Veterans Roundup: Where Is the Momentum to End Veteran Homelessness, the Military’s Obesity Problem, and Sounding the Alarm on Veteran Suicide

Posted by Fred Wellman

Efforts to help homeless veterans showing progress, VA, HUD leaders say
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
Leaders of the departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development are confident that efforts to eliminate homelessness among veterans will be successful. Efforts include continuing HUD-VA Supportive Housing Grants and increasing the Veterans Housing Rehabilitation and Modification Pilot Program by $7.4 million. Any recent progress will become apparent in a few weeks, when the annual point-in-time count statistics are released. Both HUD Secretary Ben Carson and VA Secretary Robert Wilkie believe that the key to ending homelessness is providing access to housing, as well as related support services. Wilkie said, “Providing housing alone doesn’t work. Providing wrap-around services alone doesn’t work. But when you provide both, (veterans) stand a very good chance of achieving their goals.” –LB 
Bottom line: In July, with news that the number of homeless veterans in Los Angeles had decreased, we saw early signs of hope that both the positive news in ending veteran homelessness was continuing and that the federal government continues to be invested in that goal. Last week’s press push around the agencies’ latest round of grants sends an important message to service providers that those organizations can reliably plan for future funded (as much as any funding is ever guaranteed.) What shows less promise is how meagerly the news was covered–Leo was the only reporter to cover the press availability. In an administration that at times seems driven by  its own reactions to media coverage, more on a program that has housed more than 150,000 formerly homeless veterans in permanent housing over 10 years could do a lot for its future. Hopefully, when the latest data on homeless veterans is announced in a few weeks, we see more stories highlighting what could either be an example of a successful transition of policy priorities from one administration to the next or a call to action for advocates if the numbers take a turn. Whether the situation of homeless veterans makes headlines or not (though we are confident Leo will always keep them in our consciousness), service providers and advocates like the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans will still be working and fighting for them. –LJ 

Veterans group places thousands of flags on National Mall to draw attention to suicide crisis
Nikki Wentling (@nikkiwentling), Stars and Stripes
Veteran advocates Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America (IAVA) gathered at the National Mall on Wednesday to place American flags in the ground—representing the 5,520 veterans or service members who have died by suicide in 2018. The group continues to work to raise awareness on the issue of veteran suicide; last week the Department of Veterans Affairs released a report that found that, “suicide among veterans and servicemembers continues to be higher than the rest of the U.S. population.” Keita Franklin, executive director of the VA’s suicide prevention program, expressed her frustration on the numbers continuing to rise, because out of the 20 veterans who take their own lives every day, 14 of them are not receiving health care from the VA. –SM  
Bottom line: Each year that IAVA puts together this display it’s a startling reminder of the often long-term cost of service in uniform and the unique mental health challenges that come with it. The latest report from VA continues to show that the sad trend of veterans taking their own lives is not abating. There is simply not one agency, organization or outlet that can make an impact on this statistic alone. This will take collaboration among government agencies, private organizations, employers and groups to connect veterans in crisis to help—and to prevent issues from becoming crises in the first place. Our client Vets4Warriors is one of those great organizations that offer 24/7 support to anyone that has served or their families to help keep things that are troubling or challenging from getting to the point of crisis and suicidal ideations or actions. You can learn more about them at or call them at 1-855-838-8255. In addition, we are proud to also support Give an Hour and the Campaign to Change Direction where service members, veterans and their families can find free mental health care locally and learn how to recognize the Five Signs of Emotional Suffering. Check them out at Let’s do everything we can to end this scourge. –FPW

A staggering number of troops are fat and tired, report says 
J.D. Simkins (@simkinsjourno), Military Times 
A recently published report from RAND outlines major concerns regarding the current status of the armed forces’ physical fitness and sleep standards. Approximately 18,000 participants from across the service branches were randomly selected as part of the study – more than half of service members, nearly 66 percent, were identified as either overweight or obese, according to the military’s standards of measurement. Nearly 70 percent of Army soldiers fell into this category, almost 10 percent more than the Marine Corps, which had the lowest number of overweight troops. In addition to weight concerns the study also examined service members’ sleep habits – the Army and Marine Corps reported similar rates of regular sleeping aid use by soldiers and Marines, at 10.6 percent and 9.9 percent. –KG 
Bottom line: While it is important to acknowledge that the military’s system for measuring whether a service member is overweight as a standard of readiness is imperfect—as a former command fitness leader, one of the people who failed my initial body composition test included a professional athlete—there is no point in disputing that the military is as stratified as American society when it comes to weight and health. There is a certain percentage of the military that is in elite shape and a larger percentage that would fall into the category of “everyday athletes.” But for many, they are in the same boat most Americans are: they eat too much fast food, don’t exercise enough when left to their own devices, sleep poorly and rely on energy drinks, and have desk jobs or other roles allowing for limited on-the-job physical activity. There are no silver bullets. Preaching individual responsibility won’t solve the problem, nor can command-mandated activities and training change everything overnight. What is needed is a complex service- and position-specific set of solutions that tackles everything from diet to exercise to sleep and incentivizes leaders to prioritize long-term health and readiness over short-term accomplishments and objectives that have a negative impact on a service member’s health and readiness. Many service members are not frontline combatants, but that does not mean that the military can afford to endorse a system where a majority of each service is at risk of failing a body composition assessment and some in positions of authority are literally falling asleep on the job because their jobs demand more than their bodies can provide. –BW

State of GORUCK 2018 – A Real Kind of Perfect
Jason McCarthy, GORUCK
Jason McCarthy, CEO and Founder of GORUCK, shared the 2018 State of GORUCK in a recent blog post – examining the past, present and future of the company, providing insights on various products, prices, events and marketing decisions. McCarthy remains optimistic about the future of GORUCK: “I really enjoy what we’re doing, what we’re building, and how we’re building it. My goal is for us to be truly excellent at everything we do (which requires focus), and to impact as many lives as possible along the way.” –LB 

Vet Tix expands to include first responders
Eric Dehm (@EricDehm), Connecting Vets
Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix) has expanded to include first responders through the establishment of 1st Tix. Steve Weintraub, Vet Tix Chief Strategy Officer, said the creation of 1st Tix is a way to thank first responders, while giving them the opportunity to connect with friends, family and even other members of their community. He said, “The cool thing is that a lot of times these tickets are donated in blocks. So when you’re at an event, you’re sitting in the same section, next to, in front of, behind, other veterans, other service members, other first responders. So you’re kind of sitting with members of your tribe.” –LB 

Rising Democratic star steps down away from politics to treat his PTSD
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
U.S. Army veteran Jason Kander stepped down as a mayoral candidate in Kansas City on Tuesday to focus on recovering from military-related depression and post-traumatic stress. Kander said he no longer wanted to hide his personal struggles from the world, encouraging veterans and others to speak up about mental health, and to realize they do not need to solve these issues alone. –SM 

Peter O’Rourke, Top VA Official Who Clashed With Lawmakers, Poised to Leave 
Ben Kesling (@BenKesling), The Wall Street Journal  
Peter O’Rourke, who formerly served on Trump’s campaign staff and was also acting secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs earlier this year, will be leaving the agency as early as this week, according to administration officials. O’Rourke’s tenure was tumultuous as he clashed with legislators, VA officials, and the VA’s inspector general’s office. –KG

Here are the best and worst VA medical centers
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
The Department of Veterans Affairs released the latest VA medical center ratings, and nine facilities have a one-star rating, compared to 16 at the start of fiscal 2018. Four of the one-star facilities have shown improvement, but the other five saw no change. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie is confident with the improvements across all of the centers, saying, “With closer monitoring and increased medical center leadership and support, we have seen solid improvements at most of our facilities. Even our highest performing facilities are getting better, and that is driving up our quality standards across the country.” –LB

Tradeshows and Conferences

AUSA: 2018 Annual Meeting (Mon-Wed, October 8-10, 2018); Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C.

Give an Hour and the Campaign to Change Direction: 2nd Global Summit on Mental Health Culture Change (Thu-Fri, October 11-12, 2018); London, UK and on Facebook Live

Community Opportunities

GORUCK: Ruck the National Mall with GORUCK Cadre
What: A short ruck around the National Mall – free beers at Balance Gym to follow! All fitness levels are welcome for this fun introduction in the sport of rucking. A simple backpack or rucksack is all that is needed – weights are great, but optional for this event.
Who: Lead by a GORUCK Cadre and open to the public – the ScoutComms team will be out in force!
When: 5:30 PM, Tuesday, October 9, 2018
Where: Walter E. Washington Convention Center801 Mt. Vernon Pl. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001

Independence Project: Veteran Employment Study
A research study that helps veterans find a job.
Who: Veterans who meet the following requirements: Interested in getting a job; Discharged in the past 12 months OR have a discharge date in the next 8 months; Served at least 6 months of active duty; Be/have been an enlisted service-member between ranks E1 – E9; Have applied for a disability rating; Under 45 years of age.
When: Study participation open now!

Fred Wellman

Fred 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 Wednesday, October 10, 2018 9:00 am

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