Veterans Roundup: The Army’s PR Problem, the Salute Seen Around the World

Posted by Fred Wellman

New Army Vice Chief Expects Worse Manpower Conditions
Michelle Tan, Army Times. The Army’s new vice chief, Gen. Daniel Allyn, said that he expects sequestration to rear its head again in 2016 at a recent AUSA Hot Topic professional development forum. Allyn said that the Army must be prepared for “extreme fiscal constraint” as it will have to drop down to 420,000 soldiers in the case of another sequestration. This dropdown would likely result in more involuntary separations. –MC
Bottom line: It’s truly a sad statement that the first public remarks from the new Vice Chief of Staff of the Army surrounds the all too likely idea that sequestration will probably hit the service once again in 2016. While yet another theater of war opens and Army forces are deploying to Iraq to “advise” the Iraqi Army the service’s number two is still toiling away on how to cut more forces from the field and meet a shrinking budget. It would be nice to see Congress grow up and behave like leaders of a nation instead of squabbling children fighting over scraps while more of our sons and daughters head to war. Of course, this also a nation that the day after that new war was announced spent two days freaking out about a bad salute by the President. So, maturity and vision seems to be an increasingly lost art in our nation. Hopefully, common sense overcomes everything and our armed forces are given the tools they need to fight this latest mission before we fail. –FPW

Federal Research Seeks Alternatives to Addictive Opioids for Veterans in Pain
Emily Wax-Thibodeaux (@emily_wax), The Washington Post. Nearly half of the troops who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq dealing with chronic pain and many doctors are prescribing opioids to help them cope. But studies have shown that opioids can lead to addiction, negative side effects, or even aggravate symptoms. The National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs are starting a $21.7 million project researching alternative therapies such as self-hypnosis and meditation to ease chronic pain, morning light to help lessen symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and many others. –MC
Bottom line: The estimated lifetime cost to the VA (and so taxpayers) of the current opioid approach to pain management could cost upwards of $5 trillion. Veterans suffer from chronic pain at a much higher rate than civilians and without better pain management options, chronic pain can lead to increasing disability. Already VA and DOD have made a concerted effort to lower the rate of prescribing opioids to treat pain after complaints of over prescription. Now the challenge will be completing evidence-based research and implementing new tactics to impact the lives of those in pain now. –LJ

Report: Some Causes of Suicide in Military Need More Study
Gregg Zoroya (@greggzoroya), USA Today. A RAND Corp report released last Monday found that research to identify who is suicidal and develop new and more effective ways to care for individuals with self-destructive habits receives little funding in from the military. Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, funding has been channeled into suicide research, but not into the areas identified by officials as most important. –MC
Bottom Line: The RAND Corp research, led by Terri Tanielian who also led RAND’s cutting edge work on TBI/PTSD and caregivers, shows a disheartening disconnect between what experts say should be priority suicide research and what actually gets funded. DOD is also suffering from a research-to-practice gap meaning that even DOD’s own most promising research into preventing suicide doesn’t always end up in the hands of clinicians and doctors. RAND recommends that DOD work to gain leadership buy-in on new research and technology to close the gap and that DOD develops a unified strategy on suicide prevention research. DOD and Congress have made suicide prevention the focus of much funding, but without a strategy or oversight  service members have yet to see significant outcomes. –LJ

What’s Going on with Young Veterans in the Labor Market?
Jonathan Rothwell (@jtrothwell), The Brookings Institution. The employment rate for young veterans aged 25-34 was 9.1 percent in 2013, compared to 7.4 for the same age group in the civilian population. Rothwell explains that veterans under 30 are typically much less educated than non-veterans in their age group as only 30 percent of veterans aged 25-30 have completed associates degrees or higher education. Rothwell also explains that many young veterans do not complete their entire degrees and they are much more likely to attend for-profit colleges, which have lower graduation rates. –MC
Bottom line: This is a pretty good look at some of the aspects surrounding the higher unemployment rate for young veterans from the perspective of educational levels compared to their peers. Holding all things equal it became clear that these veterans had lower numbers of degrees, less completion of academic pursuits, and higher numbers of for-profit degrees to their name. This comes not long after a study found that employers are less likely to respond to a prospective job applicant who gained their degree from a for-profit instead of a traditional school. Is it fair that veterans are judged on their education levels compared to their peers after serving their country? Does military service equal the value of a higher education in many aspects? It’s hard to say. But the numbers do add up to making it clear that for many job skills veterans and service members need to take advantage of the educational opportunities being offered to them and be choosy about what colleges they attend. The numbers are clearly piling up that education is key to post-service success and young veterans need to have a plan to compete. –FPW

Some Thoughts about How the Army Could Better Tell its Story to the American People
Lt. Gen. David Barno (@DWBarno76), Foreign Policy. Lt. Gen. David Barno (Ret), wrote a guest correspondent piece last week for Ricks Foreign Policy. His piece highlights some major messages that the U.S. Army should be sharing with the public and some interesting ways those messages can be communicated. –MC
Bottom Line: The messages that Barno offers are very good ones and make absolute sense, the problem is that it’s not just the message that is the point of failure. The Army has no coordinated communications effort that is relevant, timely, or appropriate for the current events. This week that was perfectly demonstrated when as the first strikes went in Syria by Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps aircraft and several thousand Army troops were deployed in Iraq to support the efforts of that nations’ Army, the service had nothing to say about it. As a matter of fact, the official U.S. Army Facebook page and Twitter feeds were filled with previews of the Warrior Games and “this day in history” posts and not one relevant to the news of the day. How can you show the American public that the Army is relevant, integral to the mission, and widely deployed when you allow 2.9 million Facebook fans to be exposed to stories that have nothing to do with what you are doing in combat? It’s not about talking points it’s about a coordinated, integrated, and focused communications effort that is completely fact based and in tune with world events. That’s what’s missing. If we allow the American public to think that the Army is spending its time today supporting sports events instead of fighting the nation’s wars, then we can’t cry when Congress cuts the budget even more to those that are “in the fight”. –FPW

Female Veterans Feel Left Behind
Ben Kesling (@bkesling), The Wall Street Journal. The number of women serving in the military is higher than ever but many VA and military services are falling behind in caring for female veterans. Recently discharged female veterans face a 9.3 percent unemployment rate compared to the 8 percent rate for their male peers, a third of VA medical centers don’t have gynecologists on staff, and female veterans disabled from war often face unique challenges with which the VA is unequipped to handle. These are just a few examples highlighted in a recent report by the Disabled American Veterans. –MC
Bottom line: While the challenges VA faces serving female veterans have been known anecdotally for some time, this report by DAV marks the first substantial deep dive into the issue. It’s great PR for DAV, too, at a time when the so-called legacy veteran service organizations are struggling to stay relevant and sign-up young veterans as members, many of whom are women. As an example of the uphill battle some VSOs face, just this month the VFW received approval to alter its Congressional charter so that it no longer only refers to veterans using male pronouns. DAV has pledged to take up advocacy around the issues highlighted in the report which would lend a restrained and moderated voice to that particular advocacy niche. –LJ

Army: It’s Good News that Sexual Assault Reports Are Up
Matt Millham (@MattMillham), Stars and Stripes. In 2013, the number of sexual assaults reported has jumped to 131% percent in U.S. Army Europe. At first glance the increase in reports seems negative but at a two-day sexual assault summit in Wiesbaden, Germany, officials including Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell said it might actually be a positive sign that victims are coming forward now more than ever. The statistic could mean that victims have more confidence that their leaders will take action when reports are filed. –MC
Bottom line: It’s certainly a good thing that victims of sexual assault are becoming more willing to file official reports. In some ways that means the increased focus on protecting victims’ rights and taking a firm stand against tolerating harassment or assault is working. On the other hand, that’s still quite a few sexual assaults. Convincing victims to report assault is an important step towards kicking out or locking up predators within the ranks, but prevention still must be a priority to ensure there aren’t so many victims. –LJ 

Tricare ‘Meeting the Needs’ of Children, with Some Caveats
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times. A Defense Department report found that the Tricare healthcare system is “meeting the needs” of military children, including those of children with special needs. The National Military Family Association found the report missing some major points, including a lack of standards for services of children with special needs. Another aspect missing from the report is a plan to improve pediatric care especially since it has recently come to light that Tricare’s childcare programs don’t meet standards in the American Academy for Pediatrics guidelines or the Affordable Care Act. –MC
Bottom line: The problem with this report is a lack of accessible data about military children and their care, a theme we can see across the board, not just in health care. As someone who is a product of the military healthcare system, I can tell you first hand that there are issues not addressed in this report. A standard definition of a child with special needs is vital to the care they receive and “adequate access” just doesn’t sum it all up. The community needs to continue pushing for more detailed research and action. –MC

Quick hits:

Army Chief: Division Headquarters Will Soon Deploy to Iraq
Michelle Tan, Army Times. The U.S. is bracing to send a division headquarters to Iraq to assist in the U.S.’s efforts against the Islamic State, and the 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley was identified as the unit late in the week. The headquarters will oversee the advise and support efforts in the nation as it gears up its fight against the IS. –MC

VA to Investigate Whether Data on Retired Marine Who Died was Falsified
The Associated Press. The VA is looking into allegations of falsified records after the death of Jordan Buisman, a medically retired Marine who was given a 70-day wait time for an appointment to see a specialist for his epilepsy. Buisman died 24 days before his appointment but four days after he died, a VA employee wrote in his record that he canceled his appointment. –MC

Military to Allow Undocumented Immigrants to Serve
Andrew Tilghman (@andrewtilghman), Military Times. A new Department of Defense policy allows for certain undocumented immigrants to serve in the U.S. military without a proper visa. To meet the requirements, immigrants must be in the U.S. with their parents before age 16 and also must be approved under the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) policy and will be eligible for expedited citizenship after joining. –MC

1 in 5 Army Hospital Leaders Suspended in 2 years: What’s Behind the Discipline?
Adam Ashton (@TNTmilitary), The Tacoma News Tribune. Eight senior Army medical officers have been suspended in two years and among those almost 1 in 5 commanders of major Army medical facilities have been suspended. Although each commander was suspended for different reasons, this raises questions about problems in the entire Army medical system and its leadership. –MC

Victoria Pridemore to Lead GW’s Military and Veteran Student Services
Lauren Igeno, GW Today. Victoria Pridemore, an Army veteran and George Washington University’s former VALOR ambassador for online programs (and friend of ScoutComms), has been promoted to lead GW’s Office of Military and Veteran Student Services where she will help veterans adjust to being students and advocate for the student veteran population on the GW campus. Congratulations Vicky from your friends at ScoutComms! –MC

U.S. To Shield Military from High-Interest Debt
Alan Zibel (@AlanZibel) and Ben Kesling (@bkesling), The Wall Street Journal. A new plan by the Defense Department attempts to put cap on interest rates, loans, and other products targeted at U.S. troops. The Military Lending Act already limits interest rates for active duty military but the law is easily circumvented and lenders keep finding ways around it. –MC

Obama’s ‘Latte Salute’ Controversy Spins into Second Day
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post. The fauxtroversy around Obama’s salute while debarking Marine One in New York City managed to be one of the biggest stories in the military and veterans’ space last week despite the president’s major speech to the UN and a deepening of US involvement in Iraq and Syria. Fortunately cooler heads like Fred prevailed via Twitter and Facebook to temper the storm. Latte-gate is a bigger reminder that it helps to have veterans on your PR team. Still no comment from the White House on when Obama plans to resign over the salute seen around the world. –LJ

Tradeshows & Conferences

No major tradeshows or conferences this week. AUSA begins October 13.

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

Congressional Hearings


Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: White House Perimeter Breach: New Concerns about the Secret Service When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, September 30, 2014 Where: 2154 Rayburn

Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere: Sergeant Andrew Thamooressi: Our Marine in Mexican Custody Who: Mrs. Jill Tahmooressi, Mother of Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi, Lieutenant Commander Montel B. Williams, USN, Retired, Veterans Advocate, Sergeant Robert Buchanan, USMC, Retired, Served with Sergeant Tahmooressi in Afghanistan, Mr. Pete Hegseth, Chief Executive Officer, Concerned Veterans for America When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, October 1, 2014 Where: 2172 Rayburn

Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs: Rhetoric v. Reality: Investigating the Continued Failures of the Philadelphia VA Regional Office When: 11:00 AM, Friday, October 3, 2014 Where: Geraldine Clinton Theater, Burlington County College, Pemberton Campus, 601 Pemberton Browns Mills Rd. Pemberton, NJ

Think Tanks & Other Events

National Veterans Center: Stress Relief Meditation for Veterans When: 5:00 PM, Monday, September 22, 2014 Where: The National Veterans Center, 2013 H Street NW, Washington, DC

Center for Strategic and International Studies: Federated Defense in the Middle East Who: Dr. Nora Bensahel, Senior Fellow and Co-Director, Responsible Defense Program, Center for a New American Security, Dr. Frederic Wehrey, Senior Associate, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Dr. Andrew Parasiliti, Director, Center for Global Research and Security, RAND Corporation When: 9:00 AM, Monday, September 29, 2014 Where: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave, NW, Washington, DC

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors: National Military Survivor Education Support Services Program Who: Bonnie Carroll, CEO and Founder, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Curt Coy, Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity at the Veterans Benefits Administration at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Paul Galanti, Commissioner, Virginia Department of Veterans Affairs, Deborah Bonito, spouse of Senator Mark Begich of Alaska When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, September 30, 2014 Where: National Press Club, Holeman Lounge, 529 14th St. NW, 12th floor, Washington, DC

Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation: Communities on the Front Lines: Innovative Models for Addressing Veterans’ Mental Health and Reintegration Needs Who: Phillip Carter, Moderator, Center for a New American Security, Rachel Latta, Ph.D., Director, The Safing Center, Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, Rich Gengler, President and CEO, VetsPrevail, Bob Goodale, Director, UNC Chapel Hill Citizen Soldier Support Program, Randye Retkin, Director and Founder of LegalHealth When: 4:00 PM, Wednesday, October 1, 2014 Where: 902 Hart

TechShop & Get Skills to Work: Meet-up for Veterans When: 6:00 PM, Thursday, October 2, 2014 Where: 2110 Crystal Dr., Arlington, VA, 22202

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, September 29, 2014 10:04 am

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