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ScoutReport: Air Force failed to address privatized base housing issues, politician speaks about stepping away from campaign to treat his PTSD, and more…

ScoutReport – 6/21

Wow…what a crazy week in the Persian Gulf. As award-winning author and veteran Matt Gallagher noted after a U.S. drone was shot down by Iran: “Remember when robots dying for human beings was the future of war? We’re fast approaching human beings dying for robots instead.” We certainly hope that won’t be the case and cooler heads will prevail as we are still dealing with the existing 18-year wars and their ramifications. One of those is the mental health challenges our veterans face, which was highlighted this week by Jason Kander coming forward to discuss his PTSD journey. And Brian looks at the continuing bad news about privatized military housing. Check out the stories we didn’t analyze too. Claudia Grisales’ final story for Stars & Stripes is a tour-de-force on the Atomic Veterans plight and our client Cohen Veterans Network needs your help on a healthcare survey! Get it done…spread the word…and thanks for being loyal readers and friends to ScoutComms. – Fred

ANALYSIS

Air Force landlord falsified records to boost income, documents show
Reuters, M.B. Pell

No one comes out looking good in this detailed investigation from Reuters, which highlights laziness, possible corruption, and clear mistreatment of service members and their families. The BLUF is that at Tinker Air Force Base—and possibly at other bases—a private housing management company, Balfour Betty, consistently manipulated paperwork to maximize the bonuses it received from the Air Force for on-time performance. When requests were received, they often weren’t filed until the company’s short-handed staff had the time to service them, at which time the company could file the request and claim that prompt service had been provided. As a result of that criminal effort, families on the base waited for days, weeks and months to have critical maintenance work completed. Yet even when these issues were uncovered by base authorities and reported numerous times, the Air Force office responsible for monitoring private landlords, the Air Force Civil Engineering Command, sided regularly with the company because it cared more about maintaining a smooth working relationship with a private contractor than the needs of the Air Force community. Everyone involved above the base level kept denying and blurring the truth as evidence trickled out and eventually piled up at their doorsteps, thanks to email traffic providing plenty of smoking guns. Coming on top of a national survey of military families that found widespread housing problems on bases across the U.S., the Balfour Betty report punctuates how serious and how avoidable the problem is in 2019. If the Air Force and other military branches want to continue to outsource base housing management to private contractors, they need to put in place stronger structures and checks-and-balances. They need to ensure that there is someone on base not only authorized to listen to base residents, but empowered to escalate their issues rapidly. And finally, they need to ensure that the same office tasked with managing contractor relationships is also not the only office authorized to pursue restitution or punishment when promises are not met and the housing provided is subpar. -Brian Wagner, President of ScoutComms

Former Democratic rising star and Afghanistan War veteran speaks out for first time about PTSD treatment
NBC News, Corky Siemaszko (@csiemaszko)

Jason Kander was truly a rising star in the Democratic Party politics after coming uncomfortably close to taking a Senate seat to a Republican incumbent in deep red Missouri. He had served as Secretary of State and burst onto the national scene when the Army National Guard veteran launched a viral ad where he disassembled an AR-15 carbine blindfolded while discussing his call for stricter laws on guns. After losing the race, he launched an organization pushing for voting rights and launched a campaign for mayor of Kansas City. Then he suddenly announced he was dropping out of the effort to seek treatment for what had become severe PTSD. This is the first time he has talked about his experience and comes on the heels of the admission by Congressman and Presidential candidate Seth Moulton that he too was treated for PTSD after returning from multiple combat tours. Both men spoke of a common refrain we hear from those of us who have served – that they didn’t believe they even had PTSD until it became unmanageable and was destroying their family and professional lives. So often veterans, especially those that were senior leaders, don’t even think they could possibly have PTSD compared to those who have seen worse things at war, but we often forget the stress of losing friends, the fear of death and the moral wounds of war that go with ordering the death of another human, either as an enemy or one of your own subordinates. As Kander points out in the interview, these lingering injuries don’t get better on their own, just like a broken arm doesn’t just heal correctly. So, it’s inspiring and so important that leading voices like Jason are stepping forward to be vulnerable and admit they need help. I, myself, finally admitted last year that I had been battling serious mental health issues since Desert Storm and dove into intense mental health counseling and treatment over the last year and a half. It is very hard to admit you need help when you carry a public persona of success and confidence while sheltering severe symptoms that fester for years. I am better for it and other veterans should seek help from the amazing resources available to us, like our clients Vets4Warriors and Cohen Veterans Network. You don’t have to suffer and there is no shame in stepping back and taking care of your health. –Fred Wellman, CEO & Founder of ScoutComms

 

NEWS

Conspiracy of silence: Veterans exposed to atomic tests wage final fight
Stars and Stripes, Claudia Grisales (@cgrisales)

As decades have passed since nuclear tests on veterans were conducted, many of those exposed are taking a stand. Additionally, Rep. Jim McGovern plans to push legislation seeking an atomic veterans service medal. He said, “They’ve never been properly recognized. They served with distinction and were exposed with radiation.”

Medal of Honor recipient praises revolutionary neck injection treatment for PTSD
Military Times, J.D. Simkins (@simkinsjourno)

An injection initially used to treat women experiencing menopausal hot flashes has been shown to significantly diminish symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, including depression, anxiety and insomnia. The shot, called stellate ganglion block (SGB), essentially numbs the nerves that control the body’s “fight or flight” response. It has given relief to many veterans experiencing trauma and could revolutionize PTSD treatment.

VA ordered to stop posting details online about employee firings and disciplinary action
Military.com, Richard Sisk

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union represented 260,000 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees and has won their case against the VA for its practice of posting firings, suspensions and various disciplinary actions. AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. said these practices were “in a pursuit to shame employees and erode veterans’ trust in the VA.”

Bill would give vets with “bad paper” discharges better appeal options
Military.com, Patricia Kime (@patriciakime)

Proposed Senate fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act seeks to change the discharge appeals process for veterans fighting in their general or other-than-honorable discharges. Currently, liberal consideration only applies to veterans whose less-than-honorable discharges are related to behavior, work lapses linked to traumatic brain injury, PTSD, or sexual assault. This bill will offer the same privilege to veterans claiming error or injustice in their discharges

CLIENT HIGHLIGHTS

SoldierStrong uses virtual reality facility in Iowa to combat PTSD
Stars and Stripes, Ronna Lawless

VA’s Innovators Network will be working with the non-profit SoldierStrong on their recently launched StrongMind software, a program that places the individual in a situation similar to the one that caused their trauma using virtual reality (VR). Experts in the field, along with other stakeholders, met last week at Iowa State University as they work to execute a new solution in treating post-traumatic stress. Together with SoldierStrong, the VA Innovation Center has identified VA clinics to begin implementation of the StrongMind VR PTSD protocol.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

Armed Services Arts Partnership to welcome new Executive Director

Sam Pressler, founder of the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) will be passing on the position of Executive Director to Brian Jenkins. Pressler and Jenkins will be working together throughout the rest of June, before Pressler joins ASAP’s Board of Directors in July.

 

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