Veterans Roundup: We Made it to 200 Editions! Plus VA Construction, Whistleblowers, the SOTU, Snipers, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Firing Line
Eric Katz (EricM_Katz), Government Executive. The process to fire government employees is a lengthy one. Private sector workers are three times more likely to be fired than civil servants in the federal system. Employees at agencies complain management is too complacent or lazy to take on the complicated termination process so poor performers stay on the job and civil service reform is too unsexy a cause for many in Congress to touch.  –MC
Bottom line: A few years ago a study came out that showed you were more likely to die as a Federal employee than be fired because more feds passed away each year than were let go. Nothing has changed. The archaic and bureaucratic process to terminate a poor performer in the Federal government means that incompetence is tolerated, laziness is accepted, and problems are simply passed to others. This effects everything and in the veterans sector it means that true reform at the Department of Veterans Affairs will always be stymied by the simple fact that bad employees are virtually impossible to be rid of and they know that all they have to do is hang on until a new boss comes in or a political appointee moves back to the private sector. It may not be sexy for Congress to touch but their failure to actually lead means that a bureaucracy hobbles the U.S., that will never attract the best and brightest or perform at the same pace of the private sector. Reform needs to be done. –FPW

‘FUBAR on Steroids’: Congressmen Blast VA about Construction Debacles
Heath Druzin (@Druzin_Stripes), Stars and Stripes. At a congressional hearing last week, lawmakers expressed frustration and disappointment with recent VA construction efforts that were delayed and cost the department millions of dollars. As lawmakers and VA officials look at reforming the department, the question of the VA’s role in future facility construction is up for debate. –MC
Bottom line: Veteran service organizations flagged VA construction as a critical issue in their Independent Budget this year because the dilapidated state of VA facilities has a very real impact on veterans access to care. Delays and cost overruns in VA construction have been a years-long issue that has left many veterans without access to health specialists and full service clinics. Older facilities are not receiving the upgrades and remodels that would transform them into high-tech hospitals able to process, treat, and heal an increasing number of veterans seeking treatment. As scrutiny on VA’s delivery of speedy and quality health care continues, expect construction and renovations of clinics to remain an issue. It may not get the same level of alarm as a doctor shortage, but a facility shortage is a serious concern for many veterans—particularly rural ones. –LJ

Vet Suicide Prevention Bill Moves Forward in Senate
Travis J. Tritten (@Travis_Tritten), Stars and Stripes. The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act, a highly touted bill that calls for more suicide prevention resources within VA, passed in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee last Wednesday. The legislation, backed by major veteran service organizations, will now head to the Senate floor for a final vote and, if successful, its next stop will be the White House for President Obama’s signature. –MC
Bottom line: The Clay Hunt SAV Act was at the top of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee’s agenda when it held its first meeting last week. SVAC Chairman Isakson and others noted they hope their Senate colleagues quickly pass the bill, but more importantly, many Senators on the committee said that the president’s signature on this bill is not the end of their commitment to veterans’ mental health. The Clay Hunt SAV Act is not a silver bullet that will end veteran suicide, but it has started an important conversation about how the nation can better serve the mental health needs of veterans. What we would like to see next is a bigger push for public-private partnerships at the VA and DOD that puts tools and treatments in the hands of doctors faster. There is a lot yet to be done by advocates, the VA, Congress, and others to make sure progress towards prevention continues to be made. We would also like to note another program that bears Clay Hunt’s name: the Team Rubicon Clay Hunt Fellows. If you are a veteran or know one interested in disaster response, leadership, and leaving the world a better place, apply to be a 2015 Clay Hunt Fellow. –LJ

American Sniper Decried as Propaganda by Some, Praised as Veterans’ Paean by Others
Cecilia Kang (@ceciliakang) and Terrence McCoy (@terrence_mccoy), The Washington Post
American Sniper, a Hollywood film about America’s most deadly sniper and his experiences in Iraq, has sparked heavy debate. Some Americans are calling the film propaganda while others are calling it a wonderful tribute to America’s veterans and the difficulty they sometimes have as they return home from war. –MC
Bottom line: There is simply no way that a movie about Iraq will be greeted without controversy in our lifetimes. The extremes of opinions on the war are too ingrained. For those that served, they continue to hope that Hollywood will produce a film that captures their experience and to those who opposed the war they won’t accept any film that doesn’t offer “nuance” or the “Iraqi point of view.” What is funny is that those who didn’t serve think there was one Iraqi view, which they assume was against the U.S., without realizing that even in Iraq the war is looked at with varying degrees of opinion. Many hundreds of veterans have offered their opinion on the war as Andrew Exum (@ExumAM) tweeted yesterday: “1.6m Americans deployed to Iraq/Afghanistan. Editors shouldn’t rest until every one has published our thoughts on American Sniper”. You can check out their opinions but for now the movie is raking in the box office and is nominated for six Academy Awards. –FPW

State of the Union Offers Few New Military, Vet Proposals
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. President Obama’s State of the Union speech last Tuesday included discussion of America’s current missions to fight terrorism and the administration’s efforts to improve medical care for veterans. However, the President did not include any announcements for veterans and military efforts and many lawmakers are criticizing his failure to discuss the defense budget and potential cuts. –MC
Bottom line: With the U.S. economy on its strongest footing in years, it’s understandable from a political perspective why President Obama, coming off a disastrous midterm for Democrats, chose to highlight the nation’s economic recovery and middle class promise instead of dwelling on overseas entanglements and the continuing needs of America’s veterans. At the same time, he missed an opportunity to provide vocal support for VA Secretary Bob McDonald, who has been working tirelessly to improve the department across the board, as well as an opportunity to encourage Congress to take further actions to aid veterans. His major applause line on veterans, calling on employers to hire them for their unique skills and experiences, was well received by Members, but his failure to address the high veteran suicide rate left at least one veteran group fuming. State of the Union addresses rarely linger in the public consciousness for more than a week or two, so regardless of what IAVA and other groups say about the speech, the lack of focus on veterans is unlikely to have any long-term impact on debate or policy. –BW

VA Settles More Complains by Whistleblowers
Matthew Daly (@MatthewDalyWDC), The Associated Press. About 25 Department of Veterans Affairs employees who faced retaliation for exposing wrongdoings at VA facilities are receiving restitution from the department. Since VA Secretary Bob McDonald took over the agency, the VA has been working to protect whistleblowers and hold those who retaliate accountable. –MC
Bottom line: This is unequivocally good news coming out of the VA. Secretary Bob promised transparency and accountability, and these latest actions show that at the senior leadership level, the VA recognizes that significant errors of judgment were made when whistleblowers were punished for speaking out. Yet this top-down leadership decision does not close the book. In order for the VA to promote local accountability and protect future whistleblowers, it needs to ensure that leaders at every VA facility are reminded that their primary duty is to serve and care for veterans, not to protect the reputation of their facility at all costs. Keep a close eye on the number of whistleblower retaliation cases to come out of the VA in 2015; if the number of new cases drops drastically, then there is reason for optimism. –BW


CNS Response CEO Interviewed on CNBC World’s Squawk Box
George Carpenter, CEO of CNS Response, appeared on CNBC World’s Squawk Box to discuss CNS Response efforts in the UK and how its PEER Report reduces trial and error in finding effective medication for mental health issues. Carpenter’s appearance follows recent study results showing that UK service members were twice as likely to suffer from depression or anxiety than UK civilians. –MC

Veteran Women Ignited the Spirit of Entrepreneurship in New Orleans
Nearly 200 female veterans and military spouses met in New Orleans last weekend for the Institute for Veterans and Military Families’ Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) conference. During the conference, the ladies of V-WISE drove social media conversations using the hashtag #VWISENOLA. Now you can check out V-WISE in graduates’ own words on a new IVMF Voices blog. –MC

Anna Runs America for Veterans, Veteran Portraits Limited Edition 2015 Calendar
Miss Robot Photography will feature our CEO Fred Wellman in a calendar of veterans. Bot Bot, of Miss Robot Photography, traveled with Anna Judd as she ran across America to raise money and awareness for veterans’ causes. Half of all proceeds from calendar sales will go back to Team Red, White and Blue and Operation Noble Giving. Fred is Mr. September, in case you were wondering. –MC

Quick hits:

6 people to watch in 2015
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Gary Sinise, a long-time supporter of America’s troops, veterans, and military families, was named one of the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s “6 People to Watch in 2015.” Sinise was recognized for his efforts in improving care for severely wounded veterans among other assistance that the Gary Sinise Foundation provides to our community. We’re looking forward to seeing what Gary and his foundation make happen in 2015 and beyond. –MC


Tradeshows & Conferences

26th Annual SO/LIC Symposium & Exhibition (Mon-Wed, 26-28 January); Washington Marriott Wardman Park, Washington, DC

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


Congressional Hearings

Foreign Affairs: Iran Nuclear Negotiations After the Second Extension: Where are they going? Who: The Honorable Eric S. Edelman, Distinguished Fellow, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Mr. John Hannah, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Mr. Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, The Honorable Robert Einhorn, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Program, The Brookings Institute When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, January 27, 2015 Where: 2172 Rayburn

Veterans Affairs: Legislative Hearing on H.R. 189, H.R. 216, H.R. 245, H.R. 280, and H.R. 294 When: 10:30 AM, Tuesday, January 27, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon

Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity: A Review of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) When: 2:00 PM, Tuesday, January 27, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon
Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade: The Evolution of Terrorist Propaganda: The Paris Attack and Social Media Who: The Honorable Mark Wallace, Chief Executive officer, Counter Extremism Project, Mr. J.M. Berger, Author, Mr. Evan Kohlmann, Chief Information Officer, Flashpoint Partners When: 5:00 PM, Tuesday, January 27, 2015 Where: 2172 Rayburn

Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health: Examining the Quality and Cost of VA Health Care When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday January 28, 2015 Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services: Global Challenges and U.S. National Security Strategy Who: General James N. Mattis, USMC (Ret.), Former Commander, United States Central Command, General John M. Keane, USA (Ret.), Former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Admiral William J. Fallon, USN (Ret.), Former Commander, United States Central Command When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, January 27, 2015 Where: G50 Dirksen

Armed Services: Impact of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and Sequestration on National Security Who: General Raymond T. Odierno, USA, Chief of Staff of the Army, Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, USN, Chief of Naval Operations, General Mark A. Welsh III, USAF, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps When: 9:30 AM, Wednesday, January 28, 2015 Where: 106 Dirksen

Armed Services: Global Challenges and the U.S. National Security Strategy Who: Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Chairman of Kissinger Associates And Former Secretary of State, Dr. George P. Shultz, Thomas W. and Susan B. Ford Distinguished Fellow Hover Institution Stanford University and Former Secretary of State, Dr. Madeleine K. Albright, Chair, National Democratic Institute and Former Secretary of State When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, January 29, 2015 Where: G50 Dirksen

Think Tanks & Other Events

National Defense Industrial Association: LID Breakfast Featuring Duncan Hunter Who: Duncan D. Hunter, Congressman (R-CA) When: 7:30 AM, Tuesday, January 27, 2015 Where: Army Navy Club, 901 17 St NW, Washington, DC 20006

ScoutComms: #ScoutSocial When: 6:00 PM, Wednesday, January 28, 2015 Where: City Tap House, 901 9th Street NW, Washington, DC, 20001 RSVP: E-mail Gabe at [email protected] if you plan on attending.

New America Foundation: Interrogation in the 21st Century Who: Mark Fallon, national security consultant and former Deputy Assistant Director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; Christian Meissner, professor, Iowa State University, Melissa Russano, associate professor of criminal justice at Roger Williams University When: 12:15 PM, Thursday, January 29, 2015 Where: 1899 L St, NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036

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, January 26, 2015 11:31 am

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