Veterans Roundup: More Contaminated Water, Closing the 90/10 Loophole, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Pentagon Warns That Number of Military Bases With Contaminated Water Likely to Rise
McClatchy DC, Tara Copp (@taracopp)

In an announcement sure to raise concerns among military family advocates and veterans, the Pentagon announced that an upcoming report due to the Secretary of Defense next week will include even more bases with contaminated water. A report in 2018 found that some 401 bases worldwide had water supplies tainted by the dangerous chemicals long used, but since discontinued, in fire fighting foam. These compounds called Per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds, commonly known as PFAS, have been linked to cancer and other illnesses including birth defects in children. Many military advocates believe that unusual clusters of rare cancers and birth defects are directly tied to these dangerous chemicals and are concerned that remediation of the danger from the contamination isn’t moving fast enough if at all. The new report was directed by the SecDef in July and is expected to address the status of cleanup. Previous DoD estimates have stated that the effort to fix the issues will cost beyond $2 billion. Advocates are also concerned about how to get care for their illnesses or their children’s lifetimes of needs from the DoD and/or VA. This all ties directly into the story below that VA is launching a study on toxic exposures and was discussed in our most recent ScoutInsight Spotlight. The totality of the problems associated with these toxic chemicals at home and abroad are simply staggering in their scope and the impact they will have on the military and their families for decades to come. The avalanche of stories on these issues coupled with housing dangers is causing activism and distrust of the military leadership like few issues we’ve ever seen. There is a certain acceptance as a service member that you will face danger in a whole range of ways in uniform, but knowing your family is facing life threatening exposures at home is a wholly different level and undermines the ability to recruit and field a capable force. We hope the DoD continues to take on this issue transparently and seriously. – Fred Wellman, Founder and CEO of ScoutComms

Republican Leader Backs Restrictions That Could End For-Profit Colleges’ Aggressive Recruitment of Veterans
Washington Post, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel (@DaniDougPost)

Veterans issues usually grab bipartisan support in Congress. However, ongoing efforts to close a loophole in the 90/10 rule, which prohibits for-profit colleges from getting more than 90 percent of their operating revenue from federal student aid funding, struggled to gain adequate support from Republicans in Congress. This rule has gained a lot of attention in veterans circles because military and veteran education benefits do not count towards the current student aid threshold. This makes student veterans who have education benefits to burn potential money makers for colleges. For-profit colleges in particular grabbed on to the “loophole” and used it as an opportunity to increase recruitment efforts targeting military veterans. An issue, according to veteran advocacy groups like Veterans Education Success, is that for-profit schools aggressively and often deceptively target veterans. For-profit colleges on average are extremely expensive to attend. When veterans and family members enroll, their education benefits often times do not last to graduation. Students then have to take out extensive loans to cover existing enrollment costs. Even worse, is that some of these schools ended up closing their doors leaving thousands of students, including student veterans, with massive student loan debt and no degree. Increased advocacy and support to the veteran population resulted in more vets using their education benefits, which is a good thing, but it didn’t take colleges long to realize that attracting veterans to their campuses is good business. According to the article, recent legislation called the Protect VETS Act would end the exemption and impose penalties for violating the revenue rule. Schools that don’t change their ways by adhering to the proposed caps for a year would be barred from enrolling new military students using Department of Defense education benefits, while those who break the law for three years could lose access to all federal financial-aid funding. This is the right move to protect student veterans and make sure that their education benefits are going to quality educational programs. Our ScoutInsight research team writes a monthly article focused on important issue areas impacting the military-connected community. For more information on student veterans and higher education check out our September article here– Dr. Kiersten Downs, Research Director at ScoutComms

Army Recruiters’ Newest Offer: Guaranteed Job-Hunting Help After Service, Matthew Cox

The Army has launched a new marketing campaign, “What’s Your Warrior,” to show young people, particularly from Generation Z, that the service has many jobs besides infantry and other combat-arms specialties. This comes as the Army turns to a 19-year-old program designed to find young people work post-service if they enlist, as companies, especially in the defense industry, have begun to seek younger people to enter their workforces. Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of Army Recruiting Command, said recently that he was close to signing a deal with helicopter manufacturer Bell to the Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS) program, which has agreements with about 900 companies to guarantee soldiers job interviews when they exit the service.

VA, DoD Must Do More to Educate Troops and Veterans About Social Media Scammers, Lawmakers Say
Military Times, Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime)

In a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing about the exploitation of veterans on social media platforms, advocates argued that companies aren’t doing enough to stop the spread of online disinformation, financial fraud and political manipulation, which in several cases has targeted different veteran and military groups. Facebook and Twitter are both pushing to improve their detection of fake accounts, with Facebook training its automated systems to identify fraudulent accounts and Twitter developing a new policy on bots and other types of “synthetic media,” including manipulated media and “deep fakes.” Kristofer Goldsmith, associate director for policy and government affairs at Vietnam Veterans of America, said his organization has contacted the Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments to encourage them to be more proactive in educating troops and veterans about the risks of social media, but has received no response.

VA to Launch Research Initiative on Toxic Exposures
Military Times, Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime)

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced the 2021 launch of a “major research initiative” concentrating on service members’ exposure to environmental toxins connected with diseases. Rachael Romani, the VA’s chief of research development, said that “[Veterans], for good reason, have been irritated with us as an organization because we have not done a lot of work–especially clinical work on–military exposures…. I have committed that in FY2021, we are going to make major investments in toxic exposures [research].” Romani also said that the toxic exposure research will “cut across all research at the VA” and will analyze the effects of exposure on veterans’ children. For more information about toxic exposure in the military, as well as helpful resources, check out our ScoutInsight article on the subject here

Military Times Questionnaire: What Will the Democratic Presidential Candidates Do For Troops, Veterans?
Military Times, Leo Shane III (@LeoShane)

Military Times reached out to the campaigns of Democratic presidential hopefuls with questions to clarify the candidates’ positions on military and veterans issues overlooked in the “broader national election conversation.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) expressed that his top veteran-oriented policy priority would be limiting “bureaucratic red tape” in the VA claims process, and specifically called for the full funding of the VA’s Caregiver Program. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote that investing in “strengthening existing VA infrastructure” to provide veterans with high-quality healthcare would be her highest priority. Former Vice President Joe Biden expressed that one of his top veteran-oriented policy priorities would be “protecting veterans from predatory individuals, like some for-profit colleges” (check out ScoutInsight’s article about veterans and higher education here). The campaigns of other Democratic presidential candidates including Pete Buttigieg, Corey Booker and Amy Klobuchar also contributed answers to Military Times’ questions.

How to Use Your GI Bill Benefits at a Foreign University
Military Times, George Altman (@George_Altman)

GI Bill benefits are often used to pay for student veterans attending colleges within the United States, though the benefits extend to foreign universities as well. Less than one third of one percent of GI Bill beneficiaries end up attending foreign universities, and therefore these benefits are not being taken advantage of to their full potential. This may be due to the challenge of waiting for the Veterans Affairs Department to correctly process this benefit, which has been a point of contention with foreign universities who want student veterans to attend. However, even with these challenges, it is entirely possible for student veterans to reap these benefits. Though there are extra challenges that may cause frustration, the benefits of learning in a new environment has many positive outcomes, and therefore should be considered when veterans begin to think about the future of their education. 

Civil Service Preference for Hiring Military Vets Comes at a Hidden Cost, Gregory B. Lewis

One of the ways that the U.S. government shows their appreciation for veterans is by assisting them in the job-searching process, specifically jobs in the federal government. This policy,  called “veterans’ preference,” has improved the lives of many veterans, especially considering the difficult process of the service to civilian transition period. However, there have been some negative consequences of enacting this policy, such as the lack of diversity that this encourages. If a veteran is up for a job against two nonveterans, there is a greater possibility that the veteran will land the job, even if one of the nonveterans is more qualified for the job at hand. Considering that 89% of veterans are men and 69% of veterans are white, the lack of diversity in the government workplace is highly affected by this policy. Therefore, though this policy has improved the lives for some, it takes away many opportunities for others who have the qualifications for the job. 

A ‘Warrior Tradition’: Why Native Americans Continue Fighting For the Same Government That Tried to Wipe Them Out
Military Times, J.D. Simkins and Claire Barrett (@simkinsjourno)

Peter MacDonald, one of the last surviving members of the distinguished Code Talkers, Jeff Means, member of the Ogala Sioux Tribe, and D.J. Vanas, of the Odawa Nation, are Native American veterans who have shared their stories about the evolution of Native American warrior culture and the treatment of Native Americans by the U.S. government both during and post military service. Statistics show that at nearly 19 percent, Native Americans serve in the armed forces at a higher rate than any other demographic, compared to an average of 14 percent of all other ethnicities. Regarding the evolving definition of ‘warrior,’ Means says, “A warrior was always somebody who fought for their native nation. For the most part, that was militaristically. But now that has expanded to fighting for your native nation in any context: legally, socially, culturally, politically.” The culture and cultural impacts of serving within Native American communities is multifaceted, to that Vanas says, “We do a great job of equipping our soldiers, but we need to greatly improve how we support those soldiers once they are out.”

Fred Wellman

Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of 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, November 25, 2019 1:30 pm

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