Veterans Roundup: Chuck Hagel Gives Thanks for More Free Time, More Vietnam Veterans Seeking PTSD Treatment

Posted by Fred Wellman

Vets Seek Help for PTSD Decades After War
Clare Ansberry (@clare_ansberry), The Wall Street Journal. More and more veterans of Vietnam are starting to seek help for mental health issues related to their service. Although PTSD is often associated with veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the new generation of veterans only makes up about a quarter of PTSD patients, the rest are veterans from other wars including Vietnam, and the total number of PTSD claims among veterans has been increasing. Some question the criteria for determining PTSD, claiming that it may be too relaxed and the reason for the increase. –MC
Bottom line: This trend is precisely in line with most of the research that shows many issues veterans face don’t come up until many years after their wars have ended and they turn to VA for assistance with physical disabilities, mental health challenges, and the full range of benefits they have available to them. Anecdotally we are hearing that all of this outreach to the new generation of veterans has spurred the previous generations of veterans to recognize that what was once something they said just “came with going to war” has a name such as PTSD. As this realization spreads, many of these older veterans are seeking treatment as they age and lose the support networks that had helped them carry on for so long. Clearly there are those who are using PTSD as a crutch to get out of everything from obeying city ordinances to seeking disability payments but we can’t turn back the clock on recognizing that the mental health challenges that come from traumatic events both as soldiers and civilians shouldn’t be recognized as nothing to be embarrassed about and an issue that can be treated. –FPW

Selling VA: New Boss Works to Update his Outfit’s Image
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. As promised, Leo Shane comes through with a profile of Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, or Bob which the new SecVA prefers. The article highlights McDonald’s theories on leadership which he learned at West Point and honed as a Ranger, his VA reform efforts to date, his business experience as the CEO of Proctor & Gamble, and how his approach differs from his predecessor, retired General Eric Shinseki. –MC
Bottom line: McDonald is making a concerted effort to burnish a public image very much unlike Shinseki’s—firstly by having a public image. While Shinseki often toured VA facilities, spoke with veterans, and attended recruiting events, he rarely did so in view of the public or media. McDonald is using the post-scandal spotlight to market VA as a great place to work and as a great place for veterans. He is working to empower employees at every level, not just senior leaders, and draws inverted pyramids everywhere to emphasize that veterans are the top priority—and the foundation from which everything else follows. This long profile really captures the depth and diversity of what McDonald is doing to change the image of VA, but it remains to be seen how much the image—like “I CARE” lapel pins—and piecemeal reforms like whistleblower certification for the agency can really shift the culture and care delivery at VA. –LJ

Veterans and Troops Lament Losing Advocate in Hagel
Gordon Lubold (@glubold), Defense One. After former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s resignation last Monday, veterans groups and non-profits are voicing concerns about the future of veterans’ issues within the Pentagon. As SecDef, Hagel interacted with veteran and military organizations on a regular basis to determine the most pressing issues for veterans and military families. The next SecDef will have to face issues like a shrinking military budget and more overseas deployments. It remains to be seen whether Hagel’s successor will have time for issues like eliminating inconsistencies with base access for non-profits. –MC
Bottom line: Much like VA Secretary Shinseki when he left his job, many advocacy organizations are lamenting the loss of Secretary of Defense Hagel last week. In his 19 months in the Pentagon, Hagel revitalized the outreach efforts of the department, spoke with veterans and military support organizations regularly, and personally took their issues to the Hill. His background as the first former enlisted service member to rise to Secretary of Defense gave him a unique perspective on the needs of the troops and their families. Unfortunately, that didn’t necessarily translate into actions in the short time he served. Many know that it was Secretary Hagel pushing Congress to cut retirement benefits and increase Tricare payments and not Congress asking for those things. So, we are left to wonder what could have been since his time was so very short in the job. There really is no telling what the next SecDef will do—or be able to do—in a lame duck administration. –FPW

Canadian Vets Face Long Waits for Mental Health Help, Auditor Says
Bruce Campion-Smith (@yowflier), Ottawa Bureau. A report released last Tuesday by the auditor general’s office shows that Veterans Affairs Canada may be facing difficulties in handling increasing amounts of veterans seeking mental health care. Canadian veterans are facing long wait times for appointments and effectiveness of care is not measured. The report made a number of recommendations, and in anticipation of the report, the Canadian government announced $200 million to help with mental care for veterans and military families over the next six years, though recent reporting revealed Canada’s VA has left $1.1 billion of its budget on the table over the last seven years. –MC
Bottom line: Since 2012, the number of Canadian veterans receiving treatment for mental health issues has increased by 20 percent—and that number is expected to continue rising. The complaints about Canada’s health care system for veterans faces many of the same complaints the VA in the U.S. does: long wait times for mental health appointments, very long adjudication periods for benefit claims, and very little accountability in terms of tracking outcomes. Canadian veterans’ advocates say their government is not doing enough and point to the money their VA has turned back into the Treasury as evidence that the government is not taking veterans’ care seriously. The Canadian VA serves about 15,000 veterans—compare that to the more than 1 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have accessed VA health care in the U.S. since October 2001. Veterans’ issues are not simply a U.S. issue—and in many ways our veterans and VA are doing a much better job than our closest allies. Perhaps it’s time to cut out VA some slack when not even socialized medicine darling Canada can adequately deliver socialized veterans care. –LJ

VA Removes Sharon Helman, Manager at Center of Phoenix Health-Care Scandal
Emily Wax-Thibodeaux (@emily_wax), The Washington Post. Sharon Helman, former director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, has been removed from her position according to Department of Veterans Affairs officials said last Monday after Helman had been on paid administrative leave for six months while under investigation. Glenn Grippen will serve as her replacement until the VA names a new director. –MC
Bottom line: Congressional critics have made the lack of fired VA officials the focus of their ongoing issues with the VA, despite attempted reforms by SecVA McDonald. Helman’s sacking means the central figure in the VA scandal that triggered Shinseki’s resignation and the latest reforms is now unemployed. Undoubtedly, though, the loudest voices like Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, will keep asking questions like what took so long to fire Helman and when will subsequently discovered bad actors be fired. Firing Helman is a welcome step, but it says a lot about the federal government when the SecVA and SecDef have both been “fired” before a toxic VA administrator. –LJ

Quick Hits:

The Veteran Who Took Home the National Book Award
Jacob Siegel (@Jacob_Siegel), The Daily Beast. Phil Klay, a former Marine who served in Iraq, recently received a National Book Award for his book of short stories, Redeployment. Klay is the first Iraq or Afghsanistan veteran to receive the prestigious prize. Last week, The Daily Beast’s Jacob Siegel interviewed Klay about his war, Brooklyn, Ferguson, and more. Veteran writers also got their close-up in Vanity Fair this month—which should be a reminder to Horton that he needs to get writing. –LJ & MC

The Military’s Rough Justice on Sexual Assault
Robert Draper (@DraperRobert), The New York Times. As the military and Congress argue over the process of prosecuting members of the military who commit sexual assault, one former high-profile military prosecutor is speaking out against the status quo. As victims come forward, flaws in the system are brought to light. This New York Times article explores the process of convicting an offender and the toll coming forward may have on service members who come forward and report sexual assault. –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences

No major tradeshows or conferences.

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

Congressional Hearings


Foreign Affairs Joint Subcommittees on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade and on the Middle East and North Africa: ISIS and the Threat from Foreign Fighters Who: The Honorable Robert Bradtke, Senior Advisor for Partner Engagement on Syria Foreign Fighters, U.S. Department of State, Mr. Tom Warrick, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism Policy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security When:  10:00 AM, Tuesday, December 2, 2014 Where: 2172 Rayburn

Armed Services: National Defense Panel Assessment of the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review Who: The Honorable Eric Edelman, panelist, National Defense Panel, Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, The Honorable Michèle Flournoy, panelist, National Defense Panel, Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, December 2, 2014 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces: The Role of Maritime and Air Power in DoD’s Third Offset Strategy Who: Mr. Shawn Brimley, Executive Vice President and Director of Studies, Center for A New American Security, Mr. Andrew Hunter, Director, Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group and Senior Fellow, International Security Program, Center for Strategic & International Studies, Mr. Robert Martinage, Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic and budgetary Assessments, Mr. David Ochmanek, RAND Corporation When: 3:30 PM, Tuesday, December 2, 2014 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health: VA’s Caregiver Program: Assessing Current Prospects and Future Possibilities When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, December 3, 2014 Where: 334 Cannon


Armed Services: Nominations Who: Mr. Robert M. Scher, to be assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities, Ms. Elissa Slotkin, to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Mr. David J. Berteau, to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness, Ms. Alissa M. Starzak, to be General Counsel of the Department of the Army, Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., USN, for reappointment to the Grade of Admiral and to be Commander, United States Pacific Command When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, December 2, 2014 Where: 216 Hart

Think Tanks & Other Events

American Institute for Contemporary German Studies: Learn & Earn Working Group, A DC Workshop for the Promotion of the US Workforce and Skills Initiative Who: Ms. Dana Hendrickson, Director of outreach and Advocacy at the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs When: 9:00 AM, Tuesday, December 2, 2014 Where: 1755 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC

New America Foundation: @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex Who: Shane Harris, Author, @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex, ASU Future of War Fellow, New America, Peter Bergen, Vice President, Director of Studies, Director, International Security, Future of War, and Fellows Programs, New America When: 12:15 PM, Tuesday, December 2, 2014 Where: New America 1899 L Street NW Suite 400, Washington, DC

Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge Who: Speakers including Lee Woodruff, First Lady Laura Bush, COL Jim Isenhower, and Ken Fisher When: 8:30 AM, Wednesday, December 3, 2014 Where: Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, New York, NY 10036

New America Foundation: Warrior Diplomat: A Green Beret’s Battles from Washington to Afghanistan Who: Michael G. Waltz, Lt. Col. Special Forces (Reserve component), Author, Warrior Diplomat: A Green Beret’s Battles from Washington to Afghanistan, Peter Bergen, Director, International Security Program, New America When: 12:15 PM, Thursday, December 4, 2014 Where: New America 1899 L Street NW Suite 400, Washington, DC

Center for Strategic and International Studies: Military Strategy Forum: Dr. Jamie Morin and Defense Budgeting in an Uncertain Fiscal Environment Who: Dr. Jamie Morin, Director, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, CSIS When: 1:00 PM, Friday, December 5, 2014 Where: 2nd Floor Conference Center, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC

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, December 01, 2014 10:02 am

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