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Veterans Roundup: The Voices of Native American Veterans Need to Be Heard, Mold in Military Housing Continues to Cause Many Troubles for Families, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Native American Veterans Finally Get Audience With Congress
Stars and Stripes, Nikki Wentling (@nikkiwentling)

Native American leaders from across the country traveled to Washington D.C. Wednesday to meet with the Subcommittee on Health, a component of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, to share their concerns with lawmakers about Native American veterans’ barriers to health care. The article states that this meeting is “the first forum of its kind they’ve been granted to in three decades.” It is really significant that this meeting finally took place, but the disregard and lack of attention for over three decades to the needs of the population is abhorrent given the enormous sacrifice that Native American service members have made to the US military. The invisibility of Native American military service is in part due to the lack of knowledge and whitewashing of US American history. I feel like it is important to take this opportunity to share a few stats to highlight the enormous contribution of Native American service members to our country. It is estimated that over twenty thousand Natives served in the Civil War for both the Union and Confederacy; over 12,000 served in the United States military in WWI. Additionally, in WWII more than 44,000 American Indians served with distinction between 1941 and 1945, and those on the home front in the US were an integral part of the war effort. Vietnam era Native American service members total over 42,000. At the beginning of the twenty first century, according to Winona LaDuke, author of the very important book, The Militarization of Indian Country, there were between 160,000 and 190,000 Native American military veterans which was about ten percent of all living Native Americans. Today, it is estimated that twenty- two percent of Native Americans 18 or older are veterans. Native peoples have the highest rate of enlistment of any ethnic group in the United States, largely in part due to the fact that many youth do not have access to and see no options outside of the military to secure any kind of economic stability. After fighting overseas against indigenous people of other countries, many Native American war veterans come home to find the US Army they fought with overseas now turned against them at home. Long story short, Native Americans have been unjustly impacted by the modern US military as their land has been taken for bombing exercises and the building of military bases, and for the experimentation and storage of deadly chemical agents and toxins.  As a result, native populations have some of the lowest health outcomes and barriers to health care than other ethnic groups. Receiving quality medical care is a heavily bureaucratic and burdensome process for Native American service members as many of them receive care through Indian Health Services, which is an agency within the Health and Human Services Department that provides health care to tribal members. They are facing extensive copays and a faulty referral process, which are just two major issues among many addressed at the meeting. The biggest takeaway from the article for me is that we have to do a much better job working alongside tribal leaders to figure out how to increase access to care for the population, as we owe it to Native American service members to flip these dire health outcomes and issues with access to care. This needs to happen now, because waiting another thirty years for a meeting with Congress is not a viable option. –Kiersten Downs, PhD, Research Director at ScoutComms

For Some Military Families, the Discovery of Mold is Only the Beginning of Their Troubles
Military Times, Karen Jowers

We have talked about the growing problems with military housing a number of times in recent editions of the ScoutReport. Reports of mold and insect infestations are plaguing privatized housing across every service and around the world. It was by far the number one topic at family issues events at the recent Association of the U.S. Army Symposium. Karen Jowers has taken a deeper look into what happens once a family does discover their home is unsafe to live in and are forced to displace while mold is cleared out and homes refurbished, and it’s a terrible set of circumstances. Activists are finding that there is no clear guidance on how displacements are handled by various companies, services or even on the same base. Stories of families having to move three different times, and one family actually being declared homeless by the local school district because of their lengthy stay in a hotel, highlight how difficult the ongoing crisis continues to be. For its part, the Army appears to be taking the most aggressive approach to at least tracking the families and talking about setting up procedures and policies for privatized housing companies to follow. But, being moved out of their homes often means expenses that are not covered by their military pay and no standardized system for defining what they must pay in rent and be compensated for while unable to live in their homes. The issue of damaged household goods gets even uglier with mold destroying treasured family heirlooms and even clothes. All of it shows a desperate need for a standardized set of policies across the DoD and services that are enforceable and accountable by the housing companies instead of leaving our service members and their families to fight for themselves on a case-by-case basis, many times while dealing with a deployed spouse and children who are sick. The story isn’t all bad as command teams at Fort Belvoir and elsewhere are praised by their soldiers for working hard to advocate for them and make sure they are taken care of. It does feel like the hard work of advocates and activist military spouses is truly starting to pay off finally, but the battle is long from over and much remains to be done. It’s commendable to see the service leaders stepping up to the plate and hopefully that is the trend we will continue to see. -Fred Wellman, Founder and CEO of ScoutComms

The Marine Corps Made an 8 Minute Birthday Video With only 6 Seconds of Female Marines. So We Fixed it For Them
Task & Purpose, Paul Szoldra and Rebecca Rosen (@PaulSzoldra)

The Marine Corps recently published its annual birthday message video featuring both past and present Marines. The format flips between interviews with former Marines and footage of Marines in combat, with a notable lack of interviews with women (only showing six seconds of footage of women throughout the entire video). “I’m disappointed that yet again so few women were highlighted in a year where women have broken down barriers and pushed into new areas of the Marine Corps,” said former Marine Sgt. Erin Kirk-Cuomo. It’s likely that the lack of women representation is the result of a cultural blind spot rather than malicious intent, and Rebecca Rosen, a video editor at Task & Purpose, has re-edited the video to highlight more women. 

Trump’s Opposition to ‘Endless Wars’ Appeals to Those Who Fought Them
New York Times, Jennifer Steinhauer (@jestei)

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, polls show that a majority of all veterans have grown disenchanted with the continuing wars, noting the “wasted lives and money and time and effort spent to accomplish  a goal we never accomplished,” said Tyler Wade who was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during his time in the Marines. According to a poll by The Associated Press, about 56 percent of veterans said they approved of Mr. Trump’s job as president, compared with 42 percent of the population, and there is a slow but steadily increasing alliance between parties on Capitl Hill to curb the “endless wars.” Unfortunately, Trump’s words have not been consistent with his administration’s actions, as 200,000 American troops remain deplored worldwide, which is about the same as when he took office.

David W. Barno, a retired Army lieutenant general and former top commander in Afghanistan whose children have also served said, “Every one of them knew they were volunteering for war. But there is a gnawing issue that we are still losing people.” 

Here are Some Deals Coming Your Way for Veterans Day
Military Times, KarenJowers(@KarenJowers)

With Veterans Day approaching, organizations are showing their appreciation for veterans and military members by providing discounts and deals for their shoppers. There are many restaurants, hotels, retail stores and businesses that are offering deals for veterans, a number of these businesses offering veteran discounts all year round. 

Troops’ 2020 Pay Raise is Safe, Despite Dire Talk From Lawmakers
Military Times, Leo Shane III (@LeoShane)

Despite the ongoing arguments from Republican and Democratic leaders on the budget, the military will see a 3.1 percent in pay. However, re-enlistment bonuses, overseas deployment salary boosts and other specialty pays rely on reauthorization from Congress each year. 

Bonuses, Service Commitments and More: Here’s How the Air Force’s New Indefinite Enlistment Will Work
Air Force Times, Stephen Losey(@StephenLosey)

The Air Force has introduced a new indefinite enlistment system called the Noncommissioned Officer Career Status Program, which will be bringing change to the system, while also assuring that it will be similar enough to remain comfortable. Airmen with 12 years of service who would like to continue serving will sign one last re-enlistment contract on or after November 18. After this, there will be no need for any other contract signings. Their date of separation will now be automatically updated. Bonuses will not be directly affected by the change, though the process in which they are processed will go through some administrative changes. Overall, the Air Force is taking the concerns of those serving and finding ways to increase efficiency. 

Republican Senators Demand Answers on ‘Alarming’ Sexual Misconduct at VA
Connecting Vets, Abbie Bennett(@AbbieRBennett)

Sexual assault and misconduct continue to be a large isuue within the VA and the Armed Forces, particularly for women veterans and service members. Senator’s Joni Ernst and Shelley Moore Capito have sent a letter to Secretary Robert Wilkie demanding information on the gaps in VA policy when it comes to addressing sexual misconduct and holding predators accountable for their actions. Ernst and Capito expressed their concern about the most recent allegations of sexual misconduct at the VA, and stress the importance for understanding and action in order to prevent further problems. Secretary Robert Wilkie was given a deadline of Nov. 14 to respond to the letter. 

Veterans in Connecticut Prison Getting Help From Horses
The Associated Press, Pat Eaton-Robb (@peatonrobb)

Operation Warrior Horse is a 10-week equine-assisted psychotherapy program at Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution in Enfield, CT. While other prisons across the nation offer equine therapy programs, Operation Warrior Horse is the first to be “tailored to the needs of military veterans in prison.” When speaking about the program, Aesha Nu’min, the department’s counselor supervisor for the unit, said, “It helps with emotional regulation, self-awareness and PTSD. I know it sounds crazy, but the horses are actually hypersensitive and can feel what you’re giving off. The inmates learn trust, non-verbal communication, the body language they are giving off. The horses will actually nudge you away if you don’t have good energy.”

How Dorie Miller’s Bravery Helped Fight Bigotry in the Navy
Navy Times, Thomas W. Cutrer and T. Michael Parrish

In this article, Navy Times asks  how Doris Miller, a service member during WWII and the first Black sailor to be awarded the Navy Cross, should be remembered. The veritable legend surrounding Miller says that when his ship was attacked by the Japanese Imperial Navy during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Miller took the initiative to operate an anti-aircraft weapon and bring down half a dozen Japanese planes. Contemporary sources dispute this account but Navy Times argues that either way, “Miller’s heroism–and the legend it engendered–were directly responsible for helping to roll back the Navy’s policy of racial segregation and prejudice,” and serves as an “example of how an underprivileged and oppressed young man…can rise above poverty and racial discrimination…to help alter the course of American history.”

More Can Be Done to Save Veterans from Suicide
RAND, Doug Irving

Behavioral scientist Terri Tanielian believes that veteran suicide prevention needs to be thought of as “looking for places to intervene not just at a moment of crisis, but all along the chain of decisions and turning points that led there.” RAND analyst Doug Irving explores research showing that, while the VA outperforms many other health systems, less than half of veterans ever access VA healthcare and instead turn to community health providers, which Tanielian calls a “national public health crisis” given that American mental-health systems are unprepared to address the unique needs of veterans. Irving notes that “one of the most proven and effective strategies to reduce suicide is to promote a life worth living,” and to this end advocates for gun control, zero-tolerance policies for sexual assault and harassment, and addressing the nation’s “culture of stress.” 

Pain is the Most Common Factor Veterans Experience Before Dying by Suicide, Study Shows
Connecting Vets, Abbie Bennett (@AbbieRBennett)

A recent study conducted by the Behavioral Health Autopsy Program of the VA Center of Excellence and published in the Journal of Pain found that “pain is the most common factor veterans experience before they die by suicide.” The study used data from 2012 through 2014 and showed that, even after accounting for additional factors that could influence suicide, veterans who suffered from “moderate” or “severe pain” had increased risks of a suicide attempt. The VA published a news release following the study’s publication and urged veterans to seek pain-relieving treatment including physical therapy, chiropractic care and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Too Much Halloween Candy? Soldiers’ Angels Can Help With That
Connecting Vets, Julia LeDoux

Soldiers’ Angels Treats for Troops Halloween Candy Drive is the perfect way to get your leftover Halloween candy out of your hands. The program works with businesses across the country to donate excess Halloween candy to troops overseas, where they may not have access to candies, as well as to Veterans Affairs centers. Find out where you can donate your candy athttps://soldiersangels.org/TreatsForTroops.html.

Five Ways You Can Support Veterans, Military Members and Their Families on Veterans Day
South Florida Reporter, Steven Weintraub(@weintraub_sd)

As Veterans Day approaches, it is important to think about the many ways that we can help support our veterans. Steven Weintraub, Chief Strategy Officer of our client Veterans Ticket Foundation (Vet Tix), shares multiple ways that you can support the veteran community. One way to help is by donating to nonprofits like Vet Tix,  which helps currently serving service members, veterans and their families make lasting memories. Other ways to show your support include caring for a deployed service member’s support dog, helping military and veterans spouses with their careers, volunteering care for caregivers and educating yourself on the nonprofits that dedicate their time to helping veterans and military members. 

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, November 11, 2019 11:10 am

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