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Veterans Roundup: Sequestration’s Deadly Impact, the Latest On Who Is In Charge of the VA, Female Vets Say It’s Their Time and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Vets group wants acting VA secretary out, calling his assignment a legal worry
Leo Shane III (@leoshane), Military Times
Leaders from AMVETS, one of the nation’s largest veterans organizations, are calling for the removal of acting VA secretary, Robert Wilkie, who previously served as the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness at the Pentagon. In Trump’s selection of Wilkie as interim leader, he bypassed the next in line for the position, VA Deputy Secretary Tom Bowman. AMVETS leaders are now questioning the legality of this move, with Executive Director Joe Chenelly stating: “Tom Bowman is the person veterans need running the VA in this time of turmoil. Tom is a retired Marine Corps colonel, highly respected on Capitol Hill and well regarded in the veteran community. This needs to happen now.” Under current law, the president has the ability to fill vacant positions with any individual when the leader dies, resigns or is unable to perform duties—but not when they are fired. While White House officials maintain that Shulkin offered his resignation, the deposed VA secretary contests that he did not leave voluntarily. Wilkie issued a public address to his workforce on Wednesday, attempting to quiet the unrest in the department and refocus employees. –KG
Bottom line: Veterans groups are finding themselves in a very tricky situation, with an administration that is broadly seen as very veteran friendly, but whose actions can sometimes be perceived as uninformed, and in this situation out of step with protocol. Veterans groups face the unique challenge of maintaining a good working relationship with the administration, so they are able to give voice to the populations they serve, while also holding the administration accountable. As we’re all too familiar with at this point, any person or group who calls out President Trump and his administration risks being thrown under the Twitter bus. Trump’s selection of Robert Wilkie as acting VA secretary seems to be in line with the bigger goal of VA privatization, and anyone who stands in the way of that is either bypassed or in their crosshairs, in this case that’s VA Deputy Secretary Tom Bowman. It’s also worth noting, as Military Times points out, “multiple sources within VA said they expect Bowman to resign within days, if he isn’t fired first.” –CB

Female veterans say it’s their time to write the memory of war
Emily Wax-Thibodeaux (@emily_wax), The Washington Post
Female veterans are uniting to change the stigma that war is for men, as well as the notion, “send our boys to war to make them a man.” Jenny Pacanowski, a poet and a writing coach, hosts supportive workshops for female veterans to write about their experiences in an environment where they can be courageous, with no judgment. Today, many female veterans are participating in memoir writing, stand-up comedy, screenwriting, improv, poetry slams and plays as a way to discuss their experiences while at war with a wider audience. –SM
Bottom line: Frequent Scout Report readers will no doubt see a trend in our coverage of female veterans: a struggle to be recognized, whether for their unique health needs by the VA or more broadly for their service by Americans. The two are linked, of course. Below, we highlight an article about how unconscious bias may be keeping black sailors out of Naval aviation. Similarly, a lack of female veteran perspectives in the culture we consume fuels an unconscious bias about what a veteran “looks” like. We’ve also heard anecdotally that this manifests internally among female veterans, as well, which means they are less likely to self-identify as veterans and thus may not learn about all the benefits or opportunities available to them. Closed groups like the one highlighted in this story are a first step for many female veterans towards sharing their story initially with other veterans but ultimately with more Americans. Diversifying the narrative about who veterans are can have many positive effects down the line. For one, it will show more young people that military service is an option for someone like them. At a time when the population who chooses to serve is so low, that can only be a good thing for our military. –LJ

Naval Aviators Say They Were Kicked Out of Training Due to Racial Bias
Hope Hodge Seck (@HopeSeck), Military.com
Courtland Savage didn’t make the cut during Naval flight training and he believes his sudden departure is due to racial bias. With little diversity among Navy fighter pilots, Savage is not been the first person to speak out about their perception of bias. Military.com research shows that black pilots are extremely rare in the Navy, and recruiting and retention is highly unsuccessful. In Savage’s case, he found out through word of mouth that he was going to be kicked out of training, with only one failed flight on his record. In most cases, an aviator would need four failed flights before a board reviews the trainee’s continuation with the program. Savage claims he was kicked out for minor mistakes and was expected to meet a standard that was much different than his counterparts. Savage wasn’t considered for other fields within Naval aviation, and separated from the Navy in November 2017. The lack of diversity within Naval aviation, and particularly within the Marine Corps, has been an ongoing issue for many decades. –DD
Bottom line:  Probably the most startling statistic to come out of Hope Seck’s reporting is the discovery that there were actually more black Navy fighter pilots in 1997 than there are today. It defies logic that so little progress has been made in two decades where women, African Americans and other minorities have moved into increasing roles of responsibility throughout the rest of the military. It’s little better in the Marines, who train with the Navy, where there are only four black aviators out of the 3,291 total pilots. What few outside of the aviation community understand about military pilot training is that the entire process is remarkably subjective. Instructor Pilots and boards determine the fate of each trainee at every step of the way and decisions are often based on things outside of the cockpit as much as within and bias has a way of sneaking into those situations naturally. It appears the Navy has to take a very hard look at whether the fraternity of fighter pilots has developed a bias against people of color and others who don’t “fit in” with that culture or if other factors are at play. It’s impossible not to admit that something very real is keeping the Navy and Marine Corps aviation communities from truly reflecting the public, which they serve. –FPW

The death toll for rising aviation accidents: 133 troops killed in five years
Tara Copp (@TaraCopp), Military Times
Military aviation crashes have grabbed headlines in recent weeks for the most tragic reasons: these accidents have been deadly. Six crashes have killed 16 service members in the past three weeks alone. According to Military Times’ research, aviation accidents went up 40 percent between 2013 and 2017. During the same time period, massive cuts to the defense budget via sequestration have negatively impacted the military’s ability to maintain its aircraft. These accidents aren’t confined to one branch as each of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force have faced the worst possible outcomes from crashes in recent weeks. –LJ
Bottom line: This effort by Tara Copp and Military Times is really an exceptional tour-de-force of data-driven reporting and the results are startling in a host of ways. For years now it’s appeared that fatal military aviation crashes have been on the rise and this extensive review of accident reports from all four services confirms that they have been steadily on the rise since the sequestration budget cuts in 2013. After more than a decade of war, the budget cuts manifested themselves as cuts to training and maintenance budgets leaving pilots less time to train outside of preparation for combat deployments and the end result is that many are simply not maintaining the cutting edge of expertise and skills. Like the previous story about minority pilots in the community, it’s somewhat of a mystery to those outside of the aviation fields how a military with the budget of the U.S. military’s could possibly be so cash strapped that pilots aren’t at their highest level of training but that very fact appears to be driving this situation. Less money means aircraft aren’t as available due to maintenance issues. Fewer aircraft available means fewer airframes on which to train and less time for pilots to be in the air. Coupled with cuts to total flight hours due to costs and you see that when an aircrew isn’t specifically training for deployment or in combat they are simply not getting enough time in the cockpits to maintain the razor’s edge of proficiency. Congress must act to give the military a regular and sustained funding cycle that allows them to project for training and maintenance. This story clearly draws the line between the actions of our elected representatives and the cost in lives in the field. They need to do their part and ensure our most precious military assets, its men and women, aren’t being wasted for lack of process and leadership from Washington. –FPW

Deported veteran leader Hector Barajas is ‘coming home’
Kate Morrissey (@bgirledukate), The San Diego Union-Tribune
Following his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army in 2001, Hector Barajas, a Mexican immigrant, faced challenges in transitioning to civilian life. In 2002, Barajas accepted a plea deal after having shot at an occupied car. As a result, the U.S. government revoked his green card and deported Barajas back to Mexico after completing his sentence. Barajas, now a vocal advocate for the deported veterans movement, began the Deported Veterans Support House in 2013 to aid veterans in similar situations. Supporters of the movement assert that conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder make readjusting to life after service more difficult and increase service members’ likelihood of committing crimes like Barajas’. However, those in opposition of the movement argue that military service doesn’t offer protection to those with criminal convictions. After spending 14 years in Mexico, Barajas will become a U.S. citizen in a ceremony held in San Diego, Ca. –NJ  

Sailors bounced from recruit training thanks to dependent medical records, parents say
Karen Jowers (@KarenJowers), Military Times
A recent report indicates that the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army merge dependent medical records with new service records, while the U.S. Navy does not. However, several individuals who were kicked out of the Navy have come forward to share such occurrences in their military experience. One young man in particular would have been a fourth generation in his family to serve in the Navy, but was kicked out of recruit training due to a medical records from when he was a toddler. Similarly, another recruit was asked to leave when the Navy found out he received counseling in his early adolescent years, due to his parents’ divorce. Merging dependent records with new service records, in many cases, can serve as a disadvantage to dependent recruits when their civilian counterparts do not bring in a prior health record. –DD

Court ruling could extend disability benefits to thousands of injured veterans
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
Thousands of injured veterans have been denied disability benefits for their pain over the years because they did not have clear medical diagnosis linking their pain to their time in the service which would qualify them for disability payouts. Now they are encouraged to reapply since the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned this precedent—for now—creating possible eligibility for assistance. Injured veterans must show a correlation between their pain and their service in the military, but it does not need to be supported by a specific medical reason. –SM

Congressional Hearings

Senate:
Veterans’ Affairs: Pending Nominations
Who: Paul R. Lawrence, to be Under Secretary for Benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs; Joseph L. Falvey, Jr., to be a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
When: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Where: 418 Russell

House:
Armed Services: Member Day
When: 1:30 PM, Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense: FY 2019 Budget National Guard and Reserve
Who: General Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief, National Guard Bureau; Lieutenant General Charles D. Luckey, Chief of Army Reserve; Vice Admiral Luke M. McCollum, Chief of Navy Reserve; Lieutenant General Rex C. McMillian, Commander Marine Forces Reserve; Lieutenant General Maryanne Miller, Chief of Air Force Reserve
When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, April 12, 2018
Where: H-140 The Capitol

Armed Services: The Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of Defense
Who: General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; The Honorable James N. Mattis, Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense
When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, April 12, 2018
Where: 2218 Rayburn

Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies: FY 2019 Budget Energy, Installations, and Environment 
Who: The Honorable Lucian Niemeyer, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment – OSD; Lieutenant General Gwen Bingham, Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management – U.S. Army; Vice Admiral Dixon R. Smith, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Readiness and Logistics – U.S. Navy; Lieutenant General Michael G. Dana, Deputy Commandant for Installations and Logistics – U.S. Marine Corps; Major General Timothy S. Green, Air Force Director of Civil Engineers, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection –U.S. Air Force
When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, April 12, 2018
Where: 2361-A Rayburn

Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel: Military Personnel Posture: FY 2019
Who: Vice Admiral Robert P. Burke, Chief of Naval Personnel, United States Navy; Lieutenant General Gina M. Grosso, Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, United States Air Force; Lieutenant General Michael A. Rocco, Deputy Commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, United States Marine Corps; Lieutenant General Thomas Seamands, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1, United States Army
When: 9:00 AM, Friday, April 13, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Tradeshows and Conferences 

Navy League of the United States: Sea-Air-Space 2018 (Mon-Wed, April 9-11, 2018); Gaylord National Convention Center, National Harbor, MD

SPIE: Defense + Commercial Sensing 2018 (Sun – Wed, April 15-19, 2018); Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, Kissimmee, FL

Community Opportunities 

Patriot Boot Camp: VetHacks (Fri – Sun, April 20-22, 2018); PenFed Credit Union HQ, McLean, VA

Veterans in Global Leadership: Apply to be a 2018-2019 VGL Fellow
Who: Student veteran candidates with a passion for service, a commitment to assist other veterans, an entrepreneurial spirit and proven leadership skills.
When: Application deadline is April 30, 2018

Fred WellmanFred Wellman, President ScoutComms, brings us his weekly review of veteran news via The Scout Report. Fred served over twenty years as an Army officer in both aviation and public affairs. Follow Fred on Twitter @ScoutComms.

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on Monday, April 09, 2018 11:18 am

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