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The Scout Report 233rd Edition

Military Families and Veterans Issues and Analysis

Monday, September 14, 2015                              

Summer is, let’s face it, pretty much over. We’re all back to work. You’re all already sick of pumpkin. There’s even a bit of a chill in the night air. Next think you know, AUSA will be here, then we’ll all be talking about Veterans Day and hey, hey, hey, it’s okay! Breathe! We’ll get through this!

Take a look back at last week’s stories and what they’ll mean for the future. It includes everything from VA woes to mental health to the 2016 presidential campaign—and yes, there’s even some Trump in there. Sorry folks, we can no longer call this a Trump-free zone.

Congrats have to go to my fellow VP Brian Wagner for completing his first triathlon this weekend. Let’s all make sure he does an Ironman next year. Our intrepid account executive Margaret Clevenger spent her weekend with family in Massachusetts where she helped dedicate a park to her late cousin Jonathan Roberge, KIA in 2009 in Mosul, and other fallen veterans. Read more about that below. –LJ

P.S. Happy birthday to Emma!!!! (This is for Leo’s eyes only.)

The week ahead:

Tradeshows and Conferences:

Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition (Mon-Wed 14-16 September); National Harbor, MD

The Enlisted Association 2015 Convention (Thu-Sat 17-19 September); Hilton St. Louis Frontenac, MO



Veterans’ Affairs: Pending Legislation: Bill to make improvements in the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs relating to educational assistance, and for other purposes
When: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Where: 418 Russell


Veterans’ Affairs: Markup of Pending Legislation
When: 10:30 AM, Thursday, September 17, 2015
Where: 334 Cannon 


Hiring Our Heroes: Pittsburgh Hiring Expo with Pittsburgh Pirates
When: 8:30 AM, Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Where: PNC Park, 115 Federal Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

Georgetown University: Book Talk: After War: Healing the Moral Wounds of our Soldiers
Who: Nancy Sherman
, Georgetown philosophy professor
When: 5:00 PM, Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Where: Mortara Building, Conference Room, 3600 N St., NW, Washington, DC 20009

Hiring Our Heroes: Philadelphia Hiring Fair
When: 8:30 AM, Thursday, September 17, 2015
Where: Southampton Road Armory, 2700 Southampton Rd., Philadelphia, PA, 19154

Center for Strategic and International Studies: Military Strategy Forum: General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle on Air Combat Command: Today’s Conflicts and Tomorrow’s Threats
Who: General Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle,
Commander, Air Combat Command, United States Air Force
When: 9:00 AM, Friday, September 18, 2015
Where: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20005

Major themes and issues from last week:

ScoutComms in the News:

Virginia officials hold forum on veterans issues
Ali Rockett (@AliRockettDP), The Daily Press
On September 9, ScoutComms sponsored a convening hosted by Virginia state leaders and representatives of veteran-serving organizations, to explore the needs of Virginia’s post-9/11 veterans. John Harvey, Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, said that he intends to continue these meetings so that the state can better adapt its resources to a younger generation of veterans and military families. –MC

Leominster’s Veterans Memorial Park: A place for heroes
Cliff Clark, Sentinel & Enterprise
On September 12, the city of Leominster immortalized a fallen son and created a space for veterans and civilians alike to reflect and remember. The Johnny Ro Veterans Memorial Park bears the name of a young man from Leominster who was killed in action on February 9, 2009 in Mosul, Iraq. His family, including cousin Margaret, participated in the dedication of the park after six years of planning and production efforts. We thank Johnny Ro’s family for their sacrifice and commitment to supporting other gold star families. –LJ

Veterans and Military Issues:

Panel: Stigma is obstacle to mental health
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
On Wednesday, a panel of experts discussed stigma surrounding mental health treatment among troops and veterans at the Warrior Family Symposium hosted by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Project. Panelists said that it isn’t just stigma troops are concerned about. There is a fear that mental health treatment, therapy or medication, could endanger their careers and are hesitant to seek care as a result. –MC
Bottom line: There is, without a doubt, a certain stigma around mental health issues, though there are few measures of stigma within a military context so we are left with only anecdotes. A 2014 RAND study found that job-related concerns or restrictions are a big cause of self-stigma in addition to being a hindrance to treatment-seeking. A major recommendation of the study is that DOD should clarify guidelines and policies surrounding job restrictions and mental health issues. Has that happened? Clearly, the panelists do not believe so. As the military seeks to recruit and retain the best service members for the right jobs—particularly older recruits and those with technical backgrounds—it may become increasingly necessary to review language that discriminates or stigmatizes treatment. –LJ

McDonald: Let VA shed real estate
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
At the aforementioned symposium, systemic VA issues were an unavoidable topic. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald said he has asked Congress for permission to close VA facilities that are outdated, underutilized, or vacant. If the VA could close these facilities, it could save up to $25 million per year. VA officials said that it has 336 vacant or under-occupied buildings. Senate VA Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson also discussed the Veterans Choice program, and said that it needs more time to work as planned. –MC
Bottom line: This debate sounds a lot like the VA’s own version of BRAC, the process the military goes through to try to close or modify the footprint of military bases in the U.S. For years, Congress has blocked every recent BRAC attempt, no matter the logic the military deploys in support of the process. As Kime notes, members of Congress don’t like having VA facilities closed in their districts, even when they are decrepit or unused. But if the relevant committees are going to hold McDonald and the VA’s feet to the fire, Chairman Isakson and Chairman Miller should be willing to consider supporting McDonald’s calls for more flexibility and freedom to make internal VA decisions. If those decisions do not pan out, then new solutions may be needed. But if the VA can’t pursue the solutions it believes are most likely to work, it will run into the same problems as the military’s BRAC process, which regularly runs afoul of parochialism and entrenched interests. –BW

Real soldiers sneer at ‘I always felt that I was in the military’ Trump
Nancy A. Youssef (@nancyayoussef), The Daily Beast
Donald Trump reportedly remarks in an upcoming biography that he “felt I was in the military” because he dealt with “those people” and had more training than most who actually joined while attending the New York Military Academy. Trump’s comments didn’t go over well among the military community and many service members and veterans shared their reactions on social media. After comments were reported, though without any indication the two are related, Trump announced that he wants advertising revenue from the upcoming GOP debate to go to veteran-serving charities. –MC
Bottom line: There are some times when trying to maintain a neutral stance on political campaigns is more difficult than others. This is one of those times. Mr. Trump has a large and growing following but he isn’t doing himself any favors with the veteran’s community with his regular missteps surrounding the military. Starting with his disparaging Senator John McCain’s imprisonment in Vietnam and now comparing a high priced military-themed boarding school to actual service. Throw in that he got multiple deferments from Vietnam, a high draft number, and a medical waiver for heel spurs to avoid actual military service and it hardly makes him the typical candidate veterans would support. But, this is Donald Trump so he pulls a trick out of his hat demanding the “profits” from the debate goes to veteran-serving non-profits. Sure enough, a number of folks are already saying, ”we’ll take it.” While we believe that money for our community is always desired we only hope it isn’t just a stunt. This is going to be a fascinating election. ­–FPW

Political parties already targeting vet voters for 2016
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
The Republican National Committee is recruiting veterans for its Republican Leadership Initiative, which trains field organizers to work on campaigns. The RNC hopes to have hundreds of veterans speak with voters about national security and VA reform in the upcoming presidential election. This move is among others that indicate veteran’s issues may be a larger part of the 2016 campaign than in previous elections. –MC
Bottom line: In the last presidential election, veterans backed Republican candidates over Democratic ones by a wide margin. The RNC is hoping to activate more veteran voters this cycle and score big wins in swing states. For instance, Virginia, lately a hotly contested battleground state, has a large number of veterans—and the largest percentage of veterans under 28 years old, prime field organizer age. Rather than this being a sign that veterans issues will play a large role in the campaign, this seems to be continuing the trend of segmenting voters into narrower and narrower demographics in order to target messaging and sway smaller numbers of voters who can ultimately swing an election. Should veterans issues arise, it almost certainly will be in the form of VA privatization because of the failures of continued socialized medicine aka Obamacare. –LJ

Why Marines, unlike Army and Navy, are so against women in combat
Anna Mulrine (@annamulrine), The Christian Science Monitor
A study by the Marine Corps, revealed last week by the Monitor before release of the Executive Summary on Thursday, shows that during an extended test last year, combat units with both men and women were less effective than all-male units. The Marine Corps opinion on women in combat is much different from that of the Army and other services, especially since two women have recently graduated the Army’s grueling Ranger School. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus criticized the Marine Corps study, and said that the study was likely flawed due to the mindset of participants. –MC
Bottom line: The last week has seen a series of “early releases”, supporting Op-Eds, and blog posts before the official release of the study. Which also came in the form of a release of the Executive Summary on a Thursday and the full report next week. All in all it’s a very professional information campaign if someone was organizing one, or it’s a series of coincidences if it isn’t. The bottom line is that the deadline for the services to make recommendations to the service secretarys and Secretary of Defense on which positions they would be exempt from opening to women is due on October 1st and this seems like a lead up to seeking a waiver for most infantry positions. As our client Judy Patterson, CEO of Service Women’s Action Network stated in a San Diego Tribune piece, “The limited report is a skewed attempt to set the stage for the Corps to request exceptions to the Department of Defense’s mandate for full combat integration,” and a futile attempt to stop the “inevitable” opening of all military jobs to women. Once the full report is released we’ll get a closer look at the data backing their conclusions but it is sure to be controversial for both sides of this debate. –FPW

ScoutComms’ Client News:

Veterans job fair set for Thursday
Crissa Shoemaker DeBree (@CrissaShoemaker), Bucks County Courier Times
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and lead sponsor Merck is hosting a Hiring Our Heroes hiring fair in Philadelphia this Thursday. More than 45 companies are coming together to hire veterans and military spouses. The event also includes a free employment workshop, providing valuable skills about searching for jobs. A similar event will take place in Pittsburgh, next Wednesday, sponsored by PNC Financial Services, and pre-registered veterans and spouses are eligible to win two free tickets to a baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs. –MC

Volunteers give facelift to American Legion post
Cristina Rojas (@CristinaRojasTT),
On Thursday, dozens of Home Depot associates volunteered their time to renovate American Legion Post 414 in Lawrence, New Jersey. The project helped kick off The Home Depot Foundation’s fifth annual Celebration of Service, during which the Home Depot will improve the safety and accessibility of elderly and severely injured veterans across the nation between September 11 and Veterans Day, November 11. –MC

Commentary: Boosting veterans in small business
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (@SenatorShaheen) for Military Times
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, senior senator from New Hampshire and senior Democrat on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, discussed legislative efforts to support veteran entrepreneurship in a recent op-ed for the Military Times. Shaheen discusses legislation that will authorize the U.S. Small Business Administration to continue supporting veterans, including providing more support for the Boots to Business program and Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, both which are supported by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. –MC

Quick Hits

VA employee fired for seeking help from Congress get job back
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Bradie Frink, an Army veteran, worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs Baltimore Regional Office in 2013. Frink had a pending benefits claim and sought help from his congressman, but was fired for pursuing that method. After a two-year battle, Frink has been reinstated and has begun working again. –MC

Backlogged child care program burdens Army families
Karen Jowers, Military Times
The General Services Administration’s inspector general found that the GSA didn’t adequately plan to expand the Army’s childcare fee subsidy program. The program was previously managed by a nonprofit called Child Care Aware, which is said to takeover the program again by January. The backlog in the program has caused many families to experience financial hardship. –MC

Neller to become commandant Sept. 24
Hope Hodge Seck (@HopeSeck), Marine Corps Times
On September 24, Gen. Joseph Dunford will pass command of the Marine Corps to Gen. (sel.) Robert Neller, the same day that Neller is set to receive his fourth star. Dunford is moving on to replace Gen. Martin Dempsey as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. –MC

Effort to bring Army, National Guard closer may result in redesign
Tom Roeder (@xroederx), The Gazette
General (ret.) Carter Ham is working to restructure the Army, Army Reserve and Army Guard, and remove fractious tensions between the three components. Ham heads the National Commission of the Future of the Army which hopes to issue a report in February that could potentially outline a larger role for Reserve and Guard troops as the active-duty component downsizes. –MC

Six Marines in critical condition following deadly truck rollover
Marine Corps Times
Last week, our military lost two service members in training operations. One Marine was killed and 18 others were injured in a 7-ton truck rollover at Camp Pendleton and a Special Forces soldier died during a parachute training exercise. Our hearts are heavy as we think about these service members and our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends. –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

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