Veteran’s Roundup: VA Not Fast-track Firing Anyone, Federal Job Promotions Might Get Harder for Vets, Women in the Draft, and Trump Says Soldiers Stole

Posted by Fred Wellman

PTSD: What’s working, What’s Ahead?
Jeanette Steele (@jensteeley), The San Diego Union-Tribune
The key element of this story isn’t that there are many studies being done right now to see how different combinations of treatments—from alternative to traditional—may have an impact on how doctors approach patient care. Rather, it’s the idea that the future of patient care is about tailored, customizable treatment based on the individual’s unique biology and chemistry. The article notes the increasing interest in genetic markers, both to treat PTSD and to predict who might be more susceptible to developing PTSD. Unfortunately, right now science can only predict treatment response via genetic markers in a limited number of people. Yet, we know that traditional treatment works—Steele documents it here as a combination of exposure therapy, a service dog, and pharmacological interventions. It’s important that more research into possible PTSD treatments continues because it’s such a new field in clinical terms. But right now, people need proven solutions. Care providers, whether VA or DOD, need to look at clinical results and make changes to treatments today rather than waiting for refined genetic tests. If a study shows a 50 percent improvement in PTSD symptoms when a service member can receive treatment via a primary care doctor and telehealth rather than face the stigma of seeking out a mental healthcare professional, that should start some conversations about who delivers care. Similarly, when studies show predictive analytics like the PEER Report from MYnd Analytics (a client) improve PTSD symptoms to an even greater degree with a simple scan rather than a full genetic test that should make doctors take notice of how they can better tailor their treatment to their patients. There are hundreds of studies underway on PTSD because there is recognition we must do a better job caring for patients, yet there is also a lack of leadership when it comes to implementing known solutions. –LJ

Why the Senate Voted to Include Women in the Draft
Simone McCarthy (@simonelmc), Christian Science Monitor
After nearly two months of debate about the possibility of women registering for Selective Service, we’ve reached the phase where Senate and House negotiators will meet in conference to resolve differences between their respective versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, including the House’s omission of any changes to the draft eligibility of women. The Senate already passed its own amendment with little debate; now we’ll see if Senate negotiators care enough about the issue of gender neutrality in military service to bring about House acquiescence. With major developments occurring for women in combat roles in 2016, advocates like the Service Women’s Action Network (a client) are generally amenable to the inclusion of women in Selective Service, because it removes another gender-oriented obstacle to equality of opportunity and obligation in the country. At the same time, though, SWAN and other groups would be equally as happy to see the draft eventually abolished, as they believe that the military has been well-served by its volunteers. Yet even as advocates are celebrating the Senate’s move, they are lamenting its failure to act on another issue of great concern to service women—improving how the military addresses sexual assault cases. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act, which would transfer decisions on whether to prosecute military sexual assault from military commanders to military prosecutors, did not even receive a vote during the NDAA debate, angering SWAN and other advocacy groups. Progress toward a military that breaks down gender barriers in all manners of the concept is still incomplete. –BW

Senate Moves to Change Vets’ Preference in Federal Hiring
Kellie Lunney (@klunney), Government Executive
In a move that surprised most veterans and military service organizations, the Senate added an amendment to their version of the National Defense Authorization Act that would limit veterans’ preference in federal job openings. Veterans will still get higher preference in the initial hiring process but once in a position they won’t necessarily jump to the top of the line for new positions. The issue of always giving veterans preference has been reported to be causing frustration inside the government as qualified civilians often lose jobs to possibly less qualified veterans. The new approach would still get veterans hired but leave them to compete for jobs on a more level playing field once hired. VSOs reacted with dismay but we think this battle might not be the one to pick with 43 percent of all new federal positions going to veterans who represent just 7 percent of the general population. We also must stand by the fact that veterans aren’t charity cases and will rise in the ranks based on their skills and leadership. While we often fight the chipping away of veterans’ benefits, this may not be case to man the battlements just yet. –FPW

House Rejects Effort to Ban Illegal Immigrants from Military Service
Cristina Marcos (@cimarcos), The Hill
Typically, we feature stories about congressional dysfunction. Well, typically, all news stories about Congress are about dysfunction. But rejoice, for here is story about a bipartisan group of legislators working together to fight off an attempt to ban undocumented migrants who came to America as minors, so not of their own volition, from joining the military. Now, typically, joining the military requires some form of documentation. While we’ve covered veterans who have been deported on many occasions, those veterans joined as permanent residents with green cards. Rather, these young people join as part of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, which recruits individuals with foreign language or other valued skills. A whopping 141 people have been recruited this way, yet some in Congress were trying to stop future accessions by painting this as some sort of executive overreach akin to amnesty. Seems to me this is a great way to allow people to serve a country they grew up in. In an era of heightened rhetoric around immigration, it’s heartening to see Congress coalesce just a little bit around making our country and our military stronger by welcoming people with the motivation and skills to serve. –LJ

Vets Blast Trump for Implying U.S. Troops Stole Iraq Cash
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
In comments during a rally in North Carolina Donald Trump mentioned in an aside that he thought the way money was handed out in Iraq was corrupt. He added, “I want to know who are the soldiers that had that job because I think they’re living very well right now, whoever they may be. Think of it, the money that went out.” This caused an immediate reaction from many veterans who served in roles rebuilding Iraq, including myself in 2003-2004. Sadly, there were some 115 cases of contracting irregularities found that led to jail sentences for those few. Thousands of service members were responsible for handing out millions of dollars to local contractors, civilians, and others without incident and once again Trump has found a way to offend many but throwing in enough fact to offer his supporters the wiggle room to dismiss his contempt with comments like “well, if two were caught than that means ‘soldiers’”. Like the general electorate, polls show the military split in its support for Trump. The disdainful comments from Trump about service members, veterans, and others continue to pile up. At some point the drumbeat will peel away the support he holds. –FPW

VA Won’t Use its Fast-track Firing Powers Anymore
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
What was old is new again. After congressional furor over VA wait time scandals led to the enactment of streamlined disciplinary powers, the VA has now decided to stop using those powers. The decision, in a way, is understandable. Congress is not particularly adept at reviewing the legality of the laws it passes, particularly when those laws seek to alter entrenched bureaucratic processes. The VA’s attempts to fire senior executives have backfired horribly, running into a buzz saw of opposition from the Merit Systems Protection Board and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. While it is popular to point fingers at the VA for dragging its feet, it’s hard to blame them for becoming gun shy after their few firings were thrown back in their face by the legal system and decried by employee unions. If committees with oversight want to fix this gaping hole, they are going to have to view the VA as a partner and not as an obstacle, and work with Secretary Bob to ensure that future legislative solutions take into account the complexities of the federal hiring and firing process. There are hundreds of VA employees who probably deserve to be fired—three more Phoenix, VA employees were recently fired and will hopefully stay fired—but quick legislative fixes won’t overcome inherent protections. It will require an effort informed more by legal considerations than partisan and populist outrage. –BW

Stop Denying Wounded Warriors the Opportunity to Start a Family
Lauren Jaye for The Hill
Last week, wounded veterans and their caregivers headed to Capitol Hill to push Congress to allow thousands of couples the opportunity to start a family by allow VA to cover IVF treatments. To families like Kevin and Lauren Jaye, who shared their story in an op-ed for The Hill last week, the ability to start a family is major part of the recovery process after injury, and a group of organizations led by Wounded Warrior Project are backing them in their efforts to help all wounded veterans start a family. The fight for veterans’ rights is expected to come to a close in the coming weeks in Congress, but the legislation has faced resistance from anti-abortion forces. –MC

KISS to Enlist Local Military Member to Help Out Backstage During Concert in July
Jackie Rehwald (@JackieRehwaldNL), The Springfield News-Leader
Through a new partnership with Hiring Our Heroes, Vet Tix, and KISS (yes, the rock n’ roll legends!), 32 National Guard or Reserve service members will get the chance to be “Roadie for the Day” with the band at concerts across the nation. In addition, KISS will also donate tickets to veterans in each city on their ‘Freedom to Rock’ tour this summer. Veterans and families will be able to compete for the tickets or purchase tickets at a discounted rate at –MC

Wounded Warrior Project Gets New Leader after Troubles
Audrey McAvoy (@audreymcavoy), Associated Press
Last week, Wounded Warrior Project announced that retired Army lieutenant general Michael Linnington will take over as CEO of WWP next month. Linnington was previously director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which he took over after the agency was criticized for being wasteful and dysfunctional. Linnington is credited with turning the agency around, even doubling the identification of missing service members in just one year. –MC

New Award Recognizes Top Rookie Military Veteran Drivers
Heavy Duty Trucking
Hiring Our Heroes’ Transition Trucking program is giving away a Kenworth T680 to the winner of the Transition Trucking Driving for Excellence Award that will recognize a veteran who has successfully transitioned from military service to truck driving. All veterans, National Guardsmen and Reservists who have obtained their trucking job after January 1, 2015, are eligible. If you would like to nominate someone, visit the Transition Trucking website today! –JG
Other Coverage:
Group Giving Kenworth T680 to Military Veteran
Mark Schremmer (@SchremLandLine), Land Line magazine
Transition Trucking Seeks America’s Top Military Rookie Truck Driver
Trucking News Staff, Online Trucking News

Quick Hits:

Gun Control Group Enlists Petraeus and Other Vets to Help Curb Violence
Alex Horton (@AlexHortonTX), Stars and Stripes
Retired Army generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal joined many other former senior military leaders this week to launch an initiative urging veterans to be advocates for reducing the access people with a history of domestic violence, mental illness, or under certain surveillance by the FBI have to guns. The initiative seeks to partner with major veteran organizations to increase its reach within the veteran community. –JG

Commissary Changes are Coming but Won’t Hurt the Benefit, Official Says
Karen Jowers (@KarenJowers), Military Times
The military commissary benefit will change, Defense Department officials said, but only so long as those changes will save money while sustaining the benefit. David Tillotson II, DoD’s assistant deputy chief management officer, said that the department does not view privatization as “as all or nothing” and that there is the possibility that some commissary operations could be run by private companies. –MC

There are Simple Answers to all of the Pentagon’s Questions About Rransgender Troops
Aaron Belkin (@aaronbelkin) for Military Times
In this opinion piece, Belkin offers a simple solution for the “complex” questions that arise with the proposed integration of transgender service members to the military: treat them just like you treat everyone else. Hold them to the same physical and career standards, let doctors make medical decisions, and let the systems in place serve all members of the military without requiring that transgender people be held to a “second” standard. –JG

Moves in the Sector:

Top VA Benefits Official Pummill Retires
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Last week, acting head of the Veteran Benefits Administration, Danny Pummill, announced his retirement. His announcement comes just eight months after he took over VBA following the resignation of his predecessor, Allison Hickey. Under secretary Tom Murphy will serve as head of VBA, though the next president may choose to nominate someone else. –JG

Tradeshows & Conferences

Department of Defense: Warrior Games (Wed-Tue, June 15-21, 2016); United States Military Academy, West Point, NY

National Veteran Small Business Coalition: Veteran Entrepreneur Training Symposium (Mon-Thurs, June 20-23, 2016); Norfolk Waterside Marriott, Norfolk, VA

Congressional Hearings

Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health: Access and Accountability Examining Obstacles to High Quality Patient Care in Louisiana
3:00 PM, Monday, June 20, 2016
Where: Pineville City Council Chambers, Pineville City Hall, 910 Main Street Pineville Louisiana, 71360

Armed Services: Military Cyber Operations
Who: Mr. Thomas Atkin, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security, Office of the Secretary of Defense; Lieutenant General Kevin McLaughlin, Deputy Commander, U.S. Cyber Command; Brigadier General Charles Moore, Joint Staff, J-39
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: Nominations – Waldhauser, Lengyel
Who: Lieutenant General Thomas D. Waldhauser
, USMC, To Be General And Commander, United States Africa Command; Lieutenant General Joseph L. Lengyel, ANG, To Be General And Chief Of The National Guard Bureau
When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Where: G50 Dirksen

Veterans’ Affairs: Pending Nomination of Christopher E. O’Connor
Who: Christopher E. O’Connor,
Nominee to be Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Where: 418 Russell

Veterans’ Affairs: Examining the Progress and Challenges in Modernizing Information Technology at the Department of Veteran Affairs
When: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Where: 418 Russell

Think Tanks & Other Events

Center for a New American Security: 2016 Annual Conference
Who: Vice President Joe Biden; Secretary of Defense Ashton CarterAdmiral John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations; Michèle Flournoy, Co-Founder and CEO, CNAS; Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI); and more
When: Monday, June 20, 9:30 am – 5:30 pm
Where: J.W. Marriot Washington DC, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave NW

National Geographic Channel: No Man Left Behind World Premiere Screening Event
Who: Survivors of ‘The Real Black Hawk Down’
When: 6:00 PM, Monday, June 20, 2016
Where: U.S. Navy Memorial, 701 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004

The Brookings Institution: Can the Department of Veterans Affairs be modernized?
Who: Bob McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Norman Eisen, Visiting Fellow, Governance Studies, Brookings
When: 2:00 PM, Monday, June 20, 2016
Where: Brookings, 1775 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009

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, June 20, 2016 1:27 pm

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