Veterans Roundup: VA Policy Hinders Veterans, Marijuana’s Effects on PTSD, Sexual Assault Remains Pervasive and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Out of darkness comes light
Frederick P. Wellman (@FPWellman), ScoutComms
This time every year, people commonly share stories of where they were on 9/11. Some were in class, too young to understand. Some were walking to lectures, hearing broken pieces of the horrible news until they saw for themselves the graphic images on the internet. Some saw the news coverage as it happened, wondering how anything like that could exist outside of horror movies. Fred Wellman, our CEO, has a story of his own – a story of family, work and life immediately put on hold for service. A story that would lead to the story of ScoutComms, and the growing number of the clients that we serve. Today is a day undoubtedly of reflection and mourning, but it’s also a day for gratitude – for first responders, service members, veterans and for the strength of the families of those who lost loved ones 16 years ago. At ScoutComms, we’re grateful to serve those who served and continue to serve, and to be where we are now. Read Fred’s story and how it led to ours in our latest Scout Blog. –AB

VA policy hinders veterans courts in aiding thousands of vets with ‘bad paper’
Martin Kuz (@MartinKuz), San Antonio Express-News
Most veteran courts in the U.S. only accept cases from veterans with honorable or general discharge statuses – a rule that leaves many veterans without any kind of supportive services if they wind up in legal trouble. This is particularly damaging when one considers that many veterans with “bad paper” discharges may resort to substance abuse in order to cope with the various mental health issues that could have resulted in discharge from the military in the first place. In many instances, these veteran courts can be the difference between life and death for former service members with substance use disorders, due to the fact that they often direct them to counseling or rehabilitation rather than jail – something that the U.S. court system often fails to do. –KB
Bottom line: Veterans Treatment Courts are an incredibly effective intervention for veterans who have often entered the justice system as a result of drug or alcohol use. Unfortunately, as with many community-based interventions, costs are a paramount issue that local systems must address. Because treatment courts are often dependent on being able to send a veteran to the VA for treatment services, as well as wrap-around supports like employment and housing resources, those with “bad paper” often come with a cost that a court system is unable to shoulder. With positive news from the VA for those with “bad paper” coming out in the past few months, I would hope that these courts will soon be able to accept more of these veterans and help get them back on the path to success. Even without VA services however, many opportunities for community-based care exists, such as the treatments offered by programs like Cohen Veterans Network and Wounded Warrior Project’s Warrior Care Network. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but collaboration is the key to success and the federal government and local governments can’t face these issues alone. I’m hopeful that collaboration and innovation amongst new players in the space along with government systems will help us address some of our most pressing issues. It’s clear that these courts don’t want to turn vets away, but are facing a difficult equation if we can’t find new ways to bridge bureaucratic gaps. –RB

Study of marijuana’s effects on PTSD struggles to recruit vets
Nikki Wentling (@NikkiWentling),
Back in February, the FDA, DEA and HHS gave permission for a research organization in Scottsdale, Ariz. to begin a clinical trial assessing the utility of marijuana to treat mental health conditions in the veteran population. The study was seven years in the making, and the researchers were thrilled when it was finally given the go-ahead by the proper entities. However, seven months later, the study is struggling to recruit veterans, namely due to veterans’ inability to make it to the center. At the heart of the issue is that the Phoenix VA, which is a mere 20 miles from the research center in Scottsdale, will not allow the study to recruit from its patient pool. –KB
Bottom line: We have some experience with these kinds of studies; it’s really not appropriate to beat up VA for not allowing their patient pool to be recruited directly for the study. That undermines a host of issues with the findings, however, it would have been smart of them to reach out to veterans service organizations, influencers and the media more effectively to drive participation. We know a lot of veterans who have actually settled in Arizona because of its medical marijuana laws and ability to use the alternative treatment. If you know someone in the region that could participate we’d highly recommend you contact him or her. We are in dire need of effective studies on the medical value of cannabis and having a major one fail for administrative reasons just sets the community back once again. –FPW

Author of newsletter calling for veteran ban on universities tells 11 News it was all a hoax
KKTV (@KKTV11News), KKTV 11
A controversial newsletter posted on the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs campus last week was confirmed as a hoax. The newsletter called for a ban on veterans attending four-year universities and tied military culture to white supremacist groups. The authors, both veterans themselves, said the newsletter was an attempt to test the reactions of both the left and right wing. The university itself made a statement that the newsletter does not reflect the university’s ideals and values, however the university did not remove the newsletter from its bulletin board to respect free speech on the campus. –DD
Bottom line: This whole thing is ridiculous and embarrassing. This odd newsletter first surfaced via some well-known conservative veteran personalities’ social media feeds and quickly went viral in the veteran community tripping what we euphemistically call the ‘veterans anger machine’ at ScoutComms. In no time there were angry rebuttals being posted on blogs and websites across the country and the UCCS administration was scrambling to distance itself from the ideas in the newsletter that veterans shouldn’t be allowed on four-year college campuses. The local Student Veterans of American chapter worked with them to host a forum disputing the ideas in the piece and a lot of people got worked up for nothing. It was all a fake out meant to supposedly parody those “social justice warriors” that real manly men all hate. What makes this pathetic is that there were dozens if not hundreds of stories about the newsletter and only a single one about it being fake and for reasons that make no sense the local TV station kept the authors’ names anonymous. They don’t deserve that luxury. This kind of crap just continues to reinforce the civil-military divide by making up conflicts that don’t exist and playing to the worse elements of paranoia in our community and the price for this stupidity was absolutely nothing. Chances are better than even those first sources of the information about the newsletter are the authors. Hopefully an enterprising military veteran journalist will figure it out but in the meantime the damage is done and the idiots keep on being idiots. –FPW

Senator Says Sexual Assault Remains Pervasive in US Military
Richard Lardner (@rplardner),
Sen. Gillibrand (D-New York) claims that the men and women in armed forces “do not have confidence in the military justice system” even after the many attempts to end sex crimes within the military. A recent report examined several cases of sexual misconduct in the military and found that there are fewer sexual assault cases being taken to trial, and the ones that do have fewer convictions. Gillibrand is proposing that senior military officers not decide which sexual assault offenses go to trial, but rather that independent military trial counsels would make that call. The report comes just a week before the Senate decides on the defense policy bill for the 2018 fiscal year. –DD
Bottom line: Sen. Gillibrand has long been a proponent of professionalizing and modernizing the military justice process which handles sexual assault within the ranks. For the past several years Gillibrand has attempted to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act as a move to vastly change the manner in which sexual assaults are handled within the military. The lawmaker and her supporters believe that by removing commanders from the investigative and judicial process, the military may have a better chance of getting a handle on the sexual assault problem that is evident in the military community. Her position on this issue is not without its critics, as both senior Defense officials as well as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have taken umbrage at her proposed solutions. Many of these same critics believe that it is imperative to “good order and discipline” for commanders to have a role in this process. Earlier this year, annual DoD statistics showed reports of sexual assault in the military were at an all-time high, with senior officials stating that the increase of reports showed that service members had increasing trust in an ever evolving system. Despite consternation and disagreement about the way in which the judicial process is handled, all parties seem to agree that the occurrence of retaliation amongst survivors is unacceptably high: Gillibrand’s report noted that 58% of survivors experienced retaliation. No matter which side folks fall on in terms of solutions, most can agree that we must continue to do better by the survivors of these criminal incidents. High profile cases of assault, harassment, retaliation and revenge porn have filled the news this year, and we must continue to have robust conversations followed by quick policy making and aggressive implementation to deal with these issues in the military community. –RB

The military looked to ‘dreamers’ to use their vital skills. Now the U.S. might deport them.
Alex Horton (@AlexHortonTX) The Washington Post
Zion Dirgantara, a 28-year-old DACA recipient living in Philadelphia, has lived in the U.S. for the last 16 years. He enlisted in the Army under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program which fast-tracks immigrants to citizenship in exchange for service in the military. According to a Pentagon spokesman there are currently 900 DACA recipients like Dirgantara in the military whose futures are unclear in light of the White House’s recent proclamations about repealing DACA in six months. As a result, at least one recruit has resorted to seeking asylum elsewhere to escape potential deportation. –JG
Bottom line: Alex has been covering the uncertainty faced by immigrants serving in our military since taking up residence at the Post and it’s a bit unfortunate just how robust that beat has been. First, with the impending end of MAVNI, legal immigrants who joined the military may no longer have that opportunity and meanwhile their visas allowing them to remain in the U.S. may expire. Now, nearly a thousand “dreamers”, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, may not be able to continue their service, let alone stay in the country they signed up to serve. As we continually state on the issue of transgender service members, those Americans who are willing to don our nation’s uniform should be given every opportunity to do so. Dreamers grew up knowing no country but America—and many never knew their status until much later in life, as in the case of Dirgantara who only discovered his when he began the enlistment process. As advocates for veterans, service members, and their families, we support these 900 dreamers and all that they embody about the American dream and service to this nation. –LJ

New VA claims process promises decisions within 30 days
Leo Shane (@LeoShane) Military Times
A new process instituted regarding the handling of VA disability claims aims to lower the wait time for decisions to only 30 days, compared to the many months veterans have had to wait in the past. This process, called the Decision Ready Claims initiative, is a collaborative effort between the VA and certain VSOs that can review and certified disability claims. However, the 30-day promise only applies to claims once they have been filed with the VA, not when a veteran contacts one of the participating VSOs. –JG
Bottom line: Huzzah! As Rory notes above, collaboration works and in this case, the VA is collaborating with outside organizations to make veterans’ lives better. These are the kinds of small wins VA is making for which they often don’t get credit. Hopefully, if this new process works as advertised, this good news will encourage more collaboration from an agency not always known for playing well with others. –LJ

MYnd Analytics invited to present at Brain Futures 2017 conference
Last week, client MYnd Analytics had the chance to participate in a panel at the Brain Futures 2017 conference in National Harbor, Md. The conference, which took place over the span of two days, brought together many of the top minds in mental health innovation in order to discuss best practices surrounding brain health. George Carpenter, CEO of MYnd Analytics, participated in a panel entitled “From Pharmacogenetics to Psychedelics: Promising Medication Advances,” in which he spoke on his company’s PEER Online product. This product utilizes a simple brain scan to produce a report that provides psychiatrists with objective evidence on what psychoactive medications work best for each individual. –KB

14 Major September Events With Free Tickets For Troops, Vets, And Military Families
Steven Weintraub (@weintraub_sd), Task and Purpose
During the month of September, active duty military, veterans, their families and military caregivers can receive discounted tickets to community events through the Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix). Vet Tix is a national nonprofit that provides tickets to events such as sporting games, concerts, performing arts and family activities. Such events allow military peers and their loved ones to create memories to last a lifetime and strengthen bonds. From NFL preseason games to KISS concerts, Vet Tix offers hundreds of events during the month of September and every month. –DD 

Tradeshows & Conferences

MilBlogging and ScoutComms: Military Influencer Conference (Sun – Tue, Oct. 22-24, 2017); Sheraton Dallas Hotel, Dallas, TX

Air Force Association: National Convention 2017 (Sat – Sun, Sept. 16-17, 2017); Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, MD

Congressional Hearings

Armed Services: Securing the Peace After the Fall of ISIL

Who: Brigadier General James Bierman, USMC, Director of Middle East Division, Joint Staff J-5, Department of Defense; The Honorable Ryan Crocker, Former Ambassador to Iraq (2007-2009), Diplomat in Residence, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University; Dr. Marc Lynch, Professor of Political Science, The George Washington University; Mr. Christopher Maier, Director, D-ISIS Task Force, Department of Defense; Dr. Kenneth Pollack, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute; The Honorable Kathryn Wheelbarger, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Department of Defense
When: 2:00 PM, Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Where: Rayburn 2212

Other Events

None this week.

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, September 11, 2017 10:56 am

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