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Veterans Roundup: Report Says Veterans’ Volunteer Service Leads to Better Jobs, SecVA talks to MilTimes

Posted by Fred Wellman

McDonald: ‘VA Can’t Do Its Job By Itself’
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. In an exclusive sit-down with Leo, VA Secretary Bob McDonald said that the VA is making progress in reform, despite recent criticism that it is moving too slowly. He noted that he welcomes advocates’ criticisms because the VA cannot solve all of its issues alone. To aid in his reforms, McDonald is also bringing in business and academic leaders to assist throughout the large-scale changes and to ensure that things are “done the right way.” –MC
Bottom line: In response to the many voices saying he is not moving fast enough, VA Secretary McDonald said his aggressive approach to changing the culture at VA “has never been done before in government”. It’s a sharp rebuke to the advocates and politicians who have been consistently demanding more evidence of results such as fired VA employees. It seems that McDonald’s major gripes aren’t with the VSOs, but with those who are using the VA for political purposes. McDonald gives the VSOs a pass for being skeptical since they are not with him every day, but VSO representatives are on the front lines where reforms should be felt, so they have credible intel on which to base their critiques. Ultimately, though, it’s lawmakers who set the VA budget, so it will be important for McDonald to \ convince the politicians to back his plans with more investments. Sources tell the Scout Report this article is just a precursor to a longer profile of Secretary Bob. –LJ

Study: Volunteer Work Could Help Vets’ Careers
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. A new study from The Mission Continues and the Center for a New American Security found that veterans feel volunteer work increased their chances of finding a job and also encouraged them to seek out a better career. Community service among veterans is also credited as an effective way to help veterans connect with their communities as they leave military service. In recognizing service this week, military wife and the founder and President of the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund Karen Guenther was awarded the joint-service civilian humanitarian award for her dedication to helping our service members. –MC
Bottom line: While the findings of the study are limited to those who volunteered via The Mission Continues Fellowship programs, the findings make sense in light of recent studies by our clients the Institute for Veterans and Military Families and VetAdvisor. Their research found that many veterans leave their first job because they do not find a company that is a good fit for their military skills or cultural norms. Volunteering provides many veterans the chance to explore new areas and build new skills separate from their military lives, open their minds to more appropriate job opportunities, and add to their resumes at the same time. The payoff is making a difference in the world like Karen Guenther has managed to do through her work and that of her the remarkable organization she founded. We are huge fans of both volunteerism and the Semper Fi Fund because giving back is at the heart of what we do and we see every day the difference veterans and military family members are making in our nation. –FPW

Vets Face Another Battle: Paying for College
Kelley Holland (@KKelleyHolland), CNBC. Veterans who have access to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other education benefits are sometimes finding that the benefits just don’t cover everything. Some veterans may attend schools that are a lot more expensive than the benefits can provide while others are tricked into filing financial aid requests they may not need or taking on high-interest loans from for-profit schools. The VA launched an online complaint system in January to combat these issues, but it is lagging in addressing complaints against colleges using GI Bill funding. –MC
Bottom line: It’s a deadly combination of confusing rules, bureaucracy, and predatory schools and lenders that often leave student veterans left holding the bag with high interest loans and no degrees. The Post-9/11 GI Bill is incredibly generous but often the process is complicated for both veterans and the schools to navigate and the VA can do little but push the schools to try and straighten things out with little real enforcement capability. Educating veterans on the system is hugely important to their success and with the government’s generosity, there are lots of folks looking to cash in on the holes in the process. –FPW

Why The VFW is Worth Saving
Shelly Burgoyne-Goode, Task & Purpose. A recent Task & Purpose post discusses the Veterans of Foreign Wars, recent criticism of the organization, and the benefits the VFW provides the military and veterans community. The benefits boil down to physical space, local chapters, chain of command, and its lobbying power and efforts. One of the negatives listed was that many VFW posts lack of women. Just last week lawmakers updated the VFW charter to officially include women. –MC
Bottom line: Judging by some of the Twitter reactions to this piece, it ended up being something of a backhanded compliment of the VFW. As a response to the Washington Times piece from a few weeks ago, it serves as an important reminder that the original VSOs still serve a purpose for the younger generation—even young female veterans. What many in the veteran community already know to be true is that the VFW and The Mission Continues aren’t mutually exclusive. The American Legion and Team Rubicon work together after disasters so veteran first responders have a post to call home. Team RWB chapters often congregate at posts after runs. As the younger veterans organizations grow, we hope we’ll see more collaboration with the veteran organizations that have come before. Each can learn from one another’s successes and failures. –LJ

At-Risk Vets Need Help on Suicide, Senators Say
Charmaine Crutchfield (@t_y_journalist), USA Today. At a Senate hearing on Wednesday, surviving family members and experts discussed the problem of veterans’ suicide after a bipartisan group of Senators introduced the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill on Monday. The bill calls for an outside review of suicide prevention programs and a new website with easily accessible information on mental health treatment, among other new regulations. –MC
Bottom line: Valerie Pallotta’s son, a 25-year-old veteran of the war in Afghanistan, had been gone only six weeks when she testified about his suicide at a Senate hearing last week. The hearing coincided with the introduction of a Senate companion bill to the House’s Clay Hunt SAV Act. A House subcommittee will next week begin marking up their version of the legislation and advocates are hopeful the bill may hit the president’s desk before the end of the lame duck session. The worst thing that could happen is Congress rushing to pass a bill, patting itself on the back, and considering the issue taken care of. One of the main components of the bill is an independent review of the Pentagon’s suicide prevention programs (a subset of which RAND has previously investigated), but it remains to be seen whether the Pentagon even has the right data that reviewers could study. Reviewers can make recommendations until their laser printers run out of toner, but it’s Congressional purse strings that can motivate real change. –LJ

Vet launches Made-in-America E-Commerce Store
Charles Payne (@cvpayne) and Gabrielle Karol (@GabrielleKarol), Fox Business. This Land, founded by former Marine Dan McCready is an e-commerce store that launched on Veterans Day. Each product on the website is American-made and a portion of the sales will be used to support veterans. The Bunker, a veteran focused tech incubator in Chicago, announced its expansion into Alexandria as part of an initiative with the Alexandria Veterans Business Center. –MC
Bottom line: Dan McCready is a former Marine on a new mission. While traveling across the country he got the idea that great handmade American products needed to be highlighted and sold and the idea for This Land was born. The site has gone live and also includes a pop-up shop in Charlotte with many of the products featured on the site. Check them out at www.thisland.com. Meanwhile, veteran business incubator The Bunker is growing quickly from its roots in Chicago and expanding across the country. Here in the DC area, the Alexandria Veterans Business Enterprise Center will be the host for the organization starting in 2015 with 20 positions. –FPW

Quick Hits:

U.S. Military Role in Afghanistan Will Still Be Combat
Phil Ewing (@philewing), Politico
On Friday, news emerged that President Obama and the Pentagon have planned and approved a U.S. combat presence in Afghanistan through 2015. Earlier this year, Obama had said the U.S. combat mission would be over at the end of 2014. For families and troops, this surely means more stress and the continued specter of the effects of war. –LJ

31 Women Chosen for Ranger Course Assessment
Army Times
The Army announced that 31 women, 20 enlisted soldiers and 11 officers, have been selected to participate as observer/advisers in a potential Range Course Assessment next spring. The female soldiers would be an extra set of eyes for Ranger instructors and would help ease concerns that women participating in the Ranger Course may feel isolated. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James also told reporters that she is moving to open 7 combat positions to females by 2016. Meanwhile, female Marines are participating in an experiment to measure their physical ability to meet combat standards. –MC

Ex-SEAL’s Defenders See Double-Standard in Criticism of Bin Laden Shooter O’Neill
Joby Warrick (@jobywarrick), The Washington Post
Former Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill, the self-identified shooter of Osama bin Laden, has been criticized for releasing his identity. However, some of his comrades are pointing out the double standard that senior officials speak publically and sometimes even while in office, but operators like O’Neill are heavily criticized for speaking out after-the-fact. O’Neill claims that he thought the story would break whether he came forward or not, as his identity was known by members of Congress who had been approached by journalists. –MC

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, November 24, 2014 4:17 pm

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