Veterans Roundup: A Return to Some of Our Favorite Topics Including Proposed VA Reforms, Diversity in the Military, and the Veteran Anger Machine

Posted by Fred Wellman

One marriage, two entrepreneurs, two businesses and a lot of lessons learned
Fred and Crystal Wellman (@FPWellman), National Military Spouse Network
As two small business owners local to the historic Fredericksburg, Virginia area, Fred and Crystal Wellman truly understand the life of entrepreneurship and all that it entails. ScoutComms CEO, Fred Wellman, and his wife Crystal Wellman, co-owner of a handcrafted soap store called Ladyburg, began their journey as small-business owners just a few years ago. With many twists and turns, the Wellman’s have navigated the ambiguous maze of entrepreneurship side-by-side and share their many lessons learned in this NMSN article. –DD

Army fraud crackdown uses broad net to catch small fish, some unfairly
Dave Philipps (@David_Philipps), The New York Times
Task Force Raptor, a task force created by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command designed to combat fraud within the service, recently came under fire for continuing to search for National Guard members who received bonuses for recruits they did not refer. Catching these members started two years ago with the high-profile unveiling of a fraud ring in Texas that cost the Army $244,000. However, as time has gone on, the estimated amount of fraudulent pay-outs made by the Army has gone down from $100 million to $6 million. This hasn’t stopped the task force from searching out individuals and, in some cases, bullying those not involved into admitting to a crime they did not commit. –KB
Bottom line: It’s not really surprising that the Army is going after relatively small targets in its relentless hunt for the perpetrators of the recruiting scandal from years ago. One consistent rule in the military is that for every action, the Army will have an equal and opposite overreaction. This hunt is the perfect demonstration of that. A rash of news stories and congressional anger over the completely misguided and obviously poorly designed bonus program for the National Guard forced the Army to unleash the hounds of justice and no one seems interested in reigning them in now that the true scope of the issue has turned out to be just a tiny fraction of what was originally thought. The fact is that a poorly designed bonus structure was ripe to be exploited and the people who were truly criminal have long been caught but now we are pursuing the most ridiculous cases with the ultimate irony that the years-long effort consisting of a massive task force is costing more than the fraud they are pursuing. At some point hopefully an adult will stand up and say “you know…maybe we need to just let this go.” Until then lives will be placed in limbo on the flimsiest of evidence. –FPW

Auction of household goods wasn’t what it seemed, Navy says
Jessica Bidwell (@starsandstripes), Stars and Stripes
After a recent social media uproar, the U.S. Navy spoke out to bring clarity to a controversial situation regarding the auction of unclaimed household goods, which previously belonged to military personnel. An auction was scheduled for more than 105 unclaimed storage containers from the 1990s to mid-2000s. Navy guidelines require that service members pay for their items in storage after 90 days, however the owners of the storage containers which would have gone up for auction failed to make the required payments. Without knowing the full context, many individuals in the military community leapt to the conclusion that it was immoral to auction such items. –DD
Bottom line: This situation is the perfect example of the Veteran/Military Anger Machine gone wrong once again. When a military spouse blogger spotted the auction online she mistook the photos used on the auction site for photos of the items for sale instead of just samples of what the containers up for sale looked like. The Navy authorized the actual goods for sale and many had been abandoned for well over a decade. But once the social media warriors were unleashed all hell broke loose. A company that had actually been holding on to those items long after the law allowed them to give up out of kindness to the military community was instead treated to an onslaught of vitriol and threats all based on completely false information. This is our constant frustration with our community. We chase bad information and ruin people’s lives that are actually helping us out. The Navy is far from innocent here in that it has just now come out with a clear and unequivocal defense of the company. Just stop and do some homework before hitting that post button and setting off the community. Just once. –FPW

Research shows how PTSD can trigger growth in veterans
Jay Price (@JayatWUNC), NPR
New research findings from North Carolina State University shows the same trauma that triggers the development of PTSD can also trigger individual growth, known as post-traumatic growth. It is found mostly in those who experienced trauma but utilize the symptoms of PTSD, such as a heightened awareness, to appreciate rather than withdraw from their surroundings. Research is ongoing as to how to turn those symptoms of PTSD around and utilize them instead for PTG. –KB
Bottom line: More research in the field of mental health is always a good thing. In this case, the research will also serve to put some science and data behind what many in the community know to be true: that veterans are often stronger because of the sometimes traumatic experiences endured in military service. Over the last few years, leaders in the veteran community have tried to expand Americans’ understanding of PTS to encompass post-traumatic growth through efforts like the VA’s “Strong at the Broken Places” and Got Your 6’s entire mission, really. But having science and data is always better than having anecdotes. It will give advocates something to take to policymakers who can together shape programs and narratives that impact both veterans’ opportunities to grow post-trauma and Americans’ perceptions about veterans and PTS. –LJ

The military is building a case to block transgender applicants – at least for now
Andrew deGrandpre (@adegrandpre) and David Larter (@DavidLarter), Military Times
A number of senior leaders within the military have expressed concern over a directive that would allow transgendered persons to join the military, delaying the implementation of the policy indefinitely. The policy, first put into motion under President Obama, was set to be fully implemented by July 1, but officials say that it is logistical matters, rather than personal values, that are delaying implementation. –KB
Bottom line: The ongoing debate over integrating transgendered Americans in the military is far from the most important question facing the DoD today. It is a narrow personnel issue at a time when the military is involved in numerous conflicts overseas, faces maintenance and modernization challenges, and is rolling out a new retirement system. But, as with allowing religiously observant Sikhs to serve, the integration of women into combat positions, and the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, these reforms still matter and need to be handled right. And the right way is to increase the number of Americans who can serve by lowering barriers to service that do not relate to basic combat effectiveness. If the transgender policy implementation process is truly being delayed due to practical questions and minor funding challenges, so be it. But if any of these stalling tactics—emanating largely from the Army and Marine Corps—are intended to provide cover for a rollback of progress achieved thus far, then this is unacceptable. The military is a hierarchical, tradition-bound organization, but it is also an amazingly adaptable learning organization. It learned to accept gay and lesbian service members, and given clear policies and clear leadership, it should have no problem in the long term accepting transgender service members who are serving and who want to serve their nation openly. –BW

Shulkin unveils sweeping reforms for VA programs, operations
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
During a “State of the VA” address at the White House last week, VA Secretary David Shulkin put forth his 12-point agenda to reform virtually every aspect of the VA, including increasing speed of access to care, expanding care options, reducing the VA’s physical footprint, improving IT systems, and making the reduction of suicide among veterans its top clinical priority. The Senate will also vote on new accountability legislation this month that would allow quicker terminations of VA employees. Perhaps most notably, Shulkin believes that these changes could be enacted without an increase in federal funding. ­–JG
Bottom line: Secretary Shulkin continues to work hard to spearhead changes at the VA for the new Administration while balancing the needs and desires of the veteran community with the fiscal responsibilities of his agency. During his “State of the VA” address given from the press podium at the White House, Shulkin outlined his 12-point plan to improve the VA. As the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States, Secretary Shulkin and his team face a tough and heavily scrutinized uphill battle, after a week of veterans advocates calling foul on the Trump Administration VA budget. The Secretary is no doubt leading an agency that requires a significant overhaul of programs, construction, facilities and processes that have created barriers to high-quality care for veterans in the past. This 12-point plan is obviously going to be far more complex and nuanced than a speech can describe, but we know that if it is to succeed it will take buy-in across multiple populations of stakeholders as well as a careful and balanced stance on funding. As he soldiers on, we are hopeful that there will be robust conversations with stakeholders to maximize support to veterans and their families while also righting years of scandal and personnel issues that have plagued the VA.  It is yet to be seen if this is a fiscally feasible plan, and we are sure that our community will keep a close eye as the Secretary forges ahead with his plan. –RB

How veterans are helping advance marijuana-PTSD research
Nikki Wentling (@nikkiwentling), Stars and Stripes
The first randomized controlled trial for utilization of marijuana to treat PTSD symptoms is currently going on in Scottsdale, Ariz. This study has undergone multiple setbacks, including the withdrawal of Johns Hopkins University from participation earlier this year, but is still widely supported by both veterans and veteran serving organizations, such as the American Legion, which recently requested a meeting with President Donald Trump to talk about alternative medicine options for veterans. Their support, combined with VA Secretary David Shulkin’s comments earlier this week about his openness to looking at marijuana as a potential treatment, may help to push this alternative treatment forward. –KB
Bottom line: Given the rapid decriminalization and legalization of marijuana in states across the country, the VA and the federal government are at risk of falling way behind the country as a whole on the issue of medical marijuana. At the same time, pursuing clinical research that can generate better data about the value and impact of marijuana on PTSD and other conditions that veterans often deal with presents a wide range of value propositions. But this data is needed sooner rather than later to have any value in the national debate, so after years of delay, the Arizona randomized controlled trial should be allowed to continue, and should be followed soon thereafter by more trials featuring more medical experts, more academic and medical institutions, and a whole lot more veterans. America is rapidly changing its views on medical marijuana, and veterans are acting on their own personal initiative in ways not currently recognized by the institutions they look to for care and support. It’s time for this imbalanced relationship to change, and the creation and release of better data that is not reined in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ unscientific bias against marijuana will be a boon for veterans’ health care. –BW

Volunteers place roses at Arlington headstones
Fox News
Dave Gowell, RallyPoint CEO, sat down with FOX News at Arlington National Cemetery last weekend, where thousands of people were gathering to lay a #FlowerOnEveryGrave. Gowell, an Army veteran, stressed that one of the most important things we can do is “thank those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.” This initiative was just one way to bring back the true meaning of Memorial Day. –AB

HUD Secretary Ben Carson pledges continued focus on homeless vets
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
At the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans Housing Summit in DC, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson discussed his agency’s efforts to uphold President Trump’s promise to house the nation’s homeless veterans. He also emphasized the importance of “housing first” policies that have seen success in dozens of communities across the country. –JG

WorkWise: Life restored for a wounded warrior
Mildred Culp (@knoxnews), Knoxville News Sentinel
After Michael Carrasquillo was injured serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, the road to recovery took nearly two years before he became a civilian. In the years to follow, Carrasquillo isolated himself from the outside world until he found guidance through Wounded Warrior Project’s Warriors to Work Program. The program provided him with crucial career guidance and empowerment that led him to become the mentor he is today in a wounded veteran support group. Carrasquillo also became involved with the Armed Services Arts Partnership, which helped him with civilian reintegration through a creative stand-up comedy program for veterans. –DD

Denver marks Memorial Day with remembrance and reverence
David Migoya (@DavidMigoya), The Denver Post
Mikel Burroughs, a retired Army colonel and a leading member of RallyPoint’s online military community, led the #FlowerOnEveryGrave efforts in Denver at Fort Logan National Cemetery last weekend. This was the first year Burroughs led a Memorial Day group in Denver, and he hopes to continue the effort next year. –AB

Veterans find the courage to tell their stories
Paige Osburn (@PaigeOsburn), WAMU
At a Memorial Day weekend comedy event, hosted by Story District and the Armed Services Arts Partnership, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jennie Haskamp told her story, while incorporating occasional elements of comedy to cope with the traumatic experience of losing her boyfriend to suicide. Haskamp has told the story told before, but that night was the first time she told it in front of an audience. Haskamp says more people, not just veterans, should take classes like those offered by ASAP in order to learn more about how to express themselves. ­–JG

Honor the contributions of military men and women, and families, this Memorial Day
The Star Democrat
Many veterans and their families face financial hardships living the military lifestyle, but Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix) is there to provide free tickets to community events ranging from musical concerts, major sportinggames and events in the arts. A donation to Vet Tix could help a transitioning service member, veteran or a military family get involved with their local community without the burden of a price tag. According to Vet Tix’s recent annual survey results, 43 percent of military families have moved three or more times in the past 10 years. Resources like Vet Tix are available to help the military community to become integrated and remain involved in their communities while strengthening bonds. –DD

VA drops goal of zero homeless veterans
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
In an interview with Military Times, VA Secretary David Shulkin explained that the VA does not believe reaching zero homeless veterans is a realistic goal, focusing instead on a “functional zero” that would leave up to 15,000 veterans who refuse housing on the streets. His justification for this was that the VA must respect the wishes of individuals experiencing homelessness who have at least temporarily chosen homelessness over their other options. ­–JG

Graduation season busy time for military recruiters
Michael Wetzel (@DD_Wetzel), Military Times
With high school graduation in full swing, military recruiters are busy finding interested and eligible recruits for all branches of the military. Potential recruits must pass aptitude, physical and medical tests, which may equate to receiving bonuses. Military recruiters are taking the opportunity of graduation as a way to help guide those who may be unsure of their next steps in their career paths. –DD

As war veterans die, the civilian-military divide grows
Sig Christenson (@saddamscribe) and J.P. Lawrence (@JpLawrence3), San Antonio Express-News
As America’s military has shifted from being draft-based to an all-volunteer force, there has been an increase in the perception of the military as a “family business,” with those most likely to volunteer for the Armed Forces being those who were brought up with exposure to someone in the military. With this shift comes a concern that the military’s population will become culturally homogeneous, thereby deepening the divide between those who have and have not served. –KB

Ken Harbaugh, former naval pilot and nonprofit executive, to challenge U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs in 2018
Andrew J. Tobias (@AndrewJTobias),
Ken Harbaugh, an Ivy League graduate and former Navy pilot, announced his candidacy for Ohio’s 7th Congressional District to challenge Representative Bob Gibbs. Harbaugh has left his job as president of Team Rubicon Global in order to work on his race full-time. Typically, the 7th District of Ohio is a Republican seat, but Harbaugh is looking to change that. –DD

For military veterans, finding a job is one thing – staying in it is another
Aaron Schrank (@AaronSchrank), Marketplace
While the national veteran unemployment rate is down to just four percent–compared to 9 percent several years ago–many veterans still struggle with finding the right job immediately after leaving the military. Author Emily King has written a book on the issue and consults for companies focused on integrating new veteran employees. She says the military mindset of mission first, interpersonal communication second often causes friction in non-military work environments and that it takes mindful adjustment to get there. Another major contributor to the high turnover of veterans is poor hiring practices by recruiters that are looking to check a box. –JG

Tradeshows & Conferences

None this week.

Congressional Hearings

None this week.

Other Events

None this week.

Fred 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.Fred Wellman

This entry was posted on Monday, June 05, 2017 10:56 am

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