Veterans Roundup: A Shift in Giving and Budgets for Post-9/11 Veteran Organizations, Employing Reservists, Fewer Homeless Veterans, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

U.S. Marine families battle mice, mold and powerful private landlords
Deborah Nelson, M.B. Pell (@Newshawks), Reuters
A recent report by Reuters revealed that due to insufficient tenant protections established by the military and private companies that operate base housing, including Lincoln Military Housing, service members and their families have little recourse when they encounter health hazards in their homes. State laws offer protections to tenants met with unlivable conditions, but military tenants lack the same “basic protections” afforded to civilians. Military families are facing fees in the thousands of dollars to escape homes infested with vermin, mold and other similar issues because local government agencies that enforce health codes don’t have jurisdiction on most bases. If military families don’t receive resolution from the management company, their only recourse is to report unsatisfactory conditions to base officials, but those same officials are integrated into a hierarchy that is inextricably linked in partnership to the company that’s failing to provide solutions. “Military families have two choices – put up and shut up or pay the astronomical cost of moving off base,” said Crystal Cornwall, a Marine spouse in Quantico, Virginia. –KG
Bottom Line: Privatizing base housing has been heralded by military officials for over a decade and a half as the solution to years of neglect and astronomical costs associated with building and maintaining hundreds of thousands of homes located on military installations. But, it has also given vast powers and money to contractors that only answer to a limited number of officials on the bases they serve. The argument that if a military family doesn’t like their situation they can just move is not realistic. The military will pay for one move to a base and after that it’s out of pocket for the family. On top of that, base schools are separate from the local districts so kids are pulled out even if the family only moves a few miles off base. Essentially, once a family commits to moving on to base they are locked in for the duration of their tour and stuck with whatever mess they inherit. Perhaps the pendulum has swung too far to privatization and its time it swung back to a balance that prioritized family needs over profit. –FPW

More U.S. Veterans Are Off the Streets
Ben Kesling (@bkesling), The Wall Street Journal 
Due to a joint effort between federal and local governments, the number of homeless veterans dropped to approximately 38,000 in 2018, a 5.3 percent decrease from last year. The long-established federal focus on veterans homelessness works to energize local communities “because they know that their efforts will be sustained in the long term,” said Kathryn Monet, CEO of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. Recently though, advocates are concerned that the VA has lost its focus, which may slow the downward trend of veteran homelessness. Despite these concerns, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie maintains that veteran homelessness is still a priority, and that has addressed the topic in each of his major events since taking office at the VA. –MW
Bottom Line: The ScoutComms team has been privileged over the past seven years to support the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans’ annual conference, which brings together some of the most dedicated Americans you will ever meet. Those service providers, some of them formerly homeless veterans themselves, are the ones on the ground putting federal and state dollars into action. The progress we’ve seen over the last seven years is due to that kind of cross-sector collaboration. In Washington, enthusiasm for a policy goal is often shown through funding so while every year as the point in time count numbers are released and cabinet secretaries applaud typically lower numbers, what the advocacy and service provider community want to see is a commitment to continued funds for their efforts directly housing homeless veterans. Until service providers have that long-term commitment, we may not see more dramatic decreases in the number of homeless veterans. Building the infrastructure to get closer to zero will take an investment of time and money. –LJ

Defense Contractor Accused of Slighting Reservists in Hiring
Noam Scheiber (@noamscheiber), The New York Times
L3 Technologies, a Pentagon contractor, was sued after complaints of discrimination toward reservists. Nathan Kay, who led the class-action lawsuit against L3, applied for a job with the company, but went months without hearing back. Kay decided that L3 was discriminating against him because of his status as an active guard member; his argument was broadly supported by available data on the company’s hiring practices. In a motion to settle the lawsuit, L3 has agreed to pay $1.36 million to Kay and the other 250 reservists who took part in the process. Contractor discrimination against reservists isn’t confined to L3, and has become a common issue among employers. Kathryn Piscitelli, an employment lawyer, said, “In the wake of 9/11, employers have experienced disruptions due to the amazing rate of call-ups of [their employees] … There is widespread discrimination.” –LB
Bottom Line: This is a fascinating issue because the end result was a settlement in which no facts were agreed upon by the two sides. Available statistical evidence appeared to show that L3 did hire qualified reservists at a lower rate than veterans with no remaining military obligations, and anecdotal evidence highlighted specific cases of discrimination or attempted discrimination against reservists due to service obligations. L3 denied wrongdoing but agreed to take steps to remove its ability to consider military obligations in the hiring process and to provide additional support to reservist employees in balancing their obligations. USERRA is a law that few employers and employees understand, and that lack of appreciation and awareness has consequences for reservists, especially those who are not able to obtain legal recompense through the courts. I fully understand why companies want to seek out employees who have the fewest outside obligations, but they don’t get to make that judgment based on someone’s military obligations. More importantly, in my mind, if you are a defense contractor that thrives through serving the military, you have zero ground to stand on in trying to do anything more than adhere closely to both the letter and the law of USERRA. You don’t get to profit off serving the military, and then turn around and discriminate those who want to work for you while continuing to serve the military that is one of your primary customers. That’s not just wrong, it is immoral. As a reservist, I’m fortunate to have worked for several companies—including ones far less connected to the military community than ScoutComms—that appreciated my service and gave me flexibility, even if they didn’t gain any immediate benefit from that service. But for those who are not so fortunate, understanding and applying USERRA is an important tool in protecting your right to serve in the military while maintaining a civilian career. –BW

Post-9/11 Vets’ Groups Poised to Out-Raise Legacy Organizations, Report Finds
Richard Sisk,
Changing demographics within the veteran community and a different approach to how they serve veterans has led to post-9/11 veteran organizations raising more money, saving, and growing at a faster rate than their pre-9/11 counterparts, a new Center for a New American Security study shows. As the veteran demographic shifts with the passing of thousands of older veterans in the coming years, the “Big Six” veteran service organizations will have to adapt in order to keep up with the growth trend seen with these newer veteran service organizations. In response to this, representatives from the “Big Six” stress that the report is only based on financial data and does not reflect their social impact through veterans programs and services. –MW
Bottom Line: This is a fascinating report that does point to what we have seen anecdotally for some time with the rapid growth of post-9/11 veterans organizations that approach their missions far differently than the ‘Big Six’ chapter and post based models of previous generations. While new veterans are still joining the traditional VSOs, many are finding homes in organizations with looser models of engagement and approaches that don’t include meetings, ceremonies and brick and mortar locations as the center of activity. Add to the fact that we are now in the midst of the longest war in American history with no end in sight and it becomes clear that the bookends for this generation haven’t even been created on their time of service. The impact and importance of the work of the traditional VSOs cannot be reinforced enough for the impact they have on all veterans but the shift in the giving sector and approaches to a different generation means money and loyalty is finding its way to new model organizations that are now settling in for long time impact. We are in the middle of a dramatic shift in veteran support and the changes won’t be small. –FPW

Veterans are cutting back on smoking and drinking, but they still face significant health risks
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
United Health Foundation and the Military Officers Association of America have compiled a report comparing health issues among veterans and civilians, finding that veterans are more likely to face significant health risks. However, despite the increased chance that veterans will face substantial health threats, the findings showed veterans are also more likely than civilians to state they are “feeling in great medical condition.” The report also showed a decrease in veteran smoking and drinking and an expansion of veteran mental health care options. Tracy Malone, president of the United Health Foundation, said that she hopes the insights from this report will be used “to identify opportunities for collaboration to improve the health of military members, veterans and their families across the country.” –LB

Failing Private Burnham: How the Army Did Not Protect a Minnesota Soldier after a Sexual Assault
U.S. Army Pvt. Nicole Burnham reported a sexual assault by a fellow soldier on Sept. 15, 2017 at Camp Casey in South Korea – just a few months later, on Jan. 26, 2018, Burnham took her own life. Two days after the September attack she requested an Expedited Victim Transfer, a process designed to remove victims of sexual assault from their current duty station after a credible allegation. Though it was approved by her command just three days later, it took 82 days for her to receive authorization to leave. During that time, she was the victim of “repeated harassment and cyberbullying,” and was required to live in the same residence as her attacker. Reports reveal that Burnham’s chain of command was aware of the continued harassment, as well as her suicidal ideation, but did not report the information up the chain of command, nor did they share it with her new command once she was finally reassigned to Fort Carson in December of 2017. –KG

These 7 vets groups just threw their weight behind transgender military service
Matt Saintsing (@MattBSaintsing), Connecting Vets
Seven veterans organizations, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Protect Our Defenders, New York City Veterans Alliance and others, filed a brief in support of allowing transgender troops to serve in the military in light of the Trump administration’s ongoing litigation over the issue. The groups argue that the ban harms the readiness of the country’s armed forces by excluding those who wish to serve and just happen to be transgender. Retired Navy Capt. Lorry Manning and director of government operations for Service Women’s Action Network, one of the supporters, said: “The transgender ban would return the Department of Defense to the dark days of categorically banning otherwise fully-qualified Americans from our armed forces at a time when recruiting and retention are difficult.” –KG

VA: Fatal dog experiments moving ahead despite criticism from Congress, veterans groups
Donovan Slack (@DonovanSlack), USA Today
Despite opposition from veteran advocates and strict restrictions from Congress, the VA’s medical research program will continue with a series of experiments that are leading to canine fatalities. Following the initial backlash the VA paused or discontinued four studies, but VA officials assert research from nine remaining studies involving canines “could lead to discoveries that may help veterans with heart conditions or breathing problems, which can accompany paralysis.” In spite of this, Sherman Gillums Jr., Chief Strategy Officer at American Veterans, stated, “It’s time for us to look at better ways and spend money smarter than we’ve done it in the past – especially if it’s going to involve causing pain to the same animals that most veterans need as service dogs.” –MW

The VA Shadow Rulers’ Signature Programs Is “Trending Towards Red”
Isaac Arnsdorf (@iarnsdorf), ProPublica
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ electronic medical records program has been labeled with a “yellow trending toward red” alert level by Cerner, the software company hired to replace the existing system. Despite this, the VA is following the lead of the Defense Department and moving forward with the program, which was championed by the Mar-a-Lago Crowd. A source working on the VA electronic records project expressed apprehension, saying, “A lot of us are concerned they’re going to go down the same road and experience the same adverse health outcomes that DOD experienced.” –LB

Community Opportunities

Independence Project: Veteran Employment Study
A research study that helps veterans find a job.
Who: Veterans who meet the following requirements: Interested in getting a job; Discharged in the past 12 months OR have a discharge date in the next 8 months; Served at least 6 months of active duty; Be/have been an enlisted service-member between ranks E1 – E9; Have applied for a disability rating; Under 45 years of age.
When: Study participation open now!

Fred Wellman

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

This entry was posted on Monday, November 05, 2018 2:51 pm

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