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Some National Guardsmen Don’t Get Veterans’ Benefits, Congress Is Trying To Change That And More Local News

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On Veterans Day, we look at how not everyone in uniform will be considered a veteran. Plus, culture plays a big part in the way communities deal with death.The experience of local Vietnamese immigrants is the focus of a documentary playing at the San Diego Asian Film Festival. And, Seaworld has hired a new CEO. This is the fourth one in 5 years and he is stepping in Monday to help the embattled theme park get back on the right footing.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Monday, November 11th I'm Andrew Bowen and you're listening to San Diego news matters from KPBS coming up. SeaWorld has hired a new CEO to help the embattled theme park get back on the right footing and on this veteran's day we'll look at how not everyone in uniform will be considered a veteran. You are expected to be doing the same sort of thing, putting your life on the line for whatever particular mission. I believe you ought to be able to get the same pay and benefits that and more San Diego news stories after the break. Stay with us. SeaWorld has hired a new CEO KPBS as Sarah can't. Siyani says, this is the fourth one. In five years,

Speaker 2: 00:40 sea world's previous CEO lasted seven months and left after having problems with the board. The new replacement Sergio Riviera is stepping in today. This comes just after sea world's quarterly report showed a drop in attendance and revenue. Mural COPEC was San Diego state and bottom line marketing says that the new CEO is not from the theme park industry.

Speaker 1: 01:02 Sarah Jo comes out of the hotel industry. Here's what a Starwood hotels, he was with Marriott timeshare most recently and and they bring a hospitality mindset, which is important in the theme park space.

Speaker 2: 01:13 Kobek says that SeaWorld is looking to continue their strategy of shifting away from their Marine mammal shows to more thrilled rides. Their marketing strategy has caused sea world's attendance and their stock price to go up in the past couple of years despite last quarters downturn. Sarah Ketso, Yannis KPBS news,

Speaker 1: 01:30 the San Diego Asian film festival is underway and this year it features the documentary the paradise we are looking for. It's actually a series of four short documentaries that capture the Asian American experience in San Diego. KPBS speaks city Heights reporter Ebony Monet says one of them looks at the way Vietnamese immigrants deal with death.

Speaker 3: 01:52 Julie Tran says there's symbolism in the paper. She carefully lays into a casket. A, I always loved culture. Tran has been learning and practicing traditional Asian funerals for 20 years. I have spent so much

Speaker 2: 02:05 time like learning about everyone's culture yet I barely knew mine.

Speaker 3: 02:08 Oh, trans work as the general manager of good body mortuary in San Diego city Heights is the subject of a short documentary featured in this year's San Diego Asian film festival. The film maker who tells her story is wing wind lay.

Speaker 4: 02:23 One of the reasons why I really wanted to do this film is because I have a personal fear as a second generation Vietnamese American person that if my parents passed, I wouldn't know what to do.

Speaker 3: 02:33 Lay's efforts to answer that question cinematically resulted in her short film morning passing on alcohol Boulevard.

Speaker 4: 02:40 Within that kind of loss and sadness, there's also joy

Speaker 1: 02:45 and the festival runs through November 16th Ebony Monet, K PBS news, cities and counties in California that reject housing projects face a new threat of lawsuits from outside groups, not just developers. Matt Gelfand is with a legal group created by the California association of realtors. It's suing Huntington beach for denying a 48 unit condo project, arguing that it met all the city's standards. He says the state's housing accountability act was beefed up two years ago, allowing groups like his to challenge these decisions.

Speaker 5: 03:18 It tells cities that they cannot apply subjective criteria when they make a planning decision. So they can't say a building needs to be consistent with the rhythm of the community. It's located in.

Speaker 1: 03:30 Representatives for Huntington beach declined to comment. California sued the orange County city and January to force it to plan for more affordable housing and Sanitas in San Diego County has faced similar lawsuits. If you missed seeing OB playhouses Heathers the musical during the Halloween season, the good news is you still have two more weekends to see this lethal tale of one girl's attempt to join a powerful and ruthless click at her high school. KPBS arts reporter Beth Armando Amando has this preview

Speaker 6: 04:09 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 04:10 it runs through November 24th and is recommended for mature audiences. That's like Amando, KPBS knees.

Speaker 6: 04:17 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 04:19 millions of children around the world grew up watching Sesame street. The program launched 50 years ago this week as a way to help fill educational gaps among children. KPBS has. Donald Bloodworth has more for 50 years. Sesame street has been a place where colorful characters like Elmo, big bird and cookie monster Mankell learning fun. In the late sixties researcher Lloyd Morissette found that television could be an effective medium to teach young children who were falling behind in New York city schools. More set now, as San Diego resident became co-creator of the show, he told KPBS that beyond teaching kids math and reading skills, Sesame street also taught respect for people from different backgrounds.

Speaker 7: 05:02 The character of Ernie and Bert were chosen to be very different looking people, Muppets in this case, but they got along as friends and the idea that it was an inclusive show was there from the very beginning. That was one of the most important ideas.

Speaker 1: 05:16 50 years later, the show is beloved by millions and has become the most critically acclaimed children's program of all time. Donald Bloodworth KPBS news, not everyone in uniform will be considered a veteran someday, including potentially some national guard troops who served along the border. KPBS military reporters. Steve Walsh looks at how Congress is trying to fix some of the disparities. In April, 2018 president Trump ordered 2000 national guard troops to the us Mexico border to aid Homeland security. During a tour in October, 2018 border patrol spokesman William Rogers complemented the California national guard. We're inside a border

Speaker 8: 05:58 patrol station in San Diego acting as dispatchers and monitoring cameras.

Speaker 9: 06:02 What's most important about it to us is the fact that prior to the national guard soldiers filling these spots, we had to have sworn agents filling these spots

Speaker 8: 06:14 despite the kind words. Some of these guard troops working along the border in uniform may never meet the federal definition of a veteran. One of the things guard troops need to qualify for VA benefits like healthcare or the GI bill is to serve 180 days continuously on active duty. That means being requested by the federal government under specific circumstances says Daniel Elkins, a special forces operator with a guard unit in LA. I reached him via Skype from the place in Utah where he's training to deploy overseas.

Speaker 10: 06:44 This affects many members of the national guard. For example, currently there's a federally declared border crisis that's going on.

Speaker 8: 06:53 Even though the president asked for the guard and the federal government paid for the operation, their orders don't count toward being considered a veteran. Under federal law. Elkins also works with the enlisted association of national guard United States, which is lobbying to bring greater parody between active duty and the garden reserve troops, like making it easier for them to qualify to become veterans by letting them add up all the times they spend on federal orders instead of just serving 180 consecutive days,

Speaker 10: 07:21 those should be added up and when you meet that threshold, you should be considered a veteran and rate the same level of benefits and services and active duty counterpart.

Speaker 8: 07:29 Most of the time, guard troops are under the control of the governor who can call them up to help with natural disasters like the wildfires in California, but there are a variety of missions. States like California also worked with the U S drug enforcement administration on counter-drug operations. Guard troops working in those missions can earn enough credit to be considered a veteran. Congressman Mike Levin, whose district covers parts of San Diego County chair's a veteran subcommittee, which recently held hearings on these parody issues.

Speaker 4: 07:57 We haven't followed a very basic principle, which is if you are expected to be doing the same sort of thing, putting your life on the line for whatever particular mission, uh, I believe you ought to be able to get the same pay and benefits.

Speaker 8: 08:10 11 says, Congress has been slow to respond to the changing role of the guard, which has been used more consistently since September 11 2001

Speaker 4: 08:17 the expectations and the demands place on our national guard and reserves that perhaps weren't there previously. We have to make sure that federal policy reflects that

Speaker 8: 08:26 cost is a factor. More troops would qualify for federal benefits. Congress changed the law, so anyone who retires from the guard reserves after 20 years is officially a veteran. The law didn't allow them to qualify for federal benefits. Elkins, the guards, special forces operator preparing for deployment, says he's talked with former guard troops who applied for benefits under the GI bill after reporting to disasters like hurricane Katrina on the Gulf coast or hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico.

Speaker 10: 08:54 And these, uh, they

Speaker 8: 08:56 serve, they deployed, they're being pulled, but they're being deployed. Um, and they assume that they have the same level of benefits, but they don't. He says that impacts retention in the guard, but the consequences can run much deeper. Those federal benefits include longterm mental health care at the VA. The VA estimates how many veterans die per day from suicide. That grim statistic doesn't include the 919 suicides in 2017 among garden reserve members who never achieved veterans status. The VA says that adds another 2.5 people a day to those who kill themselves. All former military but not considered veterans. Steve Walsh KPBS news. This story was produced by the American Homefront project. I public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.