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IAVA | January 8, 2021

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:

Friday, January 8

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Stars and Stripes: Woman killed at US Capitol was Air Force veteran, staunch Trump supporter

The woman who was shot and killed during the takeover of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday was identified as Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran, according to U.S. Capitol Police.

The Washington Post: ‘I thought I’d have to fight my way out’: Combat veteran lawmakers took action after Capitol stormed

By Alex Horton

On Wednesday, after chemical irritants were fired in the Capitol to repel a pro-Trump mob, Rep. Ruben Gallego thought of the moment years ago when he entered a Marine Corps gas chamber. The training was suddenly relevant for the Iraq veteran and Arizona Democrat after an announcement blared to don gas masks stored under the seats.

KHOU-11: Black veterans angered, saddened by Confederate flag inside US Capitol during riots

By David Gonzalez

Rioters breaching the U.S. Capitol triggered mixed emotions for many people including outrage, disbelief and horror.For some veterans like Christopher Bonds, it felt like America and democracy were under attack.“It actually made me almost ashamed to be a veteran to understand that this is what I fought for,” Bonds said. “I fought for us to actually destroy ourselves, to implode on ourselves?”

Aleteia: Disabled army veteran uses discarded Christmas trees to make canes for injured vets

As people start to discard their Christmas trees, disabled army veteran Jamie Willis will be putting some of them to good use. The US Army vet returned from several years of service unable to work due to his disability. However, he wanted to use his time to do something fruitful, and found inspiration from the cane that he’d been issued from Veteran Affairs.

Military Times: Honoring the legacy of Maj. Beau Biden [Opinion]

By Thomas Umberg

Trump’s recent spate of pardons leaves no doubt as to his permanent placement among the pantheon of history’s amoral leaders. The pardons mock the rule of law and our system of justice. Largely unmentioned among the harms inflicted by the president is that pardoning those convicted of killing Iraqi and Afghan civilians creates a real and present danger to our men and women in uniform.

Thursday, January 7

IAVA NEWS COVERAGE

Stars and Stripes: Sweeping veterans bill becomes law, impacting ‘every corner’ of the community

By Nikki Wentling

President Donald Trump signed a sweeping legislative package Tuesday that aims to help veterans facing a variety of challenges, including homelessness, access to care for women and Native Americans, toxic exposure and the coronavirus. “For nearly four years, IAVA has been working hard to see this legislation finally cross the finish line, and we can now send a powerful message to women veterans that our nation respects their service and will not tolerate substandard care for them at the VA,” said Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

The Hill: Biden to announce key State Department and national security posts: report

By Laura Kelly

President-elect Joe Biden is filling out senior roles at the State Department and National Security Council, bringing former senior Obama administration officials back to government, according to reports. Supporters are welcoming the move as bringing experienced professionals into key leadership positions.

New York Times: Army Activates D.C. National Guard to Capitol Building

By Helene Cooper, Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt, Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman and Mike Ives

The mayor of Washington extended a public emergency on Wednesday night as the local police worked to secure the area around the Capitol.  A  number of regional police departments, as well as the National Guard, helped the Metropolitan Police Department establish a perimeter around the Capitol to help enforce an overnight curfew that took effect at 6 p.m., said Robert J. Contee, the department’s chief.

ABC News: Former Defense Secretary Mattis says Trump ‘fomented’ the security breach at the US Capitol

By Luis Martinez

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis has directly blamed President Donald Trump for having “fomented” the security breach at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, which he labeled “an effort to subjugate American democracy by mob rule.” Mattis was among the former top Pentagon officials who served under Trump — including former Defense Secretary Mark Esper and retired Gen. Joseph Dunford — who also blamed political leaders spreading misinformation about the presidential debate as setting the groundwork for the violence at the Capitol.

Military.com: Former SecDef Cohen Call for Trump to ‘Speak Out’ or ‘Step Down’

By Patricia Kime

As a mob infiltrated the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, former Defense Secretary William Cohen, a Republican who served under President Bill Clinton, said President Donald Trump’s Cabinet should remove him from office under the 25th Amendment.

Military.com: Marine Embarking on 50K Hike for Veteran Suicide Prevention

John Preston talked to Mornings on 2 on Saturday about the work he wants to accomplish in breaking down mental health issues that plague many veterans.

Defense News: US Defense Department’s reform office shuts down

By: Aaron Mehta    

With Congress overriding President Donald Trump’s veto of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, the Pentagon’s chief management officer job has officially been eliminated.

Wednesday, January 6

IAVA NEWS COVERAGE

Washington Examiner: National Guard troops to take back seat as Trump addresses supporters rallying to his call to overturn the election

By Jamie McIntyre

The number of veterans who have died from COVID-19 has now surpassed total military deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. “This is obviously a national crisis and one that extends far beyond the veteran community. But the effects on America’s veterans are emblematic of the deteriorating situation and also indicative of where a well-led Department of Veterans Affairs could be contributing to the national recovery,” said Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Those hardest hit by the pandemic are elderly, those in nursing homes, those with co-morbidities and minorities — all demographics that are widely represented by the nation’s veteran community.”

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Fox News: Fort Hood’s toxic culture? Red flags raised over mysterious disappearances, sexual assaults

By Hollie McKay 

The disappearance of Vanessa Guillén, a 20-year-old soldier at the sprawling Texas Army base of Fort Hood last April, captured headlines across the world. Last year, more than 30 soldiers associated with Fort Hood died – 11 were deemed suicides and five homicides.

News Break: Fort Bliss soldier found dead in barracks had filed sex assault complaint months before death

By Crystal Bonvillian

A Fort Bliss soldier who was found dead in her barracks on New Year’s Eve had reported an alleged sexual assault to her superiors months before she died, her family and base officials said. Pfc. Asia Graham, 19, was found unresponsive Thursday. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Military.com: American Legion Removes Post Commander from National Leadership Role over Proud Boys Affiliation

By Andrew Dyer

An American Legion post commander in Escondido has been removed by the veterans service organization from two national leadership roles after he bragged on social media about participating in a street brawl and joining the Proud Boys, the California state commander said.

Fox 4: Republican lawmaker pushes to legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri

By: Emily Manley

Lawmakers are returning to the Capitol later this week to kick off the 2021 legislative session. For the first time ever, a Missouri Republican representative is pushing to legalize recreational marijuana. If it passes, it would even clear the records of those with previous marijuana charges. Missouri voters approved the state’s medical marijuana program in 2018 with the ballot question winning by 65 percent of the vote. Since then, the state has issued 358 business licenses, which has brought in millions to the state’s veterans fund. 

Air Force Times: Air Force colonel, charged with sexual assault, to face court-martial

By Stephen Losey

The former commander of the 39th Medical Group at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey has been charged with sexual assault, and is scheduled to face a court-martial beginning in late March.

Col. Sean McNamara, currently of the 316th Medical Support Squadron at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, is facing three specifications of violating Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

*Also reported on Military.com

NBC Connecticut: Connecticut Veterans Receive First Round of COVID-19 Vaccines

By Michael Fuller 

The West Haven VA Medical Center is rolling out the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations to Connecticut veterans. VA Connecticut Healthcare System says as part of their vaccination plan, patients will be contacted and scheduled for an appointment when the vaccine is available.

Tuesday, January 5

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Military Times: VA’s coronavirus deaths have now surpassed totals from Iraq, Afghanistan wars

By Leo Shane III

The coronavirus pandemic has been deadlier for American veterans than the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars combined.On Monday morning, Department of Veterans Affairs officials reported 6,772 patient deaths died from complications related to the virus in the last 10 months. Defense Department officials list 6,756 military casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom (which lasted more than seven years, from 2003 to 2010) and Operation Enduring Freedom (which lasted from 2001 to 2014).

*Also published in Marine Corps Times and Newsweek 

Chicago Sun Times: Most workers at state’s veterans’ homes in no hurry to get coronavirus vaccine

By Rachel Hinton

Though COVID-19 vaccines have been made available to all employees at Illinois veterans’ homes, only 40% of staff members have so far opted to receive their first dose of the inoculation against the deadly virus.

WTKR: How the military is prioritizing COVID-19 vaccine distribution

By: Todd Corillo

The Department of Defense is prioritizing distribution of available COVID-19 vaccines using a three-phased system for service members stationed domestically and abroad. Since December, when vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna received Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, the Defense Department has been implementing the phased approach.

Foreign Policy: Defense Secretaries Worried About a Trump Power Grab

By Jack Detsch

U.S. defense secretaries who published a scathing opinion piece against outgoing President Donald Trump in the Washington Post over the weekend were driven by concerns that he would impose martial law or invoke the Insurrection Act in order to void the results of the November election and extend his term at the White House. 

Washington Post: National Guard activated for D.C. protests, with more restraints than in June, officials say

By Julie Zauzmer, Marissa J. Lang and Dan Lamothe

The National Guard has been mobilized in the District and every city police officer will be on duty Tuesday and Wednesday to handle protests of the November presidential election, which Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said may include people looking to instigate violence.

Monday, January 4

IAVA NEWS COVERAGE

The Hill: Biden VA pick faces ‘steep learning curve’ at massive agency

By Ellen Mitchell

Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said he is optimistic despite McDonough’s lack of experience in running a major bureaucracy and no medical or military background. Biden “chose Denis McDonough for a reason and that is because he is someone who knows how to get legislation passed,” said Butler.

* Also reported in MSN

Task and Purpose: Do Americans really care about war crimes?

By Jared Keller

On Tuesday, the White House announced a list of pardons and clemencies granted by Trump. Included in the list of pardons, however, were some standouts: the president had authorized pardons for four former U.S. service members who were convicted of killing civilians in Iraq while working there as contractors for the notorious defense giant Blackwater in 2007. A May 2019 poll of more than 1,600 service members and veterans conducted by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) found that the majority of respondents (52 percent) disagreed with the idea of Trump pardoning those already convicted of war crimes; another 54 percent disagreed with pardoning those awaiting trial, even without an actual conviction yet.

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

NPR: Congress Overturns Trump Veto On Defense Bill After Political Detour

By Philip Ewing

The Senate voted Friday to overturn President Trump’s veto of the mammoth annual defense bill in an unprecedented act that assures the decades-long continuity for that legislation. It follows a House vote earlier this week. It is the first veto override by Congress in the Trump presidency.

The Hill: Biden nominee: VA staff hampered by ‘mismanagement’

By Ellen Mitchell

President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Veteran Affairs said the nation’s veterans have been kneecapped by “mismanagement, staff shortfalls, leadership gaps, and IT systems failures” at the agency. In an op-ed for Military Times released Tuesday, Denis McDonough, the former White House chief of staff under President Obama, pledged to “fight like hell for our veterans,” and work to rebuild trust and restore the VA following years of fraying confidence in the department.

WKYT: A legislative package passed by Congress targets Veterans Affairs aspects like healthcare and education

By WKYT News Staff

A legislative package specifically targeting aspects in the veteran community passed both chambers of congress and will be sent to the president to be signed into law. This legislative package targets veterans with disabilities, the homeless population, veterans’ educational opportunities, and more.

ABC News: Deaths of 2 female Army soldiers probed in Texas, 1 fatally shot on freeway

By Bill Hutchinson

The apparently unrelated deaths of two female Army soldiers in Texas are under investigation after officials said one died after being shot in her car on a freeway on New Year’s Day and the other was discovered dead in her military barracks on New Year’s Eve. The soldiers were identified as 30-year-old Staff Sgt. Jessica Mitchell and 19-year-old Pfc. Asia M. Graham, according to military officials.

PBS: How Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has affected LGBTQ service members, 10 years after repeal

By Ali Rogin

When President Bill Clinton signed the 1993 bill that became known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” rehashing the military’s World War II-era ban on gay and lesbian service members, it was still abstract for Bridget Altenburg, who was then in her junior year at West Point. She was not yet serving in the military, nor had she come out as gay. But once she did, at age 24 while stationed in Germany, the law had real-life implications. Feeling the relief of self-acceptance, Altenburg came out to some supportive friends in her unit. But then someone reacted negatively.

Military.Com: Care Packages Are Not Kindling for Burn Pits [Opinion]

By Kevin M. Schmiegel , Paul. D. Cucinotta and Danielle C. Tenconi

Last week, Operation Gratitude was honored to join forces with Dr. Jill Biden, retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin and his wife Charlene in our nation’s capital to assemble care packages for 20,000 deployed troops during the global pandemic.

IAVA is the voice for the post-9/11 veteran generation. With over 400,000 veterans and allies nationwide, IAVA is the leader in non-partisan veteran advocacy and public awareness. We drive historic impacts for veterans and IAVA’s programs are second to none. Any veteran or family member in need can reach out to IAVA’s Quick Reaction Force at quickreactionforce.org or 855-91RAPID (855-917-2743) to be connected promptly with a veteran care manager who will assist. IAVA’s The Vote Hub is a free tool to register to vote and find polling information. IAVA’s membership is always growing. Join the movement at iava.org/membership.

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