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Veterans Roundup: Report Recommends Abolishing Tricare, Obama Requests More Money for VA, Brian Williams in Hot Water

Posted by Fred Wellman

Army Revokes Silver Star Award for Green Beret Officer, Citing Investigation
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post. Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn was recently stripped of the Silver Star he received for actions during an attack in Afghanistan in 2010. Golsteyn was allegedly interviewing for a CIA job when information about an undisclosed violation surfaced, which led to an investigation and the revocation of his award and his Special Forces tab. Golsteyn was reassigned from 3rd Special Forces Group and is now an infantry officer. His lawyer says he is in the process of determining his future career in the military. –MC
Bottom line: It is remarkably rare for a medal as high as the Silver Star to be revoked and even more so as the award was being considered for an upgrade to a Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award for valor in the U.S. military. On top of that, the Army has taken the unusual step of removing Golsteyn’s Special Forces tab without public explanation over unspecified rules of engagement questions. There are widespread rumors of a host of issues surrounding the ROE in Marjah. We’ve heard stories for some time and those who were on the ground reportedly feel that its possible Golsteyn is being made an example of to hold someone accountable at least. Without more information this will continue to be a contentious case as many in conservative politics are piling on this as a cause célèbre against the administration. Taking away medals and tabs are serious things in the Special Forces community so don’t expect this case to go away any time soon. –FPW

Coming Home to Damaging Stereotypes
Dave Philipps (@David_Philipps), The New York Times. Organizations like Got Your 6 are making efforts to combat negative stereotypes about veterans returning home from war. Got Your 6 pushes back against veteran characters on TV or in film which could have a negative impact on the public’s perception of our nation’s veterans. The organization is trying to reshape the conversation by encouraging writers and directors to portray veterans as complex people who are still valuable members of their communities. –MC
Bottom line: First Lady Michelle Obama recently lent her name to Got Your 6’s latest initiative to convince Hollywood writers and producers to include more complex veteran characters in their movies and TV shows. The group is making a concerted effort to combat the most prevalent stereotypes about veterans in the media by going straight to the people behind the images seen on the screen. Got Your 6 wants Americans to start seeing veterans as everyday people, not simply violent criminals or special operations-like heroes. We’ve long been proponents of a more nuanced narrative about veterans so we’re hopeful to see the initiative succeed and see more veterans as everyday characters in our favorite shows and movies. –LJ

Obama Asks for More Spending on Veterans
Ben Kesling (@bkesling), The Wall Street Journal. President Barack Obama asked Congress for a $5 billion funding increase for the VA as part of his budget request for the 2016 fiscal year. This additional funding would support efforts to improve VA health care, end veteran homelessness and increase veterans’ access to jobs and education. –MC
Bottom line: No one in the veterans community can argue against more money, and there are many ways in which additional funds can be spent in support of the 9.4 million veterans who are expected be enrolled in VA health care in FY16, including 1.4 million post-9/11 vets. At the same time, with increased monies comes the need for increased oversight and analytics, to ensure that the expenditures are having an impact. The President’s fact sheet “Supporting Servicemembers, Veterans, and Military Families” lays out top priorities, and we’ll need to keep our attention focused on how the key veteran priorities are addressed in the next fiscal year. Among the President’s priorities are supporting the Small Business Administration’s Boots to Business program to empower veterans as entrepreneurs, and a renewed commitment to end all extended forms of veteran homelessness in the U.S. –BW

NBC’s Brian Williams Recants Iraq Story After Soldiers Protest
Travis Tritten (@Travis_Tritten), Stars and Stripes. Last week, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams admitted that his claims about being in a helicopter forced down by RPG fire in Iraq in 2003 were false. Travis Tritten of Stars and Stripes broke the story that has been heavily debated among war reporters, veterans, and the military community since surfacing. Williams’ apology has received mixed feedback and some veterans are even calling for the military community to forgive him. In his role as Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News, Williams has removed himself from the air for a few days and cancelled a planned appearance on David Letterman’s show, the site of a particularly infamous recounting of the Chinook incident. –MC
Bottom line: This one is a tough case for a host of reasons. Brian Williams has been an advocate for veterans and military family causes for years. The NBC Nightly News has routinely featured veteran leaders and non-profits in their ‘Making a Difference’ segment and Williams himself has appeared at numerous fundraisers and events in support of veterans’ causes. But that runs up against the apparent odd twisting of the truth surrounding events in 2003 that were revealed by Travis Tritten. It’s been interesting to note the wide divergence of opinions surrounding this situation from veterans’ advocates and fellow journalists—none of them seem to agree on whether Williams’ deserves forgiveness or approbation. We would like to know more about how this story developed and what possible approach NBC is willing to take to restore faith in their reporting and in Mr. Williams himself. –FPW

The Missing Context Behind the Widely Cited Statistic that There are 22 Veteran Suicides a Day
Michelle Ye Hee Lee (@myhlee), The Washington Post. After the Clay Hunt SAV Act passed the Senate last week, Washington Post reporter Michelle Ye Hee Lee broke down the frequently presented statistic of 22 veterans committing suicide per day. Despite the appeal of the number, it is not a conclusive figure, as there is limited data on veteran suicide and this number does not distinguish between different generations of veterans. –MC
Bottom line: The “22 veteran suicides a day” figure is not a fact, but a rallying cry. As Ye Hee Lee notes, the researchers who developed the number have sought to clarify that it is a general estimate, a crude figure that is neither 100% accurate nor particularly nuanced. A key fact that has been blurred in the debate is that the average veteran who commits suicide today is a young Vietnam War or older Gulf War veteran, not a post-9/11 vet. These details are critical to guide the actual public and private sector responses, as those individuals who make up the majority of veteran suicides are often living at the fringes of the VA’s awareness. At the same time, despite the inaccuracy of the figure, its totemic quality has inarguably helped to draw increased public attention to the issue. The government and the VA can never “solve” veteran suicide. But insofar as this debate does not vilify the VA, and instead leads to an increase in targeted interventions and a reduction in gaps in support and service, we can throw the nuances out the window and embrace this debate for the urgency that it has brought to the fight against veteran suicides. ­–BW

Compensation Commission Testifies on Health Issues
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times. Last week, the debate over the future of military benefits continued as the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) made its case for its recommendations at hearings Tuesday and Wednesday. The commissions’ recommendations called for the abolishment of Tricare and met some pushback from skeptical lawmakers. –MC
Bottom line: Expect the MCRMC’s recommendations to continue making headlines this week as the House Armed Services Committee hears from the commissioners. Abolishing Tricare has been the biggest headline grabber among the recommendations, but as Kime notes, another important recommendation is about making the same medications available in the VA that DOD prescribes. Right now, only 43 percent of the medications that the DOD prescribes are also available through the VA. For transitioning service members, this could mean they don’t have access to a medication that works when starting VA health care. That could lead to veterans dropping out of mental health care or backsliding in their recovery. Hopefully this is a much easier change to the current health care system than nixing Tricare for military families and retirees. ­–LJ

Warrior and Scholar
Paul Fain (@paulfain), Inside Higher Ed.
The Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP) hosts academic boot camps throughout the U.S. for enlisted veterans who plan to attend a 4-year college or university. WSP boot camps are run by veterans and help young enlisted veterans prepare for college by unlocking their unique skillsets. After starting at Yale University with 9 students in 2012, the program will hold boot camps at 11 schools and welcome over 150 veterans in 2015. –MC
Group Works to Salvage Good from the Ultimate Tragedy of War
Ward Carroll, We Are The Mighty. The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) partnered with the U.S. Naval Academy on January 31 to host surviving children of our nation’s fallen service members. The children bonded with Midshipmen from the Academy through team building exercises and small group discussions. Bonnie Carroll, President and Founder of TAPS, spoke with Ward Carroll at We Are The Mighty about the event and TAPS support of survivor families. –MC

Feb./Mar. Nation Job-Fair Roundup for Troops & Vets
Amanda Miller, Military Times. February and March could be big months for job-searching veterans based on this list of upcoming job fairs. Job fairs like those hosted by RecruitMilitary are generally open to veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses. –MC

Semper Fi Fund crosses $100 Million milestone mark in assistance to wounded veterans
In case you missed it, the Semper Fi Fund reached a new milestone in their support of our nations service members, veterans, and military families in late January. The organization has provided more than $100 million to wounded, critically ill, or injured service members and military families and has managed to do so with only six percent overhead. Semper Fi Fund provides a variety of assistance to service members for life including adaptive vehicles and homes, education assistance, PTSD and TBI support. Congratulations, Semper Fi Fund! –MC

HillVets’ Top 100 Veterans of 2014
Kristina Wong (@Kristina_Wong), The Hill. HillVets, a non-partisan organization of Hill staffers and veteran advocates striving to increase veterans’ numbers on Capitol Hill, recently published a list of the 100 most influential and impactful veterans, service members and their supporters. ScoutComms, led by our fearless leader Fred, was selected as one of the top businesses focused on veterans for our efforts in the veterans’ community. –MC

Polar Bear Plunge 2015
On Saturday, Fred Wellman, Margaret Clevenger, and Gabe Fisher from the ScoutComms team participated in a freezing jump into the Rappahannock River to benefit the EOD Warrior Foundation. Fred and Margaret both appear in local photo coverage of the event. ScoutComms was a proud sponsor of this year’s polar plunge that included nearly 300 participants. –MC

Quick Hits:

Preventing Suicides Among Veterans Is at Center of Bill Passed by Senate
Richard A Oppel Jr., The New York Times. Last week, the Senate passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, designed to combat suicide among veterans. The bill is now headed to the White House and President Obama is expected to sign it this week. Although many advocates and veterans groups are pleased with the bill’s passing, they are calling for continued focus on mental health issues. –MC

Here’s Why There Isn’t a Single Woman on This ‘Military Modernization’ Panel
Nia-Malika Henderson (@niawapo), The Washington Post. The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission is completely made up of men. Last week Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) noted that at the commission’s first hearing and the Washington Post examined how that happened—like most things the fault lies with Congress. At the same time, the Military Family Advocacy Network responded on Twitter by noting that two-thirds of the Commission’s staff leaders are women. –MC

19 Percent Pass Rate for Women in Ranger Prep
Michelle Tan (@MichelleTan32), Army Times. Five female soldiers completed the two-week Ranger Training Assessment Course, an intensive course that National Guard soldiers attend before being allowed to go to Ranger School. 55 percent of men completed the course compared to 19 percent of women. These women, all officers, will have the opportunity to attend Ranger School in April. –MC

Should Veterans with PTSD be Exempt from the Death Penalty?
Iulia Flip, The Atlantic. Although individuals with post-traumatic stress are not more likely to be involved in criminal or violent actions, some mental health experts believe that veterans suffering from war trauma should be exempt from the death penalty. A recent article in The Atlantic explored this topic through the story of Andrew Brannan, a veteran with PTSD symptoms who killed a police officer in 1998 and was sentenced to death. –MC 

Tradeshows & Conferences

NASPA: 2015 Veterans Conference (Sun-Tue, 8-10 February); Louisville, KY

Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium (Wed-Thu, 11-12 February); Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel, Orlando, FL

AFCEA West (Tue-Thu, 10-12 February); San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA

For a full list of upcoming events, check out our Events page.

Congressional Hearings

House:

Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations: An examination of waste and abuse associated with VA’s management of land-use agreements Who: Ms. Janet P. Murphy, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Health, Operations and Management, Veterans Health Administration, Dr. Skye McDougall, PhD, Acting Director, Desert Pacific Healthcare Network, Veterans Health Administration, Mr. Stephen Lord, Managing Director, Forensic Audits and Investigative Service, U.S. Government Accountability Office, Mr. Edward Lilley, Assistant Director for Healthcare, National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division, The American Legion When: 4:00 PM, Tuesday, February 10, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: The FY16 Budget Request: A View from Outside Experts: “Alternative Budgets and Strategic Choices”  Who: Dr. Nora Bensahel, Distinguished Scholar in Residence, School of International Service, American University, Mr. Ryan Crotty, Fellow and Deputy Director for Defense Budget Analysis, Center for Strategic and International Studies, International Security Program, Mr. Thomas Donnelly, Resident Fellow and Co-Director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Mr. Todd Harrison, Senior Fellow, Defense Budget Studies, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), Mr. Jim Thomas, Vice President and Director of Studies, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) Where: 2118 Rayburn

Veterans Affairs: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request Fiscal Year 2016 When: 10:30 AM, Wednesday, February 11, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: Final Recommendations from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission Who: The Honorable Stephen E. Buyer, Commissioner, Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, General Peter W. Chiarelli, USA (Ret), Commissioner, Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, Admiral Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr. USN (Ret), Commissioner, Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, Mr. Michael Higgins, Commissioner, Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, The Honorable Alphonso Maldon Jr., Chairman, Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission When: 1:00 PM, Wednesday, February 11, 2015 Where: 2212 Rayburn

Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade: State Sponsor of Terror: The Global Threat of Iran Who: Frederick W. Kagan, Ph.D., Christopher DeMuth Chair and Director, Critical Threats Project, American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Ilan I. Berman, Vice President, American Foreign Policy Council, Mr. Tony Badran, Research Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Daniel L. Byman, Ph.D., Professor, Security Studies Program, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, February 11, 2015 Where: 2172 Rayburn

Veterans Affairs: Markup of pending legislation When: 10:30 AM, Thursday, February 12, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon

Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity (EO): A Review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request for the Department of Labor’s Veteran Employment and Training Service (VETS) When: 2:00 PM, Thursday, February 12, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: What Is The State of Islamic Extremism: Key Trends, Challenges, and Implications for U.S. Policy Who: Mr. William Braniff, Executive Director, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, LTG Michael Flynn, USA (ret.), Former Director of Defense Intelligence Agency, Dr. Marc Lynch, Professor, The George Washington University When: 9:00 AM, Friday, February 13, 2015 Where: 2118 Rayburn
 
Senate:

Armed Services: Global Challenges and U.S. National Security Strategy Who: The Honorable Eric S. Edelman, Panelist, National Defense Panel and Former Under Secretary of Defense For Policy, The Honorable Michèle A. Flournoy, Panelist, National Defense Panel and Former Under Secretary of Defense For Policy When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, February 10, 2015 Where: 216 Hart

Armed Services: Situation in Afghanistan Who: The Honorable James B. Cunningham, Former United States Ambassador to Afghanistan, The Honorable Ryan C. Crocker, Dean and Executive Professor, The George Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University, and Former United States Ambassador to Afghanistan When: 9:30 AM, Wednesday, February 11, 2015 Where: 216 Hart

Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel: Retirement and Compensation Proposals of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission Who: Honorable Alphonso Maldon, Jr., Chairman, Military Compensation And Retirement Modernization Commission, Honorable Dov S. Zakheim, Commissioner, Military Compensation And Retirement Modernization Commission, Mr. Michael R. Higgins, Commissioner, Military Compensation And Retirement Modernization Commission, General Peter W. Chiarelli, USA (Ret.), Commissioner, Military Compensation And Retirement Modernization Commission, Admiral Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr., USN (Ret.), Commissioner, Military Compensation And Retirement Modernization Commission, Mr. Robert L. Frank, Chief Executive Officer Air Force Sergeants Association, Ms. Deirdre Parke Holleman, Executive Director The Retired Enlisted Association, Mr. Richard A. Jones, Legislative Director National Association For Uniformed Services, Mr. Alexander Nicholson, Legislative Director Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Of America When: 3:00 PM, Wednesday, February 11, 2015 Where: G50 Dirksen

Armed Services: Situation in Afghanistan Who: General John F. Campbell, USA, Commander, International Security Assistance Force Commander, United States Forces – Afghanistan When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, February 12, 2015 Where: G50 Dirksen

Think Tanks & Other Events

No relevant events this week. Email [email protected] if you would like to see your event listed.

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, February 09, 2015 11:45 am

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