Veterans Roundup: The Scout Report: Independent Review Vindicates Wounded Warrior Project, VA Seeking New Data on Suicide, Dishonorable Discharges Getting Second Looks

Posted by Fred Wellman

HillVets Names its Most Influential on Military Veterans Issues
Military Times
HillVets, a pro bono ScoutComms client working to promote veterans in careers on Capitol Hill, released the HillVets 100 of 2015 which runs down last year’s major influencers and advocates for veterans and their needs. ScoutComms’ CEO Fred Wellman earned a spot for the second year in a row and we’re happy to see many of our clients past and present honored for their work including BP America, The Home Depot Foundation, Student Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, Team RWB, Team Rubicon, Armed Services Arts Partnership, TAPS and We Are the Mighty. –JG

Wounded Warrior Project Fights to Save Face After High-Profile Firings
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
On Thursday, Wounded Warrior Project’s board of directors made the decision to let go CEO Steve Nardizzi and COO Al Giordano. The departures came towards the conclusion of an independent review of the organization’s operations and spending, which found accusations made by the media in recent months were false. The review found that 80 percent of WWP’s funding goes directly to supporting warriors and families, contrary to CBS News reports, and the organization is continuously advancing its mission of providing services to wounded warriors. –MC
Bottom line: The Board of Directors announced that the results of the independent audit they ordered found that much of the key points in both the CBS and New York Times stories were not accurate. That 80.2% of their funds go to programs, that the 990 line item for $26 million on conferences and meetings was 97% programmatic conferences, and not internal ones as alleged, and that the annual conference held at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs did not cost $3 million as alleged by an ex-employee but $970,000. However, more investigations need to be done and clearly the board felt new leadership was needed to regain the trust and confidence of donors and the public. They announced plans to conduct a national search for a new CEO and COO while an “Office of the CEO” consisting of the Chairman of the Board and key executives would manage the organization in the interim. In the end, the most important people to WWP are the 100,000 Alumni and their caregivers that it supports and the programs it offers them. Hopefully, this will help move past the challenges and allow the organization to go forward in its work. (WWP is a ScoutComms client). –FPW

Veteran Suicide: ‘We Must and Will Do More,’ VA Says
Patricia Kime (@patriciakime), Military Times
The VA is changing some of its approaches to suicide prevention programs and efforts. The VA will create three “telehealth hubs” for treatment and additional services, conduct several studies on suicide and the effects of deployment, as well as increase the availability of opioid overdose antidotes at VA facilities. As advocates work to combat veteran and service member suicide, more high-ranking service members like Army Gen. Joe Votel, commander of U.S. Special Forces Command, are speaking out about their experiences with mental health care and tackling the stigma of getting help. –MC
Bottom line: Given the prevalence of the extrapolated “22 veteran suicides” data point, it is great to see that the VA says it is working to obtain concrete data on the current rate and extent of veteran suicides by mid-year. This is an important step to help inform public debate and the legislative process. It is also great to see that the VA is conducting more research—again, data is good—and that it is taking seriously the threat of opioid overdose, which is a real concern given the “cocktails” many veterans are prescribed in the course of their treatment. Personally, having helped lead a health information technology association in a previous life, I’m excited to see the VA doing more with telehealth. We hear regular concerns about the inability of veterans to actually talk to a healthcare provider due to wait lists; telehealth meetings may not be as impactful as an office meeting, but for many, they represent a foot in the door that can give them hope or start them on a course of treatment and behavior change. –BW

Legislation Would Halt Bad Military Discharges Due to PTSD, TBI
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
Over the past few months, advocates have been pushing to end and reverse the military’s practice of discharging service members for behavior that may be related to post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury. Now, lawmakers are introducing legislation that would require a military discharge board to examine discharges and accept PTS or TBI as rebuttals. Since 2009, at least 22,000 combat veterans were discharged from the Army under other-than-honorable circumstances. –MC
Bottom line: It is great to see the hard work of advocates like Kris Goldsmith showing progress on Capitol Hill, where legislative action would be able to enshrine recent moves by DOD to address the issue itself. Past guidance within DOD has eased the burden on some Vietnam veterans appealing their dishonorable discharges. New guidance eases the burden on all veterans. Still, advocates and lawmakers want to make statutory changes that future administrations wouldn’t be able to change. Enabling these veterans the ability to upgrade discharges related to mental health issues would mean preserving their access to potentially live-saving benefits like health care. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), the lead sponsor of this bill and a veteran, is also sponsoring a bill that would enable any veteran at risk of suicide to seek urgent care from VA despite their discharge status. These bills may be included in an upcoming veterans omnibus bill expected within the next month. –LJ

How Big is Opposition to Women in Combat Units Among Marines? This Report Explains
Dan Lamothe (@danlamothe), The Washington Post
A 2012 survey of 54,000 Marines was recently released to the Washington Post through the Freedom of Information Act. At the time, nearly two thirds of male Marines and one in three female Marines opposed opening combat positions to women. The report was not included with the Defense Department’s research released when Carter announced the opening of all combat positions to women in December, but DoD is still moving forward with the change, as outlined in a recent statement from Secretary Ash Carter last week. In Army news, the largest branch of the military can expect to see its first female grunts and tankers integrated into units by 2017. –MC
Bottom line: As we have seen with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and overwrought concerns about its impact, the military is a resilient yet flexible social organization that has the ability to accept new policies and quantitative realities so long as it does not deter from the mission. The fact that many male Marines (and some female Marines) were opposed to combat integration 3-4 years ago does not necessarily indicate that the exact same views are held today. Yet it is also important to not discount the level of opposition that exists in the tradition-minded, heavily male Corps; overcoming this opposition will require both time and proof, in the form of women achieving success in combat jobs and proving their worth. It will also require that the Corps move away from its past policy of treating male and female recruits differently, and holding women to unnecessarily low physical standards. In the meantime, Secretary Carter has made it clear that integration will occur in a timely manner across the services. We should see some interesting results and anecdotes in the next 12-18 months. –BW

Trump’s Donations Aside, These are Tough Times for Veteran Groups
Phillip Carter (@carter_pe), The Washington Post
Phil Carter, a former Army officer, Iraq veteran and director of the veterans research program at the Center for a New American Security, writes about the ongoing need to support veterans organizations in a tightening philanthropic environment. Carter notes that from the outside coupled with stunts like Donald Trump’s fundraising for veterans, it may look like veterans groups are financially secure and no longer in need of support, but in reality the needs of veterans are only increasing and support from Americans is shrinking. –MC
Bottom line: Phil Carter does his usual outstanding job of boiling down the challenges and shifts in philanthropy faced by veteran serving organizations and makes it clear that there is a reason why Wounded Warrior Project and other organizations don’t look or operate like most non-profits. Overall giving and support for veterans organizations is falling while a rapidly declining population of veterans means traditional Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) like VFW and American Legion that depends on membership dues face shrinking income as members pass away. Non-profits that want to succeed will have to look to models that are delivering direct impact and unique missions that are serving the veterans population in ways others cannot. We have been saying for some time that a shift in the veterans services space is coming as organizations will be faced with the tough choices to adjust their services, close their doors, or merge with larger organizations. While not mentioned, this shift is exactly why ScoutComms is structured as a for-profit Benefit Corporation instead of a non-profit. We are able to impact our mission to advocate for veterans and military families by providing direct services to those that support them. It’s a sustainable model based on business principles and why we believe the B Corp movement is another wave to come for veterans. –FPW

A Marine’s Convictions
John Woodrow Cox (@JohnWoodrowCox), The Washington Post
Marine Maj. Mark Thompson, a former history instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy was accused of having sex with two women who were students at the time, one called the engagement consensual, the other called it rape. John Woodrow Cox explored the situation in depth in a recent article, showing the challenges of military sexual assault investigations. –MC
Bottom line: This is a deeply reported, complex story that starts with one Marine’s quest for what he believes is justice and ends in the muddy waters of justice and a sense of that a serious miscarriage of justice has taken place. You really must read it. It demonstrates the ways the military justice system has tried, and in some cases failed, to show that it is up to the task of prosecuting sexual assault cases. In the pursuit of convictions, some within the system are manipulating quirks that do not exist in the civilian courts and leaving those convicted with few ways to appeal their cases. In Thompson’s case, that meant making up corroborating witnesses’ testimony among other transgressions. But do the ends justify the means in certain cases? This story will give you pause. –LJ

New JMU Veterans Center Surpasses Expectations
Isabel Roasles (@WHSVisabel), ABC 3 News
James Madison University’s Student Veterans of America Chapter won a Vet Center Initiative grant in 2015 thanks to The Home Depot Foundation to build or renovate spaces on campus for veterans. Their newly renovated center has attracted student veterans to the school and has helped several network directly with the local Harrisonburg Police Department and other potential employers. Student Veterans of America is now taking applications for its 2016 Vet Center Initiative! Learn more here! –JG

For These Vets, Making People Laugh is the Best Medicine
Glenn Dixon, The Washington Post
Comedy can be a powerful tool to connect a performer with the audience. The Armed Services Art Partnership offers a comedy bootcamp to help veterans tell their stories through laughter, even those living with PTS and other post war conditions. Michael Garvey served in the Marines for eight years and before he started the program could barely hold conversations with stranger. Today, he willingly gets on stage in front of them and makes crowds laugh with the help of his service dog Liberty. –JG

MYnd Analytics Expands Its Business with Opening of First MYnd Analytics Center in Southern California
MYnd Analytics, Inc., has opened its first MYnd Analytics Center in Laguna Hills, CA. The company will provide EEG tests to patients, allowing doctors to utilize its PEER Online report that reduces trial and error prescribing. Congratulations, MYnd Analytics on your expansion! –MC

Military Spouses Face Major Employment Challenges
Barrie Barber (@BarrieBarber), Dayton Daily News
Alex Masick is engaged to a second lieutenant in the Air Force stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB. In a today’s competitive job market, many companies are wary of hiring a military spouse who could leave in a year or two. Luckily, Hiring Our Heroes is seeking to bridge this divide of unemployment or underemployment and help military spouses find meaningful employment. To find out if a military spouse hiring fair is coming to a city near you, visit the HOH website. –JG

Syracuse University’s Military Institute Doubles Down on Veteran Entrepreneurs
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
This week the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University announced it will host a Center of Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship, with the support of First Data. The center will focus on hosting classes, building a network of business hopefuls and investors, combining new data with best business practices, and conducting research to better understand the needs of veteran business owners and their ventures. –JG

Quick Hits:

With More Funding, VA to Cover Vets Requiring Hepatitis C Treatments
Bryant Jordan (@BryantJordan),
The VA has just announced that it will have the funding to treat all patients suffering from Hepatitis C in 2016. The treatment was previously reserved for severe cases. The change is thanks to increased funding and lower drug prices. Whether this continues through 2017 is up in the air. –JG

Advocates Say Imprisoned Veterans Should Have Access to VA
Bryant Jordan (@BryantJordan),
The Vietnam Veterans Association and Paralyzed Veterans of America are backing Senate legislation that would make it possible for incarcerated veterans to apply for Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare services and benefits prior to their release. Advocates for the legislation say that if passed, this will help imprisoned veterans reintegrate back into society more easily. –MC

Senate GOP Aims to Streamline Key Veterans Programs
Jordain Carney (@jordainc), The Hill
A new bill introduced in the Senate this week would simplify the scheduling and payment process for veterans who qualify for non-VA healthcare. This legislation comes after it was found that only two-thirds of reimbursement payments were made on time, causing some veterans’ credit scores to be negatively impacted. –JG

Tradeshows & Conferences

National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates, Inc: Spring Conference 2016 (Thu – Sat, March 10-12); Tropicana Las Vegas, NV

Congressional Hearings

Joint Senate and House:

Veterans Affairs: Hearing on the Legislative Presentation of Multiple VSOs (FRA, TREA, NASDVA, MOAA, AFSA, AXPOW, NCOA, JWV, and IAVA) 
Who: Mr. Virgil Courneya, 
National President, Fleet Reserve Association, Mr. Larry Hyland, National President, The Retired Enlisted Association, Mr. David Brasuell, President, Idaho, National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, Ms. Rene Campos, Deputy Director, Government Relations, Military Officers Association of America, Mr. Rob Frank, CEO, Air Force Sergeants Association, Mr. Charles Susino, Jr., Past National Commander/Legislative Officer, American Ex-Prisoners of War, Sgt. Major H. Gene Overstreet, President, Non Commissioned Officers Association, Mr. Jerome Blum, National Commander, Jewish War Veterans, Mr. Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Where: G50 Dirksen


Armed Services: Current State of Readiness of U.S. Forces
Who: General Daniel B. Allyn
, Vice Chief Of Staff, United States Army, Admiral Michelle J. Howard, Vice Chief Of Naval Operations, United States Navy, General John M. Paxton, Jr., Assistant Commandant, United States Marine Corps, General David L. Goldfein, Vice Chief Of Staff, United States Air Force
When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Where: 222 Russell

Veterans Affairs: Veterans Choice Improvement Act of 2016, Improving Veteran Access to Care in the Community Act, Express Appeals Act of 2016 
Who: The Honorable Robert A. McDonald
, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Mr. Louis Celli, Director of Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, The American Legion, Mr. Carlos Fuentes, Senior Legislative Associate, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Mr. Adrian Atizado, Assistant National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans
When: 2:15 PM, Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Where: G50 Dirksen

Armed Services: Posture of the Department of the Navy
Honorable Raymond E. Mabus, Jr., Secretary Of The Navy, Admiral John M. Richardson, Chief Of Naval Operations, General Robert B. Neller, Commandant Of The Marine Corps
When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Where: 216 Hart

Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense: Fiscal Year 2017 Funding Request and Budget Justification for the National Guard and Reserve
Who: General Frank J. Grass, Chief of the National Guard, Major General Brian Neal, Acting Director of the Air National Guard, Lieutenant General Timothy J. Kadavy, Director of the Army National Guard, Lieutenant General Jeffrey W. Talley, Chief of the Army Reserve, Vice Admiral Robin R. Braun, Chief of the Navy Reserve, Lieutenant General James Jackson, Chief of the Air Force Reserve, Lieutenant General Rex C. McMillian, Commander of the Marine Forces Reserve
When: 10:30 AM Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Where: 192 Dirksen

Armed Services: Department of Defense Budget Posture
Who: Honorable Ashton B. Carter,
Secretary Of Defense, Honorable Michael J. McCord, Under Secretary Of Defense (Comptroller) And Chief Financial Officer, General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., USMC, Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff
When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, March 17, 2016
Where: G50 Dirksen


Veterans Affairs Subcommittees on Oversight & Investigations and Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs: “Twenty Five Years After the Persian Gulf War: An Assessment of VA’s Disability Claim Process with Respect to Gulf War Illness”
When: 10:30 AM, Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: The Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Military Departments
Who: Mr. Patrick J. Murphy,
Acting Secretary of the Army, U.S. Army, General Mark A. Milley, USA
Chief of Staff of the Army, U.S. Army, The Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, U.S. Navy, Admiral John M. Richardson, USN, Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Navy, General Robert B. Neller, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps, U.S. Marine Corps, The Honorable Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force,U.S. Air Force, General Mark A. Welsh III, USAF, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, U.S. Air Force
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Veterans Affairs Subcommittees on Economic Opportunity Health: draft legislation to improve authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to hire and retain physicians and other employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs
When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Where: 334 Cannon

Oversight and Government Reform: VA Cybersecurity and IT Oversight
2:00 PM, Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Where: 2154 Rayburn

Think Tanks & Other Events

Service Women’s Action Network: Revisiting Selective Service
Who: Nancy Duff Campbell, 
Co-President, National Women’s Law Center, Brenda S. Farrell, General Accountability Office (GAO), Bradford Wineman, Ph.D., Professor, Marcine Corps University, Finn K. Hannestad, Major General, Defense Attaché, Royal Norwegian Embassy, Lory Manning, Captain, USN (ret), Senior Fellow SWAN
When: 8:00 AM, Thursday, March 17, 2016
Where: Reserve Officers Association Minuteman Building, 1 Constitution Ave, NE, Washington, DC 20002

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, March 14, 2016 9:04 am

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