ScoutReport – March 6, 2020
It was a busy week on Capitol Hill for the veterans community as many organizations testified before Congress and their members descended upon their representatives to voice their priorities and concerns. Suicide is still the issue on everyone’s mind, but much more is out there, like the growing number of older veterans that promises a “silver tsunami” in the next two decades. But, history is being made as General C.Q. Brown has been nominated as the first black Air Force Chief of Staff and some new studies are coming out on the challenges of military families and veterans. I had the opportunity to attend and graduate from the Veteran Institute for Procurement START Program last week. This incredible program is an intense bootcamp on government contracting that has graduates who are from veteran business working on government efforts. Graduates now come from all 50 states and most territories. It was a privilege to attend and we’re excited to be able to serve as a better partner for companies and government agencies in the future. Definitely a program you should know, learn more here! – Fred
VA promises new plan to address needs of growing population of elderly vets
The Department of Veterans Affairs is facing what is being called a “Silver Tsunami ” in the coming decades and government watchdogs and advocates are worried that the agency isn’t prepared for the number of aging veterans as life expectancy continues to grow. Reports show that “about half of the 9 million veterans currently enrolled in veterans health care programs are 65 or older. Over the next decade, the number of veterans over 75 in that group is expected to approach 3 million.” In addition, the veterans that are 85 years or older getting care from VA is going to go up a staggering five times over the next two decades. All of this results from the aging of the Korea and Vietnam generations and even the Gulf War 1 (Desert Storm) generation. VHA officials are promising an updated strategic plan for the agency to deal with the health needs of this population that will demand increased in-patient and home care efforts to support them. The budget is clearly increasing, but no one can say if it’s enough as spending on elderly veterans health needs is expected to double over the coming 20 years to more than $15 billion. Like many issues, this issue isn’t just isolated to veterans. The entire U.S. faces a crisis of dealing with the Baby Boomer generation as the huge population bubble ages and community options are not enough to support them. The upcoming plan has to deal with a lot of unknowns, but one thing is for sure, the needs of veterans continue decades long after they serve and our nation must be committed to their care. – Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms
Veteran Being Treated for Coronavirus at the Palo Alto VA
If you are reading this online publication, you likely already know about the coronavirus wreaking havoc across the globe. The claim to fame for this “novel” or new COVID-19 is that this particular coronavirus is not the same as those that commonly circulate among humans, causing mild illness like the common cold. The COVID-19 virus has not previously been seen in humans and is understood at this time to have been transmitted via animal to human with an epicenter of the virus located in Wuhan, China. COVID-19 appears to be spreading like wildfire making prevention and containment efforts a challenge. As a result, we are seeing immense travel disruptions, an uptake in stories about tips for how to keep businesses and conferences running via remote work environments, a plummeting S&P 500 and Costco putting limits on how much Lysol and water folks can buy. Basically, the entire United States is participating in a similar drill of hurricane preparedness that we are no stranger to here in Florida. This particular story is about the first, but certainly not the last, case that we will hear about a COVID-19 diagnosis within a VA hospital. Although not many details are being shared, according to the story, the Palo Alto hospital prepared a section of its campus to receive the infected veteran. Robert Wilkie, Secretary of VA, stated that the VA is preparing to meet the virus the same way it prepared for Ebola and H1N1 flu in the past. However, no matter how much a hospital system prepares for an outbreak, already understaffed facilities like many of our VA hospitals, nursing homes and clinics that are nearing their max patient load capacity already will be quickly overwhelmed as COVID-19 spreads, which is more than likely. Veterans are an already vulnerable class of patients given the number of elderly, low income and sick who are struggling with immune deficiencies and/or comorbidities, making them even more susceptible to contracting the illness. Our best friend in this fight is to bolster our own knowledge by adhering to the advice provided by the Centers for Disease Control. It is especially important to start practicing everyday preventive actions now if you aren’t already, by avoiding people who are sick, staying home when you are sick– except to get medical care, cover coughs and sneezes and clean frequently touched surfaces and objects daily. Even though hand washing has been a proven technique to thwart off illness since 1846, it takes the threat of a gosh darn pandemic to make people take it seriously. People, wash your damn hands! – Kiersten Downs, PhD, Research Director at ScoutComms
More than a third of military families said they have no one to ask for a favor, survey finds
The Blue Star Families’ annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey revealed that military families are increasingly considering isolation from family and friends as a stressor than deployments. Over a third of military families who participated in the survey responded that “they have no one to ask for a favor.” Many advocates “view military family isolation as a drag on military readiness and national security,” and note that bridging the military-civilian divide can help significantly, as half of the participants in the survey responded that “their local civilian community has limited awareness, understanding and support for military and veteran families.” To address this issue, Blue Star Families will soon begin piloting a “deployment circle” program aimed at building support networks for military spouses.
Second Convening on Improving College Opportunity for Veterans and Service Members
Last month Ithaka S+R hosted a convention at Johns Hopkins University to address challenges faced by student veterans, who, although they are very likely to earn degrees and have higher GPAs than traditional students, overwhelmingly “do not attend institutions that would give them the greatest chance of succeeding.” The convention’s goals were first to build a community among student veteran advocacy groups, second to discuss practices that effectively improve support for student veterans and third to support “organizational commitments to advance veterans’ college opportunity.” Discussions at the convention yielded key takeaways which inspire optimism that postsecondary education institutions will be improved to better accommodate the unique situations of student veterans. For more information on the issue, check out ScoutInsight’s analysis on student veterans and their challenges here.
Appeals court weighs constitutionality of excluding women from the draft
In less than a month a federal commission is due to release a report on American public service, including a recommendation on whether women should continue to be excluded from the draft, but this subject is already in the spotlight. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments from plaintiffs in a case that “[challenged] the constitutionality of male-only registration in the Selective Service System.” The lawsuit, which was filed in 2013 by men in the age group required to register for Selective Service, claimed first that “the system discriminated against them based on sex,” and second that either women should be required to register or the system should be entirely abolished. In early 2019 a district court judge ruled that the male-only draft violated the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection clause given that the Department of Defense lifted “gender-based restrictions on military service.” The decision was appealed by the government–the case is still ongoing–and Justice Department attorney Michael Gerardi wrote that judicial fiat would “impose a draft registration on all eligible American women…before Congress has considered how to address the matter.”
VA unlawfully turned away vulnerable veterans for decades, study says, with 400,000 more at risk
According to a study released Thursday, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been “unlawfully turning away” veterans with other-than-honorable discharges since 1980. This leaves an “estimated 400,000 more at risk of never gaining access to health care they may have earned.” Advocates have called for VA to assess eligibility, which would help to save lives.
Nominee for Air Force Chief Would Be First African-American in Post
As one of only two African- American four-star generals currently serving, General Charles Q. Brown Jr., better known as C.Q., was nominated earlier this week as the next United States Air Force chief of staff. If the Senate confirms General Brown, he will be the “the rare African-American officer to sit on the elite Joint Chiefs of Staff,” and first black service chief in the Air Force. Top of General Brown’s task list will be, “getting the newly created Space Force up and running.” Air Force secretary Barbara Barrett said, “[Brown] has unmatched strategic vision and operational expertise. His leadership will be instrumental as the service continues to focus on the capability and talent we need to implement the National Defense Strategy.”
After years of failure to end the crisis, veteran suicide takes center stage on Capitol Hill
Last week, veteran advocacy groups testified before the Veterans’ Affairs committees of both legislative branches, with the suicide epidemic taking “center stage.” Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., the chairman of the House VA committee, said in a statement, “Veteran suicide is a public health crisis and addressing it is complex. There are many factors that lead to suicide, and we know that what will work for older male veterans may not be the same as what will help for younger women veterans. That’s why our solutions must be multidimensional. … It’s clear we need action now, and VA must start making more meaningful change by implementing interventions that can be effective.”
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!
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: