Veterans Roundup: Bearing Arms on Base, VA Whistleblowers’ New Tunes, Burn Pits Are Bad News, Sequestration Still a Thing

Posted by Fred Wellman

NASA’s social media strategy is genius – and kinda maddening
Nick Stockton (@StocktonSays), Wired. Our CEO Fred Wellman shared his opinion on NASA’s social media strategy in a Wired article last week. As a former public affairs officer who helped pioneer the Army’s social media efforts, Fred offered a unique perspective on NASA’s current strategy. –MC

After Chattanooga, ‘DoD Does Not Support Arming All Personnel’
Leo Shane (@LeoShane) and Andrew Tilghman (@andrewtilghman), Military Times. Two weeks ago, five service members were murdered in a shooting in Chattanooga. Since the incident, lawmakers and activists have been calling for more troops to carry weapons while in garrison. However, DoD does not support this move. At the same time, in the wake of the shootings, citizens have taken it upon themselves to guard recruiting centers with personal firearms in multiple states, a practice that concerns military officials, especially since one Navy recruiter shot himself and another patriotic American accidentally fired his rifle at the ground. –MC

Bottom line: The military trains all of its people in the basics of using a gun but it only teaches some people how to be extremely effective with a firearm. In fact, this writer would wager each veteran reading this could think of at least one person in uniform they would not want to be paired with in a firefight and would have no business being constantly armed. Hence, DoD is in no rush to arm each of its service members (or find the large sums of money it would take to do so). Shockingly, DoD would also appreciate it if civilians would also refrain from being armed around military recruiting stations and other installations. ScoutComms suggested alternative hobbies for these civilian heroes: yoga, paintball, krav maga, or perhaps baking. –LJ

New Burn Pit Report: Lung Disease, High Blood Pressure Common in Exposed Vets
Patricia Kime (@patriciakime), Military Times. According to new data from the Veterans Affairs Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, service members who were exposed to dust storms and worked near burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan are at higher risk for respiratory illness and lung disorders. The data comes from a survey of more than 27,000 veterans who were exposed to burn pits and more than 24,000 who were exposed to dust storms. –MC

Bottom line: In spite of a growing concern surrounding the health effects of exposure to the smoke from the massive trash burn pits used in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is actually little science to date to back up the claims. A recent large survey of veterans that registered in the VA’s burn pit registry points to the need for further research with a startlingly large number reporting significant lung issues far outside the parameters of those in the normal population. It all leads to the growing belief that the long term exposure to these pits is having negative consequences on veterans of these two wars and even those exposed to repeated dust storms in Iraq and a sulfur mine fire in the 101st sector of Ninewah province in 2003. It seems that detailed research and surveying of post-9/11 veterans on lung issues needs to happen to get answers and develop proper treatment for those who need it before its too late. We expect this issue could be the Gulf War Syndrome of Desert Storm and research needs to start now before we lose veterans without answers. –FPW

VA Whistleblowers, Punished for Revealing Excessive Opiate Use and Infestation, are Finally Exonerated
Lisa Rein (@reinlwapo), The Washington Post. The Office of Special Counsel has helped many Department of Veterans Affairs employees who have faced retaliation after coming forward about misconduct. The special counsel has helped more than 45 whistleblowers over the past two years, and VA employees are still filing claims as 111 reprisal cases were received since last July. Last week, the VA worker’s union presented Secretary McDonald with a 39-page report about dysfunction, insensitivity and other issues with VA superiors. –MC

Bottom line: While we believe that Secretary Bob McDonald personally condemns all retaliatory actions within the VA, it is clear that his mandate is taking its time trickling down through the massive organization. The incidents highlighted in Rein’s article are relatively old and well known, but they are not the last retaliatory incidents that we will hear about in 2015. We can only hope that VA managers will begin to feel incentivized in the coming months and years to treat their employees fairly, otherwise we will continue to see articles like this that provide blow-by-blow accounts of managers acting like idiots to save themselves, when they should be rewarding their employees for having the guts to call out inequities and misbehavior. –BW

Obama Uses VFW Speech to Rail Against Sequestration
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. President Obama used his speech last Tuesday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars annual convention to speak out against sequestration but he also acknowledged the need to further reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, especially in terms of health care. Veterans groups in attendance expressed mixed views on Obama’s legacy on veterans’ issues. VA Secretary McDonald also spoke at the convention and expressed distain for Congress’ demands for VA budget cuts. At the conference, the VFW focused on changes that must be made for the organization to remain relevant in the veteran’s space with the newest generation. –MC

Bottom line: President Obama used the VFW convention to almost entirely focus on sequestration and national defense issues. He lays out yet another direct broadside at what is probably the stupidest large piece of legislation passed in modern memory. The circus that is Congress continues to dance around the outrageous decisions being made for the nation’s defense based purely on numbers without any tie to current threats or changing demands. The inept Congress continues to find ways to try to put a Band-Aid on this trainwreck each year and Obama is yet again threatening to veto the National Defense Authorization Act if it doesn’t do something about the cuts. Keep in mind he has threatened to veto it about every year for the last three, and here we are still with Congress blaming others and a national security apparatus without a rudder. –FPW

VA Struggling with Promise to End Benefits Wait This Year
Alan Glantz (@Aaron_Glantz), Reveal. The Department of Veterans Affairs has made progress in reducing its backlog of veteran’s disability claims but is having trouble reaching its deadline to end long appointment wait times for veterans. The VA is also operating at a significant budget deficit, and claims that it needs funds approved by Congress by the end of August. If the funds aren’t approved, the VA plans to turn to furloughs and shutting down certain medical facilities to deal with the lack of funding. Last week, VA Secretary Bob McDonald discussed these issues with the Veterans Affairs Committee and it seems as though lawmakers are reluctantly heading towards a fix. –MC

Bottom line: This is the constant chicken and egg problem at VA: the agency doesn’t have adequate funding to fix its issues in a timely manner, but it can’t get more funding from Congress without proving that it is fixing issues rapidly. It looks like lawmakers are again going to put more money in VA’s coffers so veterans do not suffer. The cash injection won’t necessarily allow VA to increase its pace of reform, but it will ensure that the state of the backlogs and wait times do not go from bad to worse. With each missed deadline, VA is going to have a tougher and tougher time making the case that progress is happening and that it will be a responsible fiduciary for taxpayer dollars. –LJ

ScoutComms’ Client News:

Marathon Bombing Survivors Welcome Vet Handcyclist to Boston
Jackie Bruno (@JackieBrunoNECN), NECN. Wounded veteran Toran Gaal is riding across the U.S. on a handcycle to raise funds and awareness for the Semper Fi Fund. Gaal is a double amputee and recently made his way to Boston. There, he received a warm welcome from Boston Marathon bombing survivors and served as an inspiration to many. The Semper Fi Fund was a huge supporter of the survivors of that terrible attack in the dark days when many faced the prospect of a lifetime without their limbs and found inspiration from veterans who have lived lives of achievement since they lost theirs. –MC

Business Resources for Veterans and Active Duty Military for Entrepreneurs
Carol Roth (@caroljsroth), The Huffington Post. The Boots to Business and Boots to Business Reboot programs, run by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families were highlighted as great resources for veteran and active duty entrepreneurs in a recent Huffington Post blog. –MC

Quick Hits:

Military Times Honors 2015 Service Members of the Year
Charlsy Panzino (@charlsypanzino), Military Times. Last Tuesday, Military Times recognized its 2015 Service Members of the Year; one service member from each branch of the military was chosen. The ScoutComms team was honored to attend the ceremony and we highly recommend you take the time to learn about these exceptional service members. –MC

More Than 200,000 Vietnam Vets Still Have PTSD
Mandy Oaklander (@mandyoaklander), TIME Magazine. According to a new study published by JAMA Psychiatry, more than 200,000 Vietnam veterans are still dealing with war-related post-traumatic stress. Researchers conducted the study because they wanted to understand the prevalence of PTS over time and it joins a growing body of evidence on how PTS effects different people over both the short and long terms. –MC

Return to Military Routine Helps Reform Jailed Veterans
Martin Kuz (@MartinKuz), San Antonio Express-News. A group of 18 individuals are taking part in a six-month program that aims to help jailed veterans become reacquainted with military routines to aid in their rehabilitation. Many of the participants are nearing the end of their confinement and are leveraging the familiar routines of military service. This kind of program has been very successful in a number of regions and it’s showing the same kind of impact in Texas. –MC

Medical Marijuana Cleared to Treat PTSD in Washington
Jordan Schrader (@Jordan_Schrader) The News Tribune. Washington has become the  eleventh state to allow people with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries to qualify for medical marijuana. Although any adult can buy marijuana in Washington, some Washington advocates believe that the medical authorization is the right approach, especially for veterans. Currently doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs are not allowed to even discuss the use of legal medical cannabis with patients in the states that allow it and the issue remains one the industry will take on to give veterans options other than opiates. –MC

PTSD Veteran: I’m Not Crazy
Carol Costello (@CarolCNN), CNN. Last week CNN Newsroom anchor Carol Costello reported on a contradictory perspective on post-traumatic stress and one doctor’s efforts to reduce the medication-heavy solutions that medical professionals commonly offer veterans. –MC

Army Flagged OPM Breach Notice as Phishing Attempt
Kevin Lilley (@KRLilley), Army Times. Army information technology officials incorrectly flagged an official government email intended to help people who were affected by a the recent data breach as a phishing attempt, potentially delaying individual responses. The irony of the situation isn’t lost on anyone as the military and federal agencies continue to struggle with dealing with cyber-security and protecting sensitive information. –MC

One Year Later, Women Still shut Out of Quarter Million Military Jobs
Wyatt Olson, Stars and Stripes. The military is less than six months away from the deadline to integrate women into all military jobs and still a quarter-million positions remained closed. Wyatt Olson reports in a recent article on what it will take for our services to open the positions by the deadline. –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences

2015 ROA National Convention (Sun-Wed, 26-29 July); Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washington, DC

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

Congressional Hearings


Veterans Affairs: Ending Veteran Homelessness When: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, July 29, 2015 Where: 418 Russell


Veterans Affairs: Markup of Pending Legislation When: 10:30 AM, Wednesday, July 29, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon

Think Tanks & Other Events

No relevant events. Blame August.

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 Monday, July 27, 2015 1:41 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of updates to this conversation