ScoutReport – February 21, 2020
I was in San Antonio with two great clients — Sound Off and Soldiers’ Angels — most of this week, so I have no idea if it was a crazy week in Washington and I’m okay with that, really. Nonetheless, it has been a busy week on the news front for veterans, service members and their families with more angles on the challenges facing mental health care in the services with good and bad news for the efforts. Good news is finally coming for veterans who served honorably, but were deported in spite of their service. There are so many good stories summarized below to capture here, but lots of interesting work is being done for the veteran communities. I hope you have a great weekend and remember to take time to sign up for the Veterans Research Network below since I’ve asked like a dozen times and we are all pretty tired of you not doing anything about it. – Fred
Warship Accidents Left Sailors Traumatized. The Navy Struggled to Treat Them
ProPublica, Megan Rose (@MegMcCloskey), Kengo Tsutsumi (@kengos) and T. Christian Miller (@txtianmiller)
Naval disasters have offered a unique look at mental health care in the Navy, showing both vast improvements in many areas and challenges that remain via the lens of the summer 2017 respective crashes of the USS Fitzgerald and John S. McCain. Of the 550 or so enlisted sailors and officers who made up the crews of the McCain and Fitzgerald, the Navy’s efforts to protect/treat their mental health have varied widely with many receiving prompt and comprehensive care while others, often at their own volition, have not. While many received prompt, thoughtful treatment, still others have been left without access to care for weeks and months, and in some cases forced out of service. The issues of chronically undermanned ships and a persistent push for missions, which were factors in both crashes, compounded by the loss of two key ships, have complicated the Navy’s efforts to provide prompt and meaningful care to those who survived. To their credit, the Navy started Project ORION as a long-term pilot program meant to track the crews, calling/emailing each sailor at intervals after the crashes to determine their state and potential need for mental health services, to varying degrees of success, reaching about two-thirds of the sailors. Many sailors only manifested mental health issues a year or more later, or discovered they had them when caught for disciplinary reasons from their attempts at self medicating their pain with alcohol or drugs. Sailors told the reporters that they faced difficulty getting care because it meant losing duty time with teams that were impossibly short of personnel already or worried about it ending their military careers. This whole story demonstrates the challenges we face in treating the hidden wounds of military service. Even with a concerted and seemingly comprehensive effort, many who serve don’t recognize they even need help until back on duty in similar circumstances or they face the constant shortage of trained mental health professionals, which has led to ORION still not being able to reach all of the sailors in the two crashes. The Navy appears to have truly made a dedicated effort to help those affected by these tragedies, but the challenges of the culture and nature of service show how much needs to be done to provide mental health care to those who serve and to reduce the continuing suicide epidemic that haunts them. – Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms
This proposed law would help deported veterans finish the citizenship process
Military Times, Meghann Myers (@MeghannReports)
Recruitment into the U.S. military has long been considered an assured pathway to expedited citizenship for many people. However, as it turns out, this pathway comes with many additional sacrifices and is not necessarily guaranteed after signing on the dotted line for military enlistment. Many who are immigrants and now veterans after the honorable completion of their enlistments are still not citizens due to a highly burdensome bureaucratic process or have had their citizenship taken away due to run ins with the law post-military service. In an attempt to make things right, U.S. Army veteran Sen. Tammy Duckworth has taken interest in the issues concerning deported veterans and is searching for legislative solutions through the introduction of several bills. Most recently, she proposed the Strengthening Citizenship Services for Veterans Act, which, according to the story, “would require Citizenship and Immigration Services to take biometric information, to naturalization examinations and perform oath ceremonies at ports of entry, consulates or embassies for veterans working toward citizenship.” The American electorate seems split on the issue facing deported veterans with some folks taking the stance that military service shouldn’t come into consideration with regards to deportation. This camp believes that after someone commits a crime, regardless of what it is, they need to be held accountable by a method of deportation. The problem with this very black and white perspective is the lack of understanding about how wartime deployment can increase a service member’s risk for criminalized activity. Often times, participation in high risk behavior may be a symptom of post-traumatic stress and/or other mental health challenges, including substance abuse. Complicating things further is that there are supposed to be protections in place to deter veterans from being unnecessarily deported, which are not being followed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Senator Duckworth understands that deportation decision makers also need to be held accountable and that people deserve to be treated humanely. This means at minimum that policies need to be applied consistently and carefully as to not ruin people’s lives. Unfortunately, for already deported veterans who have found each other and organized themselves in border cities like Juarez and Tijuana, the reprehensible reality that they have to now live with on top of everything else is that they have been disregarded by the U.S. government that they honorably served. – Kiersten Downs, PhD, Research Director at ScoutComms
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. Visit VeteransResearchNetwork.com to learn more and share with your eligible friends and family!
As homelessness plagues Los Angeles, success comes for veterans
The New York Times, Jennifer Steinhauer (@jestei)
In 2011, onetime mayor of Santa Monica Bobby Shriver sued the Department of Veterans Affairs due to their supposed inability to house homeless veterans in Los Angeles, despite the VA complex in an upscale neighborhood on the west side of the city. After the eventual legal victory, veterans are getting homes on the large campus, showcasing tremendous success for homeless Los Angeles veterans. Since 2010, the number of homeless veterans has been cut in half, with multiple states having ended veterans homelessness entirely. These campuses are continuing to be built across the country in order to provide more places for veterans to live, bringing them the peace that they felt they had lost previously. Federal and local governments, along with a federal voucher program specifically intended for veterans, have contributed their efforts to solving veteran homelessness across the country. Leaders such as Bill Shriver and Barack Obama fronted the issue as a moral crisis, and veterans are closely following President Trump to see if he continues to emphasize the issue.
Hacker group targeted law firms, released veterans’ stolen data related to PTSD claims
Military Times, Dylan Gresik (@DylanGresik)
According to Emsisoft, a cybersecurity firm, hackers from the Maze ransomware group have recently accessed sensitive data from multiple law firms and released records, including “pain diary entries from veterans’ personal injury cases,” as well as VA documents and patient care records. Reportedly, after hacking an organization’s server, Maze notifies them of the breach to demand ransom payments to prevent leaking sensitive information, and releases the stolen data on a staggered basis if the payment is not received. Other malicious groups may subsequently use the stolen data to target individual patients. One of Maze’s targets, a Texas-based law firm specializing in VA litigation, released a statement saying that the firm had contacted the FBI and “[took] prompt action to contain the incident,” but it is unclear whether clients of Maze’s targets are aware that their sensitive information has been stolen and leaked.
Pentagon: 200,000 non-uniformed patients will be moved from military clinics to private medical facilities
Stars and Stripes, Steve Beynon (@StevenBeynon)
In an effort to save money and “use some of its health care centers to serve troops exclusively,” the Department of Defense is implementing a plan to move 200,000 military-connected and non-uniformed individuals from 37 VA outpatient clinics to private-sector hospitals. This transition is in alignment with an increasing effort on the parts of both the VA and the Department of Defense to use private sector health care services. Thomas McCaffery, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, commented that the clinics simply don’t treat enough civilians to be worthwhile to maintain. However, a Department of Defense letter to Congress that outlined the basic plan didn’t project how much money will be saved, or a timeline for the multiyear transition.
Black Veterans Project wants to disrupt the status quo by combating racial military inequalities
Connecting Vets, Kaylah Jackson (@kaylahchanel)
Richard Brookshire and Kyle Bibby both joined the military for different reasons, but have “shared identities as black, male veterans and interest in social justice” that led them to start the Black Veterans Project (BVP). After researching the unique challenges black veterans face after service and the numbers around veteran access to benefits, Brookshire and Bibby became frustrated with the realities of racial disparities. BVP aims to “advocate for black veteran’s issues in and out of the military and create a digital collective of black military history.” Brookshire and Bibby hope to work “in tandem with existing minority-focused military organizations” to reach these goals.
A call to action at the VA on sexual harassment and assault
Task & Purpose, Kate Germano (@kate_germano), Kate Mccreery Glynn, Jennie Hascamp, Jeannette Gaudry Haynie (@JeannetteHaynie), Carrie Howe, Kyleanne Hunter (@RambaKy), Shannon Martin McClain, and Beth Ann Vann (@BethAnnVann)
A group of female veterans, including ScoutComms’ client Kyleanne Hunter, collaborated on a Task & Purpose op-ed highlighting the issues of sexual harassment and assault in the military, as well as the culture of “insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans.” They point out allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie “sought to intentionally discredit” Lt. Andrea Goldstein, a female veteran who reported sexual assault at a VA medical center, and relate it to a larger “victim-blaming culture” that is pervasive in the military. The op-ed ends on a call to “[create] a VA that recognizes the strengths, contributions, and challenges faced by female veterans” instead of supporting actions which “signal that safe and comprehensive care is not available to women who served.”
The material in this issue of the ScoutReport may contain difficult discussions about mental health and suicide. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of harming themselves or someone else, please contact:
Veterans Crisis Line:1‑800‑273‑8255 x1
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
National Domestic Violence Hotline:1-800-799-7233
If you or someone you know is struggling with challenges in life and need a fellow veteran or military community member to talk to, we recommend our client Vets4Warriors – a free, 24/7 peer-to-peer support network: