Veterans Roundup: Homeless Veterans, Where We Find the Troops, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Veteran homelessness nearly cut in half in 10 years. But thousands remain on the streets.
Connecting Vets, Abbie Bennett (@AbbieRBennett)

When former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki set a plan in 2009 to eliminate veteran homeless by 2015 many were skeptical of the audacious goal. It was bold and ambitious, and served as a catalyst for action. Now, ten years later, they cut it by nearly half, but progress in the fight has leveled off in recent years. Today it’s estimated some 37,085 veterans are on the streets each night and, while many of the larger issues have found solutions, many remain to be solved. One nagging issue for many veterans is that they are ineligible for veterans benefits due to what is commonly called ‘bad paper discharges’ from the military. They were kicked out of the services for discipline, drugs or other issues that mean they are not technically considered veterans and don’t have access to services and key benefits like the HUD-VASH housing certificates that pay for homes. House lawmakers passed the Veteran House Act last week which will expand eligibility to HUD-VASH for more veterans, including those with Other Than Honorable discharges. In addition, advocates and lawmakers are pushing for more caseworkers that can process additional vouchers and move the needle quicker. Homelessness is a problem that can be solved amongst our veteran community with the available tools. We’ve had the privilege to work with The Home Depot Foundation and National Coalition for Homeless Veterans on this battle for almost 9 years. Their work will keep knocking it down. – Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms

Who Signs Up to Fight? Makeup of U.S. Recruits Shows Glaring Disparity
New York Times, Dave Phillips (@David_Philipps) and Tim Arango (@tarangoNYT)

It is well known that military recruitment numbers are largely filled via the enlistments of family members of those who serve/d. However, as discussed in this New York Times article, the shrinking recruitment pool that has led the makeup of the military to resemble a “family business” is problematic. This is in large part due to the U.S. military’s longtime engagement in the Middle East and the hardships it has produced for troops and families, like extended and multiple deployments overseas. Additionally, I would add that recruitment numbers are likely affected by increases in interconnection, open source platforms and a story-telling culture provided at our fingertips through social media and the internet. It is much easier for young people to have access to a wide breadth of military experiences that paint a much more diverse picture than what they see through military marketing, such as recruitment ads. To try and increase their numbers, the Army has made an investment in ads that offer less of a “guns and grunts message” and more of a focus on “college benefits and career training in medical and tech fields.” Yet still, given veterans’ increased dissatisfaction about continued engagement in the Middle East and uncertainty about increasing tensions with Iran and whether or not another conflict may be on the horizon, this tactic may not bear the fruits the Army is hoping for. Shameless plug – Make sure to check out our blog post with results from a flash poll we ran on the topic! Final thought, while reading, my attention was turned to the sentence, “The main predictors [of military recruitment] are not based on class or race.” Well, sure, according to Army data which shows that service is spread evenly through middle class and “downscale” groups. But this raises many questions about how we classify “middle class,” which is an arbitrary term in and of itself, and assumptions made about folks who fall into parameters of “middle class” when it is defined solely as an income bracket. Amber Mathwig, a Navy veteran, states, “a single mother who is very healthy with one kid living in an area where she can still afford the cost of living in a decent school district can make $40,000/year and probably have a good living situation. Start shifting these variables around to different neighborhoods and add challenges faced by families with multiple children, significant debt caused by medical issues, housing shortages and unaffordable rent, and now the middle class starts to look completely different.” Arguments certainly can be made that race and class are drivers in military recruitment…although, you won’t find these being made by the U.S. military for obvious reasons. Personally, I don’t think the Army is going to have success in increasing its numbers until our country makes some serious changes in how we are treating and using our service members. We have been at war for 18 years, and for many of us, that is not okay. – Kiersten Downs, PhD, Research Director at ScoutComms

Court rules again to give veterans access to both Post-9/11 and Montgomery GI Bill education benefits
Military Times, Leo Shane III (@LeoShane)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims issued a final ruling in the case of BO v. Robert L. Wilkie which decided that the VA’s practice of making veterans receive benefits of either the Montgomery GI Bill or the Post-9/11 GI Bill – but not both – is improper. The court rejected the VA’s arguments that “the arrangement is designed to make sure veterans aren’t doubling up on their government benefits for personal profit,” and instead reasoned that “veterans eligible for both programs should receive each set of payouts, just not simultaneously.” This new ruling means that veterans who access education benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill would also be eligible to access education benefits of the Montgomery GI Bill, which potentially includes “36 months of education payouts of nearly $2,000.” For more information on student veterans and GI Bill education benefits, check out ScoutInsight’s piece on the issue here.

Lawmakers seek ways to combat the veteran suicide crisis in 2020
Stars and Stripes, Steve Beynon (@StevenBeynon)

As VA data shows increases in veteran suicide rates since 2016, national lawmakers are reportedly “looking into efforts to combat the veteran suicide crisis.” Proposed legislation includes the Improve Well-Being for Veterans Act, a bill passed in December 2019 that appropriates federal funds to non-VA mental health care providers, and the Sgt. Daniel Somers Veterans Network of Support Act, which would require the creation of a program to share information about VA services with service members’ families. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the sponsor of the Sgt. Daniel Somers Act, commented, “Troops leaving military service face confusing and complicated red tape when navigating their veterans benefits. Educating and empowering our veterans’ loved ones about the resources available will ensure veterans never feel alone and get the support and benefits they’ve earned.”

Army general declines to reinstate Special Forces tab to officer pardoned by Trump
The Washington Post, Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe) 

Retired Army Maj. Mathew L. Golestyn’s request to be reinstated was denied by the commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Lt. Gen. Francis M. Beaudette. This request shortly followed the murder case of a suspected Taliban bomber in Marja, Afghanistan, in which Golestyn was being tried for. Though Golestyn did admit to the killing, he stated that it occured during a lawful ambush, and that he had to burn the body in order to prevent the spread of disease. In November, President Trump made the decision to pardon Golestyn, allowing him to request his reinstatement. This request was denied, with Beaudette stating that Golestyn’s actions lacked adherence to the Special Forces Creed. 

Families of deployed paratroopers received ‘menacing’ messages, warned to double check social media settings
Military Times, Kyle Rempfer (@Kyle_Rempfer), Shawn Snow, and Harold Altman (@haltman)

Due to recent tensions with Iran, the Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team deployed to Kuwait. The families of these paratroopers have been receiving hateful and menacing messages via social media accounts. The division is continuing to brief the families of the deployed paratroopers, ensuring that they are checking their social media for any specific threats to their well-being. The families are being informed on the risks that they are exposed to, and how to protect themselves against anyone who might have the intentions to cause them harm. They have been told to be smart about their online behavior, and to regularly check for any updates. The paratroopers have been instructed to leave their personal electronic devices at home, ensuring that private information was not shared outside of official channels.

Fred Wellman

Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of 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, January 21, 2020 10:53 am

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