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The Scout Report 241st Edition

 

Military Families and Veterans Issues and Analysis

   Monday, November 9, 2015

 

It’s Veterans Day week! Which means we’re all a lot busier than usual—but in a good way.

Get Tweeting: #DayForTheBrave. It’s time to do more than say “thanks” on Veterans Day. Let’s honor service by supporting the organizations serving-veterans. Learn more at dayforthebrave.org

Hope to see you in just a few hours at the CNAS-Wounded Warrior Project event at the National Press Club where experts will analyze the latest survey of WWP Alumni which looks at their wellbeing, access to health care, and much more. –LJ 

The week ahead:

Tradeshows and Conferences:

No major tradeshows or conferences this week.

Congress:
No relevant hearings this week.

Think Tanks & Other Events

Center for a New American Security and Wounded Warrior Project: Issues Facing Veterans and Military Families: Data from the 2015 Wounded Warrior Project Survey
Who: Dr. Rajeev Ramchand, Senior Behavioral and Social Scientist, RAND Corporation, Dr. Meredith Kleykamp,Associate Professor, University of Maryland Department of Sociology,LTC Paula T. Smith, Health Director, Army Soldier for Life, Phillip Carter,Senior Fellow, Counsel, and Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program, Center for a New American Security, Jennifer Silva, Strategy and Innovation Executive Vice President, Wounded Warrior Project
When: 11:00 AM, Monday, November 9, 2015
Where: National Press Club, 529 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20045

Day For The Brave
Who: A day to do more than say thanks by donating to more than 200 veteran-serving non-profits on Veterans Day. Tweet, Facebook, and tell your friends about #DayForTheBrave. Learn about how non-profits are making a difference in the lives of veterans, donate to some of your favorites, and help many worthwhile organizations compete for prizes!
When: All day, November 11, 2015
Where: dayforthebrave.org

Atlantic Council: After the War: Veterans and Post-Conflict Issues of the Future
Who: Dr. Linda Spoonster Schwartz, Assistant Secretary, Policy and Planning, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Elliot Ackerman, Author, “Green on Blue,” Maxwell Neely Cohen, Author, “Echo of the Boom,” Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Author, “Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield,”August Cole, Director, Art of Future Warfare Project, Atlantic Council
When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, November 12, 2015
Where: 1030 15th Street, NW, 12th Floor (West Tower), Washington, DC

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: 9th Annual Heroes Gala
Who: Stephen Colbert, Willie Geist, Daniel Rodriguez, Scott Wine, Joe Abruzzese, Greg D’Alba
When: 6:30 PM, Thursday, November 12, 2015
Where: Cipriani, 110 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017

Major themes and issues from last week:

Veterans and Military Issues:

Exclusive: Carson claimed West Point ‘scholarship’ but never applied
Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney), Politico 
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson came under fire last week for claiming that he was promised admission and a scholarship to West Point on several occasions since publishing his first biography. In his book, “Gifted Hands,” Carson claimed that shortly after meeting Gen. William Westmoreland at a dinner in Chicago he was extended an offer to attend West Point, which he declined. There is no record of Carson applying to West Point and the school does not offer scholarships. Carson has since said that the offer was informal. Politico softened their initial framing of the situation as a “fabrication” but the meat of the story still irritated many veterans and graduates of the military academy. –MC
Bottom line: It takes quality satire to point out why this whole thing irritates so many veterans and graduates of West Point. The Duffel Blog had a post up the next day ‘Ben Carson Claims He Refused Full Scholarship With Navy SEAL Team 6’ where they basically take the exact words from his book and statements on the Politico story and replace West Point with SEAL Team 6. Many of us find these “I kind of/could have served” types of statements not any different than the ‘Call of Duty’ warriors you meet at a bar who insist on telling you they were ready to join the Army Rangers after 9/11 but were disqualified for ADHD. But they know what’s its like. To say it’s not a big deal because he could have gotten into West Point since he got into Yale is wrong. West Point and Yale aren’t the same. Being a good JROTC cadet or going to a military high school is not the same as serving in the military nor is it a guarantee of success if you do serve. These are not shared experiences. Whether the story was accurate or not the facts of what he wrote and the inference that it makes about the value of military service versus his decision to attend Yale and become a doctor are as irritating to many who have served as were it all true. Either you served in the military or you didn’t. Period. –FPW 

From Army of one to band of tweeters
John Spencer for The New York Times
John Spencer, an Army major and instructor in West Point’s Department of Military Instruction, discussed the role of social media and its affects on unit cohesion during the course of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Spencer describes his combat experience, and how service members have shifted to checking social media rather than discussing their experiences with each other in person. –MC
Bottom line: Spencer raises a point that echoes comments from parents, teachers and employers alike—social media has become a dominant conversational platform, yet we don’t fully understand or control its impact on traditional relationships and communication habits. While it would be nice if his article could cite current data or findings about his theories, it’s not hard to see his point. Unit cohesion is an important element of our military capability and if it is being eroded or even threatened with erosion, then counter-measures such as the ones Spencer suggests should be pursued. Yet at the same time, Spencer should also do everything in his power to encourage studies or surveys that help quantify his perceptions on this issue, because we already know from several years of debate domestically that there are a number of generational divides that significantly alter how positively or negatively people view the impact of 24/7 connectivity and social media on our ability to build social ties and to complete assignments. This is not a topic that we will be leaving behind us anytime soon. –BW 

Army: Young soldiers overestimate likely civilian pay
Jim Tice, Army Times
New data from the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program shows that young soldiers significantly overestimate the pay they’ll receive when they leave the military. TAP officials said that these high expectations might play a role in unemployment rates of junior enlisted veterans. The Army’s assessment also found that about 60 percent of soldiers expect to return to their hometown when they leave the service. –MC
Bottom line: The military gives young men and women many marketable job skills that make them competitive in the civilian world. Shockingly, it appears that recruiters may be overselling just how highly valued these skills will be by civilian employers. It’s important that the Army works to correct these misperceptions so that transitioning soldiers don’t turn down good jobs because they expect higher wages. This is particularly important when it comes to soldiers entering new industries, for example a technician transitioning into an IT field. Military experience is valuable, no question, but applicable job experience is paramount in the civilian world. We don’t want to see young veterans going unemployed or underemployed because they are holding out for unattainable jobs when they should be getting dream job-specific experience, training, or higher education. TAP officials must work to correct expectations and help service members understand what jobs are available and how much they pay. Employers, too, must be forthright and honest about what they pay and how employees can move up the ladder towards more lucrative positions. –LJ 

Pentagon paid sports teams millions for patriotic events
Bill Theobald (@BillTheobald), USA Today
A new congressional investigation showed that the Defense Department has spent more than $9 million on shows of support for the troops at sports events since 2012. These events included enlistment ceremonies, family reunions, and patriotic displays. These contracts were intended to increase recruiting numbers, but there is no evidence that it has been effective. Critics say that these events are often portrayed as genuine, but in reality are paid for with taxpayer dollars. –MC
Bottom line: In the scheme of things, $9 million is a blip in the Defense Department budget but these tax-payer funded in-game celebrations do more harm than wasting a few more dollars. Not only have these displays of patriotism proved worthless in terms of recruiting, they also do an injustice to the real, genuine support for service members, veterans, and families that happen across America. Plenty of professional sports teams host troops, families of the fallen, veterans and more without needing financial recompense. It’s not great that DoD would spend $9 million on something many sports teams would do voluntarily, but it’s worse that DoD would cheapen the actual support of service members and military families through paid patriotism. The common counter argument is that the military buys ads all the time in the name of recruitment, but those are clearly commercials. There is no announcement ahead of in-game celebrations noting the paid nature of the event in the same way that “advertorial” sections in magazines or online are typically marked as advertisements. We hope the increased congressional scrutiny of these contracts makes them go the way of the National Guard NASCAR. –LJ 

Can the US Military halt its brain drain?
David Barno (@DWBarno76) and Nora Bensahel (@norabensahel), The Atlantic
A new article by Lt. Gen. (ret) David Barno and Dr. Nora Bensahel explores the issue of our military’s ability to attract and retain our nation’s top talent. Most millennials who join the military have only known a military at war. Although Defense Secretary Ash Carter is working to keep and recruit our nations’ top young talent, data shows us that the military must compete with the civilian sector. –MC
Bottom line: Barno and Bensahel have written a thoughtful article, though it almost would have been more effective as a call to action if published in 2014. 2015 has been the year—if there ever was one—when the Pentagon and senior leaders in various services have embraced the need for personnel reform that brings the military more in line with generational shifts and expectations. But that doesn’t mean this conversation is over. They are right, the military still doesn’t have the solution to keep young leaders who have the ability to thrive in any setting. I know Katey van Dam, featured in this article. And I just returned last night from the third annual Defense Entrepreneurs Forum conference in Chicago, where emerging leaders from across the services, the DoD and the civilian world came together to talk about how to improve the military and to ensure that problems like the so-called “brain drain” are addressed by making the military a more welcoming and inviting place for talented individuals who chafe when told to “wait their turn” or that “we do it this way because that’s how we’ve always done it.” At this moment in time, we should be optimistic about the military’s ability to adapt and adopt new practices to stave off widespread brain drain, but we should not be complacent. Until a widespread culture of innovation and adaptability exists and has buy-in throughout the military, there is always the threat looming on the horizon that the introduction of a handful of new senior leaders could derail promising reforms. –BW 

House plans a new defense authorization bill this week
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Last week, the House prepared a revised defense authorization bill, dropping plans to attempt an override of President Obama’s veto from last month. Changes included funding cuts for the Air Force long-range bomber program, as well as Army and National Guard readiness accounts, but the retirement overhaul and bonus renewals remain untouched in the legislation. The new bill was approved by the House and is heading to the Senate next week. –MC
Bottom line: We ended last week unsure of how Congress would react to the first veto of the NDAA in over fifty years. As expected they didn’t even attempt to override the veto but as part of the larger deal to bring in a new House Speaker, Representatives found new ways to cut from the regular defense budget like expected fuel savings, projected staff cuts and, of course, just a little bit of $450 million from readiness accounts. So, now we have a nice demonstrably cut defense budget that can pass both chambers of Congress without endangering any cherished domestic programs. Good thing we aren’t at war or anything. Oh yeah….we still are. So, don’t get excited about this new budget “deal”. It once again kicks any kind of adult leadership in Washington down the road until safely after the next election. –FPW 

ScoutComms’ Client News:

Hiring Our Heroes event kicks off at United Center
George Smith (@georgesmithtv), Fox 32 Chicago 
Last week, Hiring Our Heroes hosted a job expo for military veterans, spouses, and transitioning service members to help Chicago-area veterans find jobs. Hiring Our Heroes is hosting a number of additional events across the nation through the end of the year, with help from sponsors like BP America, which supported the Chicago event. Next week, Hiring Our Heroes will host a Veterans Day hiring event at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, and the first 250 registrants will be eligible for tickets to VETS ROCK!, a concert that day with the Dropkick Murphys and Trace Adkins. –MC

Help a small business get a super bowl ad, and help veterans too
Bill Murphy (@BillMurphyJr), Inc. 
Sword & Plough is a company founded by an active-duty Army officer and her sister that recycles military surplus materials to create fashionable bags. The company was a finalist in Intuit Quickbooks’ Small Business Big Game Competition last week, and although they didn’t take the first place prize, Sword & Plough boosted awareness of their brand, promoted support of veterans, and received a $10,000 check. Be sure to check out Bill Murphy’s great article about the company. –MC

Site aids veterans charities
Drew Books (@DrewBrooks), Fayetteville Observer
On Veterans Day, Razoo is hosting Day For the Brave, a crowdfunding campaign that will benefit organizations serving our nation’s veterans. Nonprofits like United Way of Northwestern Minnesota, and Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund will have the opportunity to raise funds through their individual donation pages, and by competing for additional grants from sponsors like The Home Depot Foundation. If you’d like to learn more and do more than say ‘thank you’ this Veterans Day, visit dayforthebrave.org–MC

Injured troops face continued problems PTSD, access
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
A new survey by the Wounded Warrior Project of 23,000 veterans and service members showed that wounded veterans are still having a hard time getting mental health care. More than three in four injured veterans reported that post-traumatic stress was a service-connected ailment they have dealt with. The Wounded Warrior Project is launching its own Warrior Care Network in 2016 to help connect wounded veterans with medical resources. –MC

Fort Walton Beach recognized for veteran initiatives
Kelly Humphrey (@kellyhnwfdn), NWF Daily News
Fort Walton Beach, FL, the home of Venture Hive’s veterans program, was recently named the 10th best place for Veteran Entrepreneurs. The announcement came just prior to the Venture Hive Veterans Program’s first ever demo day, taking place later today, in which veteran entrepreneurs will present their businesses to a group of investors. –MC

Nick Etten: Texas veterans deserve access to medical marijuana
Nick Etten (@VetCannabisProj), for the Austin American-Statesman
Last week, Nick Etten, founder of Veterans Cannabis Project, discussed the need for military veterans in Texas to have legal access to medical marijuana. Etten shared the story of a Texas veteran who was prescribed ‘drug cocktails’ to cope with mental health challenges, but found that medical marijuana helped ultimately helped him recover more effectively. –MC

Veterans are successful entrepreneurs at rates that exceed those who have never served
James Schmeling, Voices (The IVMF Blog)
Schmeling is the co-founder of ScoutComms client the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. Drawing from new U.S. Census data for Veterans Small Business Week he highlights how veterans are increasingly turning to entrepreneurship and succeeding in numbers far higher than their civilian peers. Significant growth has occurred in business among female veterans as well. Building off of programs like Boots to Business that is part of the end of service transition programs and others like IVMF’s own Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans and many more there are many opportunities for former military members to succeed in business. –FPW 

Quick Hit:

What Makes a Hero?
David Botti (@bottidavid), BBC News
A new BBC documentary takes a look at why some veterans are pushing back against the notion that all veterans are ‘heroes’ who should be thanked for their service, a possible product of the civil-military divide. –MC

Vets find new way to serve in high-need schools
Matthew L. Schehl (@MattSchehl), Marine Corps Times 
Military veterans like Sequoia Aldridge are choosing to serve, even after they leave the military, through Teach for America’s Military Veterans Initiative. The program has been placing veterans in high-need schools across the nation. –MC

First official integrated Ranger School Underway, Army won’t talk about the women
Michelle Tan (@MichelleTan32), Army Times
The Army kicked off its first official gender integrated Ranger School class last week but is keeping quiet on the number of female soldiers participating. A spokesman for the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning said that the Army is now treating all students as soldiers and not distinguishing them by their gender. –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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