Veterans Roundup: VA Reforms Face Tough Legislative Future, Veteran Journalist No Longer Just Means Old Reporters, Post-Service Entrepreneurship and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

As the ‘forever war’ drags on, veterans bring battlefield knowledge to the newsroom
Jack Crosbie (@jscros), Columbia Journalism Review
For more than a decade, media outlets have been reporting on what is now commonly referred to as the “Forever War.” More and more, it’s veterans of those wars reporting on it and the military at large. Their experiences during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan allow them to write about an AR-15-style rifle and its use in war without making a political statement. Over the years, reporters have told the stories of war to educate American civilians, but oftentimes left gaps in the story – not because they weren’t good reporters, but because they had not lived the experiences they were reporting on. Now, veterans are bringing their lived experiences and knowledge of the military to publications like The War Horse, Task & Purpose and The New York Times column “At War”, which all incorporate reporting from veterans. –DD
Bottom line: Seventeen years into the “Forever War,” veterans are increasingly becoming the journalists reporting on the wars and other issues impacting the military and veteran communities. As journalists, these veterans can offer perspectives gained during their time in the military and highlight deep and nuanced understandings of often complex issues. Whether reporting for outlets focused specifically on the veteran community or more mainstream outlets, veteran writers address current events with a critical eye and a keen attention for the political double-speak which sometimes creeps into examinations of topics like gun control, immigration and war. Being members of the community on which they report has also made for some truly ground-breaking coverage. Take for instance the Marines United scandal, which dominated headlines and sparked renewed public interest in the conversation around sexual assault and harassment in the military. Thomas Brennan, himself a Marine and founder of The War Horse was an insider, reporting on the atrocious behavior not as some liberal interloper who could be accused of “not understanding the culture of the military” but, as someone who understood the culture at it’s very core. We at ScoutComms were thrilled to see the reintroduction of the New York Times’ “At War” newly invigorated with the introduction of Lauren Katzenberg as editor.  Katzenberg’s vision for the new site will include the perspectives of non-veterans too, such as “refugees, aid workers, and other civilians,” and will take a comprehensive and multifaceted look at global conflicts and resulting humanitarian crises. Continuing to support efforts like At War and outlets like The War Horse and Task & Purpose ensures that these critically important stories continue to be told, even as public interest is currently drawn to increasingly bizarre and chaotic news of the day. –RB

VA reforms removed from massive spending bill
Nikki Wentling (@nikkiwentling), Stars and Stripes
A $1.3 trillion spending bill to keep the government open did not contain expected VA reforms, including an overhaul of the VA Choice program, expanded benefits for caregivers and a plan to evaluate old and underused VA facilities nationwide. Bipartisan leaders from the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee and House Republicans had agreed on a number of reforms to be included, but House Democrats ultimately rejected the deal due to disagreements over policy and a belief that the Choice overhaul does not go far enough. With the spending bill moving forward without the VA reforms, lawmakers and advocates are now looking at April, or potentially the summer or fall, as the next opportunity to pass these measures. –SM
Bottom line: The can continues to be kicked down the road on VA reforms, specifically relating to the overhaul of the VA Choice program. Reforms which had broad support were yanked from the bill due Democrats objecting to several measures lacking any corresponding funding. As Griffin Anderson, a spokesman for Democrats on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs put it, “for Democrats, expanding the benefits is a top priority, but not without funding.” Additionally, Democrats want to see the reforms to scale back VA Choice program go even further. The expansion of resources for veteran caregivers was also omitted. As Wentling reports, “benefits such as monthly stipends, respite care and counseling are now only available to caregivers of veterans injured after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which veterans and advocates say creates an unfair discrepancy.” Anderson defends the decision, claiming that they were simply “against a measure to expand caregiver benefits because it didn’t provide a clear way to fund those changes.” One silver lining to all of this is that the $1.3 trillion omnibus budget deal does include provisions that expands VA mental health care access for veterans with other-than honorable discharges. The expansion of this benefit aims to specifically tackle veteran suicides. As Military Times points out, “Individuals with bad conduct discharges or court-martial convictions will not be eligible.” Also tucked into the omnibus bill was a provision that restricts the VA from conducting medical experiments on dogs, unless the goal of the study can only be met by using them. This is being seen as a win for animal rights groups, and according to’s reporting, the inclusion of this provision is largely thanks to the efforts of “White Coat Waste Project, a nonprofit that frames animal rights as a conservative issue by linking it to the waste of taxpayer dollars.” –CB

Study: Civilian workforce driving vets to start businesses
Natalie Gross (@ByNatalieGross), Military Times
Research by the Institute for Veterans Military Families at Syracuse University reveals veterans are turning to self-employment due to unsatisfactory experiences in the civilian workforce. While some are searching for greater flexibility, others cited issues with “mediocrity being rewarded” and a lack of organization within the civilian sector. This report is the first in a series of studies being conducted by IVMF examining veteran entrepreneurship, which has seen a rise in recent years. –KG
Bottom line: We love when a study proves what we’ve been saying all along. ScoutComms is living proof of what IVMF’s research found when examining the reasons veterans start their own businesses from poor experience with civilian managers, lack of available jobs and the desire to build something yourself. Seven years later we keep hearing similar tales from other veteran entrepreneurs. Recent reports show that nearly 9 percent of all U.S. businesses are owned by military veterans so there must be something to the experience of service that leads men and women to strike out on their own after the uniform comes off. Increasingly veterans are finding starting and building their own business ventures is the answer to their career goals and we are proud to count ourselves among that group and to support fellow veteran business leaders in their ventures. –FPW

Buoyed by Financial Support, Military Veterans Are a Growing Part of the Paralympics
Ben Shpigel (@benshpigel), The New York Times
In the 2012 Winter Paralympics, veterans made up 22.5 percent of the U.S. team. In this year’s winter games, 24.3 percent of the team were veterans. The U.S. wheelchair curling coach, Rusty Schieber, attributes this increase to the increasing accessibility of adaptive sports to veterans. For many Americans with disabilities, participating in the Paralympics poses a significant financial hardship. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs subsidizes the cost of involvement for veterans who participate at a high level. The VA offers eligible veterans a monthly stipend that ranges anywhere between $617 to more than $1,100, depending on the size of the athlete’s household. Organizations such as Semper Fi Fund and Operation Rebound have also pledged to support veterans competing in the Paralympics, offering grants to eligible applicants. –NJ
Bottom line: You don’t need to watch the Paralympics to see the power of adaptive sport in the recovery of injured service members and veterans. Through the VA and many veteran-serving organizations, there are adaptive sports programs across the country that support athletes in nearly any discipline you could imagine—like wheelchair curling. Thanks to that pipeline, veterans have a real advantage in honing their skills and making it onto Team USA. For injured service members who may be separated from their unit and career, sports can provide that team, purpose, and mission. These veterans serve as mentors for the next service members who may need coaching, but also they can inspire non-veteran athletes with disabilities after unexpected injuries or illnesses. Sport can be another bridge between the veteran and civilian community. Part of building that bridge, though, is ensuring that veteran parathletes are excelling, we are using lessons learned to ultimately benefit civilian parathletes, as well. As sport strives to be as inclusive as possible, that drives the quality of the games and betters all who compete, ultimately. –LJ

New online resource helps military families deal with child mental health illness
Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje (@mstoeltje), San Antonio Express-News
Client USAA recently provided a grant to the One in Five Minds advocacy campaign and its creator, Clarity Child Guidance Center. This grant will allow them to provide complimentary assistance to military families coping with child mental health issues and to train mental health professionals with a strong knowledge of military experiences. One in Five Minds is an online site designed for military families to assist in raising awareness about children’s mental illness by breaking down the stigma surrounding it and making it easier to access treatment. With USAA recognizing this service, the president and CEO of Clarity Guidance Center says it will help spread the awareness to more children and families in need of support while still remaining in the comfort of their own homes. –SM

The labor shortage: How military veterans can help fill the gap
Laurie Cowin (@Lauriethewriter), Construction Dive
The construction industry is suffering from a chronic workforce shortage, but now several organizations are working to empower the thousands of veterans leaving the service every year to help fill that gap. Among those leading such efforts is ScoutComms’ client The Home Depot Foundation, which will pledge $50 million to the Home Builders Institute. This donation will allow the nonprofit to provide 20,000 individuals, comprised mostly of veterans and transitioning active duty personnel, with training to enter the construction industry. –KG

Mark of Remembrance event set for Sunday at MNVM site
Heather C. Cook, Republic Monitor
Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial is hosting the Mark of Remembrance at the site of the new memorial in Perryville, MO this Sunday. The event highlights the opportunity for visitors to sign the concrete walls before they are encased with the engraved granite panels, exact replicas of those at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in D.C. There will also be opportunities, for those who interested, to donate to the organization through the purchase of t-shirts, patches and all-you-can-eat chili. –KG

Veterans Blast GOP Bill as Giveaway to For-Profits
Andrew Kreighbaum (@kreighbaum), Inside Higher Ed
Last summer we saw veterans’ organizations come together like never before, in support of the passing of the Forever GI Bill. Now, they’re coming together again to oppose the Higher Education Act’s proposed overhaul by House Republicans. According to client Student Veterans of America’s vice president of government affairs, Will Hubbard, the new bill would favor “bad schools.” –AB

Advocates push for fourth VA under secretary to focus on economic opportunity
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
Military transition, employment and education have always been major focuses of Student Veterans of America (SVA). As such, they are advocating for a new VA office, the Veterans Economic Opportunity Administration, which will place a newfound importance on these areas within the VA. SVA, along with the American Enterprise, have put together a proposal that would keep costs of these initiatives low, but still elevate resources for transitions, mental health care and others. –AB

Lawmakers outline needs for Puerto Rico’s veterans as six month anniversary of hurricanes approaches
Kellie Meyer (@KellieMeyerNews), KKTV 11 News
After almost half a year, VA clinics in Puerto Rico are still unusable and have a shortage of doctors. After Hurricane Irma and Harvey swept through the island, doctors have been traveling to the U.S. to find work, leaving a number of veterans waiting for care. One VA clinic in particular is being run out of a tent and 8 percent of the island is living without any electricity. Congresswoman Jennifer Gonzalez has requested that the Army Corps of Engineers stay in Puerto Rico until the electricity issue is fully resolved. –DD

Congressional Hearings

None this week.

Community Opportunities

Patriot Boot Camp: VetHacks (Fri – Sun, April 20-22, 2018); PenFed Credit Union HQ, McLean, VA

Veterans in Global Leadership: Apply to be a 2018-2019 VGL Fellow
Who: Student veteran candidates with a passion for service, a commitment to assist other veterans, an entrepreneurial spirit and proven leadership skills.
When: Application deadline is April 30, 2018

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, March 26, 2018 11:48 am

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