Veterans Roundup: IVF Not Just for Male Veterans, VA Needs a Permanent IG, and (sigh) That Trump Guy 

Posted by Fred Wellman

On the Case With… Fred Wellman, MPA
Public Relations Society of America
March is Military Month at the Public Relations Society of America and as it seeks to help more service members transition into public relations careers, it’s highlighting our founder and CEO Fred Wellman. Check out the article to find out what Fred thinks is his greatest business achievement and what he hopes his legacy will be. –LJ

Veterans Seek Help for Infertility Inflicted by Wounds of War
Denise Grady (@nytDeniseGrady), New York Times
Army Staff Sergeant Michelle Wager lost a leg and sustained severe injuries from an IED in Baghdad in 2007. Her service-connected injuries have affected her fertility, and doctors have told her that in-vitro fertilization looks like the only option for a viable pregnancy. However, the VA does not cover the cost of IVF, even in cases where the injury preventing pregnancy was a result of service. In the not so distant future many service members may be able to undergo egg and sperm freezing procedures prior to deployment. –JG
Bottom Line: Typically, when we think about the veterans who would benefit from IVF, we think about young men who suffered injuries to their reproductive organs while in service to their country. That would mean there are only about 1,400 service men who might benefit from a change in the law. In fact, as this story notes, there are also service women who have been injured in combat and face difficulty starting a family. Some have made the argument, when framing this issue around injured men, that IVF would fall outside the purview of VA as the main patient would be the spouse, not the veteran. Ultimately, that isn’t what is preventing Congress from changing the law and allowing VA to pay for IVF, but this story helps advocates take apart another argument presented by opponents. There are many veterans hoping to start families, but need the benefits that should be provided by a health care provider like VA. VA wants to provide this benefit; it’s simply a matter of getting Congress to act. At least one veterans organization, ScoutComms client Wounded Warrior Project, is making this a top legislative priority for the year. ­–LJ

Why Are the Younger Veterans Avoiding the Veteran Service Organizations?
Les Davis (@Ldavis896) for the New York Observer
Highlighting why today’s veterans may not see the appeal of traditional VSO’s, Les Davis, a national recruiter at AMVETS National Headquarters, discusses 12 steps VSOs can take to attract younger veterans. He suggests the use of 21st century marketing tools and communicating through means that will better reach younger generations. He says that by emphasizing the importance of local communities, and adding some flat screen televisions, any VSO post can revitalize its younger membership. –JG
Bottom Line: Davis is a national recruiter for AMVETS so he brings some experience to this discussion and his recommendations are spot on for the traditional VSO posts and chapters to reach out to new veterans. His ideas to help are pretty good and many organizations are seeing success with these ideas. In the end the thing we see at ScoutComms consistently is that the wrong question is often being asked. It’s not a matter of “what can we do FOR Post-9/11 veterans?” The question really should be “what can we do WITH Post-9/11 veterans?” This modern generation of veterans wants to connect with their larger local communities and not necessarily just with other veterans. It’s a solid piece to put in your toolbox if you are looking for some ideas on how to help your local VSO. –FPW

First Lady Asks Women Veterans to Share Their Stories
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Last week at a Women’s History Month event at the Capitol, First Lady Michelle Obama called on women veterans to share their stories more frequently. Female veterans are the fastest growing population of service members, and data shows us that many do not identify as veterans and nearly three quarters are not enrolled in VA healthcare. –MC
Bottom line: First of all, congratulations to Kate Hoit of Got Your 6, who is cool enough to warrant personal mention by FLOTUS. She was in attendance at the event along with our clients from the Service Women’s Action Network, representing women veterans of multiple generations. The event highlighted the steadily growing presence and importance of service women to the military, as the number of living women who have served now approaches 2.5 million. We are honored to work with some of the organizations that are advancing the cause, and the attention that Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and other powerful women are paying to the issue can only bode well for the equal treatment and equal recognition of service women and women veterans who do have amazing stories to share with the American public. –BW

Almost 20% of Top Medals Awarded Secretly Since 9/11
Tom Vanden Brook (@tvandenbrook), USA Today
According to data obtained by USA Today, about 20 percent of the military’s highest awards have been given to service members for valor during classified missions since the September 11 attacks. 216 Service Cross and Silver Stars have been awarded to special operations forces for actions on classified missions. The Pentagon is currently reviewing these secret mission awards to see if they should be upgraded to the Medal of Honor, like that of Senior Chief Petty Officer Edward Byers who was presented the Medal of Honor just last week. –MC
Bottom line: This data really illustrates the increasing reliance on special operations forces for direct action missions, in addition to more traditional hostage rescue missions. As the Pentagon continues its review of awards for potential upgrade to Medal of Honor, it’s worth noting that the SOF community likes to hold itself to higher standards for valor awards. It also has a vested interest in keeping the number of MOH recipients low as the award brings with it the public eye. Operators who receive an MOH likely cannot return to a team because of the fanfare and celebrity. This presents something of a conundrum for officials at the Pentagon who are looking for opportunities to highlight gallantry in combat, particularly in our recent wars. It seems more likely, though, that we won’t know about these classified heroics on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan for many more decades. –LJ

What Ever Happened to All that Money Trump Raised for the Veterans?
David A. Farenthold (@Farenthold), The Washington Post
In January, presidential candidate Donald Trump boycotted a Republican debate in Iowa and instead hosted a rally raising money for more than 20 veterans groups. Now two months later, only about half of the funds have been dispersed to veteran-serving nonprofits. As the campaign heats up, some veterans are speaking out against Trump and many are concerned about statements he made that seem to endorse war crimes. –MC
Bottom line: I hate talking about Trump but he is dragging veterans issues into his campaign more than any other candidate and, unfortunately, almost never in a good way. This could be nothing more than classic Trump overhyping the donations he even got that night so there is no accounting for money that was never even donated. Either way, several media outlets have now tried to find where the promised money has gone and it seems to be hard to find. While select small groups have seen massive windfalls, others are waiting without word. Meanwhile, veterans are looking bad as it appears a man wearing a Korean War Veterans Association hat was one of the people seen screaming and shoving a young black college student out of a Trump rally in Kentucky last week. Another young man seen screaming was scheduled to join the Marines next month on a delayed entry that was canceled by the Marines after the incident. A lot of veterans are flocking to Trump and sadly many are showing some of our worst sides in the process. This election season is going to be one of the ugliest not just for the nation but for our community as a clear divide is growing among veterans. –FPW

Counsel for Whistleblowers Blasts IG Reports on VA Wait Time Scandal
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
After coming under fire for sitting on reports for more than a year that investigated the 2014 appointment wait time scandal at VA facilities the VA Office of the Inspector General released 15 reports last Monday. There are 77 total reports, and in 18 reports the IG found intentional misconduct. Senators and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel are questioning the IG’s methods and say that they failed “to respond to the issues raised” and went after whistleblowers instead of addressing the real issues. –MC
Bottom line: I initially addressed this issue at length in last week’s Scout Report, before any of the IG reports were released. Now that the reports are being released, the situation has not improved for the VA, as it appears that the VA IG office was half-heartedly and narrowly pursuing many investigations. At the same time, instead of cranking up the outrage machine, which is likely to result in no positive actions, it is still worthwhile to question whether the best response to the scandal is to continue to block the VA IG nominee, who has been languishing in senatorial limbo since 2015. The nominee, Michael Missal, has no ties to the VA or its IG office, so it’s unclear what the purpose of blocking his nomination at this point would be. Confirming him could in fact have a positive result—installing in the office a highly motivated outsider looking to clean up shop to avoid sullying his own reputation. So while we need to hold the VA IG office’s feet to the fire over delays and half-hearted reports, forcing it to operate with interim leadership isn’t necessarily the most helpful step Congress can take to speed up any solutions or reforms. –BW

ScoutComms’ Client News:

With Growth, Wounded Warrior Project Faces Growing Scrutiny
David Bauerlein (@DavidBauerlein), The Florida Times-Union
Wounded Warrior Project is the biggest nonprofit in the veteran space and has been under scrutiny for its spending. CBS News originally accused WWP of lavish spending, but the report was full of incorrect numbers and statistics. The incident is changing the way we talk about nonprofits and their impact. This article by David Bauerlein is a fair description of that discussion and what WWP will be doing next. If you still need to get caught up on the story, we recommend you check out Fred’s analysis in the 251st Scout Report. –MC

Team RWB is Making a Difference in Veterans’ Lives and Here’s Proof
Caroline Angel for Task & Purpose
Last week, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University released a report titled “Enriching Veterans’ Lives Through An Evidence Based Approach,” outlining the truly positive impact of Team Red, White & Blue on veterans and the community. Caroline Angel, co-author of the report and Team RWB’s research director, shared what these findings mean to members of the organization. –MC

5 Lessons for Vets Before You Start Your Own Business
John Torrens (@JohnMTorrens) for Task & Purpose
John Torrens, a professor of entrepreneurial practice at Syracuse University and a teaching fellow with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), shares five entrepreneurship lessons taught through DoD’s Boots to Business transition course. Torrens is the curriculum development lead for Boots to Business, which is currently being taught at 180 U.S. military installations through the efforts of the U.S. Small Business Administration and IVMF. –MC

Quick Hits:

Dog Park and Other Tenants Fight to Remain on VA Land in West L.A.
Gale Holland (@geholland), Los Angeles Times
Land in West L.A. that was set aside for veterans by a federal court order over a century ago has been leased by the VA to various non-veteran interests over the years. Current uses of the space vary from a dog park to a movie prop storage company and a linen cleaning business, which have received notices to vacate the premises. Officials are moving forward with plans to properly develop the area so it can serve its purpose to house and help homeless veterans, but the current tenants are making it more difficult. –JG

Judge Says Army Can’t Require Special Testing of Sikh Officer
Richard Pérez-Peña (@perezpena), The New York Times
A judge has ruled that the Army cannot conduct discriminatory helmet and gas mask testing on Captain Simratpal Singh because of his religious requirements. The Sikh faith requires men to not cut their hair and to wear beards, which is in stark contrast to the military’s strict grooming standards. The military says it conducted the tests to ensure helmet and gas mask safety. Singh took issue with the required tests because they were an unfair burden placed on him for his religious observances, while others issued similar exceptions were not subject to this testing. This ruling did not speak to whether or not Singh will be allowed to serve with an exception to the grooming requirement. That decision is expected to come sometime this month. –JG

Non-Deployed Marine Units Ill-Prepared to Go to War
Jeff Schogol (@JeffSchogol), Marine Corps Times
According to Assistant Commandant Gen. John Paxton, as little as 46 percent of Marine units have the necessary training, personnel and equipment necessary to be deployment ready. This is due to ongoing military spending cuts that left the Marines down $1.7 billion. The Marine Corps is requesting more funding to ensure units are combat ready, particularly aviation squadrons which are facing the greatest readiness issues. –JG

CENTCOM Senior Enlisted Leader Goes Online to Share Story of Mental Health Treatment
Kyle R. Jahner (@KyleJahner), Army Times
Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Greca decided that after his positive experience seeking treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, he would speak out about his journey. In a Q&A with the Army Times, he explains his motivations for speaking up, and how he came to a place where he recognized he needed treatment. Greca hopes through his efforts to de-stigmatize mental health treatment so that others in need will seek treatment and encourage others to do the same. –JG

Tradeshows & Conferences

National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates, Inc: Spring Conference 2016 (Thu – Sat, March 10-12); Tropicana Las Vegas, NV

Congressional Hearings


Armed Services: United States Central Command, United States Africa Command, and United States Special Operations Command
General Lloyd J. Austin III, USA, Commander, U.S. Central Command, General David M. Rodriguez, USA, Commander, U. S. Africa Command, General Joseph L. Votel, USA, Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command
When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Where: G50 Dirksen

Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel: Military Personnel Posture
Who: Lieutenant General James C. McConville
, USA, Deputy Chief Of Staff For Personnel, United States Army, Vice Admiral William F. Moran, USN, Deputy Chief Of Naval Operations For Manpower, Personnel, Training, And Education, United States Navy, Lieutenant General Mark A. Brilakis, USMC, Deputy Commandant For Manpower And Reserve Affairs, United States Marine Corps, Lieutenant General Gina M. Grosso, USAF, Deputy Chief Of Staff For Manpower, Personnel, And Services, United States Air Force, Ms. Kathy Roth-Doquet, Chief Executive Officer, Blue Star Families, Ms. Joyce W. Raezer, Executive Director, National Military Family Association, Mr. Scott Bousum, Legislative Director, The Enlisted Association Of The National Guard Of The United States, Mr. Joseph E. Davis, Public Affairs Director, Veterans Of Foreign Wars
When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Where: 216 Hart

Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland: Air Force Modernization
Who: Ms. Darlene J. Costello,
Acting Assistant Secretary Of The Air Force For Acquisition, Lieutenant General Arnold W. Bunch, Jr., USAF, Military Deputy Office Of The Assistant Secretary Of The Air Force For Acquisition, Lieutenant General James M. Holmes, USAF, Deputy Chief Of Staff For Strategic Plans And Requirements, Lieutenant General John W. Raymond, USAF, Deputy Chief Of Staff For Operations
When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Where: 222 Russell

Armed Services: Nominations
General Joseph L. Votel, USA, For Reappointment To The Grade Of General And To Be Commander, United States Central Command, Lieutenant General Raymond A. Thomas III, USA, To Be General And Commander, United States Special Operations Command
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Where: G50 Dirksen

Appropriations: Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies
Who: The Honorable Robert A. McDonald, Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, The Honorable David J. Shulkin, MD, Under Secretary for Health, Veterans Health Administration, Mr. Danny G. I. Pummill, Acting Under Secretary for Benefits, Veterans Benefits Administration
When: 11:00 AM, Thursday, March 10, 2016
Where: 124 Dirksen

Think Tanks & Other Events

New America: Future of War Conference 2016: Second Annual Conference
When: 8:00 AM, Thursday, March 10, 2106
Where: Pavilion Room, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20004

Armed Services Arts Partnership: Playwriting Workshop Applications Open
When: 9:00 AM, March 19 – 20, 2016 (Applications open now)
Where: The Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD

Armed Services Arts Partnership: ASAP & Art of Future Warfare Project Writing Contest
When: Submissions due March 11

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, March 07, 2016 9:47 am

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of updates to this conversation