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IAVA | October 8, 2020

IAVA Weekly SITREP

As the leading voice for the post-9/11 community, IAVA continues to create awareness on issues and topics impacting our community. Below are articles and news sources from the past week:

10/9

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Stars and Stripes: First monument honoring all military women to be unveiled at Arlington

By Nikki Wentling

The Women in Military Service for America Memorial, at the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery, is regularly placed on lists of “hidden gems” within the nation’s capital — a perspective on the memorial that its leaders are trying to change.

Connecting Vets: Trump tweets video touting military, veteran accomplishments

By Elizabeth Howe

The two-minute-long video of the president, wholly dedicated to touting his contributions to military personnel and veterans, included mention of the Army’s new uniforms, troop pay increases, Department of Veterans Affairs approval rates and the Mission Act.

NBC Buffalo: Gillibrand pushing for new legislation that would provide veterans coverage who have diseases linked to ‘burn pits’

By Staff

Gillibrand was at the Veterans One-stop Center of WNY as she tries to get a law passed that would require the VA to cover claims for veterans who have diseases linked to ‘burn pits.’ ‘Burn pits’ are areas on military bases that are used to get rid of waste and ammunition by burning them with jet fuel.

InsideNJ: Booker, Blackburn Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Help Improve Maternal Health Outcomes for Pregnant Veterans

By Staff

U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced a bipartisan bill, Delivering Optimally Urgent Labor Access for Veterans Affairs, or the DOULA Act, to establish a pilot program to encourage the use of doulas in the Veterans Health Administration to support pregnant veterans and improve maternal health outcomes.

New York Times: Trump Suggests Gold Star Families May Be to Blame for His Infection

By Jennifer Steinhauer

In an interview on Fox Business, Mr. Trump described an event at the White House on Sept. 27 with a group of Gold Star families — those whose relatives have died in military conflicts — and said he had “figured there would be a chance” he would become infected there, because the family members “come within an inch of my face sometimes.”

The Guardian: Trump’s Afghanistan withdrawal announcement takes US officials by surprise

By Emma Graham-Harrison

Donald Trump has announced on Twitter that he wants to bring all US troops home from Afghanistan by Christmas – a plan that came as a surprise to administration officials and which puts complicated peace negotiations in jeopardy. Multiple officials told the Associated Press they had not been informed of any such deadline and military experts said it would be impossible to withdraw all 5,000 US troops in Afghanistan and dismantle the US military headquarters by the end of the year.

10/8

IAVA NEWS COVERAGE

Law360: Veterans Urge 9th Circ. To Hear Challenge To DEA’s Pot Status

Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have urged the Ninth Circuit to reconsider the classification of marijuana, writing that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s designating the drug a highly controlled substance has impeded medical research that could save lives. The nonprofit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America in their brief focused on suicides among returning soldiers and cannabis’s potential to treat post-tramatic stress disorder.

We Are The Mighty: Navy updates its CBD product regulations

By Jessica Evans

The latest Navy update follows the House of Representatives’ approval on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow service members to use legalized CBD products. Of course, as with all things, the military is going to take its time in making a final decision about the legality of CBD products. But with backing from big-name veteran organizations like the IAVA, maybe there’s a chance that CBD will be coming to a commissary near you.

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Military.com: ‘Tainted,’ ‘Screw This:’ Study Reveals Male and Female Vets Have Different Suicide Triggers

By Steve Beynon

The study, published in September in the journal Social Science & Medicine, found that, of a pool of 25 male and 25 female veterans who had made a recent suicide attempt, different gender-specific thought patterns emerged. According to the veterans’ own recollections of their thinking in the periods immediately preceding their suicide attempts, women tended to recall feeling “shameful,” “tainted” and “worthless,” while men said they felt “it just wasn’t worth it,” “I’ve had enough,” and “screw this.”

Military.com: Trump Orders DoD, VA and Other Agencies to Probe Link Between Pandemic and Suicides

By Richard Sisk

President Donald Trump has ordered the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs and other government agencies to come up with a plan within 45 days to address mental health issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that may lead to suicide.

TownHall: How Congress and Partisanship Continue to Fail Our Warfighters [Opinion]

By Matthew Betely

A few weeks ago, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA-36) introduced The Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act of 2020, which is the first substantive piece of legislation that would address the criminal-like behavior of the VA, specifically, denying 80% of veterans’ claims for burn-pit-related illnesses.

NorthJersey.com: VFW demands that special prosecutor investigate COVID-19 deaths at NJ veterans homes

By Scott Fallon

One of the largest veterans groups in New Jersey called Wednesday for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to investigate the high number of COVID-19 deaths at two state-run veterans homes after 47 new deaths were confirmed by NorthJersey.com last week.

Government Executive: Civil Rights Groups Pressure VA Ahead of GAO Racism Audit

By Erich Wagner 

GAO has agreed to investigate the prevalence racism at the Veterans Affairs Department after a survey revealed that the vast majority of bargaining unit employees had either experienced or witnessed acts of discrimination on the job.

Military Times: Trucking school owner sentenced to four years in prison for GI Bill fraud

By Leo Shane III

The owner of a California trucking school was sentenced to four years in prison on Tuesday for a GI Bill scam which drew more than $4 million in fraudulent payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs over four years

Stars and Stripes: ‘Thousands’ of veterans with bad paper discharges might not know they can upgrade

By Steve Beynon

Veterans kicked out of the military due to negative behavior related to post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and sexual trauma have been upgrading their discharges after a 2017 law change, but there are potentially thousands of others left without access to care or benefits because of less-than-honorable discharges.

New York Daily News: Veterans group may have been exposed to COVID during White House visit

By Brian Niemietz

Members of the Greatest Generations Foundation were “quietly” warned by the White House on Oct. 2 that their visit may have put those in attendance at risk. The indoor event honoring Gold Star Families came a day after a Rose Garden celebration for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, where several attendees later tested positive for COVID-19, including President Trump.

10/7

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

ConnectingVets.com: Civil rights leaders call out SecVA, president over reports of racism at Veterans Affairs

By Abbie Bennett

Days after a government watchdog announced it would investigate the Department of Veterans Affairs over allegations of widespread racism at the massive federal agency, emails went out canceling antiracism events at VA.

The Hill: The nation’s understanding of military veteran suicide is incomplete [Opinion]

By Jim Lorraine 

The cause of this misunderstanding is that national records underrepresent the reality of veteran suicide within several communities. Correcting this is an essential step towards ensuring that policymakers, service providers and communities understand the true scope of veteran suicide.

Bloomberg Government: Fiscal 2020 Civilian Contracting Hits Record $228 Billion

By Robert Levinson

The Department of Veterans Affairs increased its contract spending about $4.4 billion in fiscal 2020 over fiscal 2019 — about 15%. The biggest single increase at VA in fiscal 2020 was on the Patient Centered Community contract. This contract, held by Triwest Healthcare Alliance Corp., allows veteran patients to access care in their local communities under certain conditions.

Wall Street Journal: How New Jersey Nursing Home Suffered One of America’s Deadliest Outbreaks

By Christopher Weaver and Nora Eckert

Nearly 100 people died during the height of the coronavirus outbreak at the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home in April, more than 10 times the number in a typical month. Administrators discouraged the use of masks, conserving them in a storage closet as more residents and workers sickened, employees said. The nursing home’s chief executive waited more than a week after one resident tested positive to alert families.

10/6

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Stars and Stripes: Families of veterans who die from coronavirus would have survivor benefits protected under House bill

By Steve Beynon

A House bill would ensure that any veteran who dies from coronavirus in the care of the Department of Veterans Affairs would have service-connected disabilities noted in the cause of death to protect survivor benefits.

Military.com: The VA Is Working Harder Than Ever to Connect with Isolated Veterans [Opinion]

By Paul R. Lawrence

The pandemic slowed travel. So we’ve found another way to stay connected: conducting multiple telephone town hall meetings each week. Since March, I’ve conducted 69 tele-town halls in 50 states and connected with more than 2.5 million veterans.

mHealthIntelligence: Congress Expands Veteran Access to Telehealth for Mental Health Care

By Eric Wicklund

A bill headed to the President’s desk will expand efforts by the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve veteran access to mental health services, including offering more services via telehealth.

Medill News Service: New Productivity Targets for Counselors Could Hurt Mental Health Care for Veterans: GAO

By Arnab Mondal

New productivity expectations for Department of Veterans Affairs mental health counselors requiring them to see more patients could be detrimental to the quality of care they deliver, a Government Accountability Office report warns.

MeriTalk: Legislation Introduced to Address VA Transparency Issues

By Jordan Smith

A bill Introduced by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would require the Secretary of the VA to submit a report to Congress on the use of security cameras at VAMC’s. This legislation follows in the wake of the deaths of veterans at the Clarksburg, VA Medical Center.

Military Times: GI Bill protections extended for student veterans dealing with campus coronavirus changes

By Leo Shane III

As part of the budget deal approved last week, Congress extended several financial protections for student veterans whose education plans have been disrupted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Post and Courier: SC attorney could pay nearly $3 million for scheme targeting veterans and investors

By Andrew Brown

The owner of a small law firm in South Carolina could be ordered to pay nearly $3 million for her role in orchestrating a nationwide financial scheme suspected of cheating veterans and retirees out of millions of dollars.

Blue Virginia: New Warner Campaign Ad Emphasizes Work to End Tragedy of Veteran Suicides

By Staff

On Monday, Senator Mark Warner’s re-election campaign announced it has begun airing a new campaign ad, “It Has To End,” highlighting the tragedy of veteran suicides in the U.S. The latest ad is part of a seven-figure, eight-week statewide television buy.

10/5

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

New York Times: For Veterans, Bonds Forged in Battle Are Tested by 2020’s Rancor

By Dave Philipps

Toxic rhetoric and political polarization are doing what nothing else could: driving apart ex-Marines who had one another’s backs through wars and the stresses of civilian life. The Facebook group the men once relied on for support is now clogged with divisive memes and partisan conspiracy theories, disputes over policing and protests, and, of course, strong views on the president. Many say they still want to support their fellow Marines but cannot stand the toxic political traffic.

Military Times: Veterans unemployment flat for September as national rate declines

By Leo Shane III

Even as the national jobless rate dropped from the previous month, the overall veterans unemployment rate remained largely unchanged at 6.4 percent in September, the same level reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in August. The rate for veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars era rose slightly over that time frame, from 7 percent in August to 7.5 percent in September. The figures translate into about 570,000 veterans looking for work last month, up almost 300,000 individuals from one year ago.

Military Times: Union officials praise plans for investigation into accusations of racism at Veterans Affairs

By Leo Shane III

Officials from the largest federal workers union on Friday hailed news of an upcoming investigation into problems of racism within the Department of Veterans Affairs, saying that attention on the problem is overdue. The Government Accountability Office has agreed to investigate charges of racism within the department stemming from an AFGE membership survey during the summer.

CBS Minnesota: ‘I Became Hopeless’: Veteran Grateful He Asked For Help After Suicide Attempt

By Reg Chapman

The state of Minnesota will recognize the second annual Minnesota Veteran Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day. The hope is to get veterans to ask for help and use the state and federal resources available to keep them safe.

Military.com: The VA Is Working Harder Than Ever to Connect with Isolated Veterans

By Paul R. Lawrence

While our country is dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Veterans Benefits Administration within the Department of Veterans Affairs has modified its outreach to meet veterans where they are in a safe environment: by conducting multiple telephone town hall meetings each week. 

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