Military Families and Veterans Issues and Analysis
Monday, August 10, 2015
We’re in it: August in DC. Both chambers of Congress are in recess, vacation responders are set (not in the ScoutComms offices, fear not), and we start counting down the days until Pumpkin Spice Latte season.
A slower DC news cycle means we can take a look at the issues that often go unreported while Congress makes noise about VA reforms. This week we take a look at a new study that says common treatments for PTS aren’t working, efforts to end veteran homelessness are working, veterans themselves are working, and greater diversity in the military would mean a better working SOF.
Hearty congratulations to friend of ScoutComms Patrick Murphy on his nomination last week to be the next Under Secretary of the Army. Murphy, a former Screaming Eagle, was the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress. Most recently, Murphy has hosted “Taking the Hill” on MSNBC, the only news program dedicated to veterans’ issues. We’re excited to see someone like Patrick ushering in the Army of the future. –LJ
The week ahead:
Tradeshows and Conferences:
No major tradeshows and conferences.
Congress is in recess.
No major events this week.
Major themes and issues from last week:
Veterans and Military Issues:
How effective are PTSD treatments for veterans?
Alexandra Sifferlin (@acsifferlin), TIME
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that two of the most common first-line post-traumatic stress treatments for veterans—cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure therapy—are not as effective as once believed. Around two-thirds of patients examined in the study still met criteria for PTS even after receiving both treatments. –MC
Bottom line: The bottom line of this article seems to be that while we don’t have a cure for PTS, everyone is trying really hard. It would be frustrating were it not for the fact that despite all of our technological advances we still remain stumped at times in our quest to fully understand the human brain. No matter how you look at the situation though, PTS is a serious issue for veterans and civilians alike. Sifferlin’s summary of the issue shows that much more work is needed both to develop new treatments, and to better assess and comparatively measure the effectiveness of each treatment. But we encourage researchers and policy makers alike to not exclude new or controversial treatments from testing, as studies like JAMA’s show that what passes for conventional wisdom on treating PTS may be significantly flawed. –BW
McCain bill would let all veterans seek care outside VA
Heath Druzin (@Druzin_Stripes), Stars and Stripes
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced legislation last week that would allow all veterans using VA health care to seek private care by extending VA Choice Card program eligibility to every veteran. VA Secretary McDonald expressed concerns about privatizing care, with the concern that civilian doctors don’t understand the unique needs of veterans. –MC
Bottom line: McCain’s proposal certainly isn’t outright privatization of VA health care, but it is a step in that direction. One could imagine a future where broadening eligibility for private care to every veteran creates a temporary surge in appointments with private physicians leading Congress to point to this data as a reason to further privatize VA services and shift funding away from VA’s core mission. But because the proposal isn’t privatization, the conservative Concerned Veterans for America isn’t lending its support to the bill. VA is likely to come out against the legislation as Secretary McDonald shoved a stake in the ground against privatization during a Politico Playbook Breakfast event last week. As a former businessman, McDonald make an excellent advocate for an unquestionably public health care model. He will need to be as the McCain bill is sure to encourage more debate on the Hill around more drastic measures to speed up VA reforms. –LJ
Pentagon’s elite forces lack diversity
Tom Vanden Brook (@tvandenbrook), USA Today
Our military’s elite forces lack diversity at the top as they are primarily led by white officers and NCOs. For example, only 1% of Navy SEAL officers are black. Military leaders are working to increase diversity, including promotion boards giving greater weight to diversity, emphasizing mentoring minority officers, and conducting outreach into minority communities. –MC
Bottom line: Recently, media like Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s “Ashley’s War” and reporting on women attempting Ranger School has put a spotlight on gender diversity within our military’s elite forces. Advocates for opening up combat roles to women, including special operations forces billets, argue that the human terrain on the modern battlefield is best served by women who can go places and collect intel that men cannot. Similarly, the very nature of missions taken on by special operators would seem to be best served by a diversity of cultural backgrounds and the ability to blend in in hostile environments. The military will have to look at the institutional processes that may be funneling promising officers to branches that do not lend themselves to careers in special operations. While the military is often a place where merit ranks above all else, it is still at its core a reflection of the society from whence its recruits came. –LJ
The U.S. declared war on veteran homelessness – and it actually could win
Quil Lawrence (@QuilLawrence), NPR
Five years ago, the White House established a deadline to end veteran homelessness by 2016. Reaching the deadline doesn’t mean that no veterans will ever sleep on the streets, but rather that there’s a system in place to help those who do fall into homelessness; a ‘functional zero.’ Advocates like Steve Peck, President of U.S.VETS, worry that funding may disappear after the deadline passes. –MC
Bottom line: When the Obama administration announced the goal to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 there was more than a little skepticism that it would be possible. Now that we are mere months from the end of the year it is looking quite possible the goal might be met in a large sense. Does it mean every vet is off the street? No. It means that there are systems in place and processes to ensure that as a veteran finds himself or herself on the street they can find the housing and support to quickly get back off. The fight simply doesn’t end. Maintaining the systems, finding the funds, finding the veterans before they hit the bottom, and ensuring those organizations that are making the process work continue to be supported means that we can’t take our eye off the ball even as the goal is in sight. –FPW
Military veterans fare well in recovering job market
John W. Shoen (@johwschoen), CNBC
As our military downsizes, more service members will head into the job market and based on current trends, their likelihood of finding a job is better than recent years. While the jobless rate for recent veterans temporarily spiked in July, overall their unemployment rate is no longer significantly different than that of civilians and continues to improve across niche populations in the community. –MC
Bottom line: Overall veteran unemployment is hovering at 4.7% and continues to stay below the national average. While the numbers are higher for younger veterans and women, even those have seen improvement. The question now becomes “what’s next?” If there is no unemployment crisis what must we do to maintain that low number and ensure that smooth transitions occur for future veterans and their families? Clearly, employment will continue to be an issue for transitioning military but with successful programs finding their stride we are confident the numbers won’t spiral out of control again. Now, companies have to think about keeping those veterans they have hired. Retention of the employees you have worked so hard to hire is key because going back out to replace them with another veteran is a lot harder when you are approaching near full employment among the community. –FPW
Senate launches Iraq and Afghanistan veterans caucus
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Last week, a few Senators launced a new Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Caucus, which will work to speed VA reforms and deal with military issues. Topics to be explored include employment, sexual assault, health care in and out of the military, personnel reform, and VA accountability. The bipartisan caucus has promised to work towards change and compromise. –MC
Bottom line: Given the steady decline in the post-9/11 veteran unemployment rate over the last year, it is interesting that the new Senate caucus is highlighting employment as its top priority. Congress’ ability to affect national employment for a diverse subset of the population is limited, and even with July’s temporary spike, post-9/11 veteran unemployment is no longer a crisis. The caucus, which will hopefully collaborate closely with its counterpart in the House, will be more effective if it focuses on improving the availability of VA care for those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and helping to educate other lawmakers on the issues that are critical to those who have fought America’s wars over the last 14 years. –BW
ScoutComms’ Client News:
Wounded Military Veterans Take on Utah Mountains
Last week, 20 injured post-9/11 veterans participated in a Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund mountain biking camp in Park City, Utah. One of the participants, Tyler Burdick, spoke with Good4Utah about his adventure and experiences with Team Semper Fi. Tyler is a Paralympic snowboarder, and the Semper FI Fund has supported him through many endeavors. –MC
Wounded Warrior Project now serving 75k veterans
Burce Hamilton (@WJXTBruceH), News 4 JAX
The Wounded Warrior Project has reached a new milestone. The organization is now officially serving more than 75,000 wounded veterans with its 20 free programs and services. WWP aims to reach 100,000 injured veterans by 2017 and raise $500 million in support of severely wounded service members’ long-term needs. –MC
Needed: U.S. Visas for our Afghan Interpreters
Spencer Case, National Review
No One Left Behind, an organization committed to assisting Iraqi and Afghan interpreters as they move to the United States after working in support of U.S. troops overseas, is partnering with U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Ham to produce a short film, titled The Interpreter, raising awareness about the danger interpreters face and encouraging support for the cause. –MC
2 airmen killed during parachute training in Florida
The Associated Press
Last week, two special operations airmen were killed during a training accident in the Florida Panhandle. Sgt. Timothy A. Officer and Sgt. Marty B. Bettelyoun were said to be remarkable service members and endured multiple deployments. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families. –MC
Golden Age Games inspire, reunite war veterans through competition
Josh Peter, USA Today
We often hear about young veterans participating in events like the Warrior Games and the Invictus Games, but the National Veterans Golden Age Games is an upcoming sports competition for more than 800 veterans who are 55 years old or older. The games promote healing through sport, and we think it’s great to see! –MC
Outrage and an officer: The anatomy of a Navy controversy after the Chattanooga attack
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post
During the attack on military facilities in Chattanooga last month, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Timothy White drew his personal firearm and fired at the shooter. Rumors have started that White may face charges for using his firearm on federal property, but the Navy has made it clear that such rumors are unfounded at this point in the ongoing investigation. The rumors have caused quite the debate within the military community and among veterans. –MC
This Army Ranger has ALS – but he’s still teaching soldiers in the swamps of Florida
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post
Last week Dan Lamothe highlighted the unique story of Timothy Spayd, an instructor with the 6th Ranger Training Battalion. The former soldier and proud Ranger tab wearer has been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, but continues to embody the Ranger spirit by assisting with the third phase of Ranger School in the Florida Panhandle’s swamps. –MC
Army Ranger school a test for women in combat roles
Richard A. Oppel Jr., NY Times
Two women have made strides in the first ever Ranger School course to allow women to participate. However, as the course comes to an end, the question of whether or not they will be allowed to serve in combat positions remains. –MC
Why we’re investigating the impact of Agent Orange
Minhee Cho (@mintymin), ProPublica
About 2.6 million veterans who served during the Vietnam War were possibly exposed to Agent Orange, a chemical herbicide that has been linked to significant health issues like cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, and peripheral neuropathy. ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein and the Virginian-Pilot’s Mike Hixenbaugh are investigating the impact of Agent Orange by interviewing veterans and their families dealing with this issue. –MC
Jon Stewart vs. VA: How TV host raged against red tape
Kevin Lilley (@KRLilley), Military Times
Jon Stewart hosted ‘The Daily Show’ for more than 16 years. Throughout his time on the show, he often discussed military issues, spotlighting issues with the Department of Veterans Affairs and other veterans’ issues. –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!
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