ScoutReport – August 30, 2019
This week, when Washington should have been quietly counting down the days until fall, we instead saw a citizenship policy change that was one of the most poorly handled new policy announcements in years. We learned that only two Iraqi translators had earned visas this past year. On a brighter note the American Veterans (AMVETS) elected their first woman national commander and a number of ScoutComms clients are marking milestones and making an impact for service members, veterans and first responders. For those of you in Florida, good luck with Dorian and we hope those not in the path have a good Labor Day weekend. As always, share, post, and email the Scout Report to your friends and colleagues. – Fred
Only 2 Iraqi translators who worked with U.S. troops got U.S. visas last year
Advocates for interpreters who supported U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have been fighting for years to maintain a steady flow of quotas to allow interpreters whose lives were in danger to move to the U.S., alone or with their families. But even in the worst years for visas in the past, it never came close to matching the sheer rejection of our allies that we saw in 2018, when only two of the thousands of Iraqis waiting for visas were allowed into the U.S. This is pathetic. Much like we should not go to war without being prepared to support our veterans when they come home, we should not enlist allies to risk their lives for us if we are not in turn willing to help them when their service to the U.S. puts their lives in danger. It is a fair trade, yet in the wake of the current Administration’s anti-immigration reforms, this population is being abandoned. We cannot credibly claim to care about the Iraqi people—or the Afghan people—if our willingness to help them only holds up when we don’t have to let them become our neighbors. The same can be said of people coming from around the world. What is the purpose of being, in the words of President Ronald Reagan, a “shining city upon a hill” that others look up to if we build real and imagined fences around that city and reject those who believe we represent their best chance to survive and eventually thrive? The rejection of Iraqi interpreters is only a minor issue in the broader immigration discussion, but given how they have already proved their commitment to our country by risking their lives, they should be the last people to be turned away. Congress seems to be powerless to fix this issue, but veterans from both sides of the aisle need to speak up about protecting those who served alongside them since 9/11. -Brian Wagner, President of ScoutComms
Some children of US troops born overseas will no longer get automatic American citizenship, Trump administration says
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service found itself in the middle of a full-blown military community explosion Wednesday that it spent the better part of a day digging out of. It all started when it quietly issued updated a new policy alert that seemed to indicate that children born to U.S. citizens living abroad on military installations and diplomatic missions would no longer receive automatic U.S. citizenship but instead would have to apply. The ensuing tumult led Acting Director Ken Cucinelli to personally clarify that it was not a roll back of birthright citizenship but only applied to children whose parents weren’t citizens themselves or who were adopted. On Thursday a press call was held to explain that in the end this would “only” affect approximately 25 or 30 service members a year and was done to align with State Department policies. The Administration has worked hard to end expedited citizenship efforts for non-citizen service members for two years and has been kicking out foreign-born service members and deporting undocumented spouses. In addition, just last March the USCIS closed its international offices that handled military and diplomatic cases as well as ones on basic training installations. When you connect the dots you see a concerted and methodical process to limit and discourage non-citizens to serve and to place obstacles to citizenship for those that do. It’s estimated that over half a million non-citizens have served in the military since 9/11 and at a time of recruiting shortages it is entirely self defeating to reject those that want to serve. The U.S. has a long tradition of foreign born military service dating back to Baron Von Steuben, Lafayette and Kociusku in the Revolutionary War. After all of this time to suddenly reject those willing to risk their lives to join our nation is not just poor policy, its outright stupidity, and undermines the very military they swear they support. Our military deserves better than policies that make their lives harder and they deserved better roll out of a policy that caused stress and fear across the globe. -Fred Wellman, CEO & Founder of ScoutComms
AMVETS Elects First Female National Commander
Retired Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Jan Brown is the first female national commander of AMVETS. This comes at a time when women make up 15% of the active-duty military and 10% of the veteran population. During her one year term, Brown said she will have a focus on mental health. “I promise that I will always represent AMVETS in the very best light,” said Brown.
PTSD Made Him Walk Away From Public Life. Now He’s Heading Back.
Jason Kander was in the race for mayor of Kansas City when he dropped out due to untreated post-traumatic stress disorder from his military service. Kander is now getting back into politics, leading a national expansion of the Veterans Community Project, a Kansas City nonprofit. When talking about his experience, Kander said, “I’m not cured, but I’m so much better. PTSD is like an old knee injury. It’s always going to be there. If you treat it and manage it, it doesn’t have to restrict what you do.”
$16B veterans’ health project hits major snag
In spite of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie’s insistence that the high budget project to connect medical records for the military and vets is “on track,” multiple sources have expressed concern for the lack of logistic preparedness in merging the Electronic Health Systems into one large one. Setting up a digitized health care record for millions of current and future veterans has been a complex bureaucratic and technical undertaking, leading to issues such as the system losing patients’ prescriptions, which struck fear in doctors. Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev), has expressed a preference for a delay in the project release rather than the “rush to meet a deadline … if they are not ready to meet the highest standards of care”.
Millions of Veterans to Be Memorialized Online in VA Legacy Project
Earlier this month, the Department of Veterans Affairs launched the Veterans Legacy Memorial project, which will memorialize “online forever the more than 3.7 million veterans interred at the 136 national cemeteries run by the VA’s National Cemetery Administration.” This effort could grow to include veterans buried at private cemeteries who have been provided a headstone by the VA, as well as the opportunity for friends and families to share photos and memories of the veterans in the database.
Survey of Municipal Veteran Services
In a survey conducted by the Center for a New American Security and Comcast NBCUniversal, the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) assessed the needs of veterans and their experience with the services provided on the municipal level. The survey found that the affordable housing, employment options, and homelessness were cities’ top challenges and not unique to veterans. Of the findings, inadequate resourcing was a constant barrier, leading to decreased program effectiveness and even existence due to lack of funding and veteran specific reporting. The survey’s main takeaway suggests that cities lack coordination and collaboration among departments in order to accommodate the gaps in service and resources provided for veterans.
After Mandate from Congress, VA Opens Research Center for Burn Pit-Related Illnesses
The Department of Veterans Affairs has established the Airborne Hazards and Burn Pits Center of Excellence in order to look further into health conditions linked to burn pits and other airborne pollution in combat zones. The facility aims to gain a better understanding of the health consequences of airborne exposures, provide health evaluations, build a network of specialized clinicians, and facilitate research.
Soldiers’ Angels hosts mobile food donation for homeless, low income veterans
Last Friday, more than 200 homeless and low-income veterans were served by the Soldiers’ Angels Mobile Food Distribution program in Decatur, Georgia. Veterans were provided with fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and non-perishable food items. Soldiers’ Angels hosts these mobile food distributions monthly around the country.
Complete courses before you leave the military with the Home Builders Institute
The Home Builders Institute is a national leader for career training in the building industry. The institute offers certification programs, mentoring, pre-apprenticeships, and job placement services for individuals to have a career building homes. They also have specific programs in place to support service members transitioning into the civilian workforce.
1st Tix Celebrates One Year Serving First Responders
Launched by the Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix), 1st Tix celebrated its first anniversary on Tuesday. Close to 75,000 current and retired law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs and 911 dispatchers have joined the organization. 1st Tix provides tickets to events like concerts, games, performing arts and more nationwide for first responders and their families. Michael Focareto, Veteran Tickets Foundation founder and CEO, said, “Our goal has been, and will continue to be, to serve first responders as a way to thank them as they keep our families and communities safe each and every day.”
Millions of free event tickets being given to first responder families – Here’s how to get yours
“In just one year, 1st Tix has provided thousands of tickets to sporting events, concerts, performing arts, family activities, and more, nationwide,” said Veteran Tickets Foundation founder and CEO Mike Focareto. 1st Tix was founded in August 2018 and is powered by the Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix) – who serves over 1.3 million members of the military and veteran community with event tickets.