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Veteran’s Roundup: Women Veterans in Congress Forge Bipartisan Friendships, Homeless Veteran Numbers Going Down but Not at Zero, BAH Cuts, and more

Posted by Fred Wellman

Vet Tix Partners with ScoutComms to Expand Reach, Impact with Veterans and Service Members
The non-profit Vet Tix distributes tickets to concerts, sporting events, and other shows to veterans and their families. To date they have given away more than two million tickets, distributing 561,000 in 2015 alone. They have partnered with ScoutComms to grow the reach of their organization in numbers and locations. ScoutComms is very excited to be partnering with one of the top rated veteran non-profits in the country. If you are a veteran interested in tickets to events in your area, visit the  Vet Tix website and create a free account. –JG

S.D. Veterans Part of World’s Largest Genomic Project
Jeanette Steele (@jensteeley), The San Diego Union-Tribune
Far too much discussion of VA health care focuses on wait times. We’ve talked before about the quality of care that veterans in the system can receive, but Jen Steel highlights another important element—the important long-term research that the VA funds to better understand the needs of veterans. The Million Veteran Program—started by friend of ScoutComms Dr. Joel Kupersmith when he was the VA’s Chief Research & Development Officer—is building one of the world’s largest medical databases by collecting blood samples and health information from one million veterans to study how genes affect health. Steele notes that the results collected by the MVP program are already being used to study mental illness and heart and kidney disease, as a start. We applaud this long-term thinking by the VA, and greatly anticipate future breakthroughs due to this longitudinal focus on care. –BW

The Wrong Way to Reduce Military Compensation
Todd Harrison (@ToddHarrisonDC), Politico
Regular readers of the Scout Report are probably tired of the term “second and third order effects” that we tend to use quite often but they aren’t always on the minds of policy makers or influencers in the military and veterans communities. Todd Harrison wrote this piece for Politico criticizing the move in the Senate’s version of the NDAA to tie the Basic Allowance for Housing to the actual cost of the service members housing instead of the current flat rate based on the location of the housing. It certainly seems like a logical way to save millions of dollars that is often simply going into their pockets as excess pay. But, as Harrison points out, the second and third order effects will likely include military members seeking more expensive housing and driving up the costs of living in areas around military bases. He doesn’t touch on the issue of how military members already feel that their benefits are being rolled back and this hits them right in the pocket books. Harrison prefers cutting future benefits like health care and retirement benefits instead because let’s just screw military members in the future to save a dime but not today! Meanwhile the entire NDAA and VA funding bills remain in limbo as Congress is on summer recess and too busy ducking and covering from whatever their presidential candidates happen to say that day. –FPW

There Are Fewer Homeless Vets, but Goal of Reaching Zero is Far Off
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
In 2009, then Secretary of the VA Eric Shinseki set a bold deadline: to end veteran homelessness by 2015. For many decades before that, the problem had been seen by many as intractable, though organizations like our client the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans had for the same amount of time been coordinating resources and advocating for more. With the deadline set, the full force of the government was behind the goal—to the extent Congress funded it. Together, non-profit organizations, philanthropic giving institutions, and government agencies made a huge dent in the homeless veteran population. Since then, the number of homeless veterans has been cut nearly in half to 40,000 individuals. Yet, some will see these new numbers as a failure. True failure would be giving up and no one is ready to do that, not when veterans are still on the streets. Service providers are now dealing with some of the hardest cases when it comes to individual veterans facing homelessness—and that’s the way they are succeeding, by approaching veterans on an individual basis. Congress must continue funding the voucher and supplemental supportive programs that have been so successful with the understanding that ending homelessness prevents deeper societal and taxpayer costs later on. Meanwhile, we know the organizations and foundations focused on homelessness will continue to find and use innovative solutions to long-standing problems. To support them, let’s make sure we’re doing all we can to prevent any more veterans from finding themselves at risk of becoming homeless. –LJ

Congress’s Four Female Combat Veterans Are Speaking up on Military Issues
Karoun Demirjian (@karoun), The Washington Post
Karoun Demirjian, a former foreign correspondent, has churned out three excellent articles on veterans issues in the last week, and her profile of the four women combat veterans serving in Congress is certainly her most consequential. In a period of great partisan divide, she captures the ways in which the shared experiences of these two Republicans and two Democrats bring them together, even as their political views draw them apart. We obsess regularly about the decline of veteran representation in Congress, even as over 100 members have military experience. Yet women combat veterans remain underrepresented despite the significant growth in women serving throughout the military. We should encourage women veterans to run for Congress, to work in Congress, and to ensure that their voices are heard as voters, so that they can ensure that their needs and perspectives are adequately considered. It’s hard to tell what an influx of women vets will do to the actual decisions that Congress makes, but it’s clear that the women already in position are intent on making their voices heard. –BW

Muslims in the Military: The Few, the Proud, the Welcome
Dave Philipps (@David_Philipps), The New York Times
The controversy surrounding the recent feud between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and the family of a Muslim Army Captain killed in 2004 has highlighted the diversity of today’s military. Thousands of Muslims have served in the U.S. military since the Civil War in varying numbers and at least a dozen or more have lost their lives since 9/11 in combat. While not without challenges, Dave Philipps found veterans and current service members who are welcomed into the ranks and an increasing amount of flexibility by the military to allow them to observe their religious beliefs and serve their country. The fact is that the U.S. Armed Forces are a volunteer force that represents the nation it serves. Men and women of all faiths, genders, ethnicities and even sexual orientations are serving today proudly without discrimination. Thus, when the candidate calls for the blocking of immigration by Muslims or Latinos he finds himself facing off against men and women in uniform fighting for a nation that may elect leaders that don’t welcome them at all. The strength of this nation has always been about those who take the journey to come to our shores and even more so by those who take the step to don the uniform of their nation. We hope that reasonable heads prevail and we continue to recognize the need for service and sacrifice in our diverse country. –FPW

Keep Your Politics Private, My Fellow Generals and Admirals
Martin Dempsey (@Martin_Dempsey), Defense One
While we’re hearing from many retired general and admirals about who they believe should or shouldn’t be our next president during this election cycle, retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Army General Martin Dempsey is making headlines by telling his peers to stay out of it. Dempsey argues that a general or admiral’s counsel will be taken less seriously if their profession is tinged with personal or political bias. Further, he says, generals and admirals are seen to speak for those below them when many do not. Interestingly, Dempsey has no problem with former flag officers running for office as then they are held accountable to voters, though scholars often cite the potential for post-military political life as being another way the flag officer corps can be seen by civilian leaders as potential future rivals. In today’s political environment, though, and on certain topic close to the military’s ethical and moral center, silence on important issues may be more dangerous than politicizing a profession that already is in many ways. –LJ

Colleges Need to Be More Welcoming to Post-9/11 Veterans
Mike Haynie (@DrMikeHaynie), The Chronicle of Higher Education
Dr. Mike Haynie, vice chancellor of Syracuse University and executive director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families there, recently shared his thoughts on how colleges can be more involved in recruiting and supporting student veterans. Haynie says that most American institutions view veterans’ education programs with the wrong perspective and should instead view veterans as a chance to make their colleges and universities better. –MC

Navy Veteran Becomes KISS Roadie
Jonathan Turner, qconline.com
Jody Harriman was the Hiring Our Heroes “Roadie for a Day” at KISS’s Freedom to Rock concert in Moline, Illinois. Harriman has been a KISS fan his entire life. The band brought Harriman on stage while giving a tribute to our country’s military in addition to a day full of backstage VIP experiences. Hiring Our Heroes is selecting a local service member or veteran for every stop along KISS’s North American tour and the band donated $150,000 to Hiring Our Heroes to support service members by helping them find meaningful employment. To find out if KISS is coming to a city near you, visit their website. –JG

“Hiring our Heroes” Job Fair Aims to Employ Vets; Coming to Whitaker Bank Ballpark
WTVQ ABC 36
Hiring Our Heroes hosted a hiring fair in Lexington, Kentucky, at the Whitaker Bank Ballpark to help veterans, active duty service members, and their spouses find meaningful employment. Attendees had the opportunity to attend workshops focused on resume building and interview tips as well as connect and network with dozens of companies looking to hire from the military community. To find out if a hiring fair is coming to a city near you, visit Hiring Our Heroes’ website. –JG

ASAP Connects Veterans, Communities Through the Arts
Hannah Troyer (@HannahTroyer), Andrews Gazette
They say laughter is the best medicine, and in this case it’s alleviating both mental and societal pains. Armed Services Arts Partnership is helping bridge the gap between military and civilian communities by providing veterans access to something that most people, no matter their background, enjoy: the arts. ASAP’s most popular program is its stand-up comedy boot camp. ASAP is welcoming veterans home with an opportunity to pair stress relief with comedic relief. –AB

Mike Pence said in 1999 That Women Shouldn’t Be in the Military. So Much Has Changed.
Kate Germano (@kate_germano), The Washington Post
Seventeen years ago, Mike Pence, governor of Indiana and Republican vice-presidential candidate, wrote: “…women in the military, bad idea.” Statements like these that prove no matter the year, 1999 or 2016, women will constantly be forced to prove their worth in this world – and they are succeeding. For decades, women have been breaking down the physical and mental barriers attempting to obstruct them from serving to the heights of their ability. Now, in 2016, writes Kate Germano, chief operating officer of the Service Women’s Action Network, there are more than 200,000 female service members and the Army is proactively recruiting female leaders and mentors. People like Mike Pence can hold up that glass ceiling all they want, but women will always be strong enough to shatter it. –AB

‘We’ve Never Been Challenged this Way’: Military Support Groups Demand Respect for Khan Family
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post
Last week, Blue Star Families joined a group of nonprofit organizations in support of the Kahns, a Muslim American and Gold Star family who spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Gold Star mother Ghazala Kahn did not speak during the DNC speech because of grief, but presidential hopeful Donald Trump said that her silence was likely the result of her religion. Blue Star Families and the group of organizations published a letter to both presidential candidates asking them to “demonstrate the character demanded of the offices they seek” and respect both our nation’s fallen service members and their families. To read the full letter, click here. –MC

Ashford U. Edges Closer to Losing GI Bill Certification for Thousands of Vets
Alex Horton (@AlexHortonTX), Stars and Stripes
Ashford University has been under investigation for exploiting GI Bill funding and is in danger of losing its certification allowing it to continue receiving federal funds. But just last week, Ashford pulled its request to be certified in California meaning it is depending on Iowa re-certifying the school by September 18. If Iowa doesn’t find Ashford worthy of certification, as many as 6,000 veterans using their GI Bill benefits at Ashford will be affected. James Schmeling, executive vice president of strategic engagement at Student Veterans of America, said that this uncertainty is disruptive to student veterans’ futures, and that veterans at Ashford should begin looking into other options for their education. –MC

New Wounded Warrior Project CEO Expects Layoffs During Restructuring
Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), The Washington Post
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael S. Linnington stepped into his new role as Wounded Warrior Project’s chief executive officer on July 18. Last week, he talked with Dan Lamothe about his plans for the organization’s future. Linnington’s proposed changes include possible layoffs, adjustments to top employees’ salaries, and reassessing which programs WWP should make changes to or drop completely. Linnington also noted that many of the accusations made in previous months were exaggerated and that Wounded Warrior Project has done great work to help our nation’s veterans. –MC

Quick Hits:

Suicide Rate of U.S. Veterans Rose One Third Since 2001: Study
Yeganeh Torbati (@yjtorbati), Reuters
According to a recent data review by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there has been a 32 percent increase in veteran suicides between 2001 and 2014 – 9 percent more than the increase in the civilian suicide rate. The study also found there is a higher risk of suicide among veterans who don’t utilize VA services, but no definite conclusions have been drawn yet. –AB

How a Gold Star Became a Symbol of the Ultimate Sacrifice
Alexia Fernandez (@alexiafedz), Los Angeles Times
Donald Trump recently berated the Gold Star family of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, which is completely unacceptable. Gold Star families and their beloved deserve nothing but respect and admiration, as does the gold star’s history. The term “Gold Star Mother” was coined in 1918 by President Woodrow Wilson, upon a recommendation by the Women’s Committee of National Defenses, but the symbol for a fallen family service member has been fighting to regain the respect and recognition it once held for decades. –AB

Keeping Our Covenant with America’s Veterans
Barack Obama (@POTUS), Task & Purpose
Speaking in-front of a crowd at the 95th Disabled American Veterans National Convention, President Obama gave his final major address to our nation’s veterans. He emphasized the moral obligation a country, and its commander in chief, has to its service men and women that put their life on the line to provide a safer world for their country and the countries around the world. Obama highlighted where veteran assistance and care has improved and continues to improve thanks to the hard work of Congress and the Obama administration. –JG

Air Force Veteran Creates Nitro-Fueled Ice Cream Business with Military Surplus Gear
Jon Anderson, Military Times
As if veterans haven’t already done enough for this country, one Air Force veteran is now using his skills to provide us with a revamped version of America’s other national treasure: ice cream. Staff. Sgt. Jerry Hancock is putting his chemistry degree, via the GI Bill, to use by transforming traditional ice cream with liquid nitrogen. –AB

Tradeshows & Conferences:

No tradeshows this week.

Congressional Hearings:

House:
Veterans’ Affairs: Technology and Treatment: Telemedicine in the VA Healthcare System
When: 9:00 AM, Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Where: Camarillo, CA

Think Tanks & Other Events:

Swords to Plowshares: 3rd Annual Veterans Mental Health Summit
When: 9:00 AM, Friday, August 12, 2016
Where: War Memorial Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness Avenue, Room 210, San Francisco, CA 94102

For a full list of upcoming events, visit our website.

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 08, 2016 8:42 am

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