Veterans Roundup: Army Morale is Low, Latest “Best for Vets” Employer Rankings

Posted by Fred Wellman

When Veterans Return, Their Children Deal with the Invisible Wounds of War
Emily Wax-Thibodeaux (@emily_wax), The Washington Post. Emily Wax-Thibodeaux worked with a number of organizations we partner with to weave this fascinating tale of the burdens that the children of wounded and ill servicemembers and veterans face at home today. The challenges of being a back-up caregiver, or even primary one, for the children of war is a shocking burden and one for which they too often bear a mental health price as well. It’s an important read, made more so as we are in the Month of the Military Child and our friends at Operation Homefront awarded their annual Military Child of the Year honors this past week. This year’s recipients reflect Emily’s story as one young man stepped up to raise his own siblings while both of his parents were deployed overseas. ScoutComms specifically states we support veterans and military families in our mission statement because we’ve seen the strength and special challenges that military children face and overcome on a regular basis. –FPW

Army Morale Low Despite 6-Year, $287M Optimism Program
Gregg Zoroya (@greggzoroya), USA Today. Data is in on the Army’s latest assessment of soldier morale in support of its six-year resiliency program which has aimed to strengthen soldier’s ability to deal with mental health challenges and increase optimism. Unfortunately, the results don’t bode well for the success of the $287 million effort with some 52% of those surveyed feeling pessimistic about their job prospects or the future. More than half indicated they have poor nutrition and don’t get enough sleep. The effort started in 2009 under then Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey and is based on the positive psychology movement. Interestingly, the Army disputes USA Today’s calculations of their survey results saying that the numbers show increasing optimism and not the opposite. Either way it’s hard to see how the $50 million a year effort is effective when suicide, incidences of crime, and other indicators of struggling morale continue almost unaffected. While it’s hard to fault the Army for trying every option to improve the mental health of the troops it is also hard to understand continued expenditure on a program that even today struggles to define its own measures of success or failure. Return on investment isn’t just for business. –FPW

Obama to Wounded Warriors: ‘We’ve Got Your Back’
Nick Kariuki (@NKKariuki), Medill News Service. CEO Fred Wellman and VP Lauren Jenkins were present on the White House’s South Lawn last Thursday when the more than 50 wounded service members and veterans met with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Veteran Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald before embarking on the Wounded Warrior Project’s three-day, 60-mile Soldier Ride. Obama told the attendees what they wanted and needed to hear, that the buck stops with him, and that he and his administration have their backs. The sentiment was well received, and the tradition of a presidential send-off for the Soldier Ride is one to cherish. In the long run, though, this was a single feel good experience for the Administration; it will be judged by the progress it is able to make in coming years to reform the VA and chart a course for a sustainable future for public-private collaborations that support veterans. –BW

Isolated. Harassed. Their Personal Lives Investigated. That’s Life as a VA Whistleblower, Employees Tell Congress.
Emily Wax-Thibodeaux (@emily_wax), The Washington Post. It’s not much fun to be a Veterans Affairs whistleblower. That much is already clear to anyone following the news in the last few years. But Emily Wax-Thibodeaux continues to enhance existing narratives from the veteran community and the VA by providing more details and color commentary from first-hand participants. In her latest article, she covers Congressional testimony by whistleblowers who say that despite promises of change, whistleblowers are still seen by VA managers as the enemy within. We believe Secretary Bob is fully committed to transparency in the VA, and respects the important role that whistleblowers can play when wrongs need to be uncovered. But these stories are horrible for the VA’s reputation and undercut his good efforts. It seems like petty bureaucrats throughout the system are more concerned about covering their own derrières (pardon our bawdy French) than in embracing the change that Secretary Bob is trying to sell to veterans, the public, and his own employees. Unless the national VA leadership takes a hard line in punishing those who retaliate against whistleblowers, we’ll likely see more stories like this later in 2015 and beyond. –BW

2016 Pay and Benefits Forecast is Cloudy
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. It’s time to start talking about the National Defense Authorization Act again and Leo Shane has a look at the many ways in which military benefits and pay might change in line with recent modernization recommendations and other pressing needs in the military family community. One of the most talked about proposals likely won’t be addressed in the annual defense authorization bill: changing military retirement to a 401(k)-like system. Recently, five veterans organizations including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other enlisted associations signed a letter in support of this major change. Instead, the NDAA is expected to touch on issues like the A-10, pay raises, and other issues of importance to the community. –LJ

Medical Military Leaders Sound Alarm Over Spending Cuts
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times. Military health leaders are making a concerted effort to maintain the status quo when it comes to current models of service and budgets. Last week the surgeons general were quashing recommendations that the military health system should move towards a private health care model. This week, they appeared before Congress to defend their current budgets and warn that any cuts could result in less research and lower standards of care for service members and their families. If another round of sequestration hits, enacted budget caps would mean some facilities would shut down and research would grind to a halt. Because so many other agencies rely on DOD funding for medical research, the impact would be felt across the scientific community, not only in DOD. This would be devastating to many scientists and ultimately patients. Congress must amend the Budget Control Act to avoid $40 billion in cuts to the DOD budget, but while medical research is essential, it’s likely the cuts to harder systems that will convince lawmakers to act. –LJ

Quick Hits:

Inside the Army’s Effort to Train and Assess Women for Ranger School
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post. As the military works to open all of its positions to women, more female troops are attempting to pass the services’ most elite courses. Starting today, nine women are participating in an historic experiment where they will try to pass Ranger School. Dan Lamothe from the Washington Post takes an inside look at the intense training the women underwent ahead of attending the school. –MC

Black Army Officers Struggle to Climb Ranks
Tom Vanden Brook (@tvandenbrook), USA Today. The list of commanders of Army infantry, artillery, and armor combat brigades and battalions shows that African-American officers are having a difficult time climbing the ranks. According USA Today, only six of 82 battalions and one of the 31 combat brigades getting new leaders will be led by African-Americans. –MC

Stories can Bridge the Civil-Military Divide
Jenny Lu Mallamo, The Weekly Wonk. A recent panel hosted by the Yale Journalism alumni and hosted by the New America Foundation brought together Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Ricks and veteran authors Kayla Williams and Adrian Bonenberger to discuss how military memoirs and narratives can help bridge the civil-military divide. In a city full of retread arguments, theirs brought new insights to an often rehashed debate. –LJ 

MyVA Advisory Committee Brings Outside Expertise to VA Experience
VAntage Point. Last week, the newly selected MyVA Advisory Committee met publicly for the first time in Washington, DC. Dr. Mike Haynie, Vice Chancellor of Military and Veteran Affairs at Syracuse University and Executive Director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, a ScoutComms client, sits on the committee. The MyVA committee aims to bring outside expertise to shape the VA as it undergoes reforms in response to a major scandal last year that rocked the department. –MC

Best for Vets: Employers 2015 Rankings
George Altman, Military Times. Job seeking service members and veterans have an updated “Best for Vets” list to turn to with the latest iteration of Military Times’ ranking of companies doing the best job of recruiting and providing for veteran employees. The rankings are based on company-reported metrics around veteran hires, onboarding, training, and policies regarding military spouses. Several current and former ScoutComms clients appear on the list including Prudential, GE, and The Home Depot. –LJ

Veterans Getting New Homes Built by Volunteers in Aberdeen
Amanda Dolasinski (@AmandaDFO), Fayetteville Observer. In Aberdeen, North Carolina, around 175 volunteers from The Home Depot Foundation and Habitat for Humanity worked together to build five homes for individuals in the community. Two of those homes are being built for local military veterans. In about four months, Allen Patterson, a 68-year-old Navy Veteran, and Diontay Isaac, a National Guard veteran, will be able to move into their new homes. The Home Depot Foundation has provided more than $84 million since 2011 to bolster veterans’ housing. –MC

4 Tips for Managing Veterans
Laura McMullen (@lauraemcmullen), U.S. News & World Report. As more employers focus on hiring veterans even as the unemployment rate drops, it is important for managers to understand cultural differences and be sensitive to veterans’ transitions into the civilian workforce. Peter Gudmundsson, CEO of RecruitMilitary, talked with U.S. News & World Report about four great tips for managers:  dismiss stereotypes, explain context and culture, don’t misinterpret the loyalty of veterans, and be a leader. –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences

Council on Foundations Annual Meeting (Fri-Tue, 24-28 April); Marriot Marquis, San Francisco, CA

Global Philanthropy Forum: 2015 Conference (Wed-Fri, 22-24 April); Fairmont Hotel, Washington DC

For a full list of upcoming events, check out our Events page.

Congressional Hearings


Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations: Markup of H.R. 571; H.R. 1015; H.R. 1016; H.R. 1017 When: 4:00 PM, Tuesday, April 21, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon

Veterans Affairs: Philadelphia and Oakland: Systemic Failures and Mismanagement When: 10:30 AM, Wednesday, April 22, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon

Appropriations: FY 2016 Energy and Water Bill, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Bill, and Report on the Suballocation of Budget Allocations When: 10:45 AM, Wednesday, April 22, 2015 Where: 2359 Rayburn

Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health: Draft legislation to improve reproductive treatment provided to certain disabled veterans; draft legislation to direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to submit an annual report on the Veterans Health Administration When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, April 23, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon


Armed Services: Nominations Who: Mr. Peter K. Levine, to be Deputy Chief Management Office, Department of Defense When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, April 21, 2015 Where: 216 Hart

Appropriations Sucommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies: Fiscal year 2016 and 2017 funding request for VA Who: The Honorable Robert A. McDonald, Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., Interim Under Secretary for Health Veterans Health Administration, Mr. Danny Pummill, Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits, Veterans Benefits Administration When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, April 21, 2015 Where: 124 Dirksen

Veterans Affairs: Fulfilling the Promise to Women Veterans Who: Patricia Hayes, Ph.D., Chief Consultant, Women’s Health Services, Dr. Susan McCutcheon, National Mental Health Director, Family Services/Women’s Mental Health/Military Sexual Trauma, Veterans Health Administration, Rosye Cloud, Acting Director, Office of Transition Employment and Economic Impact, Veterans Benefits Administration, Joy J. Ilem, Deputy National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans, Dr. Anne Davis, Chair, Nevada Women Veterans Advisory Committee, Christina Mouradjian, U.S. Army Veteran When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, April 21, 2015 Where: 418 Russell

Appropriations Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee: Fiscal year 2016 Department of Defense budget request for military construction and military family housing programs When: 10:30 AM, Thursday, April 23, 2015 Where: 124 Dirksen

Veterans Affairs: Field Hearing – Denver replacement medical center When: 1:30 PM MT, Friday, April 24, 2015 Where: City Council Chambers, Aurora Municipal Center, 15151 E Alameda Pwky, Aurora, Colorado

Think Tanks & Other Events

International Institute for Strategic Studies: Military Balance 2015: US Launch Who: Dr. Bastian Giegerich, Director of Defense and Military Analysis, IISS, James Hackett, Senior Fellow for Defense and Military Analysis; Editor of the Military Balance, Brigadier (ret.) Ben Barry, OBE, Senior Fellow for Land Warfare, IISS, Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace, IISS, Giri Rajendran, Research Associate for Defense and Economics, IISS When: 2:00 PM, Tuesday, April 21, 2015 Where: 2121 K Street NW, Suite 801, Washington, DC 20037

Team Rubicon: 2015 Salute to Service Awards Who: General Stanley A. McChrystal USA (ret.) When: 6:30 PM, Wednesday, April 22, 2015 Where: 69th Regiment Armory, 68 Lexington Avenue, New York City, NY 10010

RecruitMilitary: Veteran Job Fairs Who: Disabled American Veterans, Lockheed Martin Corporation, The Home Depot, and other companies When: 11:00 AM, Thursday, April 23, 2015 Where: Chicago: 111 North State Street, Chicago, IL, 60602; Charlotte: 5555 Concord Parkway S

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, April 21, 2015 11:00 am

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