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The Scout Report 229th Edition

Military Families and Veterans Issues and Analysis

Monday, August 17, 2015

August. Still August. We still managed to fill up the Scout Report this week, though! Shockingly, the VA is still running into trouble giving veterans timely access to health care. As clinicians attempt to define moral injury, they also work to find ways to treat veterans working to overcome it. A couple women might be about to earn Ranger tabs, states want military retirees, and a few wise parting words from General Odierno.

In ScoutComms news, we are proud to be finalists in PR News’ Agency Elite Awards in the Cause/Corporate Social Responsibility category. It’s truly a testament to how seriously we take our mission focus of impacting the veteran and military family communities.

Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Sgt. First Class Corey Hood, an Army Golden Knights parachutist who died of injuries sustained during a jump over the weekend.  –LJ 

The week ahead: 

Tradeshows and Conferences:

12th Annual Elite SDVOB National Conference (Wed-Fri, 19-21 August); Hotel Maya, Long Beach, CA


Congress is in recess.


No major events this week.                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Major themes and issues from last week:

Veterans and Military Issues:

Cost of treating transgender troops called negligible
Tom Vanden Brook (@tvandenbrook), USA Today
Tom Vanden Brook reports on new research published by the director of The Palm Center, a non-profit organization that conducts research on gender and sexuality issues related to the military, which found that the cost of providing additional medical services to the estimated 12,800 transgender service members in the U.S. military would cost less than $6 million annually. While there are sure to be dissenting opinions about the accuracy of researcher and advocate Aaron Belkin’s conclusions, the U.S. military hasalready indicated under Secretary Ash Carter that it is exploring options to drop one of the few remaining barriers predicated on gender and sexuality. As far as we see it, the best result of this research is to convince people that resolving the entire transgender issue simply is not a huge deal, certainly not one worthy of another culture war started by Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee–BW 

Women in combat zones can have trouble getting contraceptives
Michelle Andrews (@mandrews110), NPR
The military is pretty good at getting necessary medications to troops downrange. To date, it has not necessarily had to get birth control to women in far-flung combat situations. As the military opens combat roles in the coming months, this will have to be another area in which the status quo changes. The article does something of a disservice by only highlighting the increased rate of unintended pregnancy among military women—birth control is an essential medication for many women for reasons completely unrelated to sexual activity. In austere, deployed environments it can also be used to prevent inconvenient monthly menstruation. Two women are closer than ever to earning the Army’s coveted Ranger tab, a demonstration that women are capable of fighting alongside some of the military’s most elite forces. They should not also have to earn the right to have essential and common medications available to them. –LJ 

Soldier’s journey to heal spotlights ‘soul wounds’ of war
Julie Watson, Associated Press
Sgt. 1st Class Marshall Powell is enrolled in a unique program run at the Naval Medical Center San Diego called Overcoming Adversity and Stress Injury Support, or OASIS, started in 2010 to help service members that have not found help with other PTS treatments. The program addresses something called the moral injuries of war that more clinicians and advocates are recognizing as a unique form of combat stress and trauma different than traditional PTS, which results from witnessing or being part of a trauma. Moral injuries often stem from the decisions made in combat like letting a child die under your medical care or sending men on missions that lead to their deaths. These damages to the psyche can cause years of PTS-like symptoms that are persistent and difficult to resolve. OASIS has proven to be an effective approach where those who have made these life-changing decisions can talk them out with others and work through exercises and therapy to relieve the guilt and mental conflict. Mental health professionals are conflicted on whether ‘moral injury’ is a form of PTS or a stand-alone mental health diagnosis of its own but for those who are dealing with it there is no question that the burdens are great and modern war offers even more opportunities for this burden to be carried by many veterans. –FPW

States compete for military retirees
Elaine S. Povich (@espovich), PEW Charitable Trusts
The 2.1 million military retirees in the U.S. are in high demand as states find new ways to attract them to settle down, bring their talents, and spend their income locally. State leaders recognize that military retirees are some of the best educated, best-trained, and youngest retirees in the nation and often lead very successful second careers thus bringing with them additional income tax and sales tax revenue to the states’ coffers. The efforts aren’t without controversy as a common approach is to not tax their military retirement pay which cuts into the states’ revenue and brings up uncomfortable questions on fairness when the people getting the exemptions make substantial amounts of money already compared to the average citizen. There is no question that these efforts do make a difference in attracting retirees to settle in certain states but the fact that so many live in Virginia which offers few incentives tells you that just getting a break on taxes isn’t the only thing that attracts someone leaving the military to a state. Good jobs, affordable living, and quality of life are factors that matter as much as anything to someone leaving the military just like any other average American. –FPW 

Leaked document: 35,000 combat vets denied VA health care enrollment due to computer error
Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery), The Huffington Post
The VA is not denying that it has 35,000 veterans whose enrollment has been delayed due to a computer error. It says it is fixing the issue, but that it lacks the authority to take immediate shortcuts. At the same time, the Huffington Post reports that follow-up efforts to those veterans are creating a new procedural barrier by requiring unnecessary paperwork. It’s a confounding issue, and one that is certainly not going to satisfy Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL), the crusading chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, who has been demanding that heads roll within the agency. Secretary Bob has identified one culprit—the agency’s under-performing IT system and its redundant and duplicative IT policies—yet that is unlikely to satisfy Miller and other critics. In cases like veterans’ enrollment delay, we have to wonder if anyone would bat an eyebrow if the agency ignored supposed legal restrictions and just auto-enrolled the 35,000 veterans. It certainly would help appease critics like Miller, and provide another data point for the VA to use when it argues that it needs more money because the population it is serving is growing and is requiring more services per capita. –BW

In parting, retiring Army chief raises concerns about battle-hardened leaders and Gold Star families
Dan Lamothe (@danlamothe), The Washington Post
As an outgoing Army Chief of Staff with more than three decades spent in uniform, General Odierno speaks from deep and personal experience when he speaks about caring for troops and the families of the fallen. He made an important point in his final press conference about an issue that gets less attention than it should. While we often speak about the last impact of the wars on our veterans, those who have left the military and are now transitioning into civilian life, we speak less often about the wars’ impact on those who remain in the military and will be the future leaders of our services. Assuredly, combat and deployments will imbue within these leaders a more profound understanding of the consequences of sending men and women to future wars. One is reminded of General Shinseki, a combat veteran of Vietnam and then-Army Chief of Staff, testifying before Congress about the impending Iraq war and that it would take far more boots on the ground than politicians had claimed. Odierno’s final remarks were an important reminder that just as we advocate for the care of our veterans so that they may successfully transition to the civilian world, we must also support service members’ ongoing care as they rise through the ranks. –LJ

ScoutComms’ Client News:

USC takes part in the Warrior-Scholar Project for the first time
Robin Heffler, USC News 
Last week, 14 veterans attended a Warrior-Scholar Project academic boot camp at the University of Southern California. WSP boot camps are held at 11 colleges across the nation and help enlisted veterans transition from military to academic life. The boot camps teach them the skills necessary to succeed at four-year universities. –MC

Quick Hits:

Company That Sued Soldiers Closes Its Stores
Paul Kiel, (@PaulKiel), Pro Publica
The USA Discounters chain of stores is closing its doors it appears after Pro Publica and other news organizations revealed the company’s questionable and possibly illegal business practices towards military service members. The retailer had 24 stores mostly around military bases that would charge often extravagant rates on overpriced appliances, furniture and electronics to military members with offers of easy credit then sue them in Virginia courts for even missing a few payments. The company made millions and rarely lost a lawsuit but now finds itself the subject of investigations and legal actions across the country. The company appears to be finished along with a similar company, Freedom Furniture and Electronics. –FPW

FBI: ‘Middle Eastern males’ intimidate military families
Andrew Tilghman (@andrewtilghman), Military Times
Several military family members in Wyoming and Colorado have been approached by ‘Middle Eastern males’ asking for personal information about their service member. The threat of Islamic State combined with these incidents has caused some military bases to heighten security. It’s unclear if the incidents are connected or an actual threat exists. –MC

These Marines took down the U.S. flag in Cuba in 1961. Today, they watched it rise again.
Dan Lamothe (@danlamothe), The Washington Post
In 1961, the military withdrew its presence from Cuba and shut down the U.S. Embassy in Havana. Last Friday, the same Marines who took down the flag at the embassy in 1961 attended the ceremony and watched the flag rise again at the reopened diplomatic outpost. –MC

Housing for homeless veterans is planned for ex-walter reed site
Mikayla Bouchard (@MikaylaBouchard), New York Times
The Army is negotiating a deal that would allow the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center, closed in 2011, to be turned into housing for homeless veterans. The facility would be reconfigured as 75 apartments of transitional housing a long with support services under the auspices of non-profit Help USA. –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!

About Us: ScoutComms, Inc. is an award winning social enterprise communications, corporate social responsibility, and philanthropic strategy firm supporting veterans, military families and organizations committed to their well-being. Our mission is to empower veterans and military families through communications grounded initiatives and collaborative alliances that lead to greater awareness of veterans’ needs and expanded access to economic and social resource opportunities. We are one of the first Benefit Corporations, B-Corps, focused on veterans and military family issues in the nation. We accomplish our mission by supporting companies, non-profits and foundations who are providing programs and charitable giving efforts in support of veterans and military families. To learn more about what we can do for your organization visit our website at

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