Veterans Roundup: Teddy Roosevelt-1 vs. Acting SECNAV-0, Homeless Vets Need Help, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Ousted Navy secretary takes responsibility for Theodore Roosevelt fiasco: ‘It’s my fault. I own it’
Task & Purpose, Paul Szoldra (@PaulSzoldra)

A tumultuous week for the Navy ended with the Acting Secretary of the Navy resigning over his behavior surrounding the firing of the Captain of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt last Thursday. For reasons that defy logic in any way, Mr. Modly decided to take it upon himself to fly all the way to Guam at the bargain price of 250,000 taxpayer dollars to step aboard the aircraft carrier and chew out the sailors for celebrating Captain Crozier when he left the ship last weekend and posting videos to social media. Somehow a tape of his speech was given to the media, where a sailor can be heard loudly yelling “What the f$%k!?” when Modly described Crozier as either “too stupid or too naive” to command a warship. The backlash was universal among the veteran and the military community. As Brandon Friedman framed it on Twitter: “Everyone involved in building the case against him was a veteran. From the sailors who leaked his remarks (text AND audio) to those who first shared them, including the reporter who posted the audio. All veterans. Modly was excommunicated.” Buried in his speech was a horrible smearing of the media as adversaries of the military whose goal is to embarrass them. That attitude is reprehensible as well. The Military Reporters and Editors Association chimed in condemning it and so do we at ScoutComms. There are norms and traditions in the military, and while Modly was a Naval Academy graduate, he clearly forgot those rules of decorum and turned his entire service against him. He wrote this memo to the fleet as his last act and literally quoted Spinal Tap in the document. You literally can’t make this stuff up. The Navy now has yet another Acting Secretary in charge and they continue to battle a growing tide of COVID-19 outbreaks with reports of two other aircraft carriers having cases and the Teddy Roosevelt still dealing with its own. We are still in the middle of a pandemic and continued political interference in the safety and protection of our service members is endangering lives unnecessarily. Hopefully this ugly chapter closing can help end that, but time will tell. – Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms

Advocates ask VA to immediately distribute funding for homeless veterans
Stars and Stripes, Nikki Wentling (@nikkiwentling)

In major disasters, it is the most vulnerable who are hit the worst. The current situation with COVID-19 has advocates calling for increased attention to racial disparities among those impacted by COVID-19. People who are homeless are also a high-risk population that will be disproportionately impacted during the crisis. African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics/LatinX are overrepresented among people experiencing homelessness. Homeless shelters across the country are bearing the unexpected cost of PPE gear, sanitation products and additional compensation for workers who are putting themselves in harm’s way to care for homeless clients in need, according to the article. Congress allocated $118 million in the stimulus bill for the homeless veteran population, which is significantly lower than the amount requested by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. However, VA has yet to release the funds as cities across the country are building tent cities for their homeless population. Roughly 11% of the national homeless population are veterans. There is a request on the table for all homeless veterans to be provided medical care from the VA regardless of if the individual possesses a “bad paper discharge.” Advocates have been fighting for equitable access to benefits for veterans with less than honorable discharges for a while now.  15% of veterans who are experiencing homelessness are stuck with bad paper discharges, which means they legally cannot receive care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. This pandemic is shining a light on the hierarchy of access we all live within in this country. Even though some folks mindlessly say, “we are in this together,” I often question, are we though? If we were, elderly people, people living with disabilities, black and brown people and homeless people wouldn’t be subjected to feelings of invisibility and — even worse — disposability during a global pandemic. Many messages are/ have been framed over the past few weeks with these underlying meta messages. More on this later, maybe in a ScoutInsight article. This article reiterates an urgency for outreach and training for administering tests so that we can continue to track the spread of the virus. Until we see increased testing and modeling that intimately tracks the spread of this virus, we are working blindfolded and with one hand tied behind our backs. – Kiersten Downs, PhD, Research Director at ScoutComms

‘Protective bubbles’: How 2 Army generals stopped the spread of coronavirus among their soldiers
Yahoo News, Sean D. Naylor (@SeanDNaylor)

While the Pentagon is “facing a torrent of criticism” over Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly’s decision to fire Capt. Brett Crozier, there is a “bright spot” with two Army generals as “examples of military leaders who have excelled in keeping their forces largely safe from” the COVID-19 pandemic. Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier–the commander of U.S. Army Africa and stationed in Vicenza, Italy–closed community facilities including gyms and churches in Vicenza in an effort to “stay in step with the local Italian authorities” to “get ahead of the virus.” Cloutier’s spokesman, Col. Ryan Dillon, reportedly commented that the “decisions then put us in a strong position to plan and prepare how to further protect the force.” The Pentagon also highlighted the actions of Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams, the commander of all U.S. troops in South Korea, who closed schools, limited service members’ travel and preemptively requested medical supplies. Army Col. Clinton Murray, Abrams’s top medical officer, reportedly wrote that Abrams “treated the spread of the coronavirus ‘like a combat operation’” in an effort to “keep the virus out of our formations.” The measures have reportedly worked–only two U.S. troops in South Korea tested positive for the virus while the county’s cases hover just below 10,000, and less than five of Cloutier’s soldiers tested positive while total Italian cases soared above 115,000. Neither Cloutier nor Abrams are “ready to declare victory,” but the low number of their troops who have contracted the virus is a “testament to the effectiveness of [social distancing] measures when applied early and with rigor.”

Troops believe coronavirus is hurting military readiness, new Military Times Poll shows
Military Times, Leo Shane III (@LeoShane)

According to a recent Military Times Poll of active-duty service members, more than three-quarters of U.S. troops believe that “the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has damaged military readiness.” The poll also indicated that while over 80 percent of U.S. troops support the military’s stringent travel restrictions, about one-third said the military’s response to the pandemic has “taken a personal toll” on themselves and their families. Additionally, the poll surveyed troops about their opinions on recent Pentagon announcements concerning social distancing requirements and additional travel restrictions–about 43 percent of respondents said they disagree with these measures, with a common complaint involving “commanders’ decisions about which personnel should be deemed ‘essential.’” The survey results suggest that enlisted personnel who responded were generally more supportive of the Pentagon’s actions, while officers were more critical. One respondent reportedly wrote, “My ship has pretended nothing is happening, and made everyone ‘essential,” while another wrote, “Right now is the time to shelter, not to be out there doing a training mission just so the pipeline doesn’t dry up.” 

VA delays launch of massive $16b electronic health record system over coronavirus, Abbie Bennett (@AbbieRBennett)

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) said in a recent statement that the VA has postponed the launch of a “massive $16 billion electronic health record system” due to a “necessary reallocation of staff to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.” Takano stated that the project should be postponed indefinitely until the VA is sufficiently ready to launch it, saying that “failure to communicate with…employees was a significant factor that contributed to the initial implementation delay” that the agency had announced in February. In a letter penned to lawmakers last week, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie reportedly wrote that the pandemic “shifted the overall priorities” of the agency, though it “remains committed” to the electronic records system overhaul. Though Wilkie also wrote that the VA and the Department of Defense are on track to launch an “interagency partnership to share health records” at the end of April, no updated launch date has been announced for the delayed electronic health record system.

These states are giving cash to veterans affected by COVID-19 pandemic, Jim Absher (@jlabsher)

Some U.S. States are taking initiatives to help veterans who have been suffering from the economic impacts of COVID-19. Minnesota is offering two new financial relief programs, providing $6.2 million to Minnesota veterans through grants. In light of the pandemic, Indiana has loosened the requirements for the Military Family Relief Fund, making it available for more veterans and active-duty members. It may be used for up to two months of household needs, such as housing, food, utilities, medical services, child care and other essential family support that has become difficult to afford for many families. 

‘Rolling To Remember’ sidelined by coronavirus
Connecting Vets, Julia LeDoux (@julialedoux1)

Rolling to Remember, the event meant to replace the annual Rolling Thunder event in Washington, D.C., has been canceled due to the recent restrictions relating to gathering crowds in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was expected to bring thousands of motorcyclists together to raise awareness for POW/MIA accountability issues and suicide prevention. Executive Director Joe Chenelly of AMVETS, the sponsor of Rolling to Remember, is suggesting that participants log 22 miles on their bikes in their local communities on May 24, the scheduled date for the original event, for the Rolling to Remember Challenge. The ride, previously Rolling Thunder, has been a tradition for 32 years, and though crowds will not be able to assemble, participating separately is a way to keep the tradition alive until next year.

The USS TR isn’t the only aircraft carrier with COVID-19 cases
Connecting Vets, Elizabeth Howe 

Multiple aircraft carriers have been struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the most recent is the USS Nimitz, becoming the fourth U.S. aircraft carrier to report a COVID-19 case onboard. The diagnosed individual was removed from the carrier and put into isolation. Cases have also been reported on the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Carl Vinson, which are both currently undergoing maintenance. The Navy released measures in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, including closing ship gyms, screening all those who come aboard, outfitting sailors with nitrile gloves, conducting ship-wide bleach cleaning and maintaining the six-feet-apart rule as much as possible. Despite all of these efforts, the Navy has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic with 513 confirmed cases as of Wednesday morning.

Fred Wellman

Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of 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 13, 2020 12:09 pm

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