Veterans Roundup: Vets Push For Gun Reform, New York Providers Unprepared to Treat Veterans, Former Slave & Two-Time Olympian Becomes an Airman and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Combat veterans push for gun reform: ‘This isn’t right’
Nikki Wentling (@nikkiwentling), Stars and Stripes
After the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which resulted in 17 students and teachers being killed with many more injured, both students and combat veterans are pushing for gun reform. The hashtag #VetsForGunReform, started by Army combat medic Dennis Magnasco, has spread rapidly on social media and has gained attention from major national publications and political influencers. A group of combat veterans have recently banded together to seek a change in the background check process during gun sales and to restrict different styles of guns available on the open market. Since combat veterans have first-hand training and experience with semi- and fully-automatic handguns and rifles, they feel it is their duty to speak as advocates. President Trump recently suggested arming teachers with concealed weapons, which received significant backlash from some combat veterans who believe that increasing guns in schools will not eradicate the issue. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have continued to press for change even while organizations and individuals have tried to shut them down. The rising number of combat veterans continue to back them up to show America that reform is necessary and needs to be taken seriously. –DD
Bottom line: This is a unique moment in our nation. The Parkland shooting has energized young Americans like no other event and we are seeing the same among veterans who have seen what weapons of war can do and are growing more concerned with essentially the same weapons being used in the streets of their hometown. What’s unique now is the growing discontent across a broad spectrum of veterans from true progressives to deeply conservative representatives like Congressman Brian Mast of Florida. All of these veterans know that these popular AR-15 style semi-automatic weapons are designed for war. They aren’t for hunting and are not at all ideal for home defense. They are designed and built to fire bullets as fast as the trigger can be pulled at a high velocity inflicting horrible wounds in their target. These veterans are demanding a reasonable conversation at least and a discussion on ways our nation can fight the growing scourge of mass murders with weapons of war. We deserve to at least have that discussion without it being stifled before it ever occurs. –FPW

VA Secretary David Shulkin’s top PR aide asked Congress to help get him fired
Donovan Slack (@DonovanSlack), USA Today
According to sources on the Hill, two senior leaders at the VA urged congressional leaders to demand VA Secretary Shulkin step down due to the scandal regarding his misuse of VA funds while traveling last year. The accused VA staff, Press Secretary Curt Cashour and Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs John Ullyot, released a joint statement denying any truth to the reports. HVAC Chairman Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) remains in support of Shulkin continuing as VA Secretary. While Shulkin has alluded to division among top leadership at the VA, these reports reveal to the public the internal conflict that exists in the highest ranks of leadership at the VA. –JG
Bottom line: This story is simply one of the most unusual things we’ve witnessed in D.C. in a lot of years and that is really saying something. If the sources are to be believed, the communications leaders for a cabinet secretary were actively encouraging staffers on the congressional committee that oversees the agency to campaign for the removal of their boss. While the White House has called Dr. Shulkin’s position secure, an ongoing battle appears to be occurring within the VA for political leadership between White House appointees who aim to seek broader privatization of care for veterans and those seeking a more nuanced and less aggressive approach. This is playing out in host of ways including competing bills in Congress to efforts by actual VA staff to have Shulkin and his deputies ousted from their jobs. In the middle are veterans seeking care from the VA and the staff trying to take care of them. These battles aren’t good for anyone period and their public exposure simply undermines faith in this important agency in what simply appears like games instead of serious management. This needs to stop and taking care of veterans needs to come first and foremost. As we’ve said in the past, Shulkin was vetted and confirmed by the Senate for his role. He got the job and those whose favorites didn’t should accept that and follow his leadership. –FPW

Study: Private-sector medical providers in New York unprepared to treat veterans
Nikki Wentling (@NikkiWentling), Stars and Stripes
A recent RAND study found that two thirds of all medical providers in the state of New York said they were unfamiliar with military culture, with only 2.3 percent meeting the criteria set by researchers for whether a provider is able to properly accommodate veteran patients. While these findings suggest to many that further attempts to privatize VA health services would not lead to better care for veterans, Secretary Shulkin and Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) stated that Congress is very close to an agreement on VA Choice reform. –JG
Bottom line: This will be an important study for advocates and lawmakers to dig into as the debate over VA Choice reform continues. As noted above, there is a tension within the VA and Congress about the future of veterans’ access to private sector care. Veteran advocates have perhaps a clearer, more coalesced vision for what the future of VA health care should be, but historically their role has always been to push for more-bigger-better than VA or Congress has been willing to deliver. With this administration and a fiscally conservative, private-sector focused Congress, it seems inevitable that we will see policies enacted that encourage or enable more veterans to seek private sector care. For the common cold, that might make some sense. What this study finds, though, is that veterans seeking private sector care are unlikely to see doctors that will understand the connection between their time in Vietnam and their lung problems. From a public health perspective, too, the fact that the study finds most providers aren’t screening for veteran status means that if more veterans are seeking care at a myriad of different doctors, emerging trends or patterns in veteran-specific health needs may go unrecognized for too long. Getting veterans faster access to needed health care should be a priority for VA, Congress, and advocates, and hard questions need to be asked about any proposal to do so whether that’s more funding for the VA or a push towards private-sector care. –LJ

Suit Calls Navy Board Biased Against Veterans With PTSD
Dave Philipps (@DavePhilipps), The New York Times
A group from Yale Law School has filed a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Navy, arguing that their resistance to revising “bad paper” discharges is based on discrimination against applicants suffering from PTSD. One of the veterans represented in the case is Corporal Tyson Manker who on several occasions mistook civilians for enemy fighters and once had to clean the inside of a Humvee where his friend had recently died from an accidental discharge. Manker’s time in Iraq deeply affected his mental health, but when he resorted to using marijuana as a method to cope with his condition he was given an other-than-honorable discharge and has since been ineligible fo VA benefits. In 2014, Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered new guidelines for upgrading discharges. The U.S. Army saw their denial rate fall from 96 percent to 45 percent; the Navy’s, however, has not changed. –JG
Bottom line: Yale’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic has filed another lawsuit in support of veterans who are fighting to reverse other-than-honorable discharges. While similar suits have seemed to improve outcomes for Air Force and Army personnel seeking to overturn discharges, the Navy’s board, responsible for reviewing Sailors and Marines, seems yet to show improvement. These bad-paper discharges can seriously limit access to reintegration, health, employment and education benefits designed to smooth the transition from active duty to civilian life. While not every bad paper discharge was caused by a service-connected mental health issue, some certainly were. It is critically important that these boards do their jobs and complete close and detailed reviews of these discharges. These veterans deserve to have the same opportunity to thrive as their peers. –RB

Finale episode of ‘Chain of Command’ shows how 3rd Group coped with loss of 4 soldiers
Drew Brooks (@DrewBrooks), The Fayetteville Observer
As evident throughout the “Chain of Command” docu-series, National Geographic gained unprecedented access to the frontlines of the war against violent extremism. They were also the only camera team to have footage of the Green Berets who were recently KIA in Niger. Last Monday’s finale, entitled “Why We Fight,” depicts not only the effects of the loss of those four soldiers, but their roles in Niger and their strong connections to their brothers in arms. –AB

Don’t miss the ‘Chain of Command’ finale tonight
Lakesha Cole (@mommyretailing), MilitaryOneClick
With National Geographic’s newest docu-series, “Chain of Command,” coming to an end last week, the show’s finale was nothing short of intense. The entire series lays out the day-to-day duties of the military from all chains of command, resulting in Americans gaining a better understanding of military culture and lifestyle. From official leaders at the Pentagon, to service members in the most dangerous of places around the globe, “Chain of Command” offers a unique take on the ongoing War on Terror. –DD

Special Ceremony at Perryville Memorial Wall
Perryville’s state representative Rick Francis is lending his support to the cause of the Missouri National Veterans Memorial, a replica of the National Vietnam Wall Memorial being built in Perryville. He’s calling all veterans and locals to attend the memorial’s open house event, “Mark of Remembrance” on March 25 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Attendees will be able to “make a mark on history” by inscribing messages on the concrete supporting wall before it is entombed behind the finishing granite wall. –KG

‘Jack of all trades’: Poignant clip from Nat Geo documentary highlights soldier killed in Niger ambush
Kyle Rempfer (@Kyle_Rempfer), Military Times
Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four soldiers recently killed while serving in Niger, has been dubbed the “Jack of All Trades” in National Geographic’s docu-series “Chain of Command.” In addition to being the team mechanic, one of his “trades” became being the unofficial base barber – a skill which he taught himself simply by watching YouTube videos. To see Johnson tell at least part of his story, catch up on “Chain of Command” at –AB

MNVM names executive director
Heather C. Cook, Republic Monitor
The Missouri National Veterans Memorial has named its first full time employee, Nancy Guth, as executive director. Guth worked for 43 years with the Association of the Miraculous Medal, giving her extensive experience in the nonprofit sector with an emphasis in direct mail campaigns and administrative work. The memorial has experienced rapid growth over the past year, but as Guth takes the helm with a number of upcoming events at the site, she plans to keep her focus on what it is all about: “Always keep the veterans first and foremost. I think that’s our big reasoning for all of this.” –KG   

Schools, Spouse Licensure Will Impact Future Basing: Pentagon
Amy Bushatz (@amybushatz),
In a letter addressed to the National Governors Association, senior officials from the U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy raised K-12 education quality and reciprocity of professional licensing as two obstacles often faced by military families. The Air Force, Army and Navy Secretaries underscored the importance of addressing these challenges through inclusive policy solutions. They argue that working to improve military families’ quality of life through these two issues would aid service members in making long-term career decisions that support their loved ones. –NJ

Women VSO commanders say their historic roles haven’t meant big challenges
Leo Shane III (@leoshane), Military Times
Two women have made history as they helm of major veterans organizations, the American Legion and Disabled American Veteran, and testify before Congress this week. While approximately 11 percent of the veteran population is women, female veterans have endured and lamented a lack of public awareness and representation of their existence. DAV National Commander Delphine Meltcalf-Foster said that while she is the group’s first woman commander, she is confident she will not be the last. Metcalf-Foster, along with American Legion National Commander Denise Rohan, have both emphasized that while their roles may be historically significant, their gender hasn’t created obstacles to working with their male peers on veterans’ issues. –KG

Former slave and two-time Olympian becomes an airman
Nicole Bauke, Air Force Times
Airman 1st Class Guor Maker completed basic training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lauckland, Texas on Feb. 1, 2018. Before joining the U.S. Air Force, Maker lived in South Sudan where he was captured and enslaved in the Sudanese Civil War twice during which he lost eight of his nine siblings. Once he escaped for the second time, he found out that his family was granted permission to come to the U.S. in 2001 where he learned English, received a scholarship to Iowa State University and competed in the Olympics representing South Sudan. After receiving his Airman’s Coin for transitioning from a trainee to an Airman, he hopes to join the Air Force World Class Athlete Program. –SM

Congressional Hearings


Veterans’ Affairs: Legislative Presentation of Multiple VSO’s (PVA, AMVETS, VVA, AXPOW, IAVA, AUSN, WWP, NGAUS, NCOA)
Who: Mr. David Zurfluh, National President, Paralyzed Veterans of America; Mr. Marion Polk, National Commander, American Veterans; Mr. John Rowan, National President, Vietnam Veterans of America; Mr. Charles Susino, Jr., National Commander, American Ex-Prisoners of War; Ms. Melissa Bryant, Chief Policy Officer, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; RADM Christopher W. Cole, USN (Ret.), National Executive Director, Association of the United States Navy; Ms. René Bardorf, Senior Vice President , Government and Community Relations, Wounded Warrior Project; BG Roy Robinson (Ret.), President, National Guard Association of the United States; MCPOCG Vincent Patton, III, (Ret.), President and National Commander, Non Commissioned Officers Association; David Zurfluh, Paralyzed Veterans of America; Marion Polk, American Veterans; John Rowan, Vietnam Veterans of America; Charles Susino, Jr., American Ex-Prisoners of War; Melissa Bryant, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; Christopher Cole, USN (Ret.), Association of the United States Navy; René Bardorf, Wounded Warrior Project; Roy Robinson, National Guard Association of the United States; Vincent Patton, III, Non Commissioned Officers Association of the United States of America
When: 2:00 PM, Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Where: G50 Dirksen

Veterans’ Affairs: Legislative Presentation of Veterans of Foreign Wars
Who: Keith Harman, National Commander in Chief, Veterans of Foreign Wars; Ryan Gallucci, National Veterans Service Director; Bob Wallace, Washington Office Executive Director; Carlos Fuentes, National Legislative Service Director; Richard Morrison, National Legislative Committee Chairman
Where: G50 Dirksen
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Armed Services: National Security Challenges and U.S. Military Activities in Africa
Who: General Thomas D. Waldhauser, Commander, U.S. Africa Command
When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: Department of the Navy FY 2019 Budget Request for Seapower and Projection Forces
Who: The Honorable James F Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Research, Development & Acquisition, U.S. Navy, Headquarters U.S. Navy; Vice Admiral William R. Merz, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems, U.S. Navy, Headquarters U.S. Navy; Lieutenant General Robert S. Walsh, Commanding General Marine Corps Combat Development Command, U.S. Marine Corps, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps
When: 2:00 PM, Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: Marine Corps Readiness Posture
Who: Lieutenant General Brian D. Beaudreault, Deputy Commandant Plans, Policies, and Operations, U.S. Marine Corps, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps; Lieutenant General Michael G. Dana, Deputy Commandant, Installations and Logistics, U.S. Marine Corps, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps; Lieutenant General Rex C. McMillian, Commander, Marine Forces Reserve; and Commander, Marine Forces North, U.S. Marine Corps, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps
When: 3:30 PM, Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Where: 2212 Rayburn

Armed Services: Assessing Military Service Acquisition Reform
Who: Mr. James F. Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Research, Development, and Acquisition; Dr. Bruce D. Jette, Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology; Dr. William Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Appropriations: FY19 Budget Hearing – Navy and Marine Corps
Who: The Honorable Richard V. Spencer, Secretary, Department of the Navy; General Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps; Admiral John M. Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Where: H-140 Capitol

Veterans Affairs: Oversight and Investigations Legislative Hearing
When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (Jsf) Lightning II Program
Who: Rear Admiral Upper Half Scott D. Conn, Director, Air Warfare (OPNAV N98), Headquarters, U.S. Navy; Lieutenant General Jerry D. Harris, Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, Programs, and Requirements, Headquarters, U. S. Air Force; Lieutenant General Steven R. Rudder, Deputy Commandant for Aviation, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps; Vice Admiral Mathias W. Winter, Program Executive Officer, F-35 Joint Program Office
When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Where: 2212 Rayburn

Armed Services: U.S. Strategic Forces Posture and the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request
Who: General John E. Hyten, Commander, U.S. Strategic Command; The Honorable John C. Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Department of Defense
When: 3:30 PM, Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: Mobility and Transportation Command Posture
Who: Rear Admiral Upper Half Mark H. Buzby, Administrator, Maritime Administration, MRAD; General Darren W. McDew, Commander, U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. Transportation Command
When: 9:00 AM, Thursday, March 8, 2018
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: Arlington National Cemetery – Preserving the Promise
Who: Mr. Forrest Allen, Associate Director, Government Relations, Military Officers Association of America; Mr. Gerardo Avila, Deputy Director, Medical/Physical Evaluation Boards & Department of Defense, The American Legion; Mr. Brian Bauman, Director of Programs, Association of the United States Navy; Ms. Karen Durham-Aguilera, Executive Director, Army National Military Cemeteries, Department of the Army; Ms. Katharine Kelley, Superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery; Mr. John Towles, Deputy Director, National Legislative Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars
When: 10:30 AM, Thursday, March 8, 2018
Where: 2212 Rayburn


Armed Services: Worldwide Threats
Who: Honorable Daniel R. Coats, Director Of National Intelligence; Lieutenant General Robert P. Ashley, Jr., USA, Director, Defense Intelligence Agency
When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Where: 216 Hart

Armed Services: Navy and Marine Corps Aviation Programs
Who: Vice Admiral Paul A. Grosklags, USN, Commander, Naval Air Systems Command; Lieutenant General Steven R. Rudder, USMC, Deputy Commandant For Aviation, Headquarters United States Marine Corps; Rear Admiral Scott D. Conn, USN, Director, Air Warfare Office Of The Chief Of Naval Operations (OPNAV N98)
When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Where: 232A Russell

Armed Services: United States European Command
Who: General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, Commander, United States European Command And NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe
When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, March 8, 2018
Where: G50 Dirksen


AFCEA: Rocky Mountain Cyberspace Symposium 2018 (Mon – Thur, March 5-8, 2018); The Broadmoor Hotel, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Community Opportunities 

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 05, 2018 12:12 pm

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