ScoutReport – November 15, 2019
Look, I think we can all agree that it’s been a crazy week in Washington, D.C. with all of the hype and insanity everywhere over the roll out of Disney+. Seriously, all of the Star Wars universe productions are on there. It’s nuts. Having said that, there has been some other stuff happening, too, including our former clients Wounded Warrior Project and Prudential receiving great awards from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes gala Wednesday night. This week you will read some important work that is going on to address the moral injuries of war, not enough veterans being in the news media, a couple of great stories about ScoutComms in the news and much more. Please share this widely and sign up for the Veterans Research Network right now! – Fred
For US Veterans, What Does it Mean to Heal a Moral Injury?
It is now common knowledge that many veterans return from war with trauma and mental health challenges that are difficult to overcome and feed into a host of poor outcomes. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a recognized mental health affliction that affects not just veterans, but an estimated 8% of the U.S. adult population. For many years mental health researchers have seen another mental disorder that is often associated with PTSD-like symptoms, but is now being seen as its own issue referred to as moral injury. It was first identified by psychologists working with Vietnam veterans in the 80’s and 90’s but recent studies with veterans of today’s wars are fleshing out our understanding of the issue. Moral injury seems to result from what is essentially a “breach of a person’s ethical code that inflicts lasting behavioral, emotional, and psychological damage. This ‘wound to the soul’ most often occurs when individuals commit, fail to prevent, or witness an act that cuts against their moral beliefs.” Essentially, for combat veterans, these are often the burdens of decisions made at war, like ordering subordinates to their deaths, failing to save an injured comrade or the inadvertent killing of a civilian or even an enemy soldier. The symptoms that go with these unique injuries in many ways overlap PTSD, including anxiety, despair, flashbacks, nightmares, social isolation and suicidal thoughts, but a crucial added factor with moral injury is guilt. That guilt appears to manifest months if not years and decades after the events that led to the injury. Many veterans struggle late in life with the knowledge that they are still alive when others are not. This research is incredibly important as we experience the longest period of war in American history and veterans see their work in combat still unfinished or even destroyed. Many of my fellow Iraq veterans expressed alarm when northern Iraq fell to IS and many of the villages we supported were attacked and the residents fled for their lives. That is a unique aspect to this conflict as it drags on for nearly 20 years. More research is clearly needed on moral injury and recognizing it as a factor different from PTSD. Many veterans suffering from moral injury likely go on for years refusing to believe they have PTSD because they may not have suffered a traumatic event, when what they are facing is the burdens of loss and guilt that came with leadership, thus never seeking treatment for their illness, leading to terrible consequences. In the end, our mission is to reduce the stigma around mental health and ensure that more of our veterans and service members get the help they need. – Fred Wellman, Founder and CEO of ScoutComms
We Need More Veterans in America’s Newsrooms
We normally stick with news articles for the ScoutReport analysis section, but this week I am deviating from the norm to draw attention to an opinion piece that makes the case for why we need more veterans in America’s newsrooms. According to the Institute for Nonprofit News, over the past decade there has been a significant increase in nonprofit news reporting. Today, the U.S. has more than 200 nonprofit newsrooms and growth is accelerating due to a decade of economic turmoil that has hit newsrooms hard. A 2017 study reported that across a sample of nine nonprofit investigative news organizations, news focused on national security or the military was largely ignored. These findings taken alongside current events, serious national security nightmares and the continuation of the forever wars, tell me that we are moving in the wrong direction here. Across the country, base infrastructures are crumbling and military families are living in toxic housing. The Department of Veterans Affairs is also largely ignored by reporters. Kaiser Health News, the largest network of healthcare reporters in the U.S., has limited coverage of the VA, the largest healthcare network in the country. DOD currently faces an epidemic of reports of sexual assault and white supremacy in uniform and suicide rates of service members are at an all-time high. Today U.S. military operations are involved in scores of countries across the globe. There is an enormous need for an increase in resources for military and veteran reporting in the U.S. These reporting gaps can be filled by journalists writ large, but journalists with first hand experience in the military bring with them a specialized experience and are eager to get a foot in the door, which, according to Baddorf’s personal account, is not an easy task. Only 1.1 percent of media workers in the U.S. are post-9/11 military veterans. According to Baddorf, military veterans bring with them skills like deep understanding and technical knowledge of military and veteran issues, objectivity, neutrality and ability to work in crises, which are all valuable attributes for newsrooms. The U.S. government now spends nearly $800 billion annually on defense and veteran affairs, which accounts for more than 60 percent of the U.S. budget. With a budget of this size, accountability and adequate coverage of issues should be prioritized. This lack of coverage allows the Defense Department to conduct its business with nearly free reign. That is not okay with me, and I hope it isn’t okay with you either. – Dr. Kiersten Downs, Research Director at ScoutComms
Army Veteran Duckworth Introduces Senate Bill to Protect Troops’ Families From Deportation
A group of Senate Democrats have proposed The Military Family Parole in Place Act, a law that would protect immediate family members of service members and veterans from being deported. “Parole in place” is a temporary legal residency designation that has been used specifically for undocumented immigrants whose family members are serving or have served, which delays deportation hearings and is renewable yearly. The law would reverse a policy previously put in place by the Trump administration that directed Homeland Security to deny such special extensions of legal residency that had been afforded to troops’ families in the past.
Creedence Clearwater Revival’s John Fogerty Talks Military Service, Music’s Role in War
Ahead of the Nov. 11 release of “50 Year Trip: Live At Red Rocks,” John Fogerty of the band Creedence Clearwater Revival sat down with Military Times to discuss why Woodstock 50 didn’t happen, as well as his time serving during the Vietnam Draft. Fogerty discussed the social disdain for the war at the time of the Vietnam War, even coming from soldiers themselves, and how he tried to make his music touch soldiers who felt lonesome in Vietnam.
The Endless Recovery From an Endless War
Cory Remsburg, an elite Army Ranger who was severely wounded in Afghanistan, became incredibly well-known back in 2014 when President Barack Obama highlighted his heroism and his resilience in his State of the Union address. Speech writer Terence Szuplat recently met with Remsburg, and was astonished by how little he actually knew about the veteran. Though he had been writing about Cory Remsburg for years, meeting him in person and discussing the struggles that he has endured revealed details about the lives of injured veterans that civilians often gloss over. Szuplat wanted to dig deep into Remsburg’s experiences, but not only in reference to the military; he wanted to capture what his life is like in every aspect, in order to see the small nuances of his life that were affected by his injury and his Afghanistan experience.
Women Veterans in Congress, at Historically High Number, Launches Caucus
This past January’s election had more women being elected into Congress than ever before, and among these women were many veterans. These women came together to create a bipartisan group called the Servicewomen and Women Veterans Congressional Caucus, their mission being to tackle issues relevant to women in the military. Historically, there are many groups focused on improving the lives of those in the military. However, considering women veterans have different struggles than men, these groups have not benefited the women as much as they should have. As the first group dedicated to women veterans, the issues that are specific to them are finally being acknowledged and improved.
Major Women Veterans’ Care Bill Passes House,Heads to Senate. Here’s what’s in it.
The Deborah Sampson Act, designed to remove barriers to women veterans’ healthcare, passed out of the House of Representatives this week and is on its way to the Senate. The bill includes measures to “provide gender-specific healthcare equipment at each VA, mandate a VA-wide sexual harassment and assult policy…establish an Office of Women’s Health…[and] expand eligibility for military sexual trauma counseling.” This proposed legislation reportedly sparked partisan battles in the House Veterans Affairs Committee, but passed a committee vote, as well as a later vote of the whole House. The Act is an effort of the House Women Veterans Task Force, and will land on the President’s desk for final approval if it passes a Senate vote.
Companies that Recruit Veterans Often Fail to Hire Them, Data Shows
A recent study released by LinkedIn aimed to understand the discrepancy between the improving rate of veteran employment, coupled with the issue of underemployment, or engaging in work that doesn’t make full use of one’s skills and abilities. This gap is likely the result of the military-civilian divide, a long standing issue within the military community that causes civilian companies to not have a comprehensive understanding of veterans, and veterans to lack knowledge about the range of possibilities that can be sought within civilian companies. Most important is educating hiring managers, starting with acknowledging and identifying the gaps in action.
New Study Shows Veteran Benefit Discrepancies Between States
Iraq War veteran Kayla Williams used her family’s experience with inconsistent disabled veteran benefits to guide her work in investigating state to state benefits as director of the military, veterans and society program at the Center for a New American Security. “The Center for a New American Security created an online database that allows veterans to search for and compare state benefits” after confirming the discrepancy of benefit offerings across the nation. The report, released alongside the database, includes recommendations for state leaders to make benefits more accessible, and for veterans to be conscious of available benefits when choosing to move.
SCOUTCOMMS IN THE NEWS
Veteran-Owned and Focused Market Research Firm Seeks Online Community of Volunteers
Dr. Kiersten Downs–the research director for ScoutInsight, the market research division of ScoutComms–was featured in a Military Times article about the launch of the Veterans Research Network (VRN). Dr. Downs explained that, while current market research efforts fail to accurately represent the military-connected community, “organizations develop better policies and practices toward the veteran and military communities when they understand what members of these communities want, believe and care about,” which motivated ScoutComms to establish the VRN. Military Times shared that volunteers who join the VRN have the opportunity to participate in surveys and focus groups that help businesses and the government make decisions to benefit the military community. You can learn more about the VRN and sign-up at VeteransResearchNetwork.com.
Do Brands Really Know How to Talk to Veterans?
ScoutComms Founder and CEO Fred Wellman was among the individuals who work within the communications field featured in a PR Week article discussing how brands communicate with veterans, as well as how they can improve their connection to the community. Wellman discusses the disconnect and lack of information that civilians and brands have when it comes to the military, and this often leads to inaccurate representation. For instance, they may be unaware of the language used within the military, providing incorrect ranks, branches and job descriptions.
The Veterans Research Network
ScoutInsight, the market research division of ScoutComms, is building a unique online research community of veterans, service members, military family members and caregivers. Through the Veterans Research Network, you will be able to share your opinions and knowledge with decision-makers running the organizations that impact your lives. We would be honored if you would register to be part of this standing panel for future surveys, polls and focus groups on issues that matter and help shape impactful programs for our community. It’s secure and we will never share your personal data with anyone. Learn more here at VeteransResearchNetwork.com and share it with your eligible friends and family!