Veterans Roundup: Carter in no Hurry to Decide on Women in Combat, Unpacking Veteran Suicide Narrative, Fussing with FOIA, #DayForTheBrave and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

JBLM Transgender Soldier Endures ‘Excruciating’ Wait for Army Reforms
Adam Ashton (@TNTMilitary), The News Tribune
Defense Secretary Ash Carter is working to integrate transgender service members into the military and has made it clear that no transgender service member will face a discharge due to their identity. But troops like Jennifer Peace, who has publicly identified herself as a transgender woman, still face challenges and are calling for faster reforms. –MC
Bottom line: Opponents of Secretary Carter’s plan to allow transgender service members to openly serve in the military will take issue with the following argument, but frankly, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” established a much higher bar for all remaining restrictions that prevented Americans of any gender or sexuality from openly serving in the military. While the U.S. military is not a petri dish or a social experiment, it is an organization that takes pride in its ability to break down the walls separating a disparate group of individuals and shape them into a highly efficient fighting force. If there is any organization that should be able to assert, “We will take everyone and anyone who meets our standards of intelligence, ability, and ethics” and thereby extract the maximum value from them, regardless of who they are or what they believe, it is the U.S. military. Ashton does an excellent job in his profile on focusing on the basic humanity of Jennifer Pearce, and showing that her mind and her motivation have always been recognized as major assets to the military. –BW

Generals Sought More Positive Coverage on Head Injuries, Document Shows
David Philipps (@David_Philipps), The New York Times
Prior to the publication of the recent New York Times article on concussions from boxing classes at West Point, top Army officials allegedly discussed delaying a FOIA response in order to plant a more favorable story in another outlet. The summarized discussion occurred during a September 16 meeting at the Pentagon between Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen Patricia D. Horoho and West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr. –MC
Bottom line: After this story broke, many reporters felt it confirmed their experiences requesting FOIA documents. While most FOIA delays can simply be explained by the time is takes for a request to navigate the massive government bureaucracy, this particular case highlights how the system can be manipulated in order to deceive the public. The Freedom of Information Act serves to give the public and press more transparency about the machinations of government. It should not be manipulated for PR purposes. When those PR purposes are to obfuscate the brain injuries of future US Army officers, it suggests a very worrying trend in priorities. One might expect the Army’s surgeon general and the superintendent of West Point to be most interested in what is best for cadets, not how to make their injuries seem less significant. Hopefully, this incident is not indicative of an endemic problem in the way the Pentagon responds to reporters. For the record, both Lt. Gens. Horoho and Caslen allege their discussion about responding to the request was not accurately portrayed by the leaked memo on which the article is based. –LJ

The Number 22: Is There a ‘False Narrative’ for Vet Suicide?
Jay Price, NPR
Many veterans groups and advocates often cite 22 veteran suicides per day to discuss how many U.S. veterans take their lives every day. But 22 may not accurately reflect the veteran suicide rate and there is little accurate data on suicide among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, the group most frequently associated with the number. In further worrying developments, a new report showed that the Pentagon’s suicide prevention office lacks the ability to execute effective programs. –MC
Bottom line: The fight against veteran suicide is an important one and the focus on the 22 a day number has helped propel greater awareness of the issue but in some ways has had a larger negative impact on the public’s views of today’s veterans. From the very beginnings of the use of the number many of us have questioned its accuracy as it is based on extrapolation from the few states that track suicide statistics by veteran status. Its accuracy has become an accepted fact and what follows is that it’s all because of PTSD and unfortunately that it is all young veterans. All of that is wrong. A study by VA showed seven out of ten of the suicides within their health system were of older veterans who have lost their spouses or face other challenges. A DoD study found that instead of 22 a day, for young veterans it was more accurately one a day. No one believes for a moment that any veteran suicide is acceptable but the damage from inaccurate numbers and over emphasis on a crisis harms the prospects for all veterans. As the article states: “What gets lost in the conversation is the majority — actually you can say the vast majority — do OK,” Jennings says. “The vast majority of our veterans do OK.” –FPW

VA Urged to Favor Veterans on Toxic Exposure Claims
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
During a hearing last Tuesday, senators urged the Department of Veterans Affairs to favor veterans while approving or declining claims for illnesses related to toxic exposure. These cases range from Agent Orange to residents of Camp Lejeune unknowingly consuming contaminated drinking water on base from the 1950s through 1987. –MC
Bottom line: The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of so called “presumptive conditions” recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs including illnesses associated with exposure to the chemical defoliant Agent Orange by those who served in the Vietnam War. Yet, the battles for others continue as inconsistencies in data and scientific studies questions the connections from many poisons to illnesses suffered by those who served. Advocates are pushing VA to simply accept them for the relatively small numbers afflicted like the so-called ‘Blue Water’ Navy sailors, families at Camp Lejeune, and aircrews that flew the aircraft after the war that had sprayed the chemicals during the war. It is not a simple thing and the numbers are not tiny when added up. The much maligned disability claims backlog was almost entirely a product of when Agent Orange exposure became a presumptive condition and let to hundreds of thousands of new claims in the system. That means more money, more patients in the system, and more challenges for a system already facing significant problems. But, if history is any guide, the VA will eventually accede and the concern is that many veterans will have long passed by that time. –FPW

‘Heroes Reborn’ and ‘You’re the Worst’ take on Latino Veterans’ Experiences
Alyssa Rosenberg (@AlyssaRosenberg), The Washington Post
Two new TV shows, ‘Heroes Reborn’ and ‘You’re the Worst’ feature Mexican American veterans, stories not usually found on national television. The number of Latinos in the military is increasing and a 2013 demographic report showed that 11.6 percent of active-duty military identified as Hispanic. –MC
Bottom line: It is great to see more veteran character on television—especially veterans who don’t fit the typical veteran stereotype we too often see on TV. This is the kind of progress that Got Your 6 has been advocating for years now. Hopefully this is a trend that will catch on with showrunners: veteran characters who are more than their veteran status. The entertainment industry is undeniably a powerful medium for educating the public about veterans’ issues and so it’s disappointing when writers and directors take the easy way out with tropes that perpetuate the idea that all veterans suffer from PTS, are violent criminals, or are homeless. Let’s see more stories about the everyday veteran, not just the SEALs and not just the down-on-their-luck stereotypes. –LJ

Pentagon Chief Won’t Review Gender Integration Issue Until End of the Year
Dan Lamothe (@danlamothe), The Washington Post
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that he won’t review the services’ recommendations on gender integration until the end of the year. Each of the services submitted their analysis, concerns, and requests for waivers last week. Last week, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller discussed his view on the issue at Marine Corps Base Quantico, and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James confirmed that she submitted her recommendations for opening up all combat positions to women. –MC
Bottom line:  We know from official Navy statements that Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, a strong proponent of gender integration, submitted no requests for waivers on behalf of either the Navy or the Marine Corps. While the other services have kept relatively quiet about the actual details of their recommendations, most eyes are on the Marine Corps. Even though Mabus chose not to forward the Corps’ request for waivers, it is currently unclear what actions Gen. Joseph Dunford, who oversaw the Corps’ testing as Commandant prior to becoming the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will take to ensure that Secretary Carter directly receives the Corps’ own recommendations. Leading groups on this issue, like ScoutComms client the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), have been vocal in recent weeks about the flaws in the Corps’ studies, and support Mabus’ actions. In the wake of the very public debate in September about the recommendations, it is disappointing that Secretary Carter and the service chiefs have chosen not to share details of their recommendations, guaranteeing that the public debate will rage on through the end of the year. –BW

Razoo Launches Charitable Crowdfunding Campaign for Veterans Day
Last Thursday, Razoo announced #DayForTheBrave, the nation’s first 24-hour online Giving Day to support charities helping veterans, service members, and military families. #DayForTheBrave, which will take place on Veterans Day, is an opportunity for Americans to do more than just thank our service members and veterans by supporting the nation’s top organizations committed to their care. To learn more about the campaign, donate, or become a sponsor, visit and follow the hashtag #DayForTheBrave. –MC

Barbara Carson: Keeping Service Members on Their Feet with Boots-to-Business
Tom Temin (@tteminWFED), Federal News Radio
Boots to Business is an entrepreneurship training program for service members and their spouses, hosted in partnership by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Defense Department, and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. Barbara Carson, the acting administrator of the SBA’s Office of Veteran Business Development, discussed the program and positive changes to the program with Federal News Radio. –MC

Paralympic Athletes in Spotlight for BP on Road to Rio
Roxanna Scott (@roxscott), USA Today
BP America announced its athlete ambassadors for the Rio Olympics and Paralympic Games next summer in Rio de Janerio. This is first time a U.S. Olympic sponsor signed more Paralympic athletes than Olympians. Some of the Paralympic athletes, like Brad Snyder, are military veterans who are serving as inspirations to our community and sharing their stories. BP America also supports nonprofits like the Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund which supports wounded, critically ill, and injured service members and families through many lines of assistance, including athletics. –MC

Quick Hits:

Unemployment for Newest Vets Still Near All Time Low
George Altman (@George_Altman), Military Times
Unemployment for post-9/11 veterans increased slightly from August to September, but despite the rise September’s unemployment rate of five percent was the second-lowest ever seen for the latest generation of veterans. Over the past five months, unemployment rates for this group have remained at very low levels, signaling a positive overall change. –MC

VA Expanding the Services it Offers to Women
Elisa Basnight (@ElisaBasnight) and Patricia Hayes for
The VA’s Center for Women Veterans and the VA Women’s Health Group announced a new initiative called, “I’m One.” The new campaign will work to help develop respect for female veterans, and improve care available to them. Elisa Basnight and Patricia Hayes provided more details about the campaign and VA efforts in an op-ed published last week. –MC

Veterans and Civilians Find a Way to Connect Through Running
Kyle Norris (@MichRadioKyle), NPR
Last week, Team Red, White & Blue celebrated its five-year anniversary. NPR published a great spot about how the organization bridges the civilian and military divide through running. As members of Team RWB ourselves, we’d like to mention that Team RWB is about much more than running, we each participate in cycling, social hours, yoga, and other events with the team, as well. Team RWB has something for everyone. –MC

Forget Oregon’s gunman. Remember the Hero Who Charged Straight at Him.
Michael Daly (@MichaelDalynyc), The Daily Beast
Last week, our nation experienced another mass shooting during which 10 people lost their lives at Umpqua Community College. Rather than highlighting the gunman, many news outlets are spreading the word about a student veteran, Chris Mintz, who charged straight at the gunman to save his classmates. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of all affected by this tragedy. –MC

Local Businesses Awarded for Military Friendliness
Lindley Estes (@flsLindley), The Free Lance-Star
On Wednesday, ScoutComms and our friends at Ricks Roasters Coffee Company were recognized by the Military Affairs Council of the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce for our support of veterans and military families in the Fredericksburg community and nationwide. Commissioner John Newby of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services presented the award. We’re humbled by this recognition and can’t thank you all enough for the motivation you provide. –MC

The Military Isn’t Preparing People for Private-Sector Success
Scott Beauchamp (@stb5g5), The Atlantic
Back in August, our CEO Fred Wellman shared his opinion on Ben Bernanke’s comments that the military may not prepare veterans for private-sector success. Fred’s view resurfaced this week in an article by Scott Beauchamp claiming that Bernanke is right, and it’s a good thing. Although our CEO obviously doesn’t agree with Beauchamp, we’re glad to see the conversation continue. –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences

NAVPA’s 40th Annual Training & Conference (Mon-Fri, 5-9 October); Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, Nashville, TN

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans 2015 Veterans Access to Housing Summit (Mon-Tues, 5-6 October); Grand Hyatt, Washington, DC

13th Annual Military Reporters and Editors Conference (Thu-Fri, 8-9 October); Army and Navy Club, Washington, DC

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

Congressional Hearings


Armed Services: The Situation in Afghanistan Who: General John F. Campbell, USA, Resolute Support Mission Commander, United States Forces – Afghanistan When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, October 6, 2015 Where: G50 Dirksen

Veterans’ Affairs: Meeting to Consider the Pending Nomination of Michael H. Michaud When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, October 6, 2015 Where: 418 Russell

Veterans’ Affairs: Pending Health Care and Benefits Legislation Who: Thomas Lynch, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health Clinical Operations, Veterans Health Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Lauren Augustine, Legislative Associate, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Lou Celli, Director, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division, The American Legion, Elisha Harig-Blaine, Principal Associate, Housing (Veterans and Special Needs), National League of Cities, David Norris, National Legislative Committee Vice-Chairman, Veterans of Foreign Wars When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, October 6, 2015 Where: 418 Russell


Veterans’ Affairs: A Call for System-Wide Change: Evaluating the Independent Assessment of the Veterans Health Administration When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, October 7, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: Effects on Sequestration on Installation Training Support and Readiness Who: Colonel Andrew Cole, Garrison Commander, U.S. Army, Fort Riley, Lieutenant General Patrick J. Donahue II, Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army, FORSCOM When: 8:00 AM, Thursday, October 8, 2015 Where: 2212 Rayburn

Armed Services: Hearing: U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan Who: General John F. Campbell, USA, Resolute Support Mission Commander, United States Forces – Afghanistan When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, October 8, 2015 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: Hearing: Update on Military Suicide Prevention Programs Who: Rear Admiral Lower Half Ann M Burkhardt, Director, 21st Century Sailor Office, U.S. Navy, Lieutenant General Mark Ediger, Surgeon General, U.S. Air Force, Dr. Keita Franklin, Director, Suicide Prevention Office, on behalf of Office of the Secretary of Defense, Lieutenant General James C McConville, Deputy Chief of Staff, G1, U.S. Army When: 2:00 PM, Thursday, October 8, 2015 Where: 2212 Rayburn

Think Tanks & Other Events

No relevant events this week.

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, October 06, 2015 7:32 am

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