Military Families and Veterans News and Analysis
Monday, December 12, 2016
“I just wanted to say that Army still beat Navy.” – Frederick Paul Wellman
Need more be said about last week? Well, just in case, we have an assortment of stories in this week’s Scout Report about the VA’s internal Yelp for its medical centers, Obama’s farewell to troops, the DoD waste story that wasn’t, the state of military families, an important story about veterans in law enforcement, and how awesome the Army thinks it is at mental health care innovations. Also, most importantly, a story about our very own Margaret.
It’s beginning to look a lot like a polar vortex is coming to DC, and not to put us out of our misery. Instead, we’ll be keeping warm with lots of hot takes on Twitter (@ScoutComms) and the internal fire that burns for more “Star Wars” films. Send whiskey. –LJ
The week ahead:
Tradeshows and Conferences:
No major tradeshows or conferences this week.
No hearings this week.
Think Tanks & Other Events:
None this week.
Major themes and issues from last week:
ScoutComms in the News:
Newhouse School alumni honored at PR News awards luncheon
Wendy S. Loughlin, Syracuse University
One of the standing jokes (and facts) here at ScoutComms is that the whole place would go up in flames without Margaret, our fearless Account Manager. PR News recently recognized her for her many talents and strengths in the public relations industry by naming her one of the Rising PR Stars 30 & Under! This accomplishment was highlighted by her alma mater, the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Congratulations, Margaret!
Military and Veteran Issues:
Internal documents detail secret VA quality ratings
Donovan Slack (@DonovanSlack) USA Today
According to internal VA documents recently obtained by USA Today, VA hospitals in Texas and Tennessee – specifically Dallas, El Paso, Nashville, Memphis and Murfreesboro – were given the lowest possible overall performance ratings. The highest rated VA hospitals are located in Massachusetts, New York and the Upper Midwest. Outgoing Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller and others are calling on the VA to make these ratings available to the public for transparency and accountability. –JG
Bottom line: In case you missed the VA’s response to the latest USA Today report on facility quality, it is a doozy, a full-throated broadside from Secretary Bob challenging the findings and tone of Donovan Slack’s article. There may be some gray area here between how the VA views the issue and Slack’s reporting, but the ongoing coverage of the VA’s attempts to keep private the relative ratings from its internal quality improvement tool do not play well for a department that has been under fire for several years for concealing problems at various levels. As I’ve written before, I think that Congress had a bad habit of not giving the VA enough time or room to breathe between episodes of criticism, but I also have called upon the VA to err on the side of extreme transparency to avoid further damaging the trust it asks of the public and the media. This is one of those cases where, while the VA is probably right to assert that its ratings system could be read out of context, it is on the losing side of the battle for public perception. Now that the ratings are public, the VA would be well served not to point fingers at USA Today, but to ensure that it provides clear and succinct explanations for how people should read those ratings, to proactively head off any mistaken assumptions. –BW
In farewell to troops, Obama urges restrain in using military force
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
After commanding a nation at war for eight years, President Obama expressed gratitude toward the men and women of our military for their service while highlighting the danger of escalating military involvement in the Middle East. Obama offered his tactic of downsizing the U.S. military presence in places like Iraq as the more “sustainable” option in foreign policy. In what is likely his final speech regarding national security, the president expressed his disappointment in Congress’ lack of cooperation over the years to pass legislation that would better guide executive war powers. –JG
Bottom line: President Obama mounted a strong defense of his eight years as a wartime commander-in-chief in his final major speech focused on national security. There is no way to judge this Administration’s national security record clearly still. It’s certainly a mixed bag that even the most fervent supporter of Obama will have to admit. There have been gains, but in the end we remain at war in Afghanistan and in Iraq. We’ve added Syria and occasional forays into Libya to the menu as well. So, what is success and what does it look after all that is a question best left for historians. In the end it is important to remember that as a superpower we must judge threats on a scale of destruction of the nation as an entity, existential threats, down to dangerous but not threatening to the future of our country. Mr. Obama is making a strong case to remind future leaders that the Islamic State is a threat but not an existential one to our country and we can’t take our eye off of the nations and actors that are threats to that existence. That is a warning we can agree on and one we hope our nation’s next leaders will note. –FPW
Does the Pentagon really waste $125 billion on pencil pushers?
Kevin Drum (@kdrum), Mother Jones
Last week, the Washington Post reported the Pentagon wastefully spent $125 billion on administrative expenses and tried to cover it up by hiding the study outlining the spending. However, not everyone agrees that the so-called “administrative waste” is a drastic problem. Kevin Drum, a blogger with Mother Jones, challenged the accusations in a recent article and said that the Pentagon’s spending doesn’t look much different than private sector companies. –MC
Bottom line: You have to give Kevin Drum credit for cutting through the BS in that report pretty quickly. You start with the explosive $125 billion number…which is over five years. Then you unpack how McKinsey says the money could be saved and it really gets silly. The amount of business consultant mumbo-jumbo is almost ludicrous and shows a complete lack of understanding of how the military operates. So, you have to take the entire report with a grain, or entire shaker, of salt. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons it wasn’t released in the end. Many have tried to dive into the Department of Defense and bring business efficiencies into the government –Google Al Gore and ashtrays for a prime example. In the end, the byzantine nature of the government and military procurement system is a remarkably resilient beast that while desperately in need of reform, also needs to be understood before it can be changed. Saying you will ‘optimize teams on key business processes’ leading to savings in just eight months is titanic in its lack of understanding of the complexity of military operations and systems. –FPW
Survey: High operational tempo still affecting military families
Karen Jowers (@KarenJowers), Military Times
Blue Star Families released its annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey on Tuesday and the results showed that military families are exhausted from the “high operational tempo” of military life. This year’s survey, conducted in partnership with ScoutComms’ client the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, included responses from more than 8,390 military family members. Top issues included the impacts of deployments on children, the changing military retirement system, and military spouse employment. –MC
Bottom line: Among those responding to the survey, top concerns of military families remain potential changes in benefits like retirement and spouse unemployment and underemployment. Surprisingly, the impact of deployments on children popped back into the top five concerns this year, which indicates the pace of programs for military families isn’t keeping up with that of military deployments. While the military has adapted its posture and fighting force to meet the needs of today’s battlefields in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, it has not adapted the programs that support military families to the current optempo. With current budget constraints, the folks at the Pentagon might argue that limited funding is best spent on training and maintaining readiness. Yet, the survey also says less than half of service members would recommend military service to their own children (though two-thirdswould recommend it to a young person.) If the current trend of cutting benefits continues, only 19 percent would recommend service. The benefits that military service provides, both in long term financial security and in real-time support to families, is a readiness issue. Our military is only as good as the people who volunteer to serve. Congress and the Pentagon must work together to find long-term funding for family programs with the understanding that their satisfaction is our national security. –LJ
How the U.S. Army personalized its mental health care
Jayakanth Srinivasan, Millard D. Brown, Christopher G. Ivany and Jonathan Woodson, Harvard Business Review
The Army recently devised a new method to integrate precision medicine into its mental healthcare: the Behavioral Health Data Portal (BHDP). This tool, which is given to service members upon check-in for appointments, assesses where each individual needs are utilizing survey methods agreed upon by a wide range of Army care providers. This portal allows doctors to track patients’ health over time and location. This tracking, coupled with other major moves in the sector such as the investment in free, confidential mental health services for veterans, represent a push towards a more comprehensive notion of health for our nations’ service members. –KB
Bottom line: What you get in this article is the Army and DoD perspective on how awesome they are at bringing precision medicine to soldiers. What you don’t get is the other side of the story, which is the frustration many soldiers and doctors still have. Of course, we should note the successes in using tablets for intake evaluations that give clinicians an idea of where their patients need the most urgent care. That’s important stuff. Collecting more data from patients, particularly about if they feel they are getting better, could help DoD and the Army ensure the right interventions are in place or deploy innovative new ones. Could being the operative word. We want to be optimistic about the Army’s latest mental health care innovations in the same way the Army is, but we would love to hear it from outside of the Army. Here, the audience is the private sector, and the health care industry the Army believes could learn from its BHDP. There is plenty that offers private industry some exciting ideas, particularly in the areas of standardization and breaking down geographic barriers through electronic records. Yet, there is plenty the Army could learn from the private sector when it comes to health care when it comes to implementing new technology and treatments to deliver the best care. –LJ
Military-trained police may be less hasty to shoot, but that got this vet fired
Quil Lawrence (@QuilLawrence) and Martin Kaste (@martinkaste), NPR
When police officer and Marine Corps veteran Stephen Mader refused to fire on an armed citizen who was attempting to commit suicide, he thought he was doing the right thing. His department, however, fired him for putting other officers’ lives at risk. His story isn’t entirely unique: veterans who join the police after returning home are seen as being much more reticent to shoot than their civilian counterparts. Mader is currently considering taking legal action against the police department. –KB
Bottom line: Without addressing the additional, unrelated allegations of misbehavior that were leveled against Mader to justify his firing, this case comes down to one issue: how ready should a police officer be to use his or her weapon against a citizen? There is rarely a perfect answer, but veterans like Mader will tell you that they operated under far more restrictive rules of engagement while operating in war zones, experiences that give them a wholly different perspective on policing than non-veteran officers whose only experience with violence comes while serving in their own community. The issue of excessive or unnecessary use of force by police officers in the U.S. is an issue that Stars and Stripes national reporter Alex Horton, a combat veteran and true FOS (Friend of ScoutComms), eloquently addressed in 2015 after a misunderstanding resulted in him awaking to police entering his bedroom. While we obviously have to be ready to give the benefit of the doubt to police officers who overreact when they honestly believe a situation is more dangerous than it really is, it is important to listen to veterans like Stephen Mader and Alex Horton when they express—through words or actions—better methods for dealing with potentially dangerous situations. –BW
‘Hiring Our Heroes’ military spouse event draws crowd at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston
Steve Elliott, JBSA News
Military spouses face unique challenges when searching for employment opportunities. That’s why at Joint Base San Antonio, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosted a two-day Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Event. More than 20 businesses sent recruiters to the hiring event with the goal of connecting the 150 military spouses in attendance with meaningful employment. Hiring Our Heroes hosts hiring fairs for transitioning active duty, veterans and military spouses all over the country. This week they will be hosting a Hiring Fair in Jacksonville, FL. For the full list of scheduled upcoming events, visit the Hiring Our Heroes website. –JG
Boots to Business Reboot
Stafford County Virginia Economic Development (@StaffordEconDev)
A Boots to Business Reboot training program, open to service members,veterans and military spouses, recently took place right in our hometown of Fredericksburg, hosted at the University of Mary Washington. Offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, participants have the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of starting or growing their own small business. –DD
Help a Veteran this Christmas
Reggie Connell (@theapopkavoice), The Apopka Voice
Allowing a military family to attend an event where they can strengthen bonds and make lasting memories is a unique, rare gift. Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix) distributes event tickets to service members, veterans, military families, guard and reserve personnel to events ranging from sporting games, concerts and events in the arts. Vet Tix removes the financial burden that many military families may experience and allows VetTixers to attend events year-round. –DD
Vet Tix Partners with Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States to Support National Guard Members and Their Families
Vet Tix recently announced a partnership with the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS) to provide members of the Guard community with opportunities to experience a community event with their families and fellow peers. Vet Tix is open to all eras and branches of the military and the partnership will strengthen the welfare of military personnel and families nationwide. –DD
Felician University wins military-friendly status again
Kristie Cattafi (@KristieCattafi), North Jersey.com
Earlier this year, student veterans at Felician University were awarded a $10,000 Student Veterans of America Vet Center Initiative Grant, sponsored by The Home Depot Foundation, to improve the school’s Vet Center on campus. Last week, the student veterans held a grand opening ceremony to celebrate the new space and the school’s sixth year with Military Friendly status. The new vet center will provide military connected students with a place to access resources, meet and connect with other veterans, and relax in between classes. –MC
Neller: Marines will review women-in-combat integration if requested by Trump
Tara Copp (@TaraCopp), Stars and Stripes
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said this past weekend that, if requested bya President Trump, he will provide his “best military advice” on gender integration in combat units. According to Kate Germano, COO of the Service Women’s Action Network, the nomination of Gen. (ret) James Mattis as defense secretary creates some concerns among service women and female veterans that combat integration could be curtailed. –KB
MYnd Analytics completes a $1 million private placement and enters into a $10 million common stock purchase agreement with Aspire Capital Fund, LLC
MYnd Analytics, Inc.
MYnd Analytics, a California-based health technology that provides objective data to physicians about the best outcomes for their patients on various mental health medications, has entered into an agreement for $1 million for the sale of stock at $6.25 per share. The company also entered into a $10 million agreement with Aspire Capital Fund, LLC which provides MYND the rights to sell up to $10 million worth of its stock to Aspire. –KB
A ‘Must-Have’ Training Guide For Hiring Military Spouses: The Force Behind the Force
Institute for Veterans and Military Families
The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, in collaboration with Prudential Financial, designed a toolkit specific for employers and hiring managers to better understand how to communicate with military spouses during the employment process. The training guide includes strategies for recruitment and teaches employers how to evaluate military spouses to utilize their strengths in the workplace. –DD
Retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly picked to head Department of Homeland Security
Jerry Markon (@JerryMarkon) and Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post
Retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly was chosen by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Kelly has more than 40 years of military experience, but some critics worry about too much military influence in the Trump Administration. –MC
A Modest Proposal for Military Suicide and Sexual Assault
Brad Carson & Morgan Plummer (@WarOnTheRocks) War On The Rocks
Using data collected from the DoD and the Centers for Disease and Control, the active duty military suicide rate reported in 2015 is slightly less than the national average among civilians. However, many advocates are alarmed, because only 15 years ago the active duty suicide rate was half of what it is now. This article demonstrates a clear and dire need for comprehensive and consistent data collection surrounding suicide and sexual assault in the military community. While existing support programs have seen success and continue to save lives every day, there is still more work to be done. –JG
How we lionize and infantilize our military veterans, to their detriment and ours.
Kellie Lunney (@klunney), Government Executive
Typical Americans tend to think of veterans in one of two narratives: “the hero” or a “damaged veteran.” Kellie Lunney delved into the topic of these stereotypes and how they ultimately hurt our communities in a recent article, with perspectives from Got Your 6 team members. It’s definitely worth the read. –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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