Veterans Roundup: Post 9/11 Veteran, LGBTQ Leaders Conference, Cadets Speak Out on Sexual Assault and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Telling the story of the Post/9-11 Veteran with Fred Wellman
J.J. Pinter, Team RWB Eagle Podcast
Fred Wellman, the CEO and founder of ScoutComms, was recently on Team RWB’s Eagle Podcast. Wellman is a retired U.S. Army officer who served 22 years as an aviator, a public affairs officer and did four combat tours. In this podcast, Fred discusses the story of the post-9/11 veteran, what the public needs to know, the rights and wrongs of the veteran community and some humorous stories for you to enjoy. Head on over to the Eagle Podcast to listen to the perspectives of J.J. Pinter and Fred Wellman on emerging veteran topics! –SM

The Intersection of Veteran and LGBTQ at the International LGBTQ Leaders Conference
Chance Browning (@ChanceBrowning), Scout Report
ScoutComms Associate Vice President Chance Browning attended the Victory Institute’s International LGBTQ Leaders Conference last week. He came away feeling inspired, and with many takeaways on how diversity in everything from the workplace to Congress is paramount. Read more, in our latest Scout Blog! –AB

The Accidental Executives
Brittany May (@SimplyHappyBrit), Simply Happy Life
At the National Military Spouse Network, two sisters spoke about their childhood stories, their lives as military spouses and the accomplishments they made along the way: Meg O’Grady, Vice President of Military and Public Sector Solutions at Kaplan University, and ScoutComms’ very own Vice President Rory Brosius. Rory spoke about the experience of being a woman in a male-dominated field and what it takes to succeed in that environment. Rory and her sister Meg believe in raising up the women in the ranks around you and when you feel like giving up, keep going. –SM

Adapting to Life
Mason Latimer (@CadillacezMason), Scout Blog
Last Friday was Mason Latimer’s last day with us as a fall intern, and as a parting gift he wanted to share with you all the ways he’s adapted to life thus far – both as a military child, but also as one who has Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy. Read all about his experiences in his Scout Blog! –AB

Current and former cadets speak out on sexual assault at Air Force Academy
CBS News (@CBSNews)
Now speaking out about sexual assault at the Air Force Academy, two former cadets Emily Hazen and Melissa Hildremyr explain how the experience caused them to leave the Air Force and what so many other cadets have to endure, with little support from leadership. Both former cadets filed a report about their assaults, yet agents from the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations failed to fully investigate the claims. Two current cadets, who remain anonymous, spoke with CBS and expressed the victim blaming and retaliation they felt from their very own commanders after reporting assaults. Cadets who speak out are ostracized, but those who stay silent have to live with the pain and suffering that was forced upon them. –DD
Bottom line: CBS’s report led to a week of fall out surrounding the reports of multiple cadets leaving the Academy under clouds surrounding the reporting of sexual assaults or harassment and poor leadership in the office responsible for assisting victims. In the end, the entire issue comes back to the same one the entire U.S. military is wrestling with in handling sexual misconduct in a manner that supports victims and gives them justice. It’s difficult to believe progress is being made when you read stories like this and the follow-up reports that detail the dysfunction in the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at the Academy. On Friday, the Superintendent of the Academy announced a restructuring of the office that would include splitting it into a unit that works on prevention and another that handles victims. Perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault need to be prosecuted and pay for their behaviors before it needs to be handled by an office at all. The culture of the military must also change so the attacker is the person who is ostracized and not the victim. If that doesn’t change then the future is bleak for turning the tide for women in service. –FPW

How Special Forces Bury the True Cost of America’s Wars
Jacob Siegel (@Jacob__Siegel), VICE
In both 2016 and 2017, special operations troops accounted for more combat-related deaths than conventional military forces, even though they make up less than five percent of all military forces. The U.S. has come to rely much more heavily on SOF to execute tactics deemed necessary to the safety of our country. Currently, there are 8,000 SOF service members deployed around the world, compared to 2,900 in 2001. SOF troops are often seen as a less expensive, nimbler solution to emerging missions and carry less political risk compared to large-scale deployments of conventional troops. Since 2001, thousands of terrorist leaders have been killed by U.S. Special Operation teams, yet high-profile deaths of operators in Yemen and Niger this year reminds us that an increase in SOF activity does not come without a heavy price. –JG
Bottom line: You’ve read this hot take here many times before, but it’s important to keep highlighting the fact that the wars aren’t over and the forces doing some of the heaviest fighting will also be doing it most frequently. That means as advocates we have to be ensuring there is a health care and benefits system ready to assist their particular needs when they return home, on both the public sector side and in the private and nonprofit sector. Of course, there is space to advocate for a military strategy that includes an end-state and leverages other actors beyond SOF (and realistically other than the military, as well, because State and USAID should be included in conversations about the future of the places our service members deploy to, as well.) Read Siegel’s piece for a more nuanced take on how we as Americans came to accept this current state of affairs with SOF leading the charge. You will not be shocked to read that Hollywood had some part to play in that. Fortunately, we are seeing Hollywood take steps to put more accurate depictions of combat and veteran life today than back in so many young adults formative years which likely included too much Steven Segal. –LJ

Female Veterans Lead 2018 Charge
Matt Rossi, Harvard Political Review
Six female veterans will vie for congressional seats in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections as Democrats. The Democratic National Committee is working diligently to recruit veterans, fighting to “reclaim the flag” from Republicans often thought to be more patriotic than their counterparts. Fifteen-year U.S. Air Force veteran Gina Ortiz Jones is among those jockeying for a congressional seat and said, “When I worked for five-and-a-half months under [the Trump] Administration in the Executive Office of the President, I saw firsthand how his policies would affect my communities: as a woman, as a veteran, as an LGBT American and as a first-generation American.” Concerned that those communities would be left behind, Ortiz Jones is focusing on representation as one of the core pillars of her campaign, hoping that a more diverse bench of lawmakers will legislatively balance the policies of the White House. While these veteran women have a long road to victory in the red-leaning districts they are contesting, focusing on grassroots fundraising and potential “Trump-skeptic” voters may create just the coalition needed to secure their districts. –KG
Bottom line: I will admit to struggling with whether to include this article or not because it’s not exactly news. Veterans have run for Congress for decades, though in recent years their representation has fallen… just as the total number of veterans in the American population has. The veterans we see running for office today are in many ways like other Americans called to public office in response to what they see as ineffective or irresponsible representation. Yet, veterans have some public service experience to run on. What we’re seeing is a generation of veteran leveraging their unique skillset—because only a small percentage today do serve—to position themselves for office. The public has long said it has the most respect for the military of all institutions—the opposite of how polls suggest Americans feel about Congress. The traits that Americans associate with service are the ones we have long venerated in our public servants, as well. As more veterans seek elected office, it will be interesting to see the data on just how well a military career bolsters a candidate’s chances adjusting for other variables. –LJ

Nonprofit group sues DOD over sexual assault data
Dianna Cahn (@DiannaCahn), Stars and Stripes
Protect Our Defenders, a nonprofit organization focused on ending sexual assault in the military, in a joint effort with the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, is suing the U.S. government for the release of data they say is pertinent to protecting service members from sexual assault and retaliation for reporting such abuse. The advocates argue that the information is being illegally withheld. Retired Col. Don Christensen, the president of Protect Our Defenders and the U.S. Air Force’s former chief prosecutor said, “The military wants people to accept when they say they have the sexual assault problem under control just on their word and do not want us or any other organization to pull back the curtain and look at the data.” The lawsuit cites three different requests for data from all four branches, each of which were unfulfilled. Christensen stated that the suit comes from years of attempting to gather data unsuccessfully. “I know how the military justice tracking system works,” he said. “It would literally take two minutes for them to enter data into a program and get a response. We’ve been waiting for three years.” –KG  
Bottom line: Advocacy groups continue to press the government on data relating to sexual assault and harassment in the military. It seems that not a week goes by that we don’t see another headline calling out insufficient data, poor treatment of survivors and potential obfuscation of key facts—there are two stories in the Scout Report this week alone. While the services claim that improvements are being made in the prevention of sexual assault and harassment and that increased numbers of reports indicate a rising confidence in the system by survivors, other data seem to contradict these claims. Transparency in the data and responsiveness to these types of requests is an essential step in opening a productive conversation about the steps that need to be taken to prevent and respond to assault and harassment. There needs to be an opportunity to examine trends, parse numbers and create a dialogue around solutions. Without these steps, the department will continue to face criticism that it is hiding the ugly truth. Advocates and some lawmakers agree that military justice reforms are needed, and perhaps the current landscape in which a keen eye has turned to the treatment of women across a range of industries will bring a more concentrated spotlight on what needs to be done to protect service members from harassment and assault in the military. –RB

Congress again facing a looming VA care funding crisis
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Veterans Choice Program funding is once again on the table, as VA Secretary David Shulkin warns that the current budget allocation for the program has nearly run out. SVAC Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) is urging his colleagues to pass his bill that would add $4 billion in bridge funding for the program with the plan to replace the program with a community care initiative that would make it easier for veterans to seek care outside of the VA. Republican Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have offered their own legislation, claiming that Isakson’s does not do enough to reform and address the internal shortcomings within the VA. With Congress working to avoid a government shutdown on Dec. 22, Shulkin offered a short-term, limited-funding extension for the existing choice program before making a final agreement on VA reform. –JG
Bottom line: Congress has until Friday (when they’re expected to leave for holiday break) to resolve this current VA healthcare crisis, whether that’s a short-term solution or long-term one. VCP provides veterans a private healthcare alternative if they live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA facility, or if there’s more than a 30-day wait. The short-term solution would be to extend the funding of the current program, as-is, until the more sweeping proposed legislation can be passed. There are several bills that are currently stalled in committee which would provide the long-term solutions. The most viable at this point is a measure sponsored by Senator Isakson, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman. It was co-authored by Senator Jon Tester, making this a bipartisan solution. While this may very well be a practical approach, with the clock ticking it is clear that the main priority for Congress is pushing through tax reform in the remaining days before their holiday, leaving veterans uncertain what the future holds for their healthcare options. As Secretary Shulkin outlined last week, “allowing the Choice funding to lapse without a fix would result in decreased access to care, damaged community partnerships and interrupted care continuity for veterans.” It’s also worth noting that about 1.9 million veterans have used VCP since it was put in place since 2014. –CB

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Homeland Magazine
Yasmin Odunukwe, lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy and small business owner, is a domestic violence survivor. When receiving therapeutic services at a Navy Medical Center, Odunukwe was referred to Give an Hour, a nonprofit organization with a mission to develop national networks and volunteers capable of responding to arising acute and chronic conditions. Through Give An Hour, Odunukwe was able to see a therapist free-of-charge, once a week to focus on her “new-road, post-abuse.” Odunukwe is thankful she is able to share her story of healing with others. –SM

‘The Long Road Home’: Jon Beavers on Playing Real-Life War Hero Eric Bourquin
Lori Acken (@LoriAcken), TV Guide
After U.S. Army veteran Eric Bourquin and actor Jon Beavers were brought together for the production of The Long Road Home, an eight-episode mini-series on National Geographic, the two have formed a bond that continues beyond the screen. Beavers was cast as the role of Eric Bourquin, a soldier who served in the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood during the 2004 ambush in Sadr City known as “Black Sunday.” Bourquin himself served as a technical consultant on the show and was standing just feet from his counterpart on set during filming. While Beavers described his initial nerves about playing a real-life soldier and depicting this very personal story, Beavers quickly felt comfort and support from Bourquin who offered advice and words of encouragement while on set – which eventually led to an incredible friendship. Beavers not only experienced a connection with Bourquin, but the entire cast and he hopes “we’re all friends for the rest of our lives.” –DD

Bunker Labs’ Mission: Turning Veterans into Entrepreneurs
Jeffrey Sullivan (@jsullivaa), Rivard Report
Bunker Labs, a nonprofit that offers veterans resources for business development and employment, partnered with USAA in 2015 to offer philanthropic financial support to the Austin and San Antonio lab locations. One of Bunker Labs’ community managers, Curtez D. Riggs says the new San Antonio location offers space for program participants to more thoroughly discuss topics covered in online courses. USAA’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility, Harriet Dominique says, “The company’s partnership would be an ‘enduring relationship’ with one of the best organizations at fostering resiliency among military families.” With military service members transitioning into civilian life in San Antonio, Bunker Labs will create more opportunities and business contributions in the heart of Texas. –SM

Holiday Resource Guide for Military and Veteran Caregivers
Give an Hour
Despite the notion of this being “the most wonderful time of the year,” the stress of the holidays can have a significant impact on our mental health and wellbeing. That is why the Elizabeth Dole Foundation has published a list of resources designed to ease stress this time of year for military and veteran caregivers. Addressing mental health, peer support, financial readiness, children and self-care, groups like Give an Hour, VetTix, Wounded Warrior Project and others provide resources year-round for veteran and military caregivers. –JG

The real tax on troops
Barrett Bogue (@BarrettBogue) and Will Hubbard (@Hubbard_WJ), The Hill
In this op-ed, two leaders from Student Veterans of America speak up about a dated program that 70 percent of new recruits are buying into, but hardly utilize after their civilian transition. The Montgomery GI Bill began in 1984 as a way for service members to receive education benefits after service. Through MGIB, service members contribute $1,200 over their first 12 months of service. However, since the institution of the Post 9/11 GI Bill in 2008, currently transitioning service members are more likely to use those benefits, even though many paid into the Montgomery program. Bogue and Hubbard suggest that the Montgomery program officially sunset, so that contributed monies can be refunded to service members or be allocated to processing claims under the Forever GI Bill that was passed earlier this year. –JG

VA faces higher-than-estimated costs, other challenges to implement ‘Forever’ GI Bill
Nikki Wentling (@nikkiwentling), Star and Stripes
The Department of Veterans Affairs is hiring 200 temporary workers to process claims until the IT system is enhanced as part of major expansion for veterans’ education benefits from the Forever GI Bill. After it was signed into law on Aug. 16 this year, the Forever GI Bill will make 34 changes to veterans’ education benefits worth $3 billion over 10 years effective Aug. 1, 2018. Twenty-two of the changes are significant to the VA’s information technology systems, which will require $70 million more in VA funding to properly implement the IT system update. Last week, Student Veterans of America, along with other VSOs involved with passage of the Forever GI Bill went to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers on the progress of the law’s implementation. Vice President of Government Affairs at SVA, Will Hubbard, expressed concern over the low number of student veterans applying for benefit restoration suggesting that the VA needs to form partnerships with VSOs that can help cast a wider net that can inform all student veterans about the opportunity. –ML & JG

Judge rules transgender people can enlist in military, denying Trump bid to delay deadline
Spencer S. Hsu (@hsu_spencer) and Ann E. Marimow (@amarimow), The Washington Post
A federal judge ruled on Monday against the Trump administration’s request for more time to prepare for the accession of transgender troops, noting that, “With only a brief hiatus, Defendants have had the opportunity to prepare for the accession of transgender individuals into the military for nearly one and a half years.” Justice Department spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam said the administration disagrees with the court’s ruling and is currently evaluating their next option. Multiple sources confirm that the government has been preparing for transgender recruits since before the administration change. However, government lawyers maintain that such a shift in policy may “negatively impact military readiness.” –KG 

Veterans Charity Raises Millions to Help Those Who’ve Served. But Telemarketers Are Pocketing Most of It.
Sarah Kleiner (@sarahkleiner9), Politico Magazine
Circle of Friends for American Veterans is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about veteran’s issues by influencing public opinion to shape public policy. Over the last 24 years, CEO Brian Arthur Hampton has tried just about every fundraising technique, but finds hiring telemarketers is less expensive and less time-consuming. Even though the organization’s income has increased almost ten times, telemarketers are notorious for keeping most of the donations. Nearly all of the remaining funds go toward paying overhead costs, like Hampton’s salary, and the portion that actually goes toward veteran programming is the “crumbs.” –CBruns

‘Star Wars’ Actor Looks to Discover Top Military or Veteran Playwright
Dan Stoutamire, Stars and Stripes
Actor Adam Driver, Star Wars star and founder of the non-profit Arts in the Armed Forces, has created a prize in the hopes of discovering the next top military playwright. Known as the Bridge Award, a $10,000 prize will be awarded to a current service member or veteran who writes the best full-length play before March 1, 2018. The plays do not have to be military-themed and the winners will have the chance to see their work performed by professional actors. –RS

Veterans With Cancer From Nuclear Radiation In Cold War Sue VA For Denying Benefits
John Haltiwanger (@jchaltiwanger), Newsweek
U.S. Air Force veteran Victor Skaar and many other veterans have filed a class action lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs for denying them health benefits after being exposed to radioactive material during the Cold War. The claim is that in 1966, a U.S. B-52 bomber crash-landed in Palomares, Spain where four hydrogen bombs in its payload began to release radioactive plutonium into the area. Over 1,600 service members were then sent to clean up the site and were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, which has led to eventual health issues for those veterans such as cancers, blood disorders and other illnesses. However, the VA denied qualifying these veterans for medical benefits because it deemed the levels of radiation were not high enough. –ML

A Veterans Group Is Suing The Trump Administration Over Failed Raids In Yemen and Niger
Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen), Buzzfeed
Months after four U.S. Green Berets were killed in an ambush in Niger, a veterans group is suing the Trump administration over records on the ambush. VoteVets is suing over “delayed, unclear and contradictory public statements,” related to the operation.  A representative from VoteVets believes the administration is attempting to cover up details from the raid and protecting President Trump from taking responsibility. –DD

Tradeshows & Conferences

None this week.

Congressional Hearings

None this week.

Other Events

None this week.

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, December 18, 2017 10:41 am

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