Veterans Roundup: Vets Speak Out on Charlottesville, Mattis on the Trans-Ban, VA Hotlines and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

ScoutComms Receives Official B Corp Recertification for 2017 – 2019
Last week, ScoutComms received our official B Corp recertification after a months-long analysis on the company’s social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. As a B Corporation, we are committed to using business as a force for good to address social challenges facing veterans and military families. This commitment allows us to support a diverse group of for-profit and nonprofit organizations who employ, empower and serve veterans, service members and their families. With a minimum score of 80 required to remain certified, ScoutComms received an overall B Impact score of 125, better than our initial certification score from 2015! –DD

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun: Summer 2017 Internship Reflections
Nicole Jackson, Chandler Bruns and Joe Dolan-Galaviz, ScoutComms
Our Summer 2017 interns Joe, Chandler and Nicole shared some of their biggest takeaways from the summer they spent with us at ScoutComms in our latest Scout Blog! Whether it was heightened awareness of the need for diversity in both demographics and viewpoints in the military community, reassurance around a newly-chosen career path or a sense of relief that there’s at least one small area of bipartisan support in political issues, they have valuable insights to share with you. –AB

From war hero to white coat: A wounded veteran’s journey to Harvard Medical School
Michael Koenigs (@MikeOnABikeABC), ABC News
In May 2011, a roadside bomb caused Army Captain Greg Galeazzi to lose both of his legs and part of his right arm while deployed in Afghanistan. Five years later, Galeazzi has been admitted to Harvard Medical School and is on his way to becoming a doctor, an endeavor that he says his experiences in the military have only strengthened. –KB
Bottom line: The very essence of what we often talk about in the veteran empowerment movement is that we are not defined by the negative consequences of our service as much as we are powered by them and the good things we gained. Watching the interview with Galeazzi you hear so many important points to what makes the experience of being wounded who he is and why he will be a better doctor for having experienced the agony of 50 surgeries and nights watching the clock tick slowly while he suffered in pain. Most importantly he marvels at the extraordinary experiences he has had since his injury and the value he brings to his Harvard class where a fellow student said his presence makes the expense of Harvard tuition worth it. That’s what we believe our veterans should bring to their endeavors for themselves but most importantly for those with whom the work alongside of in this second phase of their lives. This is a great interview and worth the watch. –FPW

Vets groups decry hatred, racism in wake of Charlottesville violence
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
Veterans service organizations such as Vietnam Veterans of America and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) denounced last week’s “Unite the Right” rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia. Prominent veterans group leaders called the neo-Nazi and white supremacist protesters and the ensuing violence “detestable,” “cowardly” and “un-American.” James Alex Fields Jr., a rally participant, killed Heather Heyer when he drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. On Monday, Army officials released a statement confirming Fields’ attendance at basic military training in August 2015. Fields was released from active-duty just four months afterward “due to a failure to meet training standards.” –NJ
Bottom line: Last weekend’s “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville, which resulted in the death of a young counter-protester brought into stark definition the challenges we still face as a Nation. Be it racism, sexism, xenophobia or homophobia, those who belong to marginalized populations continually face structural barriers to equality. To those who belong to those marginalized populations, this type of behavior is all too familiar, but represents something some of us can sweep under the rug because it doesn’t directly “impact” us every day.  In 2017, allowing those who decry diversity the opportunity to spread hatred is nothing short of vile. As I am sure most did, we followed the news closely this week. The despair I felt was made worse when I saw veterans, members of our own community, identified as individuals who participated in and defended these alt-right activities. From a group of humans who have come together with their brothers and sisters-in-arms – regardless of creed, race or socioeconomic background- to defend the Nation against enemies throughout history, this felt like a low-blow. The glimmer of hope however, was seeing our community punch back and take a stand against this hateful behavior. We applaud groups like VFW, IAVA and the American Legion who stated, in no uncertain terms, that this behavior is detestable and will not be tolerated. The true litmus test here will be, now that the words have been spoken, what actions will we take to promote and ensure equality and safety for all people, not just those in our veteran and military family community, but across the country that we hold so dear. –RB

Mattis leaves door open for future transgender service
Tara Copp (@TaraCopp), Military Times
Since President Trump tweeted his intention to instate a new transgender service ban, the White House has provided no direct order or guidance to the Pentagon about what this ban would entail. General Mattis said in an interview, that due to the complexity of transgender identity, the Pentagon is briefing the White House to inform policy makers about the nuances and details that would be needed in a policy like the one called for by Trump. When asked, Mattis said that the Pentagon is considering implementation that would be comprehensive, indicating a possibility that whatever policy takes shape may still allow transgender individuals to serve in the military. –JG
Bottom line: The delay by DoD in acting on the president’s tweets, coupled with the White House’s failure to follow up promptly to provide clarity, has created an awkward pause in the debate, where no one is quite sure what will happen next. It’s clear that DoD and the service leaders did not want or ask for this change in policy, and it is also clear that any substantive change will be delayed by legal challenges already being filed by transgender service members who expect to be negatively impacted by the policy change. While we all await on the procedural issues, the argument against the ban remains strong and clear: there is no reason for it to exist. Much of the argument for the ban is recycled from arguments on retaining Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and the numbers are firmly on the side of those who say that transgender service is no big deal when it comes to costs. Work by the RAND Corporation and the Palm Center have reinforced this argument, and the Palm Center recently crunched the numbers to estimate that the cost of replacing all transgender service members currently in the military would be 100 times greater than the cost of providing necessary support to transgender service members in coming years. In short, this policy is not about saving money. It’s not about strengthening the military. It’s about playing politics with peoples’ lives to win points with a small, angry base of voters and those within the armed forces who decry “social experimentation” in a military that has been one massively successful social experiment for hundreds of years. –BW

Two months in, questions still surround Trumps promised hotline for vets’ complaints
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
The White House VA Hotline, which began operation in June, is struggling to demonstrate the increased efficiency President Trump promised on the campaign trail. Currently, the hotline plans to train qualified veterans to staff the 24/7 hotline instead of hiring outside contractors. However, with some veterans experiencing their unresolved complaints being marked as complete, critics of the hotline are advocating for a merge between the hotline and the VA crisis line for veterans to increase efficiency and reduce overall costs. –JG
Bottom line: This entire effort stemmed from a single bullet on Trump’s veterans plan that stated a hotline would be set up in the White House so any veteran could call and air a complaint. Trump even boasted at one point he would take calls personally. Instead what’s emerged is a basic call line in addition to the other hotlines that already exist and which former Secretary McDonald had launched a campaign to reduce from well over 900 different numbers to just one main line. So, it’s commendable that this effort is being pursued but in the end there really already are systems in place to address veterans complaints without adding yet more layers of bureaucracy to an already massive agency that is struggling to hire employees to meet critical needs. If the goal is to hold VA more accountable there are technology and reporting systems by the dozens that could layer onto existing hotlines without also adding the unneeded burden of more employees and systems not dedicated to helping veterans get the care and support they need. –FPW

RAND study recommends improvements to mental health care for service members
Karen Jowers (@KarenJowers), Military Times
A study from the RAND Corporation recently revealed some troubling statistics regarding behavioral health care for service members, including that providers are rarely able to see patients more than once per week. These physicians cited patients’ lack of free time due to military obligations, as well as their own packed schedules, as reasons for their inability to see patients more frequently. This report raises questions as to whether or not these treatments will be efficacious due to the lack of frequency and patients’ failure to adhere for the duration of the treatment. –KB
Bottom line: A recent study of 520 clinicians who provide mental health care in military treatment facilities raised some concerns about the ability to provide treatment that was concordant with the clinical guidelines for evidence based care. The study used DOD’s current workforce data, a provider survey and interviews and allowed Rand researchers to take a deep dive into the environment in which military treatment facilities provide psychological healthcare. The study found that while most providers were indeed using evidence based protocols for the treatment of psychological health conditions like PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), limits on how often patients are seen and the ability of providers to seek additional professional training opportunities could hinder treatment outcomes. On a positive note, the study found that most providers were regularly screening patients at the beginning of treatment with validated instruments to screen for PTSD and MDD; unfortunately, clinicians were not screening or monitoring progress as robustly during the treatment period. While this study’s sample was rather small, the information and recommendations from the study could be quite valuable if used properly. The need for mental health care in the military community does not seem to be shrinking, so I am hopeful that studies like this which result in robust data sets and data driven recommendations, will help us to develop an impactful blueprint for successful treatment and recovery. –RB

Report: More vets getting advanced degrees under Post-9/11 GI Bill
Natalie Gross (@ByNatalieGross), Military Times
NYU professor Liang Zhang conducted a study to find out the effect of the Post-9/11 GI Bill on college enrollment among veterans. To his surprise, he found that veterans seeking advanced degrees, particularly those already with Master’s degrees, are the quickest growing demographic of veterans attending school. Since these veterans tend to be eight years older than average in his sample, this finding contradicts the trend that older service members are less likely to attend college. Zhang believes this is due to the added transparency and benefits provided in the Post-9/11 GI Bill compared to its predecessor, the Montgomery GI Bill. –JG
Bottom line: The article by Natalie Gross nails the essential points made by Zhang: transparency and aggressive outreach helps empower veterans to more effectively utilize their benefits, and those veterans who already have advanced degrees are more likely to be willing and able to pursue further education supported by the Post-9/11 GI Bill because they know what they are getting into and understand what it takes to earn an advanced degree. But the general rise across the board is a positive sign for the veterans community, and likely owes some credit to the increase in the number of organizations that partially or entirely focus on supporting veterans in higher education, such as Student Veterans of America, the Warrior-Scholar Project and many more who help empower veterans so that they are comfortable and confident in taking on higher education challenges. With the enactment of the Forever GI Bill earlier this month, hopefully we will continue to see growth in veterans taking advantage of available government support for their education. –BW

Trump signs ‘Forever GI Bill’, boosting aid to student vets
Nikki Wentling (@NikkiWentling), Stars and Stripes
Last week, President Trump signed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, more commonly referred to as the Forever GI Bill, into law. The legislation that passed unanimously in the House and Senate removed the 15-year cap on education benefits earned through the GI Bill as well as expanded benefits to Purple Heart recipients, National Guard and Reserve members, student veterans affected by sudden school closures as well other noted groups that were often left high and dry by the previous iteration of the policy. Student Veterans of America CEO Jared Lyon praised the herculean effort put forth by his team and the dozens of organizations involved that supported the passage of this major piece of legislation. –JG
Bottom line: Can I get a round of applause for the advocates please? Watching our client SVA and a mountain-moving group of more than 40 veteran and military family organizations push through Forever GI Bill has been one of the most amazing and collaborative efforts I have seen in a very long time. We’ve been tracking this story closely in the Scout Report for several months now, but it is still exciting to be able to type: FOREVER GI BILL IS LAW, YA’LL! The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 eliminates the arbitrary time limit on the benefit’s use along with expanding benefits to Purple Heart Recipients, Guard and Reserve Members and families of the fallen. I won’t beat a dead horse, but if you see one of the incredible individuals who got zero sleep, made thousands of phone calls or organized countless roundtables out on the town, be sure to buy them a round-they deserve it. –RB

In a meeting with sailors, Mattis lauds their service and vulgarly criticizes people ‘sitting on the sidelines’
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), Washington Post
In a meeting with sailors aboard the submarine USS Kentucky last week, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis delivered remarks that elicited both praise and criticism from both sides of the aisle. The retired Marine utilized vulgar language in order to better connect with his audience, according to his spokeswoman. Lory Manning, a policy fellow with the Service Women’s Action Network, said that while she agrees with the general sentiment expressed by Mattis, the utilization of certain words, particularly in the wake of the Marines United scandal, were “bizarre and offensive.” –KB

Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Program Receives Opportunity for All Grant from the Starbucks Foundation
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Blog (@USCCFoundation)
For more than 20 years, the Starbucks Foundation has invested in organizations that provide employment and education opportunities. Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) recently received a grant from Starbucks’ “Opportunity for All” initiative, which will focus on programs supporting youth, veterans and military spouses, and refugees. Hiring Our Heroes and Starbucks have worked together on a number of initiatives around the nation to give military personnel and their spouses the skills necessary to further their professional careers. The grants will go toward HOH’s In Gear Career chapters, which supply military spouses with professional development and networking opportunities. –DD

Bulldog puppy becomes Parris Island’s first female mascot
Mackenzie Wolf (@coffeeshopjihad), Marine Corps Times
According to the Beaufort Gazette, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina selected Opha Mae, an English bulldog named after the first female Marine, to become its new mascot. Opha Mae will be the first female to hold the role. –NJ

Veterans Affairs secretary says he’s ‘outraged’ by what he’s seen from Nazis and white supremacists
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, who identifies as Jewish, condemned the violence seen from Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia that led to the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer on Saturday. Shulkin continued by calling Saturday’s violence “a dishonor to our country’s veterans,” and that “we all have to speak up about this as Americans.” While Shulkin feels that President Trump should not have likened the bigotry and hatred on the part of the white supremacists with the advocacy efforts of counter-protesters at the rally, he chose not to share his views with Trump at their meeting on Saturday. –NJ 

Tradeshows & Conferences

The American Legion: National Convention 2017 (Fri – Thur, Aug. 18-24, 2017); Reno-Sparks Convention Center, Reno, NV

Congressional Hearings

None this week.

Other Events

None this week.

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, August 21, 2017 8:43 am

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