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The Scout Report 282nd Edition

Military Families and Veterans Issues and Analysis
Tuesday, September 6, 2016

This week, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America will host their “Commander-in-Chief” forum on veterans and military issues. Of course it will be interesting to see the two candidates pressed on the specifics around military and veterans’ policy, but more fascinating to watch will be how supporters of Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson continue to make their presence known because of Johnson’s lack of presence at the forum.

In this week’s Scout Report, we look at how Humans of New York and The Headstrong Project teamed up to fight stigma, a different perspective on VA health care, how service members’ votes are counted, and much more.

Happy four-day week and pumpkin spice season from all of us here at ScoutComms—okay, really just me. –LJ 

The week ahead:

Tradeshows and Conferences:

America’s Warrior Partnership: Third Annual Warrior Community Integration Symposium (Wed – Fri, Sept. 7 – 9, 2016); Marriot Marquis Atlanta, Atlanta, GA

The National Guard Association of the United States: 138th General Conference & Exhibition (Fri – Mon, Sept. 9 – 12, 2016); Downtown Inner Harbor, Baltimore, MD 

Congress:

Veterans’ Affairs: From Tumult to Transformation: The Commission on Care and the Future of the VA Healthcare System
When: 10:30 AM, Wednesday September 7, 2016
Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: Deferred Maintenance in the Nuclear Security Enterprise: Safety and Mission Risk
Who: Dr. Charlie McMillan, Laboratory Director, Los Alamos National Laboratory; Mr. John Ricciardelli, President, Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies, LLC; Mr. Morgan Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer, Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC; The Honorable Frank Klotz, Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration; Mr. James McConnell, Associate Administrator for Safety, Infrastructure, and Operations, National Nuclear Security Administration
When: 3:30 PM, Wednesday September 7, 2016
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: Views on H.R. 4298: Vietnam Helicopter Crew Memorial Act and H.R. 5458: Veterans TRICARE Choice Act
Who: Mr. Patrick Hallinan, Executive Director, Arlington National Cemetery; Mr. Bob Hesselbein, Chairman, Legacy Committee, Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association; Mr. Bill Secord, Legislative Affairs Chairman, Air Line Pilots Association
When: 3:30 PM, Thursday September 8, 2016
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Think Tanks & Other Events:

George Washington University: Living With Consequences Of Agent Orange/Dioxin Fifty Years Later: An Update On The Situation In Vietnam And Laos From The War Legacies Project

Who: Susan Hammond, Founder and Executive Director, War Legacies Project; Jacquelyn Chagnon, Graduate, Elliot School of International Affairs
When: Noon – 2 p.m., Aug. 30, 2016
Where: Elliot School of International Affairs, 1957 E. St. NW, Washington, DC, Room 505

Major themes and issues from last week:

Veterans and Military Issues:

Veterans and Military Issues: 

Humans of New York decided to profile veterans. The response has been overwhelming
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), Washington Post
Humans of New York has become something even beyond a social media phenomenon. The combination of compelling photography with intimate and emotional stories has propelled the project from photographer Brandon Stanton to over 18 million followers on Facebook and another 5.8 million on Instagram. He recently partnered with our friend Zach Iscol and his Headstrong Project to highlight the experiences of veterans and their transitions home. The result has been as compelling if not more than many of the powerful tales Stanton brings to light through his efforts. Many of the featured subjects are great veterans we know like writer Eliott Ackerman and Matt Pelak of Team Rubicon, while others are participants in Iscol’s Headstrong Project efforts to provide free mental health care to veterans in New York and other cities. Each tells the tale of coming to grips with the harsh realities of war and seeking the help they need to put those unique experiences in perspective. It has been a terrific project and it’s definitely worth your time to check it out. –FPW

Someone to Talk to Upon Returning From War
Adrienne Green (@AdrienneNGreen), The Atlantic
Often when discussing the mental health of veterans, we conceptualize it from the veterans’ perspective. This interview with a VA social worker, who also happens to be a veteran himself, gives us a look at the issue from a different angle—and one that encompasses a broader age range of veterans than typically discussed. On more abstract level, the article is a great reminder that so many of the people who work at VA are veterans and want to help veterans. While the VA bureaucracy can make it seem like a monolithic, faceless agency, there are real people who have devoted their lives to helping others through the VA. That’s why the data shows again and again that veterans who access VA care are less likely than other veterans to commit suicide. As John notes in his interview, there is power in being present. –LJ 

Full Metal Racket
Ryan Bradley (@theryanbradley), New Republic
When we talk about the invisible wounds of war, it is common for the increasing incidence of post-traumatic stress in post-9/11 veterans to dominate the conversation. Yet the number one and fastest-growing disability among recent veterans is in fact hearing loss, either in the form of permanent hearing loss or tinnitus (chronic ringing in the ears). Unlike PTS, hearing loss does not confound experts or escape clear definition. We know why it happens. As Bradley writes, “war is loud, and getting louder,” highlighting the F-35, the M9, and new kinetic weapons systems as clear examples. Bradley recognizes that there are few obvious solutions as “the nature of warfare makes it difficult to protect troops from noise,” and notes that the military knows it is faces a very serious problem. There is no secret sauce to solve this problem. Noise-dampening helmets under development and testing will help, but won’t solve the problem. In the near term, veterans are going to be coping with hearing loss. Fortunately, while we await for a better solution, the tools to help veterans overcome these disabilities are evolving to provide better support. Modern hearing aids have advanced leaps and bounds in their abilities, including iPhone customization and control, which means that so long as we are providing veterans with the ability to obtain the right aids to overcome their auditory disabilities, they will not be prevented from hearing the world around them. –BW 

Why tracking military ballots can be complicated and confusing
Erin Vogel-Fox (@ErinVogelFox), The Washington Post
There are two issues intermingled in this complex report on military absentee voting: first, if the votes are counted in an election, and second, whether the votes, once cast, are accurately tracked and reported for federal monitoring purposes. The first is assuredly the most important: if a service member stationed or deployed away from their home of record casts a ballot in a timely manner, there is no excuse for that ballot being lost or mishandled. The article does not find widespread evidence of military voter disenfranchisement. But that leads to the second issue: due to confusing tracking and monitoring obligations split between the states and the federal Election Assistance Commission, no one is quite sure if the absentee ballots of military personnel are being accurately counted in a consistent manner. It’s impossible to summarize the findings of the article in this short space, so read the whole thing, but it is clear that the states and the EAC are pointing fingers at each other for the lack of certainty. Ultimately, as the authors write, “military and overseas voting can be a complicated process.” And perhaps the serious issues with tracking and monitoring the military absentee voting process are indicative of broader problems with how the military absentee voting process is managed in the first place. Greater coordination between the EAC and the state election authorities is needed to close this gap in our knowledge about the sanctity of the military absentee voting process. –BW 

Johnson campaign distances itself from protesting vets
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
It was with great fanfare that Paul Reickhoff and his team at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America announced the coup of securing agreement from both Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump to appear separately at a forum that would address issues surrounding the military and veterans issues this week. The triumph hit a speed bump pretty quickly when supporters of Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson began asking why he wasn’t given the opportunity to participate based on polls showing him as one of the most popular candidates among the military. Johnson’s supporters have been mounting a pretty epic campaign of social media pressure leading IAVA to speak with the campaign and offer what is being nebulously called an opportunity to “continue the conversation” after the event on September 7. Officially, they are citing restrictions from the campaigns and NBC who will air the event as the reasons more candidates can’t be added. The Johnson campaign issued a statement of support for IAVA and is saying they are not leading the effort to get him on the forum but then again there is probably a concern they are going to anger a group purporting to represent all of the three million or more Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Either way nobody seems too thrilled with things but it should be a fascinating week with a focus on our military, veterans and their families from both campaigns that has been lacking for the most part. –FPW

Client News:

America’s Warrior Partnership’s 3rd ‘Warrior Integration Symposium’ to help vets, servicemen and women
Terry Shropshire (@RoyalTeeATL), Atlanta Daily World
America’s Warrior Partnership is hosting its Third Annual Warrior Community Integration Symposium Sept. 7-9 in Atlanta, GA. The symposium’s theme is “When We Collaborate, They Succeed,” and it will host more than 350 top veteran-serving professionals, representing more than 125 organizations. The three-day symposium will highlight best practices, identify issues and present solutions. Pre-registration is now closed, but day-of registration is welcome. –AB 

In the wake of scandal, Wounded Warrior Project outlines significant overhaul
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
In an interview last week retired Army lieutenant general Mike Linnington, Wounded Warrior Project’s new CEO, shared details of organization’s plans for a significant overhaul. As part of the changes, WWP will focus continuing its programs related to mental health and long-term care while creating new partnerships with other veteran serving organizations. WWP will also close nine offices where staff usually works from home, shift employees among programs, and reduce its workforce overall. Linnington said that WWP helps 90,000 post-9/11 veterans and that the organization is “increasing investment in our most important programs, and still committed to helping veterans.” –MC

Home Depot Foundation hikes support to veterans
Maria Saporta (@mariasaporta), Atlanta Business Chronicle
On Thursday, The Home Depot Foundation not only launched its sixth “Celebration of Service” campaign, but also announced an increased commitment to veterans and military families by committing to invest $250 million in support of veteran causes by 2020. The Home Depot Foundation has been supporting veterans since 2011, and has provided more than $160 million to veteran housing efforts. Throughout the Celebration of Service campaign, volunteers will complete service projects for veterans that will improve their homes and The Home Depot Foundation will donate $1 up to $500,000 for every #ServiceSelfie posted to organizations like Student Veterans of America, Team Rubicon, and others. Learn more at thd.co/givingback and don’t forget to take your #ServiceSelfie! –MC

Army veteran gets chance to be roadie for a day for KISS at Allentown Fair
John J. Moser (@JohnJMoser), The Morning Call
As summer draws to a close, so too does the KISS “Freedom to Rock” North American tour. At each of the nearly 40 concerts, KISS has recognized or will recognize one local veteran as the KISS “Roadie for a Day”. The program is organized by Hiring Our Heroes as a part of their partnership with KISS. In Allentown, PA, retired Army Maj. Elizabeth Sherr was chosen to help the band prepare for the show and was brought on stage near the end of the show as a part of a patriotic dedication to our country’s service men and women. –JG 

Power of poetry present at veterans summit
Heather Bridges (@heatherrbridges), The Virginia Gazette
The Arts Services Arts Department hosted a two-day Veterans Poetry Summit at the College of William and Mary from Aug. 21-22. The event sought to correct the misconception that veterans can’t also be poets and to give those same veterans a cathartic outlet for storytelling. Some of their work can be found in the Armed Services Arts Partnership’s first publication: “A Common Bond: A Veterans Chapbook.” –AB 

WSP Executive Director Dr. Sidney Ellington Receives 2016 American Legion National Education Award
Dr. Sidney Ellington was awarded the American Legion National Education Award joining a list of distinguished recipients including former First Ladies Laura Bush and Barbara Bush. The award honors the individual who has accomplished the most in promoting the Legion’s educational programs or any program that falls in line with the national scope of the Legion’s educational initiatives. –JG 

California pulls GI Bill approval for troubled for-profit ITT Tech
Alex Horton (@AlexHortonTX), Stars and Stripes
On Thursday, California officially pulled GI Bill approval for the ITT Technical Institute to “protect the hard-earned GI Bill education benefits for California veterans.” This change means that new student veterans using their GI Bill at ITT Tech will not receive the tuition assistance or housing allowance provided by the GI Bill after September 1. According to Student Veterans of America, 12,500 student veterans are currently enrolled at ITT and because the GI Bill is not legally considered federal student aid, they will face challenges recouping benefits if the institution folds. SVA outlined how this affects student veterans in a recent blog post, and has staff on hand to help students navigating this process. –MC 

Quick Hits:

Official warns of service changes after Army MWR cuts
Jennifer H. Svan, Stars and Stripes
Funding cuts are going to be felt by military families as Army installations cut back on the fitness, social, and other recreational activities available on bases around the world. Officials are trying to reassure families that their voices will be heard as decisions about which programs to cut are made. –LJ 

Family of Marine who died at Wisconsin VA center files suit
Associated Press
A medical malpractice lawsuit has been filed against the US government for the death of Jason Simcakoski back in August 2014 alleging that his caretakers at the VA facility in Tomah prescribed him incorrect dosage of drugs that interacted with other medicines he was taking. In 2015, the physician assigned to him was fired after the VA inspector general found that a failure in care caused Simcakoski’s death. ­–JG 

VA secretary: ‘We need action from Congress now’
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ fiscal year 2017 budget is in the hands of Capitol Hill leaders and VA officials are adamant that action be taken in regard to it soon. Without action by Congress, continuous funding and departmental reform are at risk of materializing. –AB 

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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