Veterans Report: Military Transparency With The Media, The Ongoing Saga of VA Leadership, The Future of The Veteran Non-Profit Sector, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

US military overlooks sex assaults and rapes among kids on bases, investigation finds
Justin Pritchard (@lalanewsman) and Reese Dunklin (@ReeseDunklin), Stars and Stripes
Recent investigations show that sexual assaults of military children by other military children living on U.S. bases and abroad are often inadequately addressed. Survivors of these assaults often do not receive the protection or justice they deserve and are often left wondering what happened to their cases; Leandra Mulla is one example. Mulla was sexually assaulted by an ex-boyfriend while they were both high school students in Germany and her case was missing from the records, along with 200 others. Mulla said she feels that the military likes “to cover up what goes on because they have an expectation and they try to uphold an image.” –SM
Bottom line: For years, on-going discussions regarding sexual assault in the military have focused on how to reduce inappropriate behaviors within the ranks, but as an AP investigation points out, what about the sexual assault of service members’ children by other service members’ children?  A recent AP investigation uncovered shocking statistics and stories of service members’ children who were sexually assaulted while living on bases in the U.S. and abroad. Jurisdictional challenges, poor record-keeping, missing cases and lack of standard procedures mean that these children, survivors and victims alike, do not receive the opportunities for healing and early intervention that are an absolute necessity. Shockingly, perpetrators as young as 10 years old are mentioned in this article, with investigators noting that in some of these cases, commanders choose not to intervene or merely move the offender’s family to a new location. In almost any situation, a child that young is a candidate for treatment and early intervention, resulting in a very low rate of recidivism. What happens when there is no record of this behavior and a child goes on to believe that their behavior goes without punishment? What happens to the survivor who sees an attacker is not held accountable for their actions? Will offenders continue to partake in this behavior, understanding that there is no consequence? Will survivors begin to feel that for some reason, their bodies and minds are not valued enough for military or civilian authorities to take action? In the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, it is critical that children begin to learn and synthesize the concepts of consent, appropriateness, personal agency and equality early on in their lives. We simply do not have the luxury of ignoring these issues if we ever hope to solve the problem of sexual assault in the civilian sector or the military. –RB

Commander quits Seattle veterans group over harassment, racism
Patricia Murphy (@RadioGirlMurphy), KUOW – NPR Seattle
In 2016, Lindsay Church, a U.S. Navy veteran, was elected commander of American Legion Post 40, based in Seattle. She worked hard to recruit younger members and breathe life into the aging post. While many of her efforts were successful, as a woman, a lesbian and a gender non-conforming person, she experienced and witnessed acts of discrimination and sexism during her time as commander of the post that she says she could no longer tolerate. Last September, Church resigned in response to the discrimination she experienced. Since leaving, she has started the organization Minority Veterans of America – an organization that welcomes minority veterans and veteran allies to make a stand against discrimination in the veteran community. –JG
Bottom line: As the author points out, minorities represent nearly 23 percent of the U.S. veteran population, according to a 2017 VA report, and that number is expected to grow to nearly 36 percent by 2040. Inclusivity and diversity of thought and lived experiences is critical for the success of even our oldest institutions. We’ve seen the business sector embrace this idea and succeed and grow as a result of it. If VSOs want to maintain relevance, and more importantly continue to give voice to veterans of future generations, then practically speaking they must maintain a representative membership base. Given our evolving culture and the shifting demographics, it’s critical that all VSOs reconcile what many see as a history of division and exclusion, and yes racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, and make a conscious effort moving forward to create welcoming environments for all veterans, from all walks of life. What Church and Minority Veterans of America aim to do is to give a collective voice to the many veterans who have felt marginalized or unrepresented by many of the mainstream VSOs. –CB

Air Force on new secrecy rules: ‘Think like the enemy’
Stephen Losey, (@StephenLosey), Air Force Times
The U.S. Air Force is implementing a new training effort for its public affairs officers, encouraging them to “think like the enemy,” according to official training slides leaked onto an unofficial Air Force Facebook page. Concerns regarding the “re-emergence of great power competition” seem to be the motivation behind this new guidance. Major command PAOs will receive training from Air Force public affairs officials at the Pentagon, cautioning them against sharing information on current operations, training exercises, unit readiness, etc., with plans to integrate the training down to the unit level. The slides detail various recent stories that the Air Force sites as having potentially compromised OPSEC. Air Force leadership maintains steadfastly that some information, even information that is not classified, is not fit for public consumption in the “information age.” Meanwhile, free press advocates including John Donnelly, president of Military Reporters and Editors, voice concerns that such guidance may be used to justify withholding information from the public. –KG
Bottom line: The challenge with such a drastic step as essentially shutting down most public outreach for the entire Air Force is the massive chilling effect and impact it has on the very clear mission of military public affairs to inform the American people about their military. While everyone understands the need for operational security and withholding information from our adversaries, it seems hard to believe that our enemies are going to find out actionable intelligence from a puff piece about a computer center. The motto of the Department of Defense Public Affairs organizations is simple: ‘maximum information, minimum delay’ and many in the community are incredibly sensitive about anything that could take away from that simple task that is codified in law. So, a situation like right now where even a visit to a base by a local beat reporter has to be approved by a 4-star headquarters makes professional PAOs and journalists alike concerned about the transparency of the military and what this all means to the relationship of the service with the public it serves. We hope that this period of “training” is short and the service gets back to being honest and forthcoming with the American people. –FPW

Prince Harry warns military charities drop publicity battles and put veterans first
Hannah Furness (@Hannah_Furness), The Telegraph
Prince Harry recently spoke publicly at the Veterans’ Mental Health Conference in London urging military charities to place their main focus on veterans and their well-being rather than promoting themselves. Prince Harry has placed a significant emphasis on veterans’ mental health and even founded the Invictus Games, which focuses on getting wounded and ill veterans into adaptive sports. Part of Prince Harry’s message urged charities to collaborate and offer their resources to one another, rather than compete. As an Army veteran himself, Prince Harry has a deep commitment and personal connection to veterans and their ongoing journey of military to civilian transition. –DD
Bottom line: What Prince Harry was stating publicly is something that has been said behind closed doors for a long time. In the UK, Prince Harry has successfully shepherded a number of veterans-focused charities to operate more closely under one umbrella. He has a certain stardom, though, that makes it hard to imagine something similar happening in the U.S. due to external pressure. Rather, we do expect to see some more consolidation among veteran non-profits in the future due to internal pressures like fundraising, overlapping missions, and general efficiency. Simply, organizations will find they can be more effective if they take their partnerships to the next level. On Harry’s point about marketing, it seems a bit idealistic to believe that any non-profit could be sustainable without making its work known—whether to donors or to the people who utilize its services. Could veterans non-profits market themselves in a smarter manner? I’m sure you will not be surprised to learn that I believe that, yes, indeed, they could. It’s not an either/or situation. In fact, non-profits’ collaboration and partnership can start with co-marketing efforts, particularly when they serve different needs, populations, or locations. –LJ

Violence Strikes a Veterans Program That Strove to Prevent It
Thomas Fuller (@thomasfullerNYT), The New York Times
After an eight-hour standoff between Afghanistan war veteran Albert Wong and various law enforcement agencies, Wong and three women he held hostage were found dead inside The Pathway Home, a California-based treatment facility for troubled war veterans. The Pathway Home, founded ten years ago, was designed to help veterans facing a state of crisis through counseling and helping them reintegrate into society. The women killed included Christine Loeber, the program director, Dr. Jennifer Golick, a program therapist and Dr. Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba, a program psychologist who was more than six months pregnant with her first child. After such a devastating loss to the program’s “core clinical team,” the board has decided to “suspend operations indefinitely,” but hopes to find a way to carry on its mission of providing these services to the at-risk veteran community. While Wong’s motives remain unclear, he had separated from the program approximately two weeks before the shooting, something the program’s spokesman declined to comment on further. –KG
Bottom line: The murders of three women at the hand of a former client was a heartbreaking end to a nearly day-long standoff at the Yountville, California Pathway Home. While initially founded as an in-patient crisis center for veterans with PTSD, TBI or other readjustment issues, the Pathway Home had in recent years re-opened with the mission of providing longer-term holistic wellness services to veterans seeking educational and vocational opportunities in the Napa region. The home was working with a small number of post-9/11 veteran clients in a cohort which included Albert Wong, until his release three weeks ago. There are many outstanding questions that have yet to be answered about the weeks and days leading up to the stand-off. Many have questioned the state of Wong’s mental health, as well as the nature of his seemingly premature discharge from the military and his expulsion from the Pathway Home program. The death of these women, all deeply committed to the health and well-being of veterans has hit the mental health and veterans communities particularly hard, as this worst case scenario played out. To attribute these deaths to the stereotypical “unhinged veteran” or to make this singularly about PTSD is unwise. This shooting could have been tied to Wong’s service or mental health, or perhaps not at all.  Just one week after this tragedy, without all the facts, we cannot possibly analyze the situation comprehensively. To find a way forward will take many deeply nuanced conversations addressing sometimes thorny topics like access to weapons, clinical and patient safety protocols, discharge policies and patient assessments will be just the beginning. In the meantime, the Pathway Home has paused operations and has asked those that wish to help to donate to the #3BraveWomenFund to support the families of those killed and survivors. –RB

Veterans chief Shulkin says he has no intention of quitting
Hope Yen (@hopeyen1) and Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller), Associated Press
After weeks of scrutiny following an investigation over ethical infringements, VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin said he does not plan to leave his position at the head of the second largest government agency. However, the White House has hinted there may be changes at the VA all the way up to the senior level. If a change were to happen, potential replacements have included names such as Rick Perry and Pete Hegseth. Hegseth is currently co-host of “Fox & Friends Weekend” and, as the founder and former leader of Concerned Veterans of America, is known to take a much more aggressive stance on the VA’s health-care system, as he believes veterans should be given dramatically more access private doctors. As the rumors swirl, Secretary Shulkin still remains in his position at the VA. –DD
Bottom line: Using the term “unprecedented” to describe the situation at the Department of Veterans Affairs is probably the understatement of the week in a town that is often prone to understatement. What appears to be unfolding is an open feud between VA appointees with ties to the Trump inner circle and Dr. Shulkin and career VA employees. Throw in the Inspector General reports and you’ve got a perfect storm of controversy and confusion at the top of the second largest federal agency charged with the health of over nine million veterans and policy regarding the other 12 million nationally. There are very few great options at this point with Dr. Shulkin’s reputation damaged by the IG reports and the feuding within the department while some of the names floated as possible replacements greatly concern the veterans community. The coming weeks will likely give us answers and either way we hope the focus will return to care of our nations veterans and not power plays in the D.C. headquarters. –FPW

Lawmakers worry that VA leadership drama could derail plans for department reforms
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
Even though VA Secretary David Shulkin’s position is said to be safe for the moment, there have been rumors of President Trump replacing Shulkin due to tension between White House officials and VA leadership. Said issues are disrupting (Ed. Note: in the non-buzzwordy way) significant work, including legislative goals for VA reform, which is worrying lawmakers. Although many in Congress support Shulkin’s efforts at VA, others are uncertain if these distractions are hindering efforts to improve the VA including the major questions about the future of veterans’ ability to seek care in the private sector. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) says that he is not comfortable negotiating with the White House and that the president needs to decide if he sides with Shulkin or political interests. –SM
Bottom line: There is legislation being considered by Congress that will have real world implications for veterans across the country, particularly relating to the healthcare they receive. If lawmakers can’t anticipate who will lead the VA in the foreseeable future, then they can’t anticipate how the law will be interpreted and implemented, and thus what the result of this legislation will ultimately look like. As the author points out, “last year, Congress passed nine significant pieces of veterans-themed legislation…Shulkin was involved in most of that work, and frequently hailed publicly by Trump for the progress.” As of now, Secretary Shulkin seems to still have support among most VSOs and leaders in Congress, but the question remains if he can continue to weather the controversies, and ultimately outwit, outplay and outlast his political adversaries. While we wait for the next Tweet to reveal who stays and who goes, veterans across the country hang in the balance. –CB

VA promises full review of all medical testing on dogs, with a goal of ending the practice
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
On Tuesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) begun an internal review of its canine testing practices. According to VA Chief Veterinary Medical Officer Dr. Michael Fallon, research teams at the VA use dogs “only when studies of rodents cannot provide the information” needed to make decisions in health and medical care for veterans. Dr. Fallon reported in 2016 that dogs made up “fewer than 0.05 percent” of all animals used for medical testing that year. Last year, VA officials issued a mandate requiring that any proposed canine research must gain approval from the VA’s Chief Research and Development Officer, as well as VA Secretary David Shulkin. Veterans service organizations have remained split on the issue. While AMVETS recently voiced their concern of dog testing, the Paralyzed Veterans of America has in the past praised dog testing as a method to achieve useful and needed results for the VA’s medical research. Officials at the VA didn’t provide a timeline for the internal review, but noted they plan to develop alternative research strategies to “reduce the need for canine research within VA.” –NJ

Paralympics: Military veterans Dan Cnossen, Andy Soule break through for medals
Two military veterans recently medaled in Pyeongchang at the 2018 Paralympics, coming back after much adversity in their military careers. Dan Cnossen was a platoon commander for SEAL Team One and lost both of his legs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan in 2009. Since his injuries, Cnossen has learned to cross-country ski, he has run the NYC marathon, competed in Sochi at the Paralympics and now has three Paralympic medals. U.S. Army veteran Andy Soule also lost both of his legs from an IED explosion in Afghanistan and competed on the Paralympic team in Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014 and just medaled in Pyeongchang for the middle-distance biathlon. –DD

First female Ranger grads open up about the aftermath and joining the infantry
Meghann Myers (@MeghannReports), Army Times
Before the defense secretary lifted the ban on allowing women to serve in direct-combat units, two females were hoping to serve as such. Capt. Kristen Griest wanted to join the infantry in high school during the War on Terror but had to patiently wait. In the meantime, her and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver attended West Point and then both went to Ranger School, where they became the first women to obtain the Ranger Tab in 2015. Shortly after completing Ranger school, the ban was lifted allowing the two of them to join others in becoming the Army’s first female infantry officers. –SM

A forgotten hero stopped the My Lai massacre 50 years ago today
Jon Wiener (@JonWeiner1), Los Angeles Times
On March 16, 1968, Army Helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson and his crew were flying over the Vietnamese village of My Lai when they noticed something was very wrong. Thompson landed the helicopter and confronted Americans who were slaying innocent Vietnamese civilians. In 1998, 30 years after the massacre, Thompson was recognized and awarded a medal for his heroism and bravery that day. –JG

4 charged with using ‘Wounded Warrior’ name to raise over $150,000 for personal profit
Noah Gray (@NoahGrayCNN), CNN
Four individuals have been charged with 227 counts of fraud associated with collecting donations as the “Wounded Warrior Fund” and the “Wounded Warrior Foundation”. More than 1,000 people had donated $150,000 over the course of six years trying to give to a worthy cause. Each of those that stand accused face potential prison sentences of 20 years. VFW Post 1693 commander Jim Dexter of New Albany, Indiana as well as a spokeswoman from the Wounded Warrior Project worry about what effect fraudulent fundraising activity like this does to the public’s perception and willingness to donate to veteran nonprofits. –JG

Congressional Hearings Senate:

Armed Services: United States Strategic Command
Who: General John E. Hyten, USAF, Commander, United States Strategic Command
When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Where: 216 Hart

Armed Services: Marine Corps Ground Modernization
Who: Mr. Jimmy D. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary Of The Navy For Expeditionary Programs And Logistics Management; Lieutenant General Robert S. Walsh, USMC, Deputy Commandant For Combat Development And Integration; Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command; And Commander, United States Marine Forces Strategic Command
When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Where: 232A Russell

Veterans’ Affairs: Fiscal Year 2019 Budget for Veterans’ Programs and Fiscal Year 2020 Advance Appropriations Request
When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Where: 418 Russell

Armed Services: Ballistic Missile Defense Policies and Programs
Who: Honorable John C. Rood, Under Secretary Of Defense For Policy, Department Of Defense; General Lori J. Robinson, USAF, Commander, United States Northern Command And Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command; Lieutenant General Samuel A. Greaves, USAF, Director, Missile Defense Agency, Department Of Defense; Lieutenant General James H. Dickinson, USA, Commanding General, United States Army Space And Missile Defense Command / Army Forces Strategic Command And Joint Functional Component Command For Integrated Missile Defense
When: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Where: 222 Russell

Armed Service: Navy Shipbuilding Programs
Who: Honorable James F. Geurts, Assistant Secretary Of The Navy For Research, Development, And Acquisition; Vice Admiral William R. Merz, USN, Deputy Chief Of Naval Operations For Warfare Systems (OPNAV N9); Brigadier General (sel) James H. Adams, III, USMC, Director, Capabilities Development Directorate; Combat Development & Integration, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps
When: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Where: 232A Russell

Armed Services: Challenges in the Department of Energy’s Atomic Energy Defense Programs
Who: Honorable J. Richard Perry, Secretary Of Energy
When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, March 22, 2018
Where: 216 Hart

Veterans’ Affairs: Legislative Hearing on H.R. 888, H.R. 4335, H.R. 4910 and H.R. 4958
When: 10:30 AM, Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Where: 334 Cannon

Veterans’ Affairs: Economic Opportunity Legislative Hearing
When: 2:00 PM, Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: Navy Readiness Posture
Who: Vice Admiral William “Bill” K. Lescher, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Integration of Capabilities and Resources (N8), Headquarters U.S. Navy; Vice Admiral Andrew “Woody” L. Lewis, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy (N3/N5), Headquarters U.S. Navy; Vice Admiral Luke M. McCollum, Chief of Navy Reserve, Commander, Navy Reserve Force, Headquarters U.S. Navy
When: 3:30 PM, Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: Ground Force Modernization Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2019
Who: Lieutenant General John M. Murray, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, Office of the U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff; Lieutenant General Paul Ostrowski, Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology), Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology); Brigadier General Joe Shrader, Commanding General, Marine Corps Systems Command; Lieutenant General Robert S. Walsh, Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, and Deputy Commandant, Combat Development and Integration, on behalf of Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps
When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: 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: 3:30 PM, Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Where: 2212 Rayburn

Armed Services: Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request for Nuclear Forces and Atomic Energy Defense Activities
Who: Vice Admiral Terry Benedict, Director, Navy Strategic Systems Program; The Honorable Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration; Mr. James Owendoff, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment Management, Department of Energy; General Robin Rand, Commander, Air Force Global Strike Command; The Honorable John C. Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Department of Defense
When: 9:00 AM, Thursday, March 22, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: Reviewing Department of Defense Strategy, Policy, and Programs for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction for Fiscal Year 2019
Who: Lieutenant General Joseph Osterman, Deputy Commander, United States Special Operations Command; Mr. Vayl Oxford, Director, Defense Threat Reduction Agency; Mr. Ken Rapuano, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; The Honorable Guy Roberts, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment
When: 10:30 AM, Thursday, March 22, 2018
Where: 2212 Rayburn

Veteran’s Affairs: Partnering, Payment, and Provider Access: VA Community Care in North Carolina
When: 10:00 AM, Friday, March 23, 2018
Where: 334 Cannon

Community Opportunities 

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, March 19, 2018 11:03 am

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