The insurance company that paid $234,621 to Hanover Area School District in compensation for a dispute with a transportation contractor launched civil action against the contractor, according to court records.
Attorney Richard Polachek, of Polachek Law Firm, P.., filed a one-page praecipe for summons in Luzerne county Court of Common Pleas this week. The praecipe is essentially the first step for a civil suit. It offers no particulars other than the names of the parties involved.
In this case, Polachek, of Wilkes-Barre, is filing on behalf of American Alternative Insurance Corporation of Princeton New Jersey. The praecipe lists the insurance company as “subrogee” of Hanover School District. A subrogee is the person or entity assuming legal rights to attempt to collect a claim of another party, the subrogor, after paying that party’s expenses arising from claims against a third party.
The action is filed against Frank J. and Dorothy Ciavarella individually, also doing business as “Star Transportation” of Hanover Township.
The case centers on Hanover Area’s claim that Frank J. and Dorothy were overpaid for one year of special education student transportation, an error discovered during a state audit. The district claimed the overpayment was about $250,000 for one year, and the contractors refused to repay any of the money despite months of negotiations.
The insurance company agreed to cover the cost, giving the district $243,621. While that officially took Hanover Area out of the legal mix, district officials predicted the insurance company would attempt to recoup the expense. The praecipe doesn’t expressly say that’s what the suit is about, but the parties involved as well as the use of the term subrogee leave little doubt.
Frank J. and Dorothy Ciavarella are the parents of school board Member Frank Ciavarella, who was board president at the time the overpayment was discovered. He stepped down as president but did not heed calls by some to resign from the board, and continues to serve.
The board initially suspended then-Superintendent Bill Jones with pay Feb. 5 after the overpayment was discovered, and the two sides inked a separation agreement in May, paying Jones $65 per day for 182 sick/personal days, providing health insurance until Jan. 14, 2021, and paying $480.77 per day for 35 vacation days.
WILKES-BARRE — The Courthouse Square Towers building has attracted the attention of an out-0f-town developer interested in converting the office building into apartments.
Courthouse Tower Apartments LLC will provide details of the proposed project at a public meeting of the Wilkes-Barre Zoning Hearing Board set for 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 20.
Attorney Mark McNealis of Hunlock Creek, who is representing the developer in the zoning case, said the six-story building at the intersection of North River and North streets across from the Luzerne County Courthouse is largely vacant and would require extensive work to construct up to 50 proposed apartments.
McNealis said the trio of investors behind the proposed conversion has experience in the New York City market.
McNealis declined to disclose the amount of the investment as well as the offer made to purchase the 39,000-square-foot office building and the adjacent 195-space parking garage.
The property at 216 N. River St. was listed in an online auction at zetabid.com that ran from July 29 through Aug. 1. The starting bid was $899,000. The site reported five bids were received and the building’s status was pending.
“The offer that my client made was more appealing,” than the offers made in the auction, McNealis said.
The building has some tenants in the upper floors and Jasmine, a Thai restaurant and lounge on the first floor. The bid site listed a 32% occupancy rate.
“They do plan on keeping the restaurant on the first floor,” McNealis said. The available parking will be more than enough for the proposed apartments, he added.
Courthouse Tower Apartments LLC is requesting a variance that would convert the building to a majority residential use. McNealis explained that within the S-1 zoning for the building, restaurants and offices are allowed, in addition to dwelling units on upper floors.
“They’re going to have to gut the building,” McNealis said. He said it would have to be brought up to code to contain apartments and that the proposed project would take more than a year to complete.
DALLAS TWP. — The Dallas School Board on Monday heard an award-winning essay about veterans from a fourth grade girl who wrote about her own father’s deployment, said goodbye to one retiring member who has served the district for 51 years as teacher and board member, and learned the middle school roof needs more work than expected but shouldn’t cost any more than budgeted.
Sophia Golanoski read her Wyoming Valley Veterans Day Essay at the start of the meeting, with a personal note: Her father had first joined the military in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and his duties called him away three days after she was born. “The people who fought for us are friends, family and neighbors.”
The board also acknowledged several district staff and board members who have served in the military, including special education teacher Mark Adams, who took the opportunity to make a short pitch for bringing the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program to the district. Adams started a military interest club in the district six years ago.
And the board gave a plaque to member Kathy Wega, who decided not to run for re-election this year, ending a tenure on the board going back to 2006. Wega joined the board one year after retiring as a teacher, a career she started in 1968.
Noting some of her first students are now retired, she repeated a refrain consistent for decades: “I refer to them as my kids,” she said, “It has been an honor and I’m going to miss it.”
Wega’s replacement has yet to be determined. There were four seats open but only three candidates (all incumbents) were on the ballot. The fourth winner could be determined when the county adds up write-in votes, in which case a winner would get a seat with very few votes. The three candidates on the ballot each got around 3,000 votes, there were only 177 write-ins cast, according to unofficial results.
And the board learned that the problematic roof of the middle school continues to offer unwelcome surprises. For repair purposes, it has been divided into nine sections, and major repairs or replacements had been expected in six of them. Further investigation has added another section in need of work.
The good news is twofold. First, other work on the roof has cost less than estimated, and the total work is expected to come within the $2.17 million budgeted even with the added work. Second: So far the new Intermediate School building has not spent any of the $1.2 million set aside for contingencies, and business manager Grant Palfey said if that holds, the money might be used for the roof project instead.
An arctic air mass that brought snow and ice to an area stretching from the Rocky Mountains to northern New England on Monday was poised to give way to record-breaking cold temperatures.
While the National Weather Service in Binghamton, N.Y., forecasts less than an inch of snow for Northeastern Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday asked all Pennsylvanians to be prepared.
With snow and ice are expected in the northern tier tonight through Wednesday, and a cold snap expected to descend upon the entire state through the week, travel could be treacherous in Pennsylvania above Interstate 80, and state agencies are getting ready.
“People need to be cautious as they head out during this storm because conditions can change quickly, ” said Randy Padfield, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency director. “PEMA and our state agency partners are ready for the winter season and we encourage motorists to do the same.”
The National Weather Service says our region can expect rain overnight, mainly after 2 a.m., with the low dipping to around 31. There is a 100% chance of precipitation, with new precipitation amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.
NWS says rain and snow are likely today between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m., then becoming mostly sunny, with a high near 38. Chance of precipitation is 60%, with new snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
For more information on PennDOT’s winter preparations and additional winter-driving resources for motorists, visit the department’s winter website, www.PennDOT.gov/winter.
In Chicago, where as much as 6 inches of snow fell, an Envoy Air flight from Greensboro, North Carolina, slid off an icy runway at O’Hare International Airport as it tried to land at about 7:45 a.m. None of the 38 passengers and three crew members were injured, according to the city’s aviation department.
About 1,220 flights were canceled at Chicago’s airports and officials in the area opened warming centers. In Michigan, some schools closed early, as did dozens of schools in the St. Louis area.
The snow and ice was just the first punch from a weather system that pushed frigid air from Siberia across an area stretching from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast. Temperatures below freezing were forecast as far south as Texas’ Gulf Coast.
“This is an air mass that’s more typical for the middle of January than mid-November,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Birk. “It is pretty much about the coldest we can be this time of year (and) it could break records all over the region.”
A Philadelphia man who admitted to his role in a triple homicide in Plymouth more than seven years ago will remain in state prison.
A three-member panel of the state Superior Court on Friday dismissed an appeal filed by Sawud Davis, 23, who is serving a 25-to-50-year prison sentence for the killing of three people inside a First Street apartment on July 7, 2012.
Davis was 16 at the time but prosecuted as an adult for the fatal shootings. His older brother, Shawn Hamilton, 25, pleaded guilty to being the gunman and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Investigators said in court records the two brothers went to the apartment and killed Lisa Abaunza, Bradley Swartwood and Nicholas Maldonado during a drug exchange of heroin and marijuana. A fourth person survived multiple gunshot wounds.
Earlier this year, Davis filed an appeal with the appellate court challenging a dismissal by Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough of his petition under the Post Conviction Relief Act.
Davis sought relief with the PCRA petition claiming he recently became aware of the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case Miller v. Alabama, which prohibits juveniles from being sentenced to life in prison without parole. He also claimed another inmate from Luzerne County he met in prison in August 2018 saw him standing on the porch when Hamilton killed the three people, which would have distanced himself from the killings.
When Davis was arrested, he was charged with three open counts of criminal homicide to include first-degree homicide. If convicted of first-degree murder, Davis could had faced life in prison without parole.
The appellate court ruled the 2012 case became public record in June 2012 and Davis should have known about it prior to August 2018.
As for Davis standing on the porch when Hamilton killed three people, the Superior Court ruled it was not a “newly discovered fact,” as Davis could have brought this fact up before pleading guilty to three counts of third-degree murder.
The Superior Court ruled Vough, in dismissing Davis’ PCRA petition, correctly concluded the petition was filed too late and Miller v. Alabama would not have changed Davis’ decision to plead guilty.
WILKES-BARRE — He is, perhaps, best known for his role as Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise in the Star Trek television and movie series.
But that iconic role jettisoned William — “call me Bill” — Shatner into an acting career where few have gone before or since.
Shatner played Captain Kirk for the Star Trek series from 1966 to 1969 and continued in the science fiction’s cult-following movie series.
Shatner, who will turn 89 in March, will appear at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Jan. 17. The movie “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” will be shown and then Shatner will come on stage to tell some stories, answer questions and interact with the audience.
So set your phasers to stun and beam yourself to the F.M. Kirby Center on Friday, Jan. 17, for an unforgettable night with the one and only William Shatner, live on stage.
Anne Rodella, Artistic Director at the F.M. Kirby Center, said audiences will enjoy a screening of the classic film “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” on the big screen, followed by a live conversation with “Captain James T. Kirk.”
A limited number of VIP tickets will be available, which include premium seating and a photo opportunity with Shatner.
Tickets start at $34.50 (plus applicable service fees) and go on sale Friday, Nov. 15 at 10 a.m. and are available online at kirbycenter.org, or at the Sundance Vacations Box Office at the F.M. Kirby Center or charge by phone at 570-826-1100. A Kirby Member pre-sale begins Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 10 a.m.
Shatner will be sharing fascinating and humorous stories from portraying the original Captain Kirk in the “Star Trek” television series and movies, and from his career spanning more than 50 years as an award-winning actor, producer, director and writer. Fans will also have a chance to ask Shatner their question during the audience-led Q&A.
Rodella said this is an opportunity to see a Hollywood legend in this thrill-of-a-lifetime evening. The event is produced by Mills Entertainment and The Backlot Project.
In a telephone interview with the Times Leader, Shatner said he knows Northeastern Pennsylvania, having visited here more than once over the years.
“I can’t recall exactly where I was or why I was there, but I do remember it to be a beautiful area,” Shatner said. “It’s one of my favorite places, really.”
Shatner asked about the venue — the F,M. Kirby Center — and he was pleased to learn of its intimate setting and having been a refurbished movie theater.
Shatner said after the movie is shown, he will “come out and entertain” the audience. He said he wasn’t involved in the selection of which movie to show, but he said “The Wrath of Khan” was a pivotal moment in the Star Trek franchise.
“Everybody back then thought hat “Star Trek,” the movie, had failed,” he said. “But as we all know now, it made quite a bit of money. There was some thought of stopping, but ,in their infinite wisdom, urged making of the making of the second movie.”
“That’s exactly right. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever done,” Shatner said. “I’d never want to do something that I would feel badly about. Whatever the gig is, I’ll enjoy it and do it to the best of my ability.”
Shatner has cultivated a career spanning over 50 years as an award-winning actor, director, producer, writer, recording artist, and horseman. In 1966, Shatner originated the role of Captain Kirk” in the television series Star Trek, a show that spawned a feature film franchise where Shatner returned as Captain Kirk in seven of the Star Trek movies, one of which he directed.
He’s won Emmys and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of lawyer “Denny Crane” on both The Practice and Boston Legal. He received four more Emmy nominations as well as other Golden Globe and SAG Award nods.
His love of music inspired him to record the critically acclaimed album “Has Been.” Shatner’s book — Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man — appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list, and his newest book — Spirit of the Horse: A Celebration in Fact and Fable” — was released in May 2017.
Shatner continues to act, write, produce and direct while still making time to work with charities and further his passion in equestrian sports. He and his wife, Elizabeth and three married children live in Los Angeles.
Shatner grew up in Montreal and he said his father would take him to baseball games of the Triple A minor league team Montreal Royals of the Brooklyn Dodgers franchise.
“I remember seeing Jackie Robinson play,” he said, but he never became much of a Montreal Expos fan.
That’s significant because the Expos moved to Washington, D.C., and became the Nationals, the 2019 World Series champions.
Shatner said he has been told that he never actually said, “Beam me up Scotty,” a phrase that seems to have followed him his entire career.
“But I’m sure I said something similar,” Shatner said. “I never thought it would be so popular.”
Shatner said he always had an interest in science fiction, calling the genre the “weak sister of literature.” But he added, that science fiction does have a certain human element.
“When you think that it’s somebody’s imagination of the future, it really becomes fascinating,” Shatner said. “Who knows what the world will look like 300 years from now? So then, everybody’s opinion is valid.”
Shatner spoke of his friendships with Leonard “Mr. Spock” Nimoy and DeForest “Dr. McCoy” Kelley. He said their passings were “painful losses of friendship.”
“I knew from when I was very young that this is what I wanted to do,” Shatner said. “My first acting experience was in a camp play. I’ve never driven a cab or waited on tables and I’ve never collected an unemployment check. I’ve loved every day as an actor.”
FREELAND — For years, Korean War veteran Joe Barna said he couldn’t cry — not even during the saddest of moments in his life.
Barna, 89, told of an emotional encounter with a fellow Korean War U.S. Marine Corps veteran that moved him to tears.
It was such a moving experience, Barna wrote an essay about the encounter and how he can now, finally, cry tears.
The essay, appropriately titled “Tears,” was chosen as the National Gold Medal winning entry in the Veteran Administration Creative Arts Contest.
Barna was invited to attend the National Creative Arts Festival, held in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Oct 30 thru Nov 3., where he received his first place award — the best of regional winners from the 140 VA hospitals nationwide.
“The essay talks about the many years that I couldn’t cry,” Barna said. “It was tearing me up inside.”
“I speak of tears,” Barna wrote. “Tear is such a beautiful, simple word that shows love, compassion, remembrance and yes, sometimes pain. My first tear came the day I was born. I imagine I was lying in my mother’s arms; maybe I was looking up at my father, or the old-time doctor who delivered me. This day would be the first of many tearful days in my young life.”
Barna wrote that when I did something wrong as a child, or fell while playing, he was certain there were many tears flowing. Then, through his teenage years, as with most boys, the tears were kept inside.
Barna talked about tears he would see on other people’s faces — when he graduated from high school, entered the military, and at his wedding with his beautiful wife, Eleanore, who is still at his side.
“While I was at war, I know my mother must have shed many tears while I was away,” Barna wrote. “My family told me that when I was wounded, mom received a letter from the War Department. She wouldn’t open it, fearing that it would tell her that I had been killed. When she finally read it, she cried tears of joy learning that I was only wounded.”
“Although the tears didn’t come out, I know they were there inside me,” he said. “I remember seeing South Korean people — men, women, children, even old people — walking among the wounded and dead on a battlefield. They would carry the bodies, each taking an arm or leg. They would take the bodies down the mountain to the aid station. I would also see these same people going through garbage piles, looking for something to eat. Seeing this, I pictured my family in the same positions and I felt the tears well up in my eyes.”
Then Barna said he lost the urge to cry. He wondered if God had only given him a certain amount of tears and he had used up his allotment.
“I had a mind full of the hell I lived through,: he said. “Something inside me was different and it was tearing me apart. As the years went by, I lost my grandmother, father, and youngest brother. Then I lost one of my daughters. God knows I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. I begged for one tear to fall, but none came.”
Then, Barna said a few years ago, he was at the VA Hospital for a doctor’s appointment. As he sat in the crowded waiting room, an African-American man was brought in on a wheelchair. Barna said the man was wearing a Marines cap and was covered in a blanket. Barna went over to talk to the man.
Barna said the man appeared to be about the same age, so he asked if had served in Korea, which he was. Barna then was called into his appointment. When he came out, he went to say goodbye to his new found comrade.
“The blanket was off and I saw that he was missing an arm and a leg,” Barna said. ” began to feel a little funny and sad because I had all of my limbs. As I was leaving him, he grabbed my hand and said to me, ‘Thank God you came home in one piece.’ I knelt down beside him and I pictured myself in that wheelchair. It was there and then that I filled with tears and started to cry. He did also, along with most of the people in that waiting room. It took a long time, but maybe it was written in heaven this way. I finally found out how beautiful it was to once again cry.”
“When you do, it means you are human and have feelings toward others,” Barna said. “It is hard for me to tell you how it feels to not be able to cry.”
“Don’t give up,” he said. “It took a long time for me to find that special key to the vault that held my tears. Once I was able to cry, my life began to be what I wanted it to be. As I said earlier, tears mean love, caring and compassion. These things we should all share.”
Frankie Balon, 60 of Freeland, is a friend of Barna’s and knows him well. He said Barna is a proud Marine Corps combat veteran of some of the most terrible fighting in Korea.
Balon said Barna was part of Weapons Company and used all the weapons at the Marine Corps disposal, including the M1 Rifle, the BAR or Browning Automatic Rifle, rocket and mortar launchers, and perhaps one of the most feared weapons of modern times, the M2-2 flamethrower, which he carried for five months.
“Joe firmly believes in promoting the causes of all of our veterans and frequently writes and speaks about the common experiences of veterans in editorial letters and speaking engagements,” Balon said. “He writes the monthly column, “Veteran’s Journal,” in the Freeland area monthly newspaper ‘Progress Magazine.’ Joe was also honored to be one of the featured speakers on the Hazleton television station WLYN for a 90-minute special entitled ‘Korea: the Forgotten War,’ which first broadcast in November of 2015.”
For Memorial Day 2017, Balon said Barna was selected as Legionnaire of the Year by the Freeland American Legion Post 473.
Barna is an active member of the Freeland Post 5010 VFW, where he holds the office of Senior Vice Commander and the Freeland American Legion Post 473 Joint Military Honor Guard and he serves as a rifleman for military funerals and ceremonies.
Barna and his wife, Eleanore, have been married for 66 years. He and Eleanore have 3 children, 6 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandson.
We sure wouldn’t be living in a free country where we can speak freely, worship freely and always feel safe.
That’s why we should always shake the hand of a veteran and thank them for their service. It’s a big deal, really.
For as long as I can remember, I wondered what happened to my father in World War II. Why he lost his right leg and why he had to go through life wearing a wooden leg that was both difficult to move with and drew attention to him.
Dad never wore his courage on his sleeve. Like all veterans, he was called to serve his country and went into battle willingly. Veterans knew what was at stake. They knew what could lie ahead. They were filled with fear and uncertainty, but they went forward — they met the enemy and they won.
In battle after bloody battle, our guys won. Our freedoms were preserved. So many lives were lost, yet more came to battle.
Veterans are special people, indeed. Patriotism is in their blood, Loyalty to country is part of their DNA. Call it courage, bravery, commitment — they all had it and they accepted the task at hand.
How else can you explain all those GIs on those landing boats on D-Day? Standing there, weapons in hand, waiting for the gate to open to charge the beach and run to meet a waiting enemy. They all knew that many of them would never return to their homes and families and friends and communities. Yet they ran to meet the enemy.
It’s chilling to try to put yourself in their shoes. Young soldiers — 18, 19, 20 years old — charged with the responsibility of fighting for our freedoms. They must win, they must fight, they must, in so many cases, die on those battlefields.
It was the same in every war America has fought in — the stakes were always the same. History reads of bloody battles, thousands of lives lost, freedoms preserved.
Never a doubt. Never a question. Never a disobeyed order. Soldiers fought. Soldiers died. Victories were won. Freedoms preserved.
We can’t ever thank them enough. Those that died in defense of their country hold a special place in our hearts. They gave it all for us. And those who returned, wounded, scarred — we owe them too. We will never know or understand what they went through. We will never feel what they felt on those battlefields. We will never know what it was like to meet the enemy in battle — to kill or be killed.
So to honor veterans with a parade or a handshake and a thank you is the least we can do. To stand along the parade route, holding an American flag is a symbol — a message — to all veterans that we love them, we respect them and we thank them for all they have done for us.
Veterans are proud of their service, as they should be. We should be even more proud that they served in the military for us. They defended their country — our country. They fought for it. They fought for us.
My dad kept his story inside for most of his life. It was near the end of his life that he decided to tell me what happened on that day. How he ran onto the beach, up a hill, firing his weapon as the enemy fired back. And then he woke up in a MASH unit. He was told his right leg was gone. Dad’s response was, “I guess I’m going home.”
He came home, got fitted for his wooden prosthesis, and got a job. He served his community. He joined every veterans organization he could find. He attended every veterans ceremony held every year.
Dad never forgot. He knew, despite the loss of his right leg, that he was one of the lucky ones to come home alive. He knew thousands never made it back. Dad never forgot that and he always honored veterans.
That’s why I’ll be on the roadside to watch those proud veterans go by. I’ll wave and I will feel proud. And every veteran I encounter, I will thank each and shake their hand. Dad would like that.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WILKES-BARRE — According to a 2017 AARP report, 78 percent of veterans reported receiving a scam attempt related to their veteran status.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, held a hearing this week entitled, “Veterans Scams: Protecting Those Who Protect Us.”
During the hearing, Casey, D-Scranton, highlighted his bipartisan letter that calls on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to take a more active role in tracking these scams and educating veterans about these schemes.
“Veterans Day, which is right around the corner, is a day to honor those who served our country and it is a reminder of our responsibility to serve veterans in return,” Casey said. “It is unconscionable to me that someone would stoop so low as to steal money from someone who has sacrificed so much for our country. We must fight back against unscrupulous con artists by ensuring that not one more veteran loses one more penny to a scam. I urge the VA to do more to combat scams against veterans.”
In order to protect those who have protected our country, Senators Casey and Susan Collins, R-Maine, Chair of the Special Committee on Aging, joined by 11 members of the Committee, are sending a letter urging the VA to play a more active role in combating financial exploitation by scammers.
In the letter, the senators cite an October 2019 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which found that the VA does not centrally collect or analyze information assessing the threat of scams against veterans receiving pension benefits.
Casey invited Sgt. LaVerne Foreman, an 82 year-old veteran from Herndon, PA, to testify at the hearing about his experience losing money to a veterans charity scam.
“It isn’t easy to talk about being scammed, but what I am doing today is an extension of my service,” Foreman said. “These scam artists rip-off innocent people, and as a result, contributions are diverted away from the organizations actually doing the work of caring for those who served and who are now in need. On behalf of veterans, I ask everyone who can help to stop this activity to play their part.”
In the letter to Robert Wilkie, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the senators say they are concerned that America’s veterans are being targeted by unscrupulous scammers who are seeking to rob them of their life savings and defraud them of the benefits they have earned in service to our country.
“It is imperative that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) take action to alert our veterans to the risk of these scams, and what can be done to combat them,” the senators wrote.
The senators state that studies show that veterans are disproportionately affected by scams. An AARP study from 2017 found that veterans were twice as likely as non-veterans to lose money to a scam. The same report found that nearly 80 percent of veterans had reported being targeted by a scam that related to their veteran status.
The Senators said several types of schemes are used to steal money or personal identifiable information from veterans:
• Inform veterans that they qualify for a “secret” government program that requires an initial payment.
• Swindle them out of their life savings in aid and attendance scams where victims are coached into restructuring their assets in a way that could be financially detrimental and cause issues with qualifying for benefits down the line.
As scammers become more sophisticated in their efforts, the senators said it is imperative that the VA play an active role in combating financial exploitation posed by scammers. They said veterans and their families have a right to expect that the nation they served will fight to protect them from such unscrupulous tactics.
1. Has the VA examined the extent to which America’s veterans have been victimized by the type of scams described above, or other forms of financial fraud? If so, to what extent are these scams deliberately structured to target veterans?
2. How is the VA working with federal and state agencies and stakeholder groups to protect veterans from financial frauds?
3. What has the VA done to educate veterans and their families about these frauds, and the steps they can take to combat them?
4. How will the VA’s proposed approach in response to GAO’s recommendation provide the agency with the ability to assess the prevalence of scams targeting veterans and inform outreach and education efforts?
5. What plans does the VA have in place to increase these efforts, and what further legislative or regulatory authority does the VA need to do so?
“It is critical that Congress fully understands how our nation’s veterans are affected by financial fraud, and what Veterans Affairs is doing to protect them,” the letter states.
KINGSTON — Pete Kondrosky said he knows several military veterans living under bridges in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Kondrosky, founder and chairman of the Susquehanna Valley Military Affairs Council, was at Friday’s “Coffee with Veterans,” hosted by U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright at the Black Diamond American Legion, 386 Wyoming Ave., Kingston.
Kondrosky and about 25 other veterans took advantage of the opportunity to let Cartwright know what issues they are confronted with in hopes that the congressman can help find solutions.
Kondrosky said he was going to ask Cartwright if funding can be allocated to create spaces in buildings — churches, large vacant buildings — for dormitories for homeless veterans.
“I’d like to see more programs to distribute needed items to homeless veterans,” Kondrosky said. “We can have programs, like free haircuts to those who need them. We need to do more for our veterans.”
“As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I was honored to join the Subcommittee on Military Construction & Veterans Affairs in 2019,” said Cartwright, D-Moosic. “This as a unique opportunity to lead on the issues affecting veterans in our district and in the rest of Pennsylvania, which is proudly home to more than 800,000 men and women who have served our country.”
Cartwright said since America’s founding, service members have made countless sacrifices to keep families safe.
“In return, our nation owes veterans an invaluable debt, and our government has a unique responsibility to care for them when they come home,” Cartwright said.
Friday’s event was Cartwright’s 22nd of an ongoing series of events he has held across Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District this year.
Sean Sweeney, a U.S. Navy veterans from Shavertown, agreed, adding that more funding is needed for programs like suicide prevention.
“We also need more money to fund re-integration programs for veterans returning from overseas deployments,” Sweeney said. “And we need to make those programs easier to access.”
Thomas Rusak of Hanover Township, a U.S. Army veteran, told Cartwright that he is an alcoholic who has been sober for 20 years and he credited the programs offered at the VA Hospital for helping him.
Rusak was also concerned about parking at the hospital. He was told that the VA plans to construct a multi-level parkade, but Rusak said that could take years. He suggested Cartwright propose the VA rent spaces at the Wyoming Valley Mall for employees to free up space for veterans.
U.S. Army Signal Corps veteran Steve Radzinski of Kingston told Cartwright that he has concerns about the direction the country is going regarding its treatment of the military.
“Our intelligence gathering is being degraded,” Radzinski said. “There doesn’t seem to be the respect on the part of the current administration.”
William Uggiano, a U.S. Navy veteran from Wilkes-Barre, said the U.S. seems to be retreating from the rest of the world.
“How can we lead from behind?” Uggiano said. “How can we exert our influence around the world?’
Uggiano, whose son survived a shooting, said he is concerned about gun violence and the types of weapons available to criminals.
Ben Gorda of Swoyersville said he wants to see more done to crack down on the flow of illegal drugs into the country.
“More and more drug dealers are coming to our area,” Gorda said. “And we are seeing more people becoming victims of gun violence.”
Rich Pries, commander of the Black Diamond American Legion, said he was pleased that Cartwright was on hand to talk to veterans.
“Anytime we can host an event that addresses the concerns of veterans, we are honored to do so,” Pries said.
Mary Moczulski of Shavertown said she was there to ask about the national health care bill that is expected to be rolled out in December.
“I’m married to a veteran,” she said. “I want to know how that health bill will affect veterans.”
Two local Armed Forces recruiters — Staff Sgt, Gregory Guido and Sgt. 1st Class Jose Longoria — said that they are signing up recruits every day. Guido said incentives like benefits for college help convince young people to enter the military.
Jim Spagnola, director of the Luzerne County Veterans Affairs, said the face-to-face meeting between veterans and Cartwright is effective.
“It’s best that Congressman Cartwright hears the concerns of veterans directly from the veterans,” Spagnola said. “If he is going to be making decisions about veterans, it’s best that he hears the concerns directly from the veterans.”
One of the largest Armistice Day parades in the Wyoming Valley since the end of World War I was held Nov. 11, 1950.
Ten divisions took part in the 1950 parade, the 31st year the parade was held since the end of the Great War.
The parade was dedicated to the 33 soldiers of the 109th Field Artillery Battalion killed a train crash in West Lafayette, Ohio, on Sept. 11, 1950. Nearly 280 soldiers and civilians were injured.
Soldiers from the 109th were on their way to active duty as assigned to the 28th Infantry Guard Division. They were being transported to Camp Atterbury, Indiana, at the time of the train crash.
Lt. Col. Leon W. Beisel, commander of the 967th Field Artillery Battalion and general chairman for the parade, announced Nov. 3, 1950, that the parade would be dedicated to the 33 soldiers.
“Let the people at home pause in their work of peaceful living to rededicate ourselves to the cause of freedom by paying honor to those who gave their lives that we may live in peace,” Beisel told the parade committee as reported in the Evening News newspaper on Nov. 3, 1950.
“Next of kin of Korean casualties and next of kin of the 33 train wreck fatalities were given honored places to view the parade, special bleachers having been provided on Market Street, opposite the West Side Armory,” the Evening News newspaper reported Nov. 11, 1950.
The Evening News reported Nov. 6, 1950, the parade was “expected to be the most mammoth event of its kind in years.”
Nearly every high school in the Wyoming Valley, at the time 20 high schools, took part in the parade with bands, strutters and cheerleaders attired in their school colors.
The parade began at Hoyt Street and Wyoming Avenue in Kingston and marched down Market Street across the Market Street Bridge into Wilkes-Barre.
“The leading contingents had just reached River Street, Wilkes-Barre, at 11 a.m. when the whistles and bells from churches, industrial plants and mine collieries sounded and the marching stopped. All persons parading came to attention as the various musical organizations sounded Taps,” the Evening News reported.
Men doffed their hats and women and children stood silent for a brief interval, and without a doubt, the thoughts of a large majority of those participating and viewing the parade were at that time with the 33 guardsmen of the 109th killed in the Ohio troop train wreck, the newspaper reported.
Military vehicles in the parade included half-tracks, jeeps, scout cars and tank destroyers. The Air Section of the 967th Armored Field Artillery did a fly over and dropped a floral tribute to all comrades who sacrificed their lives for God and country, the Evening News reported.
Despite chilly temperatures in the low 40s, viewers were five to six deep along the parade route. Children sat on their fathers shoulders to watch.
Ten passenger cars made up the troop train that was stopped on tracks due to a ruptured air-brake hose on the steam locomotive when it was struck from behind by another train that failed to adhere to multiple stop signals and a flagman waving a lantern and flares.
When deceased soldiers returned home on Sept. 14, 1950, more than 200,000 people lined the streets from the Lehigh Valley Railroad Station on East Market Street, Wilkes-Barre, to the armory on Market Street in Kingston, the Wilkes-Barre Record reported Sept. 15, 1950.
WILKES-BARRE — Demonstrating its commitment to local news coverage, WBRE-TV, WYOU-TV, Eyewitness News unveiled a new state of the art studio set during its 11 p.m. newscasts on Sunday, Nov. 3.
Steve Daniloff, vice president/general manager, said the set’s 360º concept is the first of its kind in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania and begins a new chapter for Eyewitness News.
“These innovations give the Eyewitness News team the ability to deliver local news in a more visually compelling and effective manner,” Daniloff said.
The set was designed by Lance Schroeder Studios in partnership with Nexstar’s Nashville Design Center.
The new set includes a 25-foot video wall made up of 21 monitors and a movable video panel, giving the anchors and reporters the ability to interact with the content of the stories they report to viewers.
The project included energy-efficient upgrades, including two new Hitachi studio cameras, all-new LED lighting and monitors throughout the studio at 62 South Franklin St. in Wilkes-Barre.
Daniloff said the set includes a state-of-the-art Weather Center with a special seamless design and new interview set.
Images throughout the space highlight locations across the viewing area on monitors, Daniloff explained, allowing for special customization of each newscast. The walls of the set are outfitted with LED lighting that change color for different times of day, breaking news and special programming.
Daniloff said the Eyewitness News team has the power of two legacy television stations in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania — Nexstar Media Group-owned WBRE, an NBC affiliate, and Mission Broadcasting Inc.-owned WYOU, a CBS affiliate.
Eyewitness News delivers 53 hours of local news each week along with the region’s only live lifestyle program, Pa Live.
The Eyewitness Weather team, led by Chief Meteorologist Josh Hodell, is the area’s leader with the most accurate forecast as certified by WeatheRate for the 11th consecutive year.
In 2018, the Eyewitness News team won PAB awards, including one for Outstanding TV Documentary, “Hidden History,” honoring Black History Month.
KINGSTON — Beverly Johnston carried a magnifying class with her as she made her way through an art exhibit which opened at Main Street Galleries on Sunday, but her vision is fine.
Instead, Johnston was taking in the details of a miniature art exhibit which brings together a sense of history and creativity that have delighted exhibit-goers at the gallery for six years.
Johnston pointed out that although the paintings were miniatures, just like their larger counterparts, they included a variety of themes, including landscapes, still life, nature themes and contemporary pieces.
“They are tiny treasures,” Johnston said, smiling. “They are great for gifts, to hand down to the next generation, great conversation pieces.”
When asked how she painted the fine detail of the piece, she said she did it with tiny strokes, using very fine brushes.
Two of his favorite pieces depict a scene from The Lands at Hillside Farms and one of his brother’s tractor in Bradford County.
James Rogowski, president of the Cider House Painters, founded more than 30 years ago by the Back Mountain’s Sue Hand, said the group was rooted in early 20 Century history.
During the 1930s, when artists could not find work, the Works Progress Administration provided them an opportunity to travel around the country painting murals and other large spaces.
At night, they would gather together, drinking and painting on small canvases that they could carry with them.
They named their group after what they were drinking, so some were “whiskey painters” and some were “rye painters.”
The Back Mountain painters who founded the group in October of 1983 weren’t big drinkers, but enjoyed seasonal favorites, thus the name “Cider Painters.”
Sally Casey, the executive director of Main Street Galleries, said more than 100 people were expected to turn out for Sunday’s opening.
Over the course of the exhibit, which lasts through the end of the year, several hundred will be making their way through the galleries admiring the more than 400 tiny pieces of artwork.
When asked about the scope of the paintings, she said, “Any image that can be painted, can also be created in a smaller format.”
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