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Veterans Roundup: Veterans Hiring Preference Shenanigans

Posted by Fred Wellman

VA braces for a New Front in the Agent Orange Battle
Jordain Carney (@jordainc), National Journal. A group of veterans who flew C-123s after the planes had been used in Vietnam are concerned that their post-Vietnam era service may have exposed them to Agent Orange and contributed to a range of illness. The VA refutes this claim and says that possible Agent Orange on the planes would not lead to “adverse long term health effects” as it would have been solidified by the time of exposure. Later this month, the Institute of Medicine will release a report about the “excess risk of adverse health” for service members who flew on C-123s. With approximately 2,000 crewmembers that may have been exposed to Agent Orange in this way, the VA may have more claims on their hands. –MC
Bottom line: The wars we fight—even the nameless ones—have long lasting consequences on the men and women who sign up to serve. This battle over Agent Orange is a precursor to the many battles VA will wage over various potentially harmful situations veterans found themselves in during their service. It’s a sticky situation because VA has a limited budget (mostly a self-inflicted wound) and simply cannot keep adding disabled veterans to its rolls. On the other hand, the VA is supposed to serve veterans. In the case of Agent Orange among Vietnam era veterans, Shinseki opened up the claims process to about 150,000 veterans. This 2,000 seems to pale in comparison but would open the door to many other advocates for lesser-known illnesses. Definitely one to watch. –LJ

VA Moves to Oust Four Senior Executives
Ben Kesling (@bkesling), The Wall Street Journal. The VA has begun the process of removing four top officials. The process includes several steps and it is unclear whether the officials were provided an opportunity to resign. The recent law, allowing VA leaders to be kicked out off office more easily, has come under fire in light of the oustings. The law requires officials be warned five days before termination, opponents say that this gives officials the opportunity to resign, quit, retire, and avoid accountability. Despite the controversy, VA Secretary Robert McDonald implies that this is just the start and more firings will take place. –MC
Bottom line: Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee Jeff Miller is upset that the law he wrote and helped pass is now being implemented. Unfortunately, reforming the entirety of the federal government’s human resources department will take more than one congressional committee’s action. What this does show is that VA is more willing to make personnel decisions—and more willing to make them public—than in recent memory. So far, McDonald is keeping up on his end of the bargain as far as transparency. If Rep. Miller really has a problem, he can call McDonald’s cell phone—everyone has it. –LJ

American Legion boss: Vets Have Earned Federal Hiring Preference
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. In a Merit System Protection Board Report based on a survey, federal workers expressed concerns over the federal hiring preference for veterans with the belief that the preference provides an unfair advantage to veterans. But last week, American Legion National Commander Michael Helm dismissed these fears. Helm stated that veterans need the advantage to make up for time lost while serving in the military. He also stated his belief that the reduction of federal female employees may be the result of the government hiring fewer employees overall, rather than the result of hiring more veterans. His response to those who complain was simply “Become a veteran.” –MC
Bottom line: There are reasonable arguments to be made that the veterans preference in federal hiring doesn’t necessarily end up being a fair system for those who are not veterans. The need to help veterans is important but who is federal hiring really helping? The fact is that young Americans aren’t joining the federal government and the majority of veterans using the hiring preferences are older ones. So, the cohort that has an unemployment rate that is running about two percentage points lower than the national average is getting special hiring compared to other underserved populations. The response that those who complain should have joined the military when less than a quarter of the U.S. population even qualifies to serve at all is a tone deaf and inappropriate response to reasonable concerns. To say that those who complain should just become veterans can be boiled down to the largest veterans organization in America saying “[email protected]#& you” to those who have concerns. While that may play well in military and veterans circles in many more it’s offensive and short sighted and when those veterans circles only add up to about 9% of the U.S. population it’s time we pay close attention to not ticking off the majority so easily. –FPW

Fayetteville: A Military Town’s Second Thoughts
Andy Sullivan (@andysullivan), Reuters. Fayetteville, North Carolina is home to Fort Bragg, and many military families who have faced long and frequent deployments during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As U.S. efforts increase against ISIS, some of these Fayetteville families are speaking up about their weariness and the negative effects war has on the community. Polls show that the families in Fayetteville may not be alone in their weariness and that many Americans are unsure about another war (or two). –MC
Bottom line: You can argue a pretty strong case that while there is talk of “war weariness” in the U.S., the majority of Americans only know that feeling in the vaguest of terms. But cities like Fayetteville, Clarksville, El Paso, Killeen and Virginia Beach have earned their weariness through cycles after cycles of deployments and the marking of the losses of men and women in far away lands. The children of the volunteer force are bearing a terrible burden of stress and loss like none in history and we will pay the price for those difficulties for years to come. Endless war with an all-volunteer force is a prospect that will be discussed more in coming years and at some point changes will have to be made unless we run the risk of a generation of veterans and their children permanently scarred by the burden of war. –FPW

Lawmakers Approve 700 Million for Military to Fight Ebola
Andrew Taylor (@APAndrewTaylor), The Associated Press. Lawmakers signed off on $700 million last Thursday to assist the military as it helps fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa; bringing the total allowance up to $750 million covering a six month mission. The funding will ensure troops have access to proper preventative equipment and will provide special chartered flights for evacuation if a servicemember does become infected. –MC
Bottom line: Sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, and brothers and sisters are deploying to West Africa. It’s not a war, but it’s a deployment and while much has been made of the military returning to a peacetime stance, issues like Ebola and ISIS mean military families know there is no such thing. Troops can always be sent overseas, can always get hurt, and can always meet the worst fate. Despite budget cuts and threats of sequestration, the families and the personnel needs are real. So, too, are the needs of these future veterans. We’re still at war and we may still be at “war” for years to come. –LJ

Gary Sinise Highlights Role Vets Play in Making the Army a Decisive Force
Gary Sinise, the actor known for his role as Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump, joins Get Skills to Work this Tuesday at the AUSA Annual Meeting & Exposition to help celebrate GSTW’s second anniversary and kick off a new campaign. Sinise will visit with Soldiers, family members, and Army leaders during the day, spreading the word about how veterans are revitalizing America through manufacturing. –MC

Quick Hits:

New Dispute Erupts Over Marine Commandant’s Basic Officer Training
Lance Bacon, Marine Corps Times. In a final F-U to the Commandant the Corps never embraced, critics of outgoing Gen. Amos are saying he never attended The Basic School, the primary point of entry for USMC officers. As an aviator doing an inter-service transfer during a time of war, it’s possible he completed TBS via correspondence course. A USMC spokesman says the allegations are untrue and that Amos did complete TBS. Nevertheless, Marines gonna be Marines and talk talk talk talk. ­–LJ

Veterans Issues Crack Top 10 in Political Advertising
Susan Davis (@DaviSusan), USA Today. As midterm elections approach, veterans issues are a top topic in political advertising. With more than 42,000 TV ads since Labor Day, veterans’ care is trumping campaign discussion over issues like equal pay for women which received only 14,105 TV ads and terrorism with only 6,869 ads. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America have released a voters guide including a list of veterans issues constituents should consider when voting for candidates. –MC

Trust Offers Peace of Mind to Seriously Wounded, Caregivers
Patricia Kime (@PatriciaKime), Military Times. The Wounded Warrior Project’s new program called the Long-Term Support Trust provides wounded veterans and caregivers with a new support system, specifically designed to help wounded military stay at home and within their communities if they lose the support of their caregiver. –MC

Marine Jailed in Mexico on Weapons Charges Awaits Key Ruling
Tony Perry (@LATsandiego), LA Times. Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, a U.S. Marine who has been imprisoned in Mexico since April on weapons charges, is a step closer to a judge’s ruling for his future. Once closing arguments from the defense and prosecution are submitted, a judge will make the final decision although a date for these decisions has not been announced. If released, Tahmooressi may face weapons charges in California related to the AR-15 he was transporting which is illegal in the state. –MC

Katy Veteran Now Can Say ‘It Only Gets Better’
Natalie Harms (@nataliejharms), The Houston Chronicle. David Thurman, a member of Team Red, White and Blue, completed the Katy Triathlon on September 28th with his fellow Eagles. His story shows the impact Team RWB has on individuals, the community, and in bridging the civilian-military divide. –MC

Army War College Revokes Montana Senator’s Degree, Graduate Status
Catalina Camia (@ccamia), USA Today. In July, Senator John Walsh, D-Mont., was investigated for plagiarism on a paper he wrote for a class towards his Master’s Degree at the U.S. Army War College. The investigation found Walsh guilty of plagiarism and the Army War College revoked his graduate status and degree on Friday. –MC

Military Health Review Verifies a Pearl: Doctor-Patient Email
Tom Philpott (@Military_Update), Stars and Stripes. In the recent 90-day review of the Military Healthcare System, the report found that a secure messaging system for patients to speak with their physicians proved helpful in avoiding extra costs. Survey data showed that 97 percent of patients who tried secure messaging were satisfied with the results. –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences

Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition (Mon–Wed, 13-15 October); Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC

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

Congressional Hearings

Both chambers are in recess.

Think Tanks & Other Events

Center for a New American Security: Book Launch: Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice Who: Dr. John Nagl, Author, Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice, Member, Board of Advisors and Former President, Center for A New American Security, Ninth Headmaster, the Haverford School, Steve Inskeep, Host, Morning Edition, National Public Radio When: 5:00 PM, Thursday, October 16, 2014 Where: Willard InterContinental Hotel, 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004

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, October 14, 2014 2:31 pm

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