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Veterans Roundup: Treating Civilian Trauma Cases at MTFs, Progress on Researching Chemical Exposure

Posted by Fred Wellman

House Panel Weighs Allowing Civilian Trauma Cases at More Military Hospitals
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., has proposed that more military hospitals like Walter Reed National Military Medical Center be opened to emergency civilian trauma cases. Some military hospitals already have agreements with civilian emergency facilities, and Heck argues that treating civilian patients will offer staff opportunities to utilize their skills when case volumes are low during times of limited deployment. –MC
Bottom line: This could be a great win-win for communities and the military and, bonus, bridging the civil-military divide. Obviously, the decrease in the number of trauma patients from downrange is a good thing, but we want to be able to preserve the medical skills hard won after more than 15 years of war. If those skills can be utilized in the communities, it will benefit not just those civilians, but also future service members. This could also be a big benefit to contractors, some of whom face the same threats overseas as service members but who don’t always have access to the same treatment facilities. Of course, these agreements to treat civilians shouldn’t detract from the military medical facilities’ main mission, which is treating service members, but this is a situation in which treating people outside the military may make doctors even better at treating their primary patients. –LJ

Lawmaker to Pitch New Veterans Center for Hazardous Exposures
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., will introduce a bill that would create a “center of excellence” specifically focused on veterans with health issues stemming from service-related exposure to hazardous chemicals and toxins. This center would consolidate all research, treatment policy, and specialty care in one place rather than the many centers currently working in silos. President Obama also announced last week that the Department of Veterans Affairs will play a major role in future precision medicine research. –MC
Bottom line: Congressman Walz has a pretty good idea here when you realize how many different areas are being studied by the Department of Veterans Affairs right now. Everything from Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam, Gulf War Illness from Desert Storm, and now burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Having these various research and care programs under one roof could help find threads of continuity among them and provide a more steady funding stream to all of them instead of competition among the generations that seems to ensue today. It was good to see VA officials also express interest in the idea as well. We will follow the progress of the effort as it unfolds. –FPW

VA Watchdog Sits on Wait-Time Investigation Reports for Months
Donovan Slack (@DonovanSlack), USA Today
The Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general is under scrutiny for delaying the release of reports that would outline appointment scheduling issues at VA facilities across the nation. Lawmakers argue that this information is vital to fix underlying problems within the VA and say that the fact that reports have not been released two years after the investigation began is inexcusable. Veteran lawmaker Rep. Tammy Duckworth is now calling on Congress to investigate the IG. –MC
Bottom line: We are happy to defend the VA when it is unfairly attacked by Congress, or as we have noted several times, not given enough breathing room to undertake fundamental changes. Yet there is very little clear reasoning provided in Slack’s reporting for USA Today that would explain why the VA is appearing so resistant to sharing reports that by all accounts have been completed for months. Part of the problem may stem from uncertain leadership in the VA’s IG office; the “interim” IG quit and was replaced by the “acting” IG, who is now holding down the fort while the actual nominee for the position continues months of waiting for Senate confirmation. Yet that does not explain how the VA, already facing a great deal of criticism over scandals and managers run amok, has succeeded in getting yet another black eye with Congress. There may be more to this issue than has been reported, but the apparent lack of transparency is not helping the VA smooth ruffled feathers in Congress. –BW

Some VA Workers in Disbelief as Two Controversial Executives Return to High-Paying Jobs
Heath Druzin (@Druzin_Stripes), Stars and Stripes
This week two VA executives returned to their jobs following a controversial appeals court decision ordering the VA to rehire them. VA Secretary Bob McDonald recently testified before the Senate asking for more control over employment decisions. He reiterated the negative effect the recent appeals court rulings have in undermining the VA’s ability to manage its employees and to hold those accountable for their mistakes. VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson stated that this whole controversy is a distraction that has gone on for too long, encouraging the focus shift back to issues concerning the VA providing the best care for veterans –JG
Bottom Line: The VA is between a rock and a hard place on the cases of Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves. While it did seek lesser punishment than hoped for by whistleblowers, the VA sought to make a clear statement by demoting both VA managers. But the ongoing legal and philosophical dispute between the VA and the federal Merit Systems Protection Board resulted in the VA’s moderate punishment being rejected, throwing its plans for a loop and angering whistleblowers. Ultimately, Gibson is making the best of the situation when he asks for critics to move beyond the cases of these two women and focus on the bigger picture; the VA has made a significant decision to work with Congress to try to create a more liberal set of rules for punishing employees in the future, and that decision is prompted in part by this specific case. —BW

GI Bill Funds Still Flow to Troubled For-Profit Colleges
Kimberly Hefling (@khefling), Politico
Back in 2014, a Senate report found that education institutions reaping the most GI Bill dollars were for-profit colleges. Now, two years later, the VA is under fire for allowing those same colleges to continue taking advantage of GI Bill funding. Reportedly, the VA does not have vetting practices in place for tackling the issue and does not plan to overhaul GI Bill oversight. –MC
Bottom line: The issue comes down to what the role of the VA is in respect to the GI Bill. Are they an oversight and governance agency or merely a facilitator of the funds to eligible veterans? That’s really the issue here. The department is being criticized for allowing for-profit schools to continue receiving GI Bill funds while under investigation by other federal agencies or after being penalized for illegal business practices. They answer that they see their role as one to help veterans make informed choices about the schools they attend which shows the VA leaning towards the facilitator role. We tend to be the kinds of veterans advocates that support those who help veterans but also lean towards believing that veterans themselves must be responsible for their own fate. It’s hard to accept some of the worst things that many schools have done but by the same token its important that those who have served use the many skills they learned in the military to take charge of their post-military lives. –FPW

The Pentagon’s ‘Force of the Future’ Plan Just Got Trashed in Congress
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Pentagon officials have been working on major changes that would make serving in the military more competitive with civilian-sector benefits. The plan includes changes to pay, benefits, promotion schedules, and the introduction of sabbaticals. But at a Senate hearing on Thursday, the plans were met with serious backlash and called “an outrageous waste of time” during a time of financial constraint. –MC
Bottom line:  As Senate hearings go, Brad Carson had one that started off badly and managed to just get worse as it went. By the end he was being accused of lying and fostering a hostile work environment in the Undersecretary of Personnel and Readiness office. While fighting off attacks on the year-long effort to develop new benefits to retain personnel he was surprised by news from Senator Inhofe that whistleblowers had reported to Congress on his management as well. So, as it often does in Congress, good ideas get lost in personal accusations, sidebar issues, and things that have absolutely nothing to do with the nominee at all who hasn’t been confirmed over a fight over the defense budget between John McCain and the White House. The entire hearing was a classic Washington D.C. spectacle but in the end it appears that even if some innovative ideas have been created through the ‘Force of the Future’ effort they will be killed through partisan politics and a focus on cutting budgets. Perhaps the well-being of service members will even be thought of before it’s all done but let’s not get carried away. –FPW

ScoutComms’ Client News:

Persian Gulf War Veterans Fume as a 25th Anniversary Goes Unmarked by Pentagon
Ian Shapira (@ianshapira), The Washington Post
The 25th anniversary of the Gulf War, in which 600,000 American service members deployed to liberate Kuwait, has come and gone, largely without notice from the Department of Defense. The silence from DoD was first noticed by Scott Stump and Fred Wellman, leaders at the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association. As Gulf War veterans still fight for proper health care and recognition, it’s important to take a look at how we honor their service and sacrifice. The National Desert Storm War Memorial Association is working to build a monument in Washington, DC. Learn how you can support the effort at ndswm.org/#support. –MC

Warrior-Scholar Project at Cornell Sets Veterans up for Academic Success
Michael Smith, The Ithaca Voice
Army veteran Brittny Escamilla attended a Warrior-Scholar Project boot camp at Cornell in 2015. Escamilla sat down with Michael Smith, a reporter with the Ithaca Voice, to describe her experiences with the Warrior-Scholar program and its benefits. WSP is currently taking applications for its 2016 programs at 12 major universities. The program is free for all accepted applicants. If you or someone you know may be interested visit the WSP website to apply before April 15. –JG

New Research Effort Backs Vet Groups’ Goals with Data
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
A new report released by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families shows how Team Red, White, and Blue impacts veterans and the military community. As a great case study on data, Team RWB can demonstrate how it contributes to a veteran’s sense of belonging and positive relationships. As Team RWB members ourselves, we have seen this impact directly, and it’s great to see it backed up by data. In a time of increased discussion about how nonprofits can demonstrate their impact, we highly recommend you take the time to read the study. –MC

Why Student Veteran Chapters Should Invest in a Vet Center
Eric Gage (@ericlgage) for Task & Purpose
Student vet centers at colleges and universities offer many benefits to veterans making the transition from the military to student life. Eric Gage, director of chapter services at Student Veterans of America, outlines those benefits in a recent Task & Purpose op-ed. This year, 50 SVA chapters have the chance to win up to $10,000 to improve or build their campus’ vet center through the Vet Center Initiative, powered by The Home Depot Foundation. Learn more or apply at the SVA website. –MC

Thanking Veterans Service Organizations
Johnny Isakson (@SenatorIsakson) on Medium
Prior to upcoming testimony from veteran service organizations, Senator Johnny Isakson, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, wrote about the importance of VSOs. He acknowledged that there remains a vast amount of work still ahead in order to care for every veteran, and applauded the impact all veteran service organizations have and the gaps they fill in veteran assistance and care. –JG

Consumer Watch: Start Your Savings Plan this Week – Here’s Why
Karen Jowers, Military Times
Military Saves Week, part of America Saves Week, is a nationwide campaign aimed at helping service members and military families learn about financial responsibility. Scott Halliwell, program manager for The USAA Educational Foundation, a sponsor of this year’s campaign, discussed the week’s efforts and offers some advice for service members in a recent Military Times article. Halliwell also published a great op-ed with advice on making every week a military saves week in Task & Purpose last week. –MC

Quick Hits:

Navy SEAL to Receive Medal of Honor Monday, Tells His Story
Corey Dickstein (@CDicksteinDC), Stars and Stripes
On a rescue mission in Afghanistan back in 2012, Navy SEAL Edward Byers Jr. dove on top of Dr. Dilip Joseph, a Taliban captive, during a gunfight and used his ballistic vest as a shield. Because of his bravery and quick thinking in that moment, President Barack Obama will present Byers with the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony today. Byers will be one of six Navy SEALs in history to receive the honor. He will also be the 11th living service member to receive the medal from their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. ­–JG

Back to Iraq: US Military Contracts Return in Droves
Marcus Weisgerber (@Marcusreports), Defense One
According to records released by the Pentagon, as of January 2016 the number of US military contractors in Iraq was up to 2,028, a major increase from just 250 at the same time last year. US military contractors only represent a fraction of the total number of US contractors in Iraq with reports indicating another 5,800 contractors in the country this year. –JG

Veterans’ Futile Call to VA Prompts Congress Members to Act
Elizabeth McLaughlin (@Elizabeth_McLau), ABC News
In a recent viral video, Army veteran Dennis Magnasco demonstrated inefficiencies with the VA appointment scheduling process. The video, showing Magnasco stuck in a never-ending loop of prerecorded telephone prompts has been viewed nearly 1 million times on Facebook. He is not alone in his frustrations, which is why Congressman Seth Moulton has introduced the Faster Care for Veterans Act. The bill simplifies the scheduling of appointments through the use of at home technology like computers and smartphones. –JG

Lejeune Marine’s PT Death Leads to New Safety Measures
Gina Harkins (@GinaAHarkins), Marine Corps Times
The Marine Corps will be extending the precautions taken to prevent medical emergencies during training and conditioning exercises. Last summer at Camp Lejeune, Corporal Alexis Aaron Alcaraz died of heat stroke while on an early morning six-mile hike. An investigation into circumstances that contributed to his death included hiking on an empty stomach and a lack of sleep. The hike started over an hour before the dining hall opened and provided no other nourishment. –JG

Moves in the Sector:

Army’s New Top Civilian Leader: Former Paratrooper, Congressman
Michelle Tan (@MichelleTan32), Army Times
Patrick Murphy is now serving as the acting Secretary of the Army overseeing 1.4 million soldiers and civilian employees, installations, weapons systems and equipment acquisition, and financial management. After being sworn in January 7th, he has visited troops in Texas, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is serving as acting secretary while Eric Fanning, nominated for the top position in September, awaits confirmation from the Senate. Murphy’s contagious passion for soldiers and their families is hard to miss while he firmly stands to be positive change during his time in the position however long that may be. –JG

Retired Army General Carter F. Ham Joins Association of the U.S. Army Staff
Last week, the Association of the United States Army announced the appointment of retired Army General Carter F. Ham as the executive vice president of the association’s Council of Trustees. General Ham will work hand in hand with AUSA’s president and CEO. –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences

AMVETS: Spring National Executive Committee Meeting (Tue – Sun, 1-6 March); Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, Alexandria, VA

Congressional Hearings

Joint House and Senate:

Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to Receive the Legislative Presentation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars
Who: John Biedrzycki, Commander in Chief, Veterans of Foreign Wars
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Where: G50 Dirksen

Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to Receive the Legislative Presentation from PVA, GSW, VVA, MOPH, BVA, WWP, NGAUS, and AMVETS
When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, March 3, 2016
Where: 345 Cannon

House:

Armed Services: Special Operations Forces in an Evolving Threat Environment: A Review of the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request for U.S. Special Operations Command
Who: Ms. Theresa Whelan
, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict, General Joseph L. Votel, Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command
When: 3:30 PM, Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Where: 2218 Rayburn

Appropriations: Budget Hearing – United States Army
Who: The Honorable Patrick Murphy
, Acting Secretary, United States Army, General Mark A. Milley, Chief of Staff, United States Army
When: 9:00 AM, Thursday, March 3, 2016
Where: H-140 The Capitol

Appropriations: Budget Hearing – United States Coast Guard
Who: Admiral Paul F. Zukunft
, Commandant, United States Coast Guard
When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, March 3, 2016
Where: 2359 Rayburn

Armed Services: The Marine Corps 2017 Budget Request and Readiness
Who: General John M. Paxton, Jr.
, USM, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Lieutenant General Glenn M. Walters, USMC, Deputy Commandant for Programs and Resources, U.S. Marine Corps, Major General Vincent A. Coglianese, USMC, Assistant Deputy Commandant for Installations and Logistics (Plans), U.S. Marine Corps
When: 10:30 AM, Thursday, March 3, 2016
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Veterans Affairs: Addressing VA Opioid Prescription and Pain Management Practices
When: 10:30 AM, Friday, March 4, 2016
Where: National Guard Headquarters 1 Minuteman Way Concord, NH 03301

Senate:

Armed Services: United States European Command
Who: General Philip M. Breedlove,
USAF, Commander, U.S. European Command/Supreme Allied Commander, Europe
When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Where: G50 Dirksen

Armed Services: Posture of the Department of the Air Force
Who: Honorable Deborah Lee James,
Secretary of the Air Force, General Mark A. Welsh III, USAF, Chief of Staff of the Air Force
When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, March 3, 2016
Where: G50 Dirksen

Think Tanks & Other Events

AMVETS: Silver Helmet Awards 2016 
When: 6:00 PM, Friday, March 4, 2016
Where: Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, 5000 Seminary Road, Alexandria, VA

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, February 29, 2016 5:57 pm

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