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Veterans Roundup: House Defense Bill Makes Massive Retirement Shift, Study Shows Veterans are Assets

Posted by Fred Wellman

Report: Veterans are Civic Assets
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. A report by Got Your 6 released last week found that veterans are more likely to volunteer, vote, and participate in civic groups than their civilian counterparts. On average, the report found that veterans volunteer 25 percent more and belong to community organizations at three times the rate of non-veterans. This report helps debunks stereotypes that veterans struggle as they adjust to civilian life.  –MC
Bottom line: We’ve been saying for years that veterans are not burdens or victims that the rest of society must save. On the contrary, instead of saccharine soaked campaigns to “Save our troops” we should be mounting campaigns to join them in saving our communities. Veterans are volunteers, business leaders, community connectors, and assets that can be leveraged for the greater good—not rescued from rock bottom. Obviously, not all veterans transition successfully from the military or deftly handle the challenges that come after service from mental health to fiscal stability. However, we also know that the vast majority of veterans are doing just fine. The research conducted by Got Your 6 confirms the growing anecdotal evidence that veterans are incredibly engaged in their communities and instead of being burdens are instead increasingly leaders, builders, and volunteers. The emerging groups for today’s veterans are harnessing that engagement and enhancing its impact in our communities. –FPW

Pentagon Grapples with Retaliation in Sex Assault Cases
Lolita C. Baldor (@LBaldor), AP. Last week, the Pentagon released its analysis of data on sexual assault with regards to retaliation victims may face if they report attacks. Nearly two-thirds of women who reported assault experienced professional retaliation or shunning by peers. The total number of assaults reported in 2014 increased by about 11 percent, but the actual number of assaults is said to be lower than previous years. –MC
Bottom line: To some degree, identifying retaliation is best understood in light of former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s threshold test for identifying obscenity: “I know it when I see it.” It is impossible for the military to put in place strict rules for governing retaliation, because so much of it is subtle and identifiable only through body language or what isn’t happening. But retaliation against victims of sexual assault is unacceptable, no different from our recent conversations about retaliation against VA whistleblowers. There need to be clear rules and guidelines in place to govern the process for identifying, reporting, and punishing retaliation. But more importantly, just like in the attempt to reduce sexual assaults before they happen, fighting retaliation requires a cultural shift and strong leadership to drive and enforce the changes. If a leader sets down a clear standard for what is unacceptable, and enforces it in a high-visibility manner, that will have a greater impact on reducing retaliation than any attempt to create rules that attempt to spell out every single instance of behavior that may constitute retaliation. –BW

House Republicans Pass VA Funding Plan for Fiscal 2016
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. On Thursday, the House approved a VA budget for fiscal year 2016 with a 2.5 percent increase in funding. The plan includes $163.2 billion in funding for the VA next year, but is still $1.4 billion below what the White House had requested for the VA. Last week, the Pentagon completed its review of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission recommendations and flatly rejected proposed Tricare reform but supported a 401k-style retirement plan. This follows closely with what the House Armed Services Committee included in its defense authorization bill last week. –MC
Bottom line: The maneuvers around the budget have kicked in to full gear as we predicted they would at this point. The first round of budget approvals has some surprises and cause for excitement for veterans and military families. The House approved VA funding bill shaved $1.4 billion from the President’s budget request although the amount approved represents a 2.5% increase in the VA budget from last year. As expected veterans groups are lining up to frame it as a budget “cut” that will hurt veterans while Republicans are saying the specific provisions targeting a troubled VA building budget makes sense in light of recent challenges. The President is threatening a veto and the Senate is still keeping its cards close so as not to telegraph its next move. Meanwhile the other big news manages to slice the veteran and military support organizations down the middle, as the House and Senate are both embracing dramatic changes to the military benefit and retirement system and leaving the Tricare healthcare program largely intact. It’s a clever move politically because retirement affects a relatively small slice of the veteran community that is more senior in rank and less likely to rebel against changes whereas health insurance is just a third rail for every military family. It seems inevitable that a change is coming to the current 20-year-cliff type system and it remains to be seen what long-term effect that will have on the All-Volunteer Force. –FPW

VA Crisis Line Under Investigation
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) recently requested that the VA investigate its Veterans Crisis Line due to concerns that veterans have been feeling left without assistance during periods of high call volume. The request came after an Air Force veteran told a Tampa television station that the hotline put him on hold several times while experiencing suicidal thoughts. –MC
Bottom line: With a documentary about the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) having recently won an Oscar, just about the best mainstream PR any VA program has received in years. The VCL has saved many lives, but as Kime points out, plenty of veterans are very vocal about the bad experiences they have had calling the hotline. Complaints have led the VA’s inspector general to start an investigation into the VCL and adding on top of that an inquiry from Nelson’s office certainly isn’t the PR the VA wants or needs right now. The VCL has capacity for about 1,000 calls per day but they get 1,400. The 400 additional calls are routed to back-up call centers. It’s currently undergoing a restructuring and technical improvements that may help it answer more calls, but the biggest forcing function could ultimately be an IG report and more Congressional oversight. –LJ

Maimed Defending Afghanistan, Then Neglected
Rod Nordland (@rodnordland), New York Times. We often hear about US military veterans injured overseas but a recent New York Times article highlights how Afghans who incurred injuries during their service in the police or other security forces are faring. Many of these individuals do not receive the aid promised to them by the Afghan government as a result of corruption, mismanagement and bureaucratic hurdles. –MC
Bottom line: As we continue to debate how to improve VA services and support veterans in the US, Nordland provides a sobering look at how disabled veterans of the military and law enforcement are being ill-treated and neglected in Afghanistan. While the US certainly cannot take full responsibility for how the Afghan government treats the wounded, stories like Nordland’s illustrate why the Afghan national government continues to face problems in governing on a national scale. Aid groups are doing yeoman’s work to help fill in the gaps, but we here at ScoutComms hope that the veterans of Afghanistan can look forward to improved services and pension opportunities, and that culturally Afghans learn to see these men as patriots to be honored, not broken human beings to be ignored, shunned and neglected. –BW

Quick Hits:

Special Forces Helping Rescue Nepal Earthquake Survivors
Jeff Schogol (@JeffSchogol), Air Force Times. Following the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal, and the many aftershocks impacting recovery efforts, the U.S. military is working to support survivors on the ground. Among these troops are Army green berets, Marines, and sailors. –MC

VA Watchdog Never Finished an Inquiry into Aurora Hospital
Mark K. Matthews (@MKMatthews) and David Migoya (@DavidMigoya), The Denver Post. Between 2010 and 2014, the Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General released more than 1,500 reports but never completed one on the VA hospital in Aurora. Lawmakers had twice requested the watchdog look into the rising costs of the project, but the IG refused to investigate due to an ongoing lawsuit between that VA and the lead contractor. –MC

Female Military Vets Make Jobs Gains, but Still Lag Behind
Angela Johnson (@ANJ0817), CNBC. Overall veteran unemployment is decreasing, but the jobless rate for female post-9/11 military veterans remains higher than that of their male counterparts. As with their civilian counterparts, female veterans often carry more responsibility for child care that can negatively impact their job search or their ability to maintain steady employment. –MC

Service Ditches ‘Army Strong’ for New Branding Strategy
Kevin Lilley (@KRLilley), Army Times
The Army is dropping “Army Strong” as it’s public-facing brand after research showed that civilians didn’t relate or buy in to the slogan. Instead, the Army is adopting a new branding strategy centered on the “Army Team” in an effort to increase recruitment and keep veterans happy. Keep an eye on the hashtags #ArmyTeam and #makingadifference as part of the Army’s new campaign. “Army Strong” will continue to be used in internal Army communications. –MC

Breaking Military’s Ultimate Glass Ceiling? Women Start Ranger Training
Anna Mulrine (@annamulrine), Christian Science Monitor
As female Ranger candidates continue through the school, so does the debate about physical standards for women in combat units. The military is working to open combat positions to women and some believe standards may need to be reevaluated while others say changing the standards for women will weaken the force. Some women, like Meghan Malloy who detailed her experiences in a Washington Post article last week, have already participated in combat alongside special operations forces. –MC

Imperiled Afghan interpreters need U.S. help
Jon Hand (@jonhand1), Democrat & Chronicle
Interpreters who assisted our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan sometimes face grave threats because they served alongside our military. Wazir, an interpreter who served with US troops in Afghanistan, moved to the United States and has been working to build a life in our country thanks to assistance from No One Left Behind, an organization committed to improving the lives of these individuals who helped our troops overseas. Read more about No One Left Behind and its co-founder Matt Zeller here. –MC

Army Vet Called ‘Murderer’ for Serving in Afghanistan
Oriana Pawlyk (@Oriana0214), Military Times
Matt Zeller, co-founder of No One Left Behind, returned to his car after grocery shopping to find a note condemning him for his service in Afghanistan. Matt Zeller spoke on Fox & Friends about the incident and said that vitriol will not stop him from assisting Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who served with US troops. –MC

Vets Tech Startups Offered a Home in Florida
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Venture Hive recently announced a collaboration with Fort Walton Beach to develop an accelerator program in Florida for veteran-owned start-ups. The area has high rates of doctoral degrees and veterans making it a great place to grow a community of business leaders and vetrepreneurs. The Venture Hive and Fort Walton Beach effort will include a 12-week accelerator course and a 12-week pre-accelerator program for veterans and spouses. Applications for these programs close on June 1. –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences

National Training and Achievement Conference (Mon-Wed, 4-6 May) Hollywood, FL

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

Congressional Hearings

House:

The House is in recess this week.

Senate:

Veterans Affairs: Pending Nominations Who: David J. Shulkin, Nominee to be Under Secretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs, LaVerne H. Council, Nominee to be Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology, Department of Veterans Affairs When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, May 5, 2015 Where: 418 Russell

Appropriations Defense Subcommittee: Fiscal Year 2016 Funding Request Who: The Honorable Ashton B. Carter, Secretary, U.S. Department of Defense, General Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff When: 10:30 AM, Wednesday, May 6, 2015 Where: 192 Dirksen

Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs: Jihad 2.0 Social Media in the Next Evolution of Terrorist Recruitment When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, May 7, 2015 Where: 342 Dirksen

Think Tanks & Other Events

Launch Event for a New Coalition of Corporations Supporting Veteran-owned Businesses Who: First Data Corporation, Institute for Veterans and Military Families, leading companies, government agencies, non-profits When: 4:00 PM, Tuesday, May 5, 2015 Where: Knight Studio at the Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001

Center for American Progress: Fixing the Force: Military Compensation Reform Who: Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro (ret.), Founder of The Punaro Group; Chair of the Reserve Forces Policy Board, Phillip Carter, Senior Fellow, Counsel and Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security, Lawrence Korb, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress; former Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations, and Logistics), 1981–1985 When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, May 7, 2015 Where: Center for American Progress, 1333 H St. NW, 10th Floor, Washington, DC 20005

RecruitMilitary: Veterans Job Fairs Who: Disabled American Veterans, Lockheed Martin Corporation, The Home Depot, and other companies When: 11:00 AM, Thursday, May 7, 2015 Where: Orlando, FL; Oakland, CA; San Antonio, TX    

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, May 04, 2015 5:08 pm

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