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ScoutReport: Senate Considering Bill to Expand DoD Fertility Services, VA Facility Deploys Vet Counselors to Help Troubled Vets, and more

SCOUTREPORT
March 22, 2019

It’s been the usual crazy week in the veterans world as the ghost of John McCain still seems to haunt 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Meanwhile important work is being done to help service members in crisis and those who are struggling to have children due to their wounds and service. But, the big news is the announcement that the long time head of the VA’s caregiver program, Meg Kabat, will be leaving the department in April for the private sector. You’ve seen us say it probably half a dozen times here that Meg is one of the hardest working advocates in the government and its a terrible loss for our community in one sense but she isn’t going far as she joins Atlas Research with whom we partner on some work. So…congratulations Meg…and welcome to the team!

ANALYSIS

Bill Would Require DoD to Pay for Combat Troops to Freeze Sperm, Eggs
Military.com, Patricia Kime (@patriciakime)

We were privileged to support the efforts in 2016 that finally allowed seriously wounded veterans to receive advanced fertilization procedures via the Department of Veterans Affairs with our then client Wounded Warrior Project and a coalition of fellow veterans service organizations. One of the major authors of that legislation, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) is now leading another legislative effort to expand the ability of servicemembers and veterans with infertility related to their military service greater access to advanced reproductive treatments, including up to three completed cycles of in vitro fertilization, or IVF, and cryopreservation of eggs and sperm for those heading to a combat zone. The bill tags on to previous programs that never got off the ground due to lack of funding that was estimated to cost $57 million for a two-year pilot. This new bill has not been evaluated yet for total costs by the Congressional Budget Office but comes at a time of increasing reports of fertility and reproductive challenges for women veterans especially. We are just now learning about the effects of exposure to toxic chemicals in burn pits and other unseen hazards that will impact service members for years to come as they approach the child bearing phase of their lives and find it impossible. Just as one of our wounded warriors told Congressional staff in 2016, the ability to have children is an integral part of life and recovery for those who have been wounded or served. We owe it to them to add that support to healthcare we provide to fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for “who shall have borne the battle”. –Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms

Veterans talking veterans back from the brink: A new approach to policing and lives in crisis
Washington Post, Rob Kuznia (@RobKuznia)

At a time when most conversations about veterans healthcare focuses on the growing trend of sending veterans to receive more care from community providers, it is interesting to read about a pilot project in which the VA is sending its employees out into the community to provide on-the-ground support and engagement to veterans who often have put themselves in high-risk situations with local law enforcement. While the Long Beach VA Medical Center in California is the first facility to attempt this “outside the gates” approach, interest is rising at other West Coast facilities. It certainly makes sense that if a majority of veterans who die by suicide are not under VA care, that a VA facility could have a positive impact locally by identifying and supporting those who are not on their radar before they become a suicide statistic. And the Long Beach approach fits in the growing culture of innovation at the Veterans Health Administration, where new technologies, new practices and new habits are being tested and promoted across the system. At some level, the moral of this story may just be that veterans can help other veterans if given a chance. And that’s why, in addition to time- and resource-intensive efforts like that being tested in California, we also need to make sure that every veteran is aware of the national and local resources available to them when they are suffering or failing, such as our client Vets4Warriors, which staffs their phone lines 24/7 with trained veterans and military family members who help veterans talk through their problems and find solutions. There is no single solution that will drastically reduce veteran suicide and help bring troubled veterans in for care and treatment, but the Long Beach approach is a worthy attempt to intervene before it is too late. – Brian Wagner, COO of ScoutComms

NEWS

Veterans court may be collateral damage in immigration fight
AP, Andrew Selsky (@AndrewSelsky)

More than three dozen Oregon specialty courts are caught in the crossfire between the Trump administration and the state government over immigration policy enforcement. In 2017, the administration threatened to deny law enforcement grants to 29 counties or states designated as implementing “sanctuary” policies, which limit the extent that those entities will cooperate with federal immigration efforts. Now, the funding for the Veterans Treatment Court in Eugene and 40 others are at risk if the administration does not relent on its demands by August.

VA’s caregiver program losing top official at a critical moment
Military Times, Leo Shane III (@LeoShane)

Meg Kabot, director of the Veterans Affairs Caregiver Support Program, is stepping down from her position effective April 3. This change in leadership comes at a critical time, as the caregiver program has been delayed in granting the mandated expansion to provide stipends to families of veterans who served prior to 2001. This postponement has been attributed to technology issues, but there are additional concerns of lack of staffing and support with current programs. The impact of Kabot’s departure on efforts to fix these issues is not yet clear.

Congressmen urge FBI to investigate bots targeting veterans with fake news
Stars and Stripes, Nikki Wentling (@nikkiwentling)

Four congressmen requested an FBI investigation of “foreign entities” targeting service members and veterans online. The desire for this investigation followed social media accounts that could potentially be impersonating veteran service organizations by distributing false information.

CLIENT SPOTLIGHT

HELP SVA – TAKE THIS SURVEY!

Client Student Veterans of America is seeking the help of past and current student veterans, regardless if they have just started, been enrolled, or finished college. They are aiming to fill the gap in current research on the lifecycle of the student veteran and provide policy makers, stakeholders, the public and student veterans with information to make data driven decisions through the Student Veteran Life Cycle Atlas Project. Help them out by taking (and sharing!) this survey.

From VetTixer to Volunteer – One Member’s Experience at the Daytona 500
Veteran Tickets Foundation

A Vet Tix member since 2010, U.S. Army veteran Bob Hanna believes passionately in the organization’s mission, having attended more than two dozen free events since joining. It was this passion that compelled him to make the 18-hour drive from his home in Connecticut to the Daytona 500, not to attend, but to volunteer his time, giving back to the organization he says has given him so many memories.

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