Veteran’s Roundup: Nonprofit Malfeasance, The State of Military Aviation Readiness, Where is Gary Johnson, Federal Funding for Veteran Courts, & more

Posted by Fred Wellman

Armed Forces Foundation Ex-Director Charged with Fraud, Evasion, Lying to IRS
Spencer S. Hsu (@hsu_spencer), The Washington Post
Patricia Driscoll has been indicted for fraud and tax-evasion stemming from her time as the president of the Armed Forces Foundation, a nonprofit that claims to support military veterans. Driscoll resigned from the organization in July after a tax investigation found that nearly $600,000 had been potentially misappropriated under her presidency and used for legal fees and other personal expenses. –MC
Bottom line: The unraveling of Patricia Driscoll’s tenure at the Armed Forces Foundation reads like a bad novel full of celebrity romance, high flying adventures, big dollar events and, in the end, a rapid fall from grace. It was clear from early reports that suspicious activity had been occurring under her leadership including the fact that the nonprofit rented its Capitol Hill townhouse from Driscoll, she earned commissions on money she raised for the organization she led, and flew around the country first class to NASCAR events for the organization that just happened to coincide with her the-boyfriend’s races. It now appears there is enough evidence to charge her with a host of crimes and more of the truth will come out. This truly needs to serve as a warning to many of the organizations that have grown since 9/11 to serve our veterans. AFF was seen as one of the good ones, even spending a season as the featured nonprofit for Fox Sports’ NFL coverage. Hard questions should be asked of organizations and honest evaluations are appropriate as funders become more selective in their giving and ability to show impact drives the sector’s funders. –FPW

This Poll of the U.S. Military Has Gary Johnson Tied with Donald Trump in the Race for President
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
This past week, Military Times and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) released the first in a series of reports examining service members’ attitudes towards the upcoming presidential election. Among the more than 2,200 service men and women surveyed, Republican nominee Donald Trump leads Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson 37.6 percent to 36.5 percent, respectively. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton trails the two, garnering a mere 16.3 percent. The report provides detailed analyses of the service members reporting answers, stratifying responses by branch of service and rank. These results were revealed in the wake of a press conference this past Wednesday, where 15 different retired generals and admirals expressed their support for Clinton. The group denounced Trump as the next Commander in Chief, calling into question his financial history and his relationship with current President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. –KB
Bottom line: The continuing popularity of Gary Johnson among service members has been one of the more surprising narratives of this election. The military normally trends strongly toward the GOP candidate, but it is clear that Trump appeals less to military voters than Romney or McCain did in the recent past. At the same time, none of the support is shifting over to Clinton, likely due to a combination of historical, well-settled views about the Clintons and also frustration among service members about how the military has been used in the last 15 years and the inconclusive nature of every major conflict the U.S. has become involved in during that time period. This sets Johnson up, though, as more of a protest vote than a true first choice, as he has done little to lay out how his presidency would concretely benefit the military, and is not closely tracking current national security and foreign policy issues. He says that he is a noninterventionist, but as we have seen with the Obama Administration, disentangling the U.S. from foreign conflicts is easier said than done, no matter what the candidate desires before taking office. Looking beyond the candidates, though, what these poll results reinforce is that service members’ political views are in no way representative of the country as a whole, where Johnson has yet to garner more than 10 percent of voter support, and Clinton has consistently lead Trump. No matter what military voters think, the reality of the current electoral system—designed to support two-party competition—does not present a plausible pathway to victory for Johnson even if he outperforms expectations. The respondents to the Military Times and IVMF survey who are bucking tradition are likely to be disappointed in November. –BW

The U.S. Military’s Most Powerful Helicopters Keep Killing Troops in Fiery Crashes
Paul M. Barrett (@AuthorPMBarrett), BloombergBusinessweek
Since 2015, 24 service members have died due to “noncombat Marine mishaps” while flying in the aging CH-53E helicopter and the issue has raised questions about military readiness and the potentially life-threatening effects of budget cuts. The incidents most closely examined involved helicopter crashes of aircraft that had previously reported problems that went unresolved. –MC
Bottom line: This is an aircraft series that was meant to see its final days in 2005 but with no replacement even being planned, the end has been extended but funding has not kept pace. This goes to our biggest fears and concerns surrounding the continued budget constraints and irregular funding cycles the military has faced for years. The focus has been all about getting ready for combat deployments but more and more training and maintenance funds have been cut in the regular forces leaving aging aircraft more dangerous. We have been saying here at ScoutComms for years that the price of budget cuts is lives lost in training not at war. The dubious record of the CH-53 fleet is a direct reflection of that concern. Congress must stop the irregular funding cycle for the Department of Defense and do its job. –FPW

Justice Dept.’s New $4M Pledge to Keep Veterans Out of Jail
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced $4 million in funding to support 13 state and local jurisdictions’ efforts to develop special courts for military veterans and keep them out of prison systems. Veteran treatment courts provide mental health and medical treatment for veterans who have been convicted of specific felonies and misdemeanors. In a recent speech, VA Secretary Bob McDonald noted that many veterans wind up in the judicial system who are suffering from post-traumatic stress or brain injuries. –MC
Bottom line: The federal assistance for expanded veterans’ courts is an example of a nonprofit organization successfully proving a model works, getting it implemented across the country, and advocating for more veterans to have access to its programs. Veterans’ courts offer veterans who are caught up in the criminal justice system an alternative pathway towards rehabilitation besides jail. These veterans’ courts can preserve a veterans’ ability to find a job and access services while also getting them the help they need. It’s a testament to the work of organizations like Justice for Vets that already 436 courtrooms nationwide offered veteran-specific alternatives and that number will certainly increase. Like we see with so many programs in the veterans’ sector, this is one that once proven within the veteran community could be expanded to other populations, as well. –LJ

Fayetteville Forges Partnership with VA to Hire Veterans
Andrew Barksdale (@FO_Barksdale), Fayettesville Observer
The city of Fayetteville has partnered with the VA to help service-disabled veterans get an education and find employment in the community. Due to the city’s close proximity to Fort Bragg, with thousands of service members transitioning out of the military each year, the potential benefits from a joint effort like this was easily identified. The VA hopes that the successes of this partnership can be easily transferred to future partnerships with cities across the country. –JG
Bottom line: This is the kind of partnership VA Secretary Bob McDonald says he wants more of—and it’s great to see one working like it should. Too often, federal and local entities don’t play well together so on top of being a partnership at VA that benefits veterans, this is also an important step in bringing communities and their VA facilities together. This partnership gives more veterans job experience, sure, but it also puts veterans back into their communities by working for the city. Too often, we focus on veterans issues at the national level and veterans in positions of leadership at the federal level, but it’s really the local city and state level where veterans can and are having a huge impact. While fewer and fewer veterans serve in Congress, it’s an entirely different trend in state legislatures. So it’s great that partnerships like that between the city of Fayetteville and its VA are giving veterans an opportunity to work and make a difference at the city level. –LJ

Veterans Risk Homelessness, Losing Tuition After ITT Tech Shutdown
Patricia Murphy (@RadioGirlMurphy), KUOW
Last year, nearly 12,500 military veterans used GI Bill benefits at ITT Technical Institute, but many of their lives were turned upside-down earlier this month when the school declared bankruptcy. The former ITT Tech student veterans are speaking out, and many said they lost GI Bill income they were dependent on. Now, in worst-case scenarios, some veterans may be facing homelessness and other consequences as a result. Derek Fronabarger, director of policy at Student Veterans of America, said that this shutdown affects student veterans in “historic proportions.” The organization, together with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, is helping affected student veterans, and is receiving about 15-25 calls a day from those students. –MC

Hiring Our Heroes Job Fair Set for Rochester Region Vets, Military
Julie Sherwood (@MPN_JSherwood), Daily Messenger
This week, Hiring Our Heroes brought their national work of connecting veterans and their spouses to meaningful employment opportunities to Rochester, NY. 65 employers attended the hiring event, with the sole purpose of hiring local members of the military community. Hiring Our Heroes hosts hiring fairs all across the country. Connect with Hiring Our Heroes through their website to learn more. ­–JG

The Armed Services Arts Partnership: Uplifting Veterans One Joke at a Time
Ashley Vance (@ayevance), A3C
The A3C Festival & Conference is recognizing the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) as an A3C Action Finalist in early October. ASAP has been helping veterans express themselves and their struggles through comedy, improv and creative writing since Sam Pressler founded the organization as an undergrad at the College of William & Mary. The ASAP team will compete with other finalists for $10,000 in prize money that it would use to launch a comedy class in Atlanta. –AB

Quick Hits:

Sculpture Left by Widow at Vietnam Wall Shows the Tragic Effects of War
Michael E. Ruane (@michaelruane), The Washington Post
Last month, a widow placed a sculpture at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to help tell the story of two American soldiers who lived their lives with memories of the war. In an effort to show the many effects war can have on a person, Samuel J. Elliott sculpted the art as part of his own healing process from post-traumatic stress. The intricate and expressive sculpture is now placed in the Park Service’s Museum Resource Center where it joins thousands of other memorabilia that pay tribute to the names engraved on the Wall. –DD

West Point Women Have a New, Bloody Requirement as the Army Completes Gender Integration
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post
Following the Pentagon’s historic decision this past year to open all combat units to women, female West Point cadets now have a new requirement for graduation from the prestigious university: boxing. The academy noted that, while they have faced scrutiny in the past about how many concussions have arisen due to the class, it is pertinent in teaching cadets leadership skills through examination of how they react while under attack. –KB

Pentagon to Cover Sex-Reassignment Surgery for Rransgender Active-Duty Troops
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
This week, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that the Department of Defense will provide coverage for gender-reassignment surgery for all active-duty troops if the surgery is recommended by doctors and senior military health officials. This landmark decision clarifies that, in the case of transgender service members, gender reassignment surgery is no longer considered elective. The surgery is provided to active-duty service members only, while Tricare for non-active duty beneficiaries will now cover hormone replacement therapies for gender dysphoria, a classifiable mental disorder entirely separate from transsexualism. –KB

Helping Veteran’s Health:  Send in the Nurse Practitioners
CMSgt. Robert L Frank, RealClearHealth
In an effort to improve veterans’ access to health care, advocates want the VA to hire more nurse practitioners as the solution to the shortage of physicians, nurses and other medical professionals. While there is a national shortage of these key hospital personnel in the industry, the number of nurse practitioners continues to grow. Allowing these practitioners to perform the work they are trained and educated to do could decrease appointment wait times by freeing up time for registered nurses and physicians. –JG

Creating a Future for Vets in DC
Kristina Wong (@kristina_wong), The Hill
In an effort to bring the voices of more veterans to Capitol Hill, Justin Brown is taking a proactive approach through his organization HillVets. The “HillVets House” recently opened in August, providing paid fellowships to veterans working in government positions. With the former Defense Secretary and Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel as the advisory board chairman, Brown has positioned HillVets to continue to make great strides on Capitol Hill. –DD

Veterans Work on And off the Hill for One Staffer
Alex Gangitano (@AlexGangitano), Roll Call
Ami Sanchez, minority general counsel for the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, finds value in her volunteer work with the local veteran community. As an active member of Team Red, White and Blue, a nonprofit that connects veterans in their community through physical and social activities, Sanchez emphasizes how her volunteer work complements her committee work. Team Red, White and Blue has 110,000 members nationally, with veterans making up 70 percent of its population. –DD

Marines Call Off Beach Assault to Protect Endangered Turtles
Hope Hedge Seck (@hopeseck),
In a result that can best be described as “Giant Turtles 1, Devil Dogs 0,” a Navy and Marine Corps beach landing exercise on an island in the Marianas was canceled due to the discovery that it might impact the endangered green sea turtles living there during hatching season. Instead, the planned boat raid—part of Exercise Valiant Shield 2016—was replaced with a helicopter-borne insert, and the turtles were left in peace. –BW

Tradeshows & Conferences:

No major tradeshows this week. AUSA is next week!

Congressional Hearings:

Armed Services: National Security Space: 21st Century Challenges, 20th Century Organization
Who: Admiral James O. Ellis Jr., Former Commander, U.S. Strategic Command; Mr. Martin C. Faga, Former Director, National Renaissance Office, Former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space; Dr. John J. Hamre, Former Deputy Secretary of Defense
When: 3:30 PM, Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: Department Of Defense Laboratories: Innovation Through Science And Engineering In Support Of Military Operations
Who: Dr. Edward R Franchi, Acting Director of Research, Naval Research Laboratory; Dr. Jeffery P Holland, Director, Engineer Research and Development Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, on behalf of Waterways Experiment Station; Major General Robert D McMurry, USAF, Commander, Air Force Research Laboratory; Dr. Philip Perconti, Acting Director, United States Army Research Laboratory
When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Where: 2212 Rayburn

Think Tanks & Other Events:
Elizabeth Dole Foundation: Hidden Heroes: Caregivers for Veterans Program Launch
When: September 27, 2016
Where: U.S. Capitol Visitor Center

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, September 26, 2016 9:38 am

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