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The Scout Report 246th Edition:

Military Families and Veterans Issues and Analysis

Monday, December 20, 2015

Wasn’t the best part of the new Star Wars movie when the Imperial general tells the stormtroopers that it’s “time to make the Empire great again”? Sorry, sorry, spoilers…

This week was rife with great investigative reporting. First, there’s the Navy SEALs doing really bad things in Afghanistan, then there’s the Army leadership behaving badly. We’ve also got stories on the ongoing fight to end veteran homelessness, some good news on TBI research, some not necessarily bad news on suicide rates (but not great), and, well, some more on SEALs but this time how they can be awesome (hint: with qualified women!)

Enjoy your holiday! We’ll see you back here in a few weeks and a few dozen more viewings of Star Wars from now. –LJ 

Tradeshows and Conferences:

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

Congressional Hearings:
No hearings this week.

Major themes and issues from last week:

ScoutComms in the News:

Are we ready for the decline of veteran and military nonprofits?
Brian Wagner (@BrianBWagner), Task & Purpose
Vice President Brian Wagner looks at trends in funding for veterans and military nonprofits in an op-ed for Task & Purpose. Brian outlines five takeaways from the recent Center for a New American Security report “Charting the Sea of Goodwill” on the state of veterans philanthropy in the U.S. It’s a great read and provides valuable information for members of our community. Be sure to check it out! –MC

Veterans and Military Issues:

Here’s More Proof That Giving Housing To Vets Prevents Homelessness
Eleanor Goldberg (@ESGoldberg), Huffington Post
With the deadline to end homelessness among veterans in America quickly approaching, a recent pilot program shows providing housing to homeless veterans is a cost-effective way to also get them healthy and assist in job searches. VA Secretary Bob McDonald discussed the issue in an op-ed last week, and noted that although the deadline will likely not be met by the end of the year, significant progress has been made. McDonald also said that there is more work to be done to help veterans who struggle with homelessness–MC
Bottom line: Over the last several years, there has been a concerted effort to get more municipalities and service providers to adopt the “housing first” model. That means a homeless person gets access to housing assistance even if they are using controlled substances, aren’t actively looking for work, or any other number of issues—the person gets housing before everything else. The idea behind it is that shelter is one of the most basic needs and once that is met, a person can focus on other areas of their life. Housing first hasn’t been without its critics and skeptics who believe that there should be milestones that a person has to meet before being given housing. There is also a worry that by placing homeless people in housing first, they may not yet be in a place to maintain that housing. Indeed, every homeless advocate has stories about people who have not thrived with housing first. This pilot program among veterans, though, shows that housing first with wrap-around services—in this case, VA health care and Department of Labor employment services—can be extraordinarily successful at ending homelessness. At the end of the three year study, only 6 percent of veterans had returned to the streets. This is the kind of success and progress necessary to keep momentum going after the 2015 deadline passes. –LJ 

More than half of combat vets have scarred brains
Brian Krans (@citizenkrans), Healthline News
New research shows that more than half of service members who have experienced blast injuries have brain scarring. The data comes from MRI scans of 834 service members with combat-related Traumatic Brain Injuries. Researchers hope that these findings will enable them to create an effective way to diagnose and treat troops that suffer from brain injuries. –MC
Bottom line: It’s certainly quite a breakthrough that doctors have now been able to identify signs of TBI in a brain. This means an increased likelihood that doctors can diagnose and treat patients for the right malady. For example, this could help determine that someone is suffering from TBI, not PTS. The first line of treatment for PTS is usually pharmacological which can have adverse affects on patients with TBI. To scan the 300,000 veterans impacted by TBI with the one MRI machine currently programmed for this specific brain scan would be logistically… difficult. But like we reported last week, the current method VA uses to diagnose TBI can and has left many veterans without the right rating and treatment. One doctor quoted in this story says changing treatment protocols at the VA to include more scans like this could take decades. Unfortunately, some veterans don’t have that long. Medical innovations are happening all the time, but senior leaders must ensure their doctors are using the best methods available. –LJ

Navy SEALs, a beating death and claims of a cover up
Nicholas Kulish (@nkulish), Christopher Drew (@nytdrew), and Matthew Rosenberg (@mrosenbergNYT), The New York Times
The New York Times
 investigates the case of Navy SEALs accused of beating Afghan prisoners, one of whom later died due to his injuries. Although the incident was reported by soldiers and confirmed by an Afghan also detained, the SEAL command cleared its members of wrongdoing. –MC
Bottom line: There are a lot of disturbing things in this article from the Times that is thoroughly researched and investigated leaving you to wonder why SEALs got a pass where other service members would be facing prison for their acts. Sailors from SEAL Team 2 are accused of killing an Afghan civilian after a night of abuse and were investigated and cleared using a Captain’s Mast like they were caught drinking in the barracks instead of torturing and killing a detainee. The entire incident goes to an increasing complaint that special operations troops are treated entirely differently than the rest of the military to the detriment of both the special operations community and regular service members but even more so for our missions to train and fight insurgencies across the world. Hearing that the SEALs regaled the regular Army soldiers at their base with discussions of writing their own books and making them watch ‘Act of Valor’ might make you worry about the priorities of our elite troops. –FPW 

In the war against sexual assault, the Army keeps shooting itself in the foot
Craig Whitlock (@craigmwhitlock), The Washington Post 
Like all of the services, the Army has ramped up its efforts to prevent sexual harassment and assault within the ranks, but some of the individuals in charge of efforts are guilty of harassment and assault themselves. Whitlock’s reporting explores several of those instances. –MC
Bottom line: Disturbing. That’s the only way to describe this story from Craig Whitlock looking at previously undisclosed cases of sexual assault and harassment in the Army among senior officers and how cases were handled at the unit level. While there has been some progress in addressing the scourge of sexual assault in the ranks there is clearly problems of how cases are handled at the unit level ranging from lack of knowledge of how cases should be processed to outright thickheadedness about the treatment of victims. So, even after hours and hours of PowerPoint briefings and conferences there is continued confusion and failure to follow proper processes in the ranks of the Army, not to mention continued acts of sexual assault and improper behavior even at the highest ranks. The Army leadership has a long fight yet to go. –FPW 

Navy SEALs won’t change standards for women, admiral says
Meghann Myers (@MeghannReports), Navy Times
Vice. Adm. Bill Moran, the Chief of Naval Personnel, says standards to compete for jobs in Navy special operations units, including the SEALs, will not be lowered for service women. The Navy is not in a rush to push women through the program – instead, it will work to prepare women for the tough requirements and focus on success rather than making immediate headlines. All military combat positions will be opened to women in 2016. Just last week the Army named Brig. Gen. Diana Holland as the first female commandant of West Point–MC
Bottom line: This announcement comes as no surprise. Even as the Navy made headlines for its vocal support for combat integration, there was never any hint that its support for women holding combat jobs was linked with any interest or willingness to lower physical fitness standards. Unlike the Marine Corps, which is moving forward under relative duress, the Navy has earned the trust of service women and their supporters, so its plan for gradual, careful integration women into special operations positions will likely be accepted—at least for 2016—without significant protest. As Myers notes, the physical fitness standards in question are well known and have proven challenging to many male candidates, so women will have a high but clearly understood set of standards to aim for to be considered for Navy special operations positions. –BW 

Military suicides hold steady in 2015
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
New Defense Department data shows that the rate of suicide among service members has remained relatively steady for three consecutive years. Officials say that the pattern is encouraging because there haven’t been large spikes, and this could be a sign that suicide prevention efforts are working. In October, the Defense Suicide Prevention Office was accused of creating inadequate programs and not effectively completing goals, and the DSPO has been working to solve the outlined issues. –MC
Bottom line: While there are no major surprises tied to the release of the 2015 suicide data, the fact that 275 suicides is considered an improvement is a reflection of how little the military has been able to do to prevent suicide among motivated individuals, as well as a reflection of how difficult it is to get ahead of suicidal individuals when many of the causes of service member suicide are linked to issues that are not necessarily within the control of the military. The Army in particular made suicide prevention a major focus under former Vice Chief Peter Chiarelli, and recently unveiled the latest steps in its multi-year plan to take a more data-driven approach to prevention, even though its efforts have remained under fire in recent years due to the continuing high rate of soldier suicides. While veteran suicide tends to dominate the public discourse, suicides among service members are not only a health and welfare challenge, but a national security problem that hurts morale and readiness. –BW 
ScoutComms’ Client News:

A security forces vet offers gun safety tips for keeping your home safe
James Clark (@JamesWClark), Task & Purpose
Skylar Gerrond, an Air Force veteran and co-founder of Veri-Fire, discussed handgun safety and tips for keeping homes safe withTask & Purpose. Veri-Fire has developed a biometric trigger lock for handguns that prevents anyone except authorized users from shooting the firearm. As handgun owners, veterans, and parents, Gerrond and co-founder Matt Barido wanted to create a product that they knew would help prevent household accidents, but allow them to access their handgun for safety. To learn more about Guardian, check out Veri-Fire’s Indiegogo campaign and an additional We Are The Mighty article. Guardian makes a great holiday gift for the gun-enthusiasts in your life. –MC

Consumer watch: app might make charitable contributions easier
Karen Jowers, Military Times
A new app called Veterans Call allows users to sign up for recurring donations for $5 or $10 monthly. The money is added directly to a user’s cellphone bill, and can be stopped or added at any time. Six charities are featured in the app, including the Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund. Any donation made through the end of December will be matched by the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation’s “10 Makes 20 Challenge.” –MC

Quick Hits:

VA sets national policy for robotic legs for paralyzed vets
Julie Watson (@watson_julie), The Associated Press 
A new federal policy will allow eligible paralyzed veterans to receive a powered exoskeleton through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The new announcement marks the “first deferral coverage policy for robotic legs in the United States.” –MC

Hey, you want nonprofits to act more like businesses? Then treat us like businesses
Vu at Nonprofit With Balls
A nonprofit leader takes umbrage with the oft-repeated “non-profits need to act more like businesses” and challenges funders and donors to similarly change the way they support nonprofits. –LJ 

Turning point: How May 29 changed Ranger School forever
Chuck Williams (@chuckwilliams), The Ledger-Enquirer 
A deep dive by the Ledger-Enquirer provides perspectives from the three female soldiers who passed the rigorous Ranger School. The article delves into what the women had to do to make their way into the course and what it took for them to succeed. –MC

Army report shows soldiers lack sleep, struggle to eat right
Michelle Tan (@MichelleTan32), Army Times
The Army’s very first Health of the Force report shows that troops are struggling to get enough sleep and eat healthy. The reportexamined injuries, tobacco use, sleep disorders and other factors and was the Army’s first attempt at reviewing health practices at the installation level. –MC

Chattanooga shooting victims will receive Purple Heart
David Larter (@DavidLarter), Navy Times
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced that the Department of the Navy will award the Purple Heart to the four Marines and one sailor who were killed in the Chattanooga attack on the Navy Operational Support Center in July. A Marine who was injured will also receive the award. –MC

Moves in the veteran support sector:

Got Your 6 taps IAVA leader as new director
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times 
Our good friend Bill Rausch, the current political director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and constant Alexandria, VA cheerleader, will join Got Your 6 next month as executive director. Congratulations from the ScoutComms team on your new position, Bill! –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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