November 26, 2014

Wisconsin native killed in Afghanistan

(Photo: Jackie Johnson)

(Photo: Jackie Johnson)

A Wisconsin Rapids native serving in the military has died in Afghanistan. The Pentagon said 39-year-old Army Sergeant Matthew Leggett died Wednesday after he was attacked near Kabul’s airport.

A relative said Leggett was born in Wisconsin Rapids, and his father grew up in nearby Nekoosa before moving to Texas. Leggett’s most recent address was listed as Ruskin, Florida. He enlisted in the Army in 1995, and was based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina since 2012.

He served three tours of combat duty, and had won numerous awards — including a Purple Heart for being wounded.


Johnson: ISIS must be defeated (AUDIO)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)

While he is not pushing to send American troops into Syria and Iraq to deal with the terrorist groups known as ISIS, or the Islamic State, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) argues the threat posed by the group must be taken seriously.

Johnson is calling on President Obama to develop a plan and set up a coalition of willing western and Arab states to deal with ISIS. “We have to defeat ISIS,” Johnson says. Otherwise, he believes that the group will “not be contained” to Syria and Iraq.

Pointing to the beheading of journalist James Foley earlier this week, Johnson says it shows that ISIS is “brutal, they are barbarians, they are evil.” He says that the group has long indicated that, once it establishes a base of operations in the Middle East, it will use that to carry out attacks against the west. “We ignore it at our own peril,” Johnson warns.

AUDIO: Sen. Ron Johnson (1:03)

Johnson says the air strikes the U.S. has carried out to slow the advance of ISIS have helped, but he believes President Obama was largely pushed to act after the group seized control of a key dam that was in danger of failing. “His hand was forced there, but his hand is also going to be forced when we start seeing what a threat these guys represent.”

Johnson’s comments came during a stop in Barron County on Wednesday.

Audio courtesy of Mike Duncan, WJMC

VA deal headed to Obama

header-logo (1)Congress has passed a bill to help veterans avoid long waits for health care and fix other problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Senate easily approved the $16.3 billion compromise measure Thursday night on a 91-3 vote, a day after it was overwhelmingly passed by the House. It now goes to President Obama for his signature.

The compromise is a response to reports that veterans were waiting months or years for care, with VA employees covering up the delays. “The wait times that veterans have experience are really unacceptable and outrageous,” said Wisconsin Democrat, Senator Tammy Baldwin, who voted for the measure, as did the state’s GOP Senator Ron Johnson. “This bill uses a number of strategies to reduce those wait times and make sure our veterans get the care they are promised.”

Baldwin was pleased with a provision that adds 1500 graduate medical education residents to the VA Health Service. “This is welcome news not only to our VA health system, but it’s also welcome news to our medical schools, that have been urging Congress to act on increasing the number of training slots,” she said. The deal includes $10 billion in emergency funding, allowing veterans to go to private doctors if they live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or are told they must wait more than 14 days for an appointment.

Kind: We can’t be the world’s policeman

U.S. Representative Ron Kind

U.S. Representative Ron Kind

As the situation gets more dangerous in Iraq, and the United States is evacuating several staff members at the embassy, President Obama must consider what — if any — military involvement the U.S. will have in suppressing the Sunni surge.

U.S. Representative Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) is opposed to sending U.S. troops back into Iraq. “I think that’s a very bad idea. I don’t like the idea of introducing U.S. military personnel in order to address an insurgency in Iraq. We paid a very high price for a very long time.”

Congressman Kind says the Iraqis had an opportunity to work with the U.S. to become better prepared, but turned it down. “This dates back to the Iraqi government refusing to sign a status of force agreement with us, where we could have provided more training and more equipment so they could do a better job of securing their own country. Now, they’re coming back to our doorstep and saying, hey we need help, when we were anticipating this at the time.”

The 3rd District Congressman says the people of Iraq need to step up for their own country. He says, “We can’t be the world’s policeman.” President Obama has moved a carrier and other support ships into the gulf region, and is considering using a small number of special operations soldiers to help evacuate Americans. So far, no order has been given to move in.

Larry Lee, WSAU

Call to investigate VA health services

The William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, WI.

The William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, WI.

Several Congressmen are urging the President to support a complete investigation of the Veterans Administration’s health services.

Third District Democrat Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) and 13 others sent President Barack Obama a letter calling for the creation of a Blue Ribbon Commission to investigate the allegations of wait times, secret lists, manipulated data, and other problems that negatively impact the care received by America’s veterans.

Kind believes this full review of the Veterans Administration’s health services is necessary. “If we put the commission together and give them a little bit of time to do a thorough up and down review of the VA system, and come forward with fixes to ensure that this never happens again in the future, I still think that’s the best approach on how we can fix this and get it working for all of our veterans.”

Part of the problem is something Kind says has been around for a long time, and that’s the government’s failure to prepare for the large number of vets that need health care. “We’ve always known, for sometime now, that we’ve got an access issue with two million veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them with physical and mental needs that we have to take care of. The fact that we now have a presumption to treat gulf war illness, agent orange, post-traumatic stress, that adds to the number waiting to get into the VA system.”

Kind says putting together commission and giving it time to do a thorough review, is the best approach on how to fix this problem. He says the veterans he has talked to are satisfied with the care they receive, but would like to get it a little faster. That’s especially true if they need to see a specialist.

“I’m hard pressed to go to any VA center or clinic and find a veteran critical of the care and the attention that they are receiving and that speaks volumes to the professionalism of our health care providers in the VA system, but given just the sheer numbers that are waiting to get in, we as a nation have to up our game.”

Representative Mark Pocan from Madison also signed the letter to President Obama requesting the Blue Ribbon Commission to investigate the Veterans Administration health system.

Larry Lee, WSAU