ScoutReport – October 11, 2019
A lot of folks are pointing out that I always open the newsletter with “what a crazy week it’s been in Washington,” which is totally fair criticism but, seriously, you have to admit it’s been yet another crazy week. Of course, other than that other thing going on in town, there has been some fascinating stuff in the veterans world with more malicious activities targeting transitioning service members and suicide statistics that just aren’t getting better. If you’re a caregiver you should scroll on down to the bottom and check out the application window for our friends at The Elizabeth Dole Foundation. If you’re in town next week for the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Expo, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the ScoutComms team. We will be harassing journalists, hanging out with clients and gathering swag at the show. Hopefully you got an email asking you to join the Veterans Research Network yesterday. We are really excited about this effort and you will hear a lot more about it in coming weeks. Have a great…and not crazy week! – Fred
Hackers Target Job-Hunting Service Members, Veterans With Sham Employment Website
It’s sad how many scams, frauds and crimes we see looking to take advantage of the immense good will in the nation for our service members and veterans. From sketchy nonprofits using telemarketers to fund their fake charitable giving to people pretending to be veterans or wounded warriors to get free gifts, it feels like we see a new crime every week. This latest is especially dangerous as it appears that a fake website and app called “Hire Military Heroes” has been peddled as a transition assistance effort leading service members to download an app that instead mines their computers for critical data to open them for hacking. Experts at Symantec believe this could even be a state based Iranian effort to access DoD computers through back doors of official computers or personal ones connecting to the networks. The effort was first reported by Corey Dickstein at Stars & Stripes and it has since become clearer that it fits an ongoing pattern of foriegn intelligence attacks. Sadly, the name and site look very similar to the well established Hiring Our Heroes effort by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation that has helped thousands of veterans and spouses find employment. As always, check links and downloads carefully and it’s especially important to carefully pick who you choose to work with for your transition. There is an absolute metric ton of organizations claiming to help service members with transition job hunting and support, but after 18 years of war it’s best to trust the established and reputable players with a track record of success. Stay safe out there! -Fred Wellman, CEO & Founder of ScoutComms
New Veteran Suicide Numbers Raise Concerns Among Experts Hoping for Positive News
Although a top clinical priority of VA officials, we are still not seeing a reduction in the number of veteran suicides. In fact, according to experts and advocates, the problem has gotten even worse. This article reports that over 60,000 veterans have died by suicide over the last 10 years, 6,100 of those deaths by suicide happening last year alone. Regardless of the increase in focus on veteran suicide over the past several years, it appears we are unable to decrease the numbers of veterans taking their own lives. As a former VA researcher, I worked closely with staff devoting their lives to prevention efforts. I want to be hopeful that we will crack the code on this. Yet, I am skeptical that we will, as long as the national security of our country continues to deteriorate. As stated by Terri Tanielian in a recent congressional testimony, “suicide is a national public health crisis, not just a veterans problem.” The equation for prevention is multifaceted and although I don’t believe there is a silver bullet, I do have strong opinions on what direction we need to take as a country to see a reduction. Part of this equation is acknowledging the existence of and preventing moral injury. Moral injury is plaguing our community. It is commonly discussed among us in our informal support groups that have grown organically as we desperately try to understand our intertwined lives bound by our experiences in the military, as veterans and as humans who care about our country. Formally defined, moral injury is “disruption in an individual’s confidence and expectations about one’s own or others’ motivation or capacity to behave in a just and ethical manner” that can stem from “perpetrating, failing to prevent, bearing witness to, or learning about acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.” Moral injury can develop after an event that elicits feelings of intense guilt, shame, or anger. It makes us lose sight of our sense of self, live in a spiral of regret and often times participate in high risk behaviors endangering ourselves and sometimes others. It can result in mental and emotional health crises, isolation and suicide. What I have learned is that once armed with the language and knowledge of what moral injury is, while surrounded by a community of support offering acceptance, empathy and understanding, collective healing from the traumas of war ensue. As our country continues to engage in forever wars forcing its troops to do its dirty work under the guise of patriotism, while dumping more money into an already bloated defense budget, and simultaneously stripping resources from important social programs that provide us needed mental health services, the culture of war swallowing our country will continue, as will the suicide epidemic. -Kiersten Downs, PhD, Research Director at ScoutComms
After the Niger Ambush, I Trusted the Army to Find Answers. Instead, I Was Punished.
In 2017, four Special Forces soldiers were killed in Niger by Islamic extremists, their commander Alan Van Saun, who was in the United States when the attack occurred, notes that he had absolute “trust in the system” to conduct a “high-profile investigation” that would determine how and why the ambush took place. More than a year later, Van Saun and other officers received formal reprimands issued by the First Special Forces Command; the reprimands were fraught with “inaccuracies and inconsistencies” that placed greater weight on “pre-deployment training and personnel issues instead of operational decisions.” Van Saun writes that he subsequently lost all trust in the Army because he saw the outcomes of the investigation as proof that his expectations of accountability among leaders were unfounded and raises troubling questions about the actual causes of the tragic deaths.
‘We Are Inside the Fire’: An Oral History of the War in Afghanistan
In July and August 2019 Fahim Abed and Fatima Faizi of The New York Times traveled through Afghanistan interviewing Afghans who have been drastically affected by the fighting in their country. These oral histories of the nearly-two-decade-long conflict span from the height of Taliban power to the most recent US-Taliban negotiations, and offer views from Afghans of different professions who live in 10 of the country’s provinces. Raghunath Ashna, a doctor from Kandahar, said that “This war is…the war of the world, but they are fighting it in Afghanistan.” The grim scene set by the recounting of the Taliban’s brutality and the American invasion’s chaos is juxtaposed with hope for an amicable future–Jamila Anwari, a teacher in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, planned a “picnic beside the Helmand River with [her] family” if and when peace descends upon her home. Check it out to see this masterful multimedia production from the New York Times At War team lead by Lauren Katzenberg (@lkatzenberg).
How Veterans Can Start a Healthcare Career – Even Without a Military Medical Background
Lorinda Stahley realized that the system at the AdventHealth Orlando hospital was leaving patients in the waiting room for a dangerously long period of time, and that in order to get those patients the best care that they could they needed to come up with a more efficient system. Stahley set up a control room that directs patients where to go and cuts back on wait time. Stahley calls this system “bed traffic control” and she recognized how reminiscent this job had become to her days in the military. She has since spoken up about how retired military service members and veterans can utilize their skills in order to make a difference in the medical field, even if they do not have previous experience in healthcare. Knowing your skills, using your benefits, doing your research and seeking help are all steps that you can take if you are interested in joining the medical field after transitioning into civilian life. The VA currently has 40,000 openings in the medical fields and has programs put in place to attract veterans to those positions.
Memo outlining Supposed Changes to VA Caregiver Program Creates Confusion, Anxiety Among Veterans.
A memo has been circulating the veteran community about official changes being made to eligibility for the VA’s caregivers program and it’s causing what appears to be unnecessary anxiety among veterans. In the past two years, the caregiver program has been facing quite a bit of upheaval with expanded eligibility under the CHOICE act as well as turbulence for existing recipients, which has caused the VA to be under intense scrutiny. The VA has officially stated that the release of the memo was a mistake, and that the information in it is outdated and inaccurate; they are asking that it stop being spread around to various veteran groups. The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers provides several thousands of dollars to family members caring for injured veterans. The program currently has 19,300 veterans enrolled, and the memo appeared to have an updated screening tool for the VA to evaluate who should be accepted into the program. Though the memo appears to be a mistake, veterans are insisting that the VA take responsibility for their actions.
Unemployment Rate For Post-9/11 Veterans Increases For The Fifth Time in Six Months
For the fifth time in six months the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans has increased, with September having a rate of 4.5%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is in contrast to the 3.1% unemployment rate for all veterans and “overall joblessness at a 50-year low of 3.5%.”
More Than Half of Army Spouses in Survey Say They are Stressed, Overwhelmed and Tired, Report Shows
The Rand Corporation released a study this week on the challenges Army spouses face, along with their attitudes toward the Army and how resources are utilized. Over 8,500 Army spouses were surveyed, with a majority reporting they had felt stressed, overwhelmed or tired in the last year. Furthermore, the report added, “When asked to prioritize the most-significant problems they faced in the past year, the top problem domains chosen by spouses were work-life balance, military practices and culture, and own well-being, with about 30 percent of spouses having difficulty balancing work and home life, and around one-quarter having difficulty with some aspect of military culture.”
Love and War: I Owe My New Life to My Marine Husband’s Hideous Death. I Pay the Price Every Day.
Karie Fugett, widow of Cpl. Jimmy Cleveland Kinsey II ‘Cleve’, wrote this piece on her life as a military caregiver at the young age of 22 then turned widow at 24. Fugett goes on to share the highs and lows as her husband went through surgeries, rehab, retirement from the military and, ultimately, Cleve’s death. “Where the doctors were skilled at treating gnarly wounds, they seemed ill-equipped to treat the addiction that many experienced as a result. Less than a year after his retirement, Cleve died.” In her grief Fugett explains, “When Cleve died, I promised him I would live a good enough life for both of us. Grief became a sort of motivator. I was determined to make him proud. For the first time in my life, I had enough money to focus on improving myself, to become the kind of person someone could be proud of. Finally, I could find some version of the American Dream.” Karie has a book in the works on her unique journey.
OPPORTUNITY FOR MILITARY & VETERAN CAREGIVERS
Our long time friends and client The Elizabeth Dole Foundation is recruiting for their prestigious Caregiver Fellows program that brings active military and veteran caregivers from across the nation together to provide a voice for military families and shine a light on the tremendous challenges our nation’s 5.5 million military caregivers face. Dole Caregiver Fellows are leaders in their communities and serve a two-year fellowship to help effect change and empower other military caregivers, no matter where they fall along their caregiving journey. The Dole Caregiver Fellowship application is open until October 31, 2019! To apply visit: www.elizabethdolefoundation.org/fellows.