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The Scout Report 276th Edition

Military Families and Veterans Issues and Analysis
Monday, July 25, 2016                                       

Pats on the back all the way around–we’ve made it through the first half of political convention season. For those of you who travel to the VSO conventions, the fun is just beginning!

Amidst the political headlines, we have some stories you may have missed including the fact that VA health care gets higher marks than private sector care, fears among veterans about stereotypes, cautions against the politicization of the military, and more.

Thank you to everyone who made the trek down to Stafford for our Saturday Scout Social! I personally apologize for being so ready for bed after a race earlier in the day. Next time, I’ll bring Bailey’s for my coffee. –LJ

The week ahead:

Tradeshows and Conferences:

Veterans of Foreign Wars: 117th VFW National Convention (Sat-Wed, July 23-27, 2016); Charlotte Convention Center, Charlotte, NC

Disabled American Veterans: 2016 National Convention (Sun-Tue, July 31-August 2, 2016); Hyatt Regency, Atlanta, GA
Congress:

Think Tanks & Other Events:

Foreign Policy Research Institute: National Defense Forum: Politics and the Military
Who: Dr. Michael P. Noonan,
Director of Research and Director of the Program on National Security, FPRI; Dr. Paul H. Herbert, Executive Director, First Division Museum at Cantigny
When: 4:30 PM, Thursday, July 28, 2016

Operation Family Caregiver: Uniting Forces to Support Military Caregivers
Who: Timothy Payne,
2016 Invictus Gold Medalist, and many advocates from Joining Forces, Blue Star Families, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, and more
When: 9:00 AM, Friday, July 29, 2016
Where: Georgian Terrace Hotel, Atlanta, GA

American Enterprise Institute: Marine Corps Aviation: Today’s Military Readiness Crisis, Tomorrow’s Capabilities
Who:
Jon Davis, US Marine Corps; David Deptula, Mitchell Institute; Thomas Donnelly, American Enterprise Institute
When: 9:00 AM, Friday, July 29, 2016
Where:
American Enterprise Institute, 1150 Seventeenth Street, NW Washington, DC 20036

Major themes and issues from last week:

Veterans and Military Issues:

Rand study finds VA care equal or better than private sector
Carten Cordell (@wccordell), Federal Times
recent study by the RAND Corporation has reached a conclusion that is unsurprising to many veterans advocates, but does not fit into the current VA-bashing discourse: the health care provided by the VA is generally equal to or better in quality than that offered in the private sector. Yet this is not a repudiation of the litany of complaints leveled at the VA. While the quality cannot be denied, access to care remains a significant issue. VA facilities simply have not shown consistently that they have the ability to meet growing demand. And even while RAND projects a 19 percent decline in the veteran population over a 10-year period, it assumes that those veterans accessing the VA will have more complex and demanding needs on a per capita basis. “The near-term increase in demand for care may outpace VA’s capacity to provide timely care to all veterans.” RAND’s study focuses on the VA’s need to rely on purchased care from the private sector, as encouraged through the VA Choice program. Yet the current process of purchasing care is complex and lacks a clear strategy, something that the VA is already working with Congress to remedy. RAND concludes by calling for “more systematic improvement standards” to reduce variation in the quality of care and providing “more clear goals for purchased care,” both good recommendations that rely on cooperation between Congress and the VA, and an ability to surpass current hurdles and stumbling blocks that have complicated reform efforts under Secretary Bob. –BW 

GOP platform calls for new VA leadership structure, more care options
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
The Republican party had their convention and there wasn’t a lot of focus on veterans issues although they did release the party’s official platform on veterans’ issues. There are certainly things to like in the document starting with the affirmation that veterans are not victims but national assets and deserve the gold standard in care. It also veers into the territory that makes many advocates nervous about opening up access to full choice for health care for veterans and the idea of more political appointees at the top of the VA. Mid-week outgoing House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Jeff Miller broke with his past support for current VA Secretary Bob McDonald and called for a new secretary in the new administration and criticized efforts he had previously supported. So, you know…just politics as usual. In the end the campaign still managed to stumble with many in the community when Trump’s outspoken “veterans advisor” New Hampshire state delegate and retired Marine Al Baldasaro told a radio interviewer that he thought that Hillary Clinton should be convicted as a traitor and put in front of a firing squad. The idea of shooting a candidate for president didn’t play well with many veterans and it shouldn’t. At some point we need to act like the adults in the room instead of the stereotypes we claim to want to overcome and Trump should at least surround himself with the veterans he claims are assets and not the ones who are constantly screaming at the world. –FPW 

Pentagon alters Law of War manual to remove suggestion that journalists are combatants
Missy Ryan (@missy_ryan), The Washington Post
No journalists were harmed in the writing of this analysis. Fortunately, no journalists were harmed as a result of the publication of the 2015 Law of War manual either, even though it shockingly warned that journalists could potentially be viewed as “members of the armed forces … or unprivileged belligerents.” After an uproar from the media, the 2016 manual has been revised to read, “in general, journalists are civilians and are protected as such under the law of war.” This is no laughing matter either. Even though the U.S. itself has never made it a habit to target or harm journalists, journalists operating in combat zones already run extremely high risks. As Missy Ryan notes, 73 journalists died around the world in 2015, mostly in Syria, where they operate under highly independent circumstances. The last thing a journalist wants in a current or future area of operations is to worry about being targeted or distrusted by the country that set a new, enduring standard for freedom of speech—and by extension, press freedom—with the ratification of the First Amendment. If journalists abuse their privileges to aid and abet an enemy force, then they can and should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. But even in an area where the U.S. military is operating, it is still crucial that journalists continue to be supported so that impartial and timely news can flow to American and international audiences alike. –BW 

Police shootings raise questions over role of gunmen’s military past
Ben Kesling (@bkesling), The Wall Street Journal
Two weeks ago, we reported on the latest campaign to encourage Americans to view veterans as strategic assets. When tragic attacks like those in Dallas and Baton Rouge occur and it turns out the killers have military backgrounds, the reaction to the tragedy is felt even deeper in the veteran community as fear of greater isolation from the civilian community increases. Needless to say, actions by two veterans do not reflect on the veteran community as a whole just as the actions of two men of the same race do not reflect on a race or a movement as a whole. Americans, though, generally don’t know much about the military so any veteran with a Good Conduct Medal becomes “highly decorated” and anyone with a deployment may be suffering from PTSD which is assumed to make someone dangerous. This is why it’s important for veteran organizations to continue promoting positive images of veterans, a charge being led by Got Your 6 at the moment and lived every day by others like Team Rubicon and Team Red, White, and Blue. It’s why it’s also important for veterans to build relationships with the civilian community and share their stories. Break down the myths and stereotypes by being the assets you are. Should the onus be on civilians to learn more and know better? Of course, but it’s going to take action to create change and who takes action more readily than veterans? –LJ 

Vision for a new VFW: to see the future, look to the past
Jon Anderson, Military Times
Recruiting new veterans is not a new problem for the VFW. In 1921, leaders of the organization founded by Spanish-American war veterans worried about how to encourage young veterans of The Great War to join the VFW. This year, the VFW will welcome its first commander who is a veteran of the Gulf War, Brian Duffy. Duffy understands that VFW posts won’t be successful if all they offer is a bar. Rather, he sees the future of the organization is in its roots: bringing veterans together to help fellow veterans. He points to VFW posts that have partnered with organizations in their community, whether Habitat for Humanity or Team Red, White, and Blue, as ways to further their mission and recruit new members. Post 1 in Denver is the model VFW hopes to see others follow: they’ve been active in their community, creating networking communities for its veterans and putting a focus on health and wellness rather than smoking and drinking. Like Duffy, we are not worried about the survival of the VFW. And its future is brighter than some may assume. It boasts more than 150,000 post-9/11 veteran members, rivaling that of IAVA. To continue attracting more young veterans, though, the VFW will have to demonstrate how its advocacy impacts the benefits young veterans rely on like the Post-9/11 GI Bill and VFW posts will have to continue transforming their offerings to reach new populations of veterans. Neither of these are unknown the VFW leaders, but it’s getting there that will be the challenge over the next several years. –LJ 

Top military officer to troops: Don’t politicize the military
Kristina Wong (@kristina_wong), The Hill
In the age of social media this has become almost an annual reminder to the force that while they are free to vote and discuss the political issues as individuals they must also guard against the danger of politicizing the military itself and undermining the trust of the civilian leadership and public. The tradition of civilian control of the military has dated back to the Continental Congress and continues today. After the attempted coup in Turkey it’s all the more important to recognize that the military serves the Constitution and follows the orders the elected officials and their appointees above them. That can be easily undermined today with the ease of social media and the increasingly less anonymous conversations that occur online. This election is already a fierce one and we can only hope that those who serve maintain their bearing and stay above the fray. ­–FPW 

Client News:

Military veterans to attend Cornell academic boot camp
The Lansing Star
Last week, a group of military veterans attended an academic boot camp offered by the Warrior-Scholar Project and hosted at Cornell University. WSP helps enlisted veterans gain the skills and confidence required to succeed in a four-year degree program. The classes are taught by veterans and held at top universities across the country. Learn more about the WSP and upcoming boot camps at warrior-scholar.org–MC 

Proposed rule would complicate veteran infertility treatment
Amy Bushatz (@amybushatz), Military.com
Legislation that would allow wounded veterans to have in vitro fertilization covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs died in the Senate last month. Now, active duty service members’ and veterans’ access to the treatment are at risk again due to an amendment approved by the House Appropriations Committee. The new language would prevent federal IVF funding unless doctors do not destroy any embryos in the process. An official with the Wounded Warrior Project, which is working with a number of organizations to push for IVF treatment, said they were surprised by the new roadblock being put in place and will continue to advocate for wounded veterans’ right to have a family via IVF. –MC

KISS makes $150k donation to veterans group during Colorado concert
Cassie Heeke (@cnheeke), The Colorado Springs Gazette
KISS is donating $150,000 to Hiring Our Heroes to help active duty service members, veterans, and military spouses find meaningful employment. This donation will help fund the many hiring events Hiring Our Heroes hosts all over the country. KISS made this announcement while on their North American “Freedom to Rock” Tour, where they are hiring one service member or veteran per tour stop to help set up the show and then attend the concert as a VIP along with a guest–JG

Other coverage: 
KISS donates $150,000 to veterans at concert in Colorado Springs
Anica Padilla (@AnicaPadilla), Fox 31 Denver

KISS gives Independence crowd the usual gaudy sights and sounds
Timothy Finn (@phinnagain), The Kansas City Star

Retired Air Force chief master sergeant invited to be a KISS roadie for a day
Jake Allen, The Colorado Springs Gazette 

Quick Hits:

Report: DoD needs better food assistance data to help troops, families
Karen Jowers (@KarenJowers), Military Times
DoD needs to find ways to better collect and track data surrounding active duty military members and families that use the food assistance program SNAP, according to the GAO. A better understanding of how many troops need food assistance would help DoD target its resources and put programs in place to assist families in need. –JG 

Plan to cut BAH benefit would penalize airman
Gen. Larry O. Spencer for The Air Force Times
Retired General Larry O. Spencer, president of the Air Force Association, shared his thoughts on proposed changes to the military’s Basic Allowance for Housing in an op-ed for the Air Force Times. Spencer said that changes to the benefit would hurt dual-military couples and disproportionately affect military women’s wages. –MC 

Does honorable service earn noncitizen vets a 2nd chance to call US home?
Dianna Cahn (@DiannaCahn), Stars and Stripes
Hector Barajas-Varela runs the Deported Veteran Support House in Tijuana, Mexico, for veterans of the U.S. military who have been deported. After a number of recent news stories about deported U.S. veterans, U.S. Customs and Immigrations Services contacted Barajas-Varela and some other deported veterans to begin the necessary steps of becoming eligible of consideration for U.S. citizenship. –JG

Here comes G.I. Jane: Army accepts first women to attend school to become Green Berets
Alex Quade (@AlexQuadeReport) for the Washington Times
Two female Army officers have been accepted by the Army Special Operations Forces Selection panel to attend Special Forces Assessment and Selection at Fort Bragg. If they are selected, they could continue on to the Army’s Special Forces Qualification Course this October. ­–JG 

OPM guidance extends veterans’ preference to vets’ parents
Carten Cordell (@wccordell), Federal Times
New guidance from the Office of Personnel Management will allow both parents of fallen or permanently disabled veterans to utilize the federal employment veteran preference. Before the change, the benefit was only extended to mothers of fallen or disabled veterans.–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!

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