Veterans Roundup: A World in Solidarity, a Post-Veterans Day Rundown Including Employment, Housing, Toxic Leaders, the Medal of Honor, and Much More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Death Row, Last Stop for Many US Veterans
Sébastien Blanc (@sebastienblanc), AFP
A recent report from the Death Penalty Information Center highlighted an alarming fact about the men and women on death rows across the country: at least 10 percent have served in the military. While some have tried to tie that overrepresentation to PTS or combat-related trauma, I take a different view as highlighted in this piece­. –LJ 

Era of High Unemployment for Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans Ends
Gregg Zoroya (@greggzoroya), USA Today
The latest statistics show that the unemployment crisis for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is ending. Last month, the unemployment rate for veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 came down to a level nearly identical to civilians of the same age group. In 2010 and 2011, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans faced jobless rates twice as high as civilians, but this new trend tells a vastly different story. Despite the lowered unemployment rates, President Obama addressed the nation last week and promised to not give up on efforts to ensure our nation’s veterans find jobs when they leave the service. –MC
Bottom line: For years now a remarkable coalition of government, nonprofit, and private sector organizations have been battling the staggering unemployment numbers for Post-9/11 generation veterans. This month the unemployment numbers are hard to deny, as they are lower or nearly equal for veterans and civilians in most categories. Not mentioned in the story from Gregg Zoroya is the even lower numbers for veterans aged 45 to 54 coming in at just 2.7%. In many ways the crisis today is that the many companies now trying to hire to meet the Office of Federal Contract Compliance guidance to have veterans as 7.2% of their employees are going to struggle to do so with a tightening availability. Companies that haven’t invested in retention programs for those veterans they hired a year or two ago will now find replacing the ones they let leave substantially more difficult to pull off. The incredible successes don’t allow us to take the foot off the gas but we need to have an honest conversation about the realities. We know from a survey conducted by ScoutComms client VetAdvisor last year that 45% of veterans leave their first job after the military within a year. We also know that many transitioning service members who took the college route under the new GI Bill are graduating and face a second transition from college to the work force. Military spouses are under employed, caregivers need work at home options, wounded warriors face years of support needs. All of this means we can’t stop helping this community but we also can’t perpetuate a crisis like David Sutherland of the Dixon Center did in a Veterans Day blog post which said it’s a myth that the job market is improving but highlighted 2014 employment statistics. It’s the eleventh month of 2015, using year old numbers to deny things have improved only leads to a focus on the wrong policy issues and missed opportunities to invest in current challenges. We can’t stop supporting the veterans and military family communities but this support can’t be based on misinformation or manipulation of statistics. –FPW

The Problems Veterans Face in the Professional Workplace
Jena McGregor (@jenamcgregor), The Washington Post
As unemployment rates continue to decrease, advocates and veterans organizations are setting their sights on potential issues that veterans face after they receive jobs. Recent studies have shown that veterans sometimes feel alienated in corporate workplaces, or have difficulty moving up in seniority. Some veterans may also feel compelled to hide war injuries from employers or play down their military experiences, according to a new report by the Center for Talent Innovation. –MC
Bottom line: For the last four years, major initiatives like Hiring Our Heroes and the Veteran Jobs Mission have shone a spotlight on veteran employment. As a result, veteran unemployment rates have recovered—along with the economy—and there is now a robust public discourse on what veterans bring to employers. But there has been far less attention focused on retention, and how veterans fit in with their civilian employers once they have been hired. In our opinion, this is the next great campaign waiting to be tackled, and requires not just public awareness, but internal shifts in how employers view and deal with veteran new hires. The CTI study, along with the Veterans Job Retention Survey published by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) and VetAdvisor in 2014, show that many veterans feel like they cannot fully “be themselves” in the civilian workplace, and that they do not feel as appreciated or as motivated as they were when serving in the military. This is an issue that we hope stays in the public spotlight in 2016, and that it becomes the focus of new and revised private and non-profit initiatives. –BW

Why Hasn’t a Single Living Iraq Vet Received the Medal of Honor?
Zachary Cohen (@ZcohenCNN), CNN
Last Thursday, U.S. Army Capt. Florent Groberg became the 13th veteran of the war in Afghanistan to receive the Medal of Honor, but many veterans and advocates question why no living veteran of the Iraq War has been presented with the medal. Advocates question why veterans like 1st Lt. Brian Chontosh, who led his platoon through an ambush in Iraq killing more than 20 enemy soldiers, have not been considered for the Medal of Honor. Zachary Cohen delves into the issue with commentary from Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), and our friend Bill Rausch, political director for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Alexandria, VA resident. –MC
Bottom line:  No question about it that every recipient of the Medal of Honor has deserved it but it’s impossible to deny the continued snubbing of Iraq veterans in the stream of awards that the last decade and a half of war have produced. There is no lack of heroic stories like Lt. Chontosh’s from our 9-year war in Iraq and yet not a single living veteran of the war has been recognized with the nation’s highest award for valor. It’s especially disheartening when the Administration has awarded back medals to overlooked eligible veterans of wars dating back to World War II in the same time period. Why? Many Iraq veterans are coming to the sad conclusion that their war is regarded as a “bad war” to be honored at a lower level than the war in Afghanistan. Whether this is the case of a simple matter of oversight and the famously bureaucratic process to award the MoH or a conscious decision to not seek the award for Iraq veterans, the lack of understanding of how it’s being viewed by the millions of us who served there is disturbing. The Department of Defense and Administration must wake up to the message they are sending by ignoring the heroic deeds of those who did their duty and went to war at the orders of their nation. –FPW

Effects of Toxic Leadership Could Reach Deep into Families, Research Finds
Karen Jowers, Military Times
A small study of 10 Army officers’ spouses found that toxic leadership had an effect on spouses’ volunteer roles with groups like FRGs (family readiness groups). Judith Black, an Army wife, says that although this sampling is small, it points to a possible issue that needs more in-depth research. Black also calls for a system allowing spouses to provide feedback about commanders. –MC
Bottom line:  The military family—including the service member—is a single unit, and no part of that unit can be considered in isolation without losing perspective and insight. Good leaders in the military understand that spouses are an important constituency, to be both informed and consulted in order to maintain the morale of a unit and to ensure that leaders are equipped to provide informed counsel to the members of their unit. While Black’s sample size is too small and self-selected to draw any conclusions, she is certainly on track in calling for more extensive surveys to be conducted. If there are a significant number of spouses who feel like they are not being welcomed, supported, or even tolerated when they pursue family support and ombudsman roles, then that opinion and the disconnect resulting in that situation need to be better understood and ultimately addressed through both formal and informal methods of encouraging and protecting spouse involvement in FRGs and related mechanisms for family involvement. –BW

Homeless Veterans Number Decreased only Slightly Last Year
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
New estimates from the Department of Housing and Urban Development show that government efforts to end veteran homelessness have only lowered the number of veterans on the streets from 50,000 to 48,000 in the most recent count. Although the number is lower than previous years, officials note that progress is being made. Just last week, the state of Virginia announced that it has ended veteran homelessness. Baylee Crone, executive director for the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, a past client of ScoutComms, points to new systems that are being put into place in communities as a mark of uncounted progress. –MC
Bottom line: Typically, the administration makes something of a big deal about the latest numbers in its fight to end veteran homelessness. This year, it’s been pretty quiet. Until Leo did some math. Five years ago, it set a deadline to get to zero by the end of 2015. Since then, it has dropped precipitously, but in the most recent year for which there is data, the drop was much less than expected. In 2014, a survey on a night in January found about 50,000 homeless veterans on the street or in shelters. In 2015, there were still 48,000 homeless veterans. This is partly because the veterans still on the streets are some of the hardest, most chronic cases. The good news, as Crone notes, is that thanks to philanthropy and the federal government infusing funding into the fight, communities have been able to build systems to house veterans and get them the assistance—health care, employment counseling, education—that they need to successfully stay off the streets. The most critical piece of all will be the continued emphasis by these funders on this issue of ending veteran homelessness despite the fact that it isn’t fast, it isn’t easy, and it may take longer than we all hoped. –LJ

Army Faces Public Relations Dilemma as it Goes Forward with Women in Ranger School
Dan Lamothe (@danlamothe), The Washington Post
Army Ranger School was officially opened to women this month, but the Army appears to be struggling with how much information it should reveal about the women participating. Brig. Gen. Malcolm Frost confirmed that five women were a part of the most recent course that began earlier this month, but none of them passed the first phase. The Army is not required to release the names of Ranger School students. –MC
Bottom line: Our friends in the news media make a good case that the Army should release more information about the gender ratios at Ranger School: there is nothing classified about the information and it serves to illuminate the public’s understanding of the Army and the role of women in combat. I will side with the Army, though, in treating all Ranger School attendees the same. Since there have been some rather shrill-but-anonymous typers on the internet claiming women got special dispensation during the pilot phase, this helps by not singling out women attending as anything unusual or “special”. As women and advocates have been demanding equal standards, it seems only fair that they should get equal treatment as anonymous Ranger School candidates. And while it would be useful to know the basics—how many women are attempting and how many are passing—that is information of more pertinence to policymakers and military leaders than it is to the gawking masses (i.e. people who read People.) –LJ 

Veterans Day: for Many Vets, College is Scarier than Afghanistan
Anna Mulrine (@annamulrine), The Christian Science Monitor
Some veterans face difficulties as they transition from the military to college settings. Age and cultural differences can make for a tough adjustment, but the Warrior-Scholar Project is preparing veterans for these challenges. WSP offers boot camps for enlisted veterans who plan on attending a four-year college and helps veterans gain basic skills and confidence to succeed in school. Last week, Anna Mulrine discussed WSP in an article and The Rock Newman Show featured graduates of the program in its Veterans Day special. –MC

How Some of the Toughest Flying on Earth Prepared an Air Force Veteran for the Corporate World
Armin Rosen (@ArminRosen), Business Insider
For Veterans Day, Business Insider profiled Teri Poulton, a retired Air Force pilot who now leads BP America’s veterans initiatives. Poulton gets into the details about how flying prepares one for the corporate world in unusual ways. A pilot has to have situational awareness about the battlespace at any given time, a way of thinking that is also useful when charting strategic programs for large companies considering second and third order effects. Today, Poulton continues her drive to serve by working to invest in the veterans space through education and adaptive sports programs that change the way civilians see veterans. –LJ

Veteran-Run Drone Startup Eyes National Market
Adam McCoy (@AdamWMcCoy), Drone 360
Drones Unlimited, a veteran-owned drone startup, has set its sights on the national market after completing a 12-week Venture Hive program for veteran owned businesses In Fort Walton Beach, FL. Last week, Bryan Gonzales received a $25,000 grant and pitched his business to a crowd of investors as the culmination of the intensive program. To learn more about the Venture Hive Veterans Accelerator program, visit –MC

The Semper Fi Fund & The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation & GoDaddy Announce “10 Makes 20 Matching Challenge”
Huge news in the world of philanthropy as Bob Parsons, the founder of GoDaddy and a Marine veteran, announced he would match donations made to the Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund through December 31 up to $10 million. That means with the combined generosity of everyday Americans and the Bob & Rene Parsons Foundation, $20 million could go towards Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund and its essential mission to support wounded, critically ill, and injured service members and their families. As you consider charitable gifts this holiday season, know that your donation to Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund will be doubled. –LJ

Hiring Our Heroes Career Fair Draws Hundreds
Ryan Blessings (@rblessingNB), The Norwich Bulletin
On Veterans Day, hundreds of veterans and military spouses in Connecticut attended a Hiring Our Heroes job fair at the Mohegan Sun Casino, hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in coordination with Vets Rock. The fair featured many employers seeking veterans for open positions as well as nonprofits and service organizations supporting veterans and military families. Hiring Our Heroes is hosting a number of job fairs across the country in locations all over the world. Learn more at –MC

Marine Honors Fallen Friend with ‘Malcolm 200’ bike Ride
Jeff Goldberg (@abcjeffg), ABC 7
On Veterans Day, USMC Major Matthew Kutilek rode 200 miles to honor his friend, Lt. Dan Malcolm, a Marine who was killed in Fallujah in 2004. Last year, Kutilek completed a similar ride at Camp Lejeune, NC, but this year he completed his ride at Quantico. His efforts over the past two years have raised $17,000 for the Semper Fi Fund, a nonprofit that provides assistance to wounded, critically ill and injured post-9/11 service members, veterans and their families. –MC

Veteran Tells His Story on Varney & Co.
Col. Kelly Thrasher struggled with PTSD after four deployments overseas and like many veterans he sought treatment through therapy. The trial and error treatment his doctor pursued didn’t work for Thrasher, though, and left him and his family still seeking solutions. That’s when Thrasher connected with CNS Response, now MYnd Analytics, and its PEER Report which cut out the trial and error in favor of real science. Now, Thrasher has a proven treatment that works for him—and his family. Watch the video to hear more about his story and how PEER Reports changed his life. –LJ

Years Later, Post-9/11 Veterans’ Lives Are Still Hampered By Physical And Mental Injuries
James Clark (@JamesWClark), Task & Purpose
A panel of experts dissected the latest Wounded Warrior Project Alumni survey last week in order to identify the issues facing wounded veterans and their caregivers that should most concern policymakers and veteran-serving organizations. The WWP survey is the largest of its kind with more than 23,000 respondents discussing issues related to mental and physical health, employment, and community engagement. WWP uses the survey to better direct its programs where Alumni identify their needs. –LJ

#DayForTheBrave: 212 Veteran, Military Charities Compete for Donations, Prizes
Karen Jowers, Military Times
Last week, more than 200 nonprofits came together to raise funds supporting veterans and military families. The campaign, #DayForTheBrave, was hosted by Razoo, and provided Americans with a way to do more than just say thank you on Veterans Day. The campaign raised over $100,000 for these veteran-focused charities and raised awareness all across the nation. –MC

Other coverage:

Veterans Day: Chris Henderson of 3 Doors Down Opens Up about His Time in the US Navy

Fundraising Campaign for Veterans Organizations
Jenn Rowell (@GFTrib_JRowell), Great Falls Tribune

Drew Brooks: Site Aids Veterans Charities
Drew Brooks (@DrewBrooks), Fayetteville Observer

Quick Hits:

White House Announces In-State Tuition for U.S. Veterans, Families
Megan Cassella (@mmcassella), Reuters
On Wednesday, the White House announced that all public colleges and universities are in compliance with the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 by offering in-state tuition to military veterans and their families. In addition, officials announced a new comparison tool evaluating veteran enrollment and admissions statistics to help veterans see how colleges stack up. –MC

Starbucks Will Extend Tuition Benefit to a Veteran Employee’s Family Member
Jena McGregor (@jenamcgregor), The Washington Post
Just in time for Veterans Day, Starbucks announced it will cover tuition costs for online degrees at Arizona State University for a veteran employee’s spouse or children. The announcement came within the same timeframe of the red cups debate, and we recommend this article by Bill Murphy Jr. about ‘why Starbucks wins the media by hating Jesus and loving veterans.’ –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences

National Veterans Small Business Engagement Conference (Tue-Thu, 17-19 November); Pittsburgh, PA

Congressional Hearings


Veterans’ Affairs: Subcommittee on Health:  Draft legislation, the Promoting Responsible Opioid Management and Incorporating Medical Expertise Act; and, a VA legislative proposal, the VA Purchased Health Care Streamlining and Modernization Act When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, November 17, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon

Veterans’ Affairs: Choice Consolidation: Assessing VA’s Plan to Improve Care in the Community When: 10:30 AM, Wednesday, November 18, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: Outside Views on the Strategy for Iraq and Syria Who: Mr. John McLaughlin, Former Acting Director of Central Intelligence, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, 
Former Ambassador to Syria and Iraq When: 1:00 PM, Wednesday, November 18, 2015 Where: 2172 Rayburn

Veterans’ Affairs: Examining VA’s on-the Job Training and Apprenticeship Program
Who: Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity (EO) When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, November 18, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon


Armed Services: Department of Defense Reform – Overcoming Obstacles to Effective Management Who: The Honorable David M. Walker, Former Comptroller General Of The United States, Major General Arnold L. Punaro, USMC (Ret.), Member Of The Defense Business Board, Mr. Richard V. Spencer, Former Member Of The Defense Business Board, Ms. Lisa G. Bisaccia, Executive Vice President And Chief Human Resources Officer At CVS Health Corporation When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, November 17, 2015 Where: G50 Dirksen

Veterans’ Affairs: Pending Nomination of Michael J. Missal When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, November 17, 2015 Where: 418 Russell

Veterans’ Affairs: Pending Health and Benefits Legislation When: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, November 18, 2015 Where: 418 Russell

Think Tanks & Other Events

No major events this week.


This entry was posted on Monday, November 16, 2015 8:31 am

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