Veterans Roundup: Military Recruiting Challenges, Ending Financial Protections, Harmful Living Conditions On Bases and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

The Recruitment Problem the Military Doesn’t Want to Talk About
Mark Perry (@markperrydc), The American Conservative
In April, President Trump signed into law an expansion of the military that authorized an additional 20,000 personnel consisting of 7,500 new soldiers, 4,000 more sailors, 1,000 future Marines, and 4,100 new airmen. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley praised the expansion, stating that the Army has “done the analysis,” and “we need to be bigger, and we need to be stronger and more capable.” However, recruiting prospective service members has posed a challenge to meeting these goals as 71 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 to 24 do not qualify to enter the Armed Forces. About one-third are disqualified due to their weight, one-fourth because they have not satisfied the minimum education requirements, and one-tenth due to having a criminal conviction. Retired Army Lieutenant General Thomas Spoehr, now the director of the Center for National Defense at the Heritage Foundation, also points to the fact that the military heavily recruits in the South, a region that faces a host of educational and health challenges. In order to meet recruitment goals, the military could adopt a few potential solutions, including hiring recruiters to work within target demographic and population groups and changing the eligibility criteria. –NJ
Bottom line: The recruiting issues faced by the military due to demographics and disqualifying behaviors are nothing new – I wrote about it in 2016 for Task & Purpose in response to an annual report from CNA – but with the Administration desiring to have a larger military after a period of downsizing, the problem has become more visible and acute, particularly for the Army, which needs the most bodies, and the Air Force, which is dealing with significant issues in retaining well-trained airmen–in particular pilots. Perry continues his streak of writing well-crafted and thought-provoking articles about the military community for The American Conservative, and highlights that the issue is not just a problem of American youth not being capable or interested in serving but is a problem of recruiting priorities. Over the last few decades, the military’s recruiting efforts have heavily shifted away from the major northern urban centers, where the per-recruit costs tend to be much higher, to focus on the major military base communities and on the South in general, where it is much cheaper to find recruits. While this decision has saved money over time, it also has handicapped the military by focusing its efforts on the region that has some of the most acute issues disqualifying youth from serving, including subpar education systems and poor health and eating habits. Thus far, no branch has notably lowered its standards to attract more recruits, but if the pressure to grow increases, they may have no choice. In the long term, the solution is not just up to the military to find. It is up to the federal and state governments to use legislation and funding to promote changes that reduce the number of youths who end up with criminal records, fail to receive a quality education, or do not live a healthy lifestyle. There is also the issue of whether young Americans want to serve after 17 years of ongoing overseas war zone deployments, but the question of willingness to serve still takes a backseat to the question of ability to serve. –BW

White House Takes Aim At Financial Protections For Military
Chris Arnold (@Chris_ArnoldNPR), NPR
In a proposal sent to the Department of Defense, the Trump Administration has suggested making significant changes to the Military Lending Act (MLA), legislation designed to provide safeguards for service members against predatory financial practices. Professor of law at the University of Utah Christopher Peterson said that if the Trump Administration’s changes take effect, “it will be manipulating the Military Lending Act regulations at the behest of auto dealers and banks.” The auto dealer industry has lobbied for many of the White House’s proposed changes. These changes would result in greater flexibility for car dealerships to sell gap insurance at higher rates than car insurance companies and wrap in add-in costs and products to car loans. The Department of Defense reports that these changes remain in the proposal stage and will be implemented “only if necessary and in a way that does not reduce the MLA protections afforded Service members and families.” –NJ
Bottom line: If we take the Administration and DoD at their word, then changes to existing protections will only be made if necessary and in a way that doesn’t reduce the effect of MLA protections. Meanwhile, the auto industry is selling these changes to the Administration and the public in a way that makes it appear that service members are missing out on protections they offer to everyone else. In actuality, the gap insurance simply isn’t available to service members through auto dealerships, because of their history of price gouging for this particular add on. As NPR points out, the other proposed changes would halt the regular monitoring of payday lenders and other firms to see whether they are violating the act and cheating military personnel. The MLA was originally put in place because these predatory practices can compromise service members’ financial security, which can put at risk their security clearances and ultimately their military readiness.  –CB

Children poisoned by lead on U.S. Army bases as hazards go ignored
Joshua Schneyer (@jschney) and Andrea Januta (@andreajanuta), Reuters
When his job as battalion commander required him to live on base, Army Col. J. Cale Brown and his wife, Darlena, took a home on Fort Benning. Soon, their 10-month old son JC began to show changing behavior and he lost his ability to speak. The Browns took him to see doctors who after a year of tests discovered JC had high levels of lead in his blood. The Army and its contractors who rented the home to the Brown’s found that the house had lead paint in 113 spots. Reuters investigated and found dozens of homes across multiple Army bases with unsafe levels of lead based paint that has been untreated and, even more concerning, unreported as required by law. –LB
Bottom line: Anyone who has lived in the older on-base Army housing can understand the horror of finding out that the paint in your baby’s room poisoned them and caused developmental disabilities. Many houses are decades, if not over a century, old and in varying stages of disrepair. When the move to privatize the housing on base was made, one of the biggest selling points is there would be dramatic improvements in the quality and care of the homes. But, when remediation of lead paint can cost over $25,000 per home you realize that’s a big chunk of their profits and if it can be put off for as long as possible they can maximize their margins. Meanwhile, our military families are unknowingly living in hazardous conditions that are making their children sick with no way to even sue for damages or expanded healthcare. This report has already generated a strong letter from senators representing Army bases in Virginia and Georgia and hopefully hearings and investigations will follow. This is unacceptable. –FPW

The Morning Briefing: VA Scams, Missing Bowties, GORUCK and IAVA!
Eric Dehm (@EricDehm), Connecting Vets
Joining forces with Walking With The Wounded, GORUCK Founder and CEO Jason McCarthy led Walk Of America participants, which included three British and three American veterans, in a ruck across Jacksonville, Fla. The group is raising awareness and critical funds for programs supporting at-risk veterans along their 1,000-mile coast-to-coast journey. McCarthy embraced the event, alongside of their friends at Wounded Warrior Project, as a chance to understand international perspectives on veteran mental health and underscore that the wounds of war cross oceans. –KG

Trump’s Big Military Parade Cancelled
Jared Keller (@jaredbkeller), Task & Purpose
After an initial estimated cost of $12 million for Trump’s military parade was circulated last month, an updated estimate put the cost closer to $92 million. The American Legion notably suggested funding for the parade could be better spent elsewhere while wars are still being waged overseas, CNBC reported. On Thursday, the DoD announced the parade would be postponed until sometime in 2019. Trump then took to Twitter to announce that he was canceling the parade, blaming D.C. city leaders for the exorbitant cost and stated: “Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN. Now we can buy some more jet fighters!” –KG 

Veterans Group Sues to Block VA Shadow Rulers
Isaac Arnsdorf (@iarnsdorf), ProPublica
VoteVets, a left-leaning veteran group, is suing to block the undocumented efforts of three outside advisors to the VA after a report that Ike Perlmutter, Bruce Moskowitz and Marc Sherman are influencing the Department of Veterans Affairs from Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s private club in Florida. Will Fischer, VoteVets’ director of government relations, stated, “This group has been operating in the dark. Our goal in bringing this lawsuit is to bring these activities to light and make sure our members, veterans and military families are able to see what’s going on with our VA and the people directing the activities of our VA.” –LB

Disabled Veterans Picked Up A Major Travel Benefit In The Latest Defense Bill
Jared Keller (@JaredBKeller), Task and Purpose
The National Defense Authorization Act includes a measure that will extend the Space-Available Travel program to veterans with a service-connected, permanent disability rating of 100 percent. Lanna Britt, a military spouse whose husband has a 100 percent disability rating, is among those who advocated for the expansion. She stated, “Long, crowded flights aren’t easy for anyone, but they can be a nightmare for 100 percent disabled veterans, depending on their injuries. 100 percent disabled veterans live with daily pain and stress, and this is just one way we can show our appreciation at no extra cost to taxpayers, it’s a no-brainer.” –LB

Congressional Hearings


Armed Services: Nominations
Who: Mr. Alan R. Shaffer, To Be Deputy Under Secretary Of Defense For Acquisition And Sustainment; Ms. Veronica B. Daigle, To Be Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Readiness And Force Management; Honorable Robert H. McMahon, To Be Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Sustainment; Dr. E. Casey Wardynski, To Be Assistant Secretary Of The Army For Manpower And Reserve Affairs; Mr. Alex A. Beehler, To Be Assistant Secretary Of The Army For Energy, Installations, And Environment
When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Where: SD-G50 Dirksen

Tradeshows and Conferences

NGAUS: 140th General Conference & Exhibition (Fri-Mon, August 24-27, 2018); New Orleans, LA

American Legion: 100th National Convention (Fri-Thu, August 24-30, 2018); Minneapolis Convention Center, Minneapolis, MN

Community Opportunities

Veterans Campaign and University of San Francisco: Master of Arts in Public Leadership
Veterans and military families, but open to anyone interested in public service.
When: Applications open now! (Spring Enrollment: Nov. 1, 2018)
Where: The hybrid curriculum combines online learning with five intensive weekend seminars in D.C. and San Francisco.

Independence Project: Veterans Study
A research study that helps veterans find a job.
Who: Veterans who meet the following requirements: Interested in getting a job; Discharged in the past 12 months OR have a discharge date in the next 8 months; Served at least 6 months of active duty; Be/have been an enlisted service-member between ranks E1 – E9; Have applied for a disability rating; Under 45 years of age.
When: Study participation open now!

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, August 20, 2018 11:28 am

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