Veterans Roundup: Liars in Ranks, a New SecDef at the Helm, and Much More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Lying in the Military is Common, Army War College Study Says
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post. A study by two Army War College professors reveals that lying is very common in the military and may actually be encouraged by the military. The study concludes that frequent demands to meet high standards and requirements may be causing Army officers to lie and sacrifice their reputations. The study suggests an era of “ethical fading” is affecting the military as a whole. –MC
Bottom line: Needless to say more than a few folks associated with the military greeted this article with disdain. It is actually an interesting and more important story than easily dismissed. First, it joins a pile of stories about ethical and even criminal issues for the U.S. military with the continuing ‘Fat Leonard’ Navy scandal ensnaring more officers and a steady trickle of dents in the military’s sterling reputation. This continuous drip is going to eventually begin to undermine the public’s perception of the military as an institution and that will affect everything from recruiting to the job prospects for veterans. On top of that, the study itself offers a cautionary tale for the military itself. The driving factor in this trend is the pressure to meet increasingly high demands on leaders’ time and the dangers of a zero defect military where even small mistakes can mean the difference between a promotion or an early release from the service. “Pencil whipping” and “hand waving” are symptoms of a larger issue that the military would be wise to address and not just react with more zero tolerance policies for those caught lying or not meeting standards. –FPW

Criticism of Senator’s War Record Rankles Veterans
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard, deployed to the Kuwait for 14 months from 2003 to 2004. She has called herself a “combat veteran”, but some have called this into question because she was never involved in a firefight or stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan. This criticism has sparked heavy debate throughout the community about what it means to be a combat veteran. –MC
Bottom line: Let’s keep this one simple. Sen. Ernst is a combat veteran. Period. There is simply no equivocating this point. She served in a combat zone during an active war. Her troops ran convoys in and out of Iraq and were under the constant threat of attack everyone there faced. Modern war doesn’t allow the comfort of a “rear” that is completely safe. During my three tours in Iraq we lost guys working out in the gym and even in the shower to rockets sailing in from Sadr City. It was simply a war where safety was a relative term and the threat of sudden death or injury hung over every moment of your time in theater. Sen. Ernst has never claimed to be a hero, unearned awards, anything boastful beyond simply being a commander of troops in combat. You can disagree with her politics but this kind of silliness among veterans is ridiculous and unnecessary. There are bigger issues for the veteran community than comparing who was more ‘combat’ than someone else. The ridiculousness of this was displayed when people compared Ernst’s combat to Congressman Tammy Duckworth who was shot down by an RPG in her Blackhawk and lost her legs. If Duckworth had never been hit, the same people would have been questioning her ‘combat’ credentials because she was ‘just a pilot and not a real door-kicker’. Let’s focus on bringing our community together and not tearing it apart. –FPW

New Rules on Narcotic Painkillers Cause Grief for Veterans and VA
Emily Wax-Thibodeaux (@emily_wax), The Washington Post. New Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) rules intended to reduce national opioid abuse require veterans to visit their doctors monthly to renew prescriptions. More than 500,000 veterans are currently taking prescription opioids and this rule is a particular challenge for patients already facing long wait times for VA appointments. –MC
Bottom line: The new DEA rules can’t be viewed solely through the lens of their impact on veterans. The CDC blames highly addictive painkillers for causing “the worst drug addiction epidemic in the country’s history, killing more people than heroin and crack cocaine.” The rules are important as a matter of public health. But the devil, as we all know, is always in the details. After years of the VA prescribing opioids to veterans for causes both justified and not so justified, there is a large population with some degree of dependency and in many cases a very serious and legitimate need. Overdose rates for VA patients are much higher than the national average, but the new rules need to take into account that many patients are unable to see their doctor on a monthly basis. A reasonable short-term compromise would be to exempt veterans from this rule if they can prove that they have tried but have been unable to see a doctor. This problem can’t be completely solved until the VA is able to drastically reduce wait times to see doctors. –BW

VA Targets Los Angeles as Deadline for Ending Veteran Homelessness Nears
Josh Hicks (@reporter_hicks), The Washington Post. Last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs revealed its plan to end homelessness among veterans in Los Angeles by 2016, a year later than its original plan to end veteran homelessness nationwide by 2015. The Los Angeles initiative will help curtail veteran homelessness an area with one of the highest populations and in part it will be helped by the VA’s settlement of a lawsuit that alleged misuse of the VA campus in West Los Angeles. –MC
Bottom line: From a PR perspective, the VA has a serious dilemma ahead of it in figuring out the right messaging around missing its own deadline to end veteran homelessness. From an advocate’s perspective, the VA and the community of service providers and philanthropy have made serious leaps and bounds towards ending a once seemingly intractable problem. The situation in Los Angeles is something of a microcosm of the bureaucracy and NIMBY-ism that has hampered community-based efforts around the country, whether federal, state, or local.  While it’s important that the VA has taken action on one of the more visible misallocations of resources, the VA has also been a driving force behind the efforts to end veteran homelessness. They will not meet their deadline, but momentum now exists—and the VA doesn’t look to be slowing its efforts anytime soon. –LJ

New Defense Secretary Ash Carter: Make Military Service Appealing to Young People
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post. Ash Carter took over as the new Secretary of Defense last Tuesday. One of his first acts was a speech to 300 Pentagon employees about his new priorities including making the military appealing to our nation’s youth. Carter also outlined his top priorities in a letter to all U.S. troops and the department’s civilian employees. Before Carter stepped into office, former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel left some advice for his successors about senior leaders’ accountability. –MC
Bottom line: While SecDef Carter was vague in his appeal to think of the next generation of servicemembers, his message comes at an opportune time for reformers within and outside of the military. Vice Admiral Bill Moran, the Chief of Naval Personnel, has been on a veritable campaign trail in the last year in his quest to reshape how the Navy and the broader military recruits and promotes to better fit the career styles and choices of young Americans. This message also fits well with the debate sparked by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, which is forcing Congress, the military, and other interested parties to think about the future of military service. While nothing short of a 9/11-style attack could truly galvanize young Americans to flock to the military, that does not mean that Carter and his service chiefs cannot focus on making military service more appealing as a job or as a career choice. –BW

VA’s ‘Choice’ Program for Health Care Off to Slow Start
Matthew Daly (@MatthewDalyWDC), The Associated Press. The VA’s “Choice Cards” program has been utilized by far fewer veterans than expected. The cards have only resulted in 27,000 veterans making appointments for private care, compared to the nearly 9 million veterans enrolled in VA healthcare. Now, the VA is asking to redirect some of the $10 billion authorized for the program to boost care for vets at the VA’s hospitals and clinics. This proposal has received pushback from lawmakers who believe that the department needs to promote the program better to get more engagement. –MC
Bottom line: VA’s choice cards enable veterans more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility or those facing excessive wait times the option of seeing a non-VA doctor. Unfortunately, like the rest of VA, the choice cards have been plagued with bad PR. A particularly common story is one about a deceased veteran’s family receiving a card in the mail. Despite this, something positive that might be taken from the low utilization of the program is that overall veterans are satisfied with the quality of VA health care. Over and over, advocates and veterans have said their issue with VA health care is access, not the doctors or their services. On the other hand, critics of the VA say confusing implementation of the choice card has meant fewer veterans are using it. At the heart of the dispute is the future of nearly $10 billion authorized last year to fund non-VA care through the choice card program. The VA wants to reallocate some of the money towards VA services, but opponents instead want the VA to better implement the choice program. It’s a fight that will determine just how “temporary” the choice program enacted last year really is and just how much Congress is willing to fund VA to fix its systemic problems. –LJ

Quick Hits:

Army Two-Star Tapped for SECDEF Assistant Job
Michelle Tan (@MichelleTan32) and Paul McLeary (@paulmcleary), Army Times. Maj. Gen. Ron Lewis, the Army’s chief of public affairs, has been selected to serve as the senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Lewis has previously served as a military adviser to Carter twice. Now, not long after Lewis assumed the position, the Army must find another chief of public affairs, a job that has not seen many long tenured chiefs and few if any from the actual public affairs career field. –MC & FPW

Bill O’Reilly Exaggerated War Experiences, Mother Jones Says
Paul Farhi (@farhip), The Washington Post. Two weeks after the Brian Williams scandal broke, other news anchors have come into reporters’ crosshairs. Mother Jones reports that Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly lied about being in war zones in Central and South America. O’Reilly stands by his story and has called the article “slander.” NBC’s Brian Williams has been suspended for six months without pay and recently resigned for the Medal of Honor Foundation due to his own scandal. –MC

Please Don’t Thank Me for My Service
Matt Richtel (@mrichtel), New York Times. Many civilians want to thank veterans for their service but veterans often feel uncomfortable with the phrase. Matt Richtel from the New York Times explores this by interviewing several veterans about why the phrase “thank you for your service” can be off-putting even with the best intentions. –MC

Best for Vets: Spouse Employment Snapshot
George Altman, Military Times. Military spouses face unique employment difficulties as they move very frequently. This means many spouses are constantly searching for a new job, starting over, or facing difficulties convincing employers to hire them with their spotty work histories. However, more companies are developing special practices to allow military spouses to keep their jobs as they move. To highlight those companies, Military Times recently published a ranked list of the best companies committed to hiring and retaining military spouses as employees. –MC

A Moving Entry for an Oscar: Saving Vets from Suicide
Gregg Zoroya (@Greggzoroya), USA Today. Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, a 40-minute documentary highlighting the VA Crisis Line, was nominated for an Oscar in the best short documentary category (Ed. Note: and it won!). The high-profile nomination has raised awareness about the VA suicide hotline among both veterans and the civilian community. American Sniper was also up for several Oscars, although some of the facts have been said to be incorrect and Dan Lamothe from the Washington Post explored those facts in depth last week. –MC

Women in Combat
Gretel C. Kovach & Howard Lipin, The San Diego Union-Tribune. The great military reporter Gretel Kovach and photojournalist Howard Lipin have put together a really quality series highlighting women in combat through photos, interviews, and videos. The series follows several female Marines as they participate in the Marine Corps’ Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, a project designed to help decide whether or not combat jobs should be open to women. It’s definitely worth taking the time to check out this series. –MC

DOD Plan Would ‘Destroy’ Commissaries, Industry Representatives Say
Tom Philpott for Stars and Stripes. The American Logistics Association released a position paper claiming that the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2016 budget request would reduce taxpayer support of commissaries to the point where the stores would be “destroyed.” The Army and Air Force Exchange (AAFES) has also warned that consolidation recommended by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission would negatively impact exchange services. –MC

LSU Hosting Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities
Renita D. Young (@RenitaDYoung), The Times Picayune. Louisiana State University’s Stephenson Entrepreneurship Institute is currently hosting it fourth iteration of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV). EBV is a three-phase program that teaches service-disabled post-9/11 veterans how to launch and maintain successful small businesses. You can follow this class of vetrepreneurs through their journey on social media through the hashtag #EBVLSU. –MC

Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) Recognized as 2015 Harvard Ash Center Bright Idea in Government
Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) was acknowledged as a program at the forefront of government innovation as part of the 2015 Bright Ideas named by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. V-WISE is a partnership between the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and delivers the nation’s leading entrepreneurship program for female veterans and military spouses. –MC

Walmart Foundation’s $1 million gift to help Charlotte coordinate services for vets
Mark Price (@markprice_obs), The Charlotte Observer
On Tuesday, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families announced its Welcome Home North Carolina initiative in partnership with the Walmart Foundation. The initiative aims to develop coordinated networks of resources, services, and organizations caring for veterans and military families over the next three years and will be primarily funded through the Walmart Foundation’s $1 million award. –MC

Vets Advocates Push for On-Campus Support
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. Veterans groups are pushing for federal grants to build veterans centers on college campuses, helping provide extra support for transitioning service members. In the meantime, The Home Depot Foundation has filled this gap with $100,000 in grants already made to 11 SVA chapters and $400,000 more to be made available to about 50 chapters interested in building or refurbishing veteran centers. –MC

Retailer Helps with ‘Honey-Do’ Project
Drew Brooks (@DrewBrooks), The Fayetteville Observer. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Cortez always completed a ‘honey-do’ list of household projects before a deployment. When his recent deployment came quicker than expected, Cortez was forced to leave his family at home with some incomplete list items, including a broken toilet. His wife Leigh emailed Home Depot on a whim and of course the company came through. –MC

ScoutComms Reporting:

A Scout’s-Eye view of the Bush Institute Summit on “Serving Post-9/11 Veterans and Military Families”
Our CEO Fred Wellman joined veterans’ advocates, policymakers, philanthropists and military leaders in Dallas last week for the George W. Bush Institute’s Summit on “Serving Post-9/11 Veterans and Military Families.” In true ScoutComms fashion, we had a lot to say about it via Twitter. Check out our thoughts on the challenges post-9/11 veterans face as they return to civilian life after the military. –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences

International Defense Exhibition & Conference (Sun-Thu, 22-26 February); Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

American Legion Washington Conference (Sun-Wed, 22-25 February); Washington, DC

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

Congressional Hearings


Veterans Affairs: Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to receive the Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans Who: Ronald F. Hope, National Commander, Disabled American Veterans, J. Marc Burgess, National Adjutant, Barry A. Jesinoski, Executive Director National Headquarters, Garry J. Augustine, Executive Director Washington Headquarters, Jim Marszalek, National Service Director, Joseph A. Violante, National Legislative Director, John Kleindienst, National Director of Voluntary Service, Jeffrey C. Hall, National Director of Employment, LeeAnn Karg, DAV Auxiliary National Commander When: 2:00 PM, Tuesday, February 24, 2015 Where: G-50 Dirksen

Veterans Affairs: Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to receive the Legislative Presentation of the American Legion Who: CDR Mike Helm, National Commander, The American Legion, Brett Resistad, Legislative Chairman, Ian de Planque, Legislative Director, Ralph Bozella, Chairman, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, Louis Celli, Director, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, Denise Rohan, Chairman, Veterans Employment and Education, Joe Sharpe, Director, Veterans Employment and Education When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, February 25, 2015 Where: 345 Cannon


Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction: Quality of Life in the Military Who: Command Sergeant Major Daniel A. Dailey, United States Army, Master Chief Petty Officer Michael D. Stevens, United States Army, Sergeant Major Ronald Green, United States Marine Corps, Chief Master Sergeant James A. Cody, United States Air Force When: 9:30 AM, Wednesday, February 25, 2015 Where: 2362 Rayburn

Armed Services: Department of the Navy Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request for Seapower and Projection Forces Who: The Honorable Sean J. Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition), Vice Admiral Joseph P. Mulloy, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Integration of Capabilities and Resources, Lieutenant General Kenneth Glueck, Jr. USMC, Deputy Commandant for Combat Development, and Integration; and Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, February 25, 2015 Where: 2212 Rayburn

Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense: Budget Hearing United States Navy Who: The Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary, United States Navy, Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., Commandant, United States Marine Corps When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, February 26, 2015 Where: H140 Capitol

Armed Services: Outside Perspectives on the President’s Proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Who: General Jack Keane, USA (Ret.), Former Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, Robert M. Chesney, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Charles I. Francis Professor in Law University of Texas, Benjamin Wittes, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, Brookings Institution When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, February 26, 2015 Where: 2118 Rayburn Armed Services: Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request for Strategic Forces Who: Admiral Cecil D. Haney, USN, Commander, United States Strategic Command, Mr. Brian P. McKeon, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Department of Defense When: 1:30 PM, Thursday, February 26, 2015 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense: Budget Hearing United States Air Force Who: The Honorable Deborah Lee James, Secretary, United States Air Force, General Mark A. Welsh III, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force When: 9:00 AM, Friday, February 27, 2015 Where: H-140 Capitol


Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel: Healthcare Recommendations of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission Who: The Honorable Alphonso Maldon, Jr. Chairman, Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, The Honorable Stephen E. Buyer, Commissioner, Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, Mr. Michael R. Higgins, Commissioner, Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, General Peter W. Chiarelli, USA (Ret.), Commissioner, Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, Admiral Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr., USN (Ret.), Commissioner, Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, Ms. Joyce W. Raezer, Executive Director, National Military Family Association, Mr. Thomas J. Snee, National Executive Director, Fleet Reserve Association, Vice Admiral Norbert R. Ryan, Jr., USN (Ret.), President and Chief Executive Officer, Military Officers Association of America, Major General Gus. L. Hargett, Jr., ARNG (Ret.), President, National Guard Association of the United States When: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, February 25, 2015 Where: 216 Hart

Think Tanks & Other Events

New York University: “Boots on the Ground” How Does Military Service Affect Policymakers’ Decisions about Going to War? Who: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Dan Lamothe, military reporter, Washington Post, Michael D. Lumpkin, Asst. Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, Col. Patrick Mahaney, Jr., USA (NYU ’87), Rep. Scott Peters (NYU Law ’84)| When: 6:00 PM, Wednesday, February 25, 2105 Where: NYU Washington DC, 1307 L Street, NW Washington, DC

RecruitMilitary: Regional Veteran Job Fairs Who: Sponsors include Disabled American Veterans (DAV); exhibitors include The Home Depot, Prudential Financial, and many more. When: 11:00 AM, Wednesday, February 25, and Thursday, February 26, 2015 Where: Dallas, TX, New Orleans, LA, New York, NY

Concerned Veterans for America: ‘Fixing Veterans Health Care’ Summit Who: Dr. Bill Frist (R-TN), Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader; Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA), Former Congressman, Army Ranger; Dr. Michael Kussman, Former Under Secretary for Health at the VA; Avik Roy, Health Care Scholar at the Manhattan Institute, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Majority Leader, US House of Representatives; Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs; Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Sponsor of the Veterans Choice Act of 2014; Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senate Sponsor of the VA Management Accountability Act; Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the House When: 8:00 AM, Thursday, February 26, 2015 Where: Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, 400 New Jersey Avenue, Northwest, Washington, DC 20001

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, February 23, 2015 11:15 am

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