ScoutReport – May 15, 2020
Yada, yada, yada…another crazy week. I remain in New York City serving as the Chief of Staff of NewYork-Presbyterian Ryan F. Larkin Field Hospital for one last ScoutReport as we discharged our final patient this afternoon. It has been an inspiring and truly life changing experience full of stories; like bringing on the student veterans of Columbia University on short notice to serve as entry control point guides for the ‘bubble’ and watching them take charge like it was planned all along. Over 150 patients passed through the hospital on their way home to their families over four and a half weeks of operations. I will be back in Virginia next week and we are excited about some very cool events coming up. Our client National Geographic has two new documentary films premiering Thursday, May 21 at 8:00 PM EST in honor of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe day. WWII in Europe: Voices from the Front and Heroes of the Sky: The Mighty 8th Air Force are unique films you won’t want to miss. Read the entire report this week as we are finally getting a picture of how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the veteran community and much more. -Fred
Veteran unemployment up to nearly 12 percent amid coronavirus crisis
It’s bad. There is just no way to cut it and spin it beyond the slightly good news that veteran unemployment overall is two points below the staggering national average. That’s it though. In almost every aspect, the veteran community has not escaped the devastating fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 11.7% rate is fully two points higher than the unemployment rate at the peak of the 2008 recession. When you dive deeper it gets uglier, with Post-9/11 veterans clocking in at 13% and a staggering 17% of Vietnam era and older veterans out of work, a cohort that has resisted earlier unemployment spikes. The bottom line is that this crisis has swept across all aspects of the nation and the veteran community isn’t immune. What remains to be seen is what recovery will look like as the nation reopens and likely faces a second wave of infections. Experts are worried that key industries like manufacturing, which employ large numbers of veterans, will suffer the most in this scenario — so the recovery for the community could be long and painful. The entire world is suffering, but it is really difficult to see years of hard work to reduce unemployment, homelessness and a host of other challenges amongst veterans undone in just two months. More worrying is that this crisis is also gutting the very organizations that have been built to support the community as donations to nonprofits plunge and major corporate giving programs retract or are redirected to other pressing needs that are flooding to the forefront amidst this moment. ScoutComms is partnering with other agencies and interested clients to survey the community and examine what issues are most pressing and what experts believe the future holds. If you want to examine your partners and the community, we’d love to work with you to do the hard work and find the data you need to help those who are suffering now and in the coming months. In the meantime, we hope everyone is staying safe and finding support. If things are tough, we can’t recommend our client Vets4Warriors enough for a friendly voice and a peer who knows what you are dealing with. Call them at 1-855-838-8255 anytime, 24/7. – Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms
No coronavirus co-pays for vets, more service member financial protections in latest emergency spending plan
House Democrats unveiled a new $3 trillion emergency coronavirus spending plan to try and quell economic spiraling and the growing desperation plaguing the country amidst this pandemic. The spending bill has a pretty low chance of passing the Senate in current form. However, according to the story, many of the measures included for current service members and veterans are non-controversial and have a strong chance of making it into a revised plan. These include disability claims deadline extensions, suspension of VA debt collection and “the elimination of co-pays or cost-sharing for preventative treatment or services of COVID-19, including the administration of a vaccine.” Caregivers and home health aides might receive a bump for the purchase of personal protective equipment. Due to the cancellation of nearly all military related travel by DOD until the end of June, many active duty troops and their families are facing challenges with rescheduling or canceling their moves. Protections have been added to help provide them some flexibility when stuck in contracts with car lease companies, among others. Next steps with this bill will likely happen Friday with plans to call the full House back to approve it. But, with bipartisan talks at a complete stall, the legislation is expected to be dead on arrival at the Senate. One really important measure included in this new spending plan is for homeless veterans, some of the most vulnerable people among us. We are experiencing high rates of unemployment, foreclosures and evictions. Financially vulnerable people for the most part rent, and it is these folks who are in grave risk of homelessness. Many organizations across the country who focus on helping the homeless and homelessness prevention efforts continue to call for significant and rapid investment in VA and HUD. The need is going to continue to increase and the support has to happen now and continue in the many days ahead. The measures and supports included for the military-connected community in the spending plan are worthwhile. I just hope that Republicans come on board to support similar measures for non-military crowds, as well, who are struggling just as much during this time. – Kiersten Downs, PhD, Research Director at ScoutComms
‘Astonishing’: Veteran Military Pilots See First Survey Data on How Many Have Cancer
Recently-released results from a survey of Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association members revealed “astonishing” cancer rates among fighter pilots. Of the 894 participants, 56 percent responded that they had been diagnosed with cancer, with skin cancer as the highest-reported cancer diagnoses. Col. Vine Alcazar, who serves on the Association’s medical issues committee, said, “There’s a whole bunch of certain kinds of cancers that have been found to be a little bit more common in these groups of pilots than they are in the mainstream population.” The Association has shared their initial survey findings with the Air Force and reportedly plans to share the data with Congress, as well, in order to “seek legislation for a more exhaustive scientific study” conducted by the VA and the Department of Defense.
Women veterans, troops can get advanced breast cancer screenings starting this month
The Pentagon recently updated its medical policy to allow service members with Tricare to access advanced breast cancer screenings using the latest technology of digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT). Efforts from Air Force veterans Sens. Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) sparked the policy change, which is due to go into effect this month. McSally stated in a recent news release that before this change, “Tricare was the only national payer not covering preventative DBT screenings,” and “this is a major victory for our female service members and veterans covered under TRICARE.”
African American and Hispanic veterans may face bigger risk from coronavirus, VA warns
Veterans Affairs officials are warning African American and Hispanic veterans that they may pose a greater health risk from the coronavirus outbreak as data has shown African American and Hispanic veterans are testing positive for the virus at higher rates than other veterans. The VA findings echo national trends showing substantially higher risks from the virus for both groups, consistent with issues concerning racial bias in care, although the Department declined to provide specific data regarding the trend. In a statement last week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials noted that New York City identified death rates among Black/African American persons (92.3 deaths per 100,000 population) and Hispanic/Latino persons (74.3 deaths per 100,000 population) were substantially higher than that of white (45.2 deaths per 100,000 population) or Asian (34.5 deaths per 100,000 population) persons.”
They Survived WWII and Korea. Now, at State-Run Homes, They’re Fighting for Their Lives
State veterans homes, run by individual states and not the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, have experienced an astonishing death toll during the coronavirus pandemic. Due to issues such as lack of organizational care and transparency, a group of U.S. senators wrote the Government Accountability Office, calling for an investigation into the VA’s oversight of them. The senators want more clarity on the impact of COVID-19 on the veteran population, and Elizabeth Warren has been among those calling for a coordinated effort to collect and publish the data. “Given the importance of importance of state veterans homes in VA’s overall portfolio for providing institutional care to veterans, and our ongoing concerns about VA’s role monitoring state’s operation of these facilities, we would like GAO to conduct a more detailed examination of VA’s oversight of … quality of care,” wrote Democratic Sen. Warren and representatives from Montana and Pennsylvania.
Increasing recognition of military-based learning in the midst of the coronavirus crisis
ScoutComms’ client Lauren Runco, strategy officer for military-based learning at the Lumina Foundation, recently wrote an op-ed for Military Times on the intersection between coronavirus-related economic challenges and military credentialing. Runco writes that transitioning service members have been disproportionately affected by recent employment turbulence as licensing certifications are difficult to obtain which keeps many jobs out of reach for veterans. The Lumina Foundation and the American Legion are working together on a Military Credentialing Advancement Initiative (MCAI) to determine effective solutions to these issues and plan to publish a report in December 2020 “offering recommendations […] for principles and guidelines necessary to ensure military-based learning can count towards high-quality, stackable civilian credentials.” Ultimately, “[v]eterans deserve to have pathways that lead to civilian credentials, resulting in gainful employment and long-term careers after service,” and “failure to act on this important issue will lead to” a shared and devastating loss of “valuable knowledge, skills and abilities gained through military training.”
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!
Military Times and ScoutComms Partner on Annual ‘Best for Vets’ Ranking Surveys
We are thrilled to partner with Military Times on the annual ‘Best for Vets’ Employers and Colleges rankings. ScoutInsight, our data analytics and market research team, will provide the research and survey analysis behind the annual surveys in a multi-year effort. The Best for Vets: Employers 2020 Survey has been extended to July 1! We’re urging every company, nonprofit and government agency to take the survey, learn from it and find out where they stand as a supporter of this important community. Learn more here.
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 and military community member to talk to, we recommend our client Vets4Warriors – a free, 24/7 peer-to-peer support network: