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Veterans Roundup: Young Veterans vs. VSOs, Student Veterans, Veterans’ Housing, Veterans in Congress

Posted by Fred Wellman

VA Moves to Prevent Veteran Violence over Disability Claims
Jordain Carney (@jordainc), National Journal. The VA is removing the compensation-and-pensions medical exam from their online system for veterans’ viewing. These documents show doctors’ comments on disability claims, often before claims are accepted or rejected. The VA fears that veterans who see the comments may become violent if they believe their claim will be denied. Some VA Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation members challenged the ethics of the removal but VA officials want to ensure safety of staff. –MC
Bottom line: On the one hand, this story plays into the fears many veterans have about VA being more afraid of veterans than interested in helping veterans. On the other hand, this writer has heard from a source that veterans at one VA clinic have punched at least two staffers in the past month. The VA has a duty to its employees—especially with sinking morale—to protect them in their workplaces, but the VA also has a duty to veterans. By portraying veterans overall as a potential danger, the VA runs the risk of playing into stereotypes that veterans are one sleight away from “going crazy” or becoming violent. The internal communications at VA could use the input of the veterans they serve every day. –LJ

Service to School: Helping Veterans Get Into Top Schools
Thomas Ehrlich and Ernestine Fu (@Ernestine Fu), Forbes. Service to School, a nonprofit founded by two veterans, is helping veterans through the application process at top universities. Tim Hsia and Augusto Giacoman started their efforts to assist veterans during graduate school as they helped friends who were returning home from deployment with applications. Along with application counseling, the organization provides webinars and discounts for test prep providers. These initiatives fall in line with those of other veterans groups that Service to School has partnered with, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Warrior-Scholar Project, and Student Veterans of America. –MC
Bottom line: A major challenge for veterans, even when they have access to educational funding to attend a higher education institution, is successfully transitioning from military to campus life and its expectations. Groups like Service to School and the Warrior-Scholar Project—who we are huge fans and supporters of—are helping ensure that money invested in veterans’ educations is well spent by taking the time to make sure veterans can get into the right schools and are prepared to succeed in a new academic environment. In the future, when money for veterans is not so easily accessible, these groups will play an important role in maximizing the impact of available funding and other forms of educational support. –BW

Fewer Veterans Running for Congressional Office
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. It is projected that this year the total number of veterans in Congress could potentially hit fewer than 100 for the first time since the 1950s. Although more veterans of recent wars are running for office, the current Congress only has 106 lawmakers with military backgrounds and that could drop by 10 percent next year. Veterans groups take issue with the dwindling numbers, saying that a Congress without direct knowledge of the VA system will have a harder time fixing issues that arise. Periods of service can be a bonus for some candidates’ campaigns, but for candidate James Kimber, who wore an unearned SEAL trident while in the service, his mistake could do the opposite. –MC
Bottom line: It’s a matter of statistics: fewer Americans are serving in uniform so fewer are running for political office and serving in Congress. Yet, as the military is one of the most respecting institutions in America, candidates with veteran status are being heralded by their parties and by super PACs as stronger on security and veterans issues than their competitors. In Massachusetts, Seth Moulton is breaking the mold by not touting his awards for valor. It took a local beat reporter tracking down his records for his heroism to become public knowledge. Moulton has the service background to lend his campaign credibility, but he’s running on more than his DD-214. It’s a tactic we hope succeeds because veterans have much more to contribute to America than their years in uniform. –LJ

Virtual Reality Therapy Shows New Benefits
Caitlin McCabe (@mccabe_caitlin), Wall Street Journal. Virtual reality therapy, a technique for treating PTSD by visually recreating moments of trauma, has been used to treat veterans who face mental health issues as a result of war. The therapy has also been expanded to treat victims of sexual assault and car crashes. Although virtual reality can be too intense for some patients, for others reliving the event in a controlled environment helps address triggers and can ultimately lead to recovery. –MC
Bottom line: The mental health challenges veterans face today, while they fit into broad categories, vary significantly in their manifestations among individuals. Much like the challenges veterans face, the treatments they receive vary wildly. The VA and other healthcare providers are testing a wide range of treatments that can help some veterans, some of the time. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions, but like yoga, acupuncture, and role-playing, virtual reality therapy, which has been reported to have positive impacts, merits investment if it can aid in recovery and reintegration. The biggest question remains whether VA and DOD can effectively roll-out evidence-based treatments in a timely manner. –BW

Can the Nation’s Oldest Veterans Groups Attract Younger Veterans?
Josh Hicks (@reporter_hicks), The Washington Post. A recent Washington Times article suggested that veterans’ groups like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars are perceived as unwelcoming to veterans of recent wars compared to groups like Team Red, White and Blue and Team Rubicon. Leaders at the VFW and American Legion strongly oppose these sentiments and have been speaking out against this misperception while emphasizing that without them, many advances for younger veterans like the Post-9/11 GI Bill would never have happened. –MC
Bottom line: The article really did miss the ball on what the legacy Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) provide for the community with a singular focus on posts being smoky bars full of older men. To define the VSOs by just that portion of what they are all about does a great disservice to the work they do on a national level. What was disturbing to us was that they failed to mention the fact that there isn’t a war between the new organizations and legacy ones. In fact, Student Veterans of America used office space in the American Legion’s DC offices when they first launched and partnership agreements between several of them to work together leveraging their various strengths. There is no question that the traditional post and lodge based approach to membership isn’t going to survive in its current form simply by the dramatic loss of older generation veterans at the rate of over 30,000 a month. There simply isn’t that many new veterans to join with just over 2.7 million having served in combat compared to 24 million in World War II. However, we can’t write off the services provided by the legacy VSOs like helping veterans file their disability claims, lobbying for new legislation, and serving as the voices of the 21 million veterans of all ages. It’s the height of hubris to dismiss the legacy VSOs as irrelevant after serving the nation for over 115 years like the VFW has to date. Working together as a single community is the only way to represent the diverse needs of the nation’s military veterans. –FPW

VA, Lenders and Nonprofits Mobilize to Help Veterans on the Homefront
Kenneth R. Harney, Washington Post Writers Group. The Department of Veterans Affairs’ home-purchase financing program is more popular than ever and new loans for houses have doubled since 2007 and the demand for VA loan benefits is growing against the reduction of every other form or mortgage lending. Lenders increasingly see the VA home loan as a good investment. Concurrently, many big banks and mortgage companies have partnered with nonprofits like ScoutComms’ client Operation Homefront and Purple Heart Homes to give veterans and military families in need free homes. Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo are just a few of the companies contributing to these efforts while ScoutComms client The Home Depot Foundation has infused millions in housing programs for homeless veterans and wounded warriors as well. –MC
Bottom line: The boom in veterans’ housing loans and non-profit giving efforts is happening for all of the reasons we say veterans are leaders of the nation from good employees to entrepreneurs. Simply, they are a good bet for stability and responsible financial management contrary to popular memes. The future for the many diverse home donation programs will be an interesting one to watch as many of them focus exclusively on wounded warriors and there is only so many of those in the country, and hopefully, many less will be wounded going forward. The question will be how best to support these efforts and which programs will continue or merge with others. Regardless, the veterans sector offers a bright spot in an otherwise continuing weak real estate sector. –FPW

Quick Hits:

Army Runners Shine at Marine Corps Marathon
Isabelle Khurshudyan (@IKhurshudyan), Washington Post. This weekend, thousands of runners took to the streets of DC and Virginia to race in the world famous Marine Corps Marathon—yet it was a Soldier who finished first. ScoutComms sends warm congratulations to Afton Wagner for competing and completing the grueling 26 miles on Sunday. –LJ

Some Stereotypes Stick to Vets, Survey Shows
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. A recent survey by Got Your 6 revealed some stereotypes held by civilians about veterans. When provided with a photo of a homeless man, almost half of respondents classified the homeless man as a veteran. Respondents also answered that veterans are more likely to commit suicide, suffer from mental health problems, and face unemployment issues than civilians. The survey results will be used to encourage entertainment industry producers and writers to portray veterans in a more casual and less harmful way. –MC

Tradeshows & Conferences

Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Graduate Conference (1-3 November, Westin Riverwalk, San Antonio, TX)

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

Congressional Hearings

Both chambers are in recess

Think Tanks & Other Events

National Veterans Center: Stress Relief Meditation for Veterans When: 5:00 PM, Monday, October 27, 2014 Where: The National Veterans Center, 2013 H Street NW, Washington, DC

World Affairs Council: The Future Army: Win in a Complex World Who: David G. Perkins, Commanding General, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command When: 6:30 PM, Tuesday, October 28, 2014 Where: McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, 1900 K St NW, Washington DC

The National Press Club: Book Rap: Rebecca Frankel “War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love” Who: Rebecca Frankel, senior editor, special projects at Foreign Policy Magazine When: 6:30 PM, Wednesday, October 29, 2014 Where: National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation – Hiring Our Heroes: Caregiver Summit Who: Sen. Elizabeth Dole, The Elizabeth Dole Foundation When: 8:15 AM, Thursday, October 30, 2014 Where: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1615 H St. NW, Washington D.C.

Center for Security Studies: CSS Lunch Series: Career Paths for Veterans Who: Chris Taylor, CEO, Novitas, adjunct professor for the Security Studies Program When: 12:00 PM, Thursday, October 30, 2014 Where: Georgetown University, 3600 N St., NW, Washington, DC

2014 MOAA: Heroes Awards Who: Military Officers Association of America will recognize Sen. Elizabeth Dole When: 6:30 PM, Thursday, October 30, 2014 Where: Sheraton Pentagon City, 900 S. Orme St., Arlington VA, 22201

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, October 27, 2014 8:31 am

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