Veterans Roundup: VA Choice Fallout, a VSO Struggles in the Modern Era, Student Veterans, Transgender Recruits, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

ScoutComms is Official Public Relations Partner of the 2018 Military Times Service Members of the Year Awards
ScoutComms is proud to be the Official Public Relations Partner of the 2018 Military Times Service Members of the Year Awards. Since 2001, the Military Times Service Members of the Year (SMOY) Awards have honored one outstanding member from each branch of service. They are selected based on exemplary military service that goes beyond the call of duty, to include their community involvement and volunteer work. This year, the SMOY Awards are also honoring an Entrepreneur of the Year and a Veteran of the Year. ScoutComms is working with the SMOY organizers to spread awareness of the awards to the cities across the country where the award recipients live or are currently stationed, helping raise the visibility of the awards and their recipients outside of Washington, DC. Information about the seven 2018 SMOY Awards winners can be found online at All winners will be recognized on July 11 in Washington, DC during an awards reception at the Reserve Officers Association.

Why the future of the Military Order of the Purple Heart is at risk
Geoff Ziezulewicz (@JournoGeoffZ), Military Times
In April, the Military Order of the Purple Heart announced that its service officer program, which provides assistance to veterans seeking benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, would end on June 30–then they reversed the cancelation a few weeks later. The program has existed for decades and is key to their status as a federally chartered veteran service organization and now it appears the program will remain operating at a reduced funding level. The Order operates in an unusual manner as it receives its funding from a sister organization, the MOPH Foundation. In recent years, reports have revealed that the Order is struggling to continue its work due to the Foundation losing millions of dollars. Critics have said that the Foundation leadership is caught up in outdated fundraising methods that rely heavily on telemarketers and fundraisers who keep the majority of the money and are costing them more money than they are bringing in.  –SM
Bottom line: There is a lot to unpack from this report from Military Times ranging from a disconnect between old guard leadership and newer members, old school fundraising techniques and a changing organizational focus as the World War II and Korea veterans pass away and Vietnam veterans take charge even as Post-9/11 veterans are eager for change. The situation at MOPH is unique with its unusual fundraising model but in many ways they reflect the challenge facing many of legacy VSOs as generational shifts occur, fewer “new” veterans are filling the loss of older ones and the entire way that nonprofits raise money and conduct their operations shifts away from telemarketers, direct mail and car donations. The MOPH is an incredibly important and respected organization as are the other VSOs but if the leadership can’t accept the reality of the shift in the sector and listen to their younger members they will all die on the vine as this new generation, already smaller than previous cohorts, simply chooses to join modern veteran organizations that meet their needs, listen to their ideas and adapt to changing realities. –FPW

Veteran using VA Choice program could get stuck with $30,000 medical bill
Nikki Wentling (@nikkiwentling), Stars and Stripes
Vietnam War veteran Bob Hart has been receiving treatment at a local hospital under the VA Choice program, which allows veterans who live in rural areas or who are unable to get an appointment at a VA hospital to get treated by private medical providers, paid for by the VA. Hart recently received a call from his hospital informing him that he owes $30,000 because the VA has not paid his bills. Hart’s story is not dissimilar from many other veterans who have received care using the VA Choice program. Elected officials are trying to find a solution that ensures private medical providers get paid in a timely manner. Congress has recently passed a VA reform bill, the VA Mission Act, which instructs the VA to overhaul the Choice program and requires the VA pay private medical providers within a certain time. –LB
Bottom line: The creation of the Choice program added a new layer of bureaucracy to the VA’s already complicated operations and hurried the Choice contractors—TriWest and Health Net—to execute the program with extreme haste. We are still seeing the ripple effects of the initial rush several years later, as the Choice costs continue to rise steadily, and bureaucratic hiccups harm the veterans the program was created to help. I can’t even imagine the stress that Bob Hart is dealing with as he is told that medical care he was authorized to receive could cost him $30,000 because the system isn’t working for him. At the same time, he is far from alone and his story will not be uncommon as the Choice program continues to evolve and the future of the VA’s relationship with the private sector is decided by lawmakers and agency leadership through both major and incremental policy and budget decisions. In seeking to solve VA healthcare shortcomings, we have created new problems that will challenge the agency and America’s veterans for years. –BW

Vets and other ‘nontraditional’ students have long been at the margins of higher education. Is that changing?
Natalie Gross (@nataliegross) and Kim Clark, Military Times
Approximately 35 percent of students pursuing higher education are considered “adult learners” aged 25 and older. A population that is typically considered “nontraditional students,” is now expected to grow significantly faster than their younger, traditional counterparts over the next several years. Colleges now aim to cater to this population, implementing various programs designed to transform practical skills and knowledge into college credit. Unfortunately, many schools that largely serve adult learners boast only single-digit graduation rates, and even those who do graduate struggle to pay back their student loans, particularly to costly for-profit colleges. Recent policy changes scaled back regulations on for-profit colleges and other vocational programs implemented by the Obama administration that were designed to help inform and educate potential consumers. –KG
Bottom line: Adult learners are not a homogeneous group and that many of these students do in fact need a real point of entry and opportunities that allow them to draw on past experiences. From what I’ve seen, these are often the individuals who can provide examples of real world applications of theories and principals being taught in these classrooms. I don’t think anyone would disagree with tailored learning experiences, either, and meeting the students where they are in their educational journey. That being said, just because you engage in these practices, or attempt these approaches, doesn’t make you exempt from being accountable for your outcomes, especially when federal funds are involved. Many of these institutions who claim to do many of these things are also the ones pushing for deregulation and the removal of accountability measures. Any reasonable person can ask themselves, why would any decent educational institution [company] want to withhold their success rate from prospective students [consumers]? If they are in fact proud of the product that they are producing [graduates] and aren’t taking advantage of anyone, shouldn’t they welcome transparency and even tout those numbers? As recent SVA and VA research shows, proprietary schools enroll 27% of GI Bill students, while taking in 40% of the total GI Bill funds. We should all be asking ourselves, why would less regulation be an option for an industry that has proven time and again to take advantage of veterans? –CB

Ban Was Lifted, but Transgender Recruits Still Can’t Join Up
Dave Philipps (@David_Philipps), The New York Times
Scores of transgender recruits have applied to join various branches of the military since the courts blocked President Trump’s reversal of Obama-era policies allowing them to enlist, but few are being accepted. While the Defense Department refused to respond to requests regarding official statistics for transgender enlistments, Sparta – an organization that serves transgender recruits, troops and veterans – cites that only two of its 140 members trying to enlist have successfully done so since Jan 1. Despite the military facing a shortage of recruits, transgender recruits are either being held in limbo or rejected for obscure medical issues; one recruit cites rejection for a surgery performed on his knee as an infant that leaves no lasting impairments 25 years later. U.S. Navy veteran Paula Neira, who leads the Center for Transgender Health at Johns Hopkins Medicine, believes the delays are likely the result of bureaucratic caution towards the new policy, rather than blatant and illegal discrimination, noting: “There is no one doing these assessments that is an expert in transgender health, so they have to figure things out as they go along. If you are that far outside your expertise, you are going to be very conservative.” She urges patience for those waiting, while acknowledging that there may be cause for alarm if the medical evaluations continue to stall the enlistment process. –KG
Bottom line: As we were reminded by other articles this week, immigrants are also being slow rolled in their attempts to join the military. While the Army is struggle to meet its recruitment goals, it seems a bit odd that qualified individuals who meet the current standards to enlist are being denied the opportunity to serve. The military is said to reflect the country it protects and defends, and has historically led in being an integrated meritocracy. Further, these transgender people attempting the join the military are not only showing they have the physical aptitude to serve, but also the ability to navigate the well known military bureaucracy. If this ad hoc ban on transgender service members continues and immigrants continue to face insurmountable hurdles to joining, that will be a problem. Alongside continued rumblings about the presence of white supremacists within the ranks going unpunished, it paints a disturbing picture. Assuredly, these are all issues Secretary Mattis and lawmakers are eager to sort out through clearer policy guidance or legislation. –LJ

You’re more than just disabled, and this group will pay you to prove it
Matt Saintsing (@MattBSaintsing),
Client Independence Project is a privately funded national research effort whose sole purpose is to assist transitioning veterans with disability ratings in planning their post-military careers. Interested and qualified service members or veterans will partake in a study to get them into the workforce as soon as possible by prepping them with custom-fit job coaching, in-person skills assessments and providing them with access to a “human capital fund.” –SM

Coast Guard Air Station Savannah Guardsman to receive huge honor
Dave Williams (@DWilliamsWJCL22), WJCL ABC Savannah
Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician 2nd class Omar Alba, assigned to US Coast Guard Air Station Savannah, has been recognized as the 2018 Navy Times Coast Guardsman of the Year, part of the broader Military Times Service Members of the Year Awards, which will be given out July 11 in Washington, DC Full details on the winners can be found on the SMOY website. –BW

‘Rucking’ through Coronado with GORUCK
Tabitha Lipkin (@TabithaLipkin), FOX 5 San Diego
Tabitha Lipkin, an Emmy-winning FOX 5 San Diego reporter, hit the beaches of Coronado over the weekend to participate in client GORUCK’s July 7 Light Challenge. Through a video report, she provided viewers with a look at rucking, which she called “a combination of endurance, teamwork and military training all rolled into one event.” GORUCK challenges are hosted all across the US and in multiple countries; find out more by visiting the GORUCK event page. –BW

The Valley Boys: How A Lone Special Forces Team Is Fighting Isis In Remote Mountains of Afghanistan
Marty Skovlund Jr. (@martyskovlundjr), Coffee or Die
A unit of Green Beret soldiers operates out of one of the most forward U.S. positions in the fight against in the Mohammed Valley of Afghanistan, a short distance from where “MOAB” was detonated last year. The unit conducts operations against ISIS-Khorasan, a branch of the Islamic State active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, accessing the previously ISIS-occupied territory that was inaccessible to American forces prior to the MOAB bombing. They’ve completed 19 missions in their deployment, resulting in more than 47 enemy combatant deaths. Facing issues from resupply to threats of IEDs, to seemingly endless firefights, the team remains focused on their mission of controlling the Mohammed Valley. –KG

SBA looks to reach more veterans with loans and programs to start businesses
Rose Thayer (@Rose_Lori), Stars and Stripes
U.S. Navy veteran and entrepreneur Hernán Luis y Prado expanded his company, VetPowered, with the help of two loans from the Small Business Administration. The SBA has more than 20 specialized outreach centers that offer many opportunities for veterans and active-duty service members to start or grow a business, including business plan workshops, mentorship and training. –LB

2 Transgender Veterans Find Courage—And Sisterhood—Off the Battlefield
Emma Bowman, WAMC Northeast Public Radio
Veterans Sue McConnell and Kristyn Weed, both transgender, found support, friendship and camaraderie in their shared experiences. McConnell and Weed first found each other at a weekly support group meeting for transgender veterans at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care Service in Tucson. Both described feeling isolated, and chronicled their experience in coming out to their families. McConnell and Weed bonded their unique challenges. The Military Voices Initiative led by StoryCorps featured their stories as a part of their effort to highlight narratives from U.S. service members and military families. –NJ

More veterans’ request for help on immigration are rejected now, data shows
Tara Copp (@TaraCopp), Military Times
According to new data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, more requests by veterans to protect their dependents from deportation have been declined due to recent restrictions on immigration. Even though Secretary Jim Mattis earlier said that service members and veterans who served honorably and were part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would be protected, multiple families have contacted Military Times fearing that their families will be split apart. –SM

Tradeshows and Conferences

DAV: 2018 National Convention (Sat – Tue, June 14-17, 2018); Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, Reno, NV

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, July 09, 2018 11:50 am

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