Veterans Roundup: Fired WWP Execs Speak Out, How Cities Go Beyond Big Data to End Veteran Homelessness, Women in the Infantry, Gulf War Illness & More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Few Women Show Interest in Infantry Jobs Opened to Them
Jim Michaels (@jimmichaels), USA Today
With all military positions now open to women, some reports say that few female soldiers and Marines have shown interest in infantry jobs. For those that are, the services are driving on with plans to fully integrate women into these units. The Marine Corps will soon assign women to infantry battalions, and is working to cultivate a culture of change in areas that have been resistant to the idea of women in combat. The Air Force and Army are also moving forward with changes. Last week Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson was nominated to be the first female head of a combatant command and the Army issued rules for opening Special Forces to women. –MC
Bottom line: This should not be framed as “women aren’t interested in infantry jobs” but rather “services yet to prove infantry careers viable for women”. While the article starts off by implying women have known for three years that infantry jobs would be available yet do not want these jobs, in practice the services have been scrambling to figure out how exactly infantry units will include women, what leadership roles they will have, and what right looks like. Additionally, the women who “aren’t expressing interest” are ones who have passed infantry or ground combat schools, but are in other career fields because the infantry wasn’t officially open to them as a career. Is it surprising that few women have shown interest in transferring from “known known” careers to “known unknown” careers? Besides, of the 1.1 million men in the military (of a total force of nearly 1.3 million), how many chose the infantry? Once the services get better at articulating what infantry life looks like for women, more women will be willing to sign up for those jobs. They have already proven more than capable of meeting and exceeding the standards of some men. (If you want to fight me about Ranger School not exceeding the standard of other infantry schools, my email is [email protected] and I’m @laurenist on Twitter.) –LJ

Cities Across US Slash Homelessness for Veterans
Brian MacQuarrie (@GlobeMacQuarrie), Boston Globe
Cities, counties, and states across the nation have been working to end veteran homelessness in response to a call to action from the administration in 2009. The efforts of service providers and municipalities over the past six years have resulted in a “functional zero” of the number of veterans on the streets. New York City and Boston have not quite reached zero, but as the article shows, once both cities made ending veteran homelessness a priority, they made progress. –MC
Bottom line: Since the then-VA Secretary Shinseki made ending veteran homelessness a priority, Congress made funding available to local communities and service providers, and major funders like ScoutComms client The Home Depot Foundation stepped in the fill the gaps (the foundation’s investment tops $140 million at this point), much progress has been made in getting veterans off the streets and many lessons have been learned to get the U.S. closer to end this scourge. Mentioned, but explored in depth in this article, is how the successes seen in New York and Boston have been because of what advocates call a “by-name list” of homeless veterans. Every year the Department of Housing and Urban Development does an anonymous survey of the homeless in the U.S., including veteran status since 2009, but service providers—the non-profits, the faith communities, and others—need more information than just the raw data to get people off the streets. In New Orleans, New York, Boston, and other cities, this more in-depth fact finding to include names and needs helps them match the right resources to the person—not just the number. What this kind of assessment takes, though, is coordination among local government and organizations, something some cities like San Diego still struggle to figure out. –LJ

VA Makes Home Visits to Patients in Pilot Project
Brian Albrecht (@Brian_Albrecht), The Plain Dealer
The Cleveland VA is one of five VA hospitals nationwide participating in a pilot program that employs former military medics to deliver and manage care for veterans in the comfort of their own homes. The medics, known as “patient navigators,” check vitals and note their overall health to pass along to their doctors. Additionally, they are trained to provide health coaching and medication management for patients as well. –JG
Bottom Line: The “patient navigator” program is a life-saver for home-bound veterans who face difficulty getting to a VA. It’s also great for an overburdened VA system that can “outsource” taking vitals and managing prescriptions to veterans seeking to utilize the military skills in civilian careers. That’s pretty much the quintessential win-win. Only way this could get better is if we could somehow figure out how to streamline a process to get civilian certifications to medics and corpsmen nationwide, rather than the very disparate systems veterans will find state-by-state. The good news is the success of the patient navigator program has encouraged 33 more VA hospitals to request an expansion of the program which would benefit transitioning service members and veterans in need of health care and grateful for the connection to another veteran. –LJ

Executives Fired from Wounded Warrior Project Speak Out
Fox and Friends
Last week, the top executives fired from Wounded Warrior Project, former CEO Steve Nardizzi and former COO Al Giordano, spoke out about the accusations surrounding the organization. WWP, and Nardizzi in particular, has been in under scrutiny over the past few months for lavish spending after CBS News and the New York Times covered the issue. This interview sheds light on misconceptions about the organization and allegations made by the media, many of which were proven largely false by a recent independent audit ordered by the Board of Directors. –MC
Bottom line: This is the first time that Nardizzi and Giordano have had the opportunity to speak out about the accusations directly since the first CBS News piece aired and the Board of Directors subsequently ordered a review of WWP’s books and operations. While that investigation has not found any illegal or major violations of non-profit standards, the board felt new leadership was needed to move forward. Nardizzi admitted to making mistakes and failing to recognize how the activities of the organization like his “dramatic entrance” at the annual employee retreat might look to donors. The board has announced they are conducting a nation-wide search for the next CEO. (Disclosure WWP is a ScoutComms client). –FPW

More High Ranking Officers Being Charged with Sex Crimes Against Subordinates
Craig Whitlock (@craigmwhitlock) and Thomas Gibbons-Neff (@Tmgneff), The Washington Post
The Defense Department has been cracking down on sexual assault among senior military leaders in an effort to reduce sexual assault in the military and to hold senior leaders accountable for their actions. Historically, very few senior leaders have been held responsible for sexual assault and seemed relatively untouchable, but since September four colonels from the Air Force, Army, and Marines and a Navy captain have been found guilty. Just last week, Lt. Gen John Hesterman, former Air Force assistant vice chief of staff, was removed from his position for an unprofessional relationship and Joseph Angello Jr., former director of operation readiness and safety was removed for sexual harassment and unauthorized happy hours. –MC
Bottom line: The significance of senior military officers facing courts martial over sexual assaults is hard to over emphasize. Whitlock and Neff point out that the number of prosecutions is three times greater than just a few years ago and in many cases it’s clear that training service members how to handle inappropriate sexual situations is leading to greater reporting even against these senior leaders. However, it’s incredibly disheartening to see the outrageous behaviors being highlighted by what should be the cream of the crop of military officers. These are commanders who have faced years of scrutiny, evaluations, and boards to get to where they are and then they treat subordinates and others like dirt—or were simply getting away with it before. While it’s encouraging to see the military crackdown on these acts, a concurrent self-evaluation is clearly in order for the services to figure out how the promotion system is failing so dramatically to catch these perpetrators long before they are placed in such key positions of trust. It’s impossible to believe that the acts these men have been accused of were the first in their long careers. Answering that tough question will be key to the future of the military as much as cracking down on violations after the fact. –FPW

VA Gets ‘F’ for Persian Gulf War Claims Approvals
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
A new report shows that disability claims approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs for Persian Gulf War illnesses are at record lows – in the first two fiscal quarters of 2015 over 80 percent of claims were denied. At a congressional hearing last week, Aleks Morosky, deputy director of the VFW national legislative service, said that these denials were likely intentional and accused the department of attempting to rule out Gulf War illness as a condition. –MC
Bottom line: The battle over how the VA should handle claims and treatment for Gulf War Illness continues unabated as the 25th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm is recognized. Studies by several organizations continue to show that VA is struggling with how to manage the claims of what remains a mysterious illness. Once again the devil does remain in the details. The challenges those veterans have faced getting recognition for the illness is often compared to the battle that Vietnam veterans faced over complications from exposure to Agent Orange. This is where perspective is needed. Some 2.8 million servicemembers were exposed to Agent Orange and are now authorized to make claims for the health damages from that exposure. In comparison, approximately 55,000 veterans of Desert Storm have filed claims for Gulf War Illness, or less than 2 percent the number of Agent Orange victims. So, the argument that the VA is denying claims to save money sort of falls apart in light of the blanket approval that Agent Orange victims received. By the same token, fifty-five thousand is a small number to fight over at this point and it seems ridiculous that some kind of blanket approval hasn’t been agreed upon for Gulf War veterans as well. In the end, this fight is dragging on and on without resolution and a solution needs to be found either by law or by executive order. –FPW

New Veterans Center at Wilkes University Will Allow Student Veterans to Support Each Other
Bill O’Boyle (@TLBillOBoyle), Times Leader
Student veterans at Wilkes University are enjoying a recently renovated Veteran Center of Excellence, which provides a space for veterans to study, collaborate, eat, and relax between classes on campus. The Wilkes’ Veterans Council was awarded $10,000 as part of Student Veterans of America’s Vet Center Initiative sponsored by The Home Depot Foundation. SVA is still taking applications for their 2016 Vet Center Initiative. If you want to win a grant to improve your school’s vet center, visit their website and apply before the April 22 deadline! –JG

Quick Hits:

Combat Vets Can Apply for VA Health Care by Phone
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
The VA has announced that eligible veterans seeking VA health benefits will now be able to complete the application process over the phone. The decision to make applications available via phone was made after the department 31,000 applications of recent combat veterans who are eligible for automatic care were sorted as incomplete applications. Some spent the first two years waiting to hear back from the VA. Investigators are looking into whether these veterans will be compensated for lost years of VA healthcare coverage and incurred costs since applying. ­–JG

New VA Firing Rules, Health Care Options Moving Quickly
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
New legislation including VA program updates, changes to employment rules, and accountability provisions is expected to start making its way through the Senate next month. The legislation aims to provide the VA with more flexibility on employees’ salaries, hiring, and firing. The VA has struggled to let go of senior executives involved in major scandals, and just announced last Tuesday that it seeks to fire three more executives. –MC

Pentagon Erroneously Withheld $78M from Injured Veterans Over 25 Years
Heath Druzin (@Druzin_Stripes), Stars and Stripes
New legislation seeks to return an estimated $78 million to combat wounded veterans. Wounded veterans’ severance pay is tax exempt, but the Defense Department’s pay system has been automatically deducting the money from their pay since 1991 and has cost individual service members thousands of dollars. –MC

Inspiring Team of Wounded Warriors to Compete for U.S. at Invictus Games
Kyle Jahner (@kylejahner), Military Times
In May, more than 500 wounded service members and veterans from more than 15 countries will participate in the second ever Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida. The athletic events are intended to inspire service members who have been recently injured by showing them that they can still be active and competitive in sports like archery, cycling, indoor rowing, and powerlifting. –MC

14 Airmen at Nuke Base Probed for Drug Use
Andrew Tilghman (@andrewtilghman), Military Times
14 airmen from the 90th Security Forces Group, which is attached to a missilier unit, are under investigation for the use of illegal drugs. The Air Force’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile community faces low morale and disciplinary issues and this misconduct is said to reflect a larger issue at hand. –MC

Summit Highlights Difficulties of Veterans’ Caregivers
Heath Druzin (@Druzin_Stripes), Stars and Stripes
Code of Support, a non-profit that provides support services to veterans and their caregivers hosted a summit to increase partnerships between government agencies and the private sector to make sure that veterans and their caregivers have the tools to focus on recovery. Meg Kabat, director of VA Caregiver Support Programs, believes that there is still a lot of work to be done on this issue, and that the VA is working to find the best solutions. –JG

Marine Corps, Army Leaders Blame Budget Cuts for Increase in Fatal Aircraft Incidents
Traivs Tritten (@Travis_Tritten), Stars and Stripes
In 2015, a total of 12 helicopter crashes killed 30 troops, almost twice the amount in previous years. Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley are both very concerned that this uptick in aviation accidents is directly related to budget cuts reducing the number of training hours the military can afford. –JG

2 Words on a Vets Discharge Papers Can Be the Difference Between Hope and Homelessness
John Ismay (@johnismay), KPCC
Between 1990 and 2015, more than 615,000 service members have been discharged with a less than honorable discharge. Attorney Melissa Tyner, who runs the Veterans Housing Project on Skid Row in Los Angeles, cites a direct correlation with these discharges and an increased likelihood to homelessness. There is some legislative interest in changing the system to lessen the severity of the consequences that come from these discharges, which are sometimes linked to behavior due to mental health issues. –JG 

Tradeshows & Conferences

No major tradeshows or conferences this week.

Congressional Hearings


Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health: Choice Consolidation: Leveraging Provider Networks to Increase Veteran Access
Who: Billy Maynard,
President, Health Net Federal Services; David J. McIntyre Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, TriWest Healthcare Alliance; Baligh Yehia M.D., Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Community Care, Veterans Health Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Gene Migliaccio Dr.P.H., Deputy Chief Business Officer for Purchased Care, Veterans Health Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: The Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of Defense
Who: The Honorable Ashton B. Carter,
Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense; General Joseph F. Dunford Jr, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense: Budget Hearing – National Guard and Reserve
Who: General Frank J. Grass, Chief, National Guard Bureau, Major General Timothy Kadavy, Director, Army National Guard; Major General Brian Neal, Acting Director, Air National Guard; Lieutenant General Jeffrey W. Talley, Chief, Army Reserve
When: 1:30 PM, Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Where: 140 Capitol

Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities: Fiscal Year 2017 Information Technology and Cyber Programs: Foundations For a Secure Warfighting Network
Who: The Honorable Terry Halvorson,
Department of Defense Chief Information Officer; The Honorable Peter Levine, Department of Defense Deputy Chief Management Officer
When: 3:30 PM, Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies: Markup – FY 2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill
9:00 AM, Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Where: 2362 Rayburn

Foreign Affairs: The Administration’s Plan to Close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility: At What Foreign Policy and National Security Cost?
Who: Mr. Lee Wolosky
, Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure, U.S. Department of State; Mr. Paul M. Lewis, Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure, U.S. Department of Defense
When: 9:30 AM, Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Where: 2172 Rayburn

Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Lance Forces: Update On The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program and The Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request
Who: Lieutenant General Christopher C Bogdon, USAF,
Program Executive Officer, F-35 Lightening II Joint Program Office; Mr. Michael Gilmore, Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E); Mr. Sean J. Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (RDA); Mr. Michael Sullivan, Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management Issues, Governmental Accountability Office (GAO)
When: 10:30 AM, Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Think Tanks & Other Events

HillVets: HillVets 100
Who: All the coolest people
When: 6:30 PM, Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Where: Reserve Officers Association, 1 Constitution Avenue Northeast, Washington, DC 20002

Independent Women’s Forum & London Center For Policy Research: Women fighting on the front lines: What does it mean for women, men, and military preparedness?
Who: Major General Bob Newman, Jr., U.S. Air Force (ret.) Former Adjutant General of Virginia, Senior Fellow, London Center for Policy Research; Amber Smith, Former U.S. Army Helicopter Pilot, Senior Fellow, Independent Women’s Forum; Gunnery Sergeant Jessie Jane Duff, U.S. Marine Corps (ret.), Senior Fellow, London Center for Policy Research; Katherine Kidder, Bacevich Fellow, Center for a New American Security, Military, Veterans, and Society Program
When: 1:00 PM, Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Where: 2255 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 Tuesday, March 22, 2016 5:20 pm

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