making these changes,” said Mr. Duckworth.
“Expanding the Board of Veteran’s Affairs from 7 to 9 members is a positive move which will provide balanced statewide
representation” said Ted DeMicchi of Somers, WI. Mr. DeMicchi is also a past Chairman of the Board for the state as well
as a Past State Commander. “Altering the way our WDVA Secretary is appointed as proposed in AB 96 would be a
disservice to the veteran’s community.”, he continued.
Navy veteran and 8th District Commander Jim Grimm of Caroline in rural Shawano County weighed in; “The recent state of
affairs at the WDVA, with the high rate of turnover in the Secretary’s office has left an unfavorable mark. Making this a
political appointment will likely exasperate the situation over time. We can do better without the petty partisan politics and
the bullying that goes with it.” The American Legion 8th District consists of Marathon, Menominee, Portage, Shawano,
Waupaca, Waushara, and Wood counties with nearly 6,000 members.
Roger Mathison of Coon Valley, an Army veteran who was Legion State Commander in 1998 commented; “the Secretary
should not be appointed by the Governor. This could potentially lead to an appointment by political favor. We need to
ensure that a veteran advocate is in the position”
David L. Gough of Darlington, who currently represents the state on the Legion’s National Executive Committee and was
State Commander in 2004 stated; “there are enough politics in the Department of Veterans Affairs now and with the
Governor appointing the Secretary there would sure to be more political wrangling over time. Expanding the Board of
Veterans Affairs and ensuring equal representation around the State is a good idea but giving the power of appointment to the
Governor may not ultimately serve our best interests.”
“Our entire leadership team is clear and united on this issue,” continued Commander Batty. “We implore the State
Legislature as a body to respect the recommendations of The American Legion and amend AB 96 so authority to hire and
terminate the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs remains with the Board of Veterans Affairs and that Board
member terms remain at 6 years.”
The Wisconsin American Legion is the state’s largest veterans’ service organization with over 65,000 members and 520 posts
in communities across Wisconsin. The American Legion has been serving troops, veterans, and youth since 1919. For more
information on the Legion’s programs and membership, visit www.wilegion.org.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 27, 2011 8:01 pm 
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Personally I have lost respect for the American Legion. The post in Wausau has hired non serving contractors to replace the roof on their property.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 27, 2011 9:28 pm 
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That doesn't sound like a very good reason to disrespect a Veterans organization that does so much for their community and the nation. I wonder if there are any local contractors that are all Veterans, after all, only about 10% of the people actually serve to protect the other 90%.

Without knowing the reasons behind their choice it seems like you are jumping to conclusions and just condemning them out of hand when you should be going out of your way to say Thank You !

Without them and what they have done, you probably wouldn't be on this message board posting your opinions!

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2011 6:15 am 
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My husband has been a Son of the American Legion for many years. We have supported them completely. There is much more involved that I can say here. AND no I am not jumping to conclusions I know all the details. In addition there are other veterans organizations that we have supported and will continue to support.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2011 6:35 am 
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I hope the American Legion has some ideas on how to reduce some waste and provide a system that better cares for its patients. I've personally seen VA hospitals make decisions that are irresponsible to patient care and financial awareness. I won't say the system is broken, but it certainly is not firing on all cylinders. The American Legion has the right to support or oppose whatever they want, but some input on improving the system would be great.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2011 6:52 am 
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Yes, the Legion can support who they want. I guess if I had served I wouldn't be happy with my Legion using a contractor that has not served nor will never serve due to religious beliefs. I have a problem with a contractor that is willing to make a days wages off the people that have fought for their freedom and they themselves will not and have not. I have a problem with the Legion knowing this and doing business with someone not willing to fly the American Flag!

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2011 2:57 pm 
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Quote:
I hope the American Legion has some ideas on how to reduce some waste and provide a system that better cares for its patients. I've personally seen VA hospitals make decisions that are irresponsible to patient care and financial awareness. I won't say the system is broken, but it certainly is not firing on all cylinders.


neup99, I think you need to check your facts. The American Legion does not and has never operated a hospital.

That is the Veterans Administration which is operated by the gov. out in Washington. The Legion is constantly pushing on them to improve the healthcare for Veterans and make it more accessable. If you have a problem with patient care I would suggest you contact the VA. The American Legion is already aware of what it happening and is fighting for improvements in the system. Unfortunatly trying to get the VA to move is like moving the mountain.

As a 20 plus year member of the American Legion and a local post officer I can assure you that the Legion is doing all it can to deal with the problem.

If you want an example of what the American Legion does for injured veterans check out Camp American Legion in the Lake Tomahawk area.

Camp American Legion
http://wilegion.org/programs/veterans_a ... an_legion/

Please don't blame the American Legion for things that the fools in Washington screw up.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2011 9:41 pm 
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Old Scout wrote:
Quote:
I hope the American Legion has some ideas on how to reduce some waste and provide a system that better cares for its patients. I've personally seen VA hospitals make decisions that are irresponsible to patient care and financial awareness. I won't say the system is broken, but it certainly is not firing on all cylinders.


neup99, I think you need to check your facts. The American Legion does not and has never operated a hospital.

That is the Veterans Administration which is operated by the gov. out in Washington. The Legion is constantly pushing on them to improve the healthcare for Veterans and make it more accessable. If you have a problem with patient care I would suggest you contact the VA. The American Legion is already aware of what it happening and is fighting for improvements in the system. Unfortunatly trying to get the VA to move is like moving the mountain.

As a 20 plus year member of the American Legion and a local post officer I can assure you that the Legion is doing all it can to deal with the problem.

If you want an example of what the American Legion does for injured veterans check out Camp American Legion in the Lake Tomahawk area.

Camp American Legion
http://wilegion.org/programs/veterans_a ... an_legion/

Please don't blame the American Legion for things that the fools in Washington screw up.


I do realize that the organizations are separate and am not blaming the American Legion for anything. However, as you have also implied, the VA system needs work and I hope that the Legion can provide some sort of insight into what should be done to better serve our veterans as, in my opinion, the current system is not working properly. The problems of VA hospitals and Medicare are prime examples of why I oppose national health care programs in that they fail to be fiscally efficient. Neither our government nor our people have money to blow on broken systems. I don't think the Legion is responsible for current failures; however, they are in a position to offer counsel. If you say they are trying to help, then great. Whether or not the federal government listens is the fed's problem.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2011 9:57 pm 
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Deb Richardson wrote:
I guess if I had served


Deb Richardson wrote:
a contractor that has not served nor will never serve


I guess if you had served, you'd have a legitimate complaint.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:45 pm 
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Quote:
a contractor that has not served nor will never serve due to religious beliefs.


To me that sounds a bit bigoted when you hold that against a person for not serving in the military. I believe that is one of the things that this country stands for is “Freedom of Religion”. There are several Religions that feel that killing is a sin in any form or for any reason. While you may not agree with them they have as much right to their beliefs as you do.

We had cowards that ran to Canada during Vietnam simply because they didn't want to get drafted and have to serve, not because of religious reasons and if that was the case I would have to agree with you.

But from what you wrote I am afraid I have lost all respect for you and your bigoted opinions.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 29, 2011 5:20 am 
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I am far from bigoted Old Scout. It's a matter of principle. I have no problems with religious beliefs. I have a problem with those that hide behind that as reason not to serve their country. Which is exactly the reason in this case. It has nothing to do with strong religious convictions. Like I said there is a lot more to this situation than meets the eye. I have a problem with someone wearing an American Flag pin on their label to come across as someone they aren't and later discarding that pin in the trash. I also have a problem with this same same someone not being a registered voter or ever being one. I have a problem with contractors bringing labor into this country illegally, paying cash to these workers and passing them off as American citizens. I feel the American Legion should further support those that have served by hiring contractors that employ those that have and pay taxes.
.
Further more Old Scout not everyone can serve or could serve for physical reasons. So before you judge maybe you should know a few more facts, which I won't go into as it really isn't the business of anyone else.

I see I've touched a nerve. Considering what you pulled out of context from a previous post you seem to think that since I haven't served I'm not entitled to an opinion regarding anything involving the Legion or anything American for that matter. For that reason I'm not sorry. Maybe I seem a little touchy here and I have good reason to be. I should have just not commented, for that I'm sorry.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 29, 2011 5:19 pm 
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I am a veteran from the Vietnam Era but have never joined a veteran's group because of their refusal to welcome everyone. Instead some continue to endorse political candidates.

As to the appointment, we don't need anymore things controlled by the governor. Sadly, Doyle did not sign the bill giving up appointing the DNR Secretary (nor would any Republican governor).

As for the contractor hiring, committees are obligated to get the best deal for the organization and I don't read anything into that one.

The big hospital out east that made the national news a few years back was an Army Hospital. The Army, Navy, etc. run their own facilities and the Veterans' Administration is again a separate agency and operation. The VA facilities have improved service considerable the last several years. I have used those in Tomah, Wausau, etc. over the last few years.

If one really wants to save taxpayer money, stop the wars, or get used to paying for medical care for the survivors for the next 60 years of their lives.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 29, 2011 9:28 pm 
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Quote:
Deb Richardson wrote:
I guess if I had served

Quote:
neup99 wrote:
I guess if you had served, you'd have a legitimate complaint.

Please give credit where credit is due !


Quote:
Deb Richardson wrote:
Further more Old Scout not everyone can serve or could serve for physical reasons.


And what has that go to do with the fact that you are belittling someone's religious beliefs ? I know of several people who could not serve and that is not their fault I have no problem with it, so why bring it up when it has nothing to do with the previous post.


Nimble, just to set the record straight, The American Legion is a nonpartisan organization and does not formally support any political candidates. It is up to the individual members to support and vote for the candidate of their choice. Perhaps you should check out the Legion and see what we can do for you as a Veteran.

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PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2011 9:24 pm 
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Here is some information I received to Rep. Tom Tiffany in regards to the pending legislation. It was written by Rep. Kevin Peterson who co-sponsored the bill. It offers a different point of view.

Petersen's E-Press

Testimony in Support of Assembly Bill 96

In the April 8th issue of Petersen’s E-Press, I discussed a bill I introduced for co-sponsorship which would bring accountability to the Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs.

After a bill is introduced for co-sponsorship, it’s given a public hearing when proponents and opponents can officially testify either for or against the proposal. Following is my testimony in its entirety.

Although the testimony is longer than my usual Petersen’s E-Press, it lays out the background and reasoning for the importance of Assembly Bill 96.

Chairman Spanbauer and honorable members of the Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs;

Thank you for holding a hearing today on Assembly Bill 96 – relating to the composition of the board of Veterans Affairs, the appointment of the secretary of Veterans Affairs, and promulgating rules for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

As defined by the Legislative Reference Bureau; “The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs operates the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King, located in Waupaca County, and the Wisconsin Veterans Home at Union Grove, located in Racine County, and provides grants, loans, and a variety of other services to eligible Wisconsin veterans and their families.”

It’s been argued that by having the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs secretary appointed by the WDVA board to serve at its pleasure, removes partisan politics out of the position. In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. Not only are our veterans’ best interests swept aside for political capitol, but a culture of no accountability and petty finger pointing has ensued.

Under current law, the Board of Veterans Affairs is composed of seven members appointed by the governor for six-year terms. The secretary of Veterans Affairs is then appointed by the Board of Veterans Affairs to serve at the pleasure of the board. Not only does the board appoint the secretary, but he is accountable to no one but the board. Not the governor. Not Wisconsin taxpayers. And ironically, the secretary is not even accountable to the very group he represents. Wisconsin veterans!

On December 10, 2009, former Wisconsin Veterans Affairs department secretary John Scocos filed a lawsuit against the State of Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs, as well as the members of the board as of November 24, 2009 - the date Mr. Scocos was fired. Members included Marvin Freedman, Marcia Anderson, David Boetcher, Jacqueline Guthrie, Rodney Moen, Peter Moran, and Daniel Naylor.

It’s no secret that the board members who voted to fire the former secretary were appointed by Governor Doyle. Nor is it a secret that Secretary Scocos was appointed by Governor Thompson. Numerous newspaper articles and press releases by veterans groups throughout the state have continually discussed the obvious partisanship involved with the secretary’s firing.

Not only were articles confined to Wisconsin. USA Today ran a national article in January 2010 stating: “The state Department of Veterans Affairs board was in frequent contact with (the) governor’s office leading up to a meeting in which then Secretary Scocos was fired.”

On November 19, 2009, mere days before Secretary Scocos’ firing, Jimmy Stewart (WDVA legal counsel) wrote an e-mail to board member Marcia Andersen. Stewart advised: “This may help explain why the Governor’s office was cautioning you to ensure appropriate public exposure to the actual removal vote: your own rules have that requirement. …. I don’t think we have lost any momentum and in fact it will allow the Board to demonstrate exactly what the Governor’s office was requesting, namely that there are a lot of reasons for doing this.”


Unfortunately, our current system provides no checks and balances. With the exception of either an act of misfeasance or malfeasance, board members are secure in their positions for their entire six year term. Not the governor, nor Wisconsin taxpayers, nor even the veterans community can unseat a member of the WDVA board or the secretary appointed by the board.


In January 2003, when former Governor Doyle took his oath of office, the Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs board was comprised entirely of appointees from former Governor Thompson. Their appointed secretary was John Scocos. From the moment Mr. Doyle took office, he barred Mr. Scocos from attending cabinet meetings.

During Governor Doyle’s 8 year term, the entire board became comprised of his own appointees. Once completely appointed by Mr. Doyle, the board fired then Secretary Scocos and appointed Secretary Kenneth Black.

Once Governor Walker took office, Secretary Black never attended a Walker administration cabinet meeting. Because of partisan politics the Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs secretary has had very little influence in the governor’s cabinet meetings in the last 8 years.

Beyond the lawsuit filed against the State of Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs and the members of the board, three complaints have also been filed with the Department of Workforce Development Equal Rights division.


Randall Nitchske was fired from his commandant position at the Union Grove Veterans Home. Mr. Nitchske filed his complaint alleging he was fired because former Secretary Kenneth Black wished to rid the department of “old white guys.”


Gary Wistrom was also fired by the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. Mr. Wistrom’s complaint alleges discrimination based on his age, race, sex, disability. Furthermore, he alleges on his complaint that he was forced into retirement because of his support of Mr. Nitchske.


Lastly, Colonel Tim Donovan was passed up for a communications position. His discrimination complaint filed with the Equal Rights Division of the Department of Workforce Development claims he was passed over because of his age and race.


Eventually, these complaints and lawsuits will be settled. Their costs will be picked up by Wisconsin taxpayers via insurance liability rates paid for by the state. Even worse, the mismanagement of leadership positions in the WDVA has already led to negative effects on veterans programs.


An 86 page report released by the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau dated February 2011 specifically highlights: “Ambiguity in certain DVA policies and inadequate oversight have led to significant financial and program management issues at the veterans homes, including spending that has exceeded revenues in four of the past five fiscal years.”


Under my bill the secretary would be appointed by the governor. A secretary appointed by the governor answers to the governor – who in turn answers to Wisconsin’s veterans and voters.


Prior to the selection, in order to give veterans more input on the appointment, the governor would have to personally consult with the presiding officers of at least six Wisconsin veterans’ organizations.


Additionally, the bill specifies that the secretary appointment must go through senate approval, thereby giving the veterans community another opportunity for scrutiny via interaction with their district senator.

Under current law, the Board of Veterans Affairs is composed of seven members. Each member is appointed by the governor for a six year term without regard to where the member lives within the state.

In a January 13, 2010 press release, Bob Lewis, chairman of the United Auto Workers of Wisconsin State Veterans said: “It is sad Governor Jim Doyle has chosen to insert politics into the realm that is supposed to be non-partisan. As a result, UAW Wisconsin State Veterans further ask that the legislature pass a bill into law to force the Board to be geographically representative of veterans statewide.”

In referencing members from Dane county he further stated: “It is unfortunate that Governor Doyle has proven he thinks otherwise by suspiciously appointing four of seven spots on the Board with people from the same county.”

My proposal will increase the number of board members to nine, with each member serving a three year term. To ensure geographical diversity, the board would be comprised of at least one member from each of Wisconsin’s congressional districts. This bill also stipulates all board members must be veterans who served on active duty.

Both active duty and veteran definitions are specifically addressed in the bill by referring to state statue 45.01(12) (a) to (d).

Finally, the secretary of veterans’ affairs promulgates, with the approval of the board, the rules for administering the Department of Veterans Affairs. Under the bill, the secretary must consult with the Board of Veterans Affairs before promulgating these rules, but approval by the board is not required.

While considering this important piece of legislation, AB 96, keep in mind that there are presently almost 420,000 veterans currently living in Wisconsin. Approximately 100,000 belong to one of the several veterans organizations active in the state. Therefore, a majority of Wisconsin’s veterans – indeed over ¾ of their population - is not being represented by any service organization at all.

We must now realize the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs and the current method of appointing the secretary by the board is broken. The Veterans Trust Fund is threatened with insolvency. Wisconsin’s Veterans Homes have the lowest occupancy recorded in approximately the last decade. Because of lack of accountability, Wisconsin veterans programs are in a state of decline, which ultimately affects every veteran in the state.

This great country we live in has been defended by the men and women who served in the United States military – our veterans. In passing Assembly Bill 96, we pay due diligence into accountability and stability of the programs protecting Wisconsin’s heroes.

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PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2011 7:21 pm 
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Old Scout wrote:
Please give credit where credit is due !


?

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PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2011 8:35 pm 
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Deb Richardson wrote:
I guess if I had served

neup99 Wrote:
I guess if you had served, you'd have a legitimate complaint.

Deb Richardson wrote: I see I've touched a nerve. Considering what you pulled out of context from a previous post you seem to think that since I haven't served I'm not entitled to an opinion regarding anything involving the Legion or anything American for that matter.

Just wanted to make sure the Deb understood that you posted that and not me as she is infering in the reply to my posting !

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PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2011 8:59 pm 
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Hmmm, such a deal!

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PostPosted: Thu May 05, 2011 8:23 am 
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Old Scout wrote:
Deb Richardson wrote:
I guess if I had served

neup99 Wrote:
I guess if you had served, you'd have a legitimate complaint.

Deb Richardson wrote: I see I've touched a nerve. Considering what you pulled out of context from a previous post you seem to think that since I haven't served I'm not entitled to an opinion regarding anything involving the Legion or anything American for that matter.

Just wanted to make sure the Deb understood that you posted that and not me as she is infering in the reply to my posting !


Ok, just wanted to double check what you meant. Yeah, there was definitely a little crossfire.

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Military vets face some hardships once they get out of the service, one of the greatest being just attempting to land a job. Unemployment is higher than normal for veterans, but the great news is that numerous employers are employing vets. And personally, I think this is cool. I applaud the President on this idea and I do think that all small businesses should take advantage of this policy and reap the rewards of the tax breaks.


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