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Defense & Veterans Roundup: Outrage as 40 Veterans May Have Died Due to Delays and Cover-Up, Homeless Veterans’ Advocates Worry About 2016

Posted by Fred Wellman

First Lady Announces One-Stop Job Site for Veterans

Brett Barrocuquere and Jim Kuhnhenn, Associated Press. First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden traveled to Ft. Campbell last week to attend the Veterans Job Summit hosted by Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program and announced a new expanded website billed as a one-stop shopping site for veterans seeking employment. The site is a joint effort by the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense and includes resume creation, connecting with employers, and the ability to become part of a database for companies to mine for potential hires. The Summit was a huge success with speakers from several leading companies including ScoutComms’ client GE on hand to help local soldiers and spouses transition into the civilian job sector. Fred Wellman was on hand as well and was able to pull off the elusive FLOTUS selfie to prove it. –FPW

Ex-commissary Chief Warns Defense Cuts Could Topple Resale System

Tom Philpott, Special to Stars and Stripes. Tom Philpott covers the military family beat pretty closely and especially pocketbook issues. He sat down to speak with retired Army Maj. Gen. Richard Beale, Jr. the former director of the Defense Commissary Agency, who believes that the Pentagon’s planned cuts in their subsidy to the Commissary system from $1.4 billion a year down to just $400,000 over four years could have very serious second and third order effects for the entire sales and morale and welfare programs of the military services. The bottom line is that by cutting the subsidy and allowing prices to rise, thus cutting the average savings for military families from 30% today to 10% in four years, there will be fewer shoppers using the Commissaries and thus fewer shoppers using Post Exchanges leading to drastically reduced funds for MWR programs supported by the Exchange system. Studies have found that 35 to 45% of Post Exchange shoppers are only doing so after being enticed to come for the Commissary. Much of the funds for supporting quality of life programs on military bases are provided by the profits of the exchange systems. If off post personnel especially don’t see value in making the trips to base stores the entire system could end up collapsing. Will DoD allow major morale programs like sports leagues, gyms, clubs and excursions for single troops disappear or will money have to be found from other sources to support those with the reduced cash flow? This is all part of the second and third order effects of even relatively small changes to the military pay and benefits programs that aren’t coordinated or provided with offsets. It remains to be seen if Congress will weigh in on this change but they aren’t exactly famous for long term planning them selves. –FPW

What Lies Ahead for Defense Contractors in 2014?

Amrita Jayakumar, Washington Post Capital Business. Last week saw the first earnings reports of the year from major defense contractors Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman and the results were pretty mixed. All of them saw higher profits but sales in the key combat and information systems segments plummeted. Profits were owed largely to the cuts the companies previously made to adjust to smaller government budgets. The experts the Post spoke to see the coming three quarters to focus on an international shift as companies seek markets overseas that are spending money more freely than the U.S. In addition, the sector will seek alternate revenue streams with more turning away from defense work such as traditional aerospace and cyber security among others. Most of the experts predict a continuing ‘rocky road’ ahead as jobs data points to a continuing drop in professional services sector for government contractors and hoped for growth in information systems not expected to take hold until well into 2015. The news is pretty much what it’s been for about two years now: not good. –FPW ­

A Fatal Wait: Veterans Languish and Die on a VA Hospital’s Secret List

Scott Bronstein and Drew Griffin, CNN Investigations. The biggest news story of the week was a shocking one: at least 40 veterans have died waiting for treatment at the Phoenix VA Health Care System. Officials at the Phoenix VA instituted a secret waiting list to cover-up how long wait times for appointments were. The Veterans Health Administration requires regional VAs to enter patients into an Electronic Wait List (EWL) in order to give patients clearer expectations and to maintain oversight of hospital management. In Phoenix, staffers would pretend to take down patient information for the EWL but would instead put them on an off-the-books secret wait list while destroying records of the patients’ initial contact. Only once an appointment had been booked, sometimes seven months later, would the staff enter the patient into the EWL to artificially show short wait times. About 1,400 to 1,600 veterans are reportedly on the secret waiting list, one very different from the report the Phoenix VA submits to Washington showing it is meeting all of its targets for patient care. A VA inspector general investigation has been underway since earlier this year and Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) says his panel will hold hearings once the investigation is complete. Expect this to bring firing VA employees and withholding bonuses back to the forefront in Congress. –LJ

VA’s Homeless Vet Support Deadline Causes Concern

Bryant Jordan (@BryantJordan) and Michael Hoffman (@_MichaelHoffman), Military.com. With the goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015 looming large, some veterans’ advocates are starting to wonder how much support homeless veterans will get in 2016. Since 2009, the Obama administration has quadrupled the amount of money spent on homeless veterans’ programs. If the proposed $1.64 billion budget is approved for 2015, the government will be spending about $26,000 on every homeless veteran. Whether or not the government and service providers meet a goal of zero (there were about 58,000 homeless veterans at last count), there will still be homeless veterans in 2016 and beyond. At that point, VA Secretary Shinseki says, the programs and services will be in place to assist any veterans who become homeless after 2015. “Just because the VA says it’s over, doesn’t mean it is. We’re still seeing plenty of need,” Steve Peck, president of U.S.VETS told Military.com. With VA funding for homeless veterans programs expected to go down, the support from philanthropy like The Home Depot Foundation, which has committed $80 million over five years to veterans housing, will be more important than ever. –LJ

DoD Report: Many Troops Who Commit Suicide Have Seen Doctor

Patricia Kime (@patriciakime), Military Times. The Department of Defense released its annual report on suicide in the military and the statistics were a mixed bag as always. The deeper look at the reports from 2012, after a year of review, showed that a total of 319 active-duty and mobilized National Guard and Reserve troops died from suicide as well as 203 non-mobilized reservists. Of interest, a doctor saw nearly two-thirds of those who died within three months of taking their lives and some 42% had at least one mental health diagnosis. One in five were prescribed a psychiatric medication within 90 days before they died and while successful suicides were slightly lower than the previous year the number of attempts were substantially higher showing that efforts to lower the suicides among troops continue to present challenges for the Army’s leadership. Unlike in previous years where the majority who committed suicide had never deployed to combat, in 2012 nearly half had deployed but 86% of those had never seen any direct combat, which questions the common belief that PTSD from combat trauma was a major factor. The preliminary results for 2013 were released at the same time and showed some 289 deaths by active-duty service members of all branches but didn’t include mobilized reserve component members. In addition there were 213 deaths among non-mobilized reservists so there seems to have been a decrease among active duty personnel but a slight increase among reservists. Combating suicide in the ranks will remain a battle for the military services long after the wars are over and taking care of those in the National Guard and Reserves will be a growing concern as they return to civilian lives with fewer mobilizations and chances to touch their lives. –FPW

Medal of Honor Recipient Offers Advice to Troops about PTSD and Surviving War

Jon Harper, Stars and Stripes. Former Army Sgt. Kyle White will be awarded the Medal of Honor next month and has a strong message urging his fellow troops and veterans to seek help to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder and not suffer alone. Appearing in his very first news conference, White was adamant in addressing the need to reach out and get help for PTSD as not a weakness but an understanding that war can leave mental scars as much as physical ones. White was diagnosed with PTSD before he left the Army in 2011. He will receive the nation’s highest award for valor for his actions during an ambush in mountainous Aranas, Afghanistan in Nov. 2007. A marathon firefight ensued that left 6 of his comrades dead and today White serves as their voice to tell their story. What’s gratifying is that this young man is both an example of a great soldier but a successful veteran as well having used his GI Bill to attend the University of North Carolina and is today an investment analyst with Royal Bank of Charlotte. We’re sure we’ll be hearing more from Kyle White in the coming weeks and months. –FPW

Putting Veterans to Work for STEM

Devon Haynie (@DevonHaynie), U.S. News. This week, as the First Lady flew to Ft. Campbell, U.S. News hosted the STEM Solutions Conference in DC. On a panel moderated by veteran beat reporter Leo Shane from the Military Times, experts agreed that veterans often gain strong STEM skills in the military but face difficulty translating those skills on resumes and in conversations with employers. Kris Urbauer, with ScoutComms’ client GE, noted that a big part of GE’s efforts to hire veterans is to make manufacturing more attractive and make more people want to be engineers.” Beyond hard engineering skills, veterans bring leadership and loyalty to their civilian careers. As Urbauer noted on the panel, veterans who work at GE tend to stay at GE longer than their civilian peers. –LJ

Putting Veterans on a Path to Careers

John Grady, Government Executive. Employers and lawmakers are honing their focus on young veterans’ careers, not just jobs. As unemployment numbers for young veterans improve, yet remain higher than civilians’ unemployment, the biggest issue is getting veterans the certifications and skills needed to match them with growing career fields. One such career field is advanced manufacturing where reports indicate 600,000 jobs go unfilled due to a lack of qualified workers. Get Skills to Work, an initiative co-founded by GE, Alcoa, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin, seeks to narrow the skills gap by connecting veterans with manufacturing training and employers. Last month, GE hosted veterans at the Garage in DC to demonstrate that manufacturing today involves more computers and 3-D printers than overalls and grease stains. Certification programs and public-private partnerships to ensure veterans have the skills they need for civilian careers are essential to solving the unemployment problem and, as Senator Tim Kaine notes, trimming the DoD budget spent on unemployment insurance. –LJ

Gary Sinise on Advancing Veterans and Manufacturing
Miss our Google+ Hangout with Gary Sinise? Catch up with Lt. Dan anytime and find out what it takes to become an honorary lifetime member of the Special Forces Association (hint: SFAS might be easier.) –LJ

Soldier on Trial Because Reporter Kept Digging

Karen Peterson, The News Tribune. Last week the preliminary hearings began in the potential murder trial for an Army Sergeant accused of gunning down two deaf sheep herders in Iraq in 2007. The case is only happening thanks to the dogged determination of award winning journalist and combat veteran Carl Prine. In a strange twist, Prine is now a witness in the trial and not a reporter on it. He launched his reporting after hearing about the incident from one of the soldiers involved who was wracked with guilt over his participation in the cover up of the murders. Prine spent months pursuing leads across the country and then all the way to Iraq after U.S. troops had left the country and suffered threatening phone calls to his family from the accused. The defense is saying this is all just the result of a journalistic hit piece but those who know Carl know that he may report things that make military members uncomfortable but he doesn’t make stuff up or seek to damage anyone. He’s just looking to tell the truth. –FPW

Tradeshows & Conferences

Counter Terror Expo 2014 (Tue-Wed, 29-30 April); London, UK

2014 National Veteran Employment Summit (Wed, 30 April); Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC

View our full list of upcoming tradeshows.

Congressional Hearings

Both chambers are in session this week as the NDAA markup begins.

House:

Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities: Markup of H.R. 4435 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 When: 10:30 AM, Wednesday, April 30, 2014 Where: 2212 Rayburn

Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces: Markup of H.R. 4435 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 When: 12:00 PM, Wednesday, April 30, 2014 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces: Markup of H.R. 4435 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 When: 1:30 PM, Wednesday, April 30, 2014 Where: 2212 Rayburn

Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel: Markup of H.R. 4435 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 When: 3:00 PM, Wednesday, April 30, 2014 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces: Markup of H.R. 4435 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, May 1, 2014 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness: Markup of H.R. 4435 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 When: 10:30 AM, Thursday, May 1, 2014 Where: 2212 Rayburn

Senate:

Armed Services: National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force Who: Honorable Deborah Lee James, Secretary Of The U.S. Air Force, General Mark A. Welsh III, USAF, Chief Of Staff Of The U.S. Air Force, Lieutenant General Dennis M. McCarthy, USMCR (Ret.), Chair, National Commission On The Structure Of The Air Force, Honorable Erin C. Conaton, Vice Chair, National Commission On The Structure Of The Air Force, Honorable R. L. (Les) Brownlee, Member, National Commission On The Structure Of The Air Force, Dr. Janine A. Davidson, Member, National Commission On The Structure Of The Air Force, Dr. Margaret C. Harrell, Member, National Commission On The Structure Of The Air Force, General Raymond E. Johns, Jr., USAF (Ret.), Member, National Commission On The Structure Of The Air Force When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, April 29, 2014 Where: G50 Dirksen

Armed Services: Reform of the Defense Acquisition System Who: Honorable Frank Kendall III, Under Secretary Of Defense For Acquisition, Technology, And Logistics Department Of Defense, Mr. Michael J. Sullivan, Director, Acquisition And Sourcing Management Government Accountability Office, Mr. Jonathan L. Etherton, Senior Fellow For Acquisition Reform, National Defense Industrial Association, Mr. Moshe Schwartz, Specialist In Defense Acquisition Policy, Congressional Research Service, Mr. David J. Berteau, Senior Vice President Center For Strategic And International Studies When: 9:30 AM, Wednesday, April 30, 2014 Where: G50 Dirksen

Think Tanks & Other Events

Center for Strategic and International Studies: The Future Army Who: General David G. Perkins, Commanding General, United States Army Training and Doctrine Command When: 1:30 AM, Tuesday, April 29, 2014 Where: 1616 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036

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 Monday, April 28, 2014 12:37 pm

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