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The Scout Report 245th Edition:

Military Families and Veterans Issues and Analysis

 Monday, December 14, 2015

In an effort to provide you with a safe space away from most of the garbage discussed ad nauseam on cable news these days, I’m unilaterally declaring the Scout Report a “bouffant-free zone”. You’re welcome. Gifts can be mailed to the Fredericksburg office.

Getting on with it, we have plenty to dissect still in the world of women in combat. Did you know a 2014 survey of SOF found they weren’t so big on ladies in their ranks? Read more below! VA gets beat up a couple of times, millenials prefer their Snapchats to woobies, and we celebrate the service of all faiths. There’s also a well deserved “told ya so” from Fred—all of that below.

And, once again, the less said about the football game, the better. –LJ 

The week ahead:

Tradeshows and Conferences:

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

Congressional Hearings
Senate: 
Veterans’ Affairs: Keeping the Promise for Arizona Veterans: The VA Choice Card, Management, Accountability and Phoenix VA Medical Center
When: 
11:00 AM, Monday, December 14, 2015
Where: 
Gilbert Town Hall, 50 Civic Center Drive, Gilbert, Arizona

Armed Services: Nominations – Murphy, Davidson & Disbrow
Who: Honorable Patrick J. Murphy, to be Under Secretary Of The Army, Dr. Janine Anne Davidson to be Under Secretary Of The Navy, Honorable Lisa S. Disbrow, to be Under Secretary Of The Air Force
When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Where: 
G50 Dirksen

Veterans’ Affairs: Is Transition Assistance on Track?
When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Major themes and issues from last week:

Veterans and Military Issues:

As Pentagon opens combat jobs to women, ‘deep-seated’ opposition and a checkered past
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post
Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Ash Carter made history by opening all combat positions to women. The decision has not gone without criticism and a 2014 survey found US special operators are not in favor of serving alongside women. Dan Lamothe explored the issue and dug deep into the history of an opposition to women in combat. Since the decision, the Pentagon has been also re-considering the legal basis for excluding women from the draft. –MC
Bottom line: It is unsurprising to see that opponents of combat integration and other concerned parties are continuing to weigh in after Secretary Carter’s decision to allow women in all combat roles. What needs to occur at this point is to separate valid concerns rooted in data from those that are rooted in a yearning to protect the tribal male culture that distinguishes a number of combat roles in the military. Lamothe highlights an important point: integration should not be rushed when it involves significant changes and alterations, but the services are all being asked to move forward in a good faith approach that does not erect unnecessary hurdles or seek to set up women for failure. A few keys to successful integration will be to creating cohorts of women to train together for each role—women are unsurprisingly more likely to fail to integrate properly when asked to breach a male-only environment without the support of other women—and to ensure that every position sets down on paper the clear, operationally-driven standards that any team member must be able to meet in order to execute expected missions. –BW

Millennials want to send troops to fight ISIS, but don’t want to serve
Asma Khalid (@asmamk), NPR
A new poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics shows that 60 percent of young Americas support sending service members to fight ISIS, but 62 percent of the same group said they personally wouldn’t volunteer to fight and 23 percent said they probably wouldn’t volunteer. Researchers say that this reflects millennials’ negative opinion about the government at large. –MC
Bottom line: This sat about as well with the veteran and military family community as a late night Chinese food delivery does. The survey could be seen as confirmation that the very small percentage of America that has borne the brunt of the last 14 years of war will continue to do so with little respite. But on Twitter, Kelsey Atherton, friend of ScoutComms and reporter with Popular Science, noted that: “Citizens not wanting to personally fight a war they don’t see as an existential threat isn’t a bug of democracy, it’s a feature.” The fact is, this administration has not made the case that ISIS is an existential threat—likely because as it stands, ISIS isn’t—and thus hasn’t made the case for sending in ground troops. In the case a truly existential threat presents itself, hopefully the youth of America are able and willing to step up and serve. As it stands, the nation must show that service has value through continued efforts to provide for those who take an oath and their families. –LJ

VA: Accountability means more than just firing people
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
At a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing last Wednesday, Department of Veterans Affairs leaders made pointed comments directed at committee leadership, Congress at large, the media, and the VA inspector general. Lawmakers were accused of “seeking vengeance” rather than seeking real solutions and accountability, the media was blamed for quickly passing judgment on scandals, and the inspector general was accused of exaggerating issues. –MC
Bottom line: We are faced on a nearly weekly basis with a fresh set of accusations or excuses exchanged between Congress and the VA. At this point, it’s starting to feel like we are discussing the job security of Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, whose defenders point to his reputation for innovation and whose critics point to his inability to achieve consistent excellence. But even as much as we’d like to view the Congress-VA head-butting as a football match, which surely would be far more entertaining, we have to address this latest round of the veteran blame game. No matter what the VA says, its actions thus far to punish internal offenders has appeared to be less than robust and at times it seems like they are utterly unwilling to throw even the worst offenders under the bus in order to create breathing room for their reforms. Yet at the same time, Congress ends up engaging on a nearly weekly basis in paroxysms of righteous anger targeted at VA leadership. It seems to be unproductive. I remain convinced that if Congress wants drastic reforms from the VA, it needs to give Secretary Bob room to breathe and time to act, and then pass more sweeping judgment in 2016 after giving him time to prove that his game plan for the VA is bearing positive results. –BW

For Muslims in the U.S. military, a different U.S than the one they swore to defend
Thomas Gibbons-Neff (@Tmgneff), The Washington Post
Last week, Thomas Gibbons-Neff spoke with several Muslim U.S. service members about their views on the recent calls by a vocal minority to bar Muslims from entering our country. The service members reiterated that extremist groups like ISIS do not represent the Muslim religion, and said that the U.S. now seems very different in terms of acceptance than in the past. The topic has created much debate among Americans, especially on social media. One wounded British Army veteran, who lost his leg in Iraq, made a bold anti-hate statement on his Facebook page that went viral. –MC
Bottom line: What has been remarkable is seeing so many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan step up to defend their fellow citizens who happen to be Muslim and those they fought beside overseas, both American and allies. Even incredibly conservative Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer penned a piece for Task & Purpose calling the ban on Muslims entering the U.S. “an affront to the values I fought for, the values I swore to defend.” An entire religion is not to blame for terrorism and this whipping up of fear and bigotry is playing right into ISIL’s exact plans. They want to sow fear, they want to sow overreaction so that they can use that to prove their claims that the U.S. is at war with Islam and they are its defender. Right now many service members are in combat advising and training Muslim soldiers who are stepping up to defend their countries in Iraq and Syria. We are endangering those missions and the men and women serving in combat by falsely painting our allies as part of the problem. –FPW 

Veterans denied benefits due to improper medical testing
A.J. Lagoe (@AJInvestigates), Steve Eckert (@Steve_Eckert), KARE 11
An in-depth KARE 11 report explored a VA practice of diagnosing Traumatic Brain Injuries in veterans and service members with a very basic screening method. The department was found by local authorities to have improperly denied a veteran’s benefits based on the test. VA doctors across the country use the same diagnostic method.  –MC
Bottom line: This is some top notch local reporting that could have major national implications. In 2009, the Army medically discharged Army Captain Charles Gatlin because of his “likely stable and permanent” TBI suffered in combat. When Gatlin went to the VA, though, a quick TBI diagnostic used by a psychologist there found no TBI. So Gatlin was not awarded any benefits for his neurological impairment. Gatlin protested and a state medical board deemed the VA test for TBI to be insufficient in its rigor. Thanks in part to situations like this, the VA is doing a nationwide review of how it conducts TBI exams. But with hundreds of thousands of veterans who can claim service-connected TBI issues on their VA benefits, there is a huge potential for many errors to have piled up over the years. –LJ

Guam commissary produce prices skyrocket after new contract
Amy Bushatz (@AmyBushatz), Military.com
A new contract that eliminates taxpayer subsidies for shipping produce to commissaries in the Asia-Pacific region requires the Defense Commissary Agency, often known as DECA, to pay shipping prices. As a result, prices for fresh produce at commissaries in Guam have already skyrocketed. –MC
Bottom line: So, we will just say it – we told you so. We worked with the team trying to fight this terrible contract that will save the Department of Defense a few million dollars but cause military families to make impossible choices about their family diets. There is no “local produce” with results as ridiculous as a package of organic lettuce going from $3.99 to over $11! The Cost of Living Allowance has been set for this year so families will see their buying power dramatically reduced until the next rate review. Officials expect that COLA will increase because of the changes so that much vaunted savings for DoD will be simply paid out from the pay and benefits accounts now instead of the Commissary budget. Some call that robbing Peter to pay Paul. We will it stupid short sighted budget cutting that only hurts military families at the expense of a single line item in a multibillion-dollar budget. Military advocates need to wake up to this trend of tiny little adjustments that cause huge impacts. This change was almost completely ignored by most advocacy groups and there are many more in the works. DoD budgeteers have found their own effective trick to make cuts without rallying opposition and now that it’s working we should expect even more. –FPW 

ScoutComms’ Client News:

Drew Brooks: Challenge to aid Semper Fi Fund
Drew Brooks (@DrewBrooks), Fayetteville Observer
Throughout the end of the year, every donation to the Semper Fi Fund will be matched by the Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation and GoDaddy as part of the 10 Makes 20 Matching Challenge. Funds raised will support wounded, critically ill, and injured service members and their families like Sgt. Cory Muzzy. Muzzy was injured in an artillery accident on Fort Bragg and the Semper Fi Fund has provided financial support to him and his family since the incident. Through the campaign, the Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund could receive as much as $20 million to continue supporting service members like Muzzy. Learn more athttps://semperfifund.org/match/–MC

This lock could be the smartest gun safety device yet
Chris Weller (@chrisweller), Tech Insider
Guardian is a first-of-its-kind biometric trigger lock for handguns that prevents a firearm from being used by anyone except authorized users. Created by two Air Force veterans, the lock has the ability to prevent household accidents, especially those involving children. Veri-Fire has less than three weeks to raise about $80,000 through its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. Check it out and support the initiative here. –MC

The source: Women in combat
Paul Flahive (@paulflahive), Texas Public Radio
USMC Lieutenant Colonel Kate Germano, an advisor in her personal capacity for the Service Women’s Action Network, discussed the topic of women in combat with Texas Public Radio. Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently announced that all military positions would be opened to women. –MC

Quick Hits:
Joint billet requirements, chain of command under review
Andrew Tilghman (@andrewtilghman), Military Times
Defense Secretary Ash Carter has called for a review of the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act which redefined the department’s organizational structure. Officials say that Carter believes it is important to reevaluate and ensure that the DoD is working efficiently. –MC

Survivor benefit offset needs fix, family advocates say
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Last week, The Military Coalition lobbied lawmakers to change aspects of the Defense Department’s Survivor Benefit Plan payouts and the Veterans Affairs Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Program. When a fallen service member qualifies for both programs, a family can lose up to $15,000 in payouts because of rules that prevent “double-dipping”. –MC

Good news: Federal worker morale has finally bottomed out. Bad news: it’s still terrible.
Lisa Rein (@reinlwapo), The Washington Post
A new survey released last week on job satisfaction within the Secret Service reflected a trend of low morale among government employees across agencies. Morale began to drop in 2010 when our nation faced sequestration. Many employees said that they were not recognized for hard work and poor performance goes unpunished. The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Army are in the bottom ranking among large agencies in terms of employee satisfaction. –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 www.ScoutCommsUSA.com.

Questions? Comments? Additions? If you have any questions, comments, or have an event you would like us to include, send an email to LJenkins@scoutcommsusa.com and we will make sure we let our readers know. For questions about ScoutComms, email FWellman@scoutcommsusa.com.

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