Veterans Roundup: New MyVA Advisory Committee Named, Los Angeles VA Wait Times Under Scrutiny

Posted by Fred Wellman

J. Michael Haynie Appointed to Newly Created VA Advisory Committee
On Friday, Dr. Mike Haynie, Executive Director and founder of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families and Vice Chancellor of Veterans and Military Affairs at Syracuse University, was appointed to the newly created MyVA Advisory Committee. On the committee, Dr. Haynie will provide advice and assistance to the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary and its leadership on necessary reforms. –MC

Two Key Themes to Dominate Army Women’s Foundation Seventh Annual Hall of Fame Induction March 17 and 18
This week, The U.S. Army Women Foundation will address important issues facing Army women at the Annual Hall of Fame Induction with support from The Home Depot Foundation. Among those who will be inducted to the Hall of Fame is Colonel Jill Chambers, USA (Ret), founder of This Able Vet, LLC and a Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) board member. The foundation will also recognize IVMF’s Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) program for its support of women as business leaders. –MC

No Way to Treat an Ally
Alana Goodman (@alanagoodman), Free Beacon. Afghans who risked their lives to work for the U.S. in their home country are now seeking refuge in our country, but when they arrive some receive limited support and find themselves in poor living conditions. No One Left Behind, an advocacy group for Iraqi and Afghan interpreters has offered their support to some of these allies by providing furniture and extending rental help. ScoutComms signed a pro bono agreement with No One Left Behind last week and we are very excited to support the organization and its cause. –MC

2015 Barnes Family EBV at SU: Guest Entrepreneur Panel
Last week, 28 veterans and 2 former NHL players participated in the 9th Annual Barnes Family Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities at Syracuse University. During the program, graduates from previous classes joined the students for a panel all about entrepreneurship. The program was held at the Whitman School of Management, recently named the 2nd best business school for veterans by the Military Times. Our account executive, Margaret, supported the program on-site and enjoyed seeing the program in action and veteran’s venture pitches just as much as she enjoyed visiting her alma mater. –MC

Doing Good: Veterans Groups and Team Depot Beautify Piedmont Park
Devika Rao, AJC News. Team Depot, the associate-led volunteer force of The Home Depot and its Foundation, worked with more than 50 military veterans to beautify Piedmont Park in Atlanta last month. Team Depot worked alongside The Mission Continues, Team Red, White and Blue, and Team Rubicon to help transform the park’s volleyball court, line athletic fields, and mulch the park. Last year, Team Depot completed more than 1,200 service projects like the one at Piedmont to benefit veterans. –MC

Veterans and Military Issues:

Obama Names VA Panel, Says There Is ‘More Work to Do’
Lesley Clark (@lesleyclark), McClatchy. Amidst the announcement of a newly created MyVA Advisory Committee intended to make recommendations on how change the VA health care system, President Obama and Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald noted that more reform needs to be done on veterans care. One need not look farther than the VA Los Angeles Health Care System which CNN’s investigative team says has been lying about wait times much in the same way Phoenix was last year. –MC
Bottom line: Veterans groups had called for Obama to make a trip to Phoenix VA for months and the president used his visit to role out reforms such as the advisory committee, but he’s right to say the VA is chipping away at problems. As reports out of Los Angeles show, the cultural issues that permit and promote deception and cover-ups run deep. In mid-January, new patients at the LA VA were waiting 48 days to see a doctor, yet the acting director for the LA region testified before Congress in February that new patients were only waiting 4 days. Expect the House Veterans Affairs Committee, which is going back to hosting evening hearings on Mondays as it did in the heart of last year’s VA scandal, to hit VA hard on these latest reports. McDonald, much like his predecessor, has been able to do a lot of good at VA. It’s the most entrenched problems that will keep resurfacing unless serious reforms are made. –LJ

Top US Commando Tells Troops: Get Counseling, I Did
Kimberly Dozier (@kimberlydozier), The Daily Beast. The suicide rate among special operators is one of the highest of all military disciplines. However, more military leaders are speaking against mental health stigma and telling their troops to get help. Following in the footsteps of his predecessor at SOCOM Admiral William McRaven, General Joseph Votel recently encouraged troops to seek counseling and said he himself had sought help. Suicide numbers within special operations has gone down slightly since 2012 (from 23 then to 18 in 2014), but it remains a top priority. Fortunately, suicide rates are decreasing among reservists and national guardsmen, some of the hardest to reach with military mental health care. –MC & LJ
Bottom line:  The military has invested heavily in suicide prevention and resiliency efforts but suicide persists as a problem with an endemic resistance to mental health counseling in the hyper-tough culture. It’s significant and important for senior leaders like Gen. Votel and his predecessor Adm. McRaven to admit to seeking help and encouraging their operators to do the same. We continuously hear that the real challenge remains at the middle grades where Sergeants are discouraging their troops from seeking help with direct discouragement or at least frowning upon the need for mental health support. When the idea of seeking mental health support is as common as seeking out a check-up for sore knees, the real differences in suicide stats will appear. Ultimately, readiness depends as much on healthy legs as it does healthy minds. –FPW

Who Will Get PTSD? Genetic Breakthrough Brings Us Closer to Knowing
Cassie Shortsleeve (@cshortsleeve), Yahoo Health. A new study from the San Diego VA Healthcare System and the University of California San Diego School of medicine shows that genetics may influence a person’s susceptibility to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study analyzed blood samples from Marines before and after deploying to combat zones. –MC
Bottom line: Could new military recruits be disqualified from service after a simple blood test in the future? That’s one suggestion made by the findings of this latest study. Really the story is that we still have so much to learn about how mental health is tied to physical processes in our bodies. What we think of now as psychological may in the future be treated as physiological. The more we understand how brain chemistry and our biology impact our mental health functioning, the more we may be able to understand how to treat our brains like other body parts. It’s a good sign for ending stigma, too, if mental health is seen as a natural biological trait rather than acquired weakness. –LJ

VA Finds ‘Unsafe Practices’ at Wisconsin Medical Center
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. The Department of Veterans Affairs’ initial review of its Tomah Wisconsin medical center found employees’ unsafe medical practices and over prescriptions of opiate painkillers have harmed patients. The review also discovered a ‘culture of fear,’ with instances of leaders intimidating concerned employees and retaliating against whistleblowers. Lawmakers will discuss problems with the facility, nicknamed “Candyland,” during a field hearing on March 30. –MC
Bottom line: If you needed another example of VA medical centers behaving badly, Tomah is an unfortunately perfect example. But Tomah, like so many other VA facilities that have reported issues with wait times, low employee morale, and more, has also received high praise for its care from veterans. It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that despite the many failings of VA medical facilities, they still deliver quality care that veterans cannot find in the private sector. These facilities need to be held accountable for the poor oversight and unsafe practices, but so too do civilian hospitals. It’s important to fix VA, not destroy it, either through legislation or PR, when so many veterans not only depend on it, but appreciate it. –LJ

Unsettled at Home, Veterans Volunteer to Fight ISIS
Dave Phillips (@david_phillips) and Thomas James Brennan (@thomasjbrennan), The New York Times. A number of American military veterans have recently volunteered to fight ISIS militants overseas as pro bono mercenaries. Many who join these organizations say they feel unsettled in civilian life, desire to serve again, or want to engage the enemy that eluded them in combat. Or as former Marine Thomas James Brennan calls it: the curious draw of the battlefield. Meanwhile, two groups both named ‘Veterans Against ISIS’ are at odds with each other over how they can be most useful. One recruits veterans to fight in Iraq and the other wants to protect our nation on the homefront. –MC
Bottom line: It’s World War II all over again as American volunteers find their way to the Middle East to fight alongside Kurds and Christians struggling for survival against a ruthless enemy that the world seems unenthusiastic on truly taking on directly. It’s not surprising that combat veterans are joining the ranks. There is something special about the combat experience. It’s dangerous. It’s uncomfortable. It’s not normal living but it’s also living in its purest form for those who have experienced it and returned unscathed. Life is very simple downrange. Eat, sleep, wait, fight, repeat. If it’s for a good cause it makes the mission all the more appealing and the atrocities committed by ISIS makes it an attractive fight for a small group of veterans and others. It’s unlikely there will be a flood of volunteers but to those who have served before, they certainly get the desire to fight again. –FPW

Quick Hits:

‘Larger Than life’: Special Operations Marines Recall Teammates Killed in Helicopter Crash
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post. On March 10, seven Marines and four members of the Louisiana National Guard were killed in a helicopter crash off the coast of the Florida Panhandle. Each of the Marines were members of the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) and many of their team members have come forward to share stories about their comrades. We send our deepest condolences to the friends and families of these service members. They will never be forgotten. –MC

Veteran Proposes ‘Clean’ Military Retirement Alternative
Oriana Pawlyk (@Oriana0214), Military Times. As the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission talks of benefit and pay cuts, Tim Kane, a former Air Force officer and a current fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, suggests a different approach of “lowering the retirement benefits cliff.” Kane believes that by offering matches starting at year 5 of service and developing savings assets similar to 401(k) plans would solve the problem. –MC

Elizabeth Dole Foundation Announces 2015 Caregiver Fellows
The Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced their newest fellows, a program for military and veteran caregivers to advocate for and make visible the invisible heroes who care for our nation’s wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans. –MC

Unwanted and Unsupported, the First Marine Commandos Were ‘Set Up for Failure’
Andrew deGrandpre (@adegrandpre), Military Times. The second part of Military Times’ special report “Task Force Violent: The Unforgiven” explores the history of the First Marine Commandos and examines whether they were set up for failure from the start because of senior leadership’s resistance Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences

No major tradeshows or conferences this week.

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 Multiple Veterans Service Organizations (JWV, AFSA, TREA, FRA, NASDVA, NGAUS, AXPOW, GSW and WWP) When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 18, 2015 Where: G50 Dirksen


Veterans Affairs: The Power of Legislative Inquiry – Improving the VA by Improving Transparency Who: The Honorable Leigh A. Bradley, General Counsel, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Ms. Maureen T. Regan, Counselor to the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Mr. Charles Tiefer, Professor of Law, University of Baltimore School of Law, Mr. Michael D. Bopp, Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP When: 7:30 PM, Monday, March 16, 2015, Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: The Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Military Departments Who: The Honorable John M. McHugh, Secretary of the Army, General Raymond T. Odierno, USA, Chief of Staff of the Army, The Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, USN, Chief of Naval Operations, General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., USMC Commandant of the Marine Corps, The Honorable Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force, General Mark A. Welsh III, USAF, Chief of Staff of the Air Force When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, March 17, 2015 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Veterans Affairs: A Review of Higher Education Opportunities for the Newest Generation of Veterans When: 2:00 PM, Tuesday, March 17, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: The President’s proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force against ISIL and the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of Defense Who: The Honorable Ashton B. Carter, Secretary of Defense, General Martin E. Dempsey Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 18, 2015 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Appropriations: Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of the Inspector General Who: Richard J. Griffin, Deputy Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. John D. Daigh, Jr., CPA, Assistant Inspector General for Healthcare Inspection, Department of Veterans Affairs When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, March 19, 2015 Where: 309 Capitol


Armed Services: Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee Hearing: FY16 Military Department Budget Request Who: Lieutenant General David D. Halverson, U.S. Army, Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management and Commander, U.S. Army Installation Management Command Headquarters, Department of the Army, Erin M. Kern, SES, Director, Shore Readiness Division, Deputy CNO (Fleet Readiness and Logistics), Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, David R. Clifton, SES, Deputy Assistant Deputy Commandant (Facilities, Installations and Logistics), and Deputy Commander, Marine Corps Installations Command, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, Brigadier General Timothy S. Green, U.S. Air Force, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Installations and Mission Support, and Air Force Director of Civil Engineers, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, March 17, 2015 Where: 124 Dirksen

Think Tanks & Other Events

TAPS Honor Guard Gala (Sponsorships and tickets available) Who: Eric Dane, CDR Tom Chandler from TNT’s The Last Ship, General Martin Dempsey, USA, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, USN, Chief of Naval Operations, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, Member, House Appropriations Committee When: 6:00 PM, Wednesday, March 18, 2015 Where: National Building Museum, Washington, DC

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, March 16, 2015 1:44 pm

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