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Scout Report #223

The Scout Report 223rd Edition

Military Families and Veterans Issues and Analysis

Monday, July 6, 2015

We hope you had an excellent weekend celebrating the greatness of America and of America’s soccer team. FYSA, the US Women’s Team beat Japan for this year’s World Cup—in case you haven’t been on Twitter or Facebook until this very moment.

Our weekly news rundown covers the gamut from VA scandals to for-profit college shenanigans to a reprieve for a crisis hotline. Plus, a memorable Fred-ism gets its place in history but it’s shockingly clean given the fiery topic on which it’s used: veterans and fireworks.

If, like me, you didn’t get your fill of fireworks this weekend, plan on a visit to Old Town Alexandria this Saturday eveningto celebrate even more America, this time with cannons and birthday cake. You may even find some artisan soap to clean yourself up with after a run in with all that frosting. –LJ 

The week ahead:

Tradeshows and Conferences:
No upcoming Tradeshows or Conferences

For a full list of upcoming events check out our Events page.

Congress:

Senate:

Armed Services: Hearing to examine the nomination of General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., USMC, to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
When:
 9:30 AM, Thursday, July 9, 2015
Where: 
216 Hart  

House:

Veterans Affairs: A Review of VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program
When: 
2:00 PM, Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Where: 
334 Cannon

Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs: Markup of Pending Legislation
When: 
2:00 PM, Thursday, July 9, 2015
Where: 
334 Cannon

Major themes and issues from last week:

ScoutComms in the News:

These stereotypes are a far greater threat to veterans than any fireworks
Brian Adam Jones (@Bjones), Task & Purpose
Signs warning neighbors to be mindful of combat veterans and their sensitivity to fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday have become increasingly common over the past few years. However, veterans like Task & Purpose Editor-in-Chief Brian Adam Jones find the stereotype these signs perpetuate to be more threatening than fireworks. On generalizing about veterans, our founder and CEO Fred Wellman always says, “if you’ve met one veteran, you’ve met one veteran,” and Jones references the aphorism in his argument. –MC

Veterans and Military Issues:

University of Phoenix sidesteps Obama order on recruiting
Aaron Glantz (@Aaron_Glantz), Reveal
In 2012, President Obama signed an Executive Order instituting strict rules on how colleges can recruit service members on bases, which was intended to curb predatory for-profit college practices. However, the regulations don’t include language about event sponsorships. Glantz highlights the recent sponsorship by the University of Phoenix of a Big Smo concert for soldiers and their families at Fort Campbell, a move some see as sidestepping the rules. –MC
Bottom line: While veterans should not be pushed to believe that the only good education is one provided by a not-for-profit college, it’s hard not to worry about the fate of those veterans who are literally preyed on by for-profit institutions who see them and their guaranteed GI Bill funding streams as cash cows in an era when traditional students are no longer flocking to such institutions. No matter what you think about the Administration, its head is firmly in the right place in its efforts to protect students from predatory institutions and predatory lenders. Stories like Glantz’s are reason enough to call for increased scrutiny and to demand that educational institutions and base staff alike respect both the letter and the spirit of rules governing on-base college recruiting. It doesn’t look good for anyone when a base PAO is put in the awkward position of defending a corporate sponsor who shouldn’t really be there in the first place. –BW

Veterans hotline tries to survive without Pentagon funds
Dave Philipps (@David_Philipps), The New York Times
Vets4Warriors, a hotline that connects veterans and active duty service members seeking help with veteran peers, recently lost its funding from the Pentagon. The organization recently received $2.5 million from the New Jersey legislature to continue operations for one more year and keep 40 employees in their jobs, but Vets4Warriors must work to find private funding sources. –MC
Bottom line: It appears that Vets4Warriors has gotten a year long reprieve from closing up shop thanks to the New Jersey state legislature. The program’s partnership with the Department of Defense was ended as the military looks to consolidate the myriad mental health programs they launched and invested in during the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The effort has had an impact for several thousand participants but the scale compared to other programs was substantially smaller. It is good that they are moving to a non-profit model but it won’t be an easy road to find funders that are not government agencies, but not an impossible one. –FPW 

VA will extend veterans benefits to same-sex couples
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
In response to the Supreme Court ruling that makes same-sex marriage legal in all states, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that same-sex married couples will now be eligible for benefits previously unavailable to them. The benefits include sharing veterans’ pensions, loans, and medical information. Guidance for the benefits will be released in a few weeks. –MC

Bottom line: This is a policy change that should have been seen coming for years, particularly after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed and later the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down by the Supreme Court. So it will be telling to see how long it takes VA to implement the changes and how smoothly the transition goes. Historically, any time a large class of people becomes eligible for benefits, the VA struggles to keep up with new claims. Ultimately, this is a long awaited move that will make the VA all the more accessible to the people who have earned the benefits our nation extends its veterans and their families. –LJ 

Dropping the ‘D’ in PTSD is becoming the norm in Washington
Colby Itkowitz (@colbyitkowitz), The Washington Post
Former president George W. Bush and President Barack Obama have been dropping the ‘disorder’ in post traumatic stress disorder when discussing veterans struggling with the illness. The change, long sought by advocates who believe calling it a disorder creates additional stigma, is becoming more prevalent and has even begun to appear in congressional legislation. –MC

Bottom line: Former Vice Chief of the Army General Peter Chiarelli has been one of the most early and vociferous advocates for dropping the “D” in PTSD. He’s a powerful voice in the community as he has been tackling the prevention, identification, and treatment of PTSD since his days in uniform. But, according to RAND, few studies have demonstrated stigma among service members with PTSD and there are no studies to show that service members won’t seek treatment based on stigma fears. In fact, some experts argue that by keeping “disorder” in the name of the condition, service members and the public are more likely to see the illness as something that can be overcome through seeking help. We also cannot forget that PTSD, thought it certainly disproportionately affects veterans, impacts civilians as well and changes to terminology must be seen through a broader lens. –LJ 

Acting VA inspector general steps down amid criticism
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Richard Griffin, the Acting Inspector General for the Department of Veterans Affairs, announced his retirement last Tuesday. Griffin came under fire for not working hard enough to hold VA leadership accountable and uncover abuse within the agency. One day before the announcement, a group named VA Truth Tellers criticized him and called for his resignation. Linda Halliday, the Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations, will replace Griffin. –MC
Bottom line: Given that both Griffin and Halliday are VA lifers, it will be interesting to see if the changing of the guard results in any substantive changes in how the VA’s IG office does business. It’s unclear if Griffin was doing a poor job, or simply fell victim to an onslaught of bad news that came to light after years of neglect. Either way, if he could not succeed as an insider, there is little reason to expect that Halliday, who has been with the office for 23 years, will be any different. If VA Truth Tellers and other activist voices want real change, perhaps they should insist on the appointment of their own Bob McDonald, an IG with few existing VA affiliations or commitments who can act as the proverbial bull in the china shop. If what concerned parties want to hear is a lot more “You’re fired!” and a lot fewer “we’re looking into the situation,” maybe Donald Trump would accept the job after his campaign falls through. –BW

VA: Worker’s response to vet is unacceptable
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
An Iraq war veteran, Chris Dorsey, was turned away from two VA clinics in Georgia. He captured his second rebuff on camera, as he figured no one would believe him, which shows an employee claiming the clinic is not accepting new patients. VA officials called the employee’s behavior inconsistent with the department’s values, but the incident has raised questions about the effectiveness of the top down reforms at VA. –MC
Bottom line: Obviously this employee is wrong. There isn’t much getting around the fact that he was unhelpful and unprofessional. Having said that, there is always the ‘Paul Harvey’ on every one of these incidents. The rest of the story is a clinic overwhelmed by patients and a shortage of doctors with no end in sight no matter how much the VA is doing to hire medical professionals. Clearly the system is far from perfect with some veterans having no issues getting appointments and great treatment like here in the Fredericksburg region but in other areas massive wait times and shortages of medical professionals are making it almost impossible to keep up with demand from veterans in need. No one believes at this point that the VA leadership is not trying to fix things but increasing demand will be a constant battle for the massive agency. –FPW

Client News:

Celebrating the American dream of business ownership on Independence day
James Schmeling (@jschmeling) Voices the IVMF Blog
The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) celebrated its fourth year in operation last week. James Schmeling, IVMF’s co-founder and managing director, reflects on the success of the organization and the thrill of supporting veteran entrepreneurs. –MC

Winn-Dixie to donate all profits July 4 to Wounded Warrior Project
All profits generated at Winn-Dixie grocery stores on July 4 went to the Wounded Warrior Project’s Independence Program. The program assists wounded veterans in regaining their independence by helping them work with their caregivers to develop a purposeful plan for the future. Winn-Dixie customers also had the option to donate to the program from July 1-5. –MC

Saving the interpreters who were left behind
Sabrin Qadi, Arab American Institute
An Arab American Institute intern highlighted the challenges former Iraqi and Afghan interpreters face when they move to the United States. When many arrive in the U.S., they struggle to find jobs and support their families. No One Left Behind is working to help ease the transition by assisting them with job searches, housing, benefits, and enrolling children in school among other services. The organization operates under the belief that these interpreters should be considered veterans for their service alongside U.S. troops overseas. –MC

Quick Hits

Postpartum depression linked to later medical disorders
Patricia Kime (@patriciaKime), Military Times
A new report by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center showed that military women who experience postpartum depression are at higher risk for other mental illnesses and suicidal ideations. This research is an indication that early identification and treatment of mental health issues can help prevent further illness and increase military readiness. –MC

Marines sack commander of female boot camp training
Gretel C. Kovach, (@gckovach), The San Diego Union-Tribune
Lt. Col. Kate Germano, former commanding officer of the Parris Island, S.C., female recruit battalion, was removed from her position last week. Germano claims that she took a stand against gender bias and has filed an ‘equal opportunity’ complaint. On the other hand, Marine Corps officials say that she created a poor command climate. –MC

Meet Lt. Gen. Robert Neller, nominee to be the next Marine Corps commandant
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post
Last week, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that Lt. Gen. Robert B. Neller has been selected to serve as the next Marine Corps Commandant. If confirmed, Neller will replace Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, who will likely become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. –MC

For veterans to prosper in STEM workforce, employers need to help with post-military transition
Delece Smith-Barrow (@DeleceWrites), US News & World Report
Last week at the U.S. News & World Report STEM Solutions Conference, panelists discussed challenges veterans face as they seek employment in the STEM workforce. Panelists said that some companies refuse to hire veterans because of PTSD stereotypes and recommended companies develop veteran onboarding strategies to help with their transition. –MC

DoD to study link between sex assault claims, career retaliation
Stephen Losey (@StephenLosey), Air Force Times
The Defense Department Inspector General will begin to examine whether or not service members were incorrectly discharged from the military as a result of mental health issues following sexual assault. After coming forward about an assault, some service members are retaliated against by being forced out of the military under the auspices of personality or adjustment disorder. –MC


The Scout Report is a weekly analysis of news and events in the veterans and military family communities produced by the staff of ScoutComms, Inc. and is emailed each Monday morning except on holidays. Follow us on Twitter at @ScoutComms to get up to the minute news on defense and veterans issues all week. Did you get this as a forward?  Subscribe yourself for free here right now!

About Us: ScoutComms, Inc. is an award winning social enterprise communications, corporate social responsibility, and philanthropic strategy firm supporting veterans, military families and organizations committed to their well-being. Our mission is to empower veterans and military families through communications grounded initiatives and collaborative alliances that lead to greater awareness of veterans’ needs and expanded access to economic and social resource opportunities. We are one of the first Benefit Corporations, B-Corps, focused on veterans and military family issues in the nation. We accomplish our mission by supporting companies, non-profits and foundations who are providing programs and charitable giving efforts in support of veterans and military families. To learn more about what we can do for your organization visit our website at www.ScoutCommsUSA.com.

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