Veterans’ Roundup: The Frontier of Veteran Employment, the Latest on VA Reform and Bureaucratic Challenges, What the Military Culture Lacks, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Allison’s Social Media Pet Peeves: Concise Edition
I have a lot of feelings about a lot of things – there’s no denying that. As you’ll see in my recent Scout Blog, I definitely have a lot of feelings about how social media should and shouldn’t be used. And while I love expressing myself through writing, expressing myself through GIFs is wildly more effective. Check it out, and share if you have some of the same pet peeves! –AB

Hiring Veterans is Easy. Keeping Them Is Hard.
Vanessa Fuhrmans (@VJFuhrmans), The Wall Street Journal
After years of dedicated efforts to employ post-9/11 veterans, it appears there is still much work left to be done. Companies like Verizon and Amazon have created hiring initiatives to lower veteran unemployment, however a 2016 survey from ScoutComms client the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that 44 percent of veterans left their post-military job within the first 12 months after they were hired. Veteran recruiting experts say that if companies are not willing to invest time and effort in their veteran employees, specifically focusing on finding where their skills from the military translate to their new position, those employees will leave that job in search for a place that will. ¬–JG
Bottom Line: At this point, we really can’t question the amount of energy and effort that has been expended to address what was a huge crisis of veteran unemployment in the last four years. Of course, like is so often the case in our sector the solutions aren’t always as simple as just getting somebody a job. While many veterans are finding those initial jobs, they often find themselves in the wrong skill area, not fitting into the culture of a company, or simply lost in those positions and move on. While many companies are making efforts to keep the veterans they are hiring, it’s often more complicated than it sounds. Trying to find another job within a large company is essentially a new hiring process and not as simple as a transfer across town to another office. More companies are now adding retention programs to their repertoire of assets to ensure that the effort made to hire a veteran is not wasted by their loss within a year. Programs as simple as giving each veteran hired a fellow veteran in the company to mentor them can be critical to ensuring that the good work of hiring veterans isn’t lost through attrition. We applaud the organizations making an effort to keep our veterans in good jobs and making the positive impacts they have been trained to make for our nation. –FPW

‘The VA Is On A Path Toward Recovery,’ Secretary Of Veterans Affairs Says
Rebecca Hersher (@rhersher), National Public Radio
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David Shulkin believes the VA is making progress in many areas the VA has typically been criticized for in the past. While the VA health care system has had a difficult time hiring health care professionals, Shulkin wants to change the narrative around the VA through his reformative efforts. Dr. Shulkin is also working with Congress to extend Veterans Choice to ensure veterans are receiving medical care, even if it is outside the VA. Suicide among military veterans is Shulkin’s top clinical priority, to include the crisis hotline for veterans. –DD
Bottom line: To your humble Scout Reporter, the most striking thing about this article is that Shulkin so clearly is carrying through the reforms started by Secretary Bob. Nothing in this interview would sound foreign coming from Bob McDonald—and that’s a good thing. The continuity of progress at VA should be celebrated. We’re pleased to see Shulkin acknowledge the challenges VA faces, but also embrace the fact that VA does an excellent job treating the veterans who access its services. For instance, on mental health, he notes that most veterans who commit suicide are not users of VA services, and so a priority of his is to get more of those veterans into the VA. We’re optimistic that Shulkin and his team will be able to continue transforming the VA while also enabling veterans to seek care in their community when it makes sense—if higher-ups in the administration and Congress can agree on what that looks like. Of course, expect veteran-serving organizations to have some opinions on how this all shakes out, as well. –LJ

When Veterans Become Cops, Some Bring War Home
Simone Weischselbaum (@SimoneJWei) and Beth Schwartzapfel (@schwartzapfel), USA Today
This story by the Marshall Project with USA Today calls attention to a gap in research on combat veterans in the police force, in spite of the fact that nearly one in five police officers has served in the military in some capacity. Research done by The Marshall Project indicates some anecdotal evidence pointing to veteran police officers’ propensity toward using force in situations where others might hesitate to do so, but the report contained no quantifiable answers as to whether or not this statement is valid. –KB
Bottom line: There are approximately 18,000 police departments in the United States. The authors of this story based their conclusions on data from two departments. They also included anecdotal stories from others of officers who served in the military being prone to self-destructive behavior. What’s odd about the entire story is that the constant framing of it as “some” and that not all are having these issues when the data actually show that most combat veterans are doing very well. Buried in the last paragraph of the story is that the International Association of Chiefs of Police published a survey of 50 police chiefs found that 86% didn’t report more citizen complaints against veteran officers, 72% reported no psychological problems, and 90% reported no excessive violence from veteran officers. Even more damning, a thoroughly researched story last December from NPR’s Quil Lawrence found that military veterans are less likely to pull the trigger in standoff situations and it has even led to at least one officer being fired from his job for it. While it shouldn’t be a surprise that experiences in war can haunt our veterans long after service, and the life of a police officer presents a lot of stressful situations where these hidden wounds can appear, it does military veteran police officers a disservice to make blanket assessments on incredibly limited data like this story did. –FPW

The VA Overpaid Tens of Thousands of Veterans, and Now It Says They Have to Give the Money Back
Sara Jerving (@sarajerving), VICE News
After the VA overpaid thousands in benefits, veterans are now being told their benefits will be withheld until the debt is repaid back. Since 2013, veterans like Ted Steckler have been receiving letters in the mail from the VA’s Debt Management Center. Steckler was initially quoted a bill for more than $10,000 but then later was asked to repay double the figure he was originally quoted. Many veterans rely on their benefit checks to support their families and, without it, may go spiraling into debt. –DD
Bottom line: You would be hard-pressed to find a more bureaucratic process in the federal government than the disability benefits process at the VA. Last year more than 187,000 over-payment notices were issued to veterans receiving disability payments, which amounts to a little less than 2% of individuals receiving benefits. In some cases, like Army veteran profiled by Vice, vets have been receiving erroneous payments for years, and the repayment amounts are not small. It seems that this may be the unfortunate result of the focus on the streamlining and reduction of the VA claims backlog over the past few years. The process created opportunities to identify situations in which over-payments were occurring. While these over-payments represent a loss to the tax-payer and do need to be remedied, we must also examine the human cost of reducing or eliminating payments to veterans and families who often rely on these payments to get by. It is possible that the VA could learn something from the Department of Defense which faced a similar situation related to California National Guard members’ bonus pay in 2016. Since those over-payments were discovered, the DOD suspended the recoupment efforts and set a deadline to determine the outcome of each case. While the VA is facing many more debts than DOD in this situation, it does seem that a closer examination of the VA process would be prudent, for the VA, veterans, and taxpayers. –RB

Lawmaker: Military Has ‘a Cultural Problem of Abuse’
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
While many are often quick to blame scandals, such as Marines United, on a few “bad apples,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said last Sunday that these sorts of issues keep arising in the military due to an ingrained culture of abuse. These problems, which many Democrats attribute to a failure of oversight, date back several years, and can be fixed only through leaders taking initiative to make serious changes. –KB
Bottom line: When the Marines United scandal story broke several weeks ago, it again shined a very public light on the military’s on-going trouble with abuse against women in its ranks. Lawmakers have spent a significant amount of time recently grilling military leaders and examining the culture in which inappropriate and sometimes criminal activities are accepted or swept under the rug. Objectifying women, whether through off-handed comments, online forums, photo sharing or outright physical assault cannot be the norm in our services, and many argue that it isn’t. Our national security depends on the ability of our service members to trust the colleagues to their left and right inherently. Looking the other way or pretending that “boys will be boys” in response to this type of behavior erodes the trust needed to build and retain an elite fighting force. The demands made by lawmakers to military leaders to address and change this culture need to be answered fully. While military leadership must be held accountable and spearhead this change, we must also foster a culture where all service members have the knowledge and support to necessary to police and prevent this type of behavior. Scandals like Marines United leave a black mark on the services, and those that value the reputations of the institutions in which they serve must take responsibility. While it is one thing to ask for culture change, achieving it is a whole different story. Issuing social media guidance, as the Marines did this week is a step, but holding abusers to account and truly changing culture will be a long, multi-faceted process to which all service members–from the leadership to the line–must commit for the long-haul. –RB

These Nonprofits Say Trump’s Budget Could Hurt the Fight for Homeless Veterans
Jennifer McDermott (@JenMcDermottAP), The Associated Press
Under the federal budget proposed by President Trump, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) would be one of several entities no longer funded. The council is responsible for organizing the efforts of and increasing efficiency among 19 federal agencies that play crucial roles in ending homelessness. Advocates for homeless veterans are particularly worried about how this will stunt momentum in the fight to end veteran homelessness. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) have introduced legislation to save the council. ¬–JG
Bottom line: This is an important story not only because it impacts the 40,000 homeless veterans, but because it impacts more than 500,000 other homeless Americans. As homeless advocates have seen through the fight to end veteran homelessness, success occurs when local, state, and federal funding are coordinated and targeted. For the states and cities that have ended veteran homelessness, consulting experts at the USICH has been essential to targeting resources in the most effective ways. Using the example of ending veteran homelessness, these cities and states can then apply the same lessons to other homeless populations. So, yes, ending funding for USICH will hurt veterans, but it will also hurt hundreds of thousands of other Americans, too. While it’s useful to highlight how veterans’ issues are Americans’ issues, the fear here is that lawmakers and others will end up simply using veterans as a political crutch without demonstrating an understanding of the nuances of the issues. –LJ

Companies Doing Great Things for Veterans
Darla Atlas, PEOPLE
PEOPLE and Great Place to Work’s research firm have chosen 50 of nearly 1,000 surveyed companies for their list of Companies That Care. ScoutComms client USAA made the list, due to the services and programs they provide to millions of current and former service members and military families. For more information about the wonderful work they do in the military community, along with resources on the other Companies That Care, read more! –AB

Advocates Push to Start Work on Global War on Terror Memorial
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
The Global War on Terror has been our nation’s longest war to-date. For more than 16 years, survivors of those we’ve lost, veterans, active service members and military family members have been eagerly awaiting a national memorial to honor their service, as well as the lives of the fallen. Current law means they will wait for decades, since there is no end-date in sight for this new kind of war. Advocates from Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation and supporters are actively pushing for that to change, and soon. –AB

Ash Carter Accepts Harvard professorship
Ellen Mitchell (@EllenMitchell23), The Hill
Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter will be joining Harvard’s Kennedy School as a professor of technology and global affairs. Carter will also serve as the director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs within the John F. Kennedy School of Government. –KB

3 Players to Take Part in the NFL’s USO Tour
Military Times (@MilitaryTimes)
Three NFL players will be embarking on a tour through southwest Asia to visit military personnel and their families at military bases. Through the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign, the USO will send players from the Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons to meet one-on-one to thank service members and their families. –DD

Advocates Launch New Campaign to Highlight ‘Badass’ Women Vets
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
Got Your 6, an organization dedicated to challenging veteran stereotypes, launched its #ShesBadass campaign this past week, highlighting women veterans and their contributions both to the military and to society as a whole.

Tradeshows & Conferences

Sea Air Space: Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition 2017 (Mon – Wed, April 3-5, 2017); Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, MD

SPIE: Defense + Commercial Sensing 2017 (DCS) (Sun – Thur, April 9-13, 2017); Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, CA

Congressional Hearings

Armed Services: Assessing Progress and Identifying Future Opportunities in Defense Reform
Who: Ms. Michele Flournoy, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Center for a New American Security; Dr. John J. Hamre, Chief Executive Officer and President, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Dr. Dov Zakheim, Senior Adviser, Center for Strategic and International Studies
When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: Damage to the Military from a Continuing Resolution
Who: General David L. Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, U.S. Air Force; General Mark A. Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army, U.S. Army; General Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps; Admiral John M. Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Navy
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: The Current State of the U.S. Marine Corps
Who: Lieutenant General Ronald L. Bailey, USMC, Deputy Commandant for Plans, Policies, and Operations, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps; Lieutenant General Michael G. Dana, USMC, Deputy Commandant for Installations and Logistics, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps; Lieutenant General Jon M. Davis, USMC, Deputy Commandant for Aviation, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps
When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Where: 2212 Rayburn

Armed Services: Evaluating the Defense Contract Auditing Process
Who: Ms. Anita F. Bales, Director, Defense Contract Audit Agency, Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller); The Honorable David Berteau, President & CEO, Professional Services Council; Mr. John Panetta, National Secretary, Financial Executives International; Mr. James Thomas, Assistant Vice President of Policy, National Defense Industrial Association
When: 9:00 AM, Thursday, April 6, 2017
Where: 2212 Rayburn

Armed Services: United States Strategic Command Programs
Who: General John E. Hyten, USAF, Commander, U.S. Strategic Command
When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Where: G50 Dirksen

Armed Services: CLOSED: Cyber Threats to the United States
Who: Ms. Kate Charlet, Performing The Duties Of Deputy Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Cyber Policy, Department Of Defense; Dr. Samuel Liles, Director, Cyber Analysis Division, Department Of Homeland Security, Office Of Intelligence And Analysis; Ms. Tonya L. Ugoretz, Director Of The Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center, Office Of The Director Of National Intelligence; Brigadier General Mary F. O’Brien, USAF, Director Of Intelligence, U.S. Cyber Command
When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Where: 217 Capitol Visitor Center

Armed Services: United States Southern Command and United States Northern Command
Who: Admiral Kurt W. Tidd, USN, Commander, U.S. Southern Command; General Lori J. Robinson, USAF, Commander, U.S. Northern Command And Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command
When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, April 6, 2017
Where: G50 Dirksen

Other Events & Opportunities

High Ground Veterans Advocacy: Summer 2017 Fellowship Class Applications
Who: Service members and veterans around the country
When: Applications are open until April 20, 2017; Training dates: Sun-Sat, June 4-10, 2017

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 Tuesday, April 04, 2017 2:42 pm

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