Veterans Roundup: Turning the GI Bill Into Seed Funding, a Veterans Charity Under Scrutiny, Caregivers in the Spotlight

Posted by Fred Wellman

Documents: Kurt Busch’s Ex-Girlfriend Used Veterans Charity as Bank
Mike Fish (@MikeFishESPN), ESPN Senior Writer. Patricia Driscoll, President of the Armed Forces Foundation, a volunteer organization originally created to line up fishing trips for wounded service members, was recently found to have used the non-profit to fund questionable personal expenses among other imaginative accounting practices according to Outside the Lines at ESPN. According to Mike Fish, Driscoll reportedly used the Armed Forces Foundation to fund her lifestyle including receiving a high rent on the organization’s headquarters that she owned and doubled as her home, flying her son cross-country for a NASCAR race, and other events associated with the organization. –MC
Bottom line: This is an explosive and very damning story if even half the accusations are true and accurate. There are some very serious questions that have to be answered by AFF that so far has only issued a statement accusing ESPN of one-sided reporting and not giving them a chance to respond. AFF has focused mostly on taking veterans to NASCAR events and a series of campaigns that focus on PTSD. The issue here goes to larger questions of sustainability surrounding the numerous veteran-focused non-profits as the amount of money being given in the sector is reduced. AFF has scored in the top percentiles among non-profits with the rating agencies but does that really tell the story of their impact and effectiveness? How easy is it to fool the rating systems with odd practices like the paid President of the organization also “donating” thousands of hours of volunteer time at the same time? When considering your donations and support, look at the impact the organization is having; does it align with your values and goals; is it doing something unique? These are questions that matter. Not what celebrities come to their gala or what cause they latch onto today but the long-term work that makes a difference in their sector. –FPW

U.S. Military and Civilians Are Increasingly Divided
David Zucchino (@davidzucchino) and David S. Cloud (@DavidCloudLAT), Los Angeles Times
Fewer than 1 percent of our nations’ citizens serve in the military and many live on base or in tight-knit military communities. Nearly 50 percent of active duty troops are in concentrated in just five states: California, Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, and Georgia. Dr. Mike Haynie, Executive Director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families and Vice Chancellor for Military and Veterans Affairs at Syracuse University, a ScoutComms client, comments on the disconnect and what it means for the civilian-military divide as more Americans feel no connection to the military and thus its commitment to war. –MC
Bottom line: In many ways the civil-military divide we discuss today is actually more of a return to the pre-World War I situation as few served in the military before the two great wars. The warrior class was separated from society on remote bases in the west or overseas and in many ways we are returning to that today. Family ties are more likely to lead to military service than any other factor. The question we have to ask is whether this is a serious problem or simply just what the new normal. If it is the new normal what will need to be done to ensure we can sustain an All-Volunteer Force that represents the nation and, when service is finished, ensure our warriors can find homes back in civilian society? There are no easy answers and both service members and civilians need to understand that they live in different worlds and find ways to bridge those worlds for the good of the nation. –FPW

Michelle Obama Pays Tribute to Military Caregivers
Stacy A. Anderson (@saunique), The Associated Press. Last week at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Hidden Heroes Coalition Summit, First Lady Michelle Obama announced new commitments from the foundation, Joining Forces, Give an Hour, and Easter Seals to spread the word about the five signs of mental health distress and build a Military and Veteran Caregiver Network. The First Lady discussed the challenges caregivers of former service members face, including mental health challenges, employment issues, marriage strains, and even being unable to explain what they face to their friends and family. –MC
Bottom line: We were proud to work with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation when it launched in 2013 and are thrilled to see how much the tenacity of Sen. Elizabeth Dole and the foundation’s caregiver fellows has elevated the conversation around their particular challenges in DC and beyond. In 2013, no one knew even the basic demographics of the military and veteran caregiver population. Today, thanks to a study from RAND commissioned by the foundation we know more than ever—and that knowledge to this day helps inform policy and practice so we as a nation can better care for these caregivers. A key part of this is the MVCN network that connects caregivers to resources and also to each other. VA Secretary McDonald has also pledged to make the VA more caregiver-friendly. And Tom Hanks is lending his star power to raising awareness about caregivers among the general public. It’s a testament to the convening and convincing power of Sen. Dole that so much decisive action has already happened. With so many caregiver fellows now acting as advocates, we’re excited to see what the future holds. –LJ

Boehner: Little Progress at VA Year After Shinseki Departure
Matthew Daly (@MatthewDalyWDC), The Associated Press. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said last week that the VA hasn’t improved as much as expected in the year since former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned. Boehner pointed out that wait times remain relatively similar and reiterated frustrations with the Denver VA hospital construction, which is over budget by at least $1 billion. VA representatives countered these claims, pointing to the significant progress the VA has made towards instituting long-term improvements. –MC
Bottom line: On most counts, Speaker Boehner is being relatively unfair to Secretary Bob McDonald and the VA, citing issues that predate McDonald in their relevance and touting funding authorizations that address short-term solutions while the VA faces long-term challenges like deep-rooted cultural problems and treating a relatively new post-9/11 population of patients. The VA’s response rightly identifies several key data points that point to its top-down efforts to reform, though when it rejects the Speaker’s assertion that it has not fired enough people, one is reminded of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” If not for the short-term partisan points to be scored, the Speaker would likely be giving the VA more breathing room, as neither the country nor the individual veterans seeking care will benefit from another shakeup at the VA in the final 20 months of the Obama Administration. –BW

Lawmakers Push to Let Veterans Use GI Bill Benefits for Business, Not College
Kristina Wong (@kristina_wong), The Hill. Members of Congress are putting together legislation that would allow veterans to use GI Bill benefits to start or buy their own businesses in lieu of funding college programs. The legislation will be proposed as part of the Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition Business Benefit Act of 2015, supported by veteran’s service organizations like the American Legion and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. –MC
Bottom line: Unsurprisingly, we here at ScoutComms, a veteran-owned small business, are huge fans and proponents of any credible effort to support and encourage veteran entrepreneurship. While we have reservations about the long-term consequences of expanding the potential uses for GI Bill benefit—we cannot quibble with the development of a pilot program that enables a small cohort of veterans to use their benefits for business ownership instead of education. The ability to affordably access higher education institutions is still an invaluable element of the benefits that servicemembers eventually receive, so it will be crucial that if this bill passes, future expansions of the entrepreneurship funding track are carefully measured to ensure that they do not have a deleterious impact on education rates and student debt loads for veterans. But we look forward to the development of a pilot if this legislation passes Congress. –BW

“We learned together”: A Nice Afternoon with the Women of New Orleans’ Trans Veterans Support Group
Mac McClelland (@MacMcClelland), BuzzFeed. A group of transgendered veterans in New Orleans are working to increase support and treatment for transgender people receiving Department of Veterans Affairs care, but their stories about the VA are overwhelmingly positive. –MC
Bottom line: As McClelland notes in her lede, this isn’t the kind of story you expect when things like the VA, transgender, and women intersect. Because this is a story about how well the VA cares for veterans, even those facing challenges doctors are unprepared to treat. This is a story about the kind of VA care most veterans say they receive when they seek treatment: high quality and compassionate care. In the case of some of the transgender veterans profiled here, when they first sought VA care to transition from male to female, the doctors had no formal training in the specifics but vowed that patient and doctor alike would “learn together”. This story should been seen as a good sign for how VA adapts to the needs of veterans and provides some of the best care in the country. The key for VA will continue to be ensuring veterans can access that care in a timely manner without losing the quality they deserve. –LJ

Quick Hits:

How We’re Failing Our Female Veterans
Kathryn Miles (@Kathryn_Miles), The Boston Globe. Women veterans require different, specialized health care than what the Department of Veterans Affairs typically provides for men. A Boston Globe article last week explored the specific needs of women veterans and how they are unable to receive the care they need. Other challenges women veterans face includes mistreatment and being misperceived as spouses or mothers rather than veterans. –MC

Report: Retaliation Against Sex Assault Victims Rampant
Stephen Losey (@StephenLosey), Air Force Times. A report issued on May 18 by Human Rights Watch found that many military sexual assault survivors face retaliation like bullying, career damage, and isolation. The testimonies in the report came from both men and women from many ranks and all branches of service. The report claims that these forms of retaliation prevent survivors from coming forward, ultimately allowing crimes to go unpunished. –MC

Unraveling the Mysteries of Traumatic Brain Injury
John Crawford, Association of the United States Army’s Army Magazine. A new article published in the Association of the United States Army’s Army Magazine explores the different types of brain injuries our nation’s service members may experience as a result of combat. –MC

Jon Stewart, Iraq War Critic, Runs a Program that Helps Veterans Enter TV
Dave Phillips (@David_Phillips), The New York Times. Jon Stewart has used The Daily Show to increase opportunities for veterans in the entertainment industry. Despite a declining military veteran unemployment rate, the number of veterans in film and entertainment is proportionately much lower according to Veterans in Film and Television. –MC

Despite Numbers, Rural Vets Lack Attention, Resources
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. Last Wednesday, the Housing Assistance Council hosted a public policy symposium on Capitol Hill focusing on rural veterans issues. Rural veterans are generally older and have a harder time accessing health care, employment, and safe or affordable housing opportunities. At the summit, advocates expressed a need for more federal and local resources in addition to better coordination of existing resources to maximize their impact. All agreed that organizations committed to supporting rural veterans must work together, in some cases more so than urban organizations, because of the unique challenges facing rural Americans and veterans. –MC

Operation Lost in Translation
William McGurn (@wjmcgurn), The Wall Street Journal. Ajmal Faqiri is a former interpreter who served alongside American troops overseas and put his life at risk for his comrades, our veterans. As interpreters like Ajmal from Iraq and Afghanistan move to the United States, often to escape imminent threats at home, they can find themselves without support. No One Left Behind is working to help those like Ajmal as they resettle to our country and is promoting a dialogue around their service that identifies them as veterans of service to the U.S. military. –MC

Coalition for Veteran Owned Business Launches
Free Enterprise. The newly launched Coalition for Veteran Owned Business is committed to supporting veteran and military family owned businesses in communities across America. Last week, Free Enterprise sat down with First Data CEO, Frank Bisignano, and James Schmeling, managing director for programming at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, to discuss the coalition’s efforts and goals. CVOB was founded by the IVMF, First Data, BP America, the U.S. Small Business Administration, Walmart and Sam’s Club, and many other companies and organizations committed to supporting veteran-owned small businesses. –MC

Veterans Need a Good Elevator Pitch Too
Peter Gudmundsson (@PAGudmundsson) for U.S. News & World Report. Peter Gudmundsson, CEO of RecruitMilitary, the nation’s leading veteran hiring company, explains why elevator pitches are so important for job-seeking veterans. Gudmundsson provides advice for perfecting the elevator pitch and leveraging it throughout the job-seeking process. –MC

Opportunity Key to Employment for Nashville’s Veterans
Peter Gudmundsson (@PAGudmundsson) for The Tennessean. RecruitMilitary hosted a job fair in conjunction with DAV (Disabled American Veterans) earlier this year in Nashville, and will return in September. Peter Gudmundsson, CEO of RecruitMilitary, explains why these job fairs and veteran hiring efforts are so important for employers even when veterans are benefiting from a declining unemployment rate. –MC 

Tradeshows & Conferences

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans: NCHV 2015 Annual Conference: 25 Years: Thank You For Your Service (Wed-Fri, 27-29 May); Grand Hyatt Hotel, Washington, DC

Institute for Veterans and Military Families: Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) (Thu-Sat, 28-30 May); Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC

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

Congressional Hearings

Congress is in recess.

Think Tanks & Other Events

RecruitMilitary: All Veterans Job Fair When: Thursday, May 28, 2015 Where:  Cincinnati, OH

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, May 26, 2015 3:22 pm

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