Veterans Roundup: VA Asks Congress for Another $2.6 Billion by August or Veterans Care Will Suffer, Partisan Veterans Groups Gear Up for 2016, & More

Posted by Fred Wellman

$2.6 billion VA Shortfall Raises More Criticism, Anger
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. The Department of Veterans Affairs faces a $2.6 billion budget deficit that must be filled in the next three months. VA officials claim that if Congress does not allow it to use funds earmarked for specific accounts to reduce the deficit, they will have to turn some veterans away in August. The VA wants to fill the gap with $10 billion in funding intended for the Veterans Choice program, but lawmakers are not fans of that plan. The VA also came under fire last week for fraud allegations and for misleading Congress on the progress of its VA veteran-owned small business initiative. –MC
Bottom line: If you believe the VA, it’s a good sign that there is a budget deficit because that means its leaders both found out about the shortfall and that more veterans are seeking VA care. The deficit is thus a sign of the vast changes the VA is making in both its culture, its planning, and its appeal to veterans. If you believe lawmakers, the fact that the VA only now is finding out about a massive budget deficit this late in the year is just another sign of the colossal incompetence of VA leaders. Congress is reticent to simply hand over more money to VA or allow VA to use funds earmarked for the Choice Program to pay for other patient needs. Pressed to find efficiencies elsewhere, VA is warning that it may have to furlough staff or programs. Like with the Denver VA hospital construction, the administration and Congress are playing a bit of budgetary chicken. Unfortunately, it’s veterans’ care that is caught in the middle. The VA says this deficit is in part due to them now spending according to veterans’ needs, not budgets. If they’re right and the culture is changing, hopefully this means they can plan better in the future and ask for more funding upfront. Of course, that will be a whole new battle with a skeptical Congress. –LJ

Researchers: PTSD is a Factor in Troop, Vet Violence
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times. New research conducted by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Medicine indicates that post-traumatic stress disorder can be a factor in violent acts committed by veterans or service members, but is likely not the only factor. The research shows that knowing a patient’s history for certain indicators is important for doctors as they seek to prescribe treatment to reduce a patient’s risk of engaging in violence. –MC
Bottom line: It is important to read the article in full to understand the proper context for this news. PTSD (also referred to as PTS with increasing frequency) is the most commonly reported risk factor associated with a veteran committing violence. But it often is found in connection with alcohol abuse. Vets with PTSD “who don’t abuse alcohol engage in violence at about the same rate as civilians, and the same is true for veterans who abuse alcohol but don’t have PTSD.” So even if PTSD is present, it requires additional triggers to actually result in veterans committing violence at a rate disproportionate from the general population. On the positive side, the research found that there a number of proactive factors that reduce the risk of aggression in veterans, such as having a job, being in control of one’s life, having a sense of purpose, and having spiritual faith or family support. –BW

Well Funded Vets Groups Prepare for 2016 Battle
Austin Wright (@abwrig), Politico. As the 2016 election campaigns kick off, partisan veterans groups like VoteVets and Concerned Veterans for America are driving conversations with help from “mega-donors.” Some veteran advocates are speaking out against these groups and their efforts for using veteran issues to earn political points. –MC
Bottom line: As partisan veterans groups gain traction and influence in Washington and across the country, it is understandable that nonpartisan veteran service organizations like IAVA are concerned about how the partisan campaigns will derail the broader veterans agenda. But we reap what we sow, and what these groups are doing is essentially business as usual in contemporary politics. While it is certainly a smart use of time for groups like IAVA to draw a clear line between the partisan and nonpartisan groups for their own self-interest and to reduce the potential for collateral damage, they should not expect to see any change so long as funders see these partisan veterans groups as effective political tools. Veterans matter in American politics as an interest group, and interest group politics are largely driven by organizations that symbolically claim to represent entire communities, even if their actual membership numbers are low. VoteVets and Concerned Veterans for America are working from a well-worn political playbook. –BW

White House to Let Researchers Study Medical Marijuana for PTSD
Bryant Jordan (@BryantJordan), The White House recently made a formal decision allowing researchers to study medical marijuana and its potential to treat individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder. A forthcoming Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies research project plans to include 76 veterans in its study. –MC
Bottom line: With the amount of anecdotal reporting on the relief that cannabis offers to those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress and other medical issues, it is probably surprising to learn how little actual research has been done by the government on the subject. As a matter of fact just about zero has been done. When you read this story from Bryant Jordan the twists and turns that researchers face–even when the research is approved–can make it nearly impossible to navigate the labyrinth of rules to actually get any work done. No matter where you stand on the use of recreational marijuana, the idea that research that could potentially help veterans and others is not even legal is ridiculous at this point. Hopefully this decision by the Administration allows reputable research to occur and science to discern the benefits, if any, of cannabis for use to relieve the mental wounds of war. –FPW

‘Dependa’ Bashing: Mudslingers Stun Military Spouses
Karen Jowers, Military Times. According to experts, cyberbullying of military spouses has been on the rise. On social media and blogs, military wives are being portrayed as lazy, overweight, and “wearing their husbands rank”. Last week Military Times delved into these stereotypes and the effect they have on the military community. –MC
Bottom line: There is a lot of vitriol on the internet period. And there’s a lot of vitriol on the internet directed at women. So it is unsurprising, if highly unfortunate, that military wives are under attack. What’s most disheartening is that much of this invective is coming from within the community that is supposed to support and sustain its members through some of the toughest times. Already we’re starting to see the military spouse community working to turn the word “dependent” on its head. It’s a start, but the community is going to have to have a much deeper conversation about broader issues than perceived entitlement of military spouses before moving beyond name-calling on the internet. –LJ

Charity for Troops Hasn’t Changed Since Investigation; Fund Drive Begins Thursday
Heath Druzin (@Druzin_Stripes), Stars and Stripes. Move America Forward, a charity that sends packages to troops overseas, was found to have misrepresented its efforts and partnerships. The group recently overstated the number of troops overseas and in the past has been accused of using funds for political causes. However, Move America Forward’s spokesman claimed that accusations are “misunderstandings or dishonest reporting.” –MC
Bottom line: This is another example of a truly dishonest and false front group for political activists posing as a veteran non-profit yet they attract big stars and attention. Their annual “Troopathon” includes Rush Limbaugh, presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee and, of course, Hulk Hogan. All to raise funds to send care packages. What that means is that it’s a colossal joke and they’ve earned their zero out of four Charity Navigator rating the hard way, by not actually doing anything except raising money for themselves and clearly conservative political causes. Does anyone really believe it’s non-partisan with the line up they have for this fundraiser? Look under the hood. Ask hard questions. Look at the ratings. Many of the best-known national non-profits are getting at least three stars on CN and then take a look at the impact they make. This organization is not helping anyone but themselves and their sponsors and as of this writing has raised $272,000 to “help the troops”. What a tragic waste of money. –FPW

U.S. Senate Committee is Briefed on Empowering Veteran Entrepreneurship
Last Thursday, Dr. Mike Haynie, Vice Chancellor for Veterans and Military Affairs at Syracuse University and Executive Director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse, testified before a Senate panel on economic and entrepreneurship opportunities for veterans and their families. –MC

Leave No Interpreter Behind
Matt Zeller (@mattczeller) for USA Today. Matt Zeller, founder of No One Left Behind, discusses the importance of supporting Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who worked alongside U.S. service members overseas as they immigrate to America and start new lives. No One Left Behind helps these interpreters with housing payments, furnished homes, and connecting them with jobs. Zeller stresses the idea that Afghan and Iraqi are considered fellow veterans by U.S. service members and deserve the chance to live the American Dream. –MC

Funds Help Athletes Get to Warrior Games
Daniel Woolfolk (@woolfolk12) and Bob Lennox, Military Times. About 40 members of Team Semper Fi and Team America’s Fund, like Staff Sgt. Alfredo de los Santos, participated in the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games over the past two weeks. The Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund are platinum sponsors of the games and its family program. The Funds support wounded, injured, and critically ill veterans from their moment of need and throughout their life to ensure they recover and thrive. –MC

CNS Response Ranked Top 25 in Intellectual Property
CNS Response, Inc., a company that provides a groundbreaking technology that reduces the trial and error period for connecting mental health patients with effective medication, was recently ranked as the 21st leading patent holder in neurotechnologies that encompass the brain. CNS Response was recognized as a category leader in Key Active EEG Patents. This is technology that can change lives. –MC

Integrating Veterans in the Corporate Environment – A National Priority
Ron Steptoe for Diversity MBA Magazine
Ron Steptoe, an Army veteran and currently Chairman and CEO of the Steptoe Group, says that corporate America needs to be more proactive in integrating veterans into their companies. Some of the steps he outlines include learning more about military values and culture and providing health care options that cover a veterans’ entire family. When veterans are properly integrated into companies, it’s a win-win for all involved. –LJ

Quick Hits:

Which TV Shows Most Accurately Portray Veterans? ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and ‘Modern Family’
Stephanie Merry (@StephMerry), The Washington Post. As previously announced with great fanfare by First Lady Michelle Obama and Bradley Cooper, Got Your 6 is awarding movies and televisions shows with “6 Certifications” for accurately portraying service members in entertainment. Got Your 6 argues that many films and shows portray veterans with stereotypes that are harmful to the veteran community. Some shows and films that have been “6 Certified” include Modern Family, Dancing with the Stars, American Sniper, Hawaii Five-O and The Night Shift. –MC

Study: Consolidate Stores, Use Limited ‘Variable Pricing’
Karen Jowers, Military Times. A recent study commissioned by the Defense Department and carried out by the Boston Consulting Group makes a number of recommendations about the future of commissaries that may not sit well with military families. While many of the options included necessitate a rise in prices, the study also finds that many shoppers would take their business to private stores with an increase of just 5 percent. –LJ

Congress at War
Politico. In Politico Magazine, some of our nation’s elected officials who served in the military spoke out about why they joined the service and how their time in uniform helped them grow. –MC

U.S. Government Halts Veterans’ Enrollment at Five More Helicopter Schools
Alan Zarembo (@AlanZarembo), Lose Angeles Times. New restrictions prohibit five helicopter pilot training programs from receiving GI Bill funding for enrolled veterans. Previously, helicopter flight training companies had been making exorbitant profits by taking advantage of a VA that was not keeping a close eye on their practices. –MC

Obama’s LGBT Test: End Transgender Military Ban
Sarah Wheaton (@SWheaton), Politico. President Obama hosted two active-duty transgender troops and four transgender veterans at the White House gay pride reception last Wednesday. Activists are calling on the President to take an official position on the matter and push for transgender troops’ right to serve openly. –MC

Same Sex Marriage Ruling Extends to All U.S. Military Bases
Jim Miklaszewski (@JimMiklaszewski) and Courtney Kube (@ckubeNBC), NBC News
Last week a Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. The ruling also applies to U.S. military bases; same-sex marriages were previously only allowed on bases in states that already permitted same-sex marriage. –MC

Veterans Choice Program Google Hangout
Last week, VA experts shared valuable information about the Veterans Choice Program during a Google Hangout. If you’re a veteran or caregiver interested in eligibility requirements or learning about how to make an appointment, we think this video may help you out!

Fredericksburg Firm Becomes Area’s First B Corporation
Lindley Estes (@flsLindley), the Free Lance-Star. ScoutComms was recently certified as a B Corporation by B Lab the non-profit B Corp certification organization. While the median assessment score for most of the 1300 Certified B Corps is 80, ScoutComms passed with a score of 116. Last week our CEO, Fred Wellman, sat down with Lindley Estes from the Free Lance-Star to discuss our mission and what being a B Corp means to us. As the first B Corp in the Fredericksburg area, and one of only three in the world focused on veterans’ issues, Fred offered up the unique ScoutComms perspective on the B Corp movement. –MC

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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, June 29, 2015 8:31 am

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