Veteran’s Roundup: Veterans Crisis Line Facing Questions about Responsiveness, Reservists Fired despite Job Protections, Commission on Care, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Transition Issues Such as Class and sports placement persist for Military Kids
Karen Jowers (@KarenJowers), Military Times
The Military Child Education Coalition held their annual National Training Seminar last week in Washington, bringing together hundreds of educators, parents, and school liaisons to discuss the challenges facing military children and to address ways to help them succeed. The attendees recognized that there has been significant progress in recent years to resolve the issues that military kids face with their frequent moves and non-traditional educational tracks. Even with progress though many military kids still face difficulties when moving including eligibility for sports, placement in gifted and talented programs, and acceptance of credits from their previous schools. The main takeaway was that parents will have to work closely with their local schools to bridge the gaps in transition and assist their children in settling into their new locations. These are issues that aren’t going to go away as military members will continue to face moves and deployments regardless of the changing circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan. ­–FPW

Watchdog: Some Texts to VA Suicide Hotline Went Unanswered
Rebecca Kheel (@Rebecca_H_K), The Hill
A recent GAO report confirmed what some advocates have been highlighting for at least a year now: for as critical a resource as the Veterans Crisis Line is for veterans experiencing suicidal thoughts or other crises, the service could be more responsive. Previously, questions had been raised over dropped calls. Now, the GAO found that of 14 test text messages sent to the VCL’s text service, nearly 30 percent went unanswered. VA and its contractor had several excuses for the non-responsiveness, but it’s safe to say that “incompatibility between text services” shouldn’t be a reason a text service doesn’t work (you had one job!) The VA is reiterating its commitment to ensuring the VCL is responsive across mechanisms, but the VCL director it had instated in January has now resigned, forcing the service into adapting to another leadership change in the midst of a reform effort. In some ways, the VCL could be seen as a microcosm of overall VA reform. It, too, has underperforming employees that tarnish the good work done by a majority of its staff. It, too, has had an influx of resources but problems persist. And, like VA, Congress maintains that it cares deeply about the mental health care resources provided to veterans, and yet VCL is hindered by issues such as firing authority, which could be fixed by Congress. Still, VA must continue to work towards putting the managerial and staff resources into the VCL that will enable it to do the life-saving work veterans and service providers count on. –LJ

Feminists Weigh in on Draft Registration for Women
Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, National Catholic Reporter
There is some irony in the recent push to add women to the mandatory draft registration now faced by all young men in the United States. For almost the entirety of the American feminist movement, it has also been a proponent of an anti-war political thought, too. The conundrum now faced is that many who believe women should be treated equally to men also don’t believe that they should face the draft in a time of war. They don’t think anyone should face the draft at all. Unfortunately, that’s not the view of all feminists, especially those who serve. The fact is that dramatic shifts are occurring in the U.S. military for women with the first female dean at the U.S. Military Academy and record numbers of women joining the new class at the Coast Guard Academy. So, it’s a moment in time when true equality is probably what will be in place and the decision to do away with the draft will be left for a later time. –FPW

Pentagon Lifts Ban on Transgender Service Members
Sig Christenson (@saddamscribe), San Antonio Express-News
Transgender people are allowed to serve openly in our military now. They cannot be discharged for being transgender. Period. Defense Secretary Ash Carter made it official last week and now it’s up to the services to iron out the details over the next 12 months. This is pretty historic and something that was, honestly, hard to imagine happening even ten years ago. The thing is, like with ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, there were always “details” that needed to be ironed out to justify delays in making the military more inclusive. Yet, the military figured it our pretty quickly. With women in combat, the military has figured it out. So, too, will the military figure out how to actively be inclusive of its transgender members. Rather than continue to delay and put careers on hold, lives on hold, acceptance on hold, it’s about time the orders came from higher to just do it. Notably, a few lawmakers have floated some test balloons about putting up legislative hurdles to Carter’s policy decree, but even an aide to Rep. Duncan Hunter, who is always up for a fight, acknowledged there are few of his peers who would touch the issue. We hope these men and women who have selflessly served our country, who have already had to live so much of their lives in uncertainty, no longer have to worry about their futures and can focus on continuing to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. –LJ

VA Privatization Debate to Hinge on Coming Report
Travis Tritten (@Travis_Tritten), Stars and Stripes
This week, the congressionally mandated Commission on Care is expected to release its final report on what it believes the future of the VA should be. Those watching the commission closely anticipate the report will recommend options softer than outright privatization of the VA, something to which veterans groups and government employee unions have made their opposition to known. Early drafts from the commission telegraphed a harder line on privatization, but the final report due this week will likely suggest options for both private care and more VA care. That integrated approach, where veterans can seek care in the community for issues not related to their veteran status, is one promoted by a wide range of veterans groups. As VFW notes in the article, veterans want more access to VA care, not less. An integrated approach, then, might free up VA doctors to see more patients for care related to military service, a specialization that can’t be matched by private doctors. What we’ll be watching this week is how various groups and individuals align themselves with regard to the recommendations to get a sense for how ugly the fight might get in Congress over implementation. –LJ

Legal Loophole Allows Companies to Fire Reservists Who Go to War
Andrew Tilghman (@andrewtilghman), Military Times
It’s common knowledge that military Reserve and National Guard members have their jobs protected by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) to ensure they are not discriminated against for serving their country. It ensures that a service member gets their job back, or a comparable one, when they return from duty and cannot be denied promotions and other opportunities. Recent legal challenges are highlighting how arbitration agreements in employment contracts are becoming a major loophole to allow companies to terminate service members in spite of the USERRA protections. With these fine print portions of contracts an employee often unknowingly agrees to a third party outside of the courts resolving disputes with employers, essentially barring them from seeking court relief for actions by their employers. In the story, Andrew highlights how one Reservist was fired after his farewell party for a deployment because of recent “poor performance” and was unable to sue his company. Congress is looking at the issue and there is a proposal to close the loophole but it doesn’t look like there is much enthusiasm to take on the issue. It needs to be addressed or bad actors will punish those who choose to serve and stifle the ability of the military to attract top talent to the ranks. –FPW

Female Marine: Why Women Should Face Military Draft
Kate Germano (@kate_germano), Arizona Republic
Last week, Kate Germano, chief operations officer of the Service Women’s Action Network wrote on why women should register for the draft. Germano argued that with women in the draft, the pool of qualified candidates would be more robust if a draft is needed in the future. She also challenges many misconceptions about women’s capabilities and the roles they would play in a potential draftee military. –MC

No Way to Treat Veterans
Patricia Murphy (@1PatriciaMurphy), Roll Call
Last week, politics put the brakes on efforts to give veterans the ability have in vitro fertilization covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs due to disagreements over how to fund fighting the Zika virus. The policy would have been applicable to about 1,800 veterans who were injured in combat and are thus unable to conceive children without IVF. –MC

Local Army Officer to Be ‘Roadie for a Day’ for Kiss Holiday Concert
Mike Truelsen, KVOA
As part of KISS’ ‘Freedom to Rock’ tour, Lt. Col. Mellyora Crawford, an Army officer in Tucson, was selected to work with the band as their “Roadie for a Day”, a partnership among Hiring Our Heroes, VetTix, and KISS. In each city on the Freedom To Rock tour, one service member will have the opportunity to be a roadie. In addition, free tickets are being provided to local veterans and troops through Vet Tix. –MC

BGSU Gives Vets Group a Better Base
Nolan Rosenkrans (@NolanRosenkrans), The Blade
Austin Craft, an Army veteran and the current president of his student veteran organization, is excited to bring a remodeled space to campus for his fellow student vets at Bowling Green State University. The remodeling is funded by BGSU and a $10,000 Vet Center Initiative grant from Student Veterans of America and The Home Depot Foundation. The new facility will serve as a hub for student vets to connect with each other and resources that will ensure their academic success. –JG

Quick Hits:

Lavish Features Cut From Over-Budget Denver VA Hospital
Dan Elliott (@DanElliottAP), Associated Press
A Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Denver has gone millions over budget and has taken much longer to build than expected, but last week officials with the Army Corps of Engineers announced that some lavish features will be cut to try and decrease the budget. Cuts include replacing expensive Brazilian stone in the design with a more cost effective rock from Colorado. –MC

Muslim Recruit’s Death Sparks a Broad Marine Investigation
Paul Sonne (@PaulSonne) and Gordon Lubold (@glubold), The Wall Street Journal
Investigators are currently looking into allegations surrounding the death of Marine recruit Raheel Siddiqui. Siddiqui, a Muslim-American at boot camp on Parris Island, was found dead in a barracks stairwell after falling three stories. He was evacuated to a medical center in Charleston, where he was pronounced dead. While his death has been ruled a suicide, the investigation is looking into whether his race, religion or xenophobic sentiment among other members of his unit played any part in his death. –JG

Governor Signs Bill Establishing Program to Help Military Medics Transition into Healthcare
Emily Satchell,
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe recently signed a bill that will help former military medics transition into careers at hospitals across the state through the Virginia Military Medics and Corpsmen Pilot Program (MMAC). The program is modeled after a successful VA pilot program in use at 15 VA medical centers around the country. –MC

A generation of Veterans Is out of the Military Looking for Work
Tyrone Beason (@tyrone_beason), Seattle Times
Through personal stories, this article demonstrates why individuals joined the military, and why they ultimately decided to leave for civilians life. Around the country, organizations like Hiring Our Heroes are hosting by hiring fairs dedicated to helping veterans find jobs. Additionally, many major US companies like Starbucks and Boeing are leading the movement to provide meaningful employment to veterans and military spouses. –JG

In Honor of American Independence, a Good-Natured Poke at the British
John Kelly (@JohnKelly), The Washington Post
Washington Post columnist John Kelly celebrated Independence Day with an article about his father, a former U.S. Air Force pilot, who played a little prank while stationed overseas with some fellow service men by rowing a boat across the Thames river with an American flag to resemble George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware. –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences:

National Alliance on Mental Illness:

National Convention (Wed-Sat, July 6 – 9, 2016);

Sheraton Denver Downtown, Denver, CO

Congressional Hearings:

Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness: Aviation Readiness
Who: Lieutenant General Jon M. Davis
, Deputy Commandant for Aviation, U.S. Marine Corps; Rear Admiral Upper Half Michael C. Manazir, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems, U.S. Navy; Lieutenant General Kevin W. Mangum, Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command; Major General Scott D. West, Director of Current Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: Goldwater-Nichols Reform: The Way Ahead
Who: General Carter F. Ham,
Former Commander, U.S. Africa Command; Dr. John J. Hamre, Former Deputy Secretary of Defense; Dr. Dov Zakheim, Senior Fellow, Center for Naval Analyses, Senior Advisor, Center for Strategic and International Studies
When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, July 7, 2016
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Think Tanks & Other Events:

Edelman, The George W. Bush Institute & Give An Hour: Veteran Wellbeing: Bridging the Divide
Who: Brian J. Duffy, Senior Vice Commander-In-Chief, VFW; Kana Enomoto, Principal Deputy Administrator, Substance Abused and Mental Health Services Administration; Andrea Inserra, Senior Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton; Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., Founder and President, Give an Hour; Col. Miguel Howe, USA (ret.), Director, Bush Institute Military Service Initiative; Elisa Vitalo, Vice President, Edelman Intelligence
When: 8:30 AM, Thursday, July 7, 2016
Where: The National Press Club, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20045

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 Tuesday, July 05, 2016 8:32 am

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