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The Scout Report 244th Edition:

Military Families and Veterans Issues and Analysis     

Monday, December 7, 2015

 

Welcome back to the Scout Report! Your fearless writers tried very hard over the last two weeks to defeat ISIS, fix the VA, and stop Donald Trump from Tweeting, but I’m afraid to tell you we were unsuccessful on all counts. We did, however, collectively sell a lot of soap, run a half marathon, and drink a lot of whiskey. So that’s something.

Meanwhile, we’ve got lots of good news for you. Because you could use good news. So below you’ll read more about the future of women in combat, how medical science is improving the lives of those injured in combat, the employment situation of veterans, and ways higher education is making it easier for veterans to become nurses, and, um, the ongoing, never-ending war we’re waging in Iraq and elsewhere. Thanks, Obama.

Cleanse your palate with the unforgettable and unbelievably heroic story of Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds found in “Quick Hits”–faith in humanity restored.

Also, since we skipped last week, we missed the opportunity to wish Leo Shane a happy birthday. He’s 29. –LJ 

The week ahead:

Tradeshows and Conferences:

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

Congressional Hearings
Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health: draft bill to amend the Veterans’ Benefits Programs Improvement Act of 1991 to authorize VA to sell Pershing Hall; and, VA’s legislative proposal regarding fiscal year 2016 construction projects
When:
10:00 AM, Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Where:
334 Cannon

Veterans’ Affairs: Fact Check: An End of Year Review of Accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs
When:
10:30 AM, Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Where:
334 Cannon

Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel: Concurrent Receipt of Survivor Benefit Plan SBP and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation DIC
Who:
Ms. Chris Kinnard, Co-Chair for Government Relations Committee, Gold Star Wives of America, Mr. Steve Strobridge, Col., USAF (Ret.), Director, Government Relations, Military Officers Association of America, Mr. Jon Ostrowski, Senior Chief, USCGR (Ret.), Director, Government Affairs Non Commissioned Officers Association of the United States, Mr. Joe Davis, Director of Public Affairs, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
When:
2:00 PM, Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Where:
2118 Rayburn

 Senate:

Armed Services: U.S. Strategy to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and U.S. Policy Toward Iraq and Syria
Who:
Ashton B. Carter, Secretary Of Defense, General Paul J. Selva, USAF, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
When:
9:30 AM, Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Where:
106 Dirksen

Veterans’ Affairs: Business Meeting: Markup of Pending Legislation
When:
2:30 PM, Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Where:
418 Russell

Think Tanks & Other Events:

Atlantic Council: How Congress Should Take Care of Those Who Serve Our Country
Who: Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-IN,Patricia Kime, Senior Staff Writer, Military Times
When: 12:30 PM, Thursday, December 10, 2015
Where: 1030 15th Street NW, 12thFloor (West Tower), Washington, DC

Wreaths Across America:National Wreaths Across America Day
When: Saturday, December 12, 2015
Where: nationwide

Major themes and issues from last week:

ScoutComms Reporting:

 Tension on the Hill as military health care reform comes to a head
John Grady, ScoutComms special correspondent
Our reporter in the field John Grady takes a deep dive into the brewing storm over military health care reform. Grady outlines the various players on each side and where they stand. What it comes down to, though, is that changes are coming, just as they did to military retirement. Vested interests lost that fight and they may lose this one, too. –LJ

Veterans and Military Issues:

Penis transplants being planned to heal troops’ hidden wounds
Denise Grady (@nytDeniseGrady), The New York Times 
1,367 male troops suffered wounds to their genital areas in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2013. Soon, doctors at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore will perform a penis transplant for a young soldier, the first time the surgery will be performed in the U.S. and only the third time globally. Doctors at Johns Hopkins have permission to perform 60 transplants. The university is paying for the first transplant and has asked DOD to cover future surgeries. –MC
Bottom line: It’s hard to talk about something like a penis transplant without a nervous snicker or uncomfortable silence involved. Unfortunately, it’s a real issue for the 1,367 service members who lost all or part of their genitals due to combat injuries and who were nearly all under the age of 35. This surgery offers a possible solution to something that might not be the most physically debilitating aspect of their wounds but often is the most psychologically damaging one. The timing of this move comes as more efforts are being made to address the ability of those with genital wounds to receive reproductive treatments and become parents. If we truly want to ensure a lifetime of care and recovery for those wounded in our modern wars with their peculiar injuries and high survivability rates, we must be willing to bend our preconceived notions of what is needed to do so. Penis transplants and reproductive treatments should be part of that conversation. –FPW 

Credit for medics: Which colleges are giving it a shot
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
A number of colleges offer accelerated programs for medics and corpsmen to help them get jobs in emergency rooms, clinical care, and other careers requiring civilian certification. Officials at University of South Florida say that veterans have a lot to contribute to the medical field based on their military experience. –MC
Bottom line: For the last few years, a common refrain among organizations helping veterans find jobs is that their military service provides them with unique and valuable skills that can be transferred—with the right amount of adaption and training—to make them extremely valuable employees. There is no reason to believe that this assumption means any less in educational settings, thus it is encouraging to read about programs like USF that are already helping veterans with field medical experience complete their schooling and obtain their necessary certifications on an accelerated basis. So long as schools feel like they are not lowering their standards, and so long as veterans are capable of passing all the major milestone tests and courses before graduating, we would love to see national standards promulgated to help schools follow the lead of USF and others that have figured out best practices in turning medics and corpsmen into nurses. –BW 

Pentagon may send more U.S. troops to Syria
Tom Vanden Brook (@tvandenbrook), USA Today
The Pentagon is considering sending more special operations forces to Syria, in addition to the 50 commandos that were sent last month to fight the Islamic State. Additional troops would help secure further ground and prevent counterattacks. Elsewhere in the region, there are 3,400 American service members currently in Iraq. –MC
Bottom line: Last night, in an address to the nation from the Oval Office, President Obama said that despite recent attacks and the threats posed by ISIS, “We should not be drawn once more into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria.” Instead, the administration will continue to use “air strikes, special forces, and working with local forces” (the latter presumably through SOF, the intelligence agencies, and contractors). So that means a very small group of service members will be called on fairly frequently to conduct operations in extremely austere operating environments. Without getting into the grand strategy here (or lack thereof), let’s be cognizant of what we as a nation are asking of the service members and their families. Though the large ground wars may be over, DOD cannot shut down the systems it had in place to support service members when they deploy and redeploy. With likely very short dwell time, DOD must also not lose focus on ensuring troops are physically and mentally recuperating between deployments. Families, too, must have access to support services for their particular needs—not just ones found in garrison units. For the organizations that serve troops, veterans, and their families, it’s important to continue educating your donor base that the needs of our service members continue so long as threats against the homeland exist. For the foreseeable future, our men and women in uniform (and some not) will be in direct action against the enemy—at war. Something we cannot forget. –LJ 

Why evacuating wounded troops by air might do more harm than good
Thomas Gibbons-Neff (@Tmgneff), The Washington Post
A recent study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine shows that evacuating inured troops to Germany and the U.S. may cause additional harm to those with a traumatic brain injury. The study examined rats that had been given traumatic brain injury and then exposed to air pressure replicating military transport aircrafts. Exposed rats faced higher rates of inflammation and were worse-off behaviorally. To date, more than 330,000 service members have suffered a TBI. –MC
Bottom line: For troops critically injured on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has often been standard to get them as quickly as possible to medical care in Germany and then the U.S. This latest study, though, indicates the pressurization of the cabin on transport planes could cause the brain prolonged distress and lead to poorer outcomes in patients suffering from brain injuries. While there has been no immediate rush by the military to change the medical response, the researchers suggest either finding different ways to pressurize airplanes or keeping patients closer to the battlefield to recover. Significantly, they found even seven days post-injury, the brain still suffered from air transport. What that could mean for a family is that when a service member is injured in combat, the family isn’t able to rush to their side. In the past, families have been able to meet their loved ones at Walter Reed or sometimes even Kaiserslautern just hours after they have been stabilized. The military would have the weigh the benefits of having that support system against the dangers of air transport should they not be able to devise a safer method of pressurization.–LJ 

Military women ‘over the moon’ about Pentagon opening combat jobs to females
Anna Mulrine (@annamulrine), the Christian Science Monitor
Last week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that in 2016 all military combat jobs will be officially opened to women. Women like retired Army Col. Ellen Haring, a board member for ScoutComms client Service Women’s Action Network, who filed a lawsuit to lift the ban on women in combat back in 2012, are very excited about the decision. Marine Corps leaders asked for exemptions, but were denied. –MC
Bottom line: As we have written before, women already are and have been serving in combat roles, whether it be on Cultural Support Teams, as Apache helicopter pilots, or in any number of military jobs where enemy combatants have attacked U.S. forces. But for the service women who have been fighting—in the court of law and in the court of public opinion—for years to have the right to compete for any military job for which they are qualified, Secretary Carter’s decision is a victory on par with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” While there is a lot of hand-wringing about this decision, particularly among those who felt like the Marine Corps’ concerns were ignored, the basic rule of thumb that everyone should operate under is that women still must prove themselves capable of meeting the standards for any combat job. This is not political correctness run amok and we won’t see new regulations setting female “quotas” for special operations units.January 1, 2016 is not the end of the road, as the full integration process will take months if not years, but one can sense a page being definitively turned in the military’s history of women in combat. –BW 

High veteran unemployment appears to be in the past, but the push for more hires continues
Alan Zarembo (@AlanZarembo), Los Angeles Times
The most recent veteran jobless rates show a pronounced and sustained decline in veteran unemployment, including among young veterans. Companies and organizations that have led the way in hiring veterans aren’t about to decrease their efforts to help veterans find jobs, though. –MC
Bottom line: Yes. It would be the height of fiction to say that the job situation for veterans of every age isn’t improving and is still the crisis it once was. Where we once saw unemployment rates in some categories as high as 30%, the newest monthly report is showing that even the youngest veterans have lower unemployment rates than their civilian counterparts. It’s also true that we don’t know the precise reasons of this success and the efforts that got us here don’t need to stand down or take our eye off the ball. About 250,000 service members leave the service per year naturally and even those who have left successfully will often struggle to find satisfying long-term work. The shifting dynamic also means that companies that have now found success and value in hiring veterans will have to focus on retaining the ones they have worked so hard to hire. Where two years ago the ease of replacing a veteran who doesn’t find a home with your company was almost like shooting fish in a barrel, today, with military retiree age veterans with unemployment as low as 2.9 percent, finding qualified and talented veterans to fill jobs will actually be a lot of work and hiring managers are competing for the top talent. At the same time, military spouses, caregivers, wounded warriors, women, and minorities must continue to receive help finding opportunities. So, we can take some satisfaction in having beaten back the worst of this situation but any touchdown dances might be more than a bit premature. –FPW 

On the Move:

Student Veterans of America Appoints Executive Vice President of Strategic Engagement
Student Veterans of America has appointed James Schmeling as Executive Vice President of Strategic Engagement. Schmeling co-founded the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University and served as its first managing director. He’ll bring his years of experience building institutions and organizations to the continually growing SVA. Congratulations James! –MC

ScoutComms’ Client News:

Defense Secretary says U.S. opening all military combat roles to women
Felicia Schwartz (@felschwartz) and Gordon Lubold (@glubold), The Wall Street Journal 
Last week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter opened all military positions to women. Service Women’s Action Network praised Carter on the decision in a statement. –MC
Court case to force women to sign up for the draft gets huge boost
Jonah Bennett (@BennettJonah), The Daily Caller
Women may be required to register for the draft, due to a law suit filed by the National Coalition for Men. The suit has resurfaced due to the Pentagon’s announcement that all military jobs are open to women. Judy Patterson, CEO of the Service Women’s Action Network said that the organization welcomes changing the law to mandate that women to sign up for Selective Service. –MC
Other Coverage: 
White House considers opening the draft to women
Tara Copp (@TaraCopp), Stars and Stripes
Defense Secretary Carter opens all military jobs to women
Tara Copp (@TaraCopp), Travis J. Tritten (@Travis_Tritten), Corey Dickstein (@CDicksteinDC), Stars and Stripes 
The military is opening all combat jobs to women with ‘no exceptions’
Paul Szoldra (@PaulSzoldra), Tech Insider 
Pentagon: allow qualified women in all combat positions
Bill Lambrecht (@blambrecht), Martin Kuz (@MartinKuz) and Sig Christenson (@saddamscribe), San Antonio Express News
Defense secretary orders end to gender limits on military jobs
Martin C. Evans (@MartinCEvans), Newsday

Quick Hits:

VA Choice program expands eligibility
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
The Department of Veterans Affairs is making the Veterans Choice Program accessible to more veterans. The VA Choice Program allows veterans to get private care closer to their homes, and the new eligibility will include ways for veterans who face undue burden, geographic barriers, and other situations not captured by a 40-mile rule to receive care closer to them. –MC

What I’ll tell my son about fighting in the Iraq War
PBS Newshour
Phil Klay, a Marine Corps veteran and the author of a National Book Award-winning book titled “Redeployment”, discussed deployment and the difficulty service members face as they have to explain their experiences to their families and friends back home—particularly in light of recent events in Iraq. –MC

Israel honors GI who told the Nazis, ‘We are all Jews’ 
Aron Heller (@aronhellerap), Associated Press
US Army Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds was one of the thousands of Allied POWs captured by the Nazis after the Battle of the Bulge. The Nazis often separated Jewish troops from other POWs and sent them to slave labor camps. When his captors demanded that the Jews in the ranks identify themselves, Edmonds led the more than 1,000 POWs to say, “We are all Jews here.” Edmonds is to be recognized with Israel’s highest honor for non-Jews who risked their lives to protect Jews during WWII. –MC

VA can’t afford drug for veterans suffering from Hepatitis C
Chip Reid, CBS News 
A recent Senate report showed that the VA can’t afford drugs for veterans suffering from Hepatitis C. The drug is sold by Gilead Sciences and the company has been said to be “more interested in profits than patients.” Many veterans acquired the disease while serving in Vietnam from blood transfusions and vaccines. –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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