Veterans Report: Voting Declines in Service Members, GWOT Memorial Approved and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Trump signs off on Global War on Terror memorial
Dianna Cahn (@DiannaCahn), Stars and Stripes
Last week, President Donald Trump signed a bill that allows the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation (GWOTMF) to start the building process of a Global War on Terrorism memorial in the National Capitol Region. This national memorial will honor those who have fought and died in Iraq and Afghanistan since the war began in 2001 – and those who continue to make the ultimate sacrifice as the conflicts progress. Because there is no end in sight for this war, the bill needed an exception from the 1986 Commemorative Works Act, which requires Congress to wait 10 years after the official end of a military conflict before a memorial in the nation’s capital is considered. According to the GWOTMF, the memorial is expected to be finished in 2024. –CB
Bottom line: Full disclosure, I am on the Board of Advisors for the GWOTMF and we serve as their pro bono agency partner so we are thrilled at the passage of this act to allow the process to move forward. A lot of folks expressed concern about building a memorial to a war that is not yet over or dedicating it to the entire Global War on Terror. While it does seem odd to work on a memorial to a war that is still on-going it also has to be recognized that this is the longest war in American history and we may very well be sending kids to war who weren’t even born when it started. Throw in that the process to build a national memorial is literally 24-steps and this is like step 2…there is still a very long time before ground on this memorial will be broken. By then, those who lost loved ones in the early days of the war could be waiting more than 20 years. As far as the selection of the memorial’s name…well…national memorials are based on congressionally mandated declarations. There is only one Post-9/11 war authorization-not separate authorizations for Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc. Thus, one memorial will have to capture the scope and breadth of a war that is starkly different than wars fought in the past. Just as there is one World War II Memorial that captures both Pacific and European theaters, so too the GWOT Memorial will capture the vast scale of this decades long conflict. We hope you will support the effort and donate time and money to help it succeed for those that have sacrificed so much. –FPW

Servicemembers turned out in smaller numbers for 2016 presidential vote
Nancy Montgomery, Stars and Stripes
A federal study released this past week detailing voter behavior in the 2016’s presidential election revealed that voting rates among service members were lower than in past elections. In 2012, 58 percent of eligible service members voted, while this past election only saw 46 percent heading to the polling booth. According to available data, many military members cited a lack of interest and motivation as their primary reasons for not voting. –KB
Bottom line: It is difficult to draw any clear conclusions from the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s report. Both registration and turnout were significantly down in the military, but FVAP does not believe it was due to hurdles to registration or voting. Female and black service members saw notably large registration drops compared to 2012, with no clear reason for the changes beyond the general explanation that service members were not as motivated or interested in 2016 as they were in 2012. It is unclear why service members lost interest at a higher rate than civilians, though for some it might have been disappointment in the candidates on the ballot and the messages conveyed during the campaigns. FVAP did note that the military became less likely to be white, to be college-educated, to be married and to be male over the four-year period, which is believed have contributed to up to half of the recorded decline in registration. Unless FVAP or another reliable source can dig deeper, we may have to wait to examine the 2020 election as an additional reference point to see if 2016’s decline was an aberration or if service members have lost enthusiasm for voting in the current political environment or given the current choices in political candidates. One factor that might increase voting in general is the push by both political parties to recruit more veterans to run for office. –BW

Neo-Nazis excluded from military service by policy, but concerns persist
Nancy Montgomery, Stars and Stripes
Military recruiters are given guidelines to adhere to in order to avoid recruiting those affiliated with hate groups such as neo-Nazis or the KKK, a practice that helps the Department of Defense maintain a force that is grounded in common core values. However, the infiltration of white supremacist groups in the military continues to be a problem: an FBI report in 2008 found that more than 200 military members had been associated with neo-Nazi and other home-grown terrorist organizations since September 11, 2001. –KB
Bottom line: In the wake of Charlottesville and other racist gathering across the nation, it has become abundantly clear that there are truly some terrible people in our country. We have seen stories of emboldened members of the alt-right espousing hatred and bigotry and we are now facing a turning point in how we address this type of behavior. It has been highly concerning, though not entirely surprising, to see active duty service members and military veterans taking part in these demonstrations and this behavior. The military is after all a cross-section of America, and though it may not be a representative cross-section, it does contain an incredibly diverse group of individuals. Unfortunately, there will likely always be “bad-eggs,” in any large group, but it is absolutely necessary that the military take the threat of these types of groups and their subversive recruitment seriously. –RB

Trump signs bill to speed up veteran disability appeals process
Ellen Mitchell (@EllenMitchell23), The Hill
President Donald Trump signed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act last week in an effort to reduce delays in adjudicating VA appeals cases, which can currently take up to five years to resolve. Every veteran who becomes ill or injured during service is authorized to receive VA disability payments. A veteran has the option to appeal the decision if they do not feel they are allotted enough money, but this has created a complicated backlog of appeals. With more than 470,000 current appeals in the VA system, this new bill will expedite the process and give veterans more options on how to appeal. –DD
Bottom line: Reform of the broken benefits appeal process has been a priority of veterans’ advocates for several years and has gained momentum with the continuing backlog of claims on their first pass. In the rush to clear the backlog VA reviewers were encouraged to speed up granting disability ratings to veterans to expedite payments and benefits. Unfortunately, that also increased the number of appeals as veterans were sometimes awarded lower ratings than they felt they deserved or as chronic issues led to further disabilities over time. The backlog in the antiquated appeals system grew quickly and some veterans have waited five years or more for a resolution to their claims. Advocates hope that this bill will speed the process by creating three distinct lanes for review based on the type of appeal. While this system will only apply to new claims, the hope is that without new claims entering the backlog that those in the system will find quick resolution. We hope this new system will be effective, as many veterans have waited in limbo for far too long. –FPW

White House Sets Rules for Military Transgender Ban
Gordon Lubold (@GLubold), The Wall Street Journal
Guidance from the White House regarding the reinstatement of a ban against transgender service members serving in the military is expected to land on General Mattis’s desk in the near future. The two-and-a-half-page memo will give the Secretary of Defense six months to prepare for this policy change that comes just over a year after former President Obama lifted the previous ban against transgender service members. The new ban will exist in the evaluation of immediate “deployability” for each service member. Transgender rights advocates were quick to point out the hypocrisy of a policy like this, asking that if service members that schedule surgery to remove their gallbladder can keep their job, which would make them ineligible for immediate deployment, why should transition related surgery be treated any differently. –JG
Bottom line: In a decidedly unsurprising move during his Friday evening news dump, President Trump issued a memo ordering the reversal of an Obama-era policy which allowed transgender service members to serve openly in the military. It has been an incredibly challenging month for our LGBT service members and the advocates who support them. I believe many of us were hopeful that the tweets that the President fired off in late July were empty threats; unfortunately, late Friday night the White House issued the memo that instructed the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to return to the policy that existed before the Obama directive. The Administration states concerns related to military effectiveness and lethality, disruption in unit cohesion and taxing military resources, all concerns that officials from the previous administration believed they had addressed. One thing is for certain—this will not be an easy battle for the Trump Administration as groups like AMPA and OutServe-SLDN step up to challenge this policy. With many transgender service members deployed both currently and previously, there is an inherent disconnect in stating that these service members aren’t qualified or ready to serve. During a week where the Air Force asked former pilots to come back to active duty for limited terms to address their pilot shortage and with the President expected to send nearly 4,000 troops to Afghanistan, it seems shocking that this Administration would willingly pull capable service members off the line. –RB

Hometown hero: KISS honors Buffalo woman at WNY concert
The rock band KISS recognized Iraq veteran and director of events for Hiring Our Heroes, retired Army National Guard Lt. Col. Kathryn Poynton, during their concert at the Seneca Casino in Niagara Falls, NY.  Poynton, originally from Buffalo, has helped Hiring Our Heroes host 120 hiring fairs since 2011, focused on connecting veterans with meaningful employment opportunities. –JG

10 Principles of Leadership
Bob McDonald, RallyPoint
Bob McDonald, former Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, recently joined RallyPoint’s board of directors, where he is utilizing his exceptional character, leadership experience and network to complement and amplify all that RallyPoint does in support of the military. He recently shared his 10 leadership principles in a RallyPoint blog post. Stay tuned for more, as McDonald plans on explaining in-depth each principle in a series of blog posts and discussions to follow! –AB

New technology is revolutionizing how we treat mental health
JR Thorpe (@ThoroughlyThorp), Bustle
Advances in technology are helping those with mental illness get faster and more accurate mental healthcare. Companies like MYnd Analytics are helping by providing patients with brain scans to help their physician determine what medications will work best with their brain chemistry. Overall, these advances have the capacity to eliminate much of the distress associated with these disorders while also reducing overall healthcare expenditures. –KB

Hiring fair coming to Camp Pendleton
Linda McIntosh (@sdutmcintosh), The San Diego Union-Tribune
A free opportunity for all transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses will be coming to the San Diego area at Camp Pendleton. Hiring Our Heroes will be offering a two-day Transition Summit from Aug. 29-30, which will offer employer networking, panel discussions, recruiter training and workshops to improve resume building and digital networking. Bonnie Amos, the wife of the former Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Dakota Meyer, recipient of the Medal of Honor, will be guest speakers at the summit. The two will equip participants with the tools and resources to have a successful transition and will discuss resources beyond the summit, such as incorporating spouses as an integral part of a family’s transition. –DD

Nats Park hosts huge military, veteran hiring event Sept. 7
Jeff Clabaugh (@JClabaugh), WTOP
Hiring Our Heroes will host a Hiring Expo with the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 7. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet with more than 75 local and national employers who seek veteran and military spouse employees. All pre-registered job seekers will receive free tickets to the Nationals vs. Phillies game that evening. To find out if a hiring fair is coming to a city near you, visit the Hiring Our Heroes website. –JG

Afghanistan vets reassured by Trump reversing calls for exit
Julie Watson (@watson_julie), AP News
When President Donald Trump announced his plans to increase the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and seek an outcome-based result to U.S. involvement, many veterans who fought in this war were reassured that their sacrifices were not made in vain. During his national address on Monday, President Trump introduced a plan that involves sending up to 3,900 additional U.S. service men and women to Afghanistan, on what could be a very short timeline. Veterans interviewed by AP were encouraged that President Trump seems to be relying on the advice of strategic military commanders and that the U.S. may have learned from the withdrawal in Iraq, which created an opportunity for the Islamic State group to fill the void. –CB  

Defence suicide rate is addressed in parliament
Justine Doherty, Hawkesbury Gazette
Australian Member of Parliament Susan Templeman recently spoke out to raise awareness about the need to adopt better mental health services for the country’s defense forces. Data from the Australian Department of Defense reveals that since January 2000, 129 active Defense service members were suspected or confirmed to have died by suicide. These statistics also show that most deaths by suicide were men. As a result of these findings, Templeman has urged her colleagues and the Australian government to take legislative action to support service members and their mental wellness. In addition to this research, a bipartisan Australian Senate committee has recommended that the “government commission an independent study into the mental health impacts of the claims processes” at the country’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs. This call to action comes amid concerns that interacting with the Department may exacerbate or worsen mental health among veterans. –NJ 

Tradeshows & Conferences

The Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States: 46th Annual EANGUS Conference & Expo (Sun – Wed, Aug. 27-30, 2017); Silver Legacy Resort Casino, Reno, NV

AFTIC: The Air Force Information Technology & Cyberpower Conference (Mon – Wed, Aug. 28-30, 2017); Montgomery, Alabama

Congressional Hearings

None this week.

Other Events

None this week.



This entry was posted on Monday, August 28, 2017 9:26 am

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