Press Release on opposition to The Civilian Service Recognition Act of 2011

 
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Press Release on opposition to The Civilian Service Recognition Act of 2011

First the press release, and then some important notes about it:

 National commander says Congress should “think twice” about bill to present U.S. flags to honor fallen civil servants,

 

WASHINGTON (Sept. 7, 2011) – The American Legion is denouncing a bill the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on today allowing for payment of “expenses incident to the presentation of a (U.S.) flag” for civilians who are killed while working for the federal government.

 

The Civilian Service Recognition Act of 2011 (H.R. 2061) was introduced May 31 by Rep. Bill Hanna of New York. Noting that 3,000 federal employees have died since 1993, Hanna said, “Like members of the armed services, civilian federal employees are often in harm’s way. Ours is a grateful nation, one that values the sacrifices made in honor of this country. A life can never be repaid, but it can be honored.”

 

Fang Wong, newly elected national commander of the Legion, said the bill is a misguided attempt to equate civil service with military service.

 

“Congress needs to think twice before acting on this hastily written bill,” Wong said. “Civil service workers do not sign a pledge to defend America with their lives, they are not forced to serve in combat zones, and their work routines do not include engaging enemy forces overseas.”

 

The bill’s advocates and the Committee noted that presentation of a United States flag “is an appropriate way to honor Federal employees’ contributions to the American public. The Committee believes these individuals are no less deserving of our respect than members of our armed forces.”  They point to legislation passed in 1993, allowing for civilians working with the military to be afforded the same privilege.

 

“This bill leaves far too much to be determined by a few individuals,” said Tim Tetz, legislative director of The American Legion.  “It allows agency heads to determine who may be eligible upon their deaths.  It allows them to determine ‘next of kin.’  It doesn’t clearly identify associated costs, and it leaves far too much to be decided without any public feedback.”

 

“We certainly respect the service and dedication of those who sign up for civil service,” Wong said, “but these individuals pledge much less than our servicemembers and veterans.  If federal employees die or are killed in service to America, they should be honored by a grateful nation. Just not in the same way as our military or veterans.”

OK, so the most common hypothetical being thrown out there is a DIA/CIA officer or some sort who is killed in A-stan or Iraq.  Those folks are already covered by existing legislation:

Federal civilian employees who die of injuries in connection with their service with an armed force in a contingency operation are eligible to receive a United States flag. See 10 U.S.C. § 1482a.

The second thing we hear is "what about border agents killed in the line of work?"  A great point, but that is not what this bill is covering.  Yes, it does cover those folks, but it also covers an IRS agent or someone else who dies in an automobile accident stateside.  See the Committee report if you don't believe me:

Presentation Authorized- Upon receipt of a request under subsection (b), the head of an executive agency may pay the expenses incident to the presentation of a flag of the United States for an individual who--

      (1) was an employee of the agency; and
        (2) dies of injuries incurred in connection with such individual's employment with the Federal government.

(Also, some folks are bringing up Police Officers and Firefighters.  Generally speaking, those are not federal employees, and nothing precludes a state or local Gov't from providing a flag for those family members.  In fact, there is nothing in opposition to ANYONE getting a flag, the difference is that here it would be mandated, and not particularly clearly.  See the bullet items below for more on that.)

What exactly is an "expense incident"?  No clue.  They apparently left it blank to leave it up to the discretion of the executive agency.  Would a caisson be an expense incident?  How about a 21 gun salute?  We don't really know, and we don't have anything to go off.

In an earlier letter to the House, Legislative Director Tim Tetz noted some problems:

  • This bill has not been fully vetted in committee hearings and proceedings to further clarify the intent and limitations of the bill. 
  • The Committee of the Whole stated, “Presentation of a United States flag is an appropriate way to honor Federal employees’ contributions to the American public. The Committee believes these individuals are no less deserving of our respect than members of our armed forces.”  The American Legion and most certainly a multitude of veterans and those currently serving would disagree with this statement.
  • It allows for payment of “expenses incident to the presentation of a flag.”  Not being further clarified, would this require payment of a formal “honor guard” to present the flag, postage of the flag to the next of kin, or other costs?  Those are allowable expenses under the 1993 DoD measure.
  • It loosely allows the agency head to provide the flag to the “next of kin” or an individual other than the next of kin if “no request is received from the next of kin.”  Would this allow a friend or acquaintance to take advantage of this provision if the family had decided not to?
  • We remain deeply concerned that individuals who provide “volunteer services” might also be covered under this without a true understanding of the provisions this inclusion might provide.

Hopefully this bill will get pulled back so it can be written in a way to specificy who is getting what, because the way it is written now, there is too much confusion.  The intent seems very good, the follow through on it could use some work.

 

 

Posted in the burner | 20 comments
 
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Comments

As an Army veteran and a retired U.S. Border Patrol Agent I would tend to support the Civilian Service Recognition Act, so long as it was limited to situations where the employee was engaged in official duties and was killed as a result. This would not include traffic accidents or similar accidents. Civilian employees have been the target of terrorists and serve overseas in many capacities, many of which carry serious personal risk. They serve without the large military support structure and backup, which can be very hazardous.

Uniformed personnel take the EXACT same pledge that civilian personnel take when entering into service for OUR country. This will only be for RECOGNITION of those KILLED in the LILNE OF DUTY.

That is simply not accurate on about 3 different levels.

Let me put it another way though, can a military person quit their job any time they want?  Can a civilian refuse to deploy?  What is the pledge taken by IRS employees?  (specifically, does an IRS agent pledge to give their life for the defense of the country?)

 

To All:
Here is the Federal employee oath, verbatim: "I, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

Here are the military oaths, enlisted and officer, verbatim: ""I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God." (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).

"I, _____ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God." (DA Form 71, 1 August 1959, for officers.)"

As you can plainly see, they are essentially the same. Although someone entering the military plainly understands that they may lose their life, that is not something they swear to do.

My husband, a 22 year veteran and member of the AL, currently is a federal employee so I am quite familiar with what is required from both. He was deployed in his "civilian" job and was nearly killed while there. Of course he would receive full honors as a military veteran but his fellow employees who are not veterans work in the exact same conditions and I know for certain that he does not begrudge them receiving this recognition. He understands that their recognition takes nothing away from those on active military duty.

Most, if not all, federal workers are supporting our military...yes, even the IRS. To begrudge them this small token of our country's appreciation is small-minded and I am surprised the Legion took this stance.

Sincerely,
Laura Allender, Historian ALA Creve Coeur Memorial Post 397

Laura, that simply is not the case. 

He was deployed in his "civilian" job and was nearly killed while there. Of course he would receive full honors as a military veteran but his fellow employees who are not veterans work in the exact same conditions and I know for certain that he does not begrudge them receiving this recognition.

Anyone killed overseas IS ELIGIBLE.  Again, a federal worker can (AT ANY TIME) quit their job,  A military person can not. 

Let me ask this, should civil service employees be allowed to be buried in Arlington?  If not, then why?  Does it show disrespect to them by not allowing it?

As my wife stated above I required medivac from overseas as a civilian on orders. You might want to rethink your position. Before a Federal Civilian deploys they are issued a Geneva Conventions ID card. This affords them the same privleges as you as a combatant. In many cases they are also issued weapons with the full knowledge they could well be killed. I must say I also take offense at your seemingly arrogant and flippant attitude about the level of commitment of Federal employees. In many cases they are providing direct service in support of the warfighter which based on your picture is allegedly you. To suggest they would simply quit is an insult to the many who, volunteer I might add, to go into harm's way. There are no medals or parades for them either. So yes, if they are killed in the line of duty while serving in a combat zone they should be afforded the honor of a flag and, depending on the circumstances, may also deserve burial in a National Cemetery. And yes ignoring their sacrifice is showing disrespect to those civilians who may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice. With the smaller military we depend on these days such narrow-minded thinking like yours needs to go by the wayside. By the way simply being a veteran no longer entitles you to burial in Arlington either. In closing let me say if I have offended anyone I apologize. But we are all on the same team here and the same flag can mean the same thing to both of us.
James A. Allender
American Legion Member since 1990
Historian, Creve Coeur Memorial Post 397

James, once again, SUCH PEOPLE ARE ALREADY COVERED BY A DIFFERENT STATUTE.    This bill doesn't do that.

James, my email is MOTHAX@legion.org, and I would love to talk to you about this, perhaps even do a point counterpoint if you like.  At the least, i want a better chance to explain existing law, and how this bill would change it.

Under this bill it would be authorized to give a drunk driving postman who kills himself delivering mail the same as a soldier killed in Baghdad.  I'm assuming you oppose that.  Those are the things I am trying to point out here.  We have no problem with honoring federal employees, our problem is the way this bill is written.

Also, apologies for my arrogant and flippant statement, but it was predicated on this article from the New York Times:

Many U.S. employees have outright refused repeated requests that they go to Iraq, while others have demanded that they be assigned only to Baghdad and not be sent outside the more secure Green Zone, which includes the American Embassy and Iraqi government ministries. And while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice maintained Wednesday that State Department employees were “volunteering in large numbers” for difficult posts, including Iraq, several department employees said that those who had signed up tended to be younger, more entry-level types, and not experienced, seasoned diplomats.

 

 

The military does not have a monopoly on the flag. The flag represents ALL Americans, not just those serving in the military. Just because civil servants don't put their lives on the line like soldiers do, doesn't mean that the services they provide aren't just as important to this nation. It doesn't matter what they pledged to do, if they died while serving this country, they deserve to be honored with the flag, which is the most recognizable symbol of this country. It's arrogant and petty of the American legion to think otherwise. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Mothax, what precisely is it that is untrue? Your overarching statement implies that nothing I said is true. I respectfully but EMPHATICALLY reiterate my entire post, as supported by my husband. At least you were a bit more respectful to him than you were to me.

Let me also mention that when my husband was stationed overseas in the military, I too was a federal employee. As a RN, EVERY SINGLE THING I DID was DIRECTLY in support of our military members, USA, USAF, USN, & USMC. I took that position with great pride and continued my work in the military medical system for the remainder of my husband's military career. I know without a doubt that if I had died while doing my job, every one of my many military co-workers and patients would have insisted I receive a flag for my coffin. We civilian employees, whether we work directly for the DOD or not and whether we are OCONUS or CONUS, deserve this respect. It is our flag too.

Again Laura, there is nothing that would have stopped your military co-workers, or patients from putting a flag on your coffin. 

And again, should a drink driving post man be given a flag as well?  Because under this bill, he would be entitled to it. 

Everyone reads the Washington Post article and assumes it is all true, then they come here and assume I am lying somehow.  If you don't believe me, check out the other post i did where I have our point paper that predates the Washington Post article.  I can't make anyone read it obviously, but I still haven't found someone who disagrees with our ACTUAL positions, as opposed to everyone who disagrees with our positions as stated by the wildly innaccurate Post article.

http://burnpit.us/2011/09/about-washington-post-article-federal-worker-flag-bill

I've had my email up this entire time, and not one person has even see fit to actually email me and ask me about our position, or show me where they think we are wrong.  Everything is based on things that are not our position, or which are already covered by existing US Law.

 

Just so I'm straight on this...In your view, Deputy US Marshal Derek Hotsinpiller, who was killed this past February while attempting to arrest a cocaine trafficker in West Virginia, is not worthy of being recognized with a flag presented at his funeral but the tuba player in one of the numerous Army Bands who dies of a heart attack in his sleep while on active duty is deserving?!?! Sort of twisted logic isn't it?

No, that is not my position even a little, nor is it what the bill itself says.  If the bill covered folks like Deputy Hotsinpillar, we wouldn't have complained about it.  In fact, we asked that they clarify the bill to ensure it was uniformed law enforcement personnel. 

We can only comment on the bill as it appears right now.  And it currently would cover a drunk driving post office employee.  If you can agree that that shouldn't happen, then we are in agreement the bill is written poorly, and start over from there. 

As with many who are today villifying federal (or state for that matter) civilians as a political expediency, you are focused on the misbehaving employee, in this case, the "drunk driving post office employee" and are concerned with him/her undeservedly being recognized with a flag (in the world of logical argument, this is termed a "hasty generalization"). However, on the contrary, you apparently believe it proper to present the flag at the funeral for a drunk driving active duty "Army Band tuba player" killed on his way home from a performance (10USC1482) or even for the "Army Band tuba player 'veteran'" who was discharged under "general or other than honorable" conditions for drug use (10USC1491 et seq), correct? Again, where is your logic?

The logic is in the fact that I am unaware of any pending legislation that would strip burial rights from a drunk driving tuba player.  I am aware however of infirmities that exist in current legislation enrolled in the house of representatives. 

I am a Veteran and a Civil Servant, I had to sign a mobility aqgreement prior to being hired. That means if they need me they can send me wherever, I VOLUNTEERED to deploy 4 times, twice to Iraq, twice to Afghan. I worked with civil affairs and PRTs, where they rolled I rolled. We worked out how I would defend myself AND pull my 5 and 25. I had to run nighrt patrols with them to get from one place to another. I made the same money I made in the state3s AND had to pay taxes on it as a civilian employee. I was injured on my 2nd tour to Afghan, I was paralyzed for 6 months, walk with a walkere now. I know civilians that have been injured and Killed, no we are not door kickers, but not all service members go outside the wire either. I don't compare my service to the door kickers, butr I resent anyone minamizing mine.

Mothax keeps referring to all these situations being covered under existing law. If that is true, what are those laws and if it is true, why oppose another law doing essentially the same thing. Government service in whatever form carries honor, including the IRS agent who was shot dead during an audit. And the IRS manager killed when some nut flew his plane into a governement building in Austin Texas because the nut blamed the government for his sorry life. And federal firefighters, law enforcement, border agents, etc. The governemnt should honor all who die "in the line od duty". And tell me why it matters that federal employees are free to quit their jobs? The point is they did not quit their jobs and as a result of doing their duty, a service of some kind to the American people, they died. As far as some silly comparison to burying them at Arlington, please be serious or stay off the blog. No one asked for or expects that, it is clearlyh an honor reserved for military heros as it should be.

pblondy- if you read the other post at the top of the main page, you will see a discussion of the laws in effetc now.

 

I once sat in the pilot's seat of a C-9 aircraft while it was being towed uphill at a base in Colorado. The tow bar snapped and I immediately applied the brakes which prevented the C-9 from destroying a T-43 at the bottom of the hill. I did not receive so much as a 'thank you' for this. I also developed an aircraft and component tracking system at a base in Georgia and received no recognition whatsoever.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.