February 1, 2019
IAVA founder Rieckhoff stepping down from group’s top job
Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, will step away from his leadership role at the group next month after founding and leading the organization for more than 14 years. Rieckhoff said he’s making the move for personal reasons. Jeremy Butler, who has led IAVA internal operations for the last year and held several other leadership posts since 2015, will take over as the new CEO. For years Paul has been an absolute force of nature in the veterans space and there is no denying he has made a dramatic impact for the Post-9/11 generation and beyond. Rieckhoff has never been afraid to take a stance out of step with other veterans organizations if he believed it was the right thing for his members and at times, the backlash was significant. But, results are results and IAVA has taken a place as a leading organization beside other VSO’s and it is unlikely that will ever change. Jeremy Butler is a consummate professional and is a terrific choice to carry on this next chapter of IAVA’s legacy. We wish Paul the very best in his next adventures and the best of luck to Jeremy and his team. — Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms
VA Issues New Rules Expanding Access to Private Care
Ben Kesling | Wall Street Journal
As a result of the bipartisan VA Mission Act, enacted in 2018, the VA this week announced new standards to govern patient access to private sector care that are guaranteed to generate concern and controversy among some constituencies. The new standards not only seek to standardize access across a number of previously separate community care programs, but also greatly reduce restrictions on VA patients seeking care in the private sector. The new standards would allow veterans living more than 30 or 60 minutes away from a VA medical facility or having to wait more than 20 or 28 days for an appointment—depending on the type of appointment—to seek care elsewhere, with the VA footing the majority of the bill. The new standards, which carry a price tag of an additional $21.4 billion over five years, have already come under criticism from many VSOs and Democratic politicians, who are challenging the VA’s decision to develop the standards with little public input, while Republican politicians and VA leadership have hailed the standards as putting veterans above bureaucracy. There are a lot of questions to be addressed before the standards go into effect in the summer, including how the VA will address existing problems with the contractors who have been facilitating outside appointments, and how the VA will cover the increased outside care costs. Underlying everything is the sense that no matter what anyone says, there is a struggle about privatization underway. Under the Trump Administration and empowered by 2018 legislation that VSOs are now souring on, the VA is facing major changes in how it provides care. Stay tuned. — Brian Wagner, COO of ScoutComms
Millions of GI Bill dollars are going to questionable schools – and it could soon be billions: VA watchdog
State-based agencies responsible for vetting schools to be approved for GI Bill funds are providing inadequate oversight, according to an audit by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General. Schools that are ineligible or delinquent have received millions, with more than 11,000 student veterans using their GI Bill to pay for their studies at subpar schools.
An Air Force vet died with no known family. Thousands of strangers came to his funeral in Texas to say goodbye.
Air Force veteran Joseph Walker passed away last November and the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery was unable to locate any family members. As a result of efforts made on social media to leave no veteran behind, about 2,000 people attended the funeral to pay their respects to a man they never knew.
‘Cuddles for Airmen’ and other nonprofits you didn’t know you needed
National Guard veteran Brian Wilson created the site everythingforwarriors.org to generate ideas for military-related nonprofits. Wilson created the site to mock organizations founded to serve very niche communities in the veteran and military spaces.
Court rules VA must pay disability benefits to ‘blue water’ Vietnam veterans
A new federal court ruling states that the Department of Veterans Affairs “cannot deny disability benefits” to “blue water” Vietnam veterans (those who did not serve inland). The ruling occured after advocates fought against the VA’s current position to make blue water veterans “prove that their ailments are directly connected to toxic exposure while on duty” in order to receive disability benefits, which other Vietnam veterans do not have to prove.