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Expansion of veteran caregiver program delayed until at least next summer

Families of veterans who served before the recent wars won’t be added to the Veterans Affairs caregivers program until summer 2020 at the earliest, department officials announced Wednesday. The delay had been expected for months, as VA officials struggled to get new technology and processes in place to handle an influx of new applicants to…

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Expansion of veteran caregiver program delayed until at least next summer

Families of veterans who served before the recent wars won’t be added to the Veterans Affairs caregivers program until summer 2020 at the earliest, department officials announced Wednesday.

The delay had been expected for months, as VA officials struggled to get new technology and processes in place to handle an influx of new applicants to the program. Currently, only families of troops injured after Sept. 11, 2001, are eligible for program stipends, which can total several thousand dollars a month.

Under the VA Mission Act passed last year, veterans who sustained a serious military-related injury before May 7, 1975, were supposed to be able to enroll starting this fall. Now, they’ll have to wait at least June, 2020 for entry, if not longer.

That’s because department officials still must certify their information technology systems are ready for use before the new families can be added to the program. VA officials said they hope to begin integrating a new “off the shelf” management system next month, with work scheduled through the winter in spring with hopes of completion by next summer.

“VA will perform testing and verify that the system has full functionality before expanding the program as required under the MISSION Act,” the department said in a statement.

The timeline shift also pushes back eligibility for families of veterans who served from 1975 to 2001, from fall 2021 to fall 2022 at the earliest. Lawmakers have included a phased application period for different generations of service members to ease pressure on VA systems.

In a statement, officials from the Elizabeth Dole Foundation called the delay concerning.

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“We must provide our pre-9/11 caregivers the benefits and support they deserve,” said Steve Schwab, CEO of the foundation. “We plan to hold the VA accountable as they target this new deadline. Pre-9/11 caregivers have been waiting long enough for the benefits they need.”

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a statement did not address past frustration about the slow pace of work but said the department is “strengthening and expanding our program to positively impact the lives of veterans and deliver the best customer experience.”

About 20,000 veterans were participating in the VA program at the start of this summer. Officials have estimated the expansion could grant monthly stipends to more than 41,000 new veteran families in coming years.

Since the start of the year, VA officials have hired more than 680 staffers to work with the caregiver program and amended a host of operating procedures to simplify and reform the existing program.

The delay is the latest in a series of difficulties with the caregiver program for VA. Last year, Wilkie ordered a halt to all discharges from the program after families complained they were being forced out by administrators who mistakenly determined that veterans’ injuries had improved or healed completely.

VA officials said since then they have held multiple listening sessions with caregivers and veterans groups on ways to improve the system. Outside advocates have offered mixed reviews of that work.

More information on the program is available on the VA web site, or through the VA Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274.

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US-developed hypersonic missile hit within 6 inches of target, says Army secretary

WASHINGTON — U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy reported in his speech at the Association of the U.S. Army conference that the Pentagon’s hypersonic missile hit within 6 inches of its target. “Hypersonic missiles are hitting their targets with a variance of only a mere 6 inches,” he said during his speech at the virtual opening…

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US-developed hypersonic missile hit within 6 inches of target, says Army secretary

WASHINGTON — U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy reported in his speech at the Association of the U.S. Army conference that the Pentagon’s hypersonic missile hit within 6 inches of its target. “Hypersonic missiles are hitting their targets with a variance of only a mere 6 inches,” he said during his speech at the virtual opening ceremony Oct. 13. The Common-Hypersonic Glide Body, or C-HGB, launched and flew at hypersonic speed to “a designated impact point,” according to a statement issued the day of the test. Hypersonic weapons are capable of flying faster than Mach 5 — much faster than the speed of sound — and can maneuver between varying altitudes and azimuths, making it harder to detect. The C-HGB — made up of the weapon’s warhead, guidance system, cabling and thermal protection shield — will serve as the base of the Pentagon’s offensive hypersonic missile. Each of the services are developing appropriate launching systems. The Army is gearing up for another flight test in the third quarter of fiscal 2021 followed by a second flight test in the first quarter of fiscal 2022, Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood told Defense News in an interview ahead of the AUSA conference. Then there will be two more flight tests in the third quarter of FY22, Thurgood added. “So we’ll start the sequence now where we really accelerate our flight testing,” he said. The Army plans to deliver a hypersonic missile and launcher to a unit in the fourth quarter of FY21. Both China and Russia are actively developing and testing their respective hypersonic missile capabilities.

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Army engineers use 1950s breaching tech; robots might solve the problem

Soldiers tasked with breaching a minefield or similar obstacle now rely on state of the art equipment and techniques — from the 1950s. The Army aims to get those humans out of one of the most dangerous battlefield scenarios through a combination of better ways to neutralize mines or obstacles, better detection of said mines…

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Army engineers use 1950s breaching tech; robots might solve the problem

Soldiers tasked with breaching a minefield or similar obstacle now rely on state of the art equipment and techniques — from the 1950s. The Army aims to get those humans out of one of the most dangerous battlefield scenarios through a combination of better ways to neutralize mines or obstacles, better detection of said mines or obstacles, and robots to do the job. Early versions of this are underway in some testing scenarios but likely won’t hit deploying units until 2028. And a full-fledged solution isn’t expected until 2035, according to a panel at this year’s Association of the U.S. Army conference. Army engineers, along with technology centers for ammunition, night vision and sensors, are tackling this thorny problem. The 2028 timeline would add semi-autonomous machines to the kit, while also improving detection, neutralization, fire control and munitions for engineers encountering these complex problems. The 2035 solution would combine air and ground autonomous platforms to essentially do the job for soldiers. And this planning isn’t for a one-off, rare occurrence. Sign up for the Army Times Daily News Roundup Don’t miss the top Army stories, delivered each afternoon (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Subscribe × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Army Times Daily News Roundup. “The more you distribute a force in our multi-domain operations concepts, the more likely you are to have to do breach missions as adversaries respond to this construct,” said Maj. Gen. David Hill, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Command. Get all the news from the 2020 AUSA annual meeting. That’s because as units disperse, adversaries will want to rapidly deploy minefields or other such obstacles to isolate and channel the attackers, such as a battalion or even brigade formation on the move. Running into a minefield creates a choke point while also stalling the advance. That creates time for targeting and precision long range fires to take effect. A “Terrier” armored digger from the United Kingdom’s 22nd Engineer Regiment, 8th Engineer Brigade, maneuvers during a Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration with the U.S. military at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, in April 2018. (Spc. Hubert D. Delany III/Army) Earlier this year, the Army ran a platoon-size robotic wingman breach, remotely controlling a vehicle from cover at a distance. Army researchers used upgraded Bradleys, dubbed Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrators, or MET-Ds. Those upgrades include a remote turret for the 25mm main gun, 360-degree awareness cameras and enhanced crew stations with touchscreens Right now, human soldiers in infantry units employ a Bangalore torpedo, a handheld, tube-section charge that allows them to snake an explosive, one section at a time, through an obstacle to blow it and create a path. The automated, longer range options are essentially mechanized versions of this that have been around since the 1970s. Soldiers launch a string of explosives through the air that lands on the obstacle and is denotated quite close, as much as 100 yards, from the impediment. This just won’t do in an area of ever-present drone coverage and precision fire on all sides. Once blown through, a human engineer team marks the obstacle with signs and flags so the next unit can find its way through the treacherous territory. But in recent years, more attention has been given to the development of smart mines that can move themselves around the battlefield and reconfigure. If an adversary has this technology, it would render lane marking useless. In fact, the markings could make the situation even more dangerous by giving a false sense of security to oncoming friendly forces. The Army’s efforts to address all these battlefield problems also apply to other methods of maneuver and threats, such as asymmetric improvised explosive devices in common use for the past two decades. Breaching and route clearance also mimic wet gap crossing, Brig. Gen. Mark Quander noted. “In both cases we’ve got to try and figure out, ‘How do we sense and detect where the obstacle’s at?’” Quander said. That means better sensors and better ways of getting that data to the right place at the right time. That means better aided target recognition and machine learning, said Michael Grove, principal deputy for technology and countermine night vision and electronic sensors at the Army’s Communications-Electronics, Research and Engineering Center. Adding artificial intelligence into the mix will help find the obstacles when, or before, they’re reached, giving commanders more options on how to avoid or handle them.

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Soldier’s badass Van Halen tribute goes viral

There’s no better way to honor a fallen guitarist than to shred. After the death of legendary rocker Eddie Van Halen, who at 65 lost a battle with cancer on Oct. 6, Army Staff Sgt. Austin West took to the web to share a live tribute in honor of the late musician on Facebook. “I…

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Soldier’s badass Van Halen tribute goes viral

There’s no better way to honor a fallen guitarist than to shred. After the death of legendary rocker Eddie Van Halen, who at 65 lost a battle with cancer on Oct. 6, Army Staff Sgt. Austin West took to the web to share a live tribute in honor of the late musician on Facebook. “I wanted to show my respect but mainly my emotions for what had happened,” West told Military Times in a text conversation. Now, his video has over a million views and thousands of comments. “It felt great but not for myself but for Eddie!” West said. The fact that so many watched “showed how much love people had for him and what he’s done for music,” he added. Many viewers were touched by what they saw and offered encouragement to West to keep Van Halen alive through his own guitar playing. Sign up for the Early Bird Brief Get the military’s most comprehensive news and information every morning (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Subscribe × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Early Bird Brief. “If you pull the trigger on a gun that fast, you could win a war on your own,” wrote user Michael Mottram. “Awesome playing and cheers for your service fella.” During the three-minute tribute, West covered some of Van Halen’s best-known works, including “Eruption.” West hopes that people enjoyed the music and feel inspired. The 26-year-old has been playing for 13 years, and did a tour with the U.S. Army Soldier Show in 2015, which stopped at 74 bases. He once played a single song for an AC/DC tribute band. “We never rehearsed the song or played together, and it was done flawlessly in front of 10k people!” he noted. Although he currently serves as an Army recruiter, West will soon be joining the Army music group “As You Were” for a three-year tour, WWNY reported. “We have careers in which you can fulfill your dreams but always creates peace within our communities!” West said. “Music is the universal language.” If he could send a message to the late Van Halen, West said it would be that he’s “inspired so many like myself and to ask if he’d like to rip up some tunes together!”

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