Veterans Roundup: More on Marine Women in Combat, Outside Report on VA Finds Good and Bad and a Bunch More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Exclusive: Marines See Benefits, Risks to Women in Combat
Gretel C. Kovach (@gckovach), The San Diego Union-Tribune. More details are coming to light on the Marine Corps’ study on gender integration after the release of a four page executive summary of the study two weeks ago. No other details have been released from the study until the leak of a recommendation memo for the Commandant of the Marine Corps based on it this week. This latest memo acknowledges that there are challenges but also notes how the integration could occur if so ordered. The future of women in ground combat is hotly debated right now as the Marine Corps continues it internal discussions, the Army is staying quiet on their plan for integration and the Navy SEALs are ready for women in the ranks. –MC

Bottom line: The deadline for the services to submit their recommendations on any jobs that will remain closed to women are due this week to the Secretary of Defense. So far the Special Operations community has been the most vocal about their plans to not request any exemptions while the services have kept their cards close to their chest amid rumors the Marines will request exemptions for their infantry and other direct combat roles. Advocates are lining up for the final fight including ScoutComms client Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) who are asking for barriers to be removed for qualified women to get the same opportunities afforded males. One of the most remarkable aspects of this process has been the discovery by the services that the “standards” for combat positions weren’t actually weren’t well-defined for men forcing a self-analysis of what it truly takes to serve in these tough jobs beyond basic gender qualifications. This promises to be a fascinating week. –FPW

Troops Detail Orders to Ignore Sexual Abuse in Afghanistan, Despite General’s Denial
Thomas Gibbons-Neff (@tmgneff), The Washington Post. A recent New York Times article brought forth accounts of U.S. service members ordered to ignore Afghan troops’ sexual abuse of young boys and disregard it as a “cultural issue”. Pentagon officials say that there is no official policy telling service members to ignore human rights abuses, but the stories of Marines who served overseas say otherwise. –MC

Bottom line: The unfortunate reality of sexual abuse perpetrated against young boys (in this particular practice, of course young girls face a multitude of human rights abuses including rape) has not been a secret to anyone paying attention. Troops have served alongside our Afghan “allies” and seen some terrible things. The worst part here is that rather than being able to take part in systematically making the Afghan security forces more professional, service members were told to look the other way—to go against the basic tenets of service. For veterans, these situations are the kind that can lead to moral injuries, an issue that has been gaining traction recently as a distinct phenomenon from PTS. For the U.S., there is a larger moral question, as well, about the kind of security forces and allies we want to forge in Afghanistan. We are no strangers to calling some terrible human rights abusers our friends, but this should be a unique situation where we are ourselves training the Afghan security forces. In our aid to foreign countries, the Leahy Law is intended to prevent U.S. assistance from reaching human rights abusing military units. It will be interesting to see if anyone in Congress presses DoD on this. –LJ

Women-Focused Honor Flight Highlights Their Service
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Air Force Times. Last week, 140 female veterans attended the very first women-only “honor flight.” The women were given a free trip to Washington to tour the monuments and memorials that have been created to honor their service, such as the Women in Military Service Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. –MC

Bottom line: The Honor Flights are a wonderful mechanism for bringing older American veterans to the nation’s capital to tour the city’s many memorials and to be recognized for their past service. If you have ever been at National Airport when an Honor Flight arrives, you have literally seen the only reason for weary travelers to put down their phones and computers and gather communally. The Honor Flights have historically been pretty much a men’s club, given the relative dearth of women vets in previous generations and their disinclination to actively identify as veterans. Last week’s Honor Flight was an important landmark, and we should get used to seeing more women veterans on these trips in the future. Today, there are nearly 2.5 million women serving or who have served in the military, and the Honor Flights will likely begin to reflect their steadily increasing contributions in coming years. We are proud to work with SWAN (the Service Women’s Action Network), which is at the forefront of calling for broader awareness and recognition of the contributions women have made and will make to our military in the coming decades. –BW

Disabled Vet Turns to Physical Fitness to Help Him and Others Press On
Aaron Kidd (@kiddaaron), Stars and Stripes. Derek Weida, an Army veteran and amputee, found that physical fitness helped him break out of depression. Now he inspires others with motivational videos, has his own clothing line, and is founding his own nonprofit. Weida is one of many veterans who has taken on the challenge of recovery through sport. –MC

Bottom line: An inspiring story from a veteran who found himself trapped by his war wounds and made his way back to health with physical fitness and the ability to inspire others with his story of recovery. Fitness is consistently found to be a key part of facing the challenges so many veterans face from those who simply miss the camaraderie of the uniform to those facing significant illness and injury. Groups like Team Red, White & Blue, Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund, and Weida’s own organization The Next Objective are all helping veterans find solid footing mentally and physically with their local communities. –FPW

Report: VA Health Care Needs Total Overhaul
Patricia Kime (@patriciakime), Military Times. A new report on Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare has called for a total overhaul of the system. The third-party assessment, ordered by Congress, found a crisis in leadership and a system overwhelmed by the number of veterans for which it is tasked with caring. The report has been said to have confirmed the notion that the VA’s problems are not individualized to certain facilities, but are “deep-seated and systemic.” –MC

Bottom line: The Congressionally-mandated report on VA healthcare held plenty of bad news—none of it particularly surprising in light of the scandals and failures of the last few years—as well as positive news in a number of important areas where the VA compared favorably with private sector healthcare providers. There is little to criticize in the report’s recommendations; the big questions that must be addressed in the coming months are whether the money exists to fund the desired reforms and whether the necessary changes are possible in an environment where critics like the conservative Concerned Veterans for America would prefer to eliminate VA rather than overhaul it and where it remains unclear if Secretary Bob has the power to compel positive change among the bureaucracy at the heart of the VA’s problems. As we noted last week, if the Congressional committees with jurisdiction want to see major change occur, they should give the VA and Secretary Bob as much leeway as possible to shuffle around the VA’s assets and refocus its efforts. If those initiatives—the VA claims to be aware of and working on most of the problems identified in the report—do not succeed noticeably, then Sen. Isakson, Rep. Miller and CVA will have a more established argument to make that the only way to fix the VA is to completely rebuild or redesign it. –BW

Black Patients Fare Better than Whites When Both Get the Same Care Study Finds
Alan Zarembo (@AlanZarembo), Los Angeles Times. New study based on a review 3.1 million Department of Veterans Affairs patients showed that African-Americans receiving VA health care fared better than whites and had a much lower adjusted mortality rate. Senior Author Dr. Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh, called the study a “paradox within a paradox,” and researchers caution that although biological factors may have contributed to the differences, there may still be differences in how care is administered. –MC

Bottom line: The results of this study speak to the quality—and equality of care—the VA provides to all eligible veterans. This also makes a strong case for maintaining access to VA rather than getting rid of VA and sending veterans into the private sector. Something else to take away from this is the foundation in fitness and nutrition as well as the economic mobility that the military imparts which gives African-American veterans a fairer shot at living longer. Let’s hope that some lessons from VA care can be utilized in the private sector to make health care better for everyone. –LJ

ScoutComms’ Client News:

Wounded Warriors Hit the Road on Shining Sea Bikeway in Falmouth Today
Laura M. Reckford, News Center. Last week, 54 Wounded Warrior Project Alumni had the opportunity to challenge themselves physically and bond with veterans by sharing similar experiences. The group went on 16, 19, and 27-mile rides through Cape Cod and Boston and were cheered on by the community along the way. –MC

Local Residents Help Afghan Refugees Resettle
Sophie Braccini (@sofyblu), Lamorinda Weekly. No One Left Behind, a nonprofit that helps Iraqi and Afghan interpreters resettle in America after serving with U.S. troops overseas, is ramping up efforts in the California Bay Area. A recent Lamorinda Weekly article tells the story of two NOLB volunteers and encourages the local community to get involved. If you want to get involved with No One Left Behind, especially if you’re in the Bay Area, be sure to visit the organization’s website to learn more. –MC

Quick Hits:

At Center for the Intrepid, Wounded GIs Reinvent Their Lives
Sig Christenson (@saddamscribe), San Antonio Express-News. The Center for the Intrepid is a rehabilitation facility built to assist wounded service members. This article does wonderful job of explaining how the center has assisted veterans since 2007 and is definitely worth the read. –MC

General Dempsey Retires, Transitions Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair
Ryan Maass United Press International. On Friday, U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey retired from the military and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passing responsibility to Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr, who previously served as the Marine Corps’ 36th Commandant. –MC

Visually Impaired Veterans Developing Tandem Cycling Skills
Alison Mastrangelo (@AlisonMFOX21), FOX 21 News. In Colorado Springs, 18 cyclists participated in an Olympic Training Center camp, in which blind and visually impaired cyclists developed their tandem bike skills. Eight of the attendees were military veterans. –MC

Chattanooga Shooting Investigation: Marine Shielded His Daughter from Terrorist’s Rampage
Gina Harkins (@GinaAHarkins),Marine Corps Times. An important story detailing the heroics of the Marines caught in the Chattanooga shootings this summer. Gunnery Sgt. Camden Meyer shielded his daughter from the attack on the Chattanooga recruiting center and may have additionally saved a coworker’s life. –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences

No relevant tradeshows this week. For a full list of upcoming events check out our Events page.

Congressional Hearings


Armed Services: Implementing the Department of Defense Cyber Strategy When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, September 30, 2015 Where: 2118 Rayburn


Veterans’ Affairs: Examining the Impact of Exposure to Toxic Chemicals on Veterans and the VA’s Response When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, September 29, 2015 Where: 418 Russell

Veterans’ Affairs Pending Nomination of Michael H. Michaud, Nominee to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans’ Employment and Training When: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, September 30, 2015 Where: 418 Russell

Think Tanks & Other Events

Defense One and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: Veterans: The New Battleground- “Continuing the Conversation” Who: Leo Shane, Congressional Reporter, Military Times, Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Kevin Baron, Executive Editor, Defense One, Representative Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. House of Representatives and Co-Chair, Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus, Representative Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Representative Scott Perry, U.S. House of Representatives and Co-Chair, Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus, among many others When: 8:00 AM, Tuesday, September 29, 2015 Where: Naval Heritage Center, Washington, DC

New America: Budget Battles: Shutdown, the Pentagon, and an Unlikely Right-Left Alliance Who: John Bennett, Editor, CQ Budget Tracker, Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform, Darcy Scott Martin, Director, Pentagon Budget Campaign, Heather Hurlburt, Director, New Models of Policy Change, New America When: 9:00 AM, Tuesday, September 29, 2015 Where: 1899 L Street NW, Suite 400

Foreign Policy Research Institute: Thinking About Military History in an Age of Drones, Hackers, and IEDs When: 5:30 PM, Tuesday, September 29, 2015 Where: National Liberty Museum, Philadelphia, PA

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, September 28, 2015 8:06 am

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of updates to this conversation