Veterans Roundup: ScoutComms Builds Bridges, Immigration Limbo, Home Refinancing Scheme Targeting Veterans and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

How ScoutComms Builds Bridges Between ‘Heroes’ and Helpers
B the Change
For two years in a row ScoutComms has been selected as a #BestForTheWorld B Corporation. Last week they honored us once more with an awesome B the Change feature! For an exclusive interview with ScoutComms founder and CEO Fred Wellman on the successes and milestones of our “young” company and of our clients, check it out. –AB

The US Soldiers Stuck in Immigration Limbo Under Trump
Julia Preston (@JuliaPrestonNow) Vice
Pfc. Kyungmin Cho enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2016 with the promise that he would finally earn his American citizenship before boot camp, set for March of this year. However, now Cho and many others are unsure if they will ever get to serve. Cho was offered a significant academic scholarship at Temple University, but instead sought citizenship through the Military Accession Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program. This program fast-tracks non-citizens to American citizenship in exchange for service in the U.S. military, and Cho was eligible because of his fluency in Korean. Now Cho and his counterparts wait, fearful that they face deportation if a decision isn’t made before their DACA deferrals expire. –JG
Bottom line: It is both a tragedy and a travesty that potential service members like Cho remain in limbo over what is simply politics and hysteria. We need the talents and skills of these men and women to address the challenges of the modern battlefield with multiple languages, cultures, multi-national coalitions and shifting enemies. The MAVNI program serves a unique and needed purpose that addresses those needs. But, the tragedy is the human cost. These are dedicated men and women who want to serve their new nation and join the fabric of this rich tapestry of a country. From the very earliest days of the Continental Army we were blessed with foreign soldiers like Lafayette and Kościuszko who brought important skills to our forces. Walking away from that legacy is both wrong for the strength of the Armed Forces and for the nation as a whole. –FPW

Government cracks down on home refinancing scheme targeting veterans
Kenneth R. Harney (@chicagotribune), Chicago Tribune
Lenders are targeting veterans around the nation who hold VA home loans. For several years, predatory lending schemes have hurt veterans and military families, leaving many in concerning financial shape. Lenders lure targets in by marketing lower interest rates, cash incentives up front, and lower monthly payments. Misleading refinancing offers are causing many military homeowners to pay a significant amount more than their previous rates, even though they are promised savings up front. Federal officials say they will be attempting to shut down predatory lenders and can even bring them before the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Both the VA and the Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae) have created a task force to investigate those who may be unfairly targeting military members and veterans. –DD
Bottom line: In a move straight out of 2005, predatory lenders are attempting to cash in on the valuable benefits afforded to veterans and military members through the VA home loan program. While these practices aren’t new, they are becoming concerning as veterans and military families are subjected to higher debt, negative equity and potential foreclosures. Through a new task force, Ginnie Mae and the VA will investigate questionable lenders and, if necessary, bring in additional federal partners like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to keep these practices at bay. As with many populations, military families and veterans can be a cash cow for financial services firms hoping to make a quick buck off an endless stream of revenue. Scams like this are one of the reasons that basic consumer financial education should be a key tool for our military and veteran families. Programs like client USAA Educational Foundation’s “Command Your Cash” offer quick, basic information to increase the financial readiness of our veteran and military families.  Being able to identify the difference between a great deal and “too good to be true” could save our community a mountain of trouble. –RB

VA: Money for private health care may run out by year’s end
Hope Yen (@hopeyen1), ABC News
Even after the recent boost in funding for Veterans Choice private sector health care, the Trump administration anticipates that the program will run low on funds as soon as year’s end. If finances were to run out, hundreds of thousands of veterans would see a halt to their ability to seek private health care. VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin has made his main legislative priority this fall to get the Choice program where it needs to be so that any veterans who qualifies can receive the timely care they’ve earned. Many who oppose the Choice program have raised the question of whether private sector health providers can understand the intricacies of military health care, which can deal with PTSD, battlefield injuries and a host of other complexities. The VA proposal for a long-term plan is anticipated to be made public in the next few weeks. –DD
Bottom line: Congress and the VA need to figure out a long-term plan for VA Choice because this is not the first time VA has claimed it was about to run out of money for the program. If private sector providers keep seeing this kind of coverage, they could choose not to participate any longer to avoid being shorted on payment. Yet, Congress needs to find a balance between VA Choice and the specialized care that so many veterans require from VA. Of course, VA and Congress can come to these decisions in a vacuum, they must seek input from veterans and the organizations that represent them. This month-to-month turmoil does no one any good. –LJ

Trump wants to ban transgender military troops. His top general feels differently
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe) The Washington Post
Last week, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford expressed his support for currently serving transgender service members’ rights to serve their country at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about his renomination as chairman. He followed up with his belief that if a person meets the extensive physical and mental standards the military has set, they should be given an opportunity to serve their country. Dunford ordered a memo in response to President Trump’s introduction of his anti-transgender military policy via Twitter, saying that DoD would continue to treat transgender service members with respect while the proposal was drafted into actionable policy. According to a RAND Corp study, there are an estimated 2,500-7,000 transgender service members among the 1.3 million military members currently on active duty. –JG
Bottom line: I could almost copy the assessment from above about the MAVNI recruits in limbo today – the U.S. military is an all-volunteer force drawing from less than one-third of the population who are even eligible. We are fools to reject able-bodied patriotic citizens who want to serve the nation. We face challenges abroad that will take everything this nation has to offer. It’s no surprise at all that Dunford would not want to reject capable service members over what is simply cultural politics not based on research or real need. We hold out hope that common sense will prevail and allowing these dedicated men and women to continue to serve without shame will be the law of the land. –FPW

Hiring new staff remains a problem for VA’s suicide prevention efforts
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David Shulkin has called for all of America to become more aware of the veterans suicide rate, which is estimated to be 20 veterans per day around the nation. During a suicide prevention hearing, Shulkin made clear the importance of hiring more mental health professionals for VA and acknowledged suicide as “an American public health crisis.” In early 2017, officials announced a commitment to hire 1,000 new mental health professionals. However, to date, 649 have been hired – a number which Shulkin believes is not enough, considering the departures they have recently experienced. Mental health experts presented new research on suicide prevention and expressed their worries that VA is not up-to-date with best practices. With more than 21 million veterans around the nation, Shulkin has stressed the importance of hiring more professionals to address those in need. –DD
Bottom line: It’s hard to beat up VA for not meeting its goals to hire more mental health professionals when there simply aren’t an unlimited number of mental health professionals to hire. That is part of the American mental health crisis, too: we aren’t graduating enough mental health clinicians. Something VA could investigate is how to make their current mental health professionals more efficient and able to see more patients. Of course, that’s related to improving the VA’s best practices when it comes to suicide prevention. Making VA a more enticing place to work will also be critical to ensuring it is able to recruit more mental health professionals. –LJ

For suicidal veterans, loneliness is the deadliest enemy
Bill Hathaway (@wkh3yalecom), Medical Xpress
Based on a recent study produced by Yale University and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD, roughly 20 military veterans commit suicide each day. Findings show that the most significant contributor to this number is not war-related damage but, in fact, loneliness. Additionally, the study suggested that veterans who experience higher levels of social and peer support were found to be less likely to develop suicidal thoughts. Leading author of the study from Yale University, Robert H. Pietrzak said that “results of this study suggest that preventing suicidal thinking may not only be about fixing what is wrong, but also building what is strong.” Sixty-five percent of veterans who commit suicide are over the age of 50, showing the desperate need for peer support for veterans of all eras of service. –DD
Bottom line: This should be a study of which many in the veteran community take note. For decades, organizations like the American Legion and VFW have been fighting the isolation faced by veterans and today we see groups like Team Red, White & Blue and Team Rubicon doing the same. Further, clients like Vets4Warriors are available 24/7 to any service members, veterans, or family members who need a peer to talk to about the issues they are facing. This should be another reminder, too, that ensuring veterans are able to transition successfully into their communities could save lives. If veterans know their neighbors, will they feel less isolated? How much do their neighbors have to understand the military experience to ease those feelings of isolation? Additionally, this gives communities a tangible way to take action to prevent suicide. Building networks that support veterans and bring them together with friends and purpose could be the game changer. –LJ

Board report sparks push to improve military kids’ healthcare
Tom Philpott (@Military_Update) Stars and Stripes
In response to a recent board report that will be released to the public in the coming weeks, the Defense Health Agency is setting out on an effort to improve the quality of care provided to military children. The report, conducted by the Defense Health Board, focused on four critical areas of improving care: standardizing and coordinating care across the military health system, improving communication between providers in the military system and civilian providers, improving data collection and record keeping and making healthcare more flexible for children. Due to the variety of record keeping systems used by the services and poor data managing habits, many healthcare providers lack data around immunizations, well-baby visits and more. Moving forward TRICARE must consistently increase their focus towards minimizing gaps in coverage, especially ones associated with relocation. –JG
Bottom line: In a move praised by long-term advocates for military child health, the Defense Health Agency has begun systematic improvements in care for the youngest of military medicine’s consumers. For years, the need to adhere to Medicaid policies, record systems that weren’t compatible and the inconsistent quality of care received across the services and in community health care facilities, meant that military children did not always receive the level care that they deserved. The Pediatric Healthcare Services report is expected to be released in October and will outline findings and recommendations to improve the medical treatment received by military kids. While DHA noted that they were aware of most issues identified by the forthcoming report, they also admitted that the document will help the agency zero in on areas where they should invest effort. After years of advocating for reforms, the document, recommendations and plan of action is a welcome step for families that have struggled with challenging systems of care and bureaucracies that threatened the health of military kids. –RB  

Veterans, employers and universities should take advantage of Forever GI Bill
Jeffrey J. Cleland, InsideSources
Over the summer, President Trump signed into law the Forever GI Bill, which removed the 15-year cap on education benefits, expanded benefits to purple heart recipients, further assists student veterans pursuing STEM degrees and repairs loopholes left in the previous iteration of the bill. According to Student Veterans of America and IVMF, student veterans are more likely to be older, married and have children – major life responsibilities that can take away time and focus from academics. The Forever GI Bill provides the means for more veterans to get an education, improving their job prospects and quality of life. ­–JG

Facing High Denial Rates for VA Claims, 3 Gulf Vets Intervene
Nikki Wentling (@nikkiwentling) Stars and Stripes
Ronald Brown, a disabled veteran of Operation Desert Storm and part of a trio of veterans that make up the National Gulf War Resource Center have become experts in filing claims that would help their fellow veterans with VA disability compensation and healthcare. The National Gulf War Resource Center intervenes with claims related to Gulf War-era injuries and illnesses all over the country, and is paramount with getting the VA to reverse decisions on rejected claims. Ronald Brown, Jim Bunker and Mike Jarrett also hold seminars to educate veterans service officers at larger organizations like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. –ML

The American Legion: Hollywood’s Hottest Private Club
Michael M. Phillips (@MPhillipsWSJ), The Wall Street Journal
With an increase of young veterans comes the need for change. One American Legion post in California is leading the way for this change by initiating a rebranding of the “old-timey hat club” reputation it acquired. A group of post-9/11 members created a plan to take control of the Legion and rebuild its status to make it “cool” and more enticing to potential members. Although many changes have been made to Post 43, this new generation of leaders still make an effort to show respect for the old ways. –CB

Tradeshows & Conferences

Department of Defense Military Spouse Employment Partnership New Partner Orientation and Partner Meeting (Mon – Tue, Oct. 2-3, 2017); US Chamber of Commerce Building, Washington, DC and Crystal City Marriot, Alexandria, VA

MilBlogging and ScoutComms: Military Influencer Conference (Sun – Tue, Oct. 22-24, 2017); Sheraton Dallas Hotel, Dallas, TX

Congressional Hearings


Armed Services: Securing the Peace After the Fall of ISIL
Who: The Honorable Ryan Crocker, Former Ambassador to Iraq (2007-2009), Diplomat in Residence, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University; Dr. Marc Lynch, Professor of Political Science, The George Washington University; Dr. Kenneth Pollack, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute
When: 2:00 PM, Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Where: 2212 Rayburn

Armed Services: Political and Security Situation in Afghanistan
Who: Honorable James N. Mattis, Secretary of Department Of Defense; General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., USMC, Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff
When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Where: G50 Dirksen

Veterans’ Affairs: Pending Nominations
Who: Melissa Sue Glynn, of the District of Columbia, to be assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs for Enterprise Integration; Cheryl Mason, of Virginia, to be chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals; Randy Reeves, of Mississippi, to be undersecretary of Veterans Affairs for Memorial Affairs
When: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Where: 418 Russell

Other Events
None this week.

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, October 02, 2017 11:15 am

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