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Veterans Roundup: Women in the Draft, Retaining Troops Through Personnel Reforms, Veteran Suicide, Bad Paper, and Veterans Unemployment

Posted by Rob Riggins

Military Leaders: Register Women for Draft
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Ever since Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that all combat positions must be open to women, many have been calling for women to be required to sign up for the draft. Last week, those discussions were tackled head-on by the military leaders of the Army and Marine Corps at a hearing on women in combat, who said that both sexes should be required to register. The Marine Corps has resisted combat integration over the last few years, but recent reports indicate that the service may be accepting the necessity of adapting quickly. Also last week, several Republican combat veterans in the House introduced legislation to force women to register for Selective Service immediately. –MC
Bottom line: It would seem like we have made it past the greatest remaining obstacle to combat integration—Congressional reticence and censure. Instead, the Senate hearing made waves for its discussion of the draft. Given the draft’s near-mythical role in American culture, it’s impressive that we have suddenly jumped headfirst into the discussion of drafting women after decades of putting the issue on the back burner. The most important thing to accept is that a draft is unlikely in the coming decades. We have a professional volunteer military force that does not rely or necessarily benefit from the availability of conscripts. So while we take the time to get worked up about registering women for Selective Service—which many service women and their supporters have no inherent opposition to, given that they’ve been fighting for equal rights to serve—this is not an issue that has any immediate bearing on our national security or the lives of America’s millennials. At the same time, it is certainly a conversation worth having, and should probably not just touch on gender but also on the nature of Selective Service and its relevance in 2016. So let’s discuss requiring women to register for the draft, but let’s not rush into any hasty legislative action on the issue without first debating whether we should take further steps such as to end Selective Service or tie it to a year of national service. –BW

Pentagon to Offer Plan to Store Eggs and Sperm to Retain Young Troops
Michael S. Schmidt (@nytmike), The New York Times
Over the past few weeks, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has announced a series of proposals intended to retain more troops. One of these is freezing service members’ eggs and sperm to help ease concerns about battle injuries to reproductive organs. The program is also intended to allow women to stay in the military throughout their 20s and 30s, when most leave the service after having children. –MC
Bottom line: Carter has made augmenting the current personnel system a hallmark of his tenure. In the face of a changing way people approach work in America, Carter is trying to make the military attractive to both recruit and retain the next generation of service members. On the one hand, the military already has an advantage over other industries in an important place: purpose. Survey after survey shows millenials want careers that are about more than making money. Certainly, serving in the military fits that need. But where other companies that purport to serve a purpose offer their recruits unlimited vacation, telework options, sabbaticals, and other perks, the military is certainly more traditional. Undoubtedly the benefits Carter will be able to offer will fall short of his big ambitions, but little tweaks could make a military career much more appealing young Americans. –LJ

What Might Have Saved These Veterans?
Jeanette Steele (@jensteeley), The San Diego Union Tribune
The topic of veteran suicide made its way into the news several times last week. A special report by Jeanette Steele looks at suicides among post-9/11 veterans in San Diego County and finds that many veterans may not have received care that could have saved their lives. Many family members of the veterans said that the veterans faced inconsistent doctors and overmedication through Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare. Nationally, the department has announced new efforts to combat veteran suicide in the coming months, and hosted a summit last week in DC to kick start the efforts. At the summit, former Senator Elizabeth Dole expressed concerns for suicide among caregivers of veterans, who often fall through the cracks of the VA. –MC
Bottom line: Jen Steele took advantage of the fact that San Diego county is one of the few in the nation that tracks the military service status of deaths giving a unique insight into 27 veterans under the age of 45 who died by suicide in an 18-month period. She talked to their families and found that contrary to much of the current research that the majority suffered depression or PTSD after serving in a combat zone since 9/11. While many of their families placed a good portion of the blame on the VA in some form, one of the unique insights was that they felt the VA didn’t include spouses and parents enough when there were signs a troubled veteran was giving up on his treatment or in despair. While it’s hard to tie together the loose threads of what led someone to take their own life it’s clear that intervention by someone close to them could be the crucial difference. The battle to address the scourge of suicide goes on but Steele has provided a very unique window on the situation that’s worth a read. –FPW

Senators Want Moratorium on Dismissing Soldiers During Investigation
Daniel Zwerdling, NPR
Last year, the Army promised to investigate the practice of other-than-honorably discharging soldiers with mental health concerns and traumatic brain injuries who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the person in charge of the investigation is also someone who signs off on some of the discharges—a conflict of interest that worries advocates. An NPR investigative report found that the Army has continued this practice, kicking out 22,000 soldiers who fit this description since 2009. Since the discovery, several lawmakers are asking the Army to halt the discharges until the review is finished. –MC
Bottom line: It’s good to see NPR continue to shine a light on this issue. While it’s hard to call it emerging—Dave Philipps won a Pulitzer for his reporting on this in 2014—advocates are finally starting to see some momentum on the Hill. Just a few weeks ago, several veterans walked the hallways of congressional office buildings to rally more support for veterans with bad paper and mental health issues. The latest congressional letter aimed at Army leadership calls for a moratorium on discharges for service members with mental health issues until the review of the process is complete. While it may seem unlikely, it is not without precedent. Secretary of Defense Carter has halted discharges of transgender service members while the current ban on their service is reviewed. Whether this congressional letter leads to specific action isn’t really material. What matters is that this issue continues to rise on the policy agendas of those who can make a difference for these veterans. Those with bad paper can’t continue to be “thrown under the bus”—early drafts of the Clay Hunt SAV Act would have aided veterans appealing the characterization of their discharge. As the issue of access to VA health care and mental health, in general, continues to be at the forefront of conversations in the community, it’s important to include this issue among talking points. –LJ

Strong Veteran Employment Rates Continue in 2016
George Altman (@George_Altman), Military Times
Last year, our nation saw some of the lowest unemployment rates for post-9/11 veterans in history and those strong numbers appear to be continuing for 2016. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s most recent data, the unemployment rate fell to 5.7 percent in January, the lowest rate for post-9/11 veterans ever recorded for the month of January. –MC
Bottom line: The good news on veteran employment has continued into 2016. Overall veteran unemployment numbers continue to tick downward and while there was a slight uptick in young veteran numbers they are still lower than their civilian counterparts and the lowest for a January since the numbers have been tracked in 2008. We’ve been saying for several months that there will remain a need to keep programs in place and to find innovative ways to ensure that the unemployment crisis is relegated to the dustbin of history but it’s clear that an important corner has been turned in this battle. The Department of Defense will release some relatively good news this week on military spouse unemployment, but relative is the key term. There continues to be an urgent need to help military family members and caregivers find work that is productive and flexible which is so necessary for their financial security and retention in the Armed Forces. –FPW

Wounded Warrior Project ‘A Pillar of Support’
Emery A. Popoloski (@MoveBostonNW), The Washington Times
Emery Popoloski, a military caregiver and fellow program coordinator for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, discussed the assistance the Wounded Warrior Project has provided her family throughout the years. Popoloski urges all individuals to remember the caregivers and veterans WWP supports day in and day out before taking as fact dubious statistics provided in news articles. The Wounded Warrior Project board has also announced a thorough financial and policy review. If you still need to get read in on the situation, take a look at Fred’s analysis of the situation in last week’s Scout Report. –MC

National Desert Storm Memorial Steams Ahead
The American Legion
The National Desert Storm War Memorial recently announced the addition of former President George H.W. Bush to its board as honorary chairman. The organization seeks to raise $25 million this year — the 25th anniversary year of Desert Storm. Operation Desert Storm was the first major military deployment after Vietnam and helped restore America’s trust and support in the military. The memorial will remind Americans for generations about the importance of the Gulf War and honor the service and sacrifices of those who served. –JG

Marine Veteran Says ‘Warrior-Scholar’ Project Changed Her Life
Patrick Healy (@PatrickNBCLA), NBC Los Angeles
Sarah Serrano, a Marine Corps veteran, attended the Warrior-Scholar Project’s academic boot camp last summer at the University of Southern California and she says it changed her life. WSP is now accepting applications for its 2016 boot camps all across the country. To learn more, we recommend you also check out this New Haven Register article about the program at Yale, as well as the Warrior-Scholar Project website. –MC

Women’s Integration in the Marine Corps Will Only Succeed if Top Leaders Fully Commit
Dianna Cahn (@DiannaCahn), Stars and Stripes
While the day that women are fully integrated into combat roles is highly anticipated by some, the same notion has been met with lip service and feet dragging from some in the Marine Corps and special operations units. Representatives of the Service Women’s Action Network and likeminded organizations say many early plans for integration lack necessary components that would enable women to compete equitably for elite combat jobs. Advocates for integration note that integration can only work if the leadership stands behind it, which for some has yet to be seen. –JG

Hiring Heroes: Job Fair Focuses on Veterans, Spouses
Alec Shreck, KSAT 12
Last week Hiring Our Heroes hosted an event in San Antonio with dozens of employers looking to hire service members and their spouses. Hiring Our Heroes career events have helped thousands of transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses find career opportunities nationwide. The organization is hosting a number of events throughout the year, including a hiring expo in Minneapolis/St.Paul and a military spouse networking and hiring fair at Joint Base Lewis-McChord next week. –JG & MC
Other coverage:
Group aims to ease employment transition for vets
Virginia Alvino (@VirginiaAlvino), Texas Public Radio
San Antonio Hiring Our Heroes job fair
The American Legion
Hiring Our Heroes Hiring fair at JBLM – Feb 9-10
The Suburban Times

Quick Hits:

Congress Outraged Over Hepatitis C Treatment VA Can’t Afford
Chip Reid, CBS News
There will be internal and external investigations about why a part-time VA doctor was allowed to invent a medicine that can cure Hepatitis C and later make a massive profit off the of the $1,000 pill. The VA signed off on the part-time arrangement in which Dr. Raymond Schinazi could have a private company which he later sold for $400 million in 2012. Officials are looking into whether or not Schinazi used any of his paid time by the VA to develop the medicine. –JG

Appeals Judges Reverse Punishment for Senior VA Executives
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
In a recent ruling on an appeal, punishments for two VA employees have been reversed due to the VA’s inconsistent handling of punishments. Many see this as more evidence of VA’s incompetency managing its employees. The VA has responded and intends to ensure the employees face some form of punishment. –JG

Tradeshows & Conferences

No major tradeshows or conferences this week.

Congressional Hearings

House:

Veterans’ Affairs: U.S Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2017 When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, February 10, 2016 Where: 334 Cannon

Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity: A Review of VA’s Loan Guaranty and Specially Adaptive Housing Grant Programs (SAH) When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, February 10, 2016 Where: 334 Cannon

Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces: Recommendations from the National Commission on the Future of the Army Who: General Carter Ham (Ret.), Chairman, National Commission on the Future of the Army When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, February 10, 2016 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Veterans’ Affairs: Choice Consolidation: Improving VA Community Care Billing and Reimbursement When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, February 11, 2016 Where: 334 Cannon

Senate:

Armed Services: Worldwide Threats Who: Honorable James R. Clapper, Jr., Director of National Intelligence, Lieutenant General Vincent R. Stewart, USMC, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, February 9, 2016 Where: G50 Dirksen

Armed Services: National Commission on the Future of the United States Army
Who: General Carter F. Ham, USA (Ret.), Chairman, National Commission on the Future of the Army, Honorable Thomas R. Lamont, Vice Chairman, National Commission on the Future of the Army, General James D. Thurman, USA (Ret.), Commissioner, National Commission on the Future of the Army, Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, USA (Ret.), Commissioner, National Commission on the Future of the Army When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, February 11, 2016 Where: G50 Dirksen

Think Tanks & Other Events

U.S. Army War College: The Next Administration: What roles forward presence and security When: 11:45 AM, Tuesday, February 9, 2016 Where: Online

National Defense Industrial Association: Expeditionary Warfare Annual Meeting Who: Congressman Rob Wittman When: 7:00 AM, Thursday, February 11, 2016 Where: The Army and Navy Club, 901 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20006

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, February 08, 2016 9:18 am

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