Defense & Veterans Roundup: Calls for Shinseki to Resign, Military Spouses the Focus of Hiring, Fred–Kind of a Big Deal

Posted by Fred Wellman

For Military Spouses, Job Hunt is a Battlefield

Claire Zillman, Fortune. Military spouse employment remains a persistent problem even as the numbers for veterans improves steadily. To help address the issue the well regarded 100,000 Jobs Mission coalition led by JP Morgan Chase is adding spouse employment to their focus and announced last week the new Military Spouse Talent Exchange, or MTX, which will be an online portal that will allow the 154 companies participating in the mission to access resumes and profile information of military spouses looking for work. While a target hiring goal hasn’t been established for spouses as it has for veterans, the members of the coalition are putting the lessons they’ve learned in their efforts to help this new target group in need of support. Many military spouses don’t identify themselves as such during their job search for fear of alerting potential employers of their short time available at a location or uncertainty about their experience due to frequent moves. A recent survey by ScoutComms client the Institute for Veterans and Military Families and the Military Officers Association of America found that 90% of military spouses were underemployed and close to 30% are unemployed. Efforts to help standardize professional certifications across the nation to help with job portability for teachers, lawyers, and other professions are under way in many states while a focus on portable jobs such as telecommuting positions are aimed at finding opportunities for this important group. The 100,000 Jobs Mission announced they had now hired 140,832 veterans among the member companies through the first quarter of this year, once again outpacing their planned program goals. The other major hiring effort focused on veterans, the Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program, also announced a new initiative this week for spouses called ‘Career Spark’ which will be an interactive tool to help spouses start and build careers and get access to the 3,000 companies that have signed up to support the efforts of spouses seeking work across the nation. Both groups should be applauded for recognizing that military spouse employment is a key factor in retention of the all-volunteer force and stability for military families. –FPW

Supporting Her Fellow MilSpouses

Military Special Needs Network. The Congressionally designated Military Spouse Appreciation Day was last Friday and one of our good friends Rheanna has taken it upon herself to launch a “Virtual MilSpouse Appreciation Day” program to ship care packages to hardworking spouses around the world. While it started out as a small effort for a few friends and fellow bloggers, it has steadily grown and now includes sponsors like MOAA, USAA, the National Military Family Association, and others. This year’s boxes contained jewelry from Stella and Dot among other unique gifts. You can learn more about Rheanna and read her blog at Our own Fred Wellman spent Military Spouse Appreciation Day attending the annual Military Spouse of the Year Awards ceremony at Ft. Myer. The winner was South Carolina based Marine Corps spouse and entrepreneur LaKesha Cole. It was a great week of recognition for the thousands of military spouses who have sacrificed through the last decade of war on the homefront. –FPW

Pentagon Calls on Congress to Change Defense Bill

Jon Harper, Stars and Stripes. It’s very rare for the Pentagon to comment on the results of the various committee markups of the defense authorization bill once the budget process in Congress is underway but Friday DoD press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby made clear how unhappy Secretary Hagel is with the process. In relatively blunt language, Kirby explained that Hagel is unhappy with the results of the House Armed Services Committee markup of the budget and “resolutely stands by the budget that we submitted”. The DoD leadership is growing increasingly frustrated with a Congress that refuses to make hard decisions on cuts to the military budget to preserve the military’s stated goals but instead takes half measures and compromises to pacify maximum constituencies. This is in spite of some signs of disagreement among the service chiefs on the need for cuts to the Commissary subsidy, one of the most unpopular proposals set forth by the DoD. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Amos called those cuts a “sore point” for him as it would end up being a 66% cut in savings for his young Marines and families. The Chiefs took their battle to cut compensation and adjust benefits to the Senate on Tuesday hoping the senior body would be more willing to make hard decisions. No one is holding their breath on that though and it’s likely that whatever comes out of this Congress will be a hodgepodge of half cuts and directives for new studies on all of the toughest decisions. Those studies will of course not be completed until after the mid-term election if everyone on the Hill has their way. –FPW

National Guard’s NASCAR Deal Leads to Virtually No Recruits

Tom Vanden Brook (@tvandenbrook), USA Today. A study by the Government Accounting Office is shedding new light on the effectiveness of sports sponsorships as military recruiting tools—particularly NASCAR—and the results aren’t good for the amount of money expended. Between 2011 and 2013 alone, the National Guard spent some $88 million to sponsor NASCAR based on the fact that the audience for the racing sport is a primary source of new recruits for today’s military. For all of that money the results were disappointing if not shocking. In 2012 the $26.5 million failed to successfully sign up a single new soldier directly even after some 24,800 prospects signed up at various events. With all of those thousands of leads, just 20 even met the basic criteria of the National Guard and none entered the service. In 2013, the results were little better with prospects dropping to 7,500 and few final recruits. The Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard all dropped their racing sponsorships due to the costs of the efforts years ago. The Army found that NASCAR sponsorship had the highest cost per engagement in the entire portfolio of Army sponsorships to the tune of nearly three times the nearest program. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri is promising to ask hard questions about the expenditures as part of her ongoing look at recruiting practices after finding rampant fraud and abuse of a National Guard enlistment bonus program earlier this year. –FPW

American Legion, Citing Problems, Calls for Veterans Secretary to Resign

Richard Oppel Jr., New York Times. Late last Sunday, USA Today broke the news that a VA clinic in Ft. Collins, Colorado, like the VA system in Phoenix, had been falsifying patients’ appointment records to obfuscate the long wait times veterans faced in receiving care. Reports from Texas also implicate VA facilities there in similar schemes. So on Monday, the nation’s largest veterans’ organization took the highly unusual step of calling for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign. Along with Shinseki, the American Legion also called for the resignation of the Undersecretaries for Health and Benefits, Robert Petzel and Alison Hickey respectively. Last year, the Legion led a chorus of veterans’ organizations in defending Shinseki against calls for his head over the backlog of veterans’ disability claims. Their change in tone comes down to Shinseki and VA not taking responsibility for the actions of its regional staff, the Legion says. Other influential groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Congressional leaders in veterans’ affairs are standing behind Shinseki until an official investigation is complete. Among the veterans’ community around Washington, the questions are many: who would replace Shinseki with only two years left in the administration? Why fire the guy who has tried to change the culture of the VA bureaucracy but hasn’t been given the tools to fire unsatisfactory employees? Shinseki said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he will not resign and the White House has said they are standing by their man. –LJ

Lawmakers Subpoena VA Records on Phoenix Vet Care; Shinseki Orders Audit on Access to Care

Pauline Jelinek, Associated Press. By Wednesday, Shinseki found himself in hot water with more than just the Legion: the House Veterans Affairs Committee voted unanimously to subpoena the secretary and any documents or correspondence he had with other VA officials since April 9. It was only the second time HVAC has issued a subpoena in its history. Faced with growing anger over the increasingly widespread reports of secret waitlists and mismanagement, Shinseki announced every VA medical center and clinic will undergo a face-to-face audit to ensure employees know and understand VA policy with regards to patient care and integrity. In one of his first interviews since the story broke, Shinseki told Military Times’ Leo Shane that he wants patients to continue to have confidence in the VA system despite the current media frenzy. But The Daily Beast asks the question everyone is wondering: Does the VA have more secret, deadly waitlists? –LJ

Email Reveals Deliberate Effort by VA Hospital to Hide Long Patient Waits

Jennifer Janisch, CBS News. On Friday, CBS News obtained an inflammatory email circulated among staff at the Cheyenne VA in Wyoming. The email details how employees are to go about “gaming the system” to ensure the VA center shows patients are only waiting 14 days for appointments when in reality most are waiting months. When CBS took these allegations to the VA, Shinseki released a statement saying that upon learning of the allegations on Friday, he instructed the Cheyenne VA to remove the email writer from working with patients and ordered an investigation. But, CBS notes, the VA had already investigated and substantiated the contents of the letter and had issued its report to the Office of the Special Council in December 2013. Thus, no action had been taken on the matter until CBS News asked for comment on the issue. A troubling end to a very rough week for the VA and Shinseki. With Shinseki scheduled to testify before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday that looks to continue so expect tempers to flare and press statements to be flying. –LJ

Veterans’ Benefits Live On Long After Bullets Stop

Michael Phillips (@MPhillipsWSJ), Wall Street Journal. The VA has earned a lot of media coverage over the last few weeks because of what it is doing wrong but without some context about the challenges it faces—like paying benefits dating back to the Civil War. Phillips investigates the life of Mose Triplett, a Civil War soldier who ended up fighting for both sides, and his descendants. Mose’s daughter, now 84 years old, earns $73.13 a month for her father’s service. She joins 16 descendants from Spanish-American war veterans and 4,038 descendants of World War I veterans as the lasting beneficiaries of wars long past. Not only does this unique history of the Triplett family show the vast benefits and services provided by VA, it also serves as a reminder that the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be paid long into the future by generations yet born. The better we equip VA to face those future challenges now, the easier veterans, their descendants, and our own tax-paying descendants will have it in the future. –LJ

A Soldier’s War on Pain

Barry Meier, New York Times. In many cases, the military leads the civilian sector in research and innovation not just in new technologies, but also in medical advancements. While millions of American suffering from chronic pain are prescribed powerful narcotics and opioids, the military and VA are making the biggest strides in providing patients with alternative therapies because they are not influenced by insurers. According to the article, 80 percent of patients at Walter Reed were prescribed opioids in 2011. Now that number is under 10 percent and patient outcomes have improved. Changing how doctors practice isn’t easy, and those patients within the military and VA systems wish they changed treatments faster, but this is certainly a story that shows there is hope and there are everyday heroes working in the best interest of patients. –LJ

‘We’re Just Here to Help You’: Treatment Court Helps Veterans Deal with Legal Issues

Jenn Rowell (@GFTrib_JRowell), Great Falls Tribune. A cool story about a veteran treatment court in Great Falls, Montana. It’s true that vet courts, as they are called, reduce recidivism among veterans going through the specialty program, but Rowell hits on another angle here: the benefits to the mentor veterans involved in the program. Vet courts seek to get veterans treatment and rehabilitation through the VA and other veteran-specific outlets rather than through jail time. Not only do the programs work, they also save local jurisdictions money. A win-win for veterans and the community. –LJ

SBA Richmond District Office Announces its Small Business Award Winners

We’re pleased to announce that our CEO and founder Fred Wellman has been selected as the 2014 Veteran Business Champion of the Year for the U.S. Small Business Administration Richmond district that includes nearly all of the state of Virginia. He will be honored at an awards ceremony in Richmond on June 13th for his tireless advocacy for veteran owned businesses in the state. This qualifies him for the national title. Congratulations, Fred!

Congressional Hearings

The House is in recess this week. The Senate takes up the NDAA next week. In the meantime…


Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense: Defense Research and Innovation Who: Alan Shaffer, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Department of Defense, Arati Prabhakar, PhD, Director, DARPA, Department of Defense, David Walker, PhD, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Science, Technology, and Engineering, U.S. Air Force, Rear Admiral Matthew L. Klunder, Chief of Naval Research, U.S. Navy, Mary Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Army for Research and Technology, U.S. Army, Terry Rauch, PhD, Director, Medical Research for the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Department of Defense When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, May 14, 2014 Where: 192 Dirksen

Veterans Affairs: The State of VA Health Care Who: The Honorable Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, May 15, 2014 Where: 106 Dirksen Think Tanks & Other Events

Think Tanks & Other Events

Objective Rally Point: Networking Reception Who: DC-area veteran small business owners and their supporters When: 5:30 PM, Wednesday, May 14, 2014 Where: 2013 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20006

Fred WellmanFred Wellman, President ScoutComms, brings us his weekly review of defense industry and 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 Wednesday, May 14, 2014 8:33 am

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