Veterans Roundup: PTSD on the Campaign Trail, VA Strikes Back at Critics, Collaboration Among Groups Key

Posted by Fred Wellman

Sarah Palin Blames Veteran Son’s Arrest on PTSD, Obama
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
Sarah Palin has received serious backlash from veterans advocates after blaming President Obama and post-traumatic stress for her son Track’s criminal actions including domestic violence. Track, an Army veteran who has deployed to Iraq, was arrested after reportedly beating and threatening to kill both himself and his girlfriend. –MC
Bottom line: No. Just no. First, there is no record of a combat action that would even lead to Track Palin having PTS. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say he does. He returned from combat in 2008. Eight years ago. He has every opportunity to seek care for his challenges in that time. Second, thousands of American’s have PTS, not just combat veterans, and the overwhelming medical evidence shows that the affliction rarely is associated with violent behavior towards others, contrary to pop culture references. Finally, the implication that somehow President Obama’s leadership has a single thing to do with how veterans are dealing with their war experiences or somehow feeling unappreciated by this administration has a thing to do with her son’s behavior is utter nonsense. All Mrs. Palin has done is once again portray veterans as damaged goods. That we come back from war broken and need to be excused for violence or crimes. There are those among us with challenges but the overwhelming numbers of us are doing just great. We have a 96 percent employment rate. We are leaders of businesses, nonprofits and communities and real soldiers don’t make excuses for beating a loved one. They accept responsibility for their actions and seek help for their challenges. Using veterans as political pawns is despicable. Using your own son’s military service as an excuse for criminal behavior and a model to judge all veterans by is reprehensible. Palin owes the nations veterans an apology but we won’t hold our breath for that to happen. –FPW

Journal Shares Discoveries on Women Veterans’ Long-Term Health Outcomes
Medical Xpress
A new study based on data from more than 162,000 civilian women and 3,700 female veterans provides insight into the effects military service has on a woman’s long-term health. The women veterans in the study faced higher hip-fracture rates, lower self-perceived health, and were more likely to smoke. Although the women veterans were not worse off than civilians in every category, researchers say that the study demonstrates the need for services tailored for women. –MC
Bottom line: While some critics of combat integration may interpret these findings to mean that military service can have a detrimental effect to the health of women veterans, the reality is that the findings are far more mundane in their importance. First, as our client the Service Women’s Action Network has been saying for years, it means that the military and the VA must continue to evolve their training and healthcare programs to ensure that women are being appropriately served and supported at all stages of their involvement with DoD and the VA. Gender-neutral solutions are not always appropriate or effective solutions. Second, given that some of the findings varied for women veterans of different generations, it will be important to ensure that future research focuses on separating the needs of previous generations from the needs of the current generation of service women and women veterans. With women now seeking to join frontline combat units in 2016, where they will be held to strenuous physical fitness standards, further research and planning is certainly a worthwhile investment to protect their health and encourage their success professionally. –BW

VA Strikes Against Hill Assertions over Corrupt Agency
Joe Davidson (@JoeDavidsonWP), The Washington Post
Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson pushes back against the perception that the VA has not taken action to punish corrupt employees and improve the system. Gibson’s pointed commentary came after Republican lawmakers Sen. Jerry Moran and Rep. Jeff Miller accused the VA of “chronic indifference” in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. VA Secretary Bob McDonald also announced more reform goals for 2016 in a congressional hearing last Thursday to include becoming the “No. 1 customer service agency in government.” –MC
Bottom line: On an almost weekly basis for the last few months, I’ve been writing in the Scout Report that critics of the VA can’t judge progress on a weekly basis, and need to give the VA leadership time to succeed or fail with a longer time frame. Sen. Moran and Rep. Miller apparently do not have that level of patience. The telling line in the article was this: “One thing is clear. The op-ed authors and VA officials clearly view the same situation differently.” Given the reporting by Davidson and by Bryant Jordan at, it appears that both sides are now openly engaged in a war of words. This is not a positive step forward, and it certainly is not going to help the VA in its efforts to recruit more healthcare professionals and assuage the concerns of veterans currently in the system. It appears that both sides are now engaged in a Cold War battle of wills, with veterans in the middle, hoping that the changes everyone wants for them are somehow realized sooner rather than later. –BW

A Place Where U.S. Troops Are Very Close to ISIS
Tom Bowman (@TBowmanNPR), NPR
Nearly 700 service members are deployed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, keeping the peace between Israel and Egypt, and concerns are growing that this area may become a target for Islamic State extremists. The Defense Department has not decided whether or not it should try to pull troops out of the Sinai. As these service members continue to carry out their peacekeeping mission, officials are also considering sending hundreds of additional troops to Iraq. –MC
Bottom line: This story is an important reminder that even outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, service members are deployed around the world and with the threat of ISIS, they are a target in every place they’re deployed. Of course, few in our community need to be reminded that our military is always in harm’s way. For the rest of America, the end of the “big” wars and the rise of ISIS—and the ensuing attempts to make that fight seem antiseptic—has meant less awareness about the continuing sacrifices of service members and their families. For us as advocates, it’s important that we keep telling their stories. The American people are generous to causes they deem worthy, and we must work to keep showing just how worthy we know supporting veterans and military families to be. –LJ

Sexual Trauma Raises Suicide Risk Among Veterans
Roxanne Nelson, Reuters
A new study conducted by Department of Veterans Affairs researchers found that service members who experienced military sexual trauma (MST) are more vulnerable to suicide. The study examined records of six million men and 361,000 female veterans and found that male veterans with a history of MST were 70 percent more likely to commit suicide and female veterans with MST were at double the risk of other female veterans. –MC
Bottom line: There are so many reasons to find better ways to prevent sexual assault and treat its victims. With the issue of suicide among veterans already well known, we know access to treatment is a big issue. For victims of sexual assault, accessing treatment can be difficult if they feel they might be stigmatized based on their experience. The VA gives veterans who are victims of military sexual assault broad access to treatment, even veterans who would not normally be eligible for VA health care services. Victims need not have reported the assault at the time and they don’t have to “prove” it happened. We know veterans enrolled in VA health care have better mental health outcomes so this is important to reduce the suicide risk. What’s most important, though, is ensuring sexual assault does not occur. –LJ

Charities, Military Leader Step in to Help Wounded Veteran
Carl Prine (@CarlPrineTweets), Pittsburgh Tribune
In 2004, Army Sgt. Terry Saffron suffered injures to his arm and jaw in Afghanistan. Military surgeons mended the damage to his arm, but his jaw injures required a lifetime of upkeep procedures, beyond what Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare could offer. After reimbursement claims for VA recommended travel for outside care were denied, the American Legion and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America stepped in to break through the bureaucracy for the 100% service disabled veteran. IAVA passed the case directly to VA Secretary Bob McDonald, who has made a name as an accessible leader, and he has started an investigation into what went wrong with Saffron’s care. The American Legion meanwhile linked the VA’s regional officials with Saffron and his care is now being handled in the right channels. –JG
Bottom line: While it’s unfortunate that it took a journalist asking questions to make things happen, even though that journalist is the great Carl Prine, himself a combat veteran, this goes to show the power of veterans service organizations to make a difference. The Legion has built a national network of experts who can help veterans find the answers they need from a complicated bureaucracy and IAVA has been able to build a positive relationship with the Department of Veterans Affairs that allows them to take their case to the energetic leaders in place today. So, while it’s easy to find fault in many places in this situation, there is cause for hope for those who support veterans that the network of service organizations that have been created are there to take care of those in need and break down the barriers to care and service that often arise in a massive government agency with medical systems that still don’t talk with DoD. VA and DoD must find a better way to hand off a service member from the uniform to the VA soon after over a decade of trying. In the meantime, the VSOs are out there for a reason and we need to support their efforts and not just write off the legacy organizations like American Legion and VFW with the powerful nationwide networks they have built and sustain. ­–FPW

2016: Hiring Our Heroes’ Year of the Military Spouses
Brooke Prouty, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has fought for nearly five years to end veteran unemployment.  While significant progress has been made, it recognizes there is still much work to be done, especially regarding unemployed and underemployed military spouses. Thus 2016 has been hailed the “Year of the Military Spouse” with military spouse hiring fairs and refocused resources and efforts across the country. –JG

Former President Joins Efforts to Build Operation Desert Storm Memorial in D.C.
Bob Niedt (@BobWBJ), Washington Business Journal
The National Desert Storm War Memorial Association has announced that former President George H.W. Bush has joined its board as Honorary Chairman. The team and its board of directors are looking to raise $25 million dollars for the construction of the memorial in this 25th anniversary year of Desert Storm. –JG
Other coverage:
President George H.W. Bush joins National Desert Storm War Memorial Association
Fred Wellman (@fpwellman), RealClearDefense

Yale Helping Vets Transition from Military to College
Darren Kramer (@DarrenKramer8), News8
The Warrior-Scholar Project has announced the 2016 schedule of its academic boot camps for service members and veterans preparing to transition to college. Twelve of the best schools across the country are hosting these workshops, and the Warrior-Scholar Project is looking to accept more than 200 students. Interested applicants must apply before the April 15th deadline.  –JG
Other coverage:
UA to Host Summer Program for Student Veterans
Amanda Martinez (@anxmartinez), Arizona Public Media
Warrior-Scholar Project Continues Expansion
Paul Fain (@PaulFain) Inside Higher Ed

Quick Hits:

After Wave of Donations, D-Day Vet Plans to Reunite with Wartime Girlfriend in Australia
Mike Hixenbaugh (@Mike_Hixenbaugh), The Virginian-Pilot
During World War II, Norwood Thomas, an Army paratrooper, dated Joyce Morris while both lived in London. Now almost 70 years later, living half a world away from each other, they reconnected via Skype and dreamed of seeing each other face to face once more. After an online fundraising campaign with over 300 donors and donations from Air New Zealand, Thomas and Morris will be spending Valentine’s Day together in Australia where Joyce currently lives. –JG

25 Years Later: What We Learned from Desert Storm
Phillip Swarts (@PFSwarts) and Oriana Pawlyk (@Oriana0214), Air Force Times
In a recent Air Force Times article, military leaders from Operation Desert Storm discuss their experiences and observations during the war. They discuss technologies and strategies that were first used in Desert Storm and set a precedent for how our military operates today. –JG

As Amir Hekmati Sat in an Iranian Prison, Michigan Supporters Kept His Name in the News
Scott Atkinson (@scottythescribe), The New York Times
Amir Hekmati is finally home after being detained in Iran for over four years. A recent article takes a look at the support he received from his hometown in Michigan and how that support kept his name in the news and eventually helped bring him home. –MC

A Military Wife During Deployment is Asked, “Is it worth it?’
T. T. Robinson (@T_T_Robinson), The New York Times
T.T. Robinson, a Navy wife, sheds light on the ups and downs of being a military spouse in a recent op-ed for the New York Times. From deployment, to visiting new parts of the world, Robinson gives a great account of both the good and the bad. –MC

A Deadly Deployment, a Navy SEAL’s Despair
Nicholas Kulish (@nkulish) and Christopher Drew (@NYTDrew), New York Times
This New York Times article highlights the impact perceived failures in war can have on every member of the military, especially leaders. Commander Job W. Price committed suicide nearing the end of a “cursed deployment” in southeast Afghanistan. Price lost men and placed a large amount of responsibility on himself. Commander Price’s family believes, regardless of cause of death, Price and other victims of suicide are casualties of war. –JG

Moves in the veteran support sector:

Conservative-Backed Veterans Group Restructures after Leader Quits
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Pete Hegseth stepped down as president and chief executive officer of Concerned Veterans of America, a conservative advocacy group, earlier this month. Chief Operating Officer Jae Pak will serve as acting president, and guide the organization through this leadership restructuring and the upcoming Presidential primaries. –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences

No major tradeshows or conferences this week.

Congressional Hearings


The House is afraid of some snow.


Armed Services: The Role of the Service Chiefs in Defense Acquisition in Review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2017 and the Future Years Defense Program Who: General Mark A. Milley, USA, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, Admiral John M. Richardson, USN, Chief of Naval Operations of the United States Navy, General Robert B. Neller, USMC, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General Mark A. Welsh III, USAF, Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, January 26, 2016 Where: G50 Dirksen

Think Tanks & Other Events

No events this week.

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, January 25, 2016 1:43 pm

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