Veterans Roundup: Veterans More Resilient than Civilians Gallup Finds, Writing about War as Therapy

Posted by Fred Wellman

Veterans Tame Their Toughest Memories, One Story at a Time
Corinne Reilly (@CorinneReilly), The Virginian-Pilot. Writing dry reports about atrocities in Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Darfur was what first got Ron Capps (@ron_capps) writing in his free time about the effects of war he saw and felt. The horrors that the Army veteran and State Department official had seen took its toll on Capps’ mental health and he eventually retired from the non-profit sector in 2008. It was then he enrolled in a graduate writing program and found the classroom experience of writing about his traumatic experiences helped him more than therapy or pharmaceuticals. Capps founded the Veterans Writing Project to bring the lessons he learned in his masters program to veterans and service members around the country. Research has shown writing about trauma to have more than an anecdotal impact on mental health. By writing about trauma, a person can better approach the experience like other memories rather than intense flashbacks. Writing about the trauma of war goes back millennia to Homer’s “Illiad”. Capps says writing is like taking control of the memories and then taming them through editing. For his students at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, his focus isn’t on the craft but merely on putting words on paper. At the Veterans Writing Project, Capps helps veterans and service members hone their skills and publish their work. The project puts out a quarterly journal, O-Dark-Thirty, containing the works of veterans. –LJ

Most Veterans Are Satisfied With GI Bill Education Benefits
Lydia Saad, Gallup. Gallup, the standard in analytics and polling, issued a series of posts this past week on the veteran experience in the United States and particularly focusing on the transition to civilian life. The series had some great insights to offer, some surprising, but most not unexpected for those that follow the issues. Of note there is an almost unbelievable level of satisfaction with the modern GI Bill with a remarkable 78% saying they are satisfied or very satisfied with their education benefits. It’s rare to find that kind of consensus on any issue and especially something among veterans. Another post found that veterans feel less stress and worry than their civilian counterparts and military retirees even less than other veterans. So, while much of the story around veterans depicts many on the edge or struggling with employment, mental health or other worries, the poll shows that veterans are more emotionally resilient than civilians. Sadly, the polling showed that 55% say it is difficult to access VA healthcare and a disconcerting 60% of veterans say that recent scandals at the Veterans Health Administration surrounding wait lists and other issues has made them less confident in VA’s ability to support them. In an odd question, Gallup found that discharged, employed veterans are more likely to use tobacco than civilians and retirees by about 4%. So that’s something. –FPW

Veterans turn to American Legion in Wake of VA Scandal
Juan Carlos Llorca, Associated Press. More than 1,800 veterans have turned to American Legion-run crisis centers in areas particularly impacted by VA wait times. The Legion launched these temporary centers after reports surfaced in April that veterans were waiting too long for appointments and that VA medical facilities were deliberately manipulating data to cover up these delays. The Legion’s centers are being operated with help from the VA which is lending nurses, counselors, and clerks to the effort. While the VA is pointing to the centers as a best practice for how the department is working with community assets to fix its issues, the Legion says it should have had to take such extraordinary steps to care for veterans—a job that is the VA’s core mission. In just three days in El Paso, the American Legion’s crisis center was able to get patients into mental health treatment and find $461,000 in back pay due to veterans. The Legion is showing that the large “legacy” veteran service organizations still play an important role in the lives of veterans and fill a gap that younger veterans groups cannot—yet. –LJ

Commission’s Interim Report ‘Sets Stage’ for Pay Reform
Tom Philpott, Stars and Stripes. The official Congressionally commissioned Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission has submitted their first interim report that will serve as the springboard for the really tricky stuff to come. The first mission of this nine-member panel was to get a handle on all of the many military and veterans pays, allowances, and benefits that have been issued by Congress and through other means, such as executive orders, over the years. The result is a 358-page roll up that will now serve as the reference for the critical analysis that will come as the deadline to submit their recommendations to Congress and the President looms next February. The report outlines the many programs across multiple federal departments that totals some $340 billion in fiscal year 2014 alone. Veterans advocates will be relieved to hear that the commission acknowledges that the ability to provide cost comparisons of the growth of benefits today all comes down to when the comparisons begin. Many advocates have been frustrated that the Department of Defense has been calling for cuts in benefits by citing the growth of compensation since 2001 but ignores the many one-time changes to access to healthcare and pay that were created at that time as twisting the picture to make it look worse than it really is for projections of future expenses. Even more encouraging the commission busts one of the military’s biggest arguments that “massive growth” in benefits means it now takes up a larger percentage of the DoD budget than ever before. They found that as many advocates have said it is now 30% of the budget just like it has been for decades. It will be interesting to see what they recommend and Tricare fees are far and away the most likely first target since they have not gown in any real way in decades. –FPW

Obama’s Pick to Lead the VA Led a Private-Sector Digital Revolution
Adam Mazmanian (@thisismaz), FCW. Bob McDonald may not have extensive military experience or medical knowledge, but he has a history of connecting corporations with their customers. As CEO of Proctor & Gamble, McDonald used technology to connect the company with their retailers directly to eliminate inefficiencies in the supply chain. McDonald also shepherded in the use of social media as a conduit for customer feedback and ensured those comments fed business improvements. The VA, long known for its inability to keep up with changing technology, will present a host of new challenges for McDonald as he seeks to connect veterans with timely health care and benefits. Perhaps his first challenge? Getting the VA’s New Burn Pit Registry Website Working. [Insert joke here.] –LJ

Back From War, Veterans Enter Education Fight at Home
Paul D. Shinkman, (@PDShinkman) U.S. News and World Report. One of the programs we are watching grow to make a unique difference for veterans and transitioning military members is the Warrior-Scholar Project that aims to help veterans lead at top universities across the country. The brainchild of Harvard Law student Jesse Reising and former Australian commando Chris Howell, the program is designed to give veterans a boot camp and kit bag full of tools and techniques to not just make it into top schools but excel while attending. In its third year the project is expanding through private donations and a desire to find a successful program that can help the thousands of new veterans taking advantage of their generous GI Bill benefits. With reports showing that for-profit schools are making millions off of GI Bill payments while offering degrees that are almost useless to their grads it is more important than ever to have solid programs that help vets succeed in quality educational institutions. The article lays out the lack of veterans in top Ivy League schools and shows the value of a program like Warrior-Scholar to break down the barriers for veterans to make it into those schools and succeed. Learn more about Warrior-Scholar at their homepage –FPW

Brannen at Foreign Policy
A belated congratulations to Kate Brannen, new(ish) mom and new Foreign Policy reporter. She started last week at apparently fell victim to Isaac Stone Fish’s terrible Chinese liquor obsession. Dear readers, never accept questionable alcohol from the FP newsroom. We speak from experience. –LJ

War-Torn: CBS Reporter Cami McCormick’s Latest Story About Combat and Its Aftermath is Her Own
Alex Horton (@AlexHortonTX), Washingtonian. Friend of ScoutComms Alex Horton has a must-read on war reporter Cami McCormick and her return to frontline journalism despite losing a leg after an IED blast in Afghanistan. It’s an important glimpse into the effects of war on those who would rather stay behind the headline. (And if you really like the article, we hear Horton is still a free agent.) –LJ

Lindley Estes, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. Fred answered some questions with ScoutComms’ hometown paper the Free Lance-Star. He even dropped some factoids about himself and the company that you may not have heard before. He also dishes on what it’s like to be a weekend soap ninja. Soon there will be a tab for that, too. –LJ

Tradeshows & Conferences

No big shows or conferences but we did just update our Events page through December.

Congressional Hearings

Both chambers are in session this week.


Veterans Affairs: VA Whistleblowers: Exposing Inadequate Service Provided to Veterans Ensuring Appropriate Accountability When: 7:30 PM, Tuesday, July 8, 2014 Where: 334 Cannon

Veterans Affairs: Service should not lead to suicide: Access to VA’s Mental Health Care When: 9:15 AM, Thursday, July 10, 2014 Where: 334 Cannon


Armed Services: Nominations Who: General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr, USMC, for reappointment to the grade of General and to be Commandant of the Marine Corps, Admiral William E. Gortney, USN, for reappointment to the grade of Admiral and to be Commander, United States Northern Command and Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command, General John F. Campbell, USA, for reappointment to the grade of General and to be Commander, International Security Assistance Force and Commander, United States Forces, Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Joseph L. Votel, USA, to be General and Commander, United States Special Operations Command When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, July 10, 2014 Where: G50 Dirksen

Think Tanks & Other Events

National Veterans Center: Stress Relief Meditation for Veterans When: 5:00 PM, Monday, June 23, 2014 Where: The National Veterans Center, 2013 H Street NW, Washington, DC

Atlantic Council: The Globalization of the Defense Industry Who: William J. Lynn III, CEO, Finmeccanica North America and DRS Technologies Inc., Steve Grundman, M.A. and George Lund Fellow, Atlantic Council When: 11:30 AM, Tuesday, July 8, 2014 Where: 1030 15th Street, 12th Floor, NW, Washington, DC

Brookings Institution: What we won: America’s Secret War in Afghanistan 1979-1989 Who: Strobe Talbott, President, The Brookings Institution, Bruce Riedel, Director, The Intelligence Project, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, July 8, 2014 Where: The Brookings Institution, Falk Auditorium, 1775 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC

Asia Society: Afghanistan’s Future: Politics Prosperity, and Security Under New Leadership Who: Ambassador Omar Samad, Senior Central Asia Fellow at New America Foundation and Founder and President of Silkroad Consulting, Clare Lockhart, Director and Co-Founder of the Institute for State Effectiveness (ISE), Hassan Abbas, Senior Advisor and Bernard Schwartz Fellow at Asia Society and Professor of International Security Studies at National Defense University’s College of International Security Affairs When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, July 9, 2014 Where: Whittemore House, 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC

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 07, 2014 1:43 pm

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