Veterans Roundup: Military Falls Short on PTS Treatment, VA Works to Make Sure No Vets Die Alone

Posted by Fred Wellman

How a Helicopter Pilot Carries Lessons, Regrets from Persian Gulf War
Dianna Cahn (@DiannaCahn), Stars and Stripes
Our CEO and founder Fred Wellman served as a platoon leader for the 24th Infantry Division during the Gulf War. On February 20, 1991, Fred lost two of his men, CW2 Hal Reichle and SPC Mike Daniels. Their loss and his service in the war have affected him throughout his life. Now, Wellman serves on the board for the National Desert Storm War Memorial and is working to ensure their legacy is never forgotten, along with the 600,000 Americans who participated in the war. We highly recommend you take the time to read his compelling and inspiring story, as told by Dianna Cahn. -MC

The Military Could Soon Face Increased Recruiting Challenges
Brian Wagner (@BrianBWagner), for Task & Purpose
Our Vice President Brian Wagner wrote about the recruiting challenges our nation’s military might soon face in an article for Task & Purpose. Brian’s article is based on a new CNA report that predicts the military recruiting environment will become “less fertile in the near future.” Be sure to check out Brian’s take on the topic. -MC

Study: Military Falls Short in Treating New Cases of War-Related Stress
Gregg Zoroya (@greggzoroya), USA Today
A new RAND Corp study, the largest ever conducted, found that active-duty service members with mental health challenges are not receiving the therapy sessions they need. The study, which examined 40,000 cases, found that only one-third of troops diagnosed with post-traumatic stress receive even the minimum number of therapy sessions. However, the study did find that the Army and other services have increased follow-up from inpatient PTS cases. –MC
Bottom line: This is a deceiving headline from USA Today. While the massive RAND study found that the military is struggling to meet the demand upon it for mental healthcare for troops it also found that there have been substantial improvements in a relatively short time. DOD has increased the number of mental health professionals by 42 percent since 2009 and both DOD and VA are doing much better at following up with patients released from inpatient care. The problem for both departments comes down to the same issue that the U.S. as a whole faces: there are simply not enough trained mental healthcare professionals to meet increasing demand. So, while there is always room for improvement it’s also important to give kudos to DOD and VA for making improvements under challenging conditions. -FPW

Veterans Affairs Program Works to Ensure that No Vet Dies Alone
Geoff Ziezulewicz (@JournoGeoffZ), Chicago Tribune
No Veteran Dies Alone, a program that connects volunteers with military veterans coming to the end of their lives on hospice care, is making an impact in VA hospitals across the nation. No Veteran Dies Alone volunteers spend time with vets on hospice care at nearly a third of VA facilities across the nation as they near death, providing support when family members don’t exist or can’t be there. –MC
Bottom line:  Started in 2013, No Veteran Dies Alone is a remarkable idea staffed by volunteers who take it upon themselves to spend the twilight moments of an elderly veteran’s time with them until they pass away. It is heart-wrenching to think how challenging it must be for a volunteer, but just as heart-wrenching to think that a brave man or woman who served our nation must leave this world alone. At Chicago’s Lovell Federal Health Care Center not one veteran has died alone since they began the program there. These are the kinds of programs we are always so amazed to find in the huge milieu of non-profits serving our veterans community; small programs that do something so important quietly and without fanfare. The vast network of care for our community is staggering and each piece is important in its own way. -FPW

VA Won’t Reinstate Fired Employee Despite Judge’s Ruling
Heath Druzin (@Druzin_Stripes), Stars and Stripes
Two weeks ago, the Merit Systems Protection Board ruled that the VA’s punishment of firing Linda Weiss, the previous head of the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center, was too harsh. Weiss was accused of ignoring safety concerns and failing to ensure patients had access safe medical care. But this week, VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson announced that the VA would not reinstate Weiss to her position as ordered. –MC
Bottom line:  Once again the Merit Systems Protection Board is overruling even the most common sense decisions about accountability in the VA. In the military and in business it’s simple; the ‘commander’ is responsible. If a ship hits a pier and is damaged the captain gets fired even if he wasn’t the one steering the ship. But if the MSPB has their way there is simply no accountability for the failures of subordinates in government senior executive positions. The VA is taking a hard stand. Sloan Gibson says simply “no.” The VA won’t reinstate clearly failed leaders and the House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller agrees with the VA. This isn’t just a VA issue, though. The system that allows a government civilian to serve with virtually no chance of losing their seniority or job is antiquated and ridiculous in this day and age. It makes sense that government employees need to be protected from unfair employment issues surrounding politics or policy but to shield them from responsibility for clear performance failures is inexcusable. The system was never meant to be a process to ensure protection from any discipline of any kind. It’s time to make real changes, and not just at the VA. -FPW

Veterans Seek Greater Emphasis on PTSD in Bids to Upgrade Discharges
David Philipps (@David_Philipps), The New York Times
Over the past few weeks, several stories of military veterans discharged under other-than-honorable circumstances with combat related posttraumatic stress have risen to the top of the public radar. This week, David Philipps at the New York Times examined the issue and the affects it has on veterans and their families. -MC
Bottom line: The story that Philipps tells is fascinating because while the protagonists are fighting to appeal what they perceive to be a great injustice, they have already overcome significant odds to restart their lives at some of the nation’s elite academic institutions. That is a testament to their individual resilience and an increasingly deep understanding by many universities that veterans cannot be handled like other applicants. At the same time, it doesn’t resolve the issue at hand, that they and others who had troubled service periods are running into a brick wall as they try to settle on a less negative resolution to their relationship with the military that sent them to fight overseas. Kris Goldsmith and his allies in this campaign did not have anything close to spotless records when they served, but the Army’s harsh treatment of individuals who were clearly troubled at the time of their discharges reflects an old-school mentality toward mental health challenges that is antithetical to the leadership messages being promulgated today that encourage service members to seek help and not be afraid of stigmatization. We hope that a happier compromise is reached in the coming year for those who are seeking to upgrade their discharges in the light of newly enlightened military policies. – BW

Bernie Sanders’ Senate Work at the Heart of VA’s Latest Woes
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
As the presidential primary season heats up, the candidates’ involvement with veterans and the military continues to be examined and discovered. Leo Shane recently reported that when Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, he fought for legislation that increased employment protections for VA executives when the ongoing spate of VA scandals was just coming to the light of day. Now the Obama Administration is working to reverse what has been called “bad legislative changes.” -MC
Bottom line: While it is hard to retroactively assess how much of the VA’s woes Sanders ignored in 2014—the conventional wisdom has significantly shifted over the last 2-3 years about the VA’s problems, as even ardent defenders became more skeptical as the problems came to light—it is clear that he put his trust and support behind the senior civilians leading the system, some of whom appear to have been a major part of the problem. Veterans, frankly, have not been a major topic of detailed discussion in the Democratic primary thus far, but Sanders’ record as chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee could be raised again in the coming months if he remains in the race. For a candidate who prides himself as the ultimate outsider, even after decades of public service, his past protection of VA executives sets him up as a defender of the status quo in the eyes of some veterans. – BW

Q&A: Military Spouses Coach Each Other on Building a Career Network that can Move
Adam Ashton (@TNTmilitary), The News Tribune
Elizabeth O’Brien Gorkowski is a military spouse who has moved seven times in less than 10 years, but that didn’t keep her from pursuing a career coaching collegiate athletics. Now she is the director of the Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse program and is making a difference in the lives of military spouses by sharing her story and experiences with them, while connecting them with potential employers. In addition to helping veterans and transitioning service members, Hiring Our Heroes hosts major job fairs for spouses across the country, and has declared 2016 to be the Year of the Military Spouse. If you would like to find out when a Hiring Our Heroes job fair is coming to a city near you visit their website! -JG

Gen. David Petraeus, Distinguished Academics Rorm Board of Academic Advisors for the Warrior-Scholar Project
The Warrior-Scholar Project has announced the formation of their first board of academic advisors. Dr. Corri Zoli of Syracuse University will chair the board of academic advisors, which will feature General David Petraeus, Dr. Steven Lamy of USC, and Dr. Katherine Temple of Georgetown University, among others. The board will advise WSP about effectively preparing veterans for successful academic careers in higher education. Applications to the 2016 programs are still open to interested veterans. Learn more and where to apply here! -JG

Quick Hits:

Lawmakers Push to Link Veterans’ COLA with Social Security
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Lawmakers are pushing for new legislation that would tie cost-of-living rate increases to Social Security. This move would help prevent payout discrepancies, in case Congress fails to approve the legislation required to adjust veterans’ COLA each year. -MC

War Won’t Let Go: PTSD Bedevils Maine Family
Beth Brogan (@Beth_Brogan), Bangor Daily News
Scott Couture was deployed in Iraq as a member of an Army military police unit after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. For Scott’s unit, those next 15 months became the second-longest deployment of any unit since World War II. Scott came back and only after his wife’s persistence did he seek help for what became his diagnosis of severe PTS. His wife Darcie and their two sons see the evidence every day of the moral injuries Scott suffers from. Like many others, Darcie believes her husband is just a “drop in a silent tidal wave” of veterans and families who are going through the same thing. -JG

Wounded U.S. Soldier Soon to Receive First U.S. Penis Transplant
Wounded service members who have suffered severe pelvic injuries are among the only eligible candidates for penis transplant procedures in the United States. In the coming weeks, one wounded soldier will become the first person in the country to receive the transplant, paving the way for approximately 60 potential patients to have the procedure later on. Doctors are optimistic that breakthroughs in this procedure could lead to men with birth defects and transgender men and women becoming eligible for the procedure in the future. –JG

Tradeshows & Conferences

American Legion Auxiliary: 2016 Conference (Sun – Wed, 21 – 24 February); Hilton Washington, Washington, DC (ScoutComms CEO Fred Wellman will join Got Your 6 leader Bill Rausch and Victoria Pridemore of George Washington University for a panel at 10:45 am on engaging Post-9/11 Veterans)

Disabled American Veterans: 2016 Mid-Winter Conference (Sun – Wed, 21 – 24 February); Crystal Gateway Marriott, Arlington, VA

Congressional Hearings

Joint House and Senate:

Veterans’ Affairs: Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans
When: 2:00 PM, Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Where: 345 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC

Veterans’ Affairs: Legislative Presentation of The American Legion
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Where: 216 Senate Hart Office Building, Washington, DC


Veterans Affairs: Persian Gulf War: An Assessment of Health Outcomes on the 25th Anniversary
4:30 PM, Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Where: 345 Cannon

Armed Services: Defense Health Agency: Budgeting and Structure
Who: Dr. Johnathan Woodson
, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Department of Defense, Vice Admiral Raquel C. Bono, Medical Corps, USN Director Defense Health Agency
When: 5:00 PM, Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Where: 2212 Rayburn

Appropriations: Oversight: Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General
Who: Linda A. Halliday
, Deputy Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs, John David Daigh, Jr., MD, Assistant Inspector General for Healthcare Inspections, Department of Veterans Affairs
When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, February 25, 2016
Where: 2362-B Rayburn

Veterans Affairs: Markup of Pending Legislation
10:30 AM, Thursday, February 25, 2016
Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: Department of the Navy 2017 Budget Request and Seapower and Projection Forces
The Honorable Sean J. Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Research, Development, and Acquisition, Vice Admiral Joseph P. Mulloy, USN, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Integration of Capabilities and Resources (N8), Lieutenant General Robert S. Walsh, USMC Deputy Commandant, Capability Development and Integration
When: 2:00 PM, Thursday, February 25, 2016
Where: 2212 Rayburn

Armed Services: Department of the Army 2017 Budget Request and Readiness
General Daniel B. Allyn, USA, Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, Lieutenant General Joseph Anderson, USA, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans (G3/5/7), U.S. Army, Lieutenant General Gustave F. Perna, USA, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, U.S. Army
When: 8:00 AM, Friday, February 26, 2016
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: Ensuring Medical Readiness in the Future
Who: Major General Joseph Caravalho,
USA, The Joint Staff Surgeon General, The Department of Defense, Rear Admiral Terry J. Moulton, Deputy Surgeon General, United States Navy, Brigadier General Robert Tenhet, Deputy Surgeon General, United States Army, Colonel Linda Lawrence, MD, United States Air Force, Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Claude G. D’Alleyrand, MD, United States Army, Lieutenant Colonel Robert L. Mabry, MD, United States Army
When: 9:00 AM, Friday, February 26, 2106
Where: 2212 Rayburn

Appropriations: Oversight: Quality of Life in the Military
Who: Command Sergeant Major Daniel A. Dailey
, Sergeant Major, United States Army, Master Chief Petty Officer Michael D. Stevens, Master Chief Petty Officer, United States Navy, Sergeant Major Ronald L. Green, Sergeant Major, United States Marine Corps, Chief Master Sergeant James A. Cody, Sergeant, United States Air Force
When: 9:30 AM, Friday, February 26, 2016
Where: 2362 Rayburn


Armed Services: Defense Health Care Reform
Bernadette C. Loftus, Associate Executive Director And Executive-In-Charge For The Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group, Dr. A. Mark Fendrick, Director Of The Center For Value-Based Insurance Design And Professor In The Departments Of Internal Medicine And Health Management And Policy At The University Of Michigan, Mr. David J. McIntyre, Jr., President And CEO Of TriWest Healthcare Alliance, Dr. John E. Whitley, Senior Fellow At The Institute For Defense Analyses
When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Where: G50 Dirksen

Armed Services: Nominations – Carson, O’Connor, Weiler
Honorable Brad R. Carson, To Be Under Secretary Of Defense For Personnel And Readiness, Ms. Jennifer M. O’Connor, To Be General Counsel Of The Department Of Defense, Mr. Todd A. Weiler, To Be An Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Manpower And Reserve Affairs
When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, February 25, 2016
Where: G50 Dirksen

Think Tanks & Other Events

National Defense University College of International Security Affairs: Women’s integration into the U.S. Military
When: 9:00 AM, Monday, February 22, 2016
Where: Lincoln Hall Auditorium, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Room: Washington, D.C. 20319

Defense One: Town Hall Series: Supporting the Warfighter
When: 10:30 AM, Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Where: Hope Hotel and Richard C. Holbrooke Conference Center, 10823 Chidlaw Rd, Dayton, Ohio 45433, or via live stream

For a full list of upcoming events, visit our website.

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 22, 2016 3:16 pm

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