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Veteran’s Roundup: ScoutComms’ Read on the Political and VSO Conventions, a Look at VA Promises and Proposed Reforms, and Surveys on Mental Health

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ScoutComms Fall 2016 Internship – Advocate for Veterans and Military Families
The ScoutComms team is looking for a motivated self-starter to join support our junior staff in developing media lists, pitching reporters, and contributing to social media campaigns in a meaningful way. We offer paid internships and an unparalleled experience with a team that is more like a family dedicated to impacting the veteran and military family communities. –LJ

Veterans and Military Issues:

Trump Pledges to Reform VA, but Not to Eliminate It
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
It’s veteran service organization convention season and things are off and running already. Last week the Veterans of Foreign Wars held theirs in Cincinnati and attracted both major parties’ candidates for president. President Obama will be in Atlanta to speak with Disabled American Veterans. For his part, Trump offered the supportive crowed of VFW members much of his previously released 10-point plan for veterans including quickly firing problem VA employees, installing a hotline in the White House for veterans’ complaints, finding waste and abuse of VA money, and an expansion of health care options outside the VA system. His key talking points insisted he doesn’t intend to eliminate the department and it will remain a public health system. For her part, Clinton was not as well received with reports of attendees walking out when she arrived and cat calls about Benghazi. Clinton showed up at the same time her party convention was kicking off in Philadelphia and mostly focused on hitting Trump directly for his comments about veterans and his plans. The Democrats’ veterans platform called for continued reform of the VA and a fight to keep it from being privatized while upping resources to end homelessness, increased education benefits and job training, expansion of caregiver benefits, and increased services for women veterans. We’ve got a long way to go to November and its already clear that these policy ideas aren’t going to be what we hear about the most after the debacle this weekend surrounding Trump’s response to the family of a fallen Muslim Army officer who spoke at the Democrats’ convention. –FPW

VA Secretary: Same-day Primary Care, Mental Health Appointments Coming
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
I have consistently extolled the virtues of giving Secretary Bob and the VA more leeway and more time to enact comprehensive reforms to better serve the healthcare needs of veterans. Yet even I find it hard to believe—given recent statistical trends—that the VA is promising to provide same-day primary care and mental health appointments to veterans by December. That certainly is not unachievable for some populations, particularly those firmly ensconced within the system. But for veterans seeking to break into the system for the first time—those who tend to face the longest delays and greatest barriers to access—it would require an apparent miracle to arrange their care in such a rapid manner. Secretary Bob’s remarks may have been misconstrued to apply to all veteran patients of the VA, but regardless, his comments to the VFW national convention set a very high bar for the VA to meet in less than five months. Then again, if the VA can show considerable improvement before the end of the year in reducing wait times, it will have earned my kudos and respect for overachieving and reaching a new normal for serving the healthcare needs of America’s veterans. –BW

Americans Think More Than Half of Vets Have Mental Health Problems, Survey Says
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
The same survey that found a vast majority of American see veterans as heroes yet don’t view them as strategic assets to the community also found that about 40 percent of people polled think more than half of post-9/11 veterans suffer from mental health issues. In reality, it’s somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of young veterans. Of service members and veterans surveyed, nearly 80 percent reported stigma about seeking treatment for mental health issues as the biggest barrier to care. Clearly, as a society we have a long way to go in changing the narrative about mental health, who it affects, and what seeking treatment means for those in pain. It’s great, as Brian notes above, for VA to prioritize day-of mental health care appointments, but first veterans need to be willing and comfortable seeking treatment—whether they go to VA or the private sector. Does that start with Americans better understanding the veteran community and how mental health does (or does not) affect it? Perhaps, and the civil-military divide is certainly a theme throughout this Scout Report, but the veteran and military communities have to shift their perceptions of seeking mental health treatment. As the survey respondents note, the community sees TBI and PTS as legitimate war wounds, and so it should follow that they should seek treatment for those wounds. And yet. The current de-stigmatization approaches aren’t working, the needle hasn’t moved, and so it’s time to try new avenues like offering objective treatment options for mental health issues, mainstreaming mental health care within military leaders’ lexicon, and using research on proven options. –LJ

North Carolina GOP Apologizes After Mistakenly Attacking Kaine for ‘Shameful’ Marine Pin That Honored His Son
Elizabeth Koh (@elizabethrkoh), The Charlotte Observer
This is just one of those rare stories that lays out the civil-military divide in the starkest of terms. The North Carolina Republican Party was live tweeting its responses to Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s convention speech with great enthusiasm last Wednesday. Senator Kaine has a son on active duty in the Marine Corps and in his honor was wearing the Blue Star lapel pin that signifies a family member in service. Unfortunately, the @NCGOP Twitter handle shot out that Kaine “wears a Honduras flag pin on his jacket but no American flag. Shameful.” They deleted it when reporters noticed then took about a day to apologize to the Virginia senator. It’s really quite remarkable in several ways, with one being that the Blue Star pin is a white pin with a blue star and red border and the Honduran flag, where Kaine did serve on a mission trip, is white with two bold blue stripes and five blue stars and they look nothing alike. So there is some basic Googling that could have saved some pain there. Second, how is that the folks at the GOP in the state with one of the largest military populations in the entire country don’t know what a Blue Star pin and family member is all about? Therein lies the divide we so often discuss here. Less than 1 percent of today’s U.S. population is eligible to serve or has a family member who is serving and only about 8.5 percent of the population is veterans, and getting lower by the day. It’s a sad state of affairs when the political party that has always painted itself as red-blooded all-American patriots doesn’t even know what a symbol of that service even looks like. –FPW

AMU, Phoenix Top New Analysis of Military’s Most Populate TA, GI Bill Colleges
George R. Altman (@George_Altman), Military Times
While the vast majority of GI Bill funds go to public or private non-profit schools, many of the schools bringing in the most GI Bill dollars and military tuition assistance are for-profit schools. In the piece, Altman notes the University of Phoenix’s military students have a higher rate of course completion than other students, but that’s one cherry picked statistic out of many others. With so many military-connected students (and tax dollars) choosing to go to for-profit schools because they are “easy”, we should be more concerned about helping these students make better choices. Clients like Student Veterans of America offer prospective students the resources to evaluate schools, for-profit and non-profit, to choose the best one for their goals and Warrior-Scholar Project boost veterans’ confidence that they can go to Georgetown, Columbia, etc, rather than Phoenix. Fortunately there are organizations like these providing those services and donors willing to support them—and DoD should be facilitating these organizations’ ability to reach service members while they are making important educational decisions. ­–LJ

Women Veterans Take Key Role at the Party Conventions
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
It was quite an impressive convention series for Leo Shane, who owned (quite literally) the military and veterans beat at both the RNC and DNC conventions by publishing 30 stories in two weeks. In talking to and about women veterans who had a role in the conventions, he captured the tension between traditional concepts of veterans and military service, and the growing role in which women play in both the veteran community and the nation’s military. The female vets he interviewed highlighted the importance both to recognize the unique contributions and interests of women in the military, but also the need to look beyond gender and accord all veterans the same amount of respect in policy and politics. While female veterans had a role in both conventions, their specific interests have not featured significantly in the Trump campaign’s outreach efforts to the veteran community, while the Clinton campaign has consistently sought to applaud women in combat and recognize the unique needs of women veterans. –BW

Congress Wrestles with Providing Fertility Benefits for Injured Veterans and Service Members
Karoun Demirjian (@karoun), The Washington Post
Efforts to provide veterans’ VA coverage for in vitro fertilization remain stalled. The legislation, which has been approved by both chambers of Congress, is still caught up in the debate over how to fund the fight against the Zika virus and by lawmakers who say that what happens to leftover embryos after IVF treatments is “effectively abortion.” Advocates who want to provide our veterans the opportunity to have a thriving, growing family continue fighting. –AB  

Armed Services Arts Partnership Seeks National Program Manager
Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) is looking for a national program director to shepherd the expansion of its existing programs into communities across the country. ASAP programs promote artistic expression and skill development while fostering community by hosting workshops and classes for veterans, service members, and their families. If you or someone you know would be the perfect fit for the job, apply today! –JG

Zoli Inspires Warrior Scholar Project “Academic Boot Camp”
More than three million post 9/11 veterans have expressed an interest in attending four-year universities after their service. That is why the Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP) hosts academic boot camps to assist enlisted veterans across the country as they make the transition into diverse academic environments. Dr. Corri Zoli with the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University lectured and mentored WSP students this summer. Zoli is also the chair of the WSP advisory board. In this interview, Zoli highlights what she believes to be the biggest reasons why the WSP mission is so important. To learn more about WSP, visit their website. –JG

USC Hosts ‘Boot Camp’ for Military Veterans Aimed at Easing Culture Shock of College Life
Rosanna Xia (@RosannaXia), Los Angeles Times
The Warrior-Scholar Project gives enlisted veterans the tools and mindset necessary to succeed at a four-year university. In an effort to help them overcome the obstacles and frustrations of transitioning back to civilian life, this program helps those who have served our country succeed in higher education. The University of Southern California recently hosted the week-long boot camp for the second time, giving fifteen participants an immersive, intensive educational experience. –AB

Vets and Service Members Can Attend These 11 Major Events for Free in August
Steven Weintraub (@weintraub_sd) for Task and Purpose
Vet Tix, in partnership with select donors, sports teams, venues and entertainers, has been offering free tickets to events for veterans and service members since 2008. There are a minimum of 100 donated tickets available for each of 11 August events highlighted for Task & Purpose, from Gwen Stefani’s “This Is What the Truth Feels Like” tour stop in Michigan to Brad Paisley’s “Life Amplified” world tour stop in Texas. In the past eight years, Vet Tix has given out more than two million tickets to qualifying veterans and military personnel. –AB

Hiring Our Heroes: Connecting Vets with Careers
Rebecca Burylo (@BuryloRburylo), The Montgomery Advertiser
Since its founding in 2011, Hiring Our Heroes has helped more than 30,000 veterans find employment by hosting more than 1,000 hiring events. Veteran employment advocates seek to educate civilian employers by highlighting veterans as solution-oriented, loyal leaders of any team. To find out if a hiring fair is coming to a city near you, visit Hiring Our Heroes’ website. –JG

Local Vet enjoys Being KISS ‘Roadie for a Day’
Hillary Rosencrants (@scjhillaryr), Sioux City Journal
1st Lt. Trisha Theisen of the Iowa Air National Guard was selected to be Hiring Our Heroes’ KISS Roadie for a Day in Sioux City, Iowa. She and her husband were back stage helping set up for VIP events before experiencing the evening as VIPs themselves. KISS has donated $150,000 to Hiring Our Heroes to help veterans, service members, and their spouses find employment. The opportunity to spend an evening living the rock and roll lifestyle while experiencing powerful acts of patriotism and respect for our nation’s military is what makes an evening on the KISS “Freedom to Rock” tour so memorable to all concertgoers. To see if KISS is coming to a city near you, visit their website. –JG

Quick Hits:

Women Will Attempt Army Special Forces training Soon – but They’re Not the First
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post
The ban on women serving in direct combat assignments has been lifted raising the possibility that Army Special Forces units will no longer be all-male. Two women, a graduate from Officer Candidate School and another from a Reserve Officers’ Training Course (ROTC), are finally attending Special Forces training – they follow in the footsteps of then-Capt. Kathleen Wilder, who received credit for completing training in 1981. –AB

300 Soldiers from Fort Bragg Deploying to Fight ISIS
Amanda Dolasinski (@AmandaDFO), The Fayetteville Observer
In support of Operation Inherent Resolve, 300 troops from Ft. Bragg will go overseas to fight ISIS for a nine month deployment. Soldiers from the 18th Field Artillery Brigade’s 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Brigade are expected to conduct strikes that may utilize the battalion’s High Mobility Artillery Rocket System as a part of CENTCOM’s counter-ISIS operations. –JG

If War is Hell, Then Coffee has Offered U.S. Soldiers Some Salvation
The Kitchen Sisters (@kitchensisters), NPR
As it turns out, coffee means more to America than just getting us through that mid-afternoon slump at work – it basically ensures our freedom as well. For centuries, coffee has not only offered our troops fuel and energy, but warmth and consolation that keeps them fighting the good fight. –AB

VP Picks for Trump, Clinton Both Have Sons in Marine Corps
Charlsy Panzino (@charlsypanzino), Military Times
Both vice presidential nominees, Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, have sons serving in the Marines. 1st Lt. Nathaniel Kaine is an infantry officer with 2nd battalion 8th Marines at Camp Lejeune, who is deployed to Europe. In 2015, 2nd Lt. Michael Pence graduated from officer candidate school at Quantico. He is currently in flight school at Naval Air Station in Whiting, Florida. –JG

New DOD Investigative Unit to Focus on Sexual Assault-Related Reprisals
Dianna Cahn (@DiannaCahn), Stars and Stripes
The Defense Department’s Office of the Inspector General will soon have a new unit dedicated to effective justice in sexual assault cases. This unit hopes to improve and fortify policies on monitoring and preventing retaliation in reported sexual assault cases. –AB 

Tradeshows & Conferences:

Disabled American Veterans: 2016 National Convention (Sun-Tue, July 31-August 2, 2016); Hyatt Regency, Atlanta, GA

Congressional Hearings:

Congress is in recess.

Think Tanks & Other Events:

All is quiet 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, August 01, 2016 10:39 am

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