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The Scout Report 352nd Edition

The Scout Report 352nd Edition

Military Families and Veterans News and Analysis

Monday, January 29, 2018

Remember how I’ve been teasing the upcoming Scout Social for weeks? Even trying to test your attention to detail by floating different dates in front of you? Well, have I got some great, verifiable true news for you.

RSVP for our fourth annual Scout Social coming up on February 8, 2018. We’re changing up the venue so you (by which I mean me) can have tacos. Also, there’s some swag in it for you. But only if you RSVP! So get on that.

We do have some news analysis for you this week, too. Below you’ll find our takes on stories about trademarks, science, bad paper, the forever war, and more.  –LJ 

 

Congressional Hearings:

Senate:

Armed Services: Situation on the Korean Peninsula and U.S. Strategy in the Indo-Pacific Region
Who: Admiral Dennis C. Blair, USN (Ret.), Chairman And Distinguished Fellow, Sasakawa Peace Foundation; Dr. Michael J. Green, Senior Vice President For Asia And Japan Chair, Center For Strategic And International Studies; Ms. Kelly E. Magsamen, Vice President, National Security And International Policy, Center For American Progress
When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Where: 216 Hart

House:

Armed Services: Readying the U.S. Military for Future Warfare
Who: Dr. Tom Mahnken, President and Chief Executive Officer, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA); Paul Scharre, Senior Fellow and Director, Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Technology and National Security Program; Jim Thomas, Principal and Co-Founder, Telemus Group
When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Veterans’ Affairs: Appeals Reform: Will VA’s Implementation Effectively Serve Veterans?
When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Where: 334 Cannon

Other Events:

Service Academies Global Summit: 2018 Early Bird Registration
Who: The “super-community” of graduates worldwide from the five U.S. Service Academies
When: Before January 31, 2018

Military Spouse Magazine: Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year 2018
Who: Nominations now open to military spouses from all branches of service
When: January 2 – 31, 2018

 

Military and Veteran Issues:

USMC: Inside the Marine Corps’ Heated Campaign to Protect Its Sacred Brand
James Clark (@JamesWClark), Task & Purpose 
Veterans and civilians alike who are looking to make a buck off of the U.S. Marine Corps’ trademarked insignia, sayings, and logos like the eagle, globe and anchor will find themselves at odds with the branch, which has begun cracking down on such attempts in recent years. The recently created Marine Corps Trademark Licensing Office now actively scans all patent filings for those appropriating trademarked items without the proper licensing. Fees to utilize the property legally can range from $50 to thousands of dollars for large corporations. However, for veterans wishing to proudly display the title that they have earned the right to claim, the office has designed both a retirement and veteran insignia that can be used free of charge. Veteran-business owner Jeff Morin chose to comply with the licensing process after being approached by the Marines’ trademark office and offered an understanding for the process: “I think it’s important to make sure those aren’t being used in a derogatory way, especially now, with how fast negativity can just be vomited all over the internet. They stand for pride. They stand for camaraderie, and the brotherhood you used to be a part of. I’m sure everyone in every branch has that same feeling.” –KG
Bottom line: Things have certainly tightened up among all of the services in the last five years. There has been an absolute insane flood of apparel manufacturers offering the latest cool veteran gear and many have played fast and loose with the military’s marks and logos. While the story focuses on manufacturers and commercial uses, we have also seen the same kind of challenges for nonprofits that have been using the services’ logos in their own marks and collateral. We know of at least two organizations that have had to alter their logos to comply with trademarks from the military branches. It’s the safest route today for anyone who wants to use any of the services logos to use the process and ensure you are complying with the rules before you do it.  –FPW

Married veterans battle increased risks of suicide
Joe Dziemianowicz (@TheJoeDShow), NY Daily News
Married service members returning home from overseas, especially female veterans, are found to be at a higher risk for suicide than single soldiers returning to the home front. Based on this new study, researchers suggest that the growing pressure of sharing a living space, household upkeep and reconnecting in relationships are potential factors for this increase. Of the 772 veterans surveyed, more than 20 percent claimed they’ve had thoughts of suicide and 6 percent reported a past attempt and current suicidal thoughts. A large part of the survey assessed the correlation between religion and suicide risk, which suggested that veterans with negative thoughts towards spirituality were at a much higher risk for suicide. –DD 
Bottom line: This study, conducted by the University of Connecticut and the VA, examined a relatively small group of veterans and focused largely not on interpersonal or marital relationships’ impact on suicide risk, but on the impact of religious beliefs on suicidality. While the information highlighted here and across news outlets this week seemed to be more significantly focused on the married versus single delineation in the sample group, it was merely a small portion of the data collected and reported by the researchers. We know from years of suicide research that there are many risk factors for suicide including environmental factors like stressful life events (financial and marital troubles, anyone?) and health factors. While the information from this study can be helpful to those studying post-deployment reintegration issues—should we be focusing more on the entire family unit and their transition back to post-deployment life or the transition back to civilian life after service?—it simply isn’t a cut and dry issue of saying that married folks are more likely to take their own lives. As we all know, suicide is a complex public health issue, with a huge and dynamic system of risk factors in play. Perhaps further study on the strength of social bonds (including marriage bonds) and their impact on an individual’s suicide risk with a larger and more demographically representative sample size could give us a much clearer picture of how marital status bears out in suicide risk in the veteran population. –RB 

Up to 1,000 more U.S. troops could be headed to Afghanistan this spring
Greg Jaffe (@GregJaffe) and Missy Ryan (@Missy_Ryan), The Washington Post
As a part of the White House’s new military strategy, U.S. Army leadership is currently drafting plans for a troop increase in Afghanistan. The plans would add 1,000 soldiers to the 14,000 service members already there. While these plans have yet to receive approval from Sec. Mattis, a spokesman for Gen. John Nicholson Jr. said that decisions like this will be a necessary part of the military’s plan to help the Afghan government reach 80 percent control of the country in the next two years. –JG
Bottom line: Regular readers will surely be familiar with our refrain that the wars are not ending, the stress on the force will continue to grow, and as advocates for veterans and military families, our community needs to be thinking about ways to educate our fellow Americans about their sacrifices. This troop increase follows a trend over the last year to, I guess, finally win the war in Afghanistan? There were about 8,500 troops in Afghanistan when President Trump took office. Upon hearing the military’s plan for the then-fifteen-year-old war, Trump agreed to their desire for more boots on the ground. This recently announced boost would increase the total number of service members there to about 15,000. Ultimately, this means a lot more veterans, many more with combat deployments, and an uptick in those with multiple deployments. As we shape government or non-profit programs now and in the future that deal with transition to civilian life or mental health or a host of other issues, the impact of this non-stop deployment cycle must be factored in. –LJ 

White House wants clearer rules, no caregiver benefits expansion in VA medical overhaul plan
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
This week, White House officials sent a memo to Senate lawmakers giving guidance on the administration’s wish list for VA reform. The White House wants to see clearer eligibility guidelines for veterans considering private care outside of the VA system and a plan to pay for massive healthcare overhaul. These guidelines are for veterans who want to seek care with private-sector doctors at the VA’s expense and would set rules on who and who cannot use community care programs. Further, memo states that the administration is unable to support an expansion of the current caregiver program. –SM 
Bottom line: Last week, we discussed how Congress was at a bit of an impasse on VA healthcare reform as they wanted to know what the White House would sign off on before trying to send something over for a signature. Now, they have it, whether they like it or not. What many in Congress will be most focused on is the administration’s requests regarding the future of VA Choice; in this case to make it easier for veterans to know they are eligible to seek private care and to remove the VA from that process as much as possible. What is going to really irk the veteran organizations, though, is the White House’s request to eliminate any expansion of the VA caregiver program without having a wider debate or a way to pay for it. Expanding the caregiver program, though, is something pretty much every single veteran organization agrees needs to happen. Including the expansion in the current legislation moving through Congress was negotiated by both sides with plenty of input from the community. To use this program’s expansion as a negotiating chit is a terrible idea. As we’ve seen on other topics, we hope to see Congress stand up to the administration on a program they are willing to pay for because they know the difference it could make in the lives of caregivers. –LJ 

DOD, VA team up on new tool to help with ‘bad paper’ upgrade applications
Military Times (@MilitaryTimes)
Tens of thousands of veterans with other-than-honorable discharge may have a quicker way to request a higher discharge status. Online through the VA, veterans can receive more information on the process to make such a complex request and VA officials will work with each veteran on a case-by-case basis to give individualized direction. Many veterans who have undiagnosed medical issues such as PTSD or TBI may be eligible for a change in status. If approved, these veterans may finally be eligible for health and education benefits. Many veteran organizations such as Vietnam Veterans of America are pushing for greater policy change since each veteran’s case is unique and individualized. –DD
Bottom line: The U.S. military’s use of broad labels for discharges through the years has had unintended consequences for an overwhelming number of veterans, which usually limits their ability to access VA healthcare and education benefits, among others. These valuable resources, or lack thereof can have a multigenerational socioeconomic impact on the individual veteran and their families. So, in an effort to better explain the process of correcting a discharge classification, the VA and DoD have introduced a new online tool that helps to outline the process and provide the appropriate tools for applying for a discharge upgrade. This is likely due to the fact that in 2017, the VA fielded more 5,000 calls about upgrade procedures. While military officials estimate the number of those eligible for an upgrade in the tens of thousands, Vietnam Veterans of America says that number is over 300,000. Those who this broadly applies to include those discharged because of undiagnosed PTSD, TBI, sexual assault or due to their sexual orientation. Below in this week’s Scout Report we highlight a story from Air Force Times about a 90-year-old lesbian Air Force veteran who only now has been able to have her status upgraded. As Kris Goldsmith, assistant director for policy and government relations at VVA points out, this is simply the first step in righting many of these wrongs, this tool simply “helps veterans understand what needs to be done to be brought back into the fold, but discharge upgrade requests and characterization of discharge reviews historically have negative outcomes for the overwhelming majority of applicants.”  –CB

Client Hits:

BBQ competition to benefit MVNM Heather C. Cook, Republic Monitor 
Thirteen teams will participate in a barbecue competition this Saturday in Perryville, MO with proceeds going to Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial and its America’s Vietnam Wall memorial project. The memorial, which is already under construction in Perryville, will provide a local duplicate of the Vietnam Wall Memorial in Washington, D.C., as well as offer personalization opportunities, ceremony grounds and other attractions. Last year’s competition raised roughly $20,000. –KG 

A New Group Wants to Elect More Veterans – From Both Parties
Ronald Brownstein (@RonBrownstein), The Atlantic
With Honor is a cross-partisan organization that has set out to support as many as 35 post-9/11 veteran candidates running for elections for the House of Representatives. CEO Rye Barcott explains that military veterans have the experience and negotiation skills necessary to help the legislative branch climb out of the current pattern of partisan gridlock and political inaction. Each candidate that With Honor will support this year is expected to sign the With Honor pledge, committing them to putting “integrity, civility and courage” before party politics. Barcott hopes that in light of government shutdowns and frequent political grandstanding, American’s will recognize and ultimately vote for the value veterans bring to Congress. –JG 

Quick Hits:

Bragg: 6 women become first to earn Expert Infantryman Badge
Amanda Dolasinski (@AmandaDFO), The Fayetteville Observer
Six women earned the Expert Infantryman Badge at Fort Bragg in November, making history as the first women in the U.S. Army to receive it. The U.S. Department of Defense recently reversed regulations that had previously barred women from serving in infantry jobs, making them eligible to serve in these roles and participate in testing for the badge. Soldiers awarded with the badge must complete a series of 30 tasks that demonstrate a mastery of infantry skills without making three errors. Historically, approximately 18 percent of candidates who test for the badge receive it. U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat representing Illinois, publicly praised the women for their achievement, stating that their example serves as “a reminder of the great things we can achieve when women are seen and treated as equals and given the same chance to contribute to their country.” –NJ 

At 90, lesbian Air Force veteran finally gets her honorable discharge
Nicole Bauke (@NBauke), Air Force Times
In 1955, Airman 2nd Class Helen Grace James received an “undesirable” discharge, for her sexual orientation, following months of investigation at the Roslyn Air Force Base in New York. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania after her discharge, but lacked access to the same GI Bill benefits as other veterans with “honorable” discharges. In the 1960s, the military changed her “undesirable” discharge to “general under honorable conditions,” but failed to award James GI Bill benefits. James chose to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force earlier this month. Although she doesn’t yet know what compensation she’ll receive, she’s most happy that the military upgraded her “general” discharge to “honorable.” Elizabeth Kirsten, James’ lawyer, hopes that her case inspires others to “come forward, and file the paperwork and drag their DD 214 out of the closet where they’ve hidden it all these years.” –NJ

VA secretary, other federal officials participate in national homeless count
Nikki Wentling (@nikkiwentling), Stars and Stripes
Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin walked the streets of Washington, D.C. on Wednesday night looking for homeless veterans, participating in a nationwide count of homeless people across the country. In 2017, veteran homelessness increased by 2 percent, and advocates are looking to prevent another increase in 2018. Shulkin had considered reallocating $460 million dedicated to the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program that works to provide veterans case managers and home vouchers. After an outcry against this reallocation, Shulkin reversed the decision and now seeks to reassure Congress and advocates that he will maintain the current course. –KG 

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