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The Scout Report 268th Edition

Military Families and Veterans Issues and Analysis

Monday, May 31, 2016

We hope your Memorial Day weekend was reflective, relaxing, and even perhaps a little revelrous. Yesterday, our CEO and fearless leader Fred marched in the National Memorial Day parade with nearly 500 of his fellow Desert Storm veterans. They marched to honor the 383 service members who died during that conflict and to raise awareness about the monument the National Desert Storm War Memorial seeks to build in their memory. A Memorial Day well spent.

This morning, right at this very moment, Military Times’ intrepid Leo Shane has an exclusive look at the first policy paper from a presidential campaign on military families. The Clinton campaign’s 23-point agenda for supporting military families includesfamily leave and career sabbatical options championed by current Secretary of Defense Carter, prioritizing military children’s education, and continued high-level government engagement in themilitary community through Joining Forces. We look forward to highlighting the other campaigns’ military family policy proposals as they are released.

Below, you’ll find our analysis of the VA Secretary’s Disneyland kerfuffle, the latest reports on how sexual assaults in the militaryare prosecuted and when enlisted soldiers are most likely to attempt suicide. We’ve also take a look at some less reported stories: military spouse unemployment, the impact of ROTC on Ivy League campuses, and a pilot program at one VA that’s gettingveterans care quicker. –LJ 

This week ahead: 

Tradeshows and Conferences: 

National Coalition For HomelessVeterans: 2016 Annual Conference(Wed – Fri, June 1-3, 2016); Grand Hyatt, Washington, D.C.

Congress:

Congress is in recess.

Think tanks and other events: 

No relevant events this week.

Major themes and issues from last week:

Veteran and Military Issues:

Long wait times for vets? VA secretary says that’s the wrong question.
David Cook (@breakfastguy), Christian Science Monitor
VA Secretary Bob McDonald was criticized last week for downplaying the importance of appointment wait times as he invoked long lines for rides at Disneyland at a press event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. Though it wasn’t the first time McDonald used a Disneyland metaphor, this time the comments went viral and some advocates, lawmakers, and one newspaper have called for McDonald’s resignation. McDonaldissued an apology on Tuesday reiterating the importance of quality of care for veterans. –MC
Bottom line: There is an immutable law of the universe that dictates that former corporate executives who enter the government will continue to use corporate analogies to describe their perspective, no matter how appropriate the comparison. Or so I’ve been told. Secretary Bob made the mistake of using a poor analogy in a recorded setting, which has led to no end of trouble for the VA in the last week. He deserves to be called out for the poorly thought out reference, which can easily sound callous to a sound bite-hungry public. But he does not deserve to be crucified or fired. This was not a window into his dark soul that revealed his true disdain for veterans, nor his incompetence. It simply pulled back the curtains on his frustration. Frustration with the challenges he faces. Frustration with the critics hounding him. And frustration with a situation that at times has moving goalposts. Congress is closely watching Secretary Bob, but he needs to be given a longer leash to operate, and more cooperation from relevant committees on enabling his reform agenda, because there is simply not a better option in 2016. Firing McDonald will create unwanted chaos in the VA. And Congress’ past handiwork—the Choice program—is still in desperate need of a thoughtful revamp after its rushed launch created more problems than it solved. Wait times in the VA matter more than wait lines at Disneyland, but McDonald is only guilty of a bad analogy, not bad intentions or incompetence. –BW 

On Ivy League campuses, military brass find a warmer welcome
Yeganeh Torbati (@yjtorbati), Reuters
In 1969, Yale University terminated its ROTC program seeing it as implicit support for the Vietnam War. Last week, Secretary ofDefense Ash Carter returned to Yale, his Alma mater, for the commissioning of its first class of cadets in decades. The school reinstituted ROTC in 2012 after the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. With the return of ROTC to elite universities, the military hopes it can grow and foster leadership from new regions and schools hope to see their influence spread in another seat of power. –JG
Bottom line: The first Navy ROTC class to graduate from Yale since its welcome back to campus has proven many of the reasons that both the military and Ivy League college leaders had for the return to be true. The military of a democracy must reflect the entire nation it serves. The danger of only recruiting from rural, southern, and Midwestern regions for the officer corps is a military that is disconnected from the nation it serves. The danger for the nation’s elite schools is that many of our nation’s greatest leaders in history came from the military and the Ivy League was missing the opportunity to shape the future of that institution and the nation by not being part of the culture and community. Just like the fears about ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal repercussions, the fears of ROTC back on campus turned out to be ridiculous. No one got spit on in his or her uniforms and no one was discriminated against for choosing to serve. Times are changing and the next generation of our nation comes at it with a different perspective than those before. It’s good to see them in the ranks again. –FPW 

Dem senator: Sexual assault case show ‘troubling command culture’
Rebecca Kheel (Rebecca_H_K), The Hill
A report by the office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) shows the Pentagon is failing to prosecute sexual assault cases even when probable cause is found by investigators. Gillibrand, supported by ScoutComms client Service Women’s Action Network, has been leading the push for reforms to the military justice system for several years and hopes that this report will demonstrate the need for Congress to continue making further changes. Gillibrand’s latest legislation would put the decision to prosecute sexual assault in the hands of independent military prosecutors rather than militarycommanders. –MC
Bottom line: Gillibrand has been fighting for several years to change the laws governing the prosecution of military sexual assaults, but has run up against opposition from the military chain of command and many of her colleagues in Congress. Yet the recent spate of reports on the Pentagon’s inability to reduce sexual assaults and to protect service members from retaliation has refocused attention on her argument to introduce independentmilitary prosecutors into the adjudication system. Sexual assault destroys unit cohesion, engenders distrust, and tears apart the bonds forged through shared experiences in deployments and combat. When left unchecked because of poor decisions made by a biased military commander, sexual assault weakens our militaryand ruins lives. Congress should take up and have a serious debate of Gillibrand’s legislation; if a better solution to improve the situation is not found, then her proposal deserves to be implemented or at least tested in a measured manner. Changing the prosecution system is not a magical solution, but it could be a critical first step in preventing future sexual assaults in the military.–BW 

Report: Military spouse unemployment could cost U.S. $1B
Karen Jowers (@KarenJowers), Military Times
A new study by ScoutComms’ client Blue Star Families findsmilitary spouses unemployment and underemployment costs the economy up to $1 billion each year in lost income tax, health care costs, and unemployment benefits. The numbers are based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment assumptions for 2015 that show military spouse unemployment at 18 percent. Advocates hope that this study will raise awareness of the invisible issue ofmilitary spouse unemployment and underemployment and encourage companies to continue making inroads to hiring moremilitary spouses. –MC
Bottom line: This is a fascinating bit of research and the first of its kind to measure the impact of military spouse unemployment and underemployment beyond that of the military family. What’s interesting is that even with these concerning numbers of a billion dollars of impact, that is based on a BLS statistic that is actually six points lower than DoD’s own estimate of the real unemployment number for military spouses. So, it may actually be an even greater impact nationally than this paper reflects. The challenges are many to helping to solve this issue within the confines of the nature ofmilitary family life, the lack of incentive for companies to really do anything to hire more military spouses, and the difficulty in measuring this impact beyond the local communities surroundingmilitary bases. In the end, we must call on companies to look at how they can help this special class of American citizens not just for the good of the employees, but also for the good of the nation’s security as a stable financial foundation at home is key to retaining the most talented military service members for the future. –FPW 

VA Palo Alto links Bay Area veterans to CVS MinuteClinics
Tracy Seipel (@taseipel), San Jose Mercury News
The Palo Alto VA Health Care System and CVS are piloting a program to enable veterans to more easily access care for minor health issues. Through the partnership, veterans are able to visit CVS MinuteClinics in their area when they need help for a small issue, rather than waiting for an appointment at their local VA facility. VA Palo Alto officials say that the program has the potential to reduce veterans’ appointment wait times, since lower-levelissues will be directed away from the VA, and allow veterans to access care closer to their homes. –MC
Bottom line: This could be a great solution for veterans in urban areas who need quick turnarounds on simple medical issues that aren’t related to military service. The Palo Alto VA and its associated clinics serve a geographically diverse area and if you know anything about Bay Area traffic, you will know that could mean a long time spent in a car to get to a VA clinic not that far away. For something like strep throat, it makes a lot of sense for VA to cover a veteran’s visit to a CVS clinic rather that put them on a crowded waitlist for care at the VA facility. In fact, it’s probably a solution veterans have sought out in the past due to frustration, but now they will be able to have their visit documented as part of their medical records, in addition to having the cost covered. Some might see this is a slippery slope towards privatizing VA health care services. Rather, we see this is a common sense public-private partnership that gives veterans more choices when considered their health care options. –LJ 

Study Looks at Veterans Most at Risk for Suicide Attempts
Gillian Mohney (@gillianmohney), ABC News
A new study on suicide attempts in the Army published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that enlisted soldiers who have never deployed account for more than half of allenlisted soldier suicide attempts. The study also found that risk ofsuicide varies over time, depending on deployments and time in service. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America also released a survey of its members last week, and found an increase in the number of veterans who have contemplated suicide compared to the organization’s previous survey. –MC
Bottom line: This is not the first study to find that, counter to popular wisdom, it’s not service members with combat experience and/or multiple deployments who are most likely to attempt suicide. Rather, it’s the young, new recruits who are adjusting to military life most at risk. This is important information for policymakers andmilitary officials to consider, particularly as the services seek to trim their overall numbers. One way to do that is to be pickier about who gets to join. Military service isn’t for everyone, not everyone can meet the physical and intellectual standards and perhaps not everyone can meet the standards of mental fortitude. For those already enlisted, information on the timing of peri- and post-deployment suicide attempts can help military officials target interventions, and while that is important to better reach those in crisis, it fails to consider what the services can do to better prevent service members from reaching that point in the first place. –LJ 

Client News:

USAA Memorial Poppy Walls Honor 640,000 Stories of Fallen Heroes
Iris Dimmick (@viviris), The Rivard Report
In remembrance of our nation’s fallen service members, two 72-foot long walls covered in 640,000 red poppies were erected at USAA’s headquarters in San Antonio. Each poppy represented the individual sacrifice of a fallen service member lost since World War I. Employees, veterans, and active duty service members also attended a ceremony in which several personal stories were told, to include that of U.S. Army Pfc. Lawrence Masanobu Kamiya, the father of retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya, now a senior vice president at USAA. –MC

MYnd Analytics adds genomics to PEER Report, Building a “Gold-Standard” for evidence-based prescribing
MYnd Analytics, Inc. announced last week that it will offer genetic testing as part of its PEER Report giving patients more options to guide their treatment based on their unique brain and metabolic outputs. MYnd Analytics’ PEER technology reduces the trial-and-error patients are often subjected to while finding the right medication to treat mental health issues. The new genetic test offering will help providers predict how some patients will metabolize different medications. –MC 

The Art Of Getting A Great Credit Score In The Military
Scott Halliwell (@USAAEF_Scott) for Task & Purpose
The USAA Educational Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization providing free financial education to service members and military families. Last week, the organization’s Financial Readiness Program Manager, Scott Halliwell, shared some expert advice for troops who want to earn a great credit score. For more financial readiness advice, be sure to check out the USAA Educational Foundation’s articles and publications on theorganization’s website–MC 

Veterans Fight For Chance at Family
Rebecca Kheel (@Rebecca_H_K), The Hill
A coalition of veteran serving organizations led by Wounded Warrior Project have been pushing for legislation that would allowveterans the opportunity to start a family using in vitro fertilization covered by the VA. Over the past month, legislation has been making its way through the Senate as part of an appropriations package but there is still a long way to go before the language is reconciled in a conference committee. In the House, Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) is pushing for a different plan that would give certain wounded veterans up to $20,000 in compensation that can be used for reproductive care (or anything else) but many the cost of IVF often exceeds more than $20,000. Couples like Crystal Black and Tyler Wilson can’t wait much longer to start a family and need Congress to act. –MC

Project Serves Veterans With Literature, History, Theater
Associated Press
The National Endowment for the Humanities held a panel discussion on Friday to highlight the veteran-serving organizations it supports, such as the Warrior Scholar Project that helps veteranstransition back into academic settings. To learn more about the Warrior Scholar Project, visit its website–JG 

Meals on Wheels joins forces with Home Depot to helpveterans
Kameilla Weatherall, KTUL
The Home Depot Foundation is partnering with Meals on Wheels in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and across the country to help address the housing needs of senior veterans. Meals on Wheels is identifyingveterans it serves who are in need of critical home repairs. The Home Depot Foundation and its associate-led volunteer force Team Depot will then transform veterans’ homes into safe, livable spaces. In Tulsa, the effort hopes to impact 20 veterans’ houses by July 4. –JG 

Memorial Day to mark long-awaited celebration of Gulf War 25th anniversary
Shakeeb Asrar (@shakeeb_asrar), USA Today
Yesterday, nearly 500 Gulf War veterans marched in the AmericanVeterans Center’s National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, DC, to raise awareness about the efforts to build the National Desert Storm War Memorial and the association working to build a memorial to honor all Gulf War veterans, living and fallen. The National Desert Storm War Memorial Association is working to raise $40 million to build the monument. The gathering was the largest reunion of Gulf War veterans to date. –MC 

Job Fair Promotes Hiring Veterans
Melissa Nelson Gabriel, Pensacola News Journal
Last week, Hiring our Heroes hosted hiring fairs in Seattle and Pensacola focused on employing transitioning active duty service members, veterans, and their spouses. More than 40 organizations have made the pledge to hire military spouses. Hiring Our Heroes has hosted nearly 1,000 of these events nationwide over the last five years. Visit their website to find out if one is coming to a city near you! –JG 

Quick Hits:

Remembering those who died in service to their country
Jenn Rowell, (@GFTrib_Rowell), Great Falls Tribune
Jenn Rowell shares how the lives of fallen service members have impacted her life, how their families inspire her strength, and how she pauses each Memorial Day to remember and honor all of them. It’s a great piece that reflects the true meaning of Memorial Day, and we recommend you take the time to read it. –MC

Four months after fundraiser, Trump says he gave $1 million toveterans group
David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold), Washington Post
Last week David Fahrenthold at the Washington Post investigated the Trump campaign’s assertion that it had raised $6 million forveterans’ organizations in January and that Trump himself had personally donated $1 million of that. After an in-person interview with Trump failed to produce answers, Fahrenthold took to Twitterasking charities and advocates if they could help account for the $1 million personal donation. Within hours of subtweeting Fahrenthold’s investigation, Trump donated the missing $1 million to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, which aids families of fallen Marines and law enforcement officers. –JG

The story behind the ‘American Dream’ photo at West Point that went viral
Dan Lamothe (@danlamothe), The Washington Post
The photo of newly commissioned 2nd Lt. Alix Schoelcher Idrache weeping at his West Point graduation ceremony quickly swept across the military and veteran community. Idrache, an immigrant from Haiti, says that his tears were a combination of many things, including pride in achieving what he had dreamed about since first seeing a U.S. Army helicopter on a humanitarian mission as a child. He looks forward to attending flight school in Fort Rucker where he will become an Army aviator. –JG 

Moral Risk and the Modern Military
Philip Klay (@PhilKlay), for the Brookings Institution
Few veterans write with the eloquence of Phil Klay when it comes to the moral intricacies of war, not just the result but even that of joining the military in the first place. In this long read, Klay uses history to illuminate our societal perspective on what it means to serve and how the nation sees and supports veterans upon their return home. Klay even digs into how the current rise of ISIS is impacting veterans who view themselves through the filter of Iraq and are now looking through a foggy lens. –LJ 

Sebastian Junger: Over-valorizing vets does more harm than good
Adam Linehan (@adam_linehan), Task & Purpose
In an interview, Sebastian Junger discusses his new book Tribe, about veterans reintegrating into society, his thoughts on post-traumatic stress, and how over-valorizing veterans often puts them in the “other” category that can be even more damaging to mental health. –JG 

Charity Navigator tweaks its rating system
Ann Carrns, The New York Times
The non-profit rating group Charity Navigator has changed some of its criteria for analyzing and grading charities. Before, its highest score on overheard was only achievable with an overhead of zero, and it incentivized harmful budget constraints to get a better rating. While the majority of organizations will see no change in their score, 19 percent are expected to see an increase in their rating. –JG

Veterans Groups Oppose Manchin Amendment Giving For-Profit Colleges Unfettered Access to Military Bases
David Halperin (@DaHalperin), Huffington Post
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) is proposing language that would require the Pentagon to allow all accredited colleges unfettered access military bases. The amendment would even give access to colleges like University of Phoenix, which was banned from bases and from accepting new enrollees on military tuition assistance just last year. –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.

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