Veterans Roundup: We Need to Talk About How Guns Impact Military Suicide, Too Many Troops Are Losing the Battle with Heat, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

New Military Suicide Report May Revive Debate Over Gun Restrictions, Patricia Kime (@patriciakime)

When you remove the emotion and politics from the issue of gun safety and storage, we know that quick access to a gun massively increases the likelihood of a suicide attempt succeeding. A new DoD report drives that point home, highlighting that two-thirds of the active-duty military suicides in a given year involve a gun. According to one researcher, “In addition to gun ownership, ease and immediacy of firearm access were associated with increased suicide risk.” Earlier this week I had the privilege in participating in a Suicide Prevention Symposium—focused on the role that guns play—featuring some of the nation’s leading advocates and researchers, brought together by Brady. There was no discussion of guns as the enemy, as some gun owners imagine, but a lot of discussion about how to educate gun owners and their families about the risks of gun ownership in the home, and how to mitigate those risks to save lives. While gun ownership does not increase the chance of someone being suicidal, a study of soldiers found that having a loaded handgun is associated with a four-fold increase in suicide. If we focus on access, there are clear steps that can be taken to reduce the suicide rate, and the most impactful actions relate to taking personal responsibility to reduce risk, even if gun owners don’t imagine they personally would ever attempt suicide. Locking up the gun and ammo in separate locations, for example, can provide an individual with more time to think about their decision and possibly change their mind. Just the act of entering a code in a gun safe can be a trigger for rethinking the decision that turns suicidal ideation into action. But to share those lessons—which do not intrude on anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights—we need to be able to talk, without fear of knee-jerk outrage, about what it means for service members and veterans to be responsible gun owners. The absence of open and informed discussion is actively underminig efforts to reduce the high suicide rate among the military and veteran communities. -Brian Wagner, President of ScoutComms

Military fights a deadly enemy: Heat
InsideClimate News/NBC News, David Hasemyer (@davidhasemyer)

Whether one believes in climate change or not, the  world is facing its hottest days in recorded history and the military is being impacted in devastating ways. One of the most impactful ways is on service members’ health, with an increasing number of service members killed and injured in heat-related episodes. Since 2008, 17 military members have died of heat exposure injuries alone. Incredibly there has been a 60% increase in the number of annual heat injuries since 2008, going from 1,766 to a shocking 2,792 in 2018, with the Marine Corps suffering nearly a doubling of their injuries in that time. DoD has recognized the rising danger with a recent report, finding that health impacts from heat have already cost the military nearly $1 billion from 2008 to 2018. The ‘warrior ethos’ and the political danger of discussing climate change within the current Administration is leading to a difficult situation where the numbers don’t lie but an institution that doesn’t change easily must change quickly to save lives and protect the health of its members. Old rules about training in the heat simply don’t account for days on end of over 100 degree heat like we have seen in recent weeks. In one example highlighted in David’s article, military commanders of a soldier who died of heat stroke insisted that not only were they not negligent, but that they had followed Army guidance on training in the heat and even brought in more medics than regulations required in anticipation of the challenge. The current doctrine and regulations that have been used for decades are simply not built for the kind of heat we are seeing and the places we are fighting. Political issues surrounding climate change cannot impede common sense recognition of the issue and updated regulations to save service members lives. We owe it to the nation that gives their sons and daughters to service to protect their lives based on facts and science. -Fred Wellman, CEO & Founder of ScoutComms

Meet the married Navy vets who made it their life’s mission to expose stolen valor
The Capital, Selene San Felice (@selenecapgaz)

With a “take no prisoners” approach, married Navy veterans Don and Diane Shipley say they have called out thousands of fake SEALs and POWs over the last decade. The Shipleys frequently receive multiple verification requests a day, causing the work of “busting phonies” to “consume their life.” However, Don makes it clear, “We do not fly by the seat of our pants. When we’re calling someone a liar we have everything in order.” 

Military studies ‘hyperfit’ women who pass grueling courses
The Associated Press, Lolita C. Baldor (@lbaldor)

Army medical researchers just launched a study to better understand the “hyperfit” women who passed some of the military’s most demanding physical and mental tests. Holly McClung, a nutritional physiologist at the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, said, “The real point of the study is to characterize this unique cohort of women that has made it through these traditionally male trainings.”

Male nominees to service academies outnumber women 3 to 1
The Associated Press, Michael Melia (@MikeMeliaAP)

According to a recent analysis, men are still nominated for admission to U.S. service academies three times as often as women, despite the rising percentage of female student nominees. Some congressional members think that this is because the number of female applicants is significantly lower than the number of male applicants. To combat this, Lory Manning, director of government operations for the Service Women’s Action Network, stated that more congressional offices should make an effort to update their recruitment process by making it apparent that rules of excluding women from combat and other duties have been repealed. 

Veterans sue over VA delay of Blue Water Navy Agent Orange claims until 2020
Connecting Vets, Abbie Bennett (@AbbieRBennett)

A veterans nonprofit advocacy group has filed a lawsuit to lift the stay on Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans’ VA claims ordered by Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie. The lawsuit asks the court to overturn a stay ordered by Wilkie that effectively stalled the benefits many veterans exposed to Agent Orange thought they had finally gained. On July 5th the VA said Blue Water veterans are “encouraged” to submit their claims for conditions related to Agent Orange. But those claims will not be decided until 2020, according to Wilkie’s order. John Wells, Navy veteran and executive director of Military-Veterans Advocacy wrote a letter to Wilkie following the publication of the stay order,  stating, “Time is of the essence … Blue Water Navy veterans are dying every day … These veterans have waited long enough.” 

Why leaving the military is harder for female vets
MilitaryTimes, Apoorva Mittal (@Appy2209)

According to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 2 million women veterans in the U.S. and Puerto, and the VA expects women to make up 18 percent of the veteran population by 2040. Despite these growing numbers, there is a lack of a natural peer network where women can freely share their experiences. The transition from active duty to civilian life comes with compounding challenges for female troops, including lack of a community of fellow female vets, lack of child care assistance for single mothers, a need for more comprehensive transition support, and financial instability due to a lack of financial literacy. This is due in large part to the gender pay gap and cultural stereotypes that punish female vets for a direct communication style, or not conforming to set expectations.

Fred Wellman

Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of 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, July 29, 2019 11:16 am

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