Claims opened to burn pit victims

U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., shown here at the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade Casing Ceremony in 2019, has been advocating for reforms to the way the Department of Veterans Affairs handles claims from people exposed to toxic burn pits in the line of service. Watertown Daily Times

FORT DRUM — U.S. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand visited Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division for a meeting with Brig. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr., who assumed command of the 10th Mountain Division this week, to discuss their shared priorities and plan for the future of the post Friday.

Following the meeting, Sen. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., held a news conference to discuss her priorities for Fort Drum and its facilities and service members, as well as her efforts to improve the quality of life of members of the military and their families.

“I was honored to visit Fort Drum today to meet with our service members and Commanding General Milford Beagle Jr. to discuss our shared priorities,” said Sen. Gillibrand during the conference. “As chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, I work every day to advocate for the health, safety and morale of our service members and their families.”

During her visit, Sen. Gillibrand discussed several priorities, including Fort Drum community projects like the construction of a Physical Fitness Testing Facility Field House in support of testing for the Army Combat Fitness Test; the Wellfield Expansion Resilience Project that would help develop the Fort Drum water supply; and the construction of a new railhead at Fort Drum. These projects would cost $42 million, $27 million and $10 million, respectively.

More than 15,000 military service members and about 3,700 civilian personnel work at Fort Drum, with about 15,000 family members living in the local area. In addition, more than 3,000 military retirees reside within the local region.

Last year, Fort Drum had a $1.8 billion economic impact on the region. According to Sen. Gillibrand’s office, she fought to ensure that the families and service members of the Fort Drum community receive the expanded child tax credit, the largest anti-poverty measure in decades, that was included in the American Rescue Plan.

In Jefferson County, more than 1 in 5 children were living below the poverty line even before the onset of COVID-19. It is estimated that New York families will receive $7.03 billion in total relief and 87% of children under the age of 18 will benefit from the enhanced child tax credit. Starting Thursday, families began receiving their monthly payments of up to $250 for each child aged 6 to 17 years old and $300 for children under the age of 6.

Officials project that the expanded child tax credit could help lift nearly one-half of all children out of poverty.

In May, the Department of Defense released its annual report on sexual assault in the military, and the data demonstrates that while reports of sexual assault in the military remain at record highs, the number of cases that went to trial after substantiation of allegations of sexual assault decreased, and conviction rates dropped significantly.

Sen. Gillibrand’s bipartisan Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act would create an impartial, fair and accountable military justice system to professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes by moving the decision to prosecute from the chain of command to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors. It also provides for several new prevention provisions, such as better training for leadership and increased physical security measures, while ensuring that commanders still have the ability to provide strong leadership and ensure a successful command climate.

In addition to tackling the serious issue of sexual assault in the military and holding service members accountable for their crimes, the legislation would address systemic barriers to justice for service members of color. Following nearly a decade of advocacy, the act has 66 co-sponsors and would pass in the Senate if afforded a vote, according the office of Sen. Gillibrand.

“From reforming the military justice system to fighting to secure resources for infrastructure improvement at Fort Drum, I’m proud to support our men and women in uniform,” Sen. Gillibrand said. “Our service members risk their lives to keep us safe, and I will ensure that our military operates in a manner worthy of their dedication.”

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(1) comment

HotelMike

“ reforming the military justice system” like you reformed the police, criminals, parole, bail? No thanks! Time for politicians to stay out of the military justice system… Reagan was right..

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