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Veterans Roundup: Bad Paper, Hazing, a GI Bill Payment Update, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Connecticut VA Opens Its Doors To ‘Bad Paper’ Veterans
Quil Lawrence (@QuilLawrence), NPR
Connecticut is allowing veterans with an other than honorable discharge linked to PTSD, brain injury or sexual assault to qualify for state health care and benefits. This comes from years of lobbying and testimonies from veterans like Thomas Burke, who was kicked out of the Marine Corps with an other than honorable discharge due to events that stemmed from PTSD. Thomas Saadi, Connecticut’s commissioner for veterans affairs, said, “These individuals up till now were denied clinical support services and other programs and benefits, and we believe in many cases may have resulted in a worsening of their conditions.” The VA is slowly changing nationally as well, and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., pushed similar legislation earlier this year. –LB
Bottom Line: The changes being made in Connecticut are an important step forward in helping veterans who received an other-than-honorable discharge despite the existence of mitigating circumstances that could explain or even justify their actions while in service. While this is just one relatively small state, with approximately 215,000 veterans total, it is part of a growing effort to differentiate between veterans who were true bad actors while in service from those who simply dealt with experienced stress or violence in a counterproductive manner that violated the letter if not the spirit of military regulations. Nationally, the effort to change the dialogue and change the laws regarding bad paper discharges has been led by individual advocates like Kris Goldsmith as well as a number of VSOs who have pushed for both incremental agency-level changes—such as the VA offering limited mental health services to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges, and VA and DoD creating a pathway to request a post facto upgrade to a OTH discharge—as well as permanent legislative reforms that would echo the efforts of the state of Connecticut. While it is important that as reforms progress they don’t serve to whitewash the records of those who fully deserved to be kicked out of the military for actions fully within their control, in the near term reforms to give new hope and new options to veterans with OTH discharges will help some worthy Americans like Thomas Burke rebuild their reputations and move on with their civilian lives. -BW

Dangerous ‘jackassery’: Inside the 1st Marine Division’s culture of barracks hazing
Shawn Snow (@SnowSox184), Marine Corps Times
A Marine Corps Times report revealed an “entrenched culture of hazing” within the 1st Marine Division, based on documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Act Request that contained hazing reports from 2015-2018. The reports detailed a variety of hazing tactics such as forced alcohol consumption, destruction of personal property, shaving Marines’ hair, “forced planks over a container of bleach” and more; the report also indicated that these tactics may have led to suicide contemplation. In response, during the summer of 2017, the division’s commander, then-Maj. Gen. Eric Smith, began a relentless pursuit of weeding out the accused, confining almost 30 Marines to the brig, and ending the careers of at least 18 others with administrative separation. Smith was criticized for this extreme approach, but he has since been promoted, assigned to a new division and reports of hazing are down for 2018. – KG
Bottom Line:  Possibly one of the greatest headlines in Marine Corps Times history unfortunately leads to a downright horrifying story of abuse of young Marines in the 1st Marine Division and hints at problems throughout the Corps as well. The reports identified an informal barracks culture that created the strange idea of “Senior Lance Corporals” who ruled over new members of the units and abused them repeatedly in unprofessional rituals like destroying their rooms at night or having them serve as personal servants. It comes at at time where it’s becoming clear that the discussion of these traditions is coming around to the fact that it isn’t making the service members better but instead ruining their views of the service and causing injuries if not deaths. There is a robust discussion on social media between those who think these things make “warriors” tougher and those that see this as an abuse of the very sons and daughters that America is entrusting to our care. The fact is that ass chewings, corrective physical fitness and extra duty are legal and appropriate discipline techniques but acts like having someone hold a plank over bleach are no better than torture. The military has a sacred trust with the American people and false beliefs that abusing new recruits is somehow in keeping with that duty must be stamped out and those that conduct those acts treated like the criminals they are. Good leaders don’t harm their subordinates. -FPW

VA announces new plan to fix GI Bill payment problems
Nikki Wentling (@nikkiwentling), Stars and Stripes
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced the technology issue associated with delayed and incorrect GI Bill payments to veterans will be resolved by December 1, 2019. As a part of this plan, the VA will contract an IT company to fix their system to prevent more payment delays. Concerns about the VA’s ability to meet this deadline have risen since the announcement as they have a poor track record of meeting deadlines. Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, said he was “skeptical that the VA will be able to meet the new deadline they put in place.” -MW
Bottom Line: This isn’t the first time the VA has had issues with GI Bill payments and vowing to resolve the issue by Dec. 1, 2019 – a year from now – certainly doesn’t send a message of confidence to the veterans who rely on these payments for rent, childcare and other living expenses while they attend college. Sure, it’s a bureaucratic feat to provide benefits to the men and women who served our country, of all generations, and earned those benefits, but we have to reach a point where technological glitches don’t become full-scale crises that leave student veterans and their families vulnerable. They did their part, the VA needs to do theirs.

Report calls on government to track health problems in children of Gulf War, post 9/11 vets
Nikki Wentling (@NikkiWentling), Stars and Stripes 
After a report was released by the Committee on Gulf War and Health, the National Academies of Sciences called on federal agencies to oversee health conditions of service members in the Gulf War and post-9/11, as well as their living and future children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. For service members exposed to toxic substances, there is a lack of information on how these exposures will affect their descendants. Kenneth Ramos, the committee chairman and professor of medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences said even though the evidence is difficult to obtain, it is desperately needed to answer questions pertaining to toxic exposures. –SM

A Study of West Point Shows How Women Help Each Other Advance
Nick Huntington-Klein (@NickHK) and Elaina Rose, Harvard Business Review
A study on the effect of women in peer groups at the United States Military Academy at West Point supports the theory that women struggle to succeed in male-dominated fields, because there are not enough women to support them. The study showed that retention rates were dramatically increased when multiple women were present in a peer group while also having no impact on male counterparts. -MW

Drunk driving among veterans is up nearly 60 percent since 2014, study finds
J.D. Simkins (@simkinsjourno), Military Times
A recent study by the American Addiction Center has found that binge drinking and drunk driving has significantly increased amongst the military population. One of the primary contributors of this increase is the depression stemming from post-traumatic stress disorder seen in many service members. An increased awareness of the drinking culture in the military is needed to further address this issue. -MW

GAO agrees to investigate Mar-a-Lago members’ influence on VA
Nikki Wentling (@NikkiWentling), Stars and Stripes
The Government Accountability Office accepted a request to investigate three members of President Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Florida, and their effect on The Department of Veterans Affairs. Reports have been made multiple times regarding these members using “their proximity to the president to influence VA operations,” even though none of them have served in the military or government. –SM

Special treatment? Veterans Affairs director grants state relief funds to employees
Tony Cook (@IndyStarTony) and Chris Sikich (@ChrisSikich), Indy Star 
An investigation into abuse of Military Family Relief Funds has found employees of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs received roughly $40,000 of emergency assistance grants. While James Brown, director of the agency, insists no laws have been broken, Rep. Karlee Macer of Indianapolis said, “If there isn’t a law that has been broken by this, no matter what it really looks bad, it feels bad, and we know when something’s not right.” –MW

Armed Forces Foundation’s ex-director found guilty of fraud, tax evasion
Spencer S. Hsu (@hsu_spencer), Washington Post
Last week Patricia P. Driscoll, former president of the Armed Forces Foundation, was convicted by a federal jury for committing fraud and tax evasion while she was at the charity. Driscoll, who resigned from the foundation in July 2016, was found to have reported fake donors and contributions, failed to reveal fundraising commissions she was given and spent the foundation’s money on her own expenses. The Armed Forces Foundation reported that from 2006 to 2014 Driscoll’s frauds totaled about $600,000. Following the verdict, Brian W. Stolarz, one of Driscoll’s lawyers, said, “The jury did not get it right – Patricia Driscoll is innocent. We are very disappointed by the verdict. We will appeal. This is not the final chapter to this story.” –LB

Unpacking the War: A Soldier Returns to Vietnam
Richard Rice, Military.com 
Richard Rice, a thirty-year U.S. Special Forces veteran who participated in every major conflict and mission of his generation, is also a senior advisor at GORUCK. For the first time in more than 45 years, Rice returned to Vietnam where his distinguished military career began. Although the initial purpose of the trip was to test the MACV-1, GORUCK’s new jungle rucking boot, along with Jason McCarthy, GORUCK founder and CEO and Paul Litchfield, the inventor of the Reebok Pump, the group took the opportunity to visit memorable landmarks of Rice’s service in a journey that provided closure and peace, decades after the conflict.  –KG

Meet Paul Szoldra, The New Editor In Chief of Task & Purpose
Paul Szoldra (@PaulSzoldra) and ScoutComms (@scoutcomms), Task & Purpose
Client Grid North’s brand, Task & Purpose, announced in October 2018 a new editor-in-chief, Paul Szoldra. Szoldra relates his life experiences to his role at as a journalist and editor-in-chief, and what he sees as the future of Task & Purpose. –SM

Our Favorite Indestructible EDC Gear
Jakob Schiller (@jakobschiller), Outside
Outside has created a list of seven everyday carry gear that are guaranteed to work, including GORUCK’s GR1-26L rucksack. The rucksack includes a padded laptop sleeve, comfortable shoulder straps and easily accessible compartments. GORUCK products also feature a SCARS Lifetime Guarantee. Pick yours up at www.goruck.com. –LB

Ice & Flash – Monday Edition
WTF Nation Radio (@WTFNationRadio)
GORUCK Founder and CEO Jason McCarthy sat down to discuss his U.S. Special Forces background, how it fueled the founding of GORUCK and led to the company’s mission-driven focus of building better Americans. “This idea that we should all just sit on the couch and be comfortable and waste our life in front of the TV, I just reject that notion,” McCarthy said. “The American spirit burns too bright to do that kind of stuff. We are at our best when we have big, giant, enormous goals in front of us and all work together.” Tune in to hear other insights about the early days of GORUCK, Jason’s first furry sidekick Java and what’s next for the growing company and the sport of rucking. – KG

Congressional Hearings

Senate:

Armed Services: Nominations – McKenzie – Clarke
Who:
 Lieutenant General Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., USMC; Lieutenant General Richard D. Clarke, USA
When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, December 4, 2018
Where: G50 Dirksen

Armed Services: United States Navy and Marine Corps Readiness
Who:
 Honorable Richard V. Spencer, Secretary Of The Navy; General Robert B. Neller, USMC, Commandant Of The United States Marine Corps; Admiral William F. Moran, USN, Vice Chief Of Naval Operations; Mr. John H. Pendleton, Director, Defense Capabilities And Management, United States Government Accountability Office
When: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Where: G50 Dirksen

House:

Veterans’ Affairs: “Is VA Ready for Full Implementation of Appeals Reform”
Who:
 The Honorable James Byrne, Acting Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; The Honorable Cheryl L. Mason, Chairman, Board of Veterans’ Appeals, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Mr. David R. McLenachen, Director, Appeals Management Office, Veterans Benefits Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Mr. Richard J. Hipolit, Deputy General Counsel for Legal Policy, Office of General Counsel, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Mr. Lloyd Thrower, Deputy Chief Information Officer, Account Manager, Benefits Portfolio, Office of Information & Technology, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Ms. Elizabeth H. Curda, Director, Education, Workforce and Income Security Team,  U.S. Government Accountability Office
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: Department of Defense’s Artificial Intelligence Structure, Investments, and Applications
Who: 
Dr. Lisa Porter, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense For Research and Engineering, Department of Defense; Mr. Dana Deasy, Chief Information Officer, Department of Defense
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Veterans Affairs: The Veterans First Program after Kingdomware
Who:
 Karen Brazell, Chief Acquisition Officer and Principal Executive Director, Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Thomas Leney, Executive Director for Small and Veteran Business Programs, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Scott Denniston, Executive Director, National Veterans Small Business Coalition; Davy Leghorn, Assistant Director, Veterans Employment and Education Division, The American Legion; Shelby Oakley, Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management, U.S. Government Accountability Office; Jay Schnitzer, M.D., Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, The MITRE Corporation
When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: National Defense Strategy Commission: Assessment and Recommendations
Who: 
Ambassador Eric Edelman, Co-Chair, Commission on the National Defense Strategy; Admiral Gary Roughead, USN (Ret.), Co-Chair, Commission on the National Defense Strategy
When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, December 6, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Veterans’ Affairs: “Tracking Transformation: VA MISSION Act Implementation.”
When: 
10:00 AM, Thursday, December 6, 2018
Where: HVC 210

Armed Services: Naval Surface Forces: On the Road to Recovery?
Who: 
Admiral John C. Aquilino, Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet, Department of the Navy; Admiral Christopher W. Grady, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Northern Command, Department of the Navy
When: 1:30 PM, Thursday, December 6, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Community Opportunities

Brookings: A conversation on the most pressing issues facing America’s veteran community
What:  Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) and the Foreign Policy program at Brookings will host a panel discussion about the most pressing issues facing America’s wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans.
Who: Open to members of the community – register here
When: Tuesday, Dec. 4 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Warrior Wellness Alliance: Warriors Connect Research Study
What: 
A groundbreaking research project led by the Bush Institute’s Warrior Wellness Alliance and Qntfy using donated public-facing social media and fitness tracker information to better understand mental health and wellbeing, and to design more precise and effective interventions. Watch this short video to learn more.
Who: Veterans are the primary audience, but anyone is encouraged to participate, regardless of military service.
When: Study participation open now. Visit this link to donate your information today.

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, December 03, 2018 3:39 pm

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