The Scout Report 383rd Edition
Military Families and Veterans News and Analysis
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Did you hear? ScoutComms has been chosen as a finalist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award, which recognizes a small business that exemplifies the spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship, and individual initiative.
As a finalist for the Veteran-Owned Business Achievement Award, we are also in the running for the Community Excellence Award, which is decided by popular vote. We need your help! If you feel we’ve benefitted the veteran and military family community through our work, please consider voting for us–and ask your friends and followers to do so, as well.
How to Vote:
Public voting is limited to one vote per unique email address. If you have more than one email address, we won’t tell you not to use them (wink).
- Visit here to vote: https://app.reviewr.com/
- Create a username and password.
- Select ScoutComms and hit “Like” to vote.
Our Scout Report readers are such an integral part of our community and we thank you for your continued support. Besides, just think what a blowout Scout Social we would host next year if we won this award! Just saying.
Veterans Affairs: Reusable Medical Equipment: Continuing to Examine VHA’s Sterile Processing Problems
Who: Teresa D. Boyd, D.O., Assistant Under Secretary for Health for Clinical Operations, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Beth Taylor, DHA, RN, NEA-BC, Deputy Assistant Under Secretary for Health for Clinical Operations, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs;Sharon Silas, Acting Director, Health Care, U.S. Government Accountability Office; John Daigh, M.D., Assistant Inspector General for Healthcare Inspections
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Where: 334 Cannon
Veterans’ Affairs: Legislative Hearing on H.R. 4312, H.R. 6409, and H.R. 6420
When: 1:00 PM, Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Where: 334 Cannon
Veterans’ Affairs: A Review of VA’s Specially Adaptive Housing Grant Programs (SAH).
When: 2:00 PM, Thursday, September 6, 2018
Where: 334 Cannon
Independence Project: Veterans Study
What: A research study that helps veterans find a job.
Who: Veterans who meet the following requirements: Interested in getting a job; Discharged in the past 12 months OR have a discharge date in the next 8 months; Served at least 6 months of active duty; Be/have been an enlisted service-member between ranks E1 – E9; Have applied for a disability rating; Under 45 years of age.
When: Study participation open now!
Military and Veteran Issues:
New Marine Corps Order Officially Bans Revenge Porn, Race Supremacism
Gina Harkins (@GinaAHarkins), Military.com
A recent order has made strides in keeping Marines accountable to the institution’s core values. The new order prohibits Marines from participating in white supremacist activities and “the wrongful distribution of intimate images.” Marine Corps officials announced the changes following the Marines United scandal and the Charlottesville white supremacist protests. Those who participate directly as well as those who fail to folloåw up on reports of prohibited behavior and those who witness such behavior and choose not to take action might be at risk of punishment, too. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis authored a message to service members to state the importance of maintaining a disciplined unit. In his message, Mattis wrote that “enforcing standards is a critical component of making our force more lethal … we must not tolerate or ignore lapses in discipline, for our enemies with benefit if we do not correctly and appropriately punish substandard conduct.” –NJ
Bottom line: While some have grumbled a bit about how long it took to make all of this official after the horrible Marines United nude photo sharing scandal and a number of Marines were found supporting white supremacist rallies and activities, the truth is that this is more than just a new rule. What the Marines have issued is a comprehensive clarification to existing rules, expansion of what will be considered a violation of the regulations, and guidance for reporting these violations of their core values. So, it’s not a simple update and it is indeed much overdue as more Marines, and members of all services, are embroiled in controversy surrounding the growing neo-Nazi movements and inappropriate behavior online. We applaud the Marine Corps for taking these key steps and we hope they will back them up with decisive disciplinary actions against those who wear the uniform and refuse to uphold its most important foundations. –FPW
Background Check Change Could Put Troops’ Clearance at Risk
Amy Bushatz (@amybushatz), Military.com
Earlier this year the White House ordered a new monitoring plan for background checks, and the new standards put more service members at risk of having their security clearances repealed due to low credit scores or past-due bills. The Pentagon—instead of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM)—will now examine background checks for financial data, potentially affecting service members’ military careers. According to the National Security Adjudicative Guidelines, “failure to live within one’s means, satisfy debts, and meet financial obligations may indicate poor self-control, lack of judgement, or unwillingness to abide by rules and regulations, all of which can raise questions about an individual’s reliability, trustworthiness and ability to protect classified or sensitive information.” The Associated Press reported that the Pentagon retracted up to 58 security clearances as of early July and the new plan is expected to fully take effect in the next three years. –SM
Bottom line: From a national security standpoint, there is positive value in regularly assessing whether a security clearance-holder is displaying signs of financial insecurity, which is one of the core risk factors that can help influence someone to act inappropriately or illegally. While this may impact some otherwise sterling performers, financial health is like physical health in that your ability to perform your job to your full ability is determined by the steps you take to live a healthy life. The only caveat is that the system must not be so finely-tuned as to punish people for temporary or minor financial problems which will create more problems than it will solve and make it difficult to identify actual security threats. This also puts more pressure on the individual clearance-holder to learn—and on their command to teach—proper financial behavior. Financial education is critical both for avoiding major problems and for establishing a solid foundation for a fiscally-healthy life and retirement. To avoid future clearance hurdles due to financial problems, service members should check out free resources like those from our client The USAA Educational Foundation to get smart on managing their finances wisely so that this new monitoring plan will never negatively impact their careers. –BW
Exclusive: U.S. Army forms plan to test 40,000 homes for lead following Reuters report
Joshua Schneyer (@jschney) and Andrea Januta (@andreajanuta), Reuters
After a recent report that revealed that children were at risk of developing lead poisoning in military housing, the U.S. Army is now planning to test approximately 40,000 homes across its bases for toxic lead hazards. If implemented, the plan would focus on prioritizing the thousands of homes that are occupied by young children, as this population is at the greatest risk of developmental and health problems due to lead exposure. The inspection is estimated to cost up to $386 million and will focus on homes built before 1978. Several senators have called for an examination of the military’s handling of the situation, and Army officials are slated to address the lawmakers’ concerns in the coming weeks. – KG
Bottom line: Why is journalism important? Because it brings stories that have been told for decades amongst military families to a broader audience—and in this case, caused enough public attention to get the Army moving on a solution and draw the oversight of lawmakers. This is welcome news for families potentially living in homes with toxic lead, but also raises questions about when lawmakers and military leaders will address other acute health issues on bases that veterans and service members have complained about for years (and we’ve covered in previous Scout Reports.) Additionally, there are sure to be follow-on costs after the inspections are complete to include abatement. Something else we’ve covered in recent Scout Reports? The trouble the Army faces with recruiting and retention. Stories like this one can’t do much to improve that situation. If these seem like niche issues, they aren’t. Not only do they impact thousands of families, they also have second and third order effects that go far beyond. –LJ
A Vet’s Suicide Pushes The VA To Do Better
Quil Lawrence (@QuilLawrence), NPR
John Toombs, a U.S. Army veteran, committed suicide in November 2016 after being kicked out of the residential treatment program at the Murfreesboro Veterans Affairs center for being late to take his medications. Toombs’ father, David, is now suing the VA for $2 million, claiming that they kicked his son out of the program without first making sure he was safe and stable. He said, “My son died because of their arrogance and negligence. I can’t honestly tell you I’ll ever have days or weeks of happiness again, but if I can direct my life helping veterans somehow, at least I’ll maybe find some peace.” This lawsuit comes after many complaints regarding access at the Murfreesboro VA medical center, as it was one of the lowest-rated VA medical centers in the country. The center is lead by former Navy Capt. Jennifer Vedral-Baron, who had only been on the job three months at the time of Toombs’ suicide. Vedral-Baron has since made changes to improve care and has increased the center’s rating. –LB
Bottom line: As NPR highlights, most of the complaints received about this specific facility are about access rather than care received. Vedral-Baron herself points out that VA facilities in both Nashville and Murfreesboro have better patient outcomes than local private care. We know this to be true in a broader sense too: the VA is often better equipped to handle the unique health needs of veterans rather than private outside providers. By examining wider organizational adjustments being made across the VA through the lens of the John Toombs case, we gain valuable perspective on what the impact of VA mistakes can look like on an individual basis. Vedral-Baron acknowledges that the changes being made may appear to be slow to see but since taking over, the facility’s internal rating has gone from one star up to two stars. –CB
No horsing around: Veterans benefit from equine therapy
Bob Gross (@RobertGross477), Times Herald
Wisdom Counseling LLC, in partnership with Give an Hour, has stepped up to help veterans experiencing mental health issues with a successful form of equine therapy. By working closely with the horses they are partnered with, they are able to develop a sense of trust and camaraderie with the animals and their fellow veterans. –AB
Video: Ask the Experts: August 28
Natalie Gross (@ByNatalieGross), Military Times Reboot Camp
Student Veterans of America’s (SVA) Vice President for Public Relations and Chapter Engagement, Barrett Bogue, recently participated in Military Times’ REBOOT Camp “Ask the Expert” video series. A Syracuse University student veteran submitted a question about what resources are recommended for those who do not have the time to attend education-specific training or transition courses. Bogue advised student veterans to research all of the resources and benefits available to them, like the GI Bill and vocational rehabilitation, and to get involved in the SVA chapter at their college or university. –SM
Veteran Tickets Foundation Answers the Call to Serve First Responders
Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix) provides free event tickets to the veteran and military community and is now growing to provide the same service to first responders through 1st Tix. 1st Tix will offer free tickets to sporting events, concerts, performing arts, family activities and more to first responders across the nation. Michael Focareto, Veteran Tickets Foundation founder and CEO, said, “We’re really excited about the opportunity to begin serving this community. We’ve seen an excellent response from the veteran and military community over the past ten years and received hundreds of thousands of testimonials that attest to the power of community and family connection in relieving stress. Our goal is to provide that same relief to our first responders, who also encounter stress and trauma and work to keep our families and communities safe each and every day.” –LB
Finally, a Holistic Approach to Combating Mental Health Issues in the Fashion Industry
Brooke Bobb (@brookebobb), Vogue
As a response to the negative mental health effects of the pressures and competitive nature of the fashion industry, the Humans of Fashion Foundation – in partnership with organizations including Give an Hour – launched an app which connects those in need with a network of mentors, therapists and lawyers. This platform offers those working in fashion easy access to confidential, free support. –AB
Being gay at the VA is more than just okay. It’s celebrated.
Jonathan Kaupanger (@JonathanVets1), Connecting Vets
Dr. Michelle M. Hilgeman and Dr. Tiffany Lange-Altman received positive feedback from attendees at the Veterans Health Administration’s Innovation Experience for their pilot health education program, “Serving All Who Served.” The program was launched for LGBTQ veterans who may feel underserved by VA and “focused on empowering the veteran to learn what they might be at increased risk for and how to navigate the VA.” They talked with Connecting Vets about the struggles of kicking off the program, and then the overwhelming response of gratitude from LGBTQ veterans, who once thought that they would not be accepted at the VA. –SM
Veteran to veteran, Vets4Warriors provides peer support between vets
Kaylah Jackson (@kaylahchanel), Connecting Vets
When you call client Vets4Warriors, a veteran peer specialist will answer within 30 seconds. Vets4Warriors is a confidential, 24/7 peer support and resource connection network that is available to anyone in the veteran and military community to prevent their challenges from turning into crises. Not only will a Vets4Warriors peer follow-up with callers, Lloyd Deans, supervisory mental health specialist and Army National Guard veteran said, “All of our conversations are personalized but we try to develop a rapport with our clients.” –SM
Leader of VA electronic health record project resigns, prompts concern
Nikki Wentling (@nikkiwentling), Stars and Stripes
After only one month on the job, Genevieve Morris resigned from leading the overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ electronic health records. This change in leadership raised concerns from Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., the chairman of a congressional subcommittee that oversees VA technology. Banks wrote a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, stating, “It would be a tragedy for the program to be undermined by personality conflicts and bureaucratic power struggles before it even begins in earnest. I am dedicated to pursuing a constructive oversight agenda to encourage VA to make the right decisions, but any engagement is difficult without stable leadership.” –LB
VA’s mental health care crisis draws private firms pitching dubious PTSD treatments
Jasper Craven, Suzanne Gordon (@Jasper_Craven, @suzannecgordon), Reveal
Since being named White House advisor on veterans’ issues in 2017, Jake Leinenkugel has actively pursued prioritizing mental health care as well as the privatization of health services. Private organizations have now entered an unspoken lobbying race for government funding of their “pet projects,” and the Creating Options for Veterans’ Expedited Recovery (COVER) Commission is tasked with assessing the value of incorporating such supplementary treatments. While the COVER Commission charter requires that members must be “of recognized standing and distinction within the medical community with a background in treating mental health,” several members, including current chairman Leinenkugel, don’t actually meet those requirements. Treatments like hyperbaric oxygen therapy are said to be gaining traction on the Hill, with support from Leinenkugel and others, despite being debunked by several studies, including one led by the VA and the Department of Defense. –KG
As Veterans Hold National Conventions, Concern Continues Over Privatization of the VA
Randy Furst (@randyfurst), The Star Tribune
Following the passage of the Veterans Affairs Mission Act in June, the federal government now foots the bill for medical costs and care for veterans who reside at least 40 miles away from their closest VA facility and those who can’t make an appointment with a VA physician within 30 days. The Trump Administration has asked that the VA adjust its overall expenditures to account for the $50 billion in projected costs associated with the policy change. Suzanne Gordon, an author and privatization expert, contended that this would likely result in cuts to veterans’ mental health initiatives, women’s health and homelessness programming. While some veterans organizations, such as Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), support the Trump Administration’s push to privatize health care, others have voiced their concerns. Louis Celli, the Executive Director of the American Legion national headquarters, has raised questions about who will be responsible for deciding which veterans qualify for private care outside of the VA. Other groups such as Veterans for Peace believe that “the VA provides the best care anywhere that a vet can get” and worry that privatizing care could lead to a decrease in overall quality for the veteran community. –NJ
What happens now that veterans can file class-action suits against the VA?
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
A recent ruling by a federal court will allow class-action lawsuits to be filed against the Department of Veterans Affairs. “It is a watershed moment,” said Greg Rinckey of the the law firm Tully Rinckey PLLC, which offers expertise in military law. “For veterans dealing with Gulf War Illness or Agent Orange claims … this makes it easier for them to fight against big government.” While individual veterans will not be able to bring suit, those who share similar illnesses, grievances or service records will be eligible when the cases are deemed “appropriate,” according to the ruling. –KG