Veterans Roundup: Power Struggle Paralyzes Plan to Fix Vet Care, Where Are the Female Marines, Gun Reform and Mental Health Policy and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

It’s killing the agency’: Ugly power struggle paralyzes Trump’s plan to fix veterans’ care
Lisa Rein (@Reinlwapo), The Washington Post
There has been an ongoing dispute between the VA Secretary David Shulkin and some on his staff – some have now been banned from his executive suite, and an armed guard now stands outside of his office. The tension first began last spring, when Shulkin and political appointees on his team did not see eye to eye on sending veterans to private care over the VA hospitals. This dispute has built up to the point where Shulkin’s Chief of Staff has stepped down, and now some individuals are questioning whether new appointees are loyal to Shulkin. –SM
Bottom line: We’ve been following the situation in the Department of Veterans Affairs for a few weeks now and sadly it just gets uglier with each new story. We keep hoping that the divide at the top of the agency will resolve itself, but to date the various individuals appear to remain locked in an ongoing battle for control of the second largest department of the U.S. government and the over nine million veterans in its care. This has gone on far too long and cooler heads need to prevail because the simple fact is that the mission of this agency is at stake and having an open revolution at the top ranks only means that in the field important things are probably not being supervised at a crucial time for the organization. At some point soon the leadership at the White House will have to take the steps necessary to resolve this situation and move the mission forward as appropriate. –FPW

VA chief announces overhaul at hospitals nationwide following report on alleged D.C. center mismanagement
Lisa Rein and Emily Wax-Thibodeaux (@Reinlwapo, @emily_wax), The Washington Post
VA Secretary David Shulkin recently announced major reforms will take place at VA hospitals across the country. This notice came shortly after an investigation into VA management issues and internal communication struggles, which snowballed into issues for patients. Secretary Shulkin confirmed he will replace nearly 20 directors of medical centers across the nation. While reports claim Shulkin should have known about these issues in his former role as head of the Veterans Health Administration, Shulkin himself said he was unfamiliar of any wrongdoing. One communication failure at the D.C. hospital in particular was a failure to take proper inventory, resulting in a shortage in medical supplies – sometimes even during surgeries. In other cases, veterans have been placed on waiting lists for months in order to receive necessary medical devices, such as prosthetics. –DD
Bottom line: These moves by Secretary Shulkin seem to be one way to try and move on from the recent controversies surrounding the trip Shulkin took to Europe last summer, while also addressing the recently released report by the Inspector General, all under the guise of what Shulkin describes as “the start of a restructuring of VA affairs.” Their talking points seem to be that this was a structural communications failure, and problematic leaders within the VA have either been reassigned or forced out (via retirement). As Rein and Wax-Thibodeaux point out though, some of the details of the report itself are quite alarming with some patients receiving unnecessary anesthesia, surgeons relying on outdated medical instruments, discolored and broken instruments reaching clinical areas because the hospital’s sterile processing operation was broken and patients being unnecessarily hospitalized when procedures had to be canceled because equipment could not be accessed for scheduled surgeries. Ultimately, the report says, “the [inspector general] encountered a culture of complacency among VA and Veterans Health Administration leaders at multiple levels who failed to address previously identified serious issues with a sense of urgency or purpose.” We’ll see if the strategic personnel changes can lead to cultural changes and ultimately correct the breakdown in communications, only time will tell. –CB

Where are the female Marines?
Shawn Snow (@SnowSox184), Marine Corps Times
Women have been able to compete for combat arms careers in the U.S. Marine Corps since the Defense Department opened them to all qualified personnel about two years ago. Since then, 92 women have entered combat fields but only 11 of those are enlisted women in “traditional” combat 03 fields. The Marine Corps wants to grow the number of women serving in its branch by attracting female talent with more effective marketing that demonstrates the opportunities it offers women. –SM
Bottom line: The Marine Corps is taking some tips from the Army, which has more than 500 women in combat jobs, about how to ensure women are successful when they enter combat fields by placing female leaders in those units first. But as a reactionary measure, this puts the Marine Corps playing catch-up. There is a lot that could be said about the Marines’ efforts to date integrating women into combat career fields, from the physical training and expectations to the segregated basic training that perpetuates misconceptions about the standards to which female Marines are held. Yet, the Marine Corps says its goal is to bring more women into the branch, whether in combat jobs or not. To do that will require a greater commitment to demonstrating the Marines value their sisters in arms as human beings. The “Marines United” scandal keeps rearing its ugly, shriveled head and its role in dissuading women from seeking Marine combat billets should not be ignored. Broadly, the military needs to do a better job marketing the benefits of service to young people, including young women. For the Marine Corps, that may mean convincing the next generation that what it means to be a Marine is more about what you do than your gender. –LJ

The US Army Promised Immigrants A Fast Track For Citizenship. That Fast Track Is Gone.
Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen), Buzzfeed News
In the name of national security, expedited citizenship for service members upon their completion of boot camp is no longer happening. Instead, because recruits must serve at least 180 consecutive days and be subject to extensive background checks before they are able to gain citizenship, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices at Fort Benning, Fort Jackson and Fort Sill have been closed. Now, many recruits face deportation from a myriad of potential immigration issues related to military service, including violating student visas once they begin basic and no longer attend college. Many recruits feel betrayed that the DoD is essentially rescinding the promise they made to men and women who took an oath to serve our country. Several service members who gained citizenship through the MAVNI program have filed class-action lawsuits accusing the Pentagon of discrimination. –JG
Bottom line: The ongoing disintegration of the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program is very disheartening considering the long history of immigrants contributing to the American military. As with the Special Immigrant Visa program, “national security” has been used to stall a program that is popular with service members with no evidence from the government of any actual national security threats. The fact is, as noted above and in previous Scout Reports, the military isn’t really in a position to be narrowing the aperture on who can serve. Fewer and fewer people are eligible based on academic and physical standards and the OPTEMPO of the past sixteen plus years means a lot of parents aren’t recommending military service to their children. If the promise of the American dream is still calling immigrants to come here and serve, why shut them out so willfully? –LJ

Exclusive: Home Depot to donate $50M to train construction workers, address severe shortage
Paul Davidson (@PDavidsonusat), USA Today
A shortage of skilled workers in home building is driving up housing prices. To address the problem, The Home Depot Foundation announced on Thursday that it will invest $50 million over five years to train new plumbers, electricians, tradespeople and more. The Home Depot Foundation is partnering up with the Home Builders Institute (HBI), who will use the funds to train 15,000 veterans and transitioning service members in addition to 5,000 high school students and disadvantaged youth. –SM

Production Underway for MNVM Panels
Heather C. Cook, Republic Monitor
After months of preparation, the black granite panels for the Missouri National Vietnam Memorial (MNVM) wall are finally being filled with fallen Vietnam veterans’ names. Board members of MNVM were present on Friday to witness some of the first panels as they were etched by a local company. While the process is mechanized, it will still take more than 1,000 hours to complete. Excited by the progress, MNVM Board President Mike Lundy said: “I can remember when people were saying, oh, you’ll never get the Vietnam Wall in Perryville. But here we are.” –KG

MNVM Panel Etching in Progress
Heather C. Cook, Republic Monitor
A video captured by the press shows the etching process for the Missouri National Vietnam Memorial panels, as Eternal Etchings owner Kevin Hart explains the process. The wall will be an exact replica of the National Vietnam Memorial. –KG

Want to work with your hands? Check out this $50 million Home Depot Foundation training program
Natalie Gross (@ByNatalieGross), Military Times
The Home Depot Foundation is investing $50 million in training 15,000 transitioning service members and veterans as skilled tradespeople. The Home Depot Foundation is partnering with the Home Builders Institute to offer training programs for service members at Fort Bragg and Fort Stewart. Upon completion of the program, the service members obtain a pre-apprenticeship certification and assistance in their career search. –SM

Americans Shouldn’t Have to Choose Between Gun Reform and Mental Health Policy
Barbara Van Dahlen (@BVanDahlen), The Mighty
In her latest op-ed, Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president of Give an Hour, discusses the Parkland shooting and how our country can have a conversation about prioritizing mental health as one tactic in the effort to prevent mass shootings. She says that before we do anything else, we need to break down cultural barriers that prevent us from discussing our mental health with our friends and family. Dr. Van Dahlen reminds us that we owe it to our children to think differently about education and treatment. Give an Hour is an organization dedicated to providing free mental health counseling to service members and their families. –JG

National Legion Commander Stops in Ste. Genevieve County
St. Genevieve Herald
American Legion National Commander Denise Rohan paid a visit to Missouri in November. While she was there, she stopped by the site of the Missouri National Veterans Memorial to view the progress on the Vietnam Memorial replica. –KG  

Washington sting should help disabled vets find rental homes
Windy Culverwell (@WendyCulverwell), Tri-City Herald
Multiple property managers in the Tri-City area of southeastern Washington refused to rent their properties to investigators who posed as veterans utilizing the Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) voucher. Attorney General Bob Ferguson called the denials “outrageous” and “illegal” for violating a Washington State law against discrimination. After being contacted, eight companies agreed to correct their policies, but two others will await further legislation that would ban discrimination specifically against VASH users which is currently pending before conceding. –KG

Attorney general files lawsuit in Hampton over fraudulent ‘pension sales’ to veterans, elderly
Lisa Vernon Sparks (@lvernonsparks), Daily Press
For nearly six years, two companies took advantage of retired military veterans by offering illegal loans to Virginia pensioners. Hampton Roads, Virginia has one of the highest veteran populations in the country, and they were targeted with these high-interest loans. Pensioners were made to believe they were selling a piece of their pension in exchange for cash, however, the interest rates of the loans were up to 183 percent. More than 600 Virginia pension-holders were deceived by this predatory scam including individuals in several other states. –DD

Veterans Running as Democrats Challenge GOP on Guns in Key Races
Arit John(@aritbenie) and Yueqi Yang (@Yueqi_Yang), Bloomberg
As part of the Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign strategy to win congressional seats in November’s midterm elections, veterans across the country have entered races to regain control of the House. Democrats hope to challenge traditional stereotypes that describe candidates as anti-military. Veterans running as Democrats have embraced a variety of gun control measures, ranging from the expansion of background checks to banning assault rifles. These measures have garnered widespread support across the country. National polling data from Quinnipiac University found that 61 percent of respondents would favor a ban on semiautomatic rifles similar to the weapon used in the Parkland, Florida shooting. Debate on gun control and reform continues to play a role in close contests. –NJ

Congressional Hearing:

Veterans’ Affairs: VA Healthcare: Maximizing Resources in Puerto Rico
Who: Mr. Agustín Montañéz-Allman, Puerto Rico State Director of Veterans’ Affairs; Dr. Rafael Rodríguez, MD, Puerto Rico Secretary of Health; Dr. Victor Ramos, MD, Puerto Rico College of Physicians and Surgeons; Dr. Miguel LaPuz, MD, Director, VA Sunshine Healthcare Network (VISN 8), Veterans Health Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Dr. Antonio Sanchez, MD, Acting Director, VA Caribbean Healthcare System, Veterans Health Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Mr. Lewis Ratchford Jr., Deputy Assistance Secretary, Emergency Management & Resilience, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
When: 10:00 AM, Monday, March 12, 2018
Where: Leopoldo Figueroa Hearing Room, Puerto Rico Capitol Building

Armed Services: Space Warfighting Readiness: Policies, Authorities, and Capabilities
Who: Mr. Todd Harrison, Director of Aerospace Security Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies; General Robert Kehler, Former Commander, U.S. Strategic Command; Mr. Doug Loverro, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, Department of Defense
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Appropriations: FY19 Budget Hearing – Air Force Budget
Who: The Honorable Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force; General David L. Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Where: H-140 The Capitol

Armed Services: A Review and Assessment of the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request for Department of Defense Science and Technology Programs
Who: Rear Admiral Upper Half David Hahn, Chief of Naval Research; Dr. Tom Russell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology; Mr. Jeff Stanley, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology, and Engineering; Dr. Steve Walker, Director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
When: 3:30 PM, Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Veterans’ Affairs: FY 2019 Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for the Veterans Health Administration
Who: Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, The American Legion, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, March 18, 2018
Where: 334 Cannon

Appropriations: FY19 Budget Hearing – Veterans Affairs
Who: The Honorable David J. Shulkin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs
When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, March 15, 2018
Where: 2362-A Rayburn

Armed Services: Security Challenges in Europe and Posture for Inter-state Competition with Russia
Who: General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, Commander, U.S. European Command
When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, March 15, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request on Air Force Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Programs
Who: Lieutenant General Jerry Harris Jr., Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements (A8), Headquarters, U.S. Air Force; Lieutenant General Anthony Lerardi, Director, Force Structure, Resources, and Assessments (J8), Headquarters, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Ms. Susan Thornton, Director for Information Dominance Programs (SAF/AQI), Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition
When: 2:00 PM, Thursday, March 15, 2018
Where: 2212 Rayburn

Veterans’ Affairs: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Fiscal Year 2019 Budget: Veterans Benefits Administration and the Board of Veterans’ Appeals
When: 2:00 PM, Thursday, March 15, 2018
Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request for National Security Space Programs
Who: The Honorable Kenneth P. Rapuano, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security, Department of Defense; General John J Raymond, Commander, Air Force Space Command; The Honorable Betty Sapp, Director, National Reconnaissance Office
When: 3:30 PM, Thursday, March 15, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: United States Central Command and United States Africa Command
Who: General Joseph L. Votel, USA, Commander, United States Central Command; General Thomas D. Waldhauser, USMC, Commander, United States Africa Command
When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Where: 216 Hart

Veterans’ Affairs: Legislative Presentation of Multiple VSO’s (FRA, JWV, AFSA, BVA, MOPH, NASDVA, MOAA, TREA, GSW)
Who: Mr. William Starkey, National President, Fleet Reserve Association; Paul D. Warner, PhD., National Commander, Jewish War Veterans; Mr. Jeff Ledoux, International President, Air Force Sergeants Association; Mr. Pual L. Mimms, Vice President, Blinded Veterans Association; Mr. Neil Van Ess, National Commander, Military Order of the Purple Heart; Mr. Verdie Bowen, President, National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs; Ms. René Campos, Senior Director for Government Relations, Military Officers Association of America; Mr. John Adams, National President, The Retired Enlisted Association; Mrs. Cyndie Gibson, Member, Government Relations Committee, Gold Star Wives of America
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Where: G50 Dirksen

Armed Services: Department of Energy Atomic Energy Defense Activities and Programs
Who: Honorable Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, Under Secretary For Nuclear Security, Department Of Energy; Mr. James M. Owendoff, Acting Assistant Secretary For Environmental Management, Department Of Energy; Admiral James F. Caldwell Jr., USN, Deputy Administrator For Naval Reactors, National Nuclear Security Administration; Mr. David C. Trimble, Director, Natural Resources And Environment, Government Accountability Office
When: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Where: 232A Russell

Armed Services: United States Pacific Command
Who: Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., USN, Commander, United States Pacific Command
When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, March 15, 2018
Where: G50 Dirksen

Community Opportunities 

Veterans in Global Leadership: Apply to be a 2018-2019 VGL Fellow
Who: Student veteran candidates with a passion for service, a commitment to assist other veterans, an entrepreneurial spirit and proven leadership skills.
When: Application deadline is April 30, 2018

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 12, 2018 11:04 am

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