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Veterans Roundup: The Scout Report: VA Funding Fix Means Hospitals Stay Open, Missing Deadline to End Veteran Homelessness & More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Ending Vets Homelessness Depends on Affordable Housing
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. On Wednesday, advocates told lawmakers that progress towards ending veteran homelessness is limited because of a lack of affordable housing. Lisa Pape, executive director of homeless programs at the Veterans Health Administration, noted that ramping up rapid rehousing and transitional shelters will make a significant difference in efforts to end veteran homelessness. The VA said in 2010 that it would end homelessness by 2015, and it has reduced the number of homeless veterans by more than 25,000 but more than 50,000 veterans are still on the streets. –MC
Bottom line: Advocates have been saying for months that the fight to end veteran homelessness will not end, not even had the 2015 deadline been met. That’s because while the infrastructure to pull veterans out of homelessness has been put into place, the conditions that put veterans at risk of homelessness still exist. A focus on creating more affordable housing would certainly help in the long-term to ensure more veterans do not fall into homelessness, future prevention efforts must continue to be holistically focused on not just housing but also mental health, financial literacy, legal issues, and substance abuse programs. We have worked with advocates for homeless veterans for years and know they are committed to ending this scourge beyond 2015. Hopefully Congress will stand by them with the funding to continue these important programs. –LJ

Cerner Wins Bid to Redo Health Data
Julie Creswell, New York Times. The Department of Defense awarded a multibillion-dollar contract to Cerner Corporation to take on the massive effort to digitize the health records of over 9.5 million military personnel and their beneficiaries. The contract is the first in what is expected to be a $9 billion effort over some 18 years. The effort has its doubters as the move to digitize civilian records has been full of challenges and DoD’s attempts at electronic health records have been a disaster in the past. –FPW
Bottom line: The DoD has a pretty bad track record on this effort with the last attempt failing after billions of dollars and a decade of effort. There is a lot of talk about the Department of Veterans Affairs inability to reduce the backlog of benefits applications from military personnel and it starts right with the medical records exchange. The DoD and VA systems are not compatible so records are often lost or misdirected causing the VA to essentially start from scratch with each veteran and dragging out an already laborious process. Effective electronic records is the start to a smoother transition for veterans of the future, of course, it will only take ten years or more for just the first step. –FPW

Feds investigating University of Phoenix, Popular with Military Vets
Anne Flaherty (@AnneKFlaherty), The Associated Press. The University of Phoenix is under investigation for deceptive and potentially unfair business practices. The for-profit school is very popular with military veterans and has collected more than $488 million in tuition and fees, a number much higher than that of any other college accepting GI Bill funds. –MC
Bottom line: University of Phoenix has long been the most public whipping post for those battling the for-profit school industry and its focus on recruiting active military members and veterans. The school has fallen on very hard times after years of investigations and negative publicity having now lost almost half its student population. What the future holds for the school and the entire industry is becoming more doubtful if they lose the ability tap into federal funds. The thing about the situation is that there are many thousands who have graduated from the school and worked hard to get their degrees and are now questioning whether to even include the education on their resumes. Like many of these situations the second and third order effects of what the prevailing movement wants can have damage far beyond the target of the goal. –FPW

Congress OKs Funding Shift to Keep VA Hospitals Open
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. On Thursday, the Senate approved a last-minute deal allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to use $3.3 billion in funds from the Choice Card program to be used to cover VA budget shortfalls. The legislation also allows the VA to use up to $500 million on a treatment for the hepatitis C virus. Although the cobbled together bill made it through Congress, the possibility of a White House veto still looms. –MC
Bottom line: It should come as no surprise that Congress is giving the VA what it asked for. Once the initial posturing for the record was completed, lawmakers’ instinctive support for veterans and lack of a better short-term solution made passage the only option. It certainly did not hurt that the VA, for now, is only asking to reallocate existing funds. No matter how Washington plays around with numbers, no one wants to be responsible for holding up funds to provide healthcare to veterans. But the bill is not just about VA funding decisions; Republicans also slipped in the Hire More Heroes Act, a minor but misguided piece of legislation to allow companies to hire veterans without counting them against the Obamacare mandatory coverage threshold. This is the epitome of poorly thought-out political posturing, as recent client RecruitMilitary previously noted in the Washington Post. We wonder if Congress even tried to put itself in the shoes of a company’s employees when they find out that the company can avoid providing mandatory healthcare by hiring veterans instead of Americans who count toward the Obamacare threshold. –BW

America’s First Female Four-Star on Diversity in the Military
Ann Dunwoody (@AnnDunwoody), Defense One. General Ann Dunwoody, USA (ret.), the military’s first female four-star, says that the military is making progress in becoming more inclusive, citing significant improvements since she first joined. On a similar note, Lt. Col. Kate Gemano, who was controversially removed from a Marine boot camp command position, wrote an article arguing for higher standards for female Marines. –MC
Bottom line: Gen. Dunwoody, who prior to having a shoulder board full of stars was the first woman to command a battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division, shares some commonsense thoughts on the value of intellectual and categorical diversity, thoughts that are still not completely accepted within all corners of the military. She highlights the need to move away from seeing diversity as a matter of affirmative action, and to instead see it as an element of doing business better. Looking back on her experience, she notes, “While corporate America was discovering the value of diversity in winning over shareholders, the military was realizing the importance of diversity in waging and winning wars.” –BW

Double Amputee Completes Handcycle Ride Across US for Wounded Veterans
Heath Druzin (@Druzin_Stripes), Stars and Stripes. Yesterday, Toran Gaal, a Marine veteran and double amputee, completed a 4,000-plus-mile Ride Across America to raise funds and awareness for the Semper Fi Fund. The Semper Fi Fund was there for Toran immediately after his injury, helped his family as they stayed by his side, and even provided him his handcycle. Toran raised nearly $50,000 for the Semper Fi Fund and inspired many along the way, from Boston Marathon survivors, to other wounded service members, and us here on the ScoutComms team, too. –MC
Other coverage:

Double amputee Marine completes cross country journey
NBC 4 Washington
Wounded Marine finishes ride across America
Garette W Haake (@GarrettHaake), WUSA 9
Double amputee cycles from San Diego to the district
Diane Cho (@DianeChoWJLA), ABC 7
Wounded veteran nears end of cross-country hand-cycle trip
Fox 5 DC

Why We Love to Hate Nonprofits
Allison Gauss (@AllisonGauss), Stanford Social Innovation Review. Stories of nonprofit wrongdoing have been going viral, especially when it comes to veteran charities. But Allison Gauss warns that readers should be cautious of data cited in those types of articles. She shows us that numbers are easy to misinterpret and manipulate, using the Wounded Warrior Project as an example. WWP provides mentorship programs, events, assistance with benefits, and many programs and services on top of grant giving, but those numbers are often excluded in order to tarnish the organization’s reputation. –MC

Boots to Business Training Set to Expand to All Troops
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Boots to Business training program is expanding beyond transitioning troops and will now be open to all service members at any time during their military career. Leo Shane discussed the change with Barb Carson, head of the SBA’s veteran programs and James Schmeling, co-founder of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. The program features a two-day on-base course and an eight-week online course. For more information or to see when the next class will take place near you, visit the Boots to Business website. –MC

Shifting the Mind-Set for Veterans Moving from Battlefield to Classroom
T Rees Shapiro (@TReesShapiro), Washington Post. Last week, a group of 15 enlisted veterans attended the Warrior-Scholar Project’s academic boot camp at Georgetown University. Washington Post education reporter T. Shapiro attended some of the classes and spoke with several veterans about their experiences. Be sure to take the time to read the article, and check out upcoming Warrior-Scholar Project boot camps.

Helping Student Veterans Succeed Through VetCenter Support
The Home Depot Foundation is working with Student Veterans of America (SVA) to provide spaces for veteran students on 50 college campuses across the country through SVA’s VetCenter Initiative. The program goes beyond just creating a space, but aims to make each veterans center feel like home for students. –MC

Wounded Vets Learn How to Golf
Allison Sylte (@AllisonSylte) and Steve Staeger (@SteveStaeger), KUSA. From July 27-29, 32 injured military veterans spent three days at the second Annual Team Semper Fi Golf Camp in Denver. The group of veterans learned golf skills while honing their minds and bodies. The golf camp is one of many programs offered by the Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund, aiding injured, wounded, and critically ill veterans and their families from the moment of injury and throughout their lifetime. –MC

Quick Hits:

Commandant Names Congressman an Honorary Marine
Hope Hodge Seck (@HopeSeck), Marine Corps Times. Our friend, Rep. Rob Wittman, R-VA, was named an honorary Marine last Tuesday by Gen. Joseph Dunford, who was confirmed later in the week as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Wittman was recognized for his commitment to the sea services and wounded service members. The ScoutComms team has seen Wittman’s commitment first-hand, as he has shown his support time and time again in our Fredericksburg community. Congratulations, Congressman Wittman! –MC

DoD: Money for Outside Health Care Could Run Out this Week
Travis J. Tritten (@Travis_Tritten), Stars and Stripes. The VA isn’t the only agency struggling with a lack of funding for heath care services. This week, the Defense Department announced that it too is running out of money to cover outside treatment for troops and dependents. Upcoming changes to co-pays and the military retirement system are holding up the 2016 defense authorization bill, and discussions to improve the system are on hold. –MC

Dismantling Military’s Transgender Ban to Begin Monday
Tom Vanden Brook (@tvandenbrook), USA Today. The Pentagon’s top officials are working this week to develop a plan allowing transgender troops to openly serve in the military, protecting them from being discharged, and incorporating them into the ranks. –MC

Dempsey Discusses the Importance of Military Families
Karen Jowers, Military Times. Gen. Martin Dempsey, outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs, attended the Military Child Education Coalition National Training Seminar and described the support that the Defense Department provides to military children stateside and overseas. –MC

Terrorism, or Not? Why Purple Hearts Are in Question Following the Chattanooga Attack
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), Washington Post. Two weeks ago, five service members were tragically killed in Chattanooga. The U.S. government is trying to decide if the event was an act of terrorism. The decision will affect whether or not the fallen service members will receive the Purple Heart. –MC

Senate Moves Closer to Allowing GI Bill Startups
Kristina Wong (@kristina_wong), The Hill. Legislation allowing veterans to use their GI bill benefits, which can currently only be used on an education, to instead help launch a small businesses passed through the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee unanimously last week. –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences
83rd Military Order of the Purple Heart Convention (Tue-Sun 4-9 August); JW Marriott Las Vegas Hotel, Las Vegas, NV

DAV 2015 National Convention (Sat-Tue, 8-11 August); Sheraton, Denver, CO

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

Congressional Hearings
Senate:Armed Services: Hearings to examine the procurement, acquisition, testing, and oversight of the Navy’s Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier program Who: Mr. Sean J. Stackley, Assistant Secretary, Research, Development & Acquisition Department Of The Navy, Rear Admiral Donald E. Gaddis, USN, Program Executive Officer, Tactical Aircraft Department Of The Navy, Rear Admiral Thomas J. Moore, USN, Program Executive Officer, Aircraft Carriers Department Of The Navy, Rear Admiral Michael C. Manazir, USN, Director, Air Warfare (OPNAV), Dr. J. Michael Gilmore, Director Of Operational Test And Evaluation Department Of Defense, Mr. Paul L. Francis, Managing Director Of Acquisition And Sourcing Management U.S. Government Accountability Office When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, August 6, 2015 Where: G50 Dirksen

Think Tanks & Other Events

Politico Playbook Breakfast with VA Secretary Bob McDonald When: 7:30 AM, Thursday, August 6 Where: Newseum, 555 Pennsylvannia Ave NW, Washington, DC

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, August 03, 2015 4:26 pm

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