Veterans Roundup: Unemployment Causes Hardships, Bad Jokes Gets People Fired, Vague References to the Tiger King, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Skyrocketing Unemployment in Lockdown Likely Means Hardship for Veterans, Richard Sisk

I know I am not the only one who may be finding it difficult to sleep or relax due to news of the evolving and deepening global crisis. Today the focus in the U.S. is on the massive stimulus bill passed by the Senate late last night and the staggering number of unemployment claims now reaching an unprecedented 3.28 million, according to this article. Even though we knew it was coming, these numbers are hard to comprehend. Experts observing funding trends and shifts in the veteran service landscape previously suggested that it may be time for a funding shift from veteran employment initiatives to other areas, given that the unemployment rate for veterans was holding steady at just above 3% over the past year. However, this severe economic downturn is already resulting in projections from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics to report a likely return to the jobless rate experienced by veterans in 2008. This article reveals that many part-time and low-wage workers and those working in the “gig economy” are not going to qualify for unemployment benefits. To add even more hardship is the reality that the sudden onslaught of claims to state unemployment agencies is resulting in system crashes. Outside of joblessness, we will likely see rises in homelessness, food insecurity, suicide and other mental and physical healthcare-related needs. We are going to have to see a huge boost in philanthropy for our military-connected community for an extensive length of time after the virus itself is contained, but now we are facing a much more competitive giving landscape because of the global scale of this pandemic.  As nonprofit leaders across the country scramble, what I am hearing is that many organizations need reliable volunteers. A good friend of mine said to me this morning, “there isn’t a person out there who has the full bandwidth to do everything and yet the needs just keep stacking up.” Today it is likely that the vast majority of us may be feeling overwhelmed and even the completion of small tasks –like putting on your pants– may seem out of reach. But maybe tomorrow, or the next day, we might be able to take a small step by reaching out to a person, an organization or a community in need and ask, “what can I do to support you?” Collective care and a breach from western individualistic thinking is going to be critical to our recovery. –Kiersten Downs, PhD, Research Director at ScoutComms

Army employee fired for insensitive post about coronavirus outbreak
Military Times, Leo Shane (@leoshane)

Army public affairs officials had to remove a social media manager for the official Instagram account of the service after a series of tone deaf, insensitive and factually incorrect posts on the channel Saturday. What was supposed to be a series of questions and answers on the service’s Instagram Stories channel ended up causing a huge backlash on social media from a broad spectrum of veterans, and even Senator Tammy Duckworth. For example, when asked, “Why did a man eat a bat?” They answered, “It wasn’t because he was thirsty.” But, real anger came, and the real issue here is from the response when asked, “Can a little kid get it?” The account essentially answered that only older people can get COVID-19, which is factually wrong. In the end, we have heard the person running the account was reassigned within the Army staff and an apology was issued by Army spokeswoman Col. Kathy Turner. The issue is a lesson for everyone in public relations and marketing right now: This is not a normal time. Anyone who is acting as the voice for their organization needs to rethink your approaches. People are genuinely scared right now. More than 3.2 million Americans filed for unemployment last week. People are genuinely getting sick and dying. The time for lighthearted official statements or jokes about this illness from government agencies is dead. Gone. Don’t do it. In moments like this, scared people look to our institutions for calmness and guidance, not for the latest semi-racist joke about where this virus originated. Everything you put out needs to be factually accurate and thought out about the impact it will make. Stupid statements could genuinely cost lives right in the United States, so it’s time to get serious about what we face. Brands face the same challenge. We in the military community have some pretty dark humor and there is a place for that, too. My Twitter feed is half quarantine and Tiger King memes right now. But, our official voices must set the tone for our nation. Be safe out there…and wash your damn hands! – Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms

Florida Navy veteran with coronavirus speaks out
Stars and Stripes, Nikki Wentling (@nikkiwentling)

50-year-old U.S. Navy veteran Marlies Craley is one of over 80 veterans across the VA health care system with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. According to Craley, the ability to be tested for the virus was challenging, stating that she “had to really fight for the test.” Due to her fibromyalgia and asthma, Craley decided that being tested for the virus was vital for her health. Craley was admitted to the Orlando VA hospital, as she is too high risk due to her diagnosis and her health conditions to home-quarantine. Her husband, son and mother-in-law have all shown signs of the virus, and Craley is fighting for their ability to test as well, especially considering her mother-in-law is at high risk, as well. Last Wednesday, the VA had a reported number of 44 cases of coronavirus, and in just one day that number had risen to 83 cases. Craley has spoken out about her experience, and is urging the public to take COVID-19 seriously. She stated that, even though many people are claiming that this virus is just a flu or a cold, this is not the case. Craley expressed her concern over seeing the amount of people participating in Spring Break activities, as well as other large group functions. 

Commission: Women should be eligible for the draft
Stars and Stripes, Nikki Wentling (@nikkiwentling)

A recent report from the Congressionally-backed National Commission on Military, National and Public Service recommended that women be required to register for selective service, as a male-only draft “excludes women from a fundamental civic obligation [and] reinforces gender stereotypes about women’s roles.” According to Debra Wada, vice chair of the commission and former assistant secretary of the Army, “Women are as likely as men to be qualified for the draft….Ultimately it comes down to making sure that at a time of critical need, we have access to highly qualified individuals.” Representative Michael Waltz (R-FL), a combat veteran, reportedly stated that he would “work with other lawmakers to turn language in the report into legislation.” The study, which reportedly “evoked a range of passionate and heartfelt views” about the draft, also included other recommendations designed to increase civic participation, including making a “‘service year’ a rite of passage for young Americans.”

Coronavirus relief bill contains nearly $20 billion for veterans, Patricia Kime (@patriciakime)

The massive $300 billion coronavirus relief bill contains $19.57 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that veterans are receiving the care they need during the pandemic. According to Sen. Patrick Leahy, nearly $16 billion will be going to the Veterans-Health Administration to cover treatment for veterans with COVID-19 at VA hospitals, civilian urgent care clinics and emergency rooms. $3.1 billions will be going towards infrastructure for veterans care, including staffing for temporary hospitals, clinics and mobile treatment centers, and for remodeling existing facilities. Funding will also support VA information technology networks in order to ensure that they can handle the services needed for the medicinal crisis. Leahy stated that the funding will help provide support for those who are homeless, or are at risk for eviction, as well as keeping veterans within nursing homes and community centers safe. 

Troops say the US military is not taking COVID-19 seriously
Task & Purpose, Paul Szoldra (@paulszoldra)

As the Pentagon “continues to insist that commanders can determine the best approach to stopping the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in their units,” troops and their families are receiving inconsistent messaging as instructions conflict with federal guidelines to stop the virus’ spread. Lt. Gen. Pat White wrote that “despite the pandemic, our priorities and fundamental tasks stay consistent, but I challenge every leader to think critically about how we execute in this current environment,” and  “… preservation of the force and slowing the virus’ spread in our ranks is mission critical.” A soldier told Task & Purpose that “a lot of units still think going to the field to train is a priority,” and that “leadership is not wanting to hurt their [officer evaluation ratings] so they are doing nothing in hopes higher will make decisions for them.”

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, March 30, 2020 12:06 pm

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