ScoutReport – August 9, 2019
It’s been a horrifying week for the nation and, especially, the military community with two mass shootings touching military towns causing fear and panic for service members deployed and at home. There is nothing funny about it but we find hope in the heroes like Army PFC Glendon Oakley, Jr. who saw kids alone and fleeing and swept them up to safety. Meanwhile, a new report showed that the military healthcare system, Tricare, is showing serious signs of failing military kids with less access and lower quality support than their civilian peers. Check out all of this week’s stories including an OpEd I co-authored with a group of fellow veterans on gun violence. We appreciate your loyal readership! – Fred
Military children have more health care needs, but less access and lower quality, study finds
Thanks to the evolution of military healthcare, service members who would have previously died from wounds sustained in battle or in accidents often survive today, so that even if they don’t make a full recovery, they can still have a chance at living a full life. Yet military healthcare is also responsible for the care of military families, and a new study shows that children in the Tricare system may face greater challenges to high-quality care than they would under commercial health insurance. According to the study, less than 35 percent of Tricare families reported having accessible care, versus 50 percent of families on commercial insurance. Of special concern is the fact that the Tricare population covered in the study had a higher proportion of kids with special health care and behavioral health care needs than the general population, while their parents reported having greater trouble getting appointments, care and referrals, and reported lower quality of care than those in private insurance. According to researchers, the findings suggest that “if you’re a healthy kid, the treatment facilities on base do a pretty good job of making sure kids get routine vaccinations, access to urgent care, those types of things. But the moment you have a special health care need, whether it’s behavioral health or a physical health care need, you end up in a cumbersome process trying to identify appropriate specialists and getting prompt access to those specialists that you need.” As the Defense Health Agency continues a comprehensive restructuring of the Military Health System, it needs to examine the study’s findings and, where the data backs up the authors’ concerns, develop strategies to mitigate these access and care issues. Because if families don’t receive high-quality care in the military, service members may look more quickly to leave for private sector careers that come with commercial health insurance. –Brian Wagner, President of ScoutComms
Troops and Military Families Call for Change After El Paso, Dayton Shootings
This past weekend mass shootings once again touched military towns in El Paso, the home of the Army’s Fort Bliss and Dayton, for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, leaving military families scrambling to check on loved ones as far away as from Afghanistan and airing their anger and frustration online. Military personnel were involved in both shootings with Army PFC Glendon Oakley Jr. rounding up children and rushing them to safety in El Paso and at least three Wright-Patterson Airmen injured escaping the shooting in Dayton. More and more service members are expressing outrage and frustration with the regular outbreak of mass shootings that touch the community, from the infamous Fort Hood attack to the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. These attacks are leaving military personnel angry that they themselves are facing danger downrange, but their families are now facing it at home too. Gina highlights a number of service members who lashed out online to demand action on gun reform, and groups that have called for action before are stepping forward again. I penned an OpEd (see below) with a group of fellow veterans asking for responsible gun owners and dealers to step forward and alert authorities to suspicious behavior in the community. In the end, we are facing an unprecedented onslaught of gun violence and we have to come together to find solutions. -Fred Wellman, CEO & Founder of ScoutComms
AMVETS to keep Rolling Thunder DC event going in 2020
After Rolling Thunder leadership said that 2019 would be the final DC ride due to cost and communication issues, AMVETS has decided to take over the annual Memorial Day weekend event. Joe Chenelly, executive director of AMVETS, said, “We believe in the mission 100 percent. We think it’s vitally important that our nation knows we are not forgetting those who remain missing or are still unaccounted for.” Plans for Rolling Thunder 2020 include incorporating patriotic entertainment, as well as an additional focus on veteran suicide.
Pentagon launches Catch program to identify serial sex offenders in the military
In an effort to find serial sex offenders in the military, the Pentagon has launched a program called Catch a Serial Offender, or Catch. The program, which is expected to be fully operational by mid-August, will allow survivors of sexual assault to confidentially provide information about the incident and the accused offender to military investigators. Elizabeth Van Winkle, executive director of the Pentagon’s office of force resiliency, said of the program, “We encourage greater reporting to connect victims with the care they need and as a way to hold offenders appropriately accountable.”
Discriminating against HIV-positive military members is unproductive for our military
According to the latest medical and scientific research, people who have HIV and are receiving proper treatment are just as healthy as anyone else, and pose no risk of transmitting to those surrounding them. In 2012, Ray Mabus, who was secretary of the Navy from 2009 to 2017, made improvements to policies that affected service members with HIV and is now urging the Pentagon and the military branches to further update policies regarding HIV service members. Mabus stated that not allowing individuals who are willing and able to serve is sending the message that they are not worthy or capable of serving their country.
How financially troubled colleges rip off veterans
Due to the reversal of Obama-era restrictions on for-profit colleges, veterans are among the most affected by for-profit closures and are left trying to piece their education together. These for-profit schools heavily target Post-9/11 GI Bill recipients because the schools can take up to 100% of federal aid. According to Walter Ochinko, research director at Veterans Education Services, “For-profit schools really aggressively target veteran students and spend a ton on marketing, but spend little on instruction.” When these schools close, students who try to transfer lose about 94 percent of their credits.
Where Veterans Aren’t Thanked for Their Service
Germany’s tortured 20th-century history has led to a unique and challenging landscape for the 21st century veterans seeking support. Broadly, German citizens display either hate or indifference towards veterans due to the now deeply entrenched pacifism that does not allow for celebration of their troops. Steps have been taken to provide better treatment for soldiers, and new legislation has been introduced to help veterans reenter the workforce. However, the situation is complicated due to German data-privacy laws which prevent the German military from keeping track of soldiers who have returned to civilian life, leaving many of the “invisible veterans” unhappy, despite improvements in legislation. Germany has made changes to improve the level of support provided to their veterans, but more change and access to information is still needed.
Veterans: We Call on Gun Dealers and Responsible Owners to Prevent the Next Shooting
Veterans are troubled by the normalization of the cycle of national grief after mass shootings, followed by collective amnesia, and cannot allow it to continue. The culture of silence that exists within the gun community leads to unrelenting blame, ultimately stifling discussion about the near unrestricted access to firearms and ammunition. As responsible citizens, the authors argue it’s their duty to say something if they see something that doesn’t seem right. Doing so is not a violation or diminishment of the Second Amendment, it’s the responsible gun owners’ obligation to speak out against dangerous and irresponsible fellow gun owners. Gun dealers are the first line of defense and should have access to data on all potential customers before conducting a sale, and be encouraged to self-report, making transaction data available and eliminating unrecorded sales of firearms. It’s also necessary to support campaigns like Brady’s “End Family Fire,” which seeks to reduce gun deaths or injuries as a result of improperly stored firearms.
Hackathon aims to enhance veterans’ care through public-private innovation
Innovators from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Samsung and the Veterans Health Administration gathered in early August for the D.C. Grand Hack, where they explored how to accelerate and assess potential veteran healthcare improvements made through public-private partnerships. The weekend brought together engineers, clinicians, designers, developers and business leaders to brainstorm solutions that would enhance veterans’ access to care they need. Much of the hackathon was driven by the idea of evaluating success from innovation, and how bringing together different perspectives to a pressing issue creates ideas that otherwise would not have been presented.
VA Turns to ‘Hackathons’ to Solve Health Care Challenges
The Veterans Health Administration has teamed up with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to address some of its biggest health care challenges in exercises called MIT Grand Hacks. The VA’s entrepreneur in residence, Suzanne Shirley, further explained these Grand Hacks: “When we say ‘solve,’ we really mean build concepts and prototypes to design solutions to a specific problem. They may be in the early stages of development, but what these concepts provide are tangible solutions that we can bring into VA.”