Veterans Roundup: A Look at How the Administration’s Budget Request for 2018 Will Impact Veterans and Military Families, Plus Veteran Hiring and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Iraq war film ‘Megan Leavey’ receives “6 Certified” stamp of approval from veteran organization
Patrick Shanley, Hollywood Reporter
Got Your 6, a nonprofit dedicated to changing the narrative about veterans and service members, awarded its “6 Certified” endorsement to the film “Megan Leavey” for its depiction of service women. Got Your 6 “6 Certified” Review Committee member and ScoutComms Vice President Rory Brosius weighed in on the film’s representation, stating that it is important to portray military service as a characteristic, rather than as a defining feature of a veteran’s life. –KB  

Learning Labs & Golden Nuggets
Cassaundra Martinez, Dog Tag Inc.
At Dog Tag Bakery, in addition to taking classes at Georgetown University and working shifts at the bakery, fellows hear from professionals at “Learning Labs” about their experience and share any “golden nuggets” they’ve learned along the way. ScoutComms CEO Fred Wellman regularly visits the fellows at Dog Tag Bakery to speak at one of their Learning Labs about his background and how it led him to the realization that starting his own business was the best decision for him. –JG

The Civil Service’s Preference for Hiring Military Vets Comes at a Hidden Cost
Gregory Lewis, The Conversation
For decades the federal government has given preference to veterans in its hiring practices. Today, veterans born after 1980 are 15 times more likely to have a federal government job than non-veterans of the same age. While this policy has helped drive veteran unemployment to an all-time low, some are concerned about its long-term effects on overall diversity in the federal workforce. –JG
Bottom line: Lewis makes a well-argued and data-driven argument in his piece questioning the effect of veterans’ preference on the federal workforce, specifically as it refers to diversity. His case is simple in that the majority of U.S. military veterans are white, heterosexual males thus with veterans receiving high preference and being more likely to be hired for a federal position than their civilian peers, you have a federal workforce that skews heavily white, heterosexual, and male. The make-up of the federal government workforce reflects that to be just the case so we have a government bureaucracy that thanks to good intentions to honor those who have served is inadvertently not reflective of the U.S. population. That is an issue we should worry about. Obviously, we are all about ensuring our veterans are honored and given the opportunities they have earned, but we are also passionate about the fact that veterans are not charity cases that need to be treated differently or better than their civilian peers. The fact is that the current system of hiring almost ensures that if a qualified veteran applies for a job he will get it no matter how much better qualified or appropriate a civilian candidate might be for the job. The veteran empowerment side of my brain is uncomfortable with that scenario. It is probably time to ensure that we are giving veterans a leg up to overcome biases but not an unfair benefit that hurts are country as a whole. –FPW

For Army Infantry’s 1st women, heavy packs and the weight of history
Dave Philipps (@Dave_Philipps), The New York Times
In an effort to emphasize unity and promote inclusion across its forces, the Army isn’t relaxing any of its rules for the 18 women who graduated from infantry school last week. While Army women find their ability to pursue combat jobs groundbreaking, battalion commander Lt. Col. Sam Edwards referred to their training as “business as usual,” stating that the standards will be the same across both genders. This lack of special treatment reinforces the notion that these women, while making history, are soldiers, exactly the same as their male counterparts. –KB
Bottom line: As the first class of women infantrymen graduated from the Army’s Infantry school at Ft. Benning last week, it was yet another reminder that women have been fighting and dying alongside their male counterparts for years and are finally able to hold the same job titles. According to a February report issued by Service Women’s Action Network: since September 11, 2001 more than 300,000 women have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq; 166 women have been killed during combat operations and more than 1,000 have been wounded. Additionally, almost 14,000 women have been awarded the Combat Action Badge for engagement with the enemy during combat operations. After much concern that integrating combat jobs would mean standards would be lowered, morale decreased or readiness compromised; the male peers and cadre interviewed during training at Ft. Benning made it clear that the women who graduated had pulled their own weight and met the same standards as the men. With a drop-out rate of 44% for women and 20% for men it’s evident that the Infantry isn’t for everyone, but allowing the best of the best—regardless of gender—the opportunity to train, qualify and become our frontline is good for our national defense. –RB

Trump’s big VA budget request comes with proposed trims to veterans benefits
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
The White House released their comprehensive VA budget proposal for the 2018 fiscal year and it includes budget cuts to veteran benefits. While President Trump would like to increase the department’s discretionary funding for improving veterans’ access to health care, Trump’s plan includes eliminating the Individual Unemployability program. Said cuts will affect more than 225,000 veterans who receive payments due to their disability rating. –DD
Bottom line: We finally get our first in-depth look at the Trump Administration’s desired budget outlays for VA in the next fiscal year. It’s not much different than previous ones in that is calls for a slight increase in spending and, thankfully, the same amount of funding for homeless veteran programs. Somewhat oddly, it doesn’t include more funding for mental health programs, but it does maintain previous levels of funding. Rather, the emphasis in increased funding seems to be in VA Choice. That is perhaps not surprising from an administration that likely had to be talked back from the ledge on privatizing VA. This budget, though, is all theoretical because it will ultimately be left to lawmakers on the Hill to decide how much VA gets for which programs—and the ones with the purse strings over there have been noted skeptics of VA Choice as-is and intend to shepherd through reforms. Similarly, lawmakers are unlikely to wave through the administration’s proposed cuts to elderly veterans’ benefits because, well, they actually have some political sense. So in the end, the Trump budget proposal is a good starting place, but it’s going to look a lot different by the time the House and Senate are done with it. –LJ

House passes measure to outlaw nude photo sharing in the military
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
The Marines United scandal brought attention to a loophole which made it difficult to hold service members accountable for sharing explicit pictures of others without permission. This loophole was closed this past week via a unanimously passed bill that updates the law to make it illegal to share these types of photos. The bill was praised but, as one Representative acknowledged, is only a small step in combatting the cultural issues that are at the heart of the Marines United scandal. –KB
Bottom line: It’s reassuring to see Congress move so quickly to fix something that was broken. This should give us a modicum of hope about other issues, as well, but it’s also probably not a great sign that this wasn’t illegal in the first place. Closing the loophole was a bipartisan agreement that the Marines United scandal was unacceptable behavior from our military. Unfortunately, culture change can’t wholly be legislated—though changing the law can be a significant driver in reframing how people conceptualize their actions. Rather, the services will have to continue to evaluate and reevaluate their internal biases that foster this behavior. As most military leaders, from field grades down to team leaders, are men and women of integrity, we don’t think this will be a difficult change. Simply, it will be necessary change to modernize with the times, become more diverse, and ultimately stronger for it. –LJ

Proposed Food Stamp Cuts Would Hit Military Families
Richard Sisk (@Militarydotcom),
Significant cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is utilized by a number of military families, have been suggested by President Trump in his recent Defense Department budget proposal. White House Officials state that said cuts would remove users who do not necessarily need SNAP programs, but Pentagon officials feel that the proposed cuts would harm too many military families who rely on SNAP to feed their loved ones. –DD
Bottom line: While the Trump Administration defends its new budget plan, we are again analyzing the merits of large social service cuts as they relate to military and veteran families. SNAP, otherwise known as food stamps, is a program that bolsters the household readiness of many young and vulnerable military families. In a briefing last week, OMB director of Mick Mulvaney stated, “If you are on food stamps, and you are able-bodied, we need you to go to work.” This pull yourself up by your bootstraps narrative comes across a little harshly to the military community, where service members are deploying regularly and nearly half of 23,000 military kids in DODEA schools qualify for either free or reduced-price lunches. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will write it again: family readiness is a national security issue. We must not balance the budget on the backs of military families who have borne the brunt of the war on terror for the past 16 years. Our friends at the National Military Family Association published a fact sheet this week detailing the potential impacts of the federal budget on military families. We must remain focused on understanding how all aspects of the federal budget impact the military and veteran communities, not just the individual budgets of DOD or VA. Reducing access to safety net programs, either within the DOD or within the broader federal system, is not the way to save money nor is it the way to recruit or retain quality service members. –RB

Pentagon seeks Tricare fee increases for military retirees
Amy Bushatz (@AmyBushatz),
The Administration’s budget proposal is being dissected and once again the DoD is requesting adjustments to Tricare fees for military retirees. Trump’s budget request for the Defense Department also removes a “grandfathering” clause that has previously exempted retirees already in the Tricare system from being subjected to an increase in enrollment fees. In the past, Congress had only applied fee increases to those who enter the force after 2018, but the new budget proposal bill would mean that every person currently in the Tricare system would be subjected to the increases, effective January of next year. These changes are currently under great scrutiny in Congress, where some have already deemed it “dead on arrival.” In addition, the newest budget proposal will ultimately increase Tricare pharmacy fees, which will also directly affect the military community. –KB
Bottom line: Remember how a couple of years ago DOD suggested raising fees on retirees and many veterans angrily attacked the Obama Administration for this outrage? We told you then that this isn’t something that is tied to the Democrats or the Republicans. This is the dream and wish of the military uniformed leadership and civilian bureaucracy that sees the military retiree community as nothing but a burden on their budget and not the recipients of the solemn promise given to them decades ago. The fact that an even more draconian approach to raising Tricare fees came from a Republican Administration should put to rest the notion that this isn’t really the desire of the military itself and not a political party. Some of the increases would be as much as 300% on retirees while altering the entire structure of their healthcare benefits for every single person that has ever served. We fully expect a return to the simple argument that the U.S. government must keep its promise to our veterans and honor the promises made to them when they signed the dotted line decades ago. There isn’t any wiggle room here. Balancing the budget by breaking the sacred trust of those who have served is a non-starter. –FPW

Military network RallyPoint’s #FlowerOnEveryGrave campaign to bring back true meaning of Memorial Day nationwide
Memorial Day is about remembering those who have paid the ultimate price. This is why RallyPoint – the leading social network for the military community – thought to recognize the holiday by bringing together service members, veterans, veteran service organizations and supportive Americans to honor the sacrifices of America’s fallen service members and veterans by laying a #FlowerOnEveryGrave this Memorial Day. Thus far, they have mobilized more than 2,000 volunteers, raised more than $15,000 and partnered with a diverse array of like-minded organizations. –AB

New ticket program gives troops, veterans a chance to see Broadway’s ‘Bandstand’
Kevin Lilley (@KRLilley), Military Times
Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix) and their partner, Got Your 6, will be providing tickets to a Tony-nominated, “6 Certified” Broadway show that follows two fictional WWII veterans in their journey to start a band. Vet Tix is a national nonprofit that administers free event tickets to currently serving military, veterans and their families. Those eligible will receive two tickets to the Broadway show taking place in New York City. –DD

RallyPoint Welcomes Rocket Fuel CEO, Randy Wootton to Advisory Board
PR Web
U.S. Navy Veteran and Rocket Fuel CEO Randy Wootton is one of three recent additions to the RallyPoint board of advisors, joining Gen. Bruce K. Scott and Greg White, among others. The online military network of more than 1.2 million members will benefit from his expertise in marketing and advertising technology, as also boasts experience in Microsoft and Salesforce executive leadership. –AB

Vets4Warriors Recognized by Department of Defense for Its Support of Military Employees
Rutgers University (@RutgersU)
The leading peer support network for service members, veterans, family members and caregivers received the prestigious Pro Patria Award from the Department of Defense thanks to its support of its National Guard and Reserve employees. Vets4Warriors provides a 24/7, confidential peer support system for any individual in the military community looking to find solutions to physical, mental or social challenges, before those challenges turn into crises. Vets4Warriors received the award from the New Jersey Committee of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. –DD

#FlowerOnEveryGrave a simple act of respect
Brandon Charters (@B_Charters), Stars and Stripes
This Memorial Day, it’s important to remember what the holiday commemorates: the ultimate price thousands of our nation’s service members and veterans have paid in their service to our country. Brandon Charters, U.S. Air Force veteran and director of accounts for RallyPoint, recently shared his personal story of what Memorial Day means to him. RallyPoint, the premier online network for military members, is calling all Americans to honor our fallen troops this holiday weekend with their #FlowerOnEveryGrave campaign. –AB

Where To Volunteer On Memorial Day 2017 So You Can Spend Your Holiday Giving Back
Megan Shepherd (@mmmmmmmmegan), Bustle
RallyPoint’s #FlowerOnEveryGrave initiative is bringing veteran-serving organizations, volunteers, service members and civilians alike out in full force this Memorial Day. For more information on this campaign and other ways to honor our fallen, check out Bustle’s latest article on ways to give back this weekend. –AB

A dignified end for New York’s forgotten veterans
Corey Kilgannon, The New York Times
While the number of homeless veterans has decreased drastically in New York City, many are still dying in homeless shelters with no family accessible to ensure a proper, dignified burial. A coalition of veteran groups has stepped up to honor these deceased service members, utilizing nearby funeral homes to arrange for a proper coffin, viewing and burial. These services are often only attended by members of these groups who gather to ensure the deceased is given a memorial worthy of someone who has worn the uniform. –KB

Veterans may be overlooking job opportunities in IT sector
Eileen Trauth, PBS NewsHour
When it comes to jobs service members choose after transitioning, many overlook joining the information technology field. However, depending on their previous experience, IT is commonly one of the fields for service members are most qualified to enter. When it comes to ensuring a successful transition, especially preventing a rise in veteran unemployment, it turns out that biases and current assumptions around what a job in IT looks like might be the only thing holding some service members back. –JG

Trump effect inspires radical Christians in military
Nina Burleigh (@ninaburleigh), Newsweek
The election of President Donald Trump has led to an overall surge in the number of reports to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation from those service members of minority religions and military atheists. These reports have come in for a number of reasons, particularly the overt infusion of Christian values into military-sanctioned therapy programs and open anti-Semitism across all branches. –KB

More delays in Congress on proposal to have women register for draft
Richard Sisk,
After a long-stalled congressional proposal that would make it mandatory for women to register for the draft, the bill has been assigned to a special committee for review. This controversial proposal comes as a logical follow up to former Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s decision to open all combat positions to women, which invalidated a former Supreme Court decision stating that women should not have to register due to not being on the front lines. –KB

Walmart announces guaranteed pay for military workers
Jackie Wattles (@jackiewattles), CNN Money
Walmart will become one of the first major retailers to provide pay to those on military leave to ensure service members and their families are not penalized for their service. The new policy will apply to all full-time and part-time Walmart employees who are on leave for military assignments. If the employee makes less in their military salary than their store wage, Walmart has pledged to cover the difference. –DD  

VA plans mental care for discharged vets, but at what cost?
Hope Yen (@HopeYen1), Associated Press
For the first time, the half million veterans who have received an “other than honorable” discharge can seek urgent mental health care at VA facilities in addition to calling the Veterans Crisis Line. VA Sec. Shulkin brought about this change in the hope that it would lower rates of veteran suicide, since two-thirds of veterans that died by suicide do not receive care at the VA. Lawmakers are concerned about the viability of the program since there has been no funding allocated for its implementation. –JG

U.S. college teaches veterans to heal each others’ mental wounds
Scott Malone (@MaloneReuters), U.S. News & World Report
William James College, a small graduate school in northern Massachusetts, is unique in that it has the only program in the U.S. aimed specifically at helping former service members become mental health counselors. The program hopes to create a peer network of veterans who can counsel their fellow service members on the benefits of being mentally well and, by proxy, reducing the notion that seeking out mental health care somehow makes one “weak.” –KB 

Tradeshows & Conferences

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans: Yes, In My Backyard: Putting Veterans First Annual Conference and Housing Summit (Tue-Fri, 30 May – 2 June, Grand Hyatt, Washington DC)

Congressional Hearings

None this week.

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 Tuesday, May 30, 2017 9:11 am

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