Not Just The VA That Is A FRAUD Against Combat Veterans: Its The DOD, Army Also?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS AND THE LOS ANGELES TIMES)

AMERICA

U.S. Soldiers Told To Repay Thousands In Signing Bonuses From Height Of War Effort

The Pentagon is seeking millions of dollars from nearly 10,000 current or former soldiers in the California National Guard, saying they didn’t deserve re-enlistment bonuses. Here, soldiers from the state’s Guard force are seen in 2010, resting during transport in northeastern Afghanistan.

Brennan Linsley/AP

In most cases, when an employer pays a signing bonus to attract new workers, that payment is understood to be essentially unrecoverable. But the Pentagon has a different understanding — and it’s ordering the California National Guard to claw back thousands of dollars paid to soldiers who reenlist to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And in many cases, an employer would also have a tough time arguing that decade-old lapses in its own oversight should trigger wage garnishment’s and tax liens against its workers. But again, this is the U.S. military, and its officials say the law requires them to reclaim the over payments.

That’s the gist of a report by The Los Angeles Times, which says nearly 10,000 soldiers are now scrambling to pay back signing bonuses that helped the Pentagon cope with the task of using an all-volunteer service to fight two prolonged international conflicts.

In addition to doling out cash for re-enlistment, the Pentagon offered student loan repayments. The incentives were seen as crucial to the military’s effort to keep its ranks flush, but auditors say that the rules should have limited the largest payments to certain skill areas — and that in the rush to staff the war effort, the bonuses were given out too liberally, the L.A. Times reports.

Responding to the newspaper’s story Sunday, the California National Guard points out that the repayments are part of a federal program run by the National Guard Bureau and the Department of the Army.

The state military service says:

“The California National Guard does not have the authority to unilaterally waive these debts. However, the California National Guard welcomes any law passed by Congress to waive these debts.

“Until that time, our priority is to advocate for our Soldiers through this difficult process.”

In its statement, the service adds that its adjutant-general, Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, created an assistance center that has helped some of its soldiers “retain $37 million dollars of original bonus payments.”

The problem of improper use of military troop-level incentives isn’t limited to California — but the state has emerged as a focal point because of two factors: the large size of its Guard force, and a history of over payments.

A scandal over the California Guard’s use of bonus money was first unearthed in 2010, when the Sacramento Bee reported that its incentive program had misspent as much as $100 million. The program’s one-time leader, former master sergeant Toni Jaffe, was later sentenced to 30 months in prison, after pleading guilty to making $15 million in false claims.

When it was first discovered, that scandal was deemed “war profiteering” and was said to have benefited Guard members who hadn’t logged any combat duty; high-ranking officers were mentioned. But in the years since, lower-ranking service members have complained about garnished checks and a prolonged review process, saying they’ve done nothing wrong.

With the work of 42 auditors who reviewed the California cases now complete, the repayments are back in the spotlight — and service members and veterans, as well as members of the public, have been venting their anger.

On the California Guard’s Facebook page, several people hijacked a post about training to comment on the bonus repayments, with one man writing, “The officials who screwed over our service members need to do the right thing and pay back the money. DISGUSTING.”

And after the Guard responded to the Times story today, a commentor criticized its stance, writing, “Meanwhile vets are suffering while one bureaucracy waits to ‘welcome’ another bureaucracy to take responsibility and force it to do the right thing. Pathetic.”

Revelations about fraud and mismanagement in the Pentagon’s retention program emerged after the program’s budget swelled between 2000 and 2008 — when the Defense Department went from spending $891 million for selective re-enlistment bonuses to spending $1.4 billion on them, according to a 2010 research paper by the RAND defense institute. By the end of that period, the military was also spending $625 million yearly to pay enlistment bonuses.

It’s not unusual for signing bonuses to have strings attached. But in the civilian world, conditions for repayment are often limited to cases where an employee spends less than a year in their new job. In the case of the California National Guard, soldiers who say they held up their end of the contract — serving the required three or six-year re-enlistment period — are being told to repay a key incentive.

One of them is Robert Richmond, who has begun an online petition that calls for the Army to “stop stealing back signing bonuses 10 years later.”

Richmond says he signed the contract in good faith, and in his petition, he describes a scenario that’s reminiscent of the recent Wells Fargo cross-selling scandal, saying that a lower-ranking figure has been punished for committing fraud that was motivated at least in part by a need to meet targets set by her superiors.

Richmond also appears in the L.A. Times story; here’s a sample from his petition:

“Like many other soldiers, I honorably completed my contract in 2012 and two years later they sent me a letter stating I had to pay the money back. Each contract has a different excuse. They stated the reason I was not eligible for the contract was because I had over 20 years of service at the time. I had originally signed up more than 20 years prior, but had breaks in service and only had 15 credible years of service, not 20. Although at the time, they informed me I was eligible for a bonus, now they are saying I was not.”

Like other veterans who are refusing to pay up, Richmond is now incurring interest on the repayment amount.

In its General Rules about the recovery of pay and bonuses, the Department of Defense states, “As a general rule, repayment will not be sought if the member’s inability to fulfill the eligibility requirements is due to circumstances determined reasonably beyond the member’s control.”

But after dozens of auditors reviewed its system that had paid soldiers bonuses without determining their eligibility, the California National Guard’s veterans started getting repayment notices.

“People like me just got screwed,” a 42-year-old veteran tells the Times.

That veteran, former Army captain Christopher Van Meter, fought in Iraq. He tells the newspaper he refinanced his mortgage to repay $25,000 in re-enlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments.

Another veteran — former Army master sergeant Susan Haley, who served in Afghanistan and spent more than 25 years in the service — tells the newspaper that she’s now sending the Pentagon $650 each month to repay $20,500 in bonuses.

“I feel totally betrayed,” Haley says.

To put those dollar figures in perspective, we can look at the Army’s payment and retention policy — specifically, a summary of its Selective re-enlistment Bonus program that was laid out early in 2006:

“The objective of the SRB program is to increase the number of re-enlistment in critical MOS’s [Military Occupational Specialty] that do not have adequate retention levels to man the career force. Although Department of Defense policy permits SRB payments of up to $45,000.00, soldiers may be paid bonuses up to six times their monthly basic pay at discharge, times the number of years of additional obligated service, or $20,000.00, whichever is less.”

While some veterans are working to repay the money, others are filing appeals, engaging in what’s likely to be a prolonged fight against the service to which they once belonged. California Guard officials tell the Times that they’ve been helping veterans through the appeals process.

“We’d be more than happy to absolve these people of their debts,” Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, deputy commander of the California Guard, tells the Times. “We just can’t do it. We’d be breaking the law.”

One of the earliest reviews of the Army’s post-Iraq invasion bonus system came in 2007, when the Defense Department’s Inspector General examined the program called the re-enlistment, Reclassification, and Assignment System (RETAIN) . But at the time, the central issue wasn’t whether too much money was being paid, but rather whether the service was paying out bonuses quickly enough.

I Hope I Am Wrong, But Here Is What President Trump Is Going To Do ‘To’ The Working Class Americans

 

I hope that I am wrong about this belief but I am writing this article, this note, to you today because I don’t think I am wrong. So that you won’t go off on the wrong thought direction I will tell you that I voted for Gary Johnson in the Presidential election last month. I am a registered Independent but that is not the reason I voted for Mr. Johnson. I voted for him because I knew he would not win, you see I just couldn’t get myself to vote for Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton. To me, both of those folks just had too much negative baggage about them in regards to what I believed they would bring to the Presidency for me to be able to vote for them. Mrs. Clinton had a track record of negatives while working in D.C., Mr. Trump had a lot of bad baggage but we the people could at least hope that everything coming out of his mouth wasn’t a lie. Now both of these candidates had some good ideas as does each of their Parties, but they also have some huge negatives.

 

With Mr. Trump after he won the election what I have been looking toward was whom were the people he was going to put into his Cabinet. We now know exactly where Mr. Trump’s mindset is as far as his campaign rhetoric about “making America great again.” Mr. Trump chose a Congressman from South Carolina to oversee the National Budget and how the Government’s  revenues will be spent. He just like the Republican Leadership in the House and the Senate are against Mr. Trump’s plan to rebuild the Nation’s infrastructure which has a preliminary estimate price tag of one trillion dollars. From being an over the road truck driver for thirty plus years I know first hand that this has been needed to be done for at least the past thirty years, of that I have no doubt. His new budget man though says no to this program, unless the Federal Government cuts a trillion dollars in ‘waste’ that it is now spending. The issue though is that to the Republicans ‘waste’ is things like the food stamp program, Social Security retirement and disability programs, Military retirement and VA disability programs, I believe you get the idea. Yet, you know that there is something that I have never once heard these Congressmen, Senators, or former Presidents talk about cutting and that is their lavish ‘amenities’ they are getting right now, or the lavish retirement packages they get when they retire or are voted out of office. Back when “war hero” George H.W.Bush was President he tried to turn over all of the Nation’s road systems to the States so that they could make every road in America a “toll” road. He wanted to do this to lessen the burden on the Federal Government. This has always puzzled me since the Federal Government receives billions of dollars in road use fuel taxes, I have always wondered where all those billions go every year since they are not being spent on the roads and bridges. Yet the biggest “show” of his support for wounded American Veterans was that while he was in Office he tried to save money by cutting the cost of the VA. The issue is, that he wanted to make it to where for a Service Connected Veteran to be able to get care at the VA they had to be a minimum of %50 Service Connected, wait for it, he also was trying to get it to where for a wounded Veteran to get %50 they had to be at the very least a quadriplegic (no working arms or legs). Sorry about being sidetracked there, it just disgusts me how pathetic these pariah can be.

 

Now, back to our current President Elect, Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump has made it no secret that he believes that the Federal minimum wage is too high. This is the reason why he has had and is having everything with his name on it, not counting buildings obviously, he has made in ‘offshore’ countries where slave wages are the norm. Plus these countries do not have the EPA regulations for their companies to worry about. The reality is the richer the people the less they give a flip about the poorest of the poor, it is always all about how much profit they can put into their own pocket. Besides, there are billions of dirt poor starving people, why should they care if billions of them die? You will know that in public statements they will say they do, but in the closed-door boardrooms of these international companies, do you really believe that is their opinion there? Think about it, as soon as a company that is on the open market boards says they are laying off workers, their stock values go up at once. When a company on the Stock Market says they are closing a factory in the U.S. and moving it to Mexico, Honduras, or China, the value of their stock goes up. Even the soon to be ‘First Daughter’ learned this from her Daddy, look at where her products are all made, hint, it’s not in the U.S..

 

Mr. Trump says that he is going to cut the Corporate tax rate from its current %35 to %15 to help stimulate companies profits. He also says he is going to punish companies that move their jobs ‘offshore’ by putting a huge tariff like %35 on all the products they then try to bring back into the States to sell here. As an Independent, I do not have a problem with either of these programs, I believe that Companies need to be strong financially for them to expand and to create new jobs. My issue is that Mr. Trump is very anti-Union and he is in favor of lowering the minimum wage. So, if his policies are designed to cut the welfare programs and put people back to work, are these jobs really actually going to pay a livable wage? Remember, Mr. Trump thinks that the folks at Carrier in Indianapolis are losing their jobs because they are making too much money and that Carrier was needing to move their factories to Mexico because of cheaper wages and benefits there. Mr. Trump has also told the workers in the American Auto Industry that they are making too much money that they need to take pay cuts. Mr. Trump talks about how a former steelworker who lost their job because of unfair labor laws in China and is now flipping burgers knows about the good jobs disappearing here in America. Well, my question to Mr. Trump is if you help bring back the steelworkers job to America but he has to work for 6 or 7 dollars per hour with no benefits, no overtime pay and no OSHA or EPA regulations to help keep them safe and alive how are they any better off than flipping burgers for at McDonald’s or working a register at Wal-Mart?

 

I know this is not going to happen, but here is a solution to some semblance of income equality. Right now there is no cap on how much the top end of a company’s executives can earn, the limits are only on the working class and those limits are put into place by the top end. So, Congress should pass a federal law where there can not be more than a 100 times income difference law on all companies and this would have to include total packages, stocks, bonds, benefits, insurances ect. This is where whatever the lowest paid person in the company makes, no one in the company can make more than 100 times that amount. As I said, it will never happen because it is those same top end folks that bribe the Congressmen and Senators to make sure that it never happens. This is a humanity issue, yes it is an income equality issue also, but for any Country to survive then there must be a vibrant middle class and a system where the lowest end of the financial scale has an honest chance to work their way up into that middle class. If we do not correct the current trends of only the wealthiest being able to afford a humane life style we are seeing the signs now where America is going to fall apart from the inside. By the choices Mr. Trump is making for his Cabinet I don’t believe he gives a flip about the American working class, his picks are showing that he only cares about the top 1/10 of 1%. I believe that to put it in layman’s terms, for the next two years there may begin to be more jobs but they are not likely to be livable wage jobs. The reason I said two years is because if I am correct and this is what happens, in two years the Republicans will lose the House and the Senate and in four years Mr. Trump will go back to his vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Can America’s Indian Tribes Have ‘Nations’ When The Federal And State Governments Can do Anything They Want To Do On Their Land?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘NATIVE NEWS ON LINE’)

STANDING ROCK SIOUX TRIBE CHAIRMAN: RECORD OF ETP-DAPL FAILURES IGNORED BY GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS

Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archembault II

Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archembault II. Native News Online photo by Levi Rickert.

Regulatory racism requires federal intervention

Published October 30, 2016

STANDING ROCK INDIAN RESERVATION — With tensions high near the Dakota Access pipeline after this past week’s arrest, over 1,200 land and water protectors are still camped out near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

On Sunday, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe released the following statement from Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II:

Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II outside the court last week. Native News Online photo by Randall Slikkers

“Government officials continue to ignore the factual record: Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) have failed to protect water and people, and repeatedly cut environmental corners with the knowing aid and comfort of state machinery controlled by the governor of North Dakota. The governor and ETP are willfully ignoring a common-sense federal directive to halt construction until the project is reviewed for its true environmental impacts.

This pipeline was rerouted towards our tribal nations when other citizens of North Dakota rightfully rejected it in the interests of protecting their communities and water. We seek the same consideration as those citizens. It’s disappointing to see our state and federal officials advance their corporate, pro-Big Oil energy platform here in North Dakota at the expense of human health, safety and tribal sovereignty. Our tribal nations give this state its name.

Police State in North Dakota at DAPL on Friday, October 28, 2016. Photo by Christopher Francisco

Both the government and private sector enlisted and sanctioned dangerous and dehumanizing tactics through a taxpayer-funded, militarized law enforcement with documented human rights abuses. The aggressive acts of these forces have caused severe injuries and endangered the safety of thousands of peaceful protectors who share our goal of protecting the water.

WE DON’T HAVE WEAPONS. WE HAVE PEOPLE AND PRAYER. WE HAVE CIVIL RIGHTS AND TRIBAL RIGHTS. AND FOR NOW, WE HAVE OUR WATER. THE ANNOUNCEMENT THAT AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL WANTS TO OBSERVE ACTIONS OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA ALONE SHOULD GIVE US COLD COMFORT, SINCE THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF THOUSANDS ARE IGNORED.

We stand with our brothers and sisters of more than 300 tribal nations, the citizens of North Dakota and the hundreds of thousands of American citizens and allied organizations from around America and the world who share our goal of protecting the water. Water is life.”

Not Just The VA That Is A FRAUD Against Combat Veterans: Its The DOD, Army Also?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS AND THE LOS ANGELES TIMES)

AMERICA

U.S. Soldiers Told To Repay Thousands In Signing Bonuses From Height Of War Effort

The Pentagon is seeking millions of dollars from nearly 10,000 current or former soldiers in the California National Guard, saying they didn’t deserve re-enlistment bonuses. Here, soldiers from the state’s Guard force are seen in 2010, resting during transport in northeastern Afghanistan.

Brennan Linsley/AP

In most cases, when an employer pays a signing bonus to attract new workers, that payment is understood to be essentially unrecoverable. But the Pentagon has a different understanding — and it’s ordering the California National Guard to claw back thousands of dollars paid to soldiers who reenlist to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And in many cases, an employer would also have a tough time arguing that decade-old lapses in its own oversight should trigger wage garnishment’s and tax liens against its workers. But again, this is the U.S. military, and its officials say the law requires them to reclaim the over payments.

That’s the gist of a report by The Los Angeles Times, which says nearly 10,000 soldiers are now scrambling to pay back signing bonuses that helped the Pentagon cope with the task of using an all-volunteer service to fight two prolonged international conflicts.

In addition to doling out cash for re-enlistment, the Pentagon offered student loan repayments. The incentives were seen as crucial to the military’s effort to keep its ranks flush, but auditors say that the rules should have limited the largest payments to certain skill areas — and that in the rush to staff the war effort, the bonuses were given out too liberally, the L.A. Times reports.

Responding to the newspaper’s story Sunday, the California National Guard points out that the repayments are part of a federal program run by the National Guard Bureau and the Department of the Army.

The state military service says:

“The California National Guard does not have the authority to unilaterally waive these debts. However, the California National Guard welcomes any law passed by Congress to waive these debts.

“Until that time, our priority is to advocate for our Soldiers through this difficult process.”

In its statement, the service adds that its adjutant-general, Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, created an assistance center that has helped some of its soldiers “retain $37 million dollars of original bonus payments.”

The problem of improper use of military troop-level incentives isn’t limited to California — but the state has emerged as a focal point because of two factors: the large size of its Guard force, and a history of over payments.

A scandal over the California Guard’s use of bonus money was first unearthed in 2010, when the Sacramento Bee reported that its incentive program had misspent as much as $100 million. The program’s one-time leader, former master sergeant Toni Jaffe, was later sentenced to 30 months in prison, after pleading guilty to making $15 million in false claims.

When it was first discovered, that scandal was deemed “war profiteering” and was said to have benefited Guard members who hadn’t logged any combat duty; high-ranking officers were mentioned. But in the years since, lower-ranking service members have complained about garnished checks and a prolonged review process, saying they’ve done nothing wrong.

With the work of 42 auditors who reviewed the California cases now complete, the repayments are back in the spotlight — and service members and veterans, as well as members of the public, have been venting their anger.

On the California Guard’s Facebook page, several people hijacked a post about training to comment on the bonus repayments, with one man writing, “The officials who screwed over our service members need to do the right thing and pay back the money. DISGUSTING.”

And after the Guard responded to the Times story today, a commentor criticized its stance, writing, “Meanwhile vets are suffering while one bureaucracy waits to ‘welcome’ another bureaucracy to take responsibility and force it to do the right thing. Pathetic.”

Revelations about fraud and mismanagement in the Pentagon’s retention program emerged after the program’s budget swelled between 2000 and 2008 — when the Defense Department went from spending $891 million for selective re-enlistment bonuses to spending $1.4 billion on them, according to a 2010 research paper by the RAND defense institute. By the end of that period, the military was also spending $625 million yearly to pay enlistment bonuses.

It’s not unusual for signing bonuses to have strings attached. But in the civilian world, conditions for repayment are often limited to cases where an employee spends less than a year in their new job. In the case of the California National Guard, soldiers who say they held up their end of the contract — serving the required three or six-year re-enlistment period — are being told to repay a key incentive.

One of them is Robert Richmond, who has begun an online petition that calls for the Army to “stop stealing back signing bonuses 10 years later.”

Richmond says he signed the contract in good faith, and in his petition, he describes a scenario that’s reminiscent of the recent Wells Fargo cross-selling scandal, saying that a lower-ranking figure has been punished for committing fraud that was motivated at least in part by a need to meet targets set by her superiors.

Richmond also appears in the L.A. Times story; here’s a sample from his petition:

“Like many other soldiers, I honorably completed my contract in 2012 and two years later they sent me a letter stating I had to pay the money back. Each contract has a different excuse. They stated the reason I was not eligible for the contract was because I had over 20 years of service at the time. I had originally signed up more than 20 years prior, but had breaks in service and only had 15 credible years of service, not 20. Although at the time, they informed me I was eligible for a bonus, now they are saying I was not.”

Like other veterans who are refusing to pay up, Richmond is now incurring interest on the repayment amount.

In its General Rules about the recovery of pay and bonuses, the Department of Defense states, “As a general rule, repayment will not be sought if the member’s inability to fulfill the eligibility requirements is due to circumstances determined reasonably beyond the member’s control.”

But after dozens of auditors reviewed its system that had paid soldiers bonuses without determining their eligibility, the California National Guard’s veterans started getting repayment notices.

“People like me just got screwed,” a 42-year-old veteran tells the Times.

That veteran, former Army captain Christopher Van Meter, fought in Iraq. He tells the newspaper he refinanced his mortgage to repay $25,000 in re-enlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments.

Another veteran — former Army master sergeant Susan Haley, who served in Afghanistan and spent more than 25 years in the service — tells the newspaper that she’s now sending the Pentagon $650 each month to repay $20,500 in bonuses.

“I feel totally betrayed,” Haley says.

To put those dollar figures in perspective, we can look at the Army’s payment and retention policy — specifically, a summary of its Selective re-enlistment Bonus program that was laid out early in 2006:

“The objective of the SRB program is to increase the number of re-enlistment in critical MOS’s [Military Occupational Specialty] that do not have adequate retention levels to man the career force. Although Department of Defense policy permits SRB payments of up to $45,000.00, soldiers may be paid bonuses up to six times their monthly basic pay at discharge, times the number of years of additional obligated service, or $20,000.00, whichever is less.”

While some veterans are working to repay the money, others are filing appeals, engaging in what’s likely to be a prolonged fight against the service to which they once belonged. California Guard officials tell the Times that they’ve been helping veterans through the appeals process.

“We’d be more than happy to absolve these people of their debts,” Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, deputy commander of the California Guard, tells the Times. “We just can’t do it. We’d be breaking the law.”

One of the earliest reviews of the Army’s post-Iraq invasion bonus system came in 2007, when the Defense Department’s Inspector General examined the program called the re-enlistment, Reclassification, and Assignment System (RETAIN) . But at the time, the central issue wasn’t whether too much money was being paid, but rather whether the service was paying out bonuses quickly enough.

AMERICAN GAMING ASSOCIATION BRING TOGETHER TRIBAL LEADERSHIP TO PRESENT AT THE 2016 GLOBAL GAMING EXPO

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NATIVE NEWS ON LINE WEB SITE)

AMERICAN GAMING ASSOCIATION BRING TOGETHER TRIBAL LEADERSHIP TO PRESENT AT THE 2016 GLOBAL GAMING EXPO

Chairman Stevens moderating the "Tribal Gaming Roundtable" panel with Indian country leadership. Photo (L-R) Chairman Stevens, Bobby Soper, President and CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, Brian Patterson, President of the United South East Tribes (USET) and Louis Manual, Chairman of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association.

Chairman Stevens moderating the “Tribal Gaming Roundtable” panel with Indian country leadership. Photo (L-R) Chairman Stevens, Bobby Soper, President and CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, Brian Patterson, President of the United South East Tribes (USET) and Louis Manual, Chairman of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association.

Published October 7, 2016

LAS VEGAS – The American Indian Gaming Association (AGA) in partnership with the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) developed a strong tribal gaming educational track at the 2016 Global Gaming Expo (G2E), and one of the major highlights was the Tribal Leaders Roundtable on Tuesday, September 27 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

The “Tribal Gaming Round table,” panel moderated by NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. with tribal leadership panelist that included Brian Patterson, President of the United South East Tribes (USET), Louis Manual, Chairman of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association and Bobby Soper, President and CEO, Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority took place to discuss some of the pressing issues Gaming Tribes are facing.
Stevens opened the panel by saying, “I am excited to be here. It is so powerful when you sit amongst the Indian gaming world and you look around to see so many from the Indian gaming regions represented in one room.  I am excited about where this industry has come.   From the days of educating and fighting for our right to Game to today, where we had a historical coming together of commercial and tribal gaming on the main stage of G2E.  It is an honor and a privilege for me to represent the Indian Gaming industry.  Indian country walks side by side with the other players in the industry.  We’ve come a long way in this industry and we are now the experts and are parallel with others in the industry.”
To begin the discussions of the panel about the tribal government gaming industry, Chairman Stevens started the panel discussions by asking about tribes pursing commercial gaming licensing and economic diversification by tribes.
Soper said, “Our tribe made a conscious decision many years ago that we wanted to pursue opportunities to diversify our economic base and one of those pursuits is to take our profits from gaming and invest them outside the reservation.  Our first project in 2006 was our Casino [Mohegan Sun Pocono] in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania, and it exceeded expectations.  Since that time we have expanded and have properties in Atlantic City, Louisiana, Washington State and will soon begin a project in Korea.  We have successfully established partnerships with other tribes and now we want to diversify internationally.”  He continued, “When you diversify commercially and have assets off the reservation, you generate greater creditability, and it allows you greater opportunities to continue to diversify.”
Patterson expanded upon Soper’s discussion and commended the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes as an excellent example of leadership in action.  It amazes me that Indian Country has the strength, courage, and stamina to govern one of the most regulated industries there is.  He continued, “We know that nearly every aspect of economic development is controlled in some way by the Federal Government.  The Trust relationship must be modernized to overcome barriers.  He explained that it would require a change in the Federal government mentality for tribes to create economic opportunities that will advance their tribes and be self-sufficient.”
Chairman Manuel told the crowd that “Gaming has provided us the opportunity to progress and diversify. I remember we used to have to choose which bills to pay and now we have built upon gaming with a golf course, airport, and a movie theater entertainment complex and a water treatment facility.  So those opportunities are just examples of going beyond gaming.”
Stevens asked the panel to discuss issues surrounding dealing with Unions and the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act.  “They think we are anti-union.  But we are pro-sovereignty.”
Soper said, “Unions are a tough issue because it is an issue of sovereignty and it’s also a political issue, so you have the two competing interests. The more we can position it as an issue of sovereignty (self-governing authority), I think the more successful we are going to be.  Once you start comprising the basic principles of sovereignty in any context, then you venture back to that slippery slope.  It is very important to hold firm on these principles.”
President Patterson echoed, it is not necessarily that we are anti-union people, it is more in the sense that we are just self-determined in our course of action.” He talked about the results of self-determination at the Oneida Nation of New York and said that in FY 2015, the Oneida Nation of New York paid over $127 million dollars in wages to approximately 4, 446 employees, with employees paying more than $12 million dollars in federal payroll taxes and some $4.4 million in State taxes and the Nation has made upward of $4 million in matching contributions to employees 401-K retirement accounts.  He said, “The point I’m making is that the nation has done our best to take care of its workforce and their families.  We are meeting their needs, we are taking care of their families, and they can build a sound career, and the tribe is self-sufficient in determining their own labor actions.  Tribal Governments do act responsibly.”
Chairman Manuel spoke about the Ak-Chin Indian Community and agreed that it is about self-governance and self-determination.  “We have to take care of our employees.  We have to make sure we are not limited in our ability to develop our own policies and regulations, staying in line with the real meaning of sovereignty.”
The leadership panel rounded out the discussions giving final comments on the future of Indian Gaming and Indian Economic Diversification beyond gaming.  Soper told the attendees that there is still a lot of work to do as it relates to the future of economic sustainability. “There is still the need to educate others about tribes. We have to preserve our economic base. Indian gaming is a powerhouse, and it is very important that we protect that.  I think in the next decade or two, we are going to be more prominent as an industry.”
Patterson said, “There is a real strength in solidarity in Indian Country.  We must remain solid and accountable to each other in unity.  As we look at the tremendous benefit of Indian gaming, it is important that we continue to look at economic diversity, to build strong economic communities.”
Chairman Manuel also expressed the importance of unity.  He said, “The key is that we need to work together and he stressed that we must always remember our future.  We have fought so long for our gaming compacts so that we can remain self-sufficient.  We must be careful with what we give away.”
Chairman Stevens concluded by saying, “Our work is never done.  Too many Tribes are on the outside looking in, unable to take advantage of gaming because the market isn’t there.  We have to create other economic opportunities for all Tribes.  We must continue working with one another to further economic gains for all Tribes and we must be vigilant in the continued protection of Indian Gaming and Tribal Sovereignty.”