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Hagel: Military medical system 'average'

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is directing military medical officials to show within 45 days how they will improve care, patient safety and access to treatment at under-achieving military health care facilities.

Hagel released findings Wednesday of a 90-day review of the health care system, serving 9.6 million active-duty troops, their families and retirees. The review was prompted by an investigation into allegations of treatment delays at Veterans Affairs facilities.

He says the military health care system is comparable to average private sector care, but adds that while it has pockets of excellence it also has gaps in care.

He directed military officials to write a detailed plan by the end of the year to fix and track uneven performance across the military health facilities.

 

Airstrikes launched amid intelligence gaps

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Current and former U.S. officials say the Pentagon is grappling with significant intelligence gaps as it bombs Iraq and Syria. It's also operating under less restrictive targeting rules than those President Barack Obama imposed on the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan and Yemen.

The U.S. military says its airstrikes have been discriminating and effective in disrupting an al-Qaida cell called the Khorasan Group and in halting the momentum of Islamic State militants. But independent analysts say the Islamic State group remains on the offensive in areas of Iraq and Syria, where it still controls large sections.

Human rights groups say coalition airstrikes have killed as many as two dozen civilians. U.S. officials say they can't rule out civilian deaths but haven't confirmed any.

Pentagon wants tighter soldier loan protections

Pentagon wants tighter soldier loan protections

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration wants to put a stop to excessive payday or car title loans for military service members.

The Defense Department is trying to close legal loopholes that have put hundreds of thousands of service members at risk of excessive fees.

New rules would toughen the Military Lending Act's limits on interest rates for certain types of credit for service men and women and their dependents.

Under current law, lenders cannot charge members of the military more than 36 percent interest. But loans covered by the law are so narrowly defined that lenders can make simple adjustments to get around its provisions.

The proposed rules would broaden the definition of consumer credit so that more loans would fall under the 2006 law.

Rights of same-sex military spouses vary by state

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- Two years after the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," gay and lesbian members of the U.S. military are serving openly, getting married and starting families.

Though the federal government now recognizes same-sex marriages, about two-thirds of active-duty personnel in the U.S. are based in states that don't. That leaves thousands of service members, their spouses and their children missing out on legal rights they would have had if Uncle Sam stationed them elsewhere.

An example is 28-year-old Marine Corporal Nivia Huskey, whose wife is expecting the couple's first child. When the baby boy is born at the on-base hospital at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina law will bar the military policewoman from having any parental rights. The space on the baby's birth certificate marked "Father" will be left blank.

 

BREAKING NEWS: US95 is closed at Creech AFB

LAS VEGAS -- U.S. 95 is closed in both directions at Creech Air Force Base, north of Las Vegas due to a military training exercise on the base.

Nevada Highway Patrol closed the highway as a precaution in case a plane needs to use the road as a landing strip. There is no word on how long the closure will last.

 

Air Force: 'So help me God' in oath is optional

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Air Force officials say they're changing their policy on enlistment oaths and will allow airmen to omit the words "so help me God" if they choose.

The decision comes after an airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada struck out the words on his Department of Defense reenlistment paperwork and ran up against a policy that prohibits omissions.

The case went up to the Department of Defense General Counsel, which issued an opinion Wednesday saying the language could be left out if the airman preferred.

Attorney Monica Miller of the American Humanist Association is representing the airman, who she says has requested anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Miller says the airman was told by his commanders Aug. 25 that he must swear to God or leave the Air Force.

 

Air Force: 'So help me God' in oath is optional

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Air Force officials say they're changing their policy on enlistment oaths and will allow airmen to omit the words "so help me God" if they choose.

The decision comes after an airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada struck out the words on his Department of Defense reenlistment paperwork and ran up against a policy that prohibits omissions.

The case went up to the Department of Defense General Counsel, which issued an opinion Wednesday saying the language could be left out if the airman preferred.

Attorney Monica Miller of the American Humanist Association is representing the airman, who she says has requested anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Miller says the airman was told by his commanders Aug. 25 that he must swear to God or leave the Air Force.