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Scout Report #225

The Scout Report 225th Edition

Military Families and Veterans Issues and Analysis

Monday, July 20, 2015

Tragedy in Chattanooga overshadowed most of last week and certainly the sacrifices of the five men who took an oath to serve our country, at home and abroad, remain in our thoughts.

This week, the political aftermath of the shootings will likely dominate DC headlines as politicians debate ways to prevent future attacks. Meanwhile, President Obama will speak at the VFW Convention in Pittsburgh tomorrow and he will undoubtedly have much to say about the tragedy.

In DC, VA Secretary Bob McDonald will testify on Wednesday about the $2.6 billion budget shortfall his agency is facing this fiscal year. If you missed the Fourth of July fireworks, you won’t want to miss these.

Plenty more in this week’s edition including a controversial veteran organization CEO stepping down, transgender service members’ future, and how veterans may end up the political football of 2016. –LJ 

The week ahead:

Tradeshows and Conferences:

116th VFW National Convention (Sat-Wed, 18-22 July); David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburg, PA
29th Biennial Women Marines Association (WMA) Convention & Professional Development Conference (Tue-Sun, 21-26 July); Red Lion Hotel Jantzen Beach, Portland, OR
2015 ROA National Convention (Sun-Wed, 26-29 July); Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washington, DC 

For a full list of upcoming events check out our Events page.



Armed Services: Nominations
General Mark A. Milley, USA, to be Chief Of Staff of the Army 
9:30 AM, Tuesday, July 21, 2015
SH-216 Hart


Veterans’ Affairs: Lack of Oversight of Interagency Agreements- VA Procurement Failures Continued
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (O&I)
4:00 PM, Tuesday, July 21, 2015
334 Cannon

Veterans’ Affairs: “to Receive the Secretary’s Testimony regarding the Pending VA Health Care Budget Shortfall and System Shutdown”
10:00 AM, Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Where: 334 Cannon

Veterans’ Affairs: Subcommittee on Health: Markup of Pending Legislation
1:30 PM, Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Think Tanks & Other Events

Military Times: 15th Annual Service Members Of The Year
4:00 PM, Tuesday, July 21, 2015 
Cannon House Office Building, Caucus Room 345, Washington, DC

Major themes and issues from last week:

Veterans and Military Issues:

Military to allow transgender members to serve openly
Sandhya Somashekha (@sandhyawp) and Craig Whitlock (@craigmwhitlock), The Washington Post
Last Monday, the Pentagon announced that transgender service members will be allowed to serve openly beginning next year. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that regulations banning transgender troops were distracting commanders from the military’s core missions. Carter also put a directive into place to protect transgender service members from discharge while new rules are being created. –MC
Bottom line: This latest move appears inevitable in retrospect. Once “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was permanently discarded, all restrictions tied to a service member’s gender or sexuality became suspect. But it is a major change nonetheless. Unlike gays and lesbians, who have found widespread acceptance in society, transgender individuals still face a long uphill battle in their quest to destroy assumptions that they suffer from a mental health condition, as has been seen in the reaction to Caitlyn Jenner’s publicly unfolding story. Yet for the military, it is the right step. If service to one’s nation is the ultimate ideal for an American, then every American who meets basic standards of readiness and wellness should be afforded the opportunity to serve. –BW

Vets activists gearing up for 2016 fight
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Concerned Veterans for America and VoteVets are two activist groups that sit on opposite ends of the political spectrum. The groups are two of the many gearing up for the 2016 presidential and congressional elections. Both are already lobbying nonpartisan veteran organizations for support on key issues, particularly surrounding their differing views on VA reform. –MC
Bottom line: As I wrote a few weeks ago, neither CVA or VoteVets speak for a large number of veterans, and both should be seen for what they are: partisan political organizations that just happen to focus on the perspectives of veterans. They are not VSOs nor should they be confused with VSOs like the American Legion or VFW; their primary goals are to support conservative or liberal political causes. The VSOs are going to be very careful about getting tangled up with them and have little to gain from burning their bridges with either party for short-term political gain. –BW 

GI Bill pays for unaccredited sex, Bible and massage schools
Aaron Glantz (@Aaron_Glantz), Reveal
Lawmakers ensured that veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill would be able to use their benefit to attain certifications for careers like personal training through unaccredited schools. But other veterans are attending unaccredited schools teaching some very unique subject matter that likely won’t lead to future careers. Glantz looks deeper into the issue, and offers perspectives from veterans who are happy with their unaccredited education, and those that regret it. –MC
Bottom line: The loopholes in the GI Bill meant to help veterans land useable careers keep finding clever institutions to exploit them. Earlier this year it was the helicopter pilot training that was costing upwards of a quarter of a million dollars a year to train veterans to be helicopter instructor pilots for other veterans spending a quarter million dollars a year of government money. Now Aaron Glantz has discovered a host of unusual unaccredited schools offering everything from alternative sex to bible based creationist “science” degrees. Unfortunately, the point of including unaccredited schools in the GI Bill is to allow veterans to gain skills for careers not necessarily new ways to masturbate. Understaffed oversight offices are playing whack-a-mole to keep up with all of the bizarre and utterly useless programs. Chances are we will see more of these and chances are they will get more unusual as we find them. –FPW 

Under scrutiny, Patricia Driscoll resigns as leader of foundation
Mike Fish (@MikeFishESPN), ESPN
Patricia Driscoll resigned last Tuesday as the executive director of the Armed Forces Foundation after 12 years in the position. Driscoll is currently under investigation for misusing the charity’s funds for personal expenses such as legal feeds for a child-custody case and vacations. The organization claims to help promote morale and welfare for service members, veterans, and their families. –MC
Bottom line: Regular readers know we have highlighted the Armed Forces Foundation’s troubles in previous issues and this week we got word that long-time and controversial president Patricia Driscoll had resigned under pressure. Incredibly, Charity Navigator has withdrawn the four star rating they had given them for years and placed AFF on their donor-advisory list – after the ESPN reports detailing the questionable financing. Before that they had received nothing but the best marks despite the fact that their impact has been questionable at best. Once again we’re reminded that the charity ratings organizations are guides at the very best. They can rate deeply flawed organizations well, and honest non-profits weakly. Don’t use them as the sole measurement of the value of investing in a non-profit. –FPW

Veterans may lose hospitals
Matthew Daly (@MatthewDalyWDC), The Associated Press
The Department of Veterans Affairs may be forced to temporarily shut down hospitals in the coming months if it does not close a $2.6 billion budget shortfall. In addition to closing hospitals, the VA is considering furloughs, hiring freezes and other alternatives to deal with the budget gap. The VA is asking Congress for permission to use $3 billion from the Veterans Choice program as a one-time stopgap. –MC
Bottom line: VA Secretary Bob McDonald will make his case to Congress this week for why VA needs $2.6 billion more than it expected and how it will be more fiscally responsible in the future. Working against him this week are the revelations that some veterans’ disability claims were found in a shredder in the LA regional office and that dead veterans make up a third of the outstanding applications for VA health care. McDonald will ask Congress to authorize VA to spend dollars earmarked for the Veterans Choice program on the shortfall, but lawmakers will demand to know where other efficiencies could be made. If VA does have to close some hospitals, even briefly, expect demand for VA Choice to way, way up which will help make the case that the program is working—and make it harder for VA to ask to spend that money elsewhere in the future. –LJ 

Chattanooga shattered: A single gunshot, silence, and terror
Claire Galofaro (@clairegalofaro), Lucas L. Johnson II, and Russ Bynum (@russbynum), The Associated Press
Last week, a man opened fire on a military recruiting center in Chattanooga and later at a Navy operational support center 7 miles away. The shooter tragically killed five service members: four Marines and a Sailor. The incident has sparked a movement among lawmakers in Congress and some governors to push for troops to be armed on base for protection. Our thoughts are with the families of our fallen service members. They will not be forgotten. –MC
Bottom line: In the wake of tragedy, we are greeted with the stories of lives given to service and sacrifice. The men lost in Tennessee, those injured, and their families deserve to see the best of America now, not the worst. Sometimes, tragedy unites the nation and we become stronger for our shared grief. Other times, in our sadness, we allow fear to divide us. With politicians already seizing on this moment, it seems we could be headed for a potentially very divisive debate over allowing service members to be armed on and off post. Without question, some of the most skilled marksmen are in the military, but the vast majority of service members have less time at the range than many NRA enthusiasts. In the end, what is important is remembering the dead and ensuring we make all service members and Americans safer from future attacks. –LJ 

Client News:

Hunter: DeCA ignoring Congress, and families will pay
Rep. Duncan Hunter (@Rep_Hunter) for Army Times
Congressman Duncan Hunter wrote an op-ed for Army Times last week rallying support for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would stop the Defense Commissary Agency from completing plans that would increase the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables at commissaries in the Asia-Pacific region. –MC

Former Marine commandant to chair Semper Fi Fund
Hope Hodge Seck (@HopeSeck), Marine Corps Times
The Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund announced last week that retired General James Amos, the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, has been elected as Chairman of its Board of Directors. The Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund offer immediate and lifetime assistance to injured, wounded, and critically ill service members, veterans, and their families to help ease their recovery and transition back to their communities. General Amos is a long-time supporter of the organization. –MC

The Home Depot Foundation awards $1.5 million to NYU Langone Medical Center to help veterans with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury
The Home Depot Foundation recently donated $1.5 million to the NYU Langone Medical Center. The funding will be used to establish the Greater New York City Military Family Clinic Consortium Coordinating Center dedicated to improving the treatment and diagnosis for PTS and TBI. Dr. Anthony Hassan is stepping into the role of Executive Director of the Cohen Veterans Network. Dr. Hassan previously served as the Director of the Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California. –MC

Battlefield to classroom: Warrior-Scholar Project, Syracuse University helping veterans to succeed
CNY Central
Last week, the Warrior-Scholar Project hosted an academic bootcamp at Syracuse University. WSP bootcamps help enlisted veterans transition from the military to academic life. CNY Central visited the Syracuse WSP class and asked those involved to share their experiences with the program. –MC

Winn-Dixie, BI-LO and Harveys raise 3 Million for Wounded Warrior Project
Southeastern Grocers raised $3,004,091.38 to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project’s Independence Program through BI-LO, Harveys, and Winn-Dixie stores. In addition, every penny of profit earned at Southeastern Grocers’ stores on July 4 was donated to WWP. The Independence Program helps warriors develop personalized plans allowing them to live as independently as possible. –MC 

Quick Hits:

Report: Vets’ disability claims ended up in shred bins
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
At the Department of Veterans Affairs Los Angeles Regional Office, paperwork from veterans’ claims ended up in shred bins. VA officials said that only 10 files were placed in the bins and called the incident a one-time mistake. –MC

Report: Nearly 1 in 3 young adults too fat for military
Roxana Hegeman (@rhegeman), The Associated Press
Our nation’s military is facing a new recruiting problem. Nearly one in three young adults weigh too much to enlist according to a new report issued by a group of retired military leaders who promote healthier lifestyles in schools. –MC

Vision for a new VFW: The story of Denver’s Post
Jon R. Anderson, Navy Times 
The nation’s first Veterans of Foreign Wars post is changing ideas about what local chapters can offer veterans. Post 1 is shifting away from the ‘dark canteen’ stereotypes and adopting yoga, art classes, and other new initiatives to appeal to the newest generation of veterans. At the VFW National Convention, Post 1’s leaders are leading two workshops on “Revitalizing Posts & Recruiting Younger Members.” –MC

When the yellow ribbons fade: reconnecting our soldiers and citizens
David Barno (@DWBarno76) and Nora Bensahel (@norabensahel), War on the Rocks
Since 9/11, America’s military has been highly visible to civilians.  But as the war draws down, and the military downsizes, the civilian–military divide is growing. Lt. Gen. (ret) David Barno and Nora Bensahel dove into the issue, its causes, and methods to close the divide. –MC

Army Ranger School’s assessment of women has moved to the mountains, but the scrutiny remains
Dan Lamothe (@danlamothe), The Washington Post 
Three women are participating in the first Ranger School class to allow women and have made it through the school’s grueling mountain phase. Despite their achievements, scrutiny remains about the women’s participation. Some critics say that the women were awarded unfair opportunities and others say that instructors were too hard on those who didn’t make it. –MC 

Donald Trump disparaged John McCain’s military service. Is this the end of his run?
Phillip Bump (@pbump), Military Times
On Saturday, Donald Trump strongly criticized Arizona Sen. John McCain and disparaged McCain’s service. Trump claimed that McCain is not a war hero because the North Vietnamese captured him. His statement caused significant online backlash, deeply offended many service members and veterans, and have many wondering if this may be the end of Trump’s campaign. –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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