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Veterans Roundup: VA Employees Say “You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit”, Army Leaders to Make Bases More Non-Profit Friendly

Posted by Fred Wellman

Wounded Vets Cooking Up a Fresh Start at Dog Tag Bakery
Emma Hinchliffe (@emmahinchtwiffe), USA Today. Dog Tag Bakery, set to open in Washington, DC, this fall, is a bakery that doubles as an entrepreneurship and business training program for wounded veterans. Nine Dog Tag fellows will serve as bakers and students, earning a $2,200 monthly stipend and a certificate from Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies during the six-month program. All of the profits from the business will go towards stipends for the veterans and their courses at Georgetown. –MC
Bottom line: First things first: Dog Tag Bakery’s brownies get the ScoutComms’ stamp of approval. As far as a program for veterans, the bakery is unique in that it gives veterans hands-on experience opening and operating a small business. Maybe the experience will spark the fire of entrepreneurship in some veterans, but others will walk away with work experience and college credits that will put them ahead of others in the job market. Many great programs for budding veteran entrepreneurs exist—and client IVMF offers some of the best—which fill a demand among veterans to learn the basics of being their own boss. We’re looking forward to seeing how the Dog Tag Bakery program develops—and taste testing more of their goods. –LJ

VA Secretary: I’m aggressively Firing Problem Employees
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. Amid recent controversy over the VA’s five-day grace period that allows fired employees to resign, Secretary Bob McDonald assures the community that employees who committed crimes are being fired and will be held responsible, although some officials such as Susan Taylor are resigning and retiring before being fired. Officials say that the VA does not have the authority to make employees stay in their jobs long enough to be fired. The firings come in light of cases of misconduct at various VA facilities that potentially led to patient deaths. –MC
Bottom line: Expect the quarrel between VA and Congress to heat up over their disagreements about firing VA officials. According to the VA, they are firing people as quickly as the law allows, but some in Congress accuse VA of instituting a 5-day grace period between announcing firings and actual dismissals that allows soon-to-be-fired officials time to resign without repercussions. Expediting the VA secretary’s ability to fire problem employees was a cornerstone of reforming the VA, something both VA and Congress agreed was needed. Still, federal regulations and a bevy of lawyers remain in place to thwart attempts at serious changes. If Republicans in the House can keep the outrage at Obama’s VA up, it means they can continue to use the VA scandal in campaign ads ahead of the midterms—though VFW reminded voters this week that 8 Senators and Congressman voted against VA reform. Don’t expect much serious debate on the topic until January. –LJ

Secret Causalities of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons
C.J. Chivers (@cjchivers) The New York Times. During the war in Iraq, a number of U.S. troops encountered the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s abandoned chemical weapons including warheads, shells and aviation bombs still filled with mustard gas and nerve agents. The total number injured is classified and many servicemembers were denied appropriate medical care because of this secrecy. The article raises questions of a potential cover-up and concerns that ISIS forces may now have control of areas where these munitions still exist as they were never properly inventoried and destroyed during the U.S. occupation of Iraq. –MC
Bottom line:  C.J. Chivers once again finds a tough and under examined story from our long war in Iraq. The existence of remnant chemical weapons in Iraq isn’t a surprise to many of us who served in the country. The UN had never destroyed all of the existing stockpiles effectively but the justification for war was that the programs were continuing. No new systems were ever found but the country was littered with hidden and rusting leftovers from the country’s long war with Iran. What is troubling about this story is the tacit recognition by DoD leadership that many soldiers who encountered these weapons weren’t properly treated for the wounds they received from those exposures and the implication that secrecy persists because those weapons are potentially still out there for IS forces to have found. It’s entirely likely they already have or will with the collaboration of former Hussein era Sunni military members. The scary part of this story is what could be next as much as what has already happened. –FPW
 

In Search for Homeless Veterans: “If We Can Get Him Housing, We Can Save Him”
Jonathan Bullington (@jrbullington), The Times-Picayune. In New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and military organizations are working together to find homeless veterans and put them in homes. With an estimated 200 homeless veterans in New Orleans, volunteers are searching the streets to connect veterans with health and housing services. The groups, featuring active duty military and veterans find that camaraderie among veterans is valuable tool for their efforts. For veterans like Robbie Myers, who dealt with a number of issues after being discharged from the military, sometimes being connected and asking for help can lead to change like winning the Food Network’s “Chopped”. –MC
Bottom line: In DC, the big players in homelessness are VA, HUD, the Department of Labor, and a multitude of other agencies that administer the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding appropriated each year to ending veteran homelessness. While plenty of credit must go to the Administration for setting a goal of ending veteran homelessness and to Congress for doling out the money necessary, it’s really the community-based organizations on the frontlines doing the day-to-day work of finding homeless veterans and connecting them with services that will end veteran homelessness. That’s not to discount the work of organizations like the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans and IVMF provide technical assistance to community-based organizations that helps small organizations operate more effectively and efficiently or philanthropic groups like The Home Depot Foundation which provides grants to service providers big and small. Ending veteran homelessness by 2015 won’t happen in DC, it will happen in cities like New Orleans when the power of communities come together. –LJ

DoD Seeks to Clarify Policies on Nonprofit Groups
Karen Jowers, Military Times. Officials from the Department of Defense are looking for ways to establish clear boundaries and policies regarding nonprofit access to military installations according to Army leaders participating in a Family Forum during last week’s Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting. Nonprofit organizations’ access to bases is reportedly inconsistent and the DoD seeks to establish overarching rules, ensuring fairness and protecting servicemembers and families. –MC
Bottom line: This story is a result of conversations had at the recent AUSA Annual Conference when family members pushed Army leaders hard to better support the efforts of non-profits looking to assist military members. Long time readers of the Scout Report know how strongly we feel about the often inconsistent and illogical application of the Joint Ethics Regulation by various military commands and how that inconsistency makes supporting a whole range of needs of today’s military and their families difficult. While it was gratifying to see the problem acknowledged by Gen. Odierno and others who experienced it themselves, the story makes it clear that while the issue is being “examined” there really is no formal effort to adjust the regulation or issue clearer guidance to the field. It’s just being “examined”. In DoD speak that translates to “don’t hold your breath”. –FPW

Former Marine Posing as Wounded Combat Veteran
Sharon Aron Baron (@SharonAronBaron), Coral Springs Talk. Another military faker in the news this week as Jarrett Gimbl is caught lying about injuries sustained while serving overseas, his rank, and time spent in the military. Gimbl is a volunteer with Paws of War, an organization that provides veterans with service animals and he owns a service dog with a harness that says “Disabled Service Veteran”. Gimbl’s wounds that were allegedly obtained overseas may actually be the result of an attack he faced outside of a White Castle. –MC
Bottom line: Once again we find another veteran who has embellished his record of service to gain support and sympathy for his cause. In this case we have a Marine who did serve briefly but never saw combat nor received any wounds from his service and is now a volunteer spokesman for an organization. This is getting very common surrounding service dogs and is at least the third or fourth case we’ve seen in the last couple of years of fake combat wounded veterans obtaining PTSD service dogs. We cannot emphasize enough how important it is that non-profits properly vet both their recipients and their volunteers to ensure they are who they say they are. A true veteran will understand the questions and will happily provide the paperwork needed to support their case. This is just getting worse and worse and makes the organizations look incompetent and will drive donors away in droves. Don’t just take a veteran’s word that he is who he or she says…and don’t for one second believe their service records are classified. That is simply not true. –FPW

Quick Hits:

VA Morale Low, but Actions by New Boss Could Change Things
Joe Davidson (@JoeDavidsonWP), Washington Post. Faith in their own organization has dropped among VA employees since last year but the annual survey about satisfaction was completed before the VA scandal sent shockwaves through the organization. It’s possible that with Secretary McDonald’s reforms, employees have more faith and are happier in their jobs. –LJ

Pentagon Preparing for Long War in Iraq, Syria
Robert Burns (@robertburnsAP) and Lolita C. Baldor (@lbaldor), The Associated Press
The U.S. military is preparing for a potentially yearlong mission in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State including efforts more than airstrikes. Last Thursday, the United States had launched approximately 300 airstrikes in Iraq and 200 in Syria and these numbers are expected to increase and additional troops are deploying to provide support to Iraqi forces. –MC

Seth Moulton Underplays Military Service
Walter V. Robinson (@WalterVRobinson), The Boston Globe
Many politicians leverage their military service during campaign season but Seth W. Moulton, the Democratic nominee for Congress in Massachusetts’s Sixth Congressional District, never mentioned his awards for valor until this week when an investigation by the Boston Globe found them in his official records. Moulton served in the Marines and received the Bronze Star medal for valor and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal for valor during his multiple tours in combat and when questioned simply stated that veterans are tired of people telling war stories to make themselves look good and wants to run on who he is and not some medals. –MC and FPW

Biden’s Son Discharged from Navy After Positive Cocaine Test
Katie Zezima (@katiezez) and Missy Ryan (@missy_ryan), The Washington Post
At the other end of the spectrum, it was revealed this week that Vice President Biden’s son, Hunter, was discharged from the Navy Reserve after allegedly failing a drug test in June of 2013. Although the exact details will not be released due to the Privacy Act, anonymous sources say that he tested positive for cocaine when reporting for his very first assignment as a Navy Reserve Public Affairs officer last year. –FPW

Troops Need to Start Job Hunting Before They Leave the Military
James Schmeling (@jschmeling) and Nicholas Armstrong (@NArmstrongIVMF), Defense One
Last week, James Schmeling and Nicholas Armstrong from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University discussed the challenges transitioning military face landing their first civilian job after leaving the military. The Veteran Job Retention Survey conducted by IVMF and VetAdvisor, along with research from the Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR) at the University of Southern California, show that veterans are not making informed decisions about their future careers. Military leaders and the community of support must make servicemembers aware of the many resources available to them and their families to ensure smooth transitions. –MC

Gary Sinise Promotes BuiltByVets
Military.com. Last Tuesday, Gary Sinise helped kick off #BuiltByVets, a new Get Skills to Work social media campaign that highlights veterans’ contributions to manufacturing and the economy. Sinise spent Tuesday at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting & Exposition speaking with soldiers, veterans, and family members about the career opportunities in manufacturing. At a press conference during AUSA, Sinise spoke alongside Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Adkins about transitioning to civilian life from the military. The #BuiltByVets initiative encourages veterans to take photos of things they have made, and Tweet or post them to Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #BuiltByVets. The best photos will be featured in a short video narrated by Gary Sinise around Veterans Day. –MC

More Coverage:

Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Adkins shares his unusual path to the Army
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post
Sinise to narrate film about vets’ work skills
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times

Tradeshows & Conferences

National Association of Veterans’ Program Administrators 39th Annual Training & Conference (Mon-Fri, 20-24 October); Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL

2014 Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities National Training & Alumni Conference (Fri-Sun, 24-26 October); Omni Hotel at CNN Center, Atlanta, GA

For a full list of upcoming events, check out our recently updated Events page.

Congressional Hearings

Both chambers are in recess.

Think Tanks & Other Events

National Defense Industrial Association: LID Breakfast featuring Mr. Eric Fanning, Under Secretary of the Air Force Who: Eric Fanning, Under Secretary of the Air Force When: 7:15 AM, Wednesday, October 22, 2014 Where: The Army and Navy Club, 901 17th St NW, Washington, DC

U.S.VETS: Ribbon Cutting Ceremony When: 11:00 AM, Friday, October 24, 2014 Where: 150 Wayne Place, SE, Washington, DC

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 20, 2014 5:08 pm

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