Veterans Roundup: Community Opportunities, Women Know Tough Missions, No More Cremated Remains at Vietnam Wall and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Veterans in Global Leadership: Apply to be a 2018-2019 VGL Fellow
Who: Student veteran candidates with a passion for service, a commitment to assist other veterans, an entrepreneurial spirit and proven leadership skills.
When: Application deadline is April 30, 2018

Elizabeth Dole Foundation: Application for 2018 Hidden Heroes Fund Grants
Who: Non-profits with innovative programs supporting military and veteran caregivers.
When: Application deadline is February 23, 2018

Pat Tillman Foundation: Apply to be a Tillman Scholar
Who: Veteran and active-duty military service members; current spouses of veterans or active-duty service members, including surviving spouses; service members or spouses pursuing a degree as a full-time student.
When: Application deadline is March 1, 2018

From Annapolis to Congress? These Three Women Know Tough Missions
Michael Tackett (@tackettdc), The New York Times
Three former female military leaders are running for Congress after countless years of service. U.S. Navy veterans Elaine Luria, Amy McGrath and Mikie Sherrill started their military careers at the United States Naval Academy and are now on a mission to become the first female Annapolis graduate to hold a seat in Congress. While each candidate faces unique obstacles in each of their districts, they can rely on their military experience and leadership to help propel them forward, as so many male veterans now in office have. Setting a historic record, more than 390 women are running for Congress. –DD
Bottom line: It should be noted that while all three of the candidates profiled are Democrats, there are Republican women veterans also running for office, but what this piece specifically focuses on is how these three women are leveraging their military service and academy credentials in the same way that men have used theirs in the past to propel them into office. They are also all three hoping to ride a wave of opposition to President Trump and leverage the momentum and organization that has surrounded the women’s marches as well as the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. As the author points out, “all three women lean heavily on their military backgrounds to promote their campaigns… but they also share the challenges of any first-time candidate: raising money, building an organization and avoiding rookie mistakes.” Their vast military experience is no doubt impressive, but the question is, will it be enough to, in some of the cases, unseat incumbents, fend off their own party’s primary challengers, and find victory in gerrymandered districts. –CB

Families have left cremated remains at the Vietnam Wall for decades. Now officials want them to stop.
Michael E. Ruane (@michaelruane), The Washington Post
Leaving mementos of service members at the Vietnam Wall has long been a tradition dating back to when the Wall was dedicated in 1982. However, since 1990, approximately 70 human cremains of Vietnam veterans, and others, have been left at the Vietnam Wall Memorial. As the population ages, and 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the war’s most intense year of fighting, the number of cremains being left has become unmanageable according to park officials. While other parks may allow the placement of cremains or have dedicated areas for scattering ashes, the Wall does not. Park representatives offer understanding, but state they simply cannot keep them or add the remains to the Park Service’s official collections. Jan Scruggs, founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, offered his thoughts: “The vets want to be reunited with those who they remember as ‘forever young’ who laid down their lives in Vietnam, and to ease their pain that time cannot heal.” He also said veterans and their families will likely “do as they please.” –KG
Bottom line: While this story is about the difficulty of enforcing rules related to what can be left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., it’s also about the connection veterans feel to the memorials built in their honor. When you read these stories about veterans desiring to have their eternal resting place be near the names of 50,000 brothers and sisters that didn’t come home or sunk in the bowels of a battleship they left 76 years ago, it shows the lasting impact memorials have on veterans. These memorials do matter, now and in the future. They are a place for veterans to remember, families to honor, and for the nation to learn about the sacrifices made its name. There is no easy answer to the cremains being left behind, although it seems like a great opportunity for a national veterans service organization to step up and help. –FPW

Half of Post-9/11 Vets Aren’t Getting Mental Health Care, Report Says
John Tozzi (@jtozz), Bloomberg
A recent report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine revealed that approximately half of the U.S. veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq are not receiving the mental health care they need. Even though many veterans receive good mental health care through the VA, the VA struggles to meet the demand for services from 4 million veterans who have left the military since September 2001. The study also found other barriers to providing timely and adequate mental health care include stressful parking situations and finding qualified staff members in rural areas. President Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 9 ordering the military and VA officials to create a plan to provide service members quicker access to mental health treatment. –SM
Bottom line: You know how when a law is passed with some stipulation that a federal agency has to produce a report about ways it could be doing things better but, like, don’t rush it, take your time, like five years? That’s this report. In the fiscal year 2013 NDAA, Congress told VA to work with the National Academies on an assessment, and boy did they produce. The nearly 300-page report tapped many of the top experts in the field of veteran mental health to help shape it along the way. What needs to happen next, though, is for those who commissioned it and those with the ability to make the changes recommended to actually read it. As noted above, an impediment to care for patients that researchers say came up more often than they expected was parking at VA facilities. Encountering a stressful parking situation could leave many so frustrated they would leave or they would spend a portion of their sessions working through that stress. Fixing parking will require both VA and Congress working together on funding, but unless both parties read this report and understand the importance of these kind of issues, it may be a tough sell. The worst thing that could happen, though, is that another great recommendation (or several) from this report and many others simply go unnoticed. –LJ

Navy Tells Families When They Can Identify On Social Media That A Sailor Has Died In New Handbook
Brock Vergakis (@BrockVergakis), Task & Purpose
In a new 40-page handbook released by the U.S. Navy, family members of deceased sailors are encouraged to wait at least 24 hours until sharing the news on personal social media accounts. While the Navy cannot hold individuals responsible for following this recommendation, it is intended to dissuade them from getting ahead of the military’s notification process. Typically, when a sailor passes away from unnatural causes, the Navy will first notify the immediate family and then share the news in both media releases and on the Navy’s social media accounts. The Navy will not, however, share the news with the general public until the last family member is notified. In previous circumstances, family members have confirmed their relative’s death on social media prior to the Navy releasing the identity of the deceased sailor. –DD
Bottom line: The casualty notification process is an incredibly difficult procedure from start to finish and the age of social media has made it exponentially more challenging to get the word to survivors of our fallen before they get the word on TV or Facebook. The Navy can’t order families not to put the word out obviously but a discussion of the topic is the right thing to do. The loss of a loved one is devastating and getting that word via an errant Tweet is an absolute travesty that should never occur. –FPW

For Most Vets, PTSD Isn’t The Problem, ‘Transition Stress’ Is. Here’s What That Means
James Clark (@JamesWClark), Task & Purpose
George A. Bonanno, a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University’s Teacher College, belives that PTSD has become a “catchall” diagnosis for struggling veterans. Bonanno and Meaghan Mobbs, a former Army officer and PhD student, propose a new theory in a recent paper. Transition stress, they argue, affects far more veterans than PTSD and encompasses a variety of issues that military veterans transitioning out of the military face. The researchers believe these obstacles lead to anxiety, depression and other behavioral abnormalities. While one survey estimates approximately 40 percent of civilians believe veterans are mentally ill, other research indicates the prevalence of PTSD in post-9/11 veterans is actually less than 10 percent. Sebastian Junger, author of the 2010 Vanity Fair article, “How PTSD Became a Problem Far Beyond the Battlefield,” notes that while the recent wars are safer than generations past, more veterans feel alienated and depressed, underscoring the belief that it is not “trauma on the battlefield so much as re-entry into society” generating stress for veterans. Mobbs and Bonanno both call for greater preparation for veterans transitioning out of military service, highlighting the exorbitant resources spent conditioning the individuals for military service versus the relatively brief post-military transition training. –KG
Bottom line: Bonnano and Mobbs tackle a tough issue in their essay and one that is certainly worthy of further discussion and research. Environmental stressors like transition can exacerbate already existing mental health issues. This stress, in concert with other factors, can also create situations where there is a higher risk for developing a mental health issue like depression or anxiety. Regardless of mental health, transition sometimes isn’t easy and sometimes it’s downright traumatic. The loss of affiliation, the loss of community and the loss of common goals are just some of the issues transitioning service members and their families face. It’s not at all surprising that people in transition grieve that loss of community or feel anxious or uncertain about the future—it’s completely natural and it doesn’t mean they have PTSD. Exploring opportunities for extended transition training and introducing the idea of mentors and peers into the mix are just two of the many proposals that exist to smooth the transition process and eliminate obstacles to a successful civilian reintegration. We all experience transitions in our lives, civilian or military, and the development of strong social networks and support systems can be the difference between success and disaster. As someone who trained in mental health, I find it irritating that often the only mental health issue people are willing to talk about when it comes to the military is PTSD. The constant chatter about this particular diagnosis has led to the maddening “broken hero” narrative that so many in our space have worked to combat over the past decade. That being said, I also worry that downplaying of the existence of PTSD amongst the military population serves to create real and perceived barriers to care for those who are actually dealing with the illness, combat related or not. We know that 1 in 5 Americans will at some point deal with a mental health condition. We also know that this rate isn’t much different in the military community. If we could just get to a point where we talked about mental wellbeing on a spectrum—instead of worrying about suffering from something diagnosable—perhaps people would be more likely to reach out and ask for help before they reach a crisis. In terms of transition stress and its impact on mental health and wellbeing, I think we can all agree that the current process leaves much to be desired. As the transition program matures, perhaps the development of social support strategies will become more highly prioritized. –RB

‘Chain of Command’ returns to Mosul with Bragg troops
Drew Brooks (@DrewBrooks), The Fayetteville Observer
National Geographic’s newest docu-series, “Chain of Command,” premiered earlier this month and has been giving viewers never-before-seen insight onto the frontlines of the war against violent extremism. National Geographic’s team was granted unprecedented access to battlegrounds and Pentagon meetings, but one of the strongest storytelling components involves the troops on screen – including some very key Fort Bragg service members. –AB

Radio Host Ted Stryker Wears Pin to Grammys to Honor Chester Bennington
The Mighty
KROQ radio host Ted Stryker walked the red carpet at the 2018 Grammy Awards wearing a bronze pin with Chester Bennington’s signature to commemorate the late lead singer of the band Linkin Park who took his own life in July of last year. Stryker joins Bennington’s wife Talinda, who has organized a movement to encourage people everywhere to take care of the mental health called 320 in partnership with Give an Hour and the Campaign to Change Direction. –JG

‘With Honor’ supports veterans running for Congress
Fox & Friends
Last week, With Honor CEO Rye Barcott was on Fox and Friends to talk about the organization and announce its first set of veteran candidate endorsements representing both political parties running for seats in the House. With Honor believes that veterans are uniquely equipped, from their time working together in the military, to put country before party politics. Barcott announced that Kenneth Sheets, MJ Taylor and Van Taylor are the first of 25-30 endorsements that will be made this year. ­–JG

BBQ fundraiser pulls in $30,000
Justin Hotop, The Perryville Republic-Monitor
The “Getting Sauced” Barbecue competition hosted by Richard Floor Covering in Perryville, MO raised approximately $30,000. Thirteen teams competed and all proceeds will be donated to Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial. Brian Berhle, a member of the first place team said: “It’s a good community event and we want to give back to the Veterans Memorial.” –KG

Pentagon survey details effects of climate change on military sites
Missy Ryan (@Missy_Ryan), The Washington Post
A recent report authored by senior officials at the Pentagon has raised concerns about the effects of climate change on military facilities. The survey, the first of its kind, evaluated climate-related events at U.S. training bases, airfields, and other installations. The assessment identified drought, wind and non-storm surge-related flooding as the most reported problems. John Conger, a former Pentagon official in the Obama Administration, stated that “it’s in the Defense Department’s interest to make investment decisions in a wise way,” and this report aims to “figure out…how climate effects were impacting the installations and in what way.” While the U.S. Department of Defense created an action plan for addressing the effects of climate change during the Obama Administration, it remains unclear if the Trump Administration will choose to use it. –NJ

VA reveals hundreds of additional firings following Trump’s State of the Union
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
In his recent State of the Union address, President Trump announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs has fired more than 1,500 employees. However, as of Tuesday night, the VA website’s most recent demotion and suspension statistics showed only 1,046 firings since the passage of the VA Accountability Act. To support Trump’s figures, VA spokesperson Curt Cashour, clarified that Trump’s data point reflects 691 probationary dismissals not yet shared publicly. Following this statement, Cashour said that the Department aims to “provide the most accurate picture of VA’s total firings.” In an effort to improve transparency, he said that the Department plans to include all probationary period firings in weekly reports moving forward. –NJ 

Congressional Hearings

Veterans’ Affairs: Pending Legislation
When: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Where: 418 Russell

Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support: Defending the Homeland: Department of Defense’s Role in Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction
Who: Honorable Kenneth P. Rapuano, Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Homeland Defense And Global Security; Lieutenant General Joseph L. Osterman, USMC
When: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Where: 232A Russell

Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland: Army Modernization
Who: Lieutenant General Joseph Anderson, USA, Deputy Chief Of Staff, G-3/5/7, United States Army; Lieutenant General John M. Murray, USA, Deputy Chief Of Staff, G-8, United States Army; Lieutenant General Paul A. Ostrowski, USA, Principal Military Deputy To The Assistant Secretary Of The Army (Acquisition, Logistics And Technology) And Director Of The Army Acquisition Corps; Major General Robert M. Dyess Jr., USA, Acting Director, Army Capabilities Integration Center
When: 3:30 PM, Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Where: 222 Russell

Veterans’ Affairs: VA Caregiver Support Program: Correcting Course for Veteran Caregivers
Who: Steve Schwab, Elizabeth Dole Foundation among others
When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: The National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review
Who: The Honorable James N. Mattis, Secretary of Defense; General Paul J. Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel: Senior Leader Misconduct: Prevention and Accountability
Who: Mr. Glenn A. Fine, Principal Deputy Inspector General, Department of Defense; Lieutenant General Stayce D. Harris, Inspector General of the Air Force, United States Air Force; Brigadier General David A. Ottignon, Inspector General of the Marine Corps, United States Marine Corps; Lieutenant General David E. Quantock, Inspector General of the Army, United States Army; Vice Admiral Herman Shelanski, Naval Inspector General, United States Navy; General James C. McConville, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, United States Army; Admiral Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, United States Navy; General Glenn M. Walters, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, United States Marine Corps; General Stephen W. Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, United States Air Force
When: 9:00 AM, Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

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, February 05, 2018 10:51 am

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