Veterans Roundup: Still No Lower Standards for Women in Combat, Sequester Hitting Another Military Asset Hard, & Legislative Fights Over IVF, GI Bill

Posted by Fred Wellman

Supporting Our Current Conflict Veterans and Veteran Family Volunteers
American Legion Auxiliary
On February 22, our CEO and founder Fred Wellman spoke at the American Legion Auxiliary Conference in Washington, DC. Wellman sat alongside Victoria Pridemore, director of George Washington University’s Office of Military Veteran Student Services, and Bill Rausch, Executive Director of Got Your Six, to discuss how veterans are contributing to communities nationwide. –MC

Veterans and Military Issues:

Groin Injuries Would Entitle Veterans Payout, Under Proposed Bill
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) introduced legislation last week that would pay out $20,000 to service members with injuries to their reproductive system that prevents them from starting a family. Nearly 1,400 service members have come home from Iraq and Afghanistan with these types of injuries and the VA currently cannot provide any fertility options. –JG
Bottom line: This bill does not go far enough. That’s truly the bottom line. Two payments of $10,000 over two years is not going to pay for the IVF treatments veterans will need to start a family. Of course, you won’t find IVF mentioned at all in this proposed legislation. The $20,000 could be used as a down payment on a sports car with the way the bill is currently written. That’s because Miller, though he’s retiring, doesn’t want to pick a fight with his colleagues Congress, and the groups that support them, over when a life begins and how that relates to IVF. In the past, Miller has introduced legislation that would allow VA to cover the cost of three IVF cycles to injured veterans. It is commendable that Miller wants to enact some coverage for injured veterans so they can start a family, but more can be done. Would it be easy? No, but political victories for veterans rarely are—even when they should be. –LJ

Marine Corps: Men and Women Must Meet Same Standards for Combat Jobs
Jeff Schogol (@JeffSchogol), Marine Corps Times
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told a group of Marines and sailors last week at Camp Pendleton that the Marine Corps will not lower any physical standards for women trying out for combat positions. This was Mabus’ third visit to a Marine Corps base this year to discuss the integration of women into combat positions. The Army is also making strides; on Friday it announced that it has approved the first 22 female officers for infantry and armor jobs. –MC
Bottom line: Secretary Mabus has thrown his full support behind gender integration, and intends for it to be a defining element of his legacy. But he understands that there is lingering opposition, particularly within the Marine Corps, so he is taking the smart step of going on the road to reinforce and explain his decisions, while dispelling myths that the changes will lead to a weaker military. The other news coming out right now highlights that progress with integration is occurring across the services, albeit incrementally, and that we will be hearing a lot more about women choosing frontline combat career paths in the coming months. Yet the Corps still has not fully joined the revolution, as it won the battle—at least for now—to continue to segregate its boot camps by gender, something that Kate Germano, the former commander of the all-female Marine Corps recruit battalion at Parris Island, has criticized for holding women to lower standards from the moment they join the Corps, setting them up to fail when challenged in the future. –BW

Installation Facilities are Suffering Under Budget Constraints, Officials Say
Karen Jowers, Military Times
Major budget cuts to the services over the past few years due to sequestration have caused the deterioration of facilities on military installations across the country. During a hearing last week, Pete Potochney, acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment, said that 15 percent of facilities are considered to be in failing condition, and 12 percent are in poor condition. The military’s buildings aren’t the only component of the services suffering due to budget cuts, but recent reports have shown that some Marine Corps aircraft are unable to fly due to a lack of funding for parts. –MC
Bottom line: This is the insidious effect of sequestration and the continued lack of a proper budget process. This made-up-as-they-go budgeting forgets thousands of facilities, family programs and a host of other programs and lines of work that the military runs. Those efforts are now scrounging for pennies and it shows from facilities falling apart from neglect and the increasingly disturbing reports of maintenance issues surrounding military equipment. This game can’t go much longer. We keep saying it here but the neglect by Congress to resolve the budget process and do what must be done to fund the military properly will have a very serious price and the bill is coming with every report like these. –FPW

Fight Over GI Bill Cuts Builds: ‘Either You’re with Us or Against Us’
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Proposed legislation that would cut housing stipends for dependents of veterans in half is dividing veterans advocates. Iraq and Afghanistan of America says that the GI Bill should never be a source for cuts and that earned benefits are not a “piggy bank for other wants.” Other groups, like Student Veterans of America, say that the issue is complex and we must keep in mind the original intent of the GI Bill: supporting veterans. –MC
Bottom line: Three stories ago, when I wrote that political victories for veterans are harder won than they ought to be, I had the Post-9/11 GI Bill in mind. Just talk to the folks at the American Legion and VFW who kicked off the effort and also the founders of SVA and some former policy staff at IAVA, who worked alongside them to get it passed. Now, more than a million veterans and military family members have benefited from that effort. But you won’t find the groups that helped create the GI Bill standing with IAVA in its new campaign. These groups work with lawmakers on a broad range of veterans’ issues, even a broad range of veteran education issues. Just last week the American Legion, VFW, and SVA were each on the Hill testifying about bills that could allow veterans pursuing STEM degrees to receive extended GI Bill benefits, make grants to schools to provide child care on campus, and protect veterans from predatory schools. Those are ways to protect the GI Bill and its benefit to veterans. We’re glad to see the legacy VSOs and newer veterans groups like SVA working with lawmakers to enact changes that preserve the benefits to those most in need. –LJ (Ed. Note: SVA is a ScoutComms client.)

VA Increases Pressure on Appeals Reform: ‘We’re Failing Veterans’
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
The White House is pushing Congress to fix the appeals process veterans go through to revise their Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, due to a long average wait time of about three years for appeals. Just last week, judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims also found that the VA ignored a statute protecting veterans from out-of-pocket costs for emergency care, and that hundreds of veterans were affected. In addition, seven VA employees are facing disciplinary actions in an enrollment system scandal. With the upcoming election and short legislative session, advocates worry that the window for change is closing. –MC
Bottom line: If there is ever such a thing as a good news week for the VA, I have yet to see it since joining ScoutComms. Yet the silver lining in this particular cloud of appeals is that the VA is the one demanding action and change. As has been reported in great detail, the VA was overwhelmed in the last few years by the increase in claims, and has been fighting to slog through that daunting backlog. At the same time, the increase in claims led to a concurrent increase in appeals, and that process is where the VA is now mired in delays that cannot be solved solely through business as usual. After a period of vitriolic exchanges, tempers seem to have settled between the VA and Congress; hopefully, this bodes well for a negotiated attempt to empower the VA to further streamline the appeals process and reduce excessively long wait times in the appeals process. –BW

We Treat Hearing Loss as an Inevitable Part of War. It Shouldn’t Be.
Stephen Carlson (@swcarlson1) for the Washington Post
Hearing loss and ringing of the ears, also called tinnitus, are two of the most reported service-connected disabilities yet there is little research investigating the effects of military service on hearing loss. Over the years, it has become commonly accepted as a “cost of service”. Stephen Carlson writes on his experience after serving two tours in Afghanistan. After both of his eardrums ruptured in an explosion, he struggled with his hearing loss for years. While, at face value, hearing loss doesn’t seem like a significant injury it can have devastating effects to the service member’s relationships and their ability to socialize. Carlson suggests that the military can and should be investing more into better preventative measures that don’t compromise awareness. –JG
Bottom line: Carlson lays out a great argument through his own experience with the challenges of hearing loss and the cost to both veterans of the war and the government to treat combat veterans hearing injuries. It does seem like a small thing in light of the many injuries faced by those who have served from amputations to the scourge of PTS. But, it’s a pervasive and debilitating issue for those who suffer from the effects. The military is a loud business. From helicopter engines to weapons firing, the business of combat is loud and overwhelming. The various hearing protections offered to troops in the fight isn’t effective or so effective you can’t hear radio calls or the breaking of a twig that precedes an ambush. Carlson calls for more research and a deeper look at this often overlooked issue. We agree. –FPW

Client News:

Veterans Find Challenges in Nailing the Right Job
Eric Eversole (@EricEversoleHOH) for the Orlando Sentinel
Last Saturday, Hiring Our Heroes was in Orlando where more than 50 employers were looking to hire veterans, service members, and their spouses. Hiring Our Heroes hosts hiring events every week all across the country. Visit their website and find out when one is coming to a city near you! –JG

Obama: Wounds Don’t End Service for US Military Members
Darlene Superville (@dsupervilleap), The Associated Press
Wounded Warrior Project’s annual Soldier Ride visit to the White House took place last Thursday as part of a four-day, 51-mile cycling journey around the DC region for more than 50 injured veterans and service members. Deven Schei, one of the co-founders of Soldier Ride, said that events like this show that Wounded Warrior Project is continuing to focus on their mission of assisting our warriors. –JG

3 Hard Rules to Follow with Your Money in the Military
Scott Halliwell (@USAAEF_Scott) for Task and Purpose
Scott Halliwell, the Financial Readiness Program Manager for the USAA Educational Foundation shares three financial tips for service members and military families. From having a plan, to waiting on that expensive car, to saving, this valuable advice helps troops make informed financial decisions. USAAEF will continue sharing personal finance lessons over the next few months with Task and Purpose, so keep an eye out for additional articles! –MC

Top 10 Takeaways from the HVAC Hearing
Student Veterans of America (@studentvets)
Student Veterans of America is fighting for student veterans on Capitol Hill by advocating for the passage of The GI Bill STEM Extension Act of 2015, the Support for Student Veterans with Families Act and The GI Bill Oversight Act of 2016. SVA’s blog outlines how these bills will directly impact student veterans, ranging from protecting students from schools preying on vets and their GI Bill benefits, to allowing STEM majors to complete their degrees without an added financial burden. –MC

A Place to Call Their Own: Pacific Veterans Benefit from Generous Grant
Lori Gilbert (@LoriGRecord), The Stockton Record
Last year, the Student Veterans of America chapter at the University of the Pacific earned a grant from The Home Depot Foundation and SVA for $8,500 to upgrade their Veteran Resource center. Chad Reed and Hector Moncada speak about how rewarding it is to see the final product after all the work put into the grant and renovations. Centers like this are a key component in many student veterans’ success in school. If you or someone you know could use up to $10,000 for a new or improved Student Vet center, the Vet Center Initiative is accepting applications through this Friday, April 22nd. Hurry and get to work on the application today! –JG

Young Musicians Unite to Benefit Area Veterans
Heather Bridges (@HeatherRBridges), The Virginia Gazette
On April 16, a seven piece band with no member over the age of 20 is hosting a benefit concert for veterans at the Williamsburg Library Theatre. The event is being hosted to benefit the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) founded by Sam Pressler a graduate of the College of William and Mary. ASAP provides a variety of art programs for veterans in the Washington, DC and Hampton Roads areas. To learn more about ASAP visit their website! –JG

Quick Hits:

Tricare to Let Military Families Get Urgent Care Without Preapproval
Amy Bushatz (@amybushatz),
A new Tricare pilot program will allow some beneficiaries to visit an urgent care provider without prior approval. Active-duty service members, Guard, and Reserve members using Tricare Prime Remote, and all other enrollees in Tricare Prime, Tricare Prime Remote, or Tricare Young Adult will all be able to visit urgent care twice per year without authorization. –MC

U.S. Sending Commandos, Combat Aircraft to Philippines
Lolita C. Baldor (@), The Associated Press
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced the deployment of troops and combat aircraft to the Philippines intended to de-escalate growing tensions in the South China Sea. Fishermen in the Philippines have depended on the waters of the South China Sea for their livelihoods. With China’s construction of islands in the area, these fishermen have been forced away from their rich fishing grounds. The US will have access to five Philippine bases for housing and conducting training exercises for US forces. –JG

Study: Families Experience Generally Few Long-Term Effects from Deployment
Karen Jowers, Military Times
A recent study shows no significant effect of deployment on children and teens of service members. The study surveyed 2,724 participants from 2012 to 2015. Family advocates say the study is incomplete since it lacks data from deployed families in 2006 and 2007 when deployments were longer, more frequent, and more dangerous. –JG

Tradeshows & Conferences

National Defense Industrial Association: Medical Research, Development, and Acquisition in Support of the Warfighter (Tue-Wed, April 19-20); Ellicott City, MD

Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association: Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium (Wed-Fri, April 20-22); Washington, DC

Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association: Spring Intelligence Symposium (Wed-Thu, April 20-21); Springfield, VA

Congressional Hearings


Veterans’ Affairs: A continued assessment of delays in veterans’ access to health care
10:30 AM, Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017
11:30 AM, Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Where: 2212 Rayburn

Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017
3:00 PM, Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Where: 2212 Rayburn

Veterans’ Affairs: A review of veterans’ preference in federal government hiring
2:30 PM, Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Where: 334 Cannon


Armed Services: Nomination
Who: General Vincent K. Brooks, USA, For Reappointment To The Grade Of General And To Be Commander, United Nations Command / Combined Forces Command / United States Forces Korea
When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Where: 216 Hart

Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower: Navy and Marine Corps Aviation Programs
Who: Vice Admiral Paul A. Grosklags
, USN, Commander, Naval Air Systems, Department Of The Navy; Lieutenant General Jon M. Davis, USMC, Deputy Commandant For Aviation, United States Marine Corps; Rear Admiral Michael C. Manazir, USN, Director, Air Warfare (OPNAV N98), Department Of The Navy
When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Where: 232A Russell

Armed Services: Hearings to examine the current state of research, diagnosis, and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury
2:30 PM, Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Where: 222 Russell

Armed Services: Nominations
Who: General Curtis M. Scaparrotti,
USA, For Reappointment To The Grade Of General And To Be Commander, United States European Command And Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; General Lori J. Robinson, USAF, For Reappointment To The Grade Of General And To Be Commander, United States Northern Command / Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command
When:  9:30 AM, Thursday, April 21, 2016
Where: 216 Hart

Think Tanks & Other Events

Institute of World Politics: Leadership in Army Intelligence: A Reflection
When: 4:30 PM, Thursday, April 21, 2106
Where: Institute of World Politics, 1521 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036

Armed Services Arts Partnership: Veterans Comedy Boot Camp Grad Show
When: 6:30 PM, Thursday, April 21
Where: DC Improv, 1140 Connecticut Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC 20036

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, April 18, 2016 5:39 pm

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