Military Families and Veterans Issues and Analysis
Monday, November 7, 2016
Typically, the biggest news this week would be that Friday is Veterans Day. Assuredly, there will be many campaigns and stories dedicated to highlighting our community and the veterans who have done so much for America, at home and abroad.
This week, though, before we celebrate veterans, we get to celebrate the freedom they defended. So Tuesday, whoever you vote for, just vote. Whatever you vote for, vote. There are important decisions to be made up and down the ticket and thanks to veterans, we get to have a voice in making them.
AND THEN MERCIFULLY THIS WHOLE ELECTION NIGHTMARE WILL BE OVER. That is something I know we can all–Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent, lizard person–unite around. The freedom from more presidential campaign coverage. –LJ
The week ahead:
Tradeshows and Conferences:
No conferences this week.
No hearings this week.
Think Tanks & Other Events:
Got Your 6: Storytellers Showcase: DC
Who: Glenn Pangelinan, Navy Veteran, Founder of Reliance Incorporated; Will Reynolds, Army Veteran, Manager at Deloitte; David Oclander, Army Veteran, Principal of Detroit Central High School; Bonnie Carroll, Air Force Veteran, President and Founder of TAPS; Deven Schei, Army Veteran, Wounded Warrior Project Speaker; Lou Olivera, Navy Veteran, Judge; Bob McDonald, Army Veteran, Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Ce-Ce Mazyck, Army Veteran, Paralympian.
When: 9:00 AM, Thursday, November 10, 2016
Where: Discovery Communications, 1 Discovery Place, Silver Spring, MD
Washington Post: U.S. Veterans: The Next Mission
Who: Capt. Florent Groberg, retired Army Captain and Medal of Honor recipient; William McNulty, Cofounder & CEO of Team Rubicon Global, Ltd.; Teresa Fazio, Author and Director at Allied Minds; Noah Galloway, Former U.S. Army Sergeant and activist.
When: 9:00 AM, Thursday, November 10, 2016
Where: The Washington Post, 1301 K St NW, Washington, DC
National Press Club: Newsmaker Program – VFW National Commander Brian Duffy
Who: Brian Duffy, Commander-in-Chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW)
When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, November 10, 2016
Where: National Press Club, Bloomberg Room, 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC
ScoutComms in the News:
This week at VA #3: Fred Wellman – Army veteran, CEO of ScoutComms
Timothy Lawson (@TimLawson21), VAntage Point
It’s been a big week for all of us here at the ScoutComms team! We’re excited to say that our CEO Fred Wellman was featured on the Department of Veterans Affairs VAntage Point Blog’s new podcast. In the episode, Fred talks about his decision to join the military, his transition back into the workforce after retiring and starting and growing his own company, ScoutComms. If you’re interested in hearing more about Fred’s story and the history of ScoutComms, take the time to listen to the podcast, and don’t forget to share with your friends if you learn something from what you hear! –MC
Episode 64: Fred Wellman – Veteran business owner & B Corp advocate
John Bruske (@veteransradio), Veterans Radio
Last week, Fred Wellman also sat down with the folks at Veterans Radio to talk about his entrepreneurship journey. Fred discusses why our company became a B Corp and what the movement means to us here at ScoutComms. We highly recommend listening to the discussion. –MC
What I’ve learned by getting involved in the military community
Jeff Goonan (@jeffgoonan), ScoutComms blog
Account executive Jeff Goonan joined our company more than a year and a half ago as an intern and has since become an integral part of our team. Prior to working at ScoutComms, his experience with the military community was limited. But by working in the sector directly, Goonan has learned many lessons along the way about how civilians can help bridge the civil-military divide. Check out his thoughts on the topic in his latest blog post! –MC
Veterans and Military Issues:
More bonuses for VA employees despite ongoing problems at the agency
Bill Theobald (@BillTheobald), USA Today
Despite bonuses always being a hot button issue, more than 300 senior executives at VA received $3.3 million in bonuses in 2015. Among those receiving the bonuses were a VA official who retired the same day that he found out he was being fired and the former chief of staff at the Phoenix VA Medical Center just months before he, too, was fired. Bonus payouts in 2015 increased by about 24 percent from 2014, with the number of employees receiving bonuses increasing by 20 percent. Rep. Jeff Miller, the retiring chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said these bonuses are another example of the VA’s habit of “coddling” employees, going on to say that these bonuses are yet another reason why the VA can’t be entrusted with repairing its broken system. –KB
Bottom line: The VA is far from being the only government agency or corporation to hand out bonuses during periods of poor returns or to reward underperforming employees. Large organizations are slow moving entities and, even in the face of criticism, large organizations still stubbornly stick to the status quo until the status quo is pried out of their cold, dead fingers. But that does not excuse the VA’s behavior. Bonuses are a reward, not a guarantee. As a private sector employee, I never count on bonuses, especially when my company or I personally underperform. The VA should not and cannot afford to give out bonuses to employees who misbehave, are under investigation, or do not meet basic expectations. Inertia is difficult to overcome, but the VA is better off cutting bonuses temporarily than paying them to undeserving senior employees at this point. Public relations matters, and bonus payments are one area where the VA is still falling short. If the VA can’t develop straightforward criteria that allows it to withhold bonuses, it is missing an opportunity to send a clear message that good performance is rewarded and poor performance is punished. –BW
Are some of the Army’s best soldiers being forced out?
Scott Maucione (@smaucioneWFED), Federal News Radio
Some of the most talented and highly educated leaders in the Army have already left or potentially may be involuntarily separated. Many soldiers who chose a more unconventional career path compared to their peers are getting the boot because of the “up or out” nature of the system. Lt. Joseph Riley, who studied at Oxford University for two years as a Rhodes scholar, fears he will be forced out of the Army due to lack of holding key positions in the field Army during his years of study. Gen. Mark Milley, Chief of Staff, believes the Army needs to reconsider its approach to talent management to retain more soldiers or risk the loss of experienced combat leaders and a brain drain of the best officers. –DD
Bottom line: It would be remarkable if this was a new issue but sadly it is not at all a new one. For decades the Army has wrestled with the idea that up and coming leaders, especially officers, needed to meet certain “gates” to make promotions and lead successful careers. It has created the odd situations with Joe Riley and others who have graduated with honors from Ivy League universities are seen as having “stepped off the fast track” and thus not as qualified as those who stayed in line units without higher education in important positions to the future of the Army like “Assistant Operations Officer”. So, now the Army has to ask itself if they want to continue letting highly educated and innovative leaders leave the service in favor of those who choose to march the traditional path to promotion. Can the service create a system that recognizes non-traditional thinkers, unusual career paths, and disruptive thinkers? They haven’t so far and the system has proven especially resistant to change for some 200 years or so. These moments arise every few years and inevitably there is much hand wringing at the amazing talent lost, then there are whispers that those guys really weren’t all that good or they would have stuck it out in the “tough” jobs, and then things go back to the way it’s always been done. It would be nice to see real change for once. –FPW
The number of veterans in Congress will likely drop again next year
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
Looking at current projections in congressional elections, the number of veterans serving in the House and Senate may drop below 100 for the first time since the 1940s. Largely due to the aging veteran population, many experts say that this is a natural decrease. However, there has been a steady growth in the number of post-9/11 veterans running for office. –JG
Bottom Line: As a smaller and smaller percentage of the population serves in the military, it is to be expected that the proportion of veterans in Congress similarly declines. In fact, veterans are currently overrepresented in Congress and that will likely continue, something that fits with what we know about the soft skills veterans possess like leadership, integrity, and commitment to service: things we look for in our politicians (even if we don’t always find it.) What we often like to highlight, though, is the lack of veterans in congressional staff positions where policy is typically hashed out. With a new administration taking the reins of the executive branch in January, it will also be worth monitoring how many veterans end up in political appointee and staff positions within the White House and agencies—especially outside of VA. We know veterans bring important perspectives to corporate jobs and campus, let’s also hold our next president accountable for recognizing veterans’ skills long after the campaign ends and governing begins. –LJ
Report: military wives more likely to suffer mental illness, alcohol abuse
Carl Prine (@CarlPrinetweets), San Diego Union-Tribune
A groundbreaking study released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) this past week revealed that, in the sample of women surveyed, military wives are more likely than their civilian counterparts to abuse prescription drugs and alcohol, as well as suffer from mental illness. Jennifer Johnson, an Army widow, spoke to the San Diego Union-Tribunesaying that she had become addicted to cocaine and prescription opiates after the death of her husband in Afghanistan. Johnson, said the military has not done enough to assist spouses of deployed troops. For women without social support, this stress can lead to a breakdown of one’s mental health, as well as avoidant coping techniques such as binge drinking and drug use. This year’s report was the first to contain information specifically monitoring the usage of drugs and alcohol by military spouses and children and, while the numbers weren’t statistically significant, it sets a precedent for future reports to continue to survey the military community. –KB
Bottom line: It’s important to note that this is the first time the survey has specifically asked about military affiliations and so should not be relied on to make broad assumptions. So few military husbands answered this year that researchers didn’t provide any of their data. This research should be seen as a good start to future data collection that could then be used by practioners to determine what policies or support could be enacted to ameliorate issues raised by the analysis. In the meantime, advocates and the military can evaluate current programs supporting military families to ensure they are meeting the needs of spouses. While we spend a lot of time talking about elevating support for military families to the same level as support for service members, there is still a ways to go in meeting the varying needs of families from active duty to Reservist families to transitioning families. –LJ
National Guard retracts estimate on soldier bonus reviews
Travis J. Tritten (@Travis_Tritten), Stars and Stripes
After a National Guard spokesman told Stars & Stripes tens of thousands of soldiers nationwide had their re-enlistment and education bonuses flagged for review, they quickly retracted that statement and said they do not have an estimate of the number of cases under review. The early number was derived from data that was incomplete and did not indicate why the cases were flagged, such as for fraud or lack of paperwork. Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered a review of the recoupment procedures to ensure that those who did not engage in fraud aren’t being wrongfully punished. Shortly afterward, the House Armed Services Committee stated that they intend to include legislation on the matter in the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill. –KB
Bottom line: Travis Tritten captures an embarrassingly confusing moment for the National Guard, where it is seemingly at war with itself over the facts and figures regarding the ongoing repayment scandal. We have all heard about the details of the California National Guard’s efforts to get its soldiers to repay monies paid to them in past years. Travis learned that the National Guard believed some 20,000-30,000 soldiers outside California were being investigated for repayment, but as soon as he reported it, the National Guard discounted the estimate of its own representative. This is, to be brief, a cluster. In the wake of the blowback the Guard is experiencing over its California actions, it needs to be extraordinarily cautious in making any additional claims or assertions placing blame on the soldiers themselves. I personally still owe the Navy several thousand due to an accidental overpayment, and it hurts. The National Guard has a trust deficit to overcome, and airing unverified estimates is not an effective way to clear the air. –BW
Veterans, Feeling Abandoned, Stand by Donald Trump
Nicholas Confessore (@nickconfessore), The New York Times
Among Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters are veterans. According to a poll conducted by Fox News released on Oct. 18, among veterans who are registered to vote Trump leads Hillary Clinton by 19 points. Some suggest his popularity among the veteran community is due to his outspoken rhetoric, such as his claimed stance against the Iraq war. Other veterans view Hillary Clinton as a continuation of the way things have been going for years. His support within the military community has been shown from all branches and ranks and many veterans argue that Trump is shedding light on many veteran issues that have been overlooked in years past. –DD
Bottom line: We have a term here at ScoutComms called the “Veterans Anger Machine”. It refers to websites, influencers, media and others who are masters at pushing the buttons that make many veterans angry and then using that anger as a means to money, clicks on websites, and in this case political support. Trump has become a master at pushing the buttons that ignite the VAM. We also like to say that when you’ve met one veteran…you’ve met one veteran. In a community of some 20.9 million men and women ranging in age from 18 to 105 you are going find diverse opinions and political views. While traditionally a conservative leaning block of voters, it’s not terribly surprising that so many support Trump and his nationalistic rhetoric and ability to reflect his supporters biggest fears and conspiracies. In any other election it’s reasonable to think that Trump would have lost this voting block about a dozen times starting with his declaration that he likes “heroes that weren’t captured” to going after a Gold Star family. But he is running against Hillary Clinton who has been blamed for the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi and of course bringing down the entire national security system by sending Yoga workouts on her personal email server along with later classified communications. To say this isn’t your typical election year is a bit of an understatement even for veterans. Yet, a study just released by Open Secrets found that those listing the military, Department of Defense or as military retirees have given 80 percent of all the money they have donated to Clinton instead of Trump. So, we’ve seen polls swing a lot of ways but it sure seems like money is talking for Clinton. All of this speculation will hopefully come to an end in just 48 hours if we all can survive the insanity. –FPW
Free Entrepreneurship Training for Chicago Veterans and Military Families
Arionne Nettles (@arialyssa), The Chicago Defender
The Boots to Business Reboot entrepreneurship training program is underway in Chicago, IL in celebration of National Veterans Small Business Week (NVSBW). With free courses offered nationwide year-round, veterans, service members and military spouses get the opportunity to learn how to start or grow a small business. NVSBW not only includes the Chicago course, but will hit a variety of locations to include New Orleans. Statistics show that veterans are 45 percent more likely to dive into entrepreneurship than those without military experience. Boots to Business Reboot is offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration through a public-private partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. –DD
Will you have to repay a military bonus, too?
Amy Bushatz (@amybushatz), Military.com
As shown in this week’s Scout Report, the National Guard bonus scandal may require many National Guard members to repay reenlistment or other bonuses. Repaying a large bonus can be a large financial burden on military families, but according to a recent article by Amy Bushatz, service members can ask for a formal review if they find themselves in this situation. The USAA Educational Foundation also recommends troops utilize free resources to stay financially ready and establish an emergency fund. Check out the USAA Educational Foundation’s financial readiness program, Command Your Cash, if you would like to learn more about emergency funds, credit and other ways to ensure your family is financially ready. –MC
After his brother’s tragic death, this vet pledged his life to the Air Force
Lauren Katzenberg (@LKatzenberg), Task & Purpose
Got Your 6’s Storytellers event series is going on across the country. At the event in New York City, Ed Woodward told an audience the impact on your life when your twin brother is killed at the hands of a drunk driver. Storytellers brings veterans with compelling life experiences on stage to share and urge the public to see veterans outside a narrative that casts them as broken heroes. Additionally, in Los Angeles, Got Your 6 announced their “6 Certified” list of movies and TV programs that have hired veterans or consult veteran groups to ensure honest and accurate veteran portrayals in their work. –JG
The USAA Educational Foundation, Texas A&M establish military financial readiness program
Blair Fannin (@cowhand), AgriLife Today
Last month, the USAA Educational Foundation and Texas A&M University Financial Planning Program announced a new partnership and launched a financial readiness program to train future military leaders in financial readiness. The program, Command Your Finances, is designed for members of Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets, but is open to all students. Learn more about the USAA Educational Foundation and its financial readiness resources at USAAEF.org. –MC
Syracuse University ranked No. 1 private school for veterans by Military Times
Michael Burke (@michaelburke47), The Daily Orange
Last week, the Military Times ranked Syracuse University as the number one private school and number three overall for military members, veterans and their families. Earlier this year, SU’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management was also ranked as the number five graduate school in the country for veterans by Military Times. Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) has played an enormous role in establishing a veteran and military family friendly campus, by providing educational resources for veterans and their families, conducting research in the military community and empowering those who have served and those who support them. As a part of SU’s Campus Framework plan, the National Veterans Resource Complex, which will house the IVMF and is expected to be complete by summer of 2019, will serve as the campus hub for all things veteran-related and as a national center of education and resources for veterans. –DD
Veterans Graduate From Comedy Boot Camp in DC
Shomari Stone (@shomaristone), NBC Washington
Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) is giving veterans a chance to pursue a new avenue for expressing themselves after military service through stand-up comedy. Several veterans recently graduated from a six-week comedy boot camp and performed for the first time in Washington D.C. Michael Carrasquillo, a veteran who fought in the Iraq war, is using comedy as PTSD therapy and thrives on making his stories funny and relatable to his audiences. –AB
Report: Civilian hiring managers love veterans, but don’t always understand them
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
A new survey released by Hiring Our Heroes interviewed 400 hiring professionals and 1,000 veterans to identify what works and what doesn’t when it comes to hiring veterans after they leave the military. The survey, funded by the Merck Foundation, found the majority of human resource managers favorably view veterans’ skills. The findings also found that veterans are still likely to face unemployment or underemployment during the first year out of the service, with women facing even more difficulty finding employment than men. –JG
Report: Care options still elusive for wounded vets
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
After a recent survey of its members conducted by Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) found many veterans are using VA for their mental health needs, but still face difficulty getting appointments. About 32,000 WWP members participated in the survey. More than 80 percent of WWP Alumni said they had a support system in place in case of mental health distress and 77 percent said they knew who to call if they needed immediate assistance. –DD
Military vet to share her tale of grit and spirit
Hal Millard (@halmillard1), Cola Daily
Ce-Ce Mazyck is a medal-winning Paralympic athlete, who routinely demonstrates that military veterans are not victims and are instead integrated pillars of their communities. Mazyck will share her inspirational story next Thursday in Washington, DC at Got Your 6’s Storyteller event, which will be live-streamed on Facebook. The event will feature some of our nation’s most remarkable veterans, who now serve their communities in ways ranging from leading our nation’s nonprofits, working within the Department of Veterans Affairs and even serving as local judges. Learn more about the upcoming event at https://gotyour6.org/programs/storytellers/. –MC
The military may relax recruiting standards for fitness and pot use
Andrew Tilghman (@AndrewTilghman), Military Times
In Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s latest round of “Force for the Future” reforms, he has launched a review of the military’s recruiting standards, particularly those for physical fitness, marijuana use, tattoo regulations and the military’s hesitation to allow single parents to join the Armed Forces. Secretary Carter stated that, while they need to maintain a high standard for recruiting, the standards should be flexible to keep up with changing times. The review of these fitness standards reflects the nation’s obesity epidemic, which places more than 70 percent of otherwise eligible men and women as unfit to serve in the military. –KB
WWII Vet shares incredible story of being one of the first female Marines in the U.S.
Jennifer Lira (@TVNewsJenn), NBC 6 KRIS-TV
Even though Marilyn Dow grew up in a time when women were expected to be stay-at-home mothers and wives, she had an entirely different plan for her life. She was one of the first female Marines, starting off as a teletypist and going on to be a Marine Corporal in World War II. –AB
Military Times declares November ‘Veterans Month’
Military Times Staff, Military Times
For the month of November, Military Times will be posting exclusive content in recognition of the men and women of our Armed Forces. Information on the best colleges in the country for vets, where to find military discounts, and guest editorials can be found on the Military Times website and social media throughout the month. Additionally, they are assisting in the “Finish the Wall” campaign, an initiative that is trying to find and catalogue one photo of every service member whose name is listed on the Vietnam War Memorial. Be sure to stay tuned and take part in the conversation with the hashtag #vetsmonth. –JG
Veterans group sold $250k sponsorship to presidential forum
Amy Bushatz (@amybushatz), Military.com
The nonprofit organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) reportedly sold seats to the Commander-in-Chief Forum that took place back in September. Organization representatives said that the sponsorship sale was to help offset the cost of hosting the forum, and that the sponsor did not actually use the seats, which were given to veterans and gold star family members instead. –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.
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