Washington (CNN) - Standing behind the president during a bill signing is a shining moment for any policy activist.
For Paul Rieckhoff, it came last week when President Obama signed the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act into law.
Having served in the Army for six years and as an infantry platoon leader in Iraq, Rieckhoff knows something about the challenges active-duty soldiers face overseas and later when they come home.
Rieckhoff's experience inspired the 30-something executive director and founding member of the nonpartisan Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America to challenge the way the country supports veterans.
"We can say we really got something significant done," he said on a warm fall day near Capitol Hill. "We used all the tools in our arsenal, ranging from our e-mail list to Facebook to Twitter to folks on the ground, to push forward a really transformative piece of legislation that's going to help a lot of vets."
The IAVA notes the new law will provide "timely, predictable funding for veterans' health care by requiring Congress to approve a health care budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at least one year in advance."
Rieckhoff has come a long way from combat in Iraq. Tailored suits and policy papers now replace his military uniform and M-16.
(CNN) - The flag-draped cases of 18 Americans killed in Afghanistan arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware early Thursday, in a solemn event attended by President Obama.
Also in attendance for the transfer of the bodies were U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Michele Leonhart, acting DEA administrator.
The bodies were of three Drug Enforcement Administration special agents and 15 U.S. troops who died in Afghanistan this week.
The DEA agents were killed Monday as they returned from a raid on a compound believed to be harboring insurgents tied to drug trafficking. Their helicopter with seven troops aboard went down in western Afghanistan.
(CNN) - The national war of words between Sarah Palin and the man who was nearly her son-in-law flared up once again on Wednesday, as Levi Johnston accused Palin of frequently describing her son Trig, who has Down syndrome, as "retarded."
Palin's team shot back in an e-mail to reporters, calling the claim "inflammatory" and accusing CBS - the network that aired Johnston's latest interview - of "continually providing a forum to propagate lies."
"We have purposefully ignored the mean spirited, malicious and untrue attacks on our family," Palin spokeswoman Meg Stapleton said in the e-mail, on which Palin's lawyer Thomas Van Flein was copied. "We, like many, are appalled at the inflammatory statements being made or implied. Trig is our 'blessed little angel' who knows it and is lovingly called that every day of his life. Even the thought that anyone would refer to Trig by any disparaging name is sickening and sad."
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CNN: Obama attends return of fallen troops from Afghanistan
The flag-draped caskets of at least 18 Americans killed in Afghanistan arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware early Thursday, government and military officials said.
CNN: McCain: Why we can - and must - win the war in Afghanistan
For the first time since September 11, 2001, America is having a vigorous national debate about how to succeed in Afghanistan. This debate is entirely worth having. Whenever America sends its citizens into harm's way, it must do so with eyes wide open.
Washington Post: Obama seeks study on local leaders for troop decision
President Obama has asked senior officials for a province-by-province analysis of Afghanistan to determine which regions are being managed effectively by local leaders and which require international help, information that his advisers say will guide his decision on how many additional U.S. troops to send to the battle.
New York Times: Reported Ties From C.I.A. to a Karzai Spur Rebukes
Senior lawmakers from both parties on Wednesday criticized what American officials said were financial ties between the Central Intelligence Agency and Ahmed Wali Karzai, a brother of the Afghan president, with one top Democrat suggesting that intelligence officials had misled him about Mr. Karzai’s role in Afghanistan’s opium trade.
Los Angeles Times: Afghan attack puts aid programs at risk
The deaths of five U.N. employees in a Taliban assault on a Kabul guesthouse Wednesday is forcing the world body and humanitarian agencies to reevaluate the way they operate in Afghanistan, officials said, putting at risk programs aimed at helping millions of people and stabilizing the war-torn country.
CNN: Democrats ready with tempered public option, aides say
House Democratic leaders will unveil on Thursday a health care bill that includes a more moderate version of the public option, several Democratic leadership aides tell CNN.