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Post office to be named for soldier slain in Iraq

A Mountain View post office will be named Saturday in honor of a local soldier who was killed in Iraq.

Kenneth BallardRep. Anna Eshoo, who authored the bill to dedicate the post office in honor of U.S. Army Lt. Kenneth Ballard, will attend the 1 p.m. ceremony at which a memorial plaque will be unveiled at the post office at 211 Hope St. Ballard’s mother also will attend.

Ballard, 26, died in Najaf, Iraq on May 30, 2004 when a M-240 machine gun mounted on his vehicle accidentally fired. The Army initially had reported Ballard was killed by small arms fire during a battle with insurgents, and didn’t inform his family of the truth until more than a year later.

Ballard had served in the Army for almost nine years, and was awarded the Purple Heart and three Bronze Stars, two with Valor Device. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Lieutenant Ballard demonstrated great courage and heroism throughout his military career,” Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said in a news release announcing her bill last year. “He made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and he should be remembered and honored by our community.”

Born in Rome, N.Y., Ballard and his family moved to Mountain View in 1981. After graduating from Mountain View High School in 1995, he enlisted in the Army and attended basic training at Fort Knox, Ky. He went on to serve in Germany, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Iraq. He won a “Gold to Green” Army ROTC Scholarship and attended Middle Tennessee State University, but after graduation returned to Germany and was then deployed to Iraq.

Posted on Friday, April 12th, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, Iraq, Iraq War, U.S. House, veterans | No Comments »

Brown signs veterans’ bills, jabs at Senate GOP

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a slew of bills today – including two from Bay Area lawmakers – to improve services and opportunities for California’s veterans, and he used the occasion to take a swipe at U.S. Senate Republicans.

“Yesterday, a bill to invest in job training for veterans was blocked because of Washington political infighting,” Brown said in his news release. “Here in California, Republicans and Democrats joined together to support our veterans. These bills respect the honor and dignity of those who serve.”

Senate Republicans blocked a bill Wednesday that would have created a $1 billion jobs program putting veterans to work tending the country’s federal lands and bolstering local police and fire departments. Republicans said the spending authorized in the bill violated limits that Congress agreed to last year.

California Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Peter Gravett, in Brown’s release, said “veterans issues should never be partisan.” Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, the California National Guard’s adjutant general, said the new state laws “demonstrate that California is fulfilling its obligation to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much.”

Among the bills Brown signed into law was AB 2478 by Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Hayward, which expands the current exemption given to veterans from paying non-resident tuition at California Community Colleges by one year.

More specifically, it lets veterans who were discharged from a military installation in California additional time (up to two years) to establish residency if they need to briefly return to their home state prior to attending community college. The California Community College Chancellor’s Office has said some veterans don’t start the residency process immediately after discharge for various reasons, including rehabilitation from injuries.

The Assembly in May approved AB 2478 on a 75-0 vote; in August, the state Senate approved it 37-0 and the Assembly gave it an 80-0 concurrence vote.

Brown also signed AB 1550 by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, which increases the fees required to issue, renew, and personalize specialized veterans’ license plates to fund veterans’ organizations.

Specifically, it raises the fee for initial plate issuance from $30 to $50; the annual renewal fee from $30 to $40; and the plate personalization fee from $40 to $78, with all of the money directed to County Veterans Service Officers – agencies that assist veterans and their families in obtaining benefits and services accrued through military service.

The Assembly in May approved AB 1550 on a 71-3 vote; in August, the state Senate approved it 37-0 and the Assembly gave it a 72-1 concurrence vote.

For a list of other veterans’s bills Brown signed into law today, follow us after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, September 20th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Jerry Brown, Mary Hayashi, Susan Bonilla, veterans | No Comments »

Bay Area gets $7.4 mil to hire veterans as cops

The U.S. Justice Department today announced more than $111 million in Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant funding awards to more than 220 cities and counties to create or save about 800 law enforcement positions. All of the 600-plus new positions must be filled by veterans who served at least 180 days since Sept. 11, 2001.

In the greater Bay Area, Alameda County got $1,875,000 for 15 positions; Antioch got $1,502,680 for five positions; Hayward got $3,602,644 for nine positions; and Santa Cruz got $375,000 for three positions.

Vice President Joe Biden, on a conference call with reporters today, said the administration believes veterans who had to “fight like hell” overseas shouldn’t have to fight quite so hard to find jobs here at home.

The COPS Hiring Program makes grants to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to hire or rehire community policing officers, providing the salary and benefits for officer and deputy hires for three years. President Obama announced in February that preference for this year’s COPS and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants would be given to communities that recruit and hire post-9/11 veterans to serve as police officers and firefighters.

Along with the pledge to hire military veterans, grantees for the COPS 2012 Hiring Program were selected based on fiscal need and local crime rates. Also factored in was each agency’s strategy to address specific problems such as increased homicide rates and gun violence.

Posted on Monday, June 25th, 2012
Under: Obama presidency, Public safety, veterans | No Comments »

McNerney grills VA on Oakland office’s backlog

Rep. Jerry McNerney asked the Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday why Northern California veterans are getting the short end of the stick.

At a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, McNerney, D-Pleasanton, sought answers about a backlog of veterans’ benefits claims at the VA’s Oakland regional office, which serves all of Northern California. He and other California House members also have written today to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki about the VA’s recent decision to deny added support for that office.

“I’ve heard from too many veterans in our region about the enormous and frustrating delays in processing their benefits claims,” McNerney said in a news release this morning. “The VA has a responsibility to help our veterans in a timely and efficient manner. As it stands, the delays are unacceptable.”

At the hearing, McNerney demanded to know why the Oakland office’s performance is so poor and what the VA intends to do about it; the VA couldn’t provide a concrete plan beyond retraining all of the Oakland claims representatives this June.

McNerney notes that although California is home to the most veterans in the nation and the Oakland regional office is among the worst in the VA system at processing claims, the VA excluded the Oakland office from plans for a system that would help reduce the number of claims. The VA is implementing this plan in 12 other offices across the country.

“We have a responsibility to the men and women who have sacrificed so much to protect our country and way of life to provide benefits to them when they return home,” McNerney said. “The delays at the Oakland VA office must be addressed, and I call on the Obama administration to take steps to rectify the problem,” said Rep. McNerney.

McNerney is the only Bay Area member on the Veterans Affairs Committee, but other than House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the entire Bay Area delegation joined him in signing today’s letter to Shinseki. Follow after the jump for that letter’s full text…
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Posted on Thursday, April 19th, 2012
Under: Jerry McNerney, U.S. House, veterans | 5 Comments »

Four Cabinet members in Bay Area this week

Wow, it’s Cabinet week in the Bay Area.

I just covered U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (accompanied by Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt) talking about FAA, surface transportation and job creation bills out at the Oakland International Airport control tower construction site.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson will be in the Bay Area for two days this week meeting with local businesses and organizations to highlight job creation and green technology. On Wednesday afternoon, she’ll be touring Recycle Central, Recology’s recycling station at San Francisco’s Pier 96.

On Friday, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki will join Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and Mike Honda, D-San Jose, to break ground at the new Defenders Lodge, a facility for veterans seeking treatment at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System that will have 53 beds in a two-story, 28,000-square-foot building.

And also Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be keynoting Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s Women and the Economy Summit at the Westin St. Francis hotel on San Francisco’s Union Square, speaking about how “Some Leaders Are Born Women.” I’ll be covering that one.

UPDATE @ 11:30 A.M. WEDNESDAY: AND… U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will be speaking at 9 a.m. next Monday, Sept. 19 at the Commonwealth Club of California, on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco; tickets cost $20 but are free for club members or $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online. Salazar “will share his views on fresh water, fishing and farming, along with other resource concerns in California and the American West,” the club says. “With projected changes in the Sierra snowpack and precipitation patterns, as well as an ever-increasing population, California’s water system remains in crisis, and the state’s ability to hydrate its citizens and its economy faces an uncertain future. Salazar will discuss how the federal government plans to help California secure future water supplies by aiding ambitious projects, including the restorations of the California Bay Delta and the San Joaquin River, while maintaining a balance between human needs and healthy ecosystems.”

UPDATE @ 1 P.M. WEDNESDAY: After his Monday morning address at the Commonwealth Club, Salazar will join Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor at the Contra Costa Water District’s fish screen project dedication ceremony at the Rock Slough project site, about four miles southeast of Oakley. Completed through a partnership between Reclamation and the Contra Costa Water District, the project – funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – advances the Interim Federal Action Plan for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta by helping to keep Delta fish from entering the Contra Costa Canal through the Rock Slough intake.

Posted on Tuesday, September 13th, 2011
Under: Anna Eshoo, Environment, Mike Honda, Obama presidency, Transportation, U.S. House, veterans | No Comments »

Bay Area gets grants to aid homeless veterans

More than $3.4 million in federal Housing and Urban Development and VA grants are going to several Bay Area public housing authorities to supply permanent housing and case management for homeless veterans, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced today.

Veterans taking part in the Housing and Urban Development’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program (HUD-VASH) program rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. VA offers eligible homeless veterans clinical and supportive services – including physical and mental health, substance abuse recovery and other aid – through its medical centers in San Francisco, Martinez, Palo Alto, Sacramento and Fresno.

The Oakland Housing Authority will get 50 vouchers for $498,696; the San Francisco Housing Authority will get 25 housing vouchers for $349,218; the San Mateo County Housing Authority will get 50 vouchers for $668,580; the Santa Clara County Housing Authority will get 100 vouchers for $1,159,500; the Pittsburg Housing Authority will get 25 vouchers for $238,881; the Santa Cruz County Housing Authority will get 25 vouchers for $280,395; and the Santa Rosa Housing Authority will get 25 vouchers for $206,565. Other grants totaling almost $656,000 went to Fresno, Monterey, Sacramento and Humboldt County.

“This initiative will strengthen our ongoing efforts to eliminate veteran homelessness by 2015 and improve quality of life for veterans,” Shinseki said in a news release. “Working with our partners at HUD and in Congress, we continue to make good progress to reduce Veteran homelessness, though much work remains. VA is committed to providing Veterans and their families with access to affordable housing and medical services that will help them get back on their feet.”

Posted on Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
Under: housing, veterans | No Comments »

Meet the East Bay’s veterans of the year

Each of the East Bay’s Assembly members named a Veteran of the Year this week, to be recognized at the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee’s annual luncheon today in Sacramento.

Read all about these inspirational vets, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Joan Buchanan, Mary Hayashi, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson, Susan Bonilla, veterans | No Comments »

Money for veteran event may be restored

McNerney

McNerney

A successful amendment passed today to a House defense authorization bill would restore federal dollars for East Bay Stand Down, an annual event in Pleasanton that provides aide to homeless military veterans.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, authored the amendment.

Under the original version of the National Defense Authorization Act, according to McNerney’s office, funding was cut for innovative readiness training, the program that allowed military reservists to participate in East Bay Stand Down.

McNerney also authored a second successful amendment that requires coordinated credit counseling for active members of the military and their families.

Read on for McNerney’s full press release.

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Posted on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
Under: veterans | 1 Comment »

Today’s Congressional odds and ends

Jerry McNerneyMcNerney seeks jobs for vets: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, today announced he’s among the co-authors of the bipartisan Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, aimed at helping reduce unemployment among veterans. Among other provisions, H.R. 1941 aims to ensure every veteran takes part in the Transition Assistance Program – which provides information about transitioning from military service to civilian life to armed forces members within 180 days of their separation or retirement – and that the program delivers individualized assistance to each returning veteran. The bill also encourages federal agencies to hire veterans; provides additional Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits to qualifying veterans with service-connected disabilities; creates a competitive grant program for nonprofits that help veterans find employment through job training and mentorship initiatives; and requires the Department of Labor, the Department of Defense, and the VA to work to reduce and eliminate barriers between military training and civilian licensing requirements for specialized work. “Taking aggressive steps to help returning veterans find good jobs is the right thing to do and will benefit the economy,” McNerney said in a news release. “Employers and veterans alike will benefit from the Hiring Heroes Act, and I look forward to working with a bipartisan group of my colleagues to move this bill forward.” The bill was introduced yesterday by Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., and the other co-sponsors are Bob Filner, D-San Diego; C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla.; and Norm Dicks, D-Wash. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate earlier this year.

John GaramendiGaramendi again urges Afghanistan withdrawal: Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, brought his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, calling for a substantial drawdown in U.S. forces in Afghanistan by 2013, to the House Rules Committee today. He’d brought a similar amendment last week to the Armed Services Committee, of which he’s a member; the bill without his amendment was approved in a 60-1 vote with Garamendi the sole dissenter, saying he couldn’t in good conscience vote for a bill that extends the counterinsurgency strategy and needlessly puts servicemembers’ lives at risk. He instead advocates pulling most troops out and shifting the remaining ones away from nation building and toward tightly focused counterterrorism efforts.

Pete StarkStark pushes missing-kids bill: Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, will host a news conference tomorrow – which is National Missing Children’s Day – to introduce the Recovering Missing Children Act. His office says the bill would ensure that state and local law enforcement have access to the resources they need to bring missing children home safely. The U.S. Treasury Department studied 1,700 parental abductions and found that in over one third of the cases, tax returns were filed using the missing child’s Social Security number; hundreds of those tax returns had a new address for the child and the abductor, but law enforcement officers weren’t allowed access to this information. The Recovering Missing Children Act would allow such access. Expected to join Stark for the bill’s introduction are U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn.; Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn.; Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio; National Center for Missing and Exploited Children President Ernie Allen; and Association of Missing and Exploited Children’s Organizations National Coordinator Wendy Jolley-Kabi.

Posted on Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
Under: Afghanistan, economy, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Pete Stark, U.S. House, veterans | 2 Comments »

McNerney pushes VA on Livermore, San Joaquin

Rep. Jerry McNerney says he went to bat for a couple of 11th Congressional District projects as well as veterans across the nation in his one-on-one meeting today with U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

McNerney and Shinseki 2-9-2011McNerney, D-Pleasanton – who had announced yesterday that he’ll be the ranking Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs – said he again urged the secretary to revisit decisions made by his predecessors to close the Livermore VA facility and to instead develop a plan that would keep it in veterans’ hands.

“The Livermore VA is a uniquely situated facility that is an important resource for the thousands of veterans who live in the area,” McNerney said in a news release. “Given its tranquil setting, I’ve long advocated for the facility to remain in veterans’ hands and be used to provide treatment for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. With an increasing number of veterans suffering from PTSD, this type of care is more important than ever.”

He said they also discussed the new veterans’ nursing home and outpatient medical facility planned for San Joaquin County.

“Just the other week, local veterans attended my most recent Congress at Your Corner event in Stockton to ask for an update on the VA’s decision on where to locate the new medical facility,” McNerney said. “At today’s meeting with the secretary I expressed again the importance of reaching a decision. This facility will create about 900 jobs and serve thousands of veterans in the area and it’s very important to our community that a final location is selected without delay.”

And McNerney said he and Shinseki discussed the VA’s backlog of benefits claims waiting to be processed – a figure the VA puts at about 400,000, but advocacy groups such as the American Legion say could be closer to 1 million – as well as the need to improve care for veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

Posted on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
Under: Jerry McNerney, U.S. House, veterans | 8 Comments »