Veterans Roundup: Last Women Wash Out of Ranger School, VA and Congress Butt Heads, Team Rubicon Goes Global

Posted by Fred Wellman

How PTSD Became a Problem Far Beyond the Battlefield
Sebastian Junger (@sebastianjunger), Vanity Fair. While civilians with post traumatic stress far outnumber veterans suffering from the same malady, there is a uniqueness to war-related trauma that means treating it is much different. Long time combat correspondent, Junger investigates the statistics, studies, and stories connected to PTS and suicide in this important piece. –MC
Bottom Line: This is an incredibly insightful piece from start to finish. It’s rare we recommend you click on over to a story and read it in it’s entirety but this is one of those stories. Junger has written a long but deeply researched and executed deconstruction of the facts, myths, and issues surrounding PTS and suicide for American service members heavily laced with the unique insight of one who has experienced war at their side. One fascinating insight is from a psychologist who offers that rape victims with PTS are easier to treat because there is nothing positive to hold onto from their trauma. Combat is often not just the source of trauma for veterans but also the source of some of the greatest experiences of their life and thus letting it all go is simply not possible. This is award-winning work from a first-class journalist and should be mandatory reading for anyone looking to support the mental health challenges of our veterans. –FPW

All Remaining Female Soldiers Fail Ranger School’s Darby Phase, can Attempt Again
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post. The eight remaining female soldiers in Army Ranger School have washed out before making it to Phase Two of the grueling course. However, the women met eligibility requirements to attempt Phase One again and are planning to do so. The failures occurred during the Darby Phase, which tests candidates’ patrol and small unit tactical skills. –MC
Bottom line: In a sense, it is unfortunate that the remaining eight soldiers failed to move past the Darby Phase at Ranger School; it means that they still have a long way to go and a lot to prove. But as I’ve said before, it doesn’t necessarily matter in the long-term if this specific group of women fails to complete the entire course. Their mere presence in the program, conducted under intense public scrutiny, is already a victory for integration. It’s humbling to know that these women have committed to giving the Darby Phase a second try, and no matter what you think about the Department of Defense’s plan to drop all restrictions to allowing women in combat in 2016, the chutzpah and tenacity they have shown thus far is proof that there are women serving today who have the audacity to hope (President Obama, I’ll be sending you a royalty check) that they can serve alongside men in every single job the military needs to fill. –BW

Cordial No More: Lawmakers Unhappy with VA’s McDonald
Heath Druzin (@Druzin_Stripes), Stars and Stripes. Lawmakers are becoming more vocal in their disapproval of Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald with some calling for an independent review of the agency’s claims backlogs and others upset with the VA’s reluctance to share detailed documents related to recent scandals. At his confirmation hearing for Undersecretary of Health, Dr. David Shulkin acknowledged the many changes still needed at VA including hiring more doctors and nurses. –MC
Bottom line: In some ways, it might be taken as a good sign for VA that the battles the Senate is picking have returned to pre-scandal issues like the backlog. On the other hand, there are more pressing issues in need of oversight including the Choice Program, VA construction, and female veterans’ needs. Secretary McDonald has signaled a desire to work with Congress to make and implement necessary reforms and long-term cultural changes, though the VA has not been shy about making its differences of opinion with Congressional leaders very public. Hopefully an adversarial but collegial relationship between the Hill and the VA means better outcomes for veterans and both sides hold each other accountable. –LJ

Veterans Groups File Suit Over New VA Policy on Benefits
Tarun Shukla (@shukla_tarun), The Wall Street Journal. Two veterans groups, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars, filed a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs over the end of the informal claims process. The two veteran service organizations say that the policy ending informal claims could delay the benefits process for veterans in need and reduce the accountability of the VA. –MC
Bottom line: This is the second lawsuit filed against the VA since it ended the informal claims process in March. Previously, the American Legion, AMVETS, Military Order of the Purple Heart, the National Veterans Legal Services Program and the Vietnam Veterans of America had filed suit to reinstate the old policy which allowed veterans who stated their intent to file a claim in any manner—even on a napkin—to receive benefits backdated to the time their initial “informal” intent was submitted. Scrapping this policy for a standardized process is said to negatively impact older and disabled veterans thus it’s just good looking out for their members when VFW and DAV file a lawsuit like this. If standardized forms mean faster processing of claims, that’s ultimately good for veterans. If veterans are having a difficult time filing claims, that’s an excellent opportunity for veteran service officers from the various VSOs to step in and do what they do best: help veterans navigate the claims process. But veterans who don’t have access to the formal process shouldn’t be punished with lower back payments. The VA will need to find a compromise. –LJ  

Veteran Tells Congress VA Fails at Providing Maternity Care
Bryant Jordan (@BryantJodan), Dawn Halfaker, a wounded military veteran, could not get adequate maternity care from her local Department of Veterans Affairs. On Thursday, she and other female veterans spoke about their experiences with VA’s female-specific care. With more than 400,000 women veterans using VA healthcare, Congress is exploring ways to improve VA healthcare for women. –MC
Bottom line: Halfaker’s story is unfortunate on its own. The VA can’t leave individual veterans to foot the bill and manage the logistics for identifying and receiving care that is supposedly covered. But it also is a reminder of what Emily Wax-Thibodeaux of the Washington Post reported on in late April. Women veterans are significantly more represented in the post-9/11 generation than in any previous period of conflict, and the legacy policies and systems in place from previous decades are simply not designed to reflect their unique needs and challenges. While the VA has begun to do more work in these areas, it is still playing catch up, and its efforts are not going to be taken seriously if it neglects the needs of individual female veterans. –BW

Team Rubicon Earthquake Relief Effort Has International Flair
Seth Robson (@sethrobson1), Stars and Stripes. Team Rubicon, a nonprofit group that engages veterans and first responders to use their training to support communities after natural disasters, is currently conducting operations in post-quake Nepal. This mission is slightly different from others the group has participated in, as they are now working with British military veterans and Gurkhas in their efforts. –MC
Bottom line: As usual Team Rubicon wasted little time before dispatching a team to Nepal to help in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake there. This deployment also has the unique nature of having U.S. veteran volunteers joined by members of the newly forming Team Rubicon U.K. and former Gurkha soldiers who come from the region. This new venture is one of the first demonstrations of the growing Team Rubicon Global effort that is spawning TR branches of veterans in a host of countries like the U.K, Norway, Australia and more as part of a global movement bringing together the common thread of modern veterans’ desire to serve their communities regardless of where that community is located. You can learn more about TR Global here: and we expect you’ll hear more about this effort in the future. –FPW

Quick Hits:

Obama Picks Marine Commander for Next Chairman for the Joint Chiefs
Missy Ryan (@missy_ryan) and Dan Lamothe (@danlamothe), The Washington Post. President Obama has chosen Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the current Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, to replace Army Gen. Martin Dempsey as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when his term expires later this year. Air Force General Paul J. Selva, head of the U.S. Transportation Command, has been tapped for the position of Vice Chairman. –MC

National Guard Paid Millions to NFL Teams for In-Game Soldier Salutes
Matt Bonesteel (@MattBonesteel), The Washington Post. Last Tuesday, Herb Jackson of the Bergen Record broke the news that the National Guard is paying millions of dollars for ‘soldier salutes’ at NFL games. More than 14 teams were paid $5.4 million by the National Guard and the Department of Defense as fees to produce the Jumbotron appearances of local service members that most thought were simple displays of appreciation by the NFL but were simply paid placements. –MC

Robert McDonald: Why We Serve
VA Secretary Robert McDonald for the Military Times. McDonald recognizes public servants working at the VA who have made innovative advances in the medical health field for paralyzed patients. He also highlights several efforts to improve services for veterans. Earlier in the week the VA announced the development of a one-stop website for all veterans benefits. –MC

WWII Veterans Recall Breaking Barriers During V-E Day Celebration
Marisol Bello (@Marisol_Bello), USA Today
At the 70th anniversary commemoration of V-E Day at the World War II Memorial, three veterans reflected on their service. The veterans served when segregation was prevalent, but were able to teach tolerance through their service. –MC  

Post-9/11 Vet Jobless Rate Up Slightly
George Altman (@George_Altman), Military Times. The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans slightly increased in April to 6.9 percent, according to the latest government data. Despite the increase, unemployment for this group has remained below 7 percent for three consecutive months, a sign of overall improvement. The total veteran population continues to experience higher rates of employment than their civilian peers. –MC  

Former Medics Find Themselves on Bottom Rung in Civilian Field
Heath Druzin (@Druzin_Stripes), Stars and Stripes. Although things are looking up in terms of long-term trends in veteran unemployment, military combat medics are still having difficulties finding jobs as they return to civilian life. The needed certifications for medical jobs are often different from state to state and it can be difficult to translate combat skills into the civilian sector due to certification and training hurdles that cost time and money. –MC

Pentagon Credit Cards Used for Gambling, Escorts
Bryan Bender (@BryanDBender), Politico. A new audit by the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General found that a number of Pentagon employees had been using their official government credit cards for gambling and adult entertainment in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. However, a Pentagon official noted that the cardholders pay their own bills and are reimbursed for expenses related to business afterwards. These findings are expected to result in stern and specific warnings from the department. –MC

New Initiative Pairs Small Veteran-Owned Businesses with Larger Companies
Heath Druzin (@Druzin_Stripes), Stars and Stripes. On Tuesday, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) teamed up with First Data Corporation and many top organizations to launch the Coalition for Veteran Owned Business. The Coalition is committed to providing opportunities for veteran and military family owned businesses in corporate supply chains and communities across America. Be sure to follow the Coalition on Facebook and Twitter. –MC

Benefit for Semper Fi Fund Helps Veterans
Deedee Sun (@deedeesun), WICU. Tammy Cassa, an Erie, PA woman whose dad served in the Marines, hosted a benefit at Bullfrog Bar last Thursday to raise funds for the Semper Fi Fund and its mission to care for critically ill and injured post-9/11 veterans. The Semper Fi Fund has helped more than 14,000 families and has provided more than $100 million dollars in assistance to service members, veterans, and their families. –MC

Opinion: The Pentagon should drop ban on women in combat units – no exceptions
Brian Wagner (@BrianBWagner) for The Washington Post
ScoutComms Vice President Brian Wagner wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post’s Checkpoint blog regarding the ongoing debate about women in combat. Wagner discusses the arguments for and against women in combat and argues that by preventing women from serving in combat, the military has historically not put the mission first. Be sure to take the time to read his piece. –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences

Naval Sub League Symposium (Tue-Thu, 12-14 May); John Hopkins University, Laurel, MD

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

Congressional Hearings


Veterans’ Affairs: Assessing the Promise and Progress of the Choice Program When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, May 13, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon

Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations: Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in VA’s Purchase Card Program When: 10:30 AM, Thursday, May 14, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon

Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health: Overcoming Barriers to More Efficient and Effective VA Staffing When: 9:45 AM, Friday, May 15, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon


Armed Services: Markup for the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support When: 2:00 PM, Tuesday, May 12, 2015 Where: 106 Dirksen

Veterans’ Affairs: Exploring the Implementation and Future of the Veterans Choice Program  Who: The Honorable Sloan Gibson, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. James Tuchschmidt, Acting Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health, David J. McIntyre, President and Chief Executive Officer, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, Donna Hoffmeier, Vice President, VA Services and PCCC Program Manager, HealthNet Federal Service, Roscoe Butler, Deputy Director for Health Care for The American Legion, Darin Selnick, Senior Veterans Affairs Advisor for Concerned Veterans for America, Joseph Violante, National Legislative Director for Disabled American Veterans, Bill Rauch, Political Director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Carlos Fuentes, Senior Legislative Associate for Veterans of Foreign Wars When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, May 12, 2015 Where: 418 Russell

Armed Services: Markup for the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities When: 3:30 PM, Tuesday, May 12, 2015 Where: 106 Dirksen

Armed Services: Markup for the Subcommittee on Personnel When: 5:30 PM, Tuesday, May 12, 2015 Where: 106 Dirksen

Veterans Affairs: Pending Benefits Legislation Who: David R. McLenachen, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Disability Assistance, Department of Veterans Affairs, Renée Szybala, Assistant General Counsel, Anthony Kurta, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Military Personnel Policy, Department of Defense, Teresa W. Gerton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, Department of Labor, Alphonso Maldon, Jr., Chairman, Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, Michael R. Higgins, Commissioner, Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, Jeffrey E. Phillips, Executive Director, Reserve Officers Association, Aleks Morosky, Deputy Legislative Director, National Legislative Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars When: 3:00 PM, Wednesday, May 13, 2015 Where: 418 Russell

Think Tanks & Other Events

Volunteers of America: The Wages of Valor: Economic and Employment Challenges Facing America’s Veterans Who: Robert Gordon, retired Army colonel, president of Be the Change, Inc., Sara Kintzle, assistant professor of research in the University Of Southern California’s School of Social Work, Debbie McKinley, senior director for human resources for The Home Depot, Jim Zenner, program manager of Volunteers of America Los Angeles’ Hollywood Veterans Center, and a leader in Volunteers of America’s Battle Buddy Bridge veteran peer support program When: 8:45 AM, Tuesday, May 12, 2015 Where: National Press Club Ballroom, 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC, 20045

Easter Seals: Advocacy Awards Who: Ralph Shrader, Chairman, The Honorable Elizabeth Dole, Former US Senator When: 5:30 PM, Wednesday, May 13, 2015 Where: Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, DC

Center for a New American Security et al: Defense Reform Consensus: The Left and the Right Agree It’s Past Time to Act Who: Phillip Carter, Center for a New American Security, Ryan Crotty, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Janine Davidson, Council on Foreign Relations, Mackenzie Eaglen, American Enterprise Institute, Todd Harrison, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Lawrence Korb, Center for a American Progress, Michael O’Hanlon, Brookings Institution When: 8:30 AM, Thursday, May 14, 2015 Where: Russell 325

RecruitMilitary: Veterans Job Fairs Who: Disabled American Veterans, Lockheed Martin Corporation, The Home Depot, and other companies When: 11:00 AM, Thursday, May 14, 2015 Where: Norfolk/VA Beach, Las Vegas, Dallas

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 11, 2015 8:02 am

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