Veterans Roundup: VA Secretary Nominee Gets His Day in the Senate, Congress Reaches VA Reform Deal

Posted by Fred Wellman

Taking a Cue from Forrest Gump to Help Veterans
Gary Sinise (@garysinise), Huffington Post. Get Skills to Work spokesman Gary Sinise wrote for the Huffington Post about how manufacturing has changed drastically in recent years into an advanced, high-tech field. Veterans, with their experience working with high- and low-tech equipment, are well positioned to secure jobs in manufacturing after their service. Sinise has been supporting veterans for more than thirty years and sees veterans as a national resource. Get Skills to Work, a coalition of companies and colleges dedicated to helping veterans train for and land high-paying manufacturing jobs, is a way to leverage veterans’ skills and experience to revitalize the manufacturing sector.

Iowa joins GE’s Military Veteran Job-Training Program
Matthew Patane (@mattpatane), The Des Moines Register. On Thursday, Iowa joined the Get Skills to Work coalition, becoming the third state to join the Get Skills to Work coalition. Illinois and Indiana became partners in October and December of last year. Governor Terry Branstad helped Get Skills to Work roll out Iowa’s new initiatives during an hour-long panel about hiring veterans and the advanced manufacturing skills gap. Later in the day, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Home Base Iowa, the National Association of Manufacturers, IowaWorks, and GSTW coalition member, Alcoa, hosted a Hiring our Heroes job fair, continuing the conversation about filling the skills gap and reached many veterans looking for jobs in Iowa.
More coverage: 
Companies open arms to veterans Doug Schorpp, Quad-City Times
Branstad touts Iowa’s help for veterans Jonathan Turner, QC Online  

How Women Veterans are Invading American Enterprise
Rachel A. Brune, Task & Purpose. Task and Purpose sat down with Bobbie Guinn, Jennifer Kready, and Leah Olszewski, graduates of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families’ (IVMF) Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) program, to talk about how women from military communities are excelling in entrepreneurship and business. Programs like V-WISE assist veteran women and female military spouses get the training they need to get their businesses off the ground.

Boots to Business Gives Entrepreneurial Veterans a Leg Up
Jenny Shank (@jennyshank), NationSwell. Veterans hire veterans so one way to keep veteran unemployment down is to encourage veterans to start their own businesses. Boots to Business, a program offered by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University and The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), gives transitioning service members a free two-day boot camp in entrepreneurship and a new pilot program, Boots to Business: Reboot, gives the same opportunity to veterans and spouses. The first Reboot class was recently held at the White House and more classes are taking place across the country this summer. To learn more or sign up, visit

5 military Jobs that Translate to the Advanced Manufacturing Industry
Margaret Clevenger for Get Skills to Work, Military1. Many veterans leave the service with a skillset that relates to manufacturing. Last week, Get Skills to Work outlined five military careers that translate directly into advanced manufacturing jobs. Veterans who had a certain MOS or rating in the military qualify for badges through the U.S. Manufacturing Pipeline, a part of Get Skills to Work. Check out the article to learn more about civilian jobs for which former servicemembers may be a perfect fit.

Confirmation Hearing Becomes Debate on Veterans Affairs
Emmarie Huetteman (@ehuetteman), The New York Times. During the confirmation hearing of Robert A. McDonald for Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, members of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs debated about whether the VA needs more funding to overcome its problems. Mr. McDonald vowed to be transparent, proposed a change in how employees are evaluated and rewarded, and remained open to adjusting VA leadership. –MC
Bottom Line: Congress has a few major VA issues to take care of ahead of August recess, including McDonald’s confirmation. While the Senate VA Committee voted to send his nomination to the full Senate, a vote on Thursday was postponed indefinitely. At the same time, conference committee talks on dueling House and Senate versions of a VA reform bill were breaking down, though late Sunday word surfaced that a tentative compromise has been reached. A press conference is scheduled for today. For Congress, it seems VA reform is one step back for every two steps forward. –LJ

As the VA Flounders, Community Nonprofits Step In for Veterans
David Wood (@woodwriter), Huffington Post. While the VA scandal over wait times and backlogs rages and Congress crawls towards reform, nonprofits are being praised for picking up in veterans’ care where the VA has been lacking. Organizations like Soldier On, a nonprofit veteran center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts are helping veterans and military families get their lives back on track with programs that support everything ranging from housing, employment, addiction treatment and loans. Some suggest that the VA should continue supporting veterans in terms of medical care, but downsize and let non-profits take over in areas that the VA is falling short. –MC
Bottom Line: With the VA under fire, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many advocates and veterans are looking for alternate service providers for veterans in need. What shouldn’t be forgotten, though, is that most veterans who get services through the VA are very happy with the care they receive—a recent IAVA survey of its membership found similar trends among even the youngest generation of veterans (Ed. Note: more on the survey below). Many non-profit groups are providing necessary services outside of the VA system, but often the best of these services are in conjunction with VA services. Organizations serving homeless veterans work hand-in-hand with their counterparts at the VA to ensure veterans get financial and medical care that will keep them off the streets. Public-private partnerships leverage the best of both systems rather than emphasizing one sector over another. –LJ

Obama Awards More Medals of Honor to Modern Veterans
Dan Lamothe (@danlamothe), The Washington Post. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts became the 11th person to receive the Medal of Honor last Monday during the combined presidencies of President Obama and former President Bush. President Obama has gained a reputation of granting the award twice more often than his predecessor, George W. Bush, but faces criticism because the amount of time it has taken to honor troops with the Medal of Honor. The Washington Post has the breakdown this week in an infographic, complete with information about recipients and a timeline of awards. –MC
Bottom Line: Awarding of the Medal is a huge issue among the military community. One important thing the Post’s infographic doesn’t note is that President Obama has not issued a single MoH to a veteran of Iraq. The challenge when discussing the Medal of Honor is that this is the nation’s most prestigious award so it’s imperative that a thorough review and process is used to ensure the integrity of the medal. Taking a long time to issue the award is frustrating but if it means it is consistently awarded to deserving recipients then it’s probably the right thing. –FPW

Suicide’s Toll: Survey Says Half of Vets Know Someone Who Has Tried It
Jon Harper (@jharperstripes), Stars and Stripes. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America released the results of their annual membership survey on Thursday. One of the survey’s major findings was that nearly half of respondents know someone who has attempted suicide. Respondents also provided interesting insight into VA care—those who were receiving VA care reported good experiences but many veterans said that they had problems getting timely appointments to see VA health care providers. –MC
Bottom Line: The annual IAVA membership survey isn’t representative of the entire population of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, but some of the numbers do align with known trends: younger veterans are more likely to be unemployed and veterans are generally happy with VA health care. Mental health concerns are a high priority for IAVA members and too many know someone who has attempted or committed suicide. It’s not all bad news: 77 percent took the advice of close friends or relatives who suggested they seek mental health care. When mental health issues arise, even the simplest interventions can help. IAVA is using the survey results to continue pushing for mental health care reforms in Congress. –LJ

White House to Launch New High-Tech Job Training Initiative for Veterans
Leo Shane (@leoshane), Military Times. On Monday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ annual convention, Vice President Joe Biden announced new high-tech job training programs for veterans. The programs will provide quick training in programming languages and technology trades. The White House’s new initiatives aim to help fill the technology skills gap found by its recent review of the industry. Biden said he does not see these programs as a favor to veterans but rather a smart move for American business. –MC
Bottom Line: According to the White House’s report on the American workforce, there will be more than 1.4 million jobs in the tech industry going unfilled over the next five years due to the skills gap. The White House initiative is bigger than just veterans, but a significant focus of the training programs will be in areas with higher veterans unemployment. In many ways, this new initiative builds off of what Get Skills to Work has been doing to close the manufacturing skills gap with veterans. Industries like manufacturing and tech are recognizing the valuable intangible skills veterans bring to the workforce as well as military skills that easily translate to the job site. High tech, like manufacturing, is a sector in which America has been a leader and with more veteran employees it will continue to be at the forefront of innovation and earnings. –LJ

Exclusive: Sen. John Walsh Responds to Revelations that He Plagiarized Army War College Paper
Chris Moody (@moody), Yahoo! News. Last week, Montana Democratic Senator John Walsh was found to have plagiarized significant parts of his final research paper at the Army War College in 2007 while pursuing his Master’s degree. Originally Walsh attributed the incident to symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. On Friday, Walsh recanted his statement and said that PTSD was not the reason for his act of plagiarism and that he was never officially diagnosed with the illness. The Army War College Academic Review Board will begin an investigation of Walsh’s research paper next month. –MC
Bottom Line: This issue is a great example of the civil-military divide in many ways. While many civilians are appalled by his possible plagiarism they don’t see it as a huge deal. Comments from Congressional colleagues saying things like “hey…he was a Soldier not an Academic” imply that the scholarly abilities of career military members are somehow less than civilians. But to military members, and especially officers, Walsh’s plagiarism and subsequent blaming of PTSD are causing anger and consternation for a violation of the most sacred codes of honor and integrity of the officer corps. In the end it will be up to the voters of Montana to decide what they think of Walsh’s explanations but it’s disheartening for many Iraq veterans that our only representative in the Senate hasn’t been a greater standard bearer for our generation of veteran. –FPW

Thank You for Your Service: How One Company Sues Soldiers Worldwide
Paul Kiel (@paulkiel), ProPublica. USA Discounters, a company that guarantees credit approval for service members without previous credit, is under fire for turning around and suing customers when they fall behind on payments. Described as an efficient debt collection operation, USA Discounters is said to work the system by using courts in Virginia to sue customers, even if the customer lives in a different state or country. USA Discounters has filed 13,470 lawsuits since 2006 and they usually win. The service members who purchase goods from USA Discounters are often attracted to the guaranteed credit and fail to recognize that the items they’re buying are actually priced at a significant markup. –MC
Bottom Line: There is no question that USA Discounters and other companies like it are complying with the law to pursue their money from non-paying customers but it reeks of horribly unethical and predatory business practices. These companies know that junior enlisted members of the military have the ability to pay loans using allotments through their paychecks and also know they can garnish their wages the same way to get their money after securing a default judgment against them. The military has gone to great lengths to train service members about these predatory lenders but in the end it’s up the troops to make the right decisions. It’s hard to understand how a young soldier can buy a $655 laptop for almost $3,000 and then not make payments anymore when it breaks in Iraq. The laws in Virginia and nationally will need to be looked at to close the loopholes that allow retailers like USA Discounters to exploit the ability to win default judgments so easily and protect not just servicemembers but others being taken advantage of by these companies. –FPW

Tradeshows & Conferences

No major shows or conferences.

For a full list of upcoming events, check out our recently updated Events page.

Congressional Hearings

Both chambers are in session this week.


Armed Services: Security Situation in Iraq and Syria: U.S. Policy Options and Implications for the Region Who: Dr. Steven Biddle, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University, Mr. Max Boot, Jeane Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Brian Fishman, Counterterrorism Research Fellow, New America Foundation, Lieutenant General Richard Natonski, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, July 29, 2014 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: Risks to Stability in Afghanistan: Politics, Security and International Commitment Who: Mr. Anthony Cordesman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Dr. Catherine Dale, Specialist in International Security, Congressional Research Service, Ambassador Ronald Neumann, President, American Academy of Diplomacy, Dr. Michael O’Hanlon, Director of Research for the Foreign Policy Program, Brookings Institution When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, July 30, 2014 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Veterans Affairs: Markup of Pending Legislation  When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, July 30, 2014 Where: 334 Cannon

Think Tanks & Other Events

National Veterans Center: Stress Relief Meditation for Veterans When: 5:00 PM, Monday, July 28, 2014 Where: The National Veterans Center, 2013 H Street NW, Washington, DC

DefenseOne and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: The New Battleground: Veterans Care Who: Fred Wellman, Chief Executive Officer and founder, ScoutComms, Inc., Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, Dr. Mike Haynie, Executive Director, Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Syracuse University, Alex Horton, Writer, former Digital Engagement Official, Department of Veterans Affairs, Zach Iscol, CEO, Hirepurpose, Leo Shane, Congressional Reporter, Military Times, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida When: 7:45 AM, Wednesday, July 30, 2014 Where: 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor, Washington DC 20045

Military Times: 14th Annual Military Times Service Members of the Year Awards Ceremony Who: The Honorable Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force, Gen. Larry O. Spencer, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, Adm. Paul Zukunft, Coast Guard Commandant, Vice Adm. William F. Moran, Chief of Naval Personnel When: 5:00 PM, Wednesday, July 30, 2014 Where: 345 Cannon

Fred WellmanFred Wellman, President ScoutComms, brings us his weekly review of defense industry and 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 28, 2014 1:14 pm

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