Thursday, November 29, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: BIPARTISAN SENATE FORCES V.A. TO FIX MASSIVE VETERAN CLAIMS BACKLOG


They say fighting never solves anything. But the clash between Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) could disprove that adage. Simmering tensions between lawmakers and senior VA officials, which boiled over today on The Hill, could result in some very positive changes for America's veterans. In a rare display of bipartisan unity, 95 evidently frustrated Senators today ordered the VA to produce a detailed plan to fix the shameful backlog of 900,000 veteran disability claims within 60 days, Army Times reports.  

"This is vital news for veterans and their families who have suffered from VA delays and denials for too long," says Paul Sullivan, a Gulf War veteran and esteemed veterans advocate who works for Bergmann & Moore, a law firm that focuses exclusively on veteran compensation claims.


"We hope VA Secretary (Eric) Shinseki listens carefully to Congress and produces the urgently needed plan within two months," Sullivan says. "Veterans and advocates are pleased to learn Congress is providing aggressive and thorough oversight of the Veterans Benefits Administration's (VBA) beleaguered claim processing, where 900,000 veterans wait nearly nine months for an initial answer about a disability claim."

Congress has in recent weeks been demanding information from VA officials not only on the backlog, but also the error crisis at the VBA (which is part of the VA), the VA's suicide epidemic and shortage of mental healthcare providers, and the VA's evidently reckless spending, including the the estimated $9 million the agency spent on two Orlando gatherings in 2011.


The disability claim delay and error crisis, the suicide epidemic, and the shortage of mental healthcare providers have all tragically been ongoing issues for the VA. What is relatively new is the department's alleged spending sprees. 

According to Stars & Stripes, the VA may have spent as much as $87 million on training conferences last year. 


But in characteristically evasive fashion, VA officials have told members on the House Veterans Affairs Committee that they aren't sure how much money was spent. House Committee members insist the VA simply isn't providing enough oversight on training costs.

“There’s a culture at VA that doesn’t put veterans first,” Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, told Stars & Stripes. “We wouldn’t need all these policies and procedures if you had the right culture there.”

But now that culture is being formally challenged, and the VA has no choice but to respond. It should be noted that the Obama administration has greatly improved things at the VA these past four years and the President seems genuinely committed to making sure veterans are supported. 

The backlog, however, is a monster that only continues to grow as more warriors return home from Iraq and Afghanistan. And the VA has seemed all too content to let it grow and to keep information from the public.


House Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., has been particularly outspoken about VA's lack of openness. During a committee hearing this week, Miller, who angrily noted that VA leaders failed to answer 75 questions raised by members of Congress, vented his wrath toward Deputy VA Secretary Scott Gould.

“The truce is over. It lasted less than 24 hours," said Miller, according to NBC News. "Expect much more oversight from this committee. Expect more questions from this committee because they’re coming - in great volumes.”


Gould reportedly referred to the committee’s questioning as “a slap at the employees who work at VA every day.”

But Miller fired back, “No, no, no, no. Don’t you ever accuse a Democrat or a Republican on this committee of slapping any of the hardworking 300,000 VA employees. Rest assured, it’s the leadership that we’re concerned with.”

I actually share the Congressman's frustration. As a journalist, I've sometimes found it difficult getting information out of the VA's press office. Which is not to say that there aren't many, many highly dedicated people who work for the VA. Because there most certainly are.


It's the leaders that seem to want to hold on to this tired bureaucracy, this culture of silence. But it's a greased rope. The Senate's demand today that the VA produce a plan to fix the backlog is refreshing and long overdue, and hopefully it will snowball into all kinds of positive changes. 



And perhaps the most encouraging part of all this? It was a truly bipartisan effort, as USA Today reports tonight.  

Veterans should be heartened by all the across-the-aisle discussions and developments taking place in Congress right now about the VA. Because they will very likely result not only in fewer delays for disability benefits, but also in fewer errors on claims, fewer spending scandals, and the hiring of more mental healthcare providers. 

In other words... yes, sometimes a little fight apparently can solve things.




Tuesday, November 27, 2012

MEMPHIS, THE 'REAL' MUSIC CITY, FINALLY HONORS ITS REMARKABLE MUSICAL LEGACY THIS WEEK

Nashville has long been known as "Music City," and for good reason. It is the undisputed home of country music. But there's another Tennessee town whose musical legacy not only rivals Nashville's, it may even surpass it. That town would be Memphis, which boasts arguably the most exciting and diverse musical legacy of any city in America.

Sure, one could make a strong case for Nashville as the nation's musical epicenter. Or Los Angeles, Detroit, New York, San Francisco or Chicago, for that matter. But there's something very special about the music that has been written, recorded and performed in Memphis these past 50-plus years.

The difference in the musical legacy between Memphis and these other cities I mentioned? For one thing, the incredible variety. Memphis had a hand in the birth of everything from country, blues, jazz and gospel to rockabilly and rock and roll.

If for no other reason, Memphis could be declared America's Music City because it's where the "King of Soul," Otis Redding, first rose to fame with those amazing early recordings on Stax Records. 

Memphis is also home to Graceland, the second most-visited home in America. As most everyone knows, Graceland gives visitors a look at the private the life of "The King," Elvis Presley. 

Memphis is also home to producer Sam Phillips' legendary Sun Records, where they say rock and roll was born. Elvis, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash all recorded their classic early works there. The studio is now a museum. 

And Memphis also has the world famous Beale Street, where W.C. Handy, the "Father of the Blues," was reportedly the first person to write blues music down on paper. Beale Street, a Mecca for African American culture throughout the second half of the 20th century and still, has been called a northern gateway to the rich culture of the Mississippi Delta. 

Way back in 1945, radio announcer and Memphis history teacher Nat D. Williams observed, “Come what may, there will always be a Beale Street, because Beale Street is a spirit … a symbol … a way of life … Beale Street is a hope.” 

Williams was so right. Beale Street is still hopping, with live music nightly. 

All of this and much more will be celebrated on Thursday when the first 25 inductions into the new Memphis Music Hall of Fame are honored. A creation of the Memphis Rock-N-Soul Museum, The Memphis Music Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony & Celebration at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts will celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of some of the most beloved and gifted musicians in history. 

The 2012 inductees include Redding, Elvis, Phillips, Handy, Jim Stewart & Estelle Axton, Bobby Blue Bland, Booker T. & the M.G.'s, Lucie Campbell, George Coleman, Al Green, Jim Dickinson, Isaac Hayes, Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Lunceford, Professor William T. McDaniel, Memphis Minnie, Willie Mitchell, Dewey Phillips, Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas, three 6 mafia, Nat D. Williams and ZZ Top.


Among those scheduled to perform Thursday are inductee Bland, as well as Dexter and Otis Redding III, who'll play for Redding. In between the performances, a group of storytellers will recall the careers of the honorees through words and a series of video mini-documentaries

If you're anywhere near Memphis on Thursday, check out this event. Here's the phone number, 901-205-2536, here's the website, and here's where you can make reservations

Here's the lineup of honorees:

Estelle Axton & Jim Stewart  - The brother / sister duo did everything necessary, including borrowing against a home and renting a South Memphis movie theatre, to transform Satellite Records into the one of the greatest soul labels in music history. Stewart and Axton, whose last names merged to form Stax Records saw equality in all people. That perspective, combined with their business acumen, led to the label which launched the legendary careers of Sam & Dave, Booker T. and the MGs, Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Isaac Hayes and many others.

Bobby “Blue” Bland - Robert Calvin Bland has been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Starting as an original member of The Beale Streeters, Bobby Blue Bland has had 23 top ten hits on the Billboard R&B charts, and continues to perform today. The Memphis Music Hall of Fame welcomes “The Lion of the Blues,” Bobby Blue Bland!

Booker T. and The MG’s - Originally the house band at Stax Records, this band backed hundreds of recordings for the Stax roster, defined the label’s identifiable sound, and symbolized music’s power to unite. Originally Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Al Jackson, Jr. and Lewie Steinberg, replaced by Duck Dunn upon his departure, the band became one of the most prolific, respected and imitated bands of the 60s, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in ’92, and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

Lucie Campbell - Born to a former slave in 1885, Campbell bridged gender and racial divides in the world of gospel music, and became one of the most regarded composers of African American religious song. She served as the acting music director for the National Baptist Convention for 47 years, and is credited with writing over 100 gospel songs before her death in 1963. Fifty years later, The Memphis Music Hall of Fame proudly honors 2012 inductee, Lucie Eddie Campbell Williams.

George Coleman - Jazz saxophonist, composer and bandleader born in Memphis in 1935, and still recording and performing today, based in New York City. Widely known for his work with B.B. King in the 1950s and Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock in the 60s. He’s also appeared in several movies, including “Freejack” with Mick Jagger and “The Preacher’s Wife” with Whitney Houston, and is involved in jazz music education for students. The Memphis Music Hall welcomes home jazz great George Coleman.

Jim Dickinson - Musician, songwriter, producer, Dickinson embodied the spirit of independence in Memphis music. He fronted Mudboy & the Neutrons, studied Sam Phillips and Furry Lewis, backed Aretha, Albert Collins and others, performed with Arlo Guthrie, Dylan,  the Rolling Stones and others, and produced and inspired Big Star, The Replacements, Lucero, Mudhoney and many, many more. Inducting him, The Memphis Music Hall is proud to borrow from Jim’s own 2009 epitaph… “I’m just dead; I’m not gone!”

Al Green - The Reverend has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has been included in Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Artists of All Time.” He teamed with Willie Mitchell to spawn the golden era of Memphis’ legendary Hi Records, he has won 11 Grammys, and he has sold more than 20 million albums… and still counting. In 2002 he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2012, he enters the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

W.C. Handy - William Christopher Handy took the blues from a regional music style with limited audience to one of the dominant forces in American music. As a composer and orchestra leader, despite his death over 50 years ago at age 84, he is still considered one of America’s most influential songwriters. Countless posthumous awards include induction in the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Grammy Trustees Award.

Isaac Hayes - Isaac Lee Hayes, Jr. became the first African American to win Grammy’s “Best Original Song” for the theme from Shaft. Songwriter, musician, singer, and producer for Stax Records. Throughout his unequalled career, he also became a TV and big screen actor, a Grammy winner, a humanitarian, a cookbook author, a South Park cartoon character, and even a king in Ghana. This year he will become a Memphis Music Hall of Fame inductee… and he will forever be The Black Moses, Mr. Isaac Hayes.

Howlin’ Wolf - Chester Arthur Burnett with his booming voice and imposing appearance was one of the leading performers of electric blues, and one of the greatest blues artists of all time. He’s been inducted in the Blues Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; his music has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone ranked him in their Greatest Artists of All Time. The Memphis Music Hall of Fame welcomes the legendary Howlin’ Wolf.

B.B. King - Recording and performing for over 50 years, Riley B. King, the Beale Street Blues Boy has become the preeminent blues player of all time. A former WDIA deejay, he’s been honored as a Rock Hall inductee and as one of Rolling Stone’s greatest guitarists of all time. For most of his career, he performed live over 250 times annually, still performing 100 nights a year at age 87. The Memphis Music Hall of Fame is proud to honor “The King of the Blues,” Mr. B.B. King.

Jerry Lee Lewis - A truly original pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll after auditioning at Sun Studio and setting his piano on fire… sometimes literally. He’s a noted member of the famed “Million Dollar Quartet,” one of the first Rock Hall inductees, is a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, has been named one of Rolling Stone’s Greatest Artists of All Time, and has been performing for over 60 years. And now, at 77, The Killer enters the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

Jimmie Lunceford - Orginally in the 1920s, Jimmie Lunceford was one of Memphis’ very first high school band directors for African American students, organizing a student band at Manassas High School, which then received acclaim touring nationally and internationally as the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra, recording in 1927 and 1930. The Lunceford orchestra fame skyrocketed after being booked at Harlem’s famed Cotton Club in 1934.

Professor W.T. McDaniel - Transferring between two of Memphis’ blacks-only high schools, Booker T. Washington and Manassas, in the 1930s, music teacher W.T. McDaniel directed two of the leading high school bands of the day. “Mr. Mac” also mentored a class of future top-tier jazz performers and session musicians including Calvin and Phineas Newborn, Charles Lloyd, Fred Ford, Robert “Honeymoon” Garner, Maurice White, Emerson Able and others.

Memphis Minnie - The “Queen of the County Blues,” Lizzie Douglas became the only female blues artist to compare with her male contemporaries. She ran away from home at 13, and headed for Beale Street. She helped form the roots of electric Chicago blues, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll. Her music and her legacy continues to inspire artists ranging from Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur, and Led Zepplin. She died in Memphis in 1973, but today she rocks her way straight into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

Willie Mitchell - “Papa Willie” Mitchell was a trumpeter and band leader who recorded several singles for Hi Records in the 60s before taking over the reigns of the legendary Memphis studio in the 1970s and guiding it through its heyday with a roster of artists that included Anne Peebles, O.V. Wright, Syl Johnson and, of course, Al Green. He ran Royal Studios until his death in 2010, recording projects for Soloman Burke, Rod Stewart, John Meyer and others.

Dewey Phillips - “Daddy-O” Dewy Phillips was one of rock ‘n’ roll’s pioneering disc jockeys. Starting his career in 1949 at WHBQ Radio, Phillips was the first to simulcast his “Red, Hot and Blue” show on both radio and television. His manic personality, musical diversity and radio popularity helped launch the careers of many of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest legends, becoming the first to play Elvis Presley. So when you see him inducted this November, “Tell ‘em Phillips sentcha!”

Sam Phillips - The man who invented rock ‘n’ roll! In 1950 he opened Memphis Recoding Service on Union Avenue, believing if you weren’t doing something different, you weren’t doing anything. On his Sun Records label, he recorded Howlin’ Wolf, Rufus Thomas, Ike Turner, B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich… need we say more about the “Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Sam Phillips.

Elvis Presley - Elvis exploded world culture, becoming arguably the most popular musician of all time. Starting at Memphis’ Sun Studios, his exposure to gospel, country and soulful African-American blues into a new musical genre which shook the planet. He holds the record for the most songs on Billboard’s charts, and his record sales to date have been estimated at one billion copies. I could go on and on, instead, I’ll simply welcome “The King” into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

Otis Redding - Otis Redding first entered Stax Records as a valet lugging someone else’s gear, but he left a star. He established his presence on the pop charts even as he reigned atop the R&B world. This “King of Soul” helped establish the Stax Sound, received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and induction into the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Hall of Fame. World music was changed by the 26 year lifetime of the legendary “Big O,” Mr. Otis Redding.

The Staple Singers - This family of gospel singers from Chicago, under the paternal musical leadership of Roebuck “Pops” Staples, achieved mainstream appeal after recording with Stax and Ardent Studios. Their music expressed themes of equality and self-empowerment, and earned the family induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Rufus Thomas - After recording the very first hit record for both Sun Records and Stax Records, the “World’s Oldest Teenager” taught the world how to walk the dog, do the push and pull, and do the funky chicken. Outside these recording studios, Rufus Thomas also impacted Beale Street’s Palace Theatre and legendary WDIA Radio where, as a deejay, he introduced white teens to black music when, according to Thomas “their parents wouldn’t let them listen,” thus paving the road to rock ‘n’ roll.

Three 6 Mafia - DJ Paul and Juicy J have generated 2 platinum records and sales exceeding 5.5 million albums, and together have brought Memphis’ thriving rap and hip hop recording industry to the world forefront. Formed in 1991, and earning notoriety with a “Best Orignal Song” Academy Award for 2005’s “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” the first Oscar in the rap genre, Three 6 continues to record and has since invaded television.

Nat D. Williams - Initially a teacher at Memphis’ Booker T. Washington High School, “Nat D,” as he was known, became long-time host of Amateur Night at Beale’s legendary Palace Theatre, and the first editor of Memphis’ Tri-State Defender newspaper. He was also Memphis’, and one of America’s, very first black radio disc jockeys when, in 1948, he took to the microphone at WDIA radio.

ZZ Top - Together for more than 40 years, this American rock band from Houston is rooted in the blues, and bathed in the waters of Memphis music, having recorded numerous albums at Memphis’ Ardent Studios beginning in 1973. For the next 18 years, ZZ Top was essentially a local band, recording mostly at Ardent and Memphis Sound while living in Downtown penthouses and East Memphis homes.


Monday, November 26, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: SHOCKING NEW STUDY REVEALS THE REAL IMPACT OF IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN WARS


As I reported last month in Newsweek/The Daily Beast, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) quietly released a new report recently on post-traumatic stress (PTSD) showing that nearly 30 percent of the 834,463 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans treated at VA hospitals and clinics have been diagnosed with PTSD. 

But a new nationwide survey from the American Psychiatry Association reveals even more troubling findings about PTSD as well as other mental health issues among post-9/11 war veterans. 

The study, which analyzed recent Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to improve understanding of mental health services use and perceived barriers, showed that 43 percent screened positive for post-traumatic stress (PTSD), major depression, or alcohol misuse.

If these numbers don't represent a real crisis among our veterans, and beg for a nationwide call to action to support our veterans, I don't know what will.

The National Post-Deployment Adjustment Survey, published by PsychiatryOnline.org, randomly sampled post-9/11 veterans separated from active duty or in the Reserves or National Guard. Most received care at VA facilities, although interestingly, women were more likely than men to seek non-VA services. 

Veterans with more severe symptoms reported greater treatment utilization. Eighteen percent saw a pastoral counselor (chaplain) in the past year. 

Veterans with mental health needs who did not access treatment were more likely to believe that they had to solve problems themselves and that medications would not help. Those who had accessed treatment were more likely to express concern about being seen as weak by others. 

This just shows that, despite efforts by some at the VA as well as at the Department of Defense, the stigma of PTSD and other psychological problems many veterans face is still very real and prevents many veterans from seeking help.

Veterans in greatest need were more likely to access services, according to the study's conclusions. More than two-thirds with probable PTSD obtained past-year treatment, mostly at VA facilities. 

The researchers in the study concluded that treatment for veterans may be improved by increasing awareness of gender differences, integrating mental health and pastoral services, and recognizing that alcohol misuse may reduce utilization. 

The researchers also said that veterans who had and had not used services had different perceptions about treatment, indicating that barriers to accessing care may be distinct from barriers to engaging in care.

The bottom line is, hundreds of thousands of veterans coming home from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and returning to civilian life have serious mental health issues that must be addressed.

Not just from the VA, but from all of us. We have a moral obligation to help our war heroes successfully reintegrate into society. They have earned our respect and support; they must not be forgotten.






Wednesday, November 21, 2012

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM THE TURKEY CUTTER...



Happy Thanksgiving, everyone...   from the daddy who carves the turkey!



When Daddy Carves the Turkey

When Daddy carves the turkey,
It's really quite a sight,
I know he tries his hardest,
But he never does it right.

He makes a fancy show of it,
Before he starts to carve,
And stabs in all directions,
While we're certain that we'll starve.

He seems to take forever,
As we sit and shake our heads,
And by the time he's finished,
He's cut the bird to shreds.

He yells as loud as thunder,
Before he's finally through,
For when Daddy carves the turkey,
He carves his fingers, too!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

EXCLUSIVE: MEDIA IGNORES MAJOR WHITE HOUSE NOMINATION


Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
During his stirring Veterans Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery earlier this month, President Obama talked about the urgent need to reduce the Department of Veterans Affairs’ enormous backlog of veteran disability claims, which is now at more than 1.1 million. 

"No veteran should have to wait months or years for the benefits that you’ve earned, so we will continue to attack the claims backlog," Obama said. "We won’t let up. We will not let up."

This past week, Obama backed up his rhetoric with action by addressing one of the little-known reasons why this backlog has climbed so rapidly: vacant judge seats on the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).

These vacancies have substantially slowed the claims process for countless veterans, several sources say. But on Thursday, with no fanfare and with inexplicably no resulting media coverage, Obama nominated a reserve brigadier general, William Greenberg, to fill the ninth and final seat on the CAVC.

This is the third judge's seat on this court to be filled by Obama just this past year, and many veterans advocates say that this nomination, which is expected to be approved by the Senate, will have a demonstrable impact on the backlog.

“This is a significant development for veterans," says veterans advocate Paul Sullivan. “It should put a huge dent in the court inventory."

The CAVC, a relatively obscure but vitally important federal court that operates out of an old office building in Washington DC on Indiana Avenue, reviews certain decisions made by the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA), which is part of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). 

But as important as its role is, the CAVC, whose judges serve either thirteen- or fifteen-year appointments, doesn’t get the respect or attention it deserves.

Says one advocate, who asked not to be named because he works closely with both the VA and the court, “Just imagine if the Supreme Court had missing judges for four years. That would certainly not be tolerated. The shorthanded judges at CAVC, who are paid less than other federal appeals court judges, have been burdened with ridiculous caseloads."

A CAVC report summarizing the workload of the court for 2011 notes that in 2011, "the Court averaged 288 appeals decided on the merits per active judge. For purposes of comparison, from Sept. 30, 2010, through Sept. 30, 2011, for the 12 circuit courts of appeals, this was the highest number of merits decisions per active judge.”

According to the report, the number of merits decisions per active judge for those courts “ranged from 55 (DC Circuit) to 234 (11th Circuit). The CAVC had 681 filings per active judge, based on the 4,085 appeals and petitions filed in 2011. The number of filings per active judge for the circuit courts of appeals ranged from 126 (DC Circuit) to 623 (11th Circuit).”

Matt McAlvanah, a spokesman for Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, tells me the committee is currently gathering information from Greenberg.

"Chairman Murray looks forward to considering this nomination in a timely fashion,” says McAlvanah. “The Senator knows the backlog (for veteran disability benefits) is overwhelming and unacceptable, and this court seat has been vacant for too long. We want to get this moving as quickly as possible." 

While none of my colleagues in the national press reported the nomination - not even the military press - Bergmann & Moore, the Maryland-based law firm that focuses its practice solely on veterans disability issues, has been touting the need for the President to fill this court seat.

On the day after the election, the firm raised a number of issues on its website that it thinks will be of great importance to veterans in Obama's second term as president. One of them was this vacant court seat. 

Glenn Bergmann, a partner at Bergmann & Moore and the former CAVC Bar Association President, says, "We hope to learn more about William Greenberg during the confirmation process. Veterans and the attorneys representing veterans see the President’s nomination as good news, and they look forward to a time when all nine seats on the Court are filled so the Court can decide more Veterans’ appealed disability claims."

This is a new seat created by Congress in 2008. There were two newly created seats and one vacancy last year. One new seat and the vacancy were filled earlier this year. The White House nominated a third person last year, but she withdrew. Greenberg is the second attempt by the administration to fill one of the new seats.

Will Greenberg, if he is appointed, be a staunch ally for veterans on the court? While no one can say for sure, many people I've talked to this week are cautiously optimistic. 

Greenberg, an attorney who served in the Reserve Components of the United States Army for 27 years, was just awarded the “2012 Leadership in Military Justice Award” by the GI Go Fund for his partnership with that organization to create the Veterans Justice Initiative.

This program takes veterans in Newark, New Jersey that are involved in low level offenses and brings them into an alternative sentencing structure that provides veterans with connections to benefits assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Labor and Social Security Administration, as well as employment opportunities, mentorship and housing assistance that help curb a veterans dependency on criminal behavior

Greenberg, who served last year as chairman of the Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee of the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA), was chairman of the Reserve Forces Policy Board at the Department of Defense, and founded the NJSBA Military Legal Assistance Program, which provides legal assistance to recent veterans.

Greenberg, who's also an adjunct professor of military law at Seton Hall University School of Law, received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service in 2011 and was named New Jersey Lawyer of the Year in 2009 by the New Jersey Law Journal. 

The fact that the CAVC's judge seats will apparently now be filled is good news in and of itself. But it also appears veterans will have an ally in Greenberg, though that remains to be seen.

In his announcement of the Greenberg nomination last weekObama said, “I am confident that Mr. Greenberg will greatly serve the American people in his new role and I look forward to working with him in the months and years to come."