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The Scout Report 232nd Edition

Military Families and Veterans Issues and Analysis

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Welcome to September! We certainly hope you enjoyed your last federal holiday until Veterans Day. (And certainly some of you will be, much like us, working that day, as well!)

This week, we write a lot about the VA. The agency made headlines for the high number of pending applications for health care—and the number of veterans on that list who have already passed away. Stories also look at the lack of investigations of medical errors and the paltry care available to women. We’ve also got stories on veterans in the federal workforce and charities behaving badly.

Are you a runner? No, me either. Great life decision. But together we can still be decent human beings by supporting Iraqi and Afghan interpreters coming to America. Run or walk with No One Left Behind on September 20.

Now, flee to Starbucks because the Pumpkin Spice Latte IS BACK. –LJ

The week ahead:

Tradeshows and Conferences:

35th Annual America’s SBDC Conference (Mon-Fri, 7 September-11 September), Marriott Marquis, San Francisco, California

National Guard Association of the United States 137th General Conference & Exhibition (Thu-Sun, 10 September-13 September), Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, Nashville, Tennessee

 

Congress:

House:

Veterans’ Affairs: A Review of Licensing and Credentialing Standards for Servicemembers and Veterans: Do Barriers Still Remain?

When: 2:00 PM, Thursday, September 10, 2015

Where: 334 Cannon

 

Events:

MOAA and Wounded Warrior Project: 2015 Warrior Family Symposium
When:
7:30 AM, Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Where: Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC, 20004 

No One Left Behind: Welcome Home! 5k Trail Run
When:
9:00 AM, Sunday, September 20, 2015
Where: 9200 Old Dominion Dr., McLean, VA 22102

 

Major themes and issues from last week:

ScoutComms in the News:

8 Things The Army Taught Me About Running A Small Business
Fred Wellman (@FPWellman), ScoutComms
Our CEO and Founder Fred Wellman shares eight valuable lessons his 22-year Army career taught him about running small businesses. From planning, to risk, to leadership, Fred’s military lessons are valuable for any business owner or entrepreneur. Be sure to check out the article. –MC

Making Virginia the best state for post-9/11 veterans
ScoutComms (@ScoutComms), Storify
Last week, Virginia’s Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs John C. Harvey asked leaders of veterans organizations how the Commonwealth can better serve post-9/11 veterans. The representatives in the room discussed employment issues, student veterans, and challenges women veterans face. We followed the conversation on social media and put it together in a Storify to share with those who weren’t able to attend. If you have ideas, be sure to let us know with #CommonwealthVets. –MC

Veterans and Military Issues:

Donations to Illinois veterans charity mostly go to pay telemarketers
David Jackson (poolcar4), Chicago Tribune
Last year, Americans donated $1.4 million to VietNow National Headquarters, a charity claiming to help veterans. But the charity’s tax filings show that about 85 percent of its earnings paid for phone solicitors, administrative costs and a convention, rather than being directly spent on veterans and their families. VietNow’s President, Joe Lewis, said that it has struggled to raise funds without telemarketers and said that the organization is doing its best. –MC
Bottom line: Telemarketers and outside fundraisers are always a controversial aspect to the non-profit sector. Like any tool in the toolbox, they are a reasonable part of a multi-faceted fundraising strategy, if integrated with other tools like corporate donations, special events, and direct mail. The problem is when a non-profit leans almost exclusively on them and pays ridiculous fees for the effort. VietNow is absolutely one of those organizations and the result is so little money for any kind of a mission that it exists solely to raise money to continue existing. Simply, if organizations can’t raise funds in any other way then serious questions about their viability should be asked and the point of their mission should be reconsidered. They claim that assisting veterans with disability claims is one of their most important jobs but there are literally dozens of VSOs with professionals to accomplish this mission—that don’t spend over 80 percent of their money on fundraising. A consolidation of veteran serving non-profits should come soon and the best way for that to happen is by supporters voting with their wallets. –FPW

Veterans: Federal jobs can be a bad fit, so many of us leave
Lisa Rein (@ReinIwpo) and Emily Wax-Thibodeaux (@Emily_Wax), The Washington Post
Last week, Emily Wax-Thibodeaux and Lisa Rein interviewed veterans who recently left federal jobs. The two reporters found that veterans left their positions for reasons ranging from better opportunities to family issues, but many felt federal jobs provided limited opportunity for advancement and were a bad fit as long-term post-service careers. –MC
Bottom line: Our clients the Institute for Veterans and Military Families and VetAdvisor conducted a survey a year and a half ago and the results showed that most veterans leave their first jobs after the service within two years. In our experience, many of the reasons the veterans in this story identified that drove them from federal jobs could apply to many other career fields as well. From lack of responsibility, bureaucratic processes, to few mentors or peers that understand their unique experiences—it leaves many veterans feeling unsatisfied even with well paying jobs. The federal government has limited ability to change its ways so the fight to keep veterans in the workforce won’t be an easy one. –FPW

The number of child abuse cases in the military hits a decade high
Missy Ryan (@missy_ryan), The Washington Post
According to the Washington Post, newly obtained Department of Defense data shows that cases of child abuse or neglect in military families increased by 10 percent in 2014. Child abuse among civilian families has been declining for years, and military families are still well below average, but this data may illuminate a concerning trend. –MC
Bottom line: Ryan does a good job capturing the inconclusive nature of the leaked data on cases of child abuse or neglect in military families. While the latest increase is part of a slow upward trend in cases since 2008, outside experts point out that the rate in military families is still significantly below the civilian rate, and that the actual number of children involved in these cases actually decreased in 2014, which could point to multiple cases involving one child or multiple individuals being implicated. Regardless, it is good to hear that the DoD has enlisted an outside expert to delve deeper into the reporting to understand why 2014 saw a 14 percent increase in neglect cases, which are a larger portion of the case load than child abuse. Now that the Post has shared the possibly bad news with the country, it would be smart for the DoD to step up once the outside expert’s work is done, and proactively explain what they have found. –BW

Medical errors are up at VA hospitals, but they’re actually doing less to figure out why
Lisa Rein (@ReinIwapo), The Washington Post
A report by the Government Accountability Office found that the VA has been doing less to identify medical mistakes and ensure that they don’t happen again. The number of investigations dropped by 18 percent from 2010 to 2014, even though the number of medical errors increased by 7 percent and the number of veterans using VA care also grew significantly. –MC
Bottom line: That’s right. Another story about the VA messing up. And it’s not even the only one this week. While the story below about the VA not knowing which of its applications for health care are from living veterans will make for big headlines, this story should be more worrying for both VA officials working on reform and veterans seeking care. Perhaps most concerning: as the number of investigations of medical errors dropped, the VA never bothered to look into why. A few reasons for the lack of investigations are offered: perhaps the medical errors aren’t serious enough for investigations or maybe hospitals are using other methods to determining the root cause of medical errors. If either case were true, it would still point to faulty internal communications at VA that has led to serious malfeasance in the past. This is a very serious issue that VA needs to address: it comes down to patient safety. We know the vast majority of VA clinicians and leaders care about doing no harm, but this report doesn’t help them make their case for a changing culture. –LJ

One female veterans’ epic quest for a ‘foot that fits’
Emily Wax-Thibodeaux (@Emily_Wax), The Washington Post
As the number of female veterans using VA healthcare increases, more gaps in care are discovered. The VA doesn’t offer prenatal care, and some medical facilities still don’t have gynecological staff. An estimated 2,100 female veterans using VA healthcare have amputated limbs, and many of them, like Army Sgt. Brenda Reed have trouble gaining access to female-tailored prosthetics. –MC
Bottom line: This is an important story, particularly as the conversation about women in combat continues—and looks to be in favor of opening even some of the most elite positions to women. Already, more women serve in the military than at any time before. That means the number of women eligible for VA care is going to be ever increasing. The VA cannot simply try to meet current demand for women-specific services (and prosthetics) if it is going to provide for women veterans decades from now. The VA must start planning ahead and that means a massive expansion of its offerings for women, but it also means getting creative about what future female veterans might need in terms of combat injuries and trauma care. There is also a need for a culture change across VA—one of many—to welcome women veterans and respect their service. A woman shouldn’t be harassed walking down the street and she most certainly shouldn’t be subject to the same catcalls within a VA as one woman in the story recounts. Just as bad actors within the claims and appointment system should be fired, so too should any VA employee or volunteer creating a hostile environment for women seeking care. –LJ

Nearly 1 million veterans have pending applications for health care at the VA – and a third may already be dead
Emily Wax-Thibodeaux (@Emily_Wax), The Washington Post
A new inspector general report says that as many as 900,000 veterans have pending applications for Department of Veterans Affairs health care, and recommends an overhaul of record-keeping methods. About a third of the veterans with pending applications are thought to have already passed away, making it even more difficult to determine who still needs care. The investigation also found that in the past five years, as many as 10,000 applications may have been deleted. –MC
Bottom line: No matter how hard the VA tries to shed its recent troubled past and move forward to a brighter future where all of its services are accessible through one website, where all veterans receive timely care and where Congress stops calling for the heads of VA senior managers, reports like the new IG study keep identifying new problems and failures stretching back years and even decades. In this new case, which once again highlights the public service that whistleblowers can play in highlighting government waste and failure, it is clear that inefficient or weak management in the past allowed a number of policies and behaviors to take root that negatively impacted veterans seeking to enter the system and receive care. While the VA must first and foremost work to understand who the 900,000 veterans with pending applications are—particularly those who are still alive—it must also identify who has ownership for these problems, and fire them or replace them as necessary to ensure that Secretary Bob’s desire to create a smarter, more effective VA isn’t derailed by his own employees. –BW

ScoutComms’ Client News:

CNS Response is Finalist for Innovations in Healthcare Award
Dave Gentry, Small Stocks Big Money
CNS Response has been selected as a finalist for the Innovations in Healthcare Award. CNS Response uses a unique technology to predict drug response for brain disorders, ultimately eliminating the trial and error process most psychologists use to prescribe medication. CNS Response CEO George Carpenter, discussed the technology with Dave Gentry on Small Stocks Big Money. –MC

Boots to Business class educates entrepreneurs
Senior Airman Desiree Economides, Grand Forks Air Force Base
Grand Forks Air Force Base recently played host to Boots to Business, an entrepreneurship course offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration and Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. The program is part of the DoD’s Transition Assistance Program and is open to all service members and their spouses. To learn more, visit the
Boots to Business website. -MC

Will prices of fruits, veggies in Far East commissaries rise?
Karen Jowers, Military Times
If Congress doesn’t act, two Defense Commissary Agency contracts scheduled to take effect on October 1 will significantly increase the price of fresh fruits and vegetables for military families serving overseas. As Congress is negotiating a final version of the NDAA, the Government Accountability Office is set to make a decision on protests of DeCA’s contract. If the GAO rulings favor the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), prices for military families will rise. –MC 

Quick Hits

Veterans jobless rates drop to historic lows
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
August saw a seven-year low unemployment rate for veterans of 4.2 percent, continuing a recent trend among the total veteran population. Post-9/11 veterans are also finding employment at record rates—unemployment was recorded at just 4.7 percent last month, the lowest since the population was surveyed as a distinct group. –LJ

Garcetti backs away from goal to end L.A. veterans homelessness in 2015
Mike Reicher (@mreicher), Los Angeles Daily News
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced last Thursday that efforts to end veteran homelessness in LA may take six more months than planned. LA has more than 2,600 veterans who are still homeless. –MC

Winners of the 2015 MRE Journalism Contest
Military Reporters & Editors Association
The winners of the 2015 MRE Journalism Contest were announced last week. Several of our friends and colleagues were recognized for outstanding military reporting, including staff at the Fayetteville Observer, Military Times, Navy Times, and Marine Corps Times. Congratulations Drew Brooks, Hope Hodge Seck, Meghann Myers, and all the others! –MC

For fallen veterans who went unclaimed, a final rest at Arlington
Victoria St. Martin (@VStMartin), The Washington Post
Last Tuesday, six veterans who were relatively unknown in life and death were buried at Arlington National Cemetery with honors. The burials came as part of the Missing in America Project, a national group who works to identify the remains of unclaimed service members. –MC

Army launches investigation after violence in West Point pillow fight
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point hosts a pillow fight each year to bring students together. But this year, the pillow fight was anything but soft. Twenty-four cadets were injured because some students placed heavy objects in their pillowcases. The incident is currently under investigation. –MC

Ousted as gay, aging veterans are battling again for honorable discharges
Dave Philipps (@David_Philipps), The New York Times
Up to 100,000 service members were discharged for being gay before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed in 2011. Now, many of them are working together to tie get their discharges upgraded to honorable. –MC

Army officially opens Ranger School to female soldiers
Michelle Tan (@MichelleTan32), Army Times
On Wednesday, the Army announced that Ranger School is now open to all service members. On August 21, two women completed the rigorous course, and a
third recently advanced into the final phase. The discussion of women in combat continues though statistics show that more than 9,000 female service members have already earned the Army’s Combat Action Badge. –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.

Questions? Comments? Additions? If you have any questions, comments, or have an event you would like us to include, send an email to LJenkins@scoutcommsusa.com and we will make sure we let our readers know. For questions about ScoutComms, email FWellman@scoutcommsusa.com.

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