Just two months after previous Defense Secretary Leon Panetta created and established the Distinguished Warfare Medal, new Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, has eliminated it. The medal was intended to recognize extraordinary achievement not involving acts of valor that directly impacted combat operations or other military operations, authorized by a Joint Chiefs of Staff execution order. Key provisions permitted the services to award the medal for operations in cyber space or for operating unmanned aerial vehicles in combat theaters from bases in the United States. Many veterans objected to the creation of a special medal for this purpose, noting that existing peacetime medals should be used to honor service members who do not serve in combat theaters and are not subject to enemy actions or family separations. Veterans felt they could live with a special medal for cyber operations and piloting UAVs, but strongly disagreed with the new medal's place in the order of precedence. This placed recognition above the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and several other awards for valor on the battlefield. Several members of Congress agreed and asked the new defense secretary to look into the issue. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, with concurrence of the service secretaries, recommended the creation of a new distinguishing device that can be affixed to existing medals. This will recognize the extraordinary actions of the number of men and women who operate and support remotely piloted aircraft, operate in cyberspace and others critical to the military's mission of safeguarding the nation.

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Hagel is in agreement with this decision and has directed the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness to develop the award criteria in close coordination with the services, veterans organizations and the joint staff. No time limit has been established for completion of the device. Veterans and their families continue to become targets of dishonest advisers. The advisers claim to offer free help with pension claims. The scheme involves attorneys, financial planners and insurance agents trying to convince veterans to transfer their assets to a trust or to invest in insurance products. What they don't reveal is that these transactions could mean the loss of eligibility for Medicaid services or loss of access to their money for a long time. Adding insult to injury, the advisers are charging fees that range from hundreds to thousands of dollars for their services. Always research individuals and companies before any commitments are made that might affect the future. More information can be found at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0349-poaching-veterans-pensions.