Veterans Roundup: Freedom Restored, Tricare Rules, New Traffic Court, Death of a Muslim Recruit, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

For Two Veterans, a Freedom Restored for Independence Day­­­­
David Gonzalez (@DGBxNY), The New York Times
Vietnam veterans Fred Downs and Artie McAuley, both upper limb amputees, are among the first participants in a VA-funded prosthesis research program called Life Under Kinetic Evolution (LUKE). This advanced state-of-the-art technology is the first to allow users to have more natural and fluid motion automatically moving the shoulder, elbow and wrist joints of the prosthesis in tandem with each other. While there is some concern over the high costs, the VA has placed an order to create 10 more. –JG
Bottom line: This is a fantastic breakthrough in technology and it’s another example how medicine and science that has been developed to help our veterans during the last decade will help many more. These arms are not just about freedom but dignity for these men. Most veterans are simply using ancient plastic arms with hooks on them. Kudos to VA and DOD for pushing this technology advancement and the fact that it is expensive is fine. Those who have sacrificed limbs to service deserve the opportunity to get back some small part of their lives. The news that these arms will also be available to civilians shows yet again how something we say often at ScoutComms continues to ring true. Taking care of our veterans is simply a stepping-stone to solving larger societal issues in the United States. –FPW

Tricare rules force military families with sick children to pick between hospice or treatment
Dianna Cahn (@DiannaCahn), Stars and Stripes
Tricare beneficiaries are often forced to choose between life-saving treatment for their children or hospice care, due to a stipulation within their coverage stating that both cannot be covered at the same time. This rule originated due to hospice care originally being reserved for those instances in which all treatment efforts had been exhausted; however, a new trend has emerged where caregivers often choose to implement hospice care and treatment at the same time, helping parents cope with the illness while also providing a level of comfort for those going through the procedure. Multiple organizations have acknowledged that this rule puts families with sick children in a difficult situation, although nothing has been done yet to rectify the situation. –KB
Bottom line: Families who are living through the terminal illness of a child are forced by Tricare to choose whether their ill child and family will receive supportive hospice care or whether the ill child will continue to receive medical treatment. Current Tricare policy dictates that these families must choose one or the other, an agonizing choice. The policy reflects Medicare rules and Medicare is geared toward older patients, those 65 and older; but, children’s health and their response to treatment can be markedly different. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended in 2007 that restrictions on curative treatment while a patient is undergoing hospice care be abolished for children, but to date, Tricare policy has not changed to reflect the recommendation. The Defense Health Agency has indicated that they are aware of the issue and are working on a fix, perhaps a demonstration project to address this issue. Advocates and those in the Tricare for Kids Coalition feel that option would be too little, too late. It appears that a legislative fix is necessary to improve this policy and we hope that legislators and DoD will act quickly to provide relief for these families. –RB

New Traffic Court Tries to Keep Veterans on the Road of Return
Rick Rojas (@RaR), The New York Times
The Suffolk County Traffic and Parking Violation Agency recently began an initiative to help ease veterans struggling in civilian life. This special traffic court for veterans is the first of its kind in the country, and is understanding of the unique circumstances military personnel may face compared to their civilian counterparts. Rather than stacking on fines to ticket fees that some veterans are unable to pay, the program hopes to keep the military community returning from overseas out of the criminal justice system. Some returning veterans deal with post-traumatic stress and substance abuse issue, and Suffolk County is working to serve those who have served by stepping in to help before a problem gets out of control.  –DD
Bottom line: In previous Scout Reports, you’ve read a lot about Veterans Courts and how the national movement has been so instrumental in ensuring that veterans facing pending legal trouble can avoid jail time by taking part in treatment or other rehabilitative programs. Diversion programs for legal problems leading to jail time might seem obvious, but this new program for traffic offenses could have an equally beneficial outcome for veterans at risk of homelessness or dealing with mental health issues. Traffic offenses that lead to fines can have a snowball effect and end up putting a veteran into debt. They might also strip a veteran of his or her license, which leaves veterans in less urban areas missing medical appointments or being late to work rather than driving illegally. Local communities finding solutions that make it easier for veterans to reintegrate into civilian life are how the nation will ultimately be how America ends veteran homelessness. –LJ

How the Death of a Muslim Recruit Revealed a Culture of Brutality in the Marines
Janet Reitman (@JanetReitman) The New York Times Magazine
On March 7, 2016, Raheel Siddiqui, a 20-year-old Muslim man from Michigan, arrived at Parris Island to become a Marine. Eleven days later, Siddiqui, after having his request for medical treatment denied by his drill instructor, reportedly died by suicide after throwing himself out of a window. In the follow-on investigation, several more incidents of abuse and cruelty involving drill instructor Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix came to light. A related incident took place in July 2015, when Felix reportedly turned on a laundry dryer with another Muslim recruit, Ameer Bourmeche, stuck inside. News of these reports and others like it caused the Marines to replace the commanding general of Parris Island. But critics of the current permissive system say it isn’t enough. Felix is scheduled to stand trial on August 7. –JG
Bottom line: There is something wrong if we are willing to accept violent physical abuse of our nation’s sons and daughters as some sort of right of passage that can’t be changed. Drunk Drill Instructors throwing trainees in the dryer isn’t a right of passage to make better Marines. It’s sadism and what this story describes is a system that is broken and a leadership vacuum that refuses to address the crimes occurring under their watch. The trust of the American people is waning in our armed forces and stories like this are why. How can we ask the parents of our nation to trust us with their children if we will literally get them killed in training under the assault of drunken abusers? This is not a little issue. It will undercut our national security and it must be addressed. –FPW

VA to make public all employee firings
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
In an effort to create greater accountability and transparency at the VA, Secretary Shulkin announced that generalized information about employee terminations and demotions will be made available to the public. The VA will post the information on the department’s new website for the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. In the face of opposition from federal workforce unions, Shulkin emphasizes that these changes will not result in “mass firings,” but instead change in culture at the VA, in an effort to improve morale as well as public opinion of the department. –JG
Bottom line: Legal hurdles have restricted VA accountability actions in the past and so this new authority—so long as it is used responsibly—is an important step forward for the VA in punishing bad behavior and regaining the trust of the veteran community. Yet, new reporting from the Washington Post’s Joe Davidson throws a curveball in this situation. Examining the new accountability website, Davidson reported on Sunday morning that 525 VA staffers have been fired since President Trump took office; a significant increase over the rate and number of firings that occurred in 2016 under Secretary McDonald. As Davidson notes, these firings all occurred before the new VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act was enacted, which raises a fascinating question: did the VA even need the new congressional authorities to act, or has it been dragging its feet over the last year due to reticence to act or an outsized fear of legal challenges? Either way, the fact that the VA has begun to clean up shop appears to be good news on the accountability front for the moment, and Shulkin deserves kudos for putting his foot down. Creating a strengthened sense of accountability at the VA could be an important step in shoring up public support for the department in the face of continued calls among some conservative sectors for increased privatization. The VA accountability site will be an interesting public resource to observe in the coming months for insights into how the VA acts as empowered by the newly enacted legislation. –BW

Vet Tix reaches 3 million donations as it connects veterans with events
Cianna Leparulo (@ciannaleparulo), AZ Big Media
The Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix) recently donated its 3 millionth ticket to the veteran community through its Tickets for Troops program. Since 2008, Vet Tix has connected veterans with entertainment events in their local communities thanks to their numerous donors and sponsors. In addition to Tickets for Troops, the Hero’s Wish program grants a one-time wish to a currently serving or severely injured veteran to an event of their choosing. –DD

Be About Message and Purpose: How One Organization Grew to Over 550K Members
Nhu Te (@nppnhu), NonProfit PRO
With the Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix) approaching its 10th anniversary next year, the organization has grown tremendously since its founding. Vet Tix understands that the wounds of war can last a lifetime and that’s why they help veterans to transition back into their civilian lives by giving away tickets to community events. Al Maag, Vet Tix’s Chief Marketing Officer, has witnessed the organization’s growth over the years and attributes its success to a consistent message and purpose that never waivers. –DD

Belonging and support: Women veterans’ perceptions of veteran service organizations
Kate Hendricks Thomas, Ellen L. Haring, Justin McDaniel, Kari L. Fletcher and David L. Albright, Journal of Veterans Studies
A recent study, building on a survey conducted by the Service Women’s Action Network, revealed that many women avoid joining veteran and military service organizations due to not feeling welcome in these largely male-dominated groups. Although this feeling of exclusion from these groups is largely implicit, it does provide implications for groups such as The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans to expand their reach into the women veteran sector. –KB

How personal tragedy led a two-star general to Vets4Warriors
Eric Dehm (@EricDehm), CBS Radio Connecting Vets
Retired Army Major General Mark Graham, the head of Vets4Warriors, the leading 24/7 peer support network for veterans, service members, family members and caregivers, spoke with Connecting Vets about how his personal experience losing two sons—one to suicide and one to an IED in Iraq—led him to Vets4Warriors, where he oversees a team of trained veterans and military family members who answer chats, call and emails from their peers and ensure that they are connected with the support and resources they need to deal with the personal and professional challenges in their lives. –BW

One Veteran Fights For Others To Keep Their VA Health Care
David Wade (@davidwade) and Lisa Hughes (@LisaWBZ), CBS Boston
On July 5, Secretary David Shulkin announced the VA will begin to offer emergency mental health care to veterans with “other than honorable” discharges. These services will be granted to veterans for a 90-day period, and the previous policy that has prevented the veterans who most need help from accessing urgent mental health care will be lifted. However, some veterans don’t think this is enough, and that they should not have to reach a state of emergency before receiving care. –CB

VA Choice funding problem looms for Congress
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
In June, Secretary Shulkin alerted Congress that VA Choice Program spending has outpaced it budget. To avoid outspending available resources, Secretary Shulkin has requested the authority to shift funds from other initiatives to support the Choice program while the VA works to design and implement a long-term solution. Secretary Shulkin has recommended substantive changes to the program for next fiscal year and plans to reveal his proposal at a Senate hearing scheduled for Tuesday, July 11. –NJ

Democrats Court Military Veterans in Effort to Reclaim House
Emmarie Huetteman (@emmarieNYT), New York Times
At least 20 veterans will be running as Democrats for seats in the House of Representatives in 2018. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has placed an emphasis on recruiting veterans to run for office because veterans are an appealing contrast to career politicians and they help beat back claims that Republicans are the party of national security. Democrats hope to seize on President Trump’s weakening of the State Department and embrace of adversaries to court moderates on both sides of the aisle. –JDG

Patrick J. Murphy Becomes AUSA Senior Fellow
Patrick J. Murphy, former Undersecretary of the U.S. Army, is joining the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) as a senior fellow with the Institute of Land Warfare. Murphy is also known for his experience as the first Iraq War veteran elected to Congress in 2005, as well as for highlighting veterans issues on his past MSNBC show. –AB

Tradeshows & Conferences 

None this week.

Congressional Hearings

Veterans’ Affairs: Pending Health Care Legislation
Who: Baligh R. Yehia, M.D., Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Community Care, Veterans Health Administration; Dr. Tom Lynch, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health Clinical Operations, VHA; Brad Flohr, Senior Advisor for Compensation Services, Veterans Benefits Administration; Carin Otero, Assistant Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources Policy and Planning, Human Resources and Administration; Louis Celli, Director, National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division, The American Legion; Amy Webb, National Legislative Policy Advisor, AMVETS; Adrian Atizado, Deputy National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans; Gabriel Stultz, Legislative Counsel, Paralyzed Veterans of America
When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Where: 418 Russell

Other Events

None this week. 

Fred 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.Fred Wellman


This entry was posted on Monday, July 10, 2017 11:05 am

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