IAVA | February 11, 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:
Thursday, February 11
IAVA NEWS COVERAGE
By Calvin Shomaker
During the Vietnam War, droves of U.S. service members were exposed to Agent Orange, a cancer-causing, vegetation clearing herbicide the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has since linked to 14 illnesses, and America’s younger veterans are now facing a similar crisis — burn puts.This Congress, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) plans to reintroduce the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act, a bill Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) calls “the most ambitious and comprehensive legislation on military toxic exposures ever introduced” and “the culmination of nearly two years of collaboration by the TEAM Coalition” of over 30 veteran service organizations.
VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE
If you (or a family member) have never served in the military, you may not have heard the term “civilian-military divide.” If you have served, you probably know exactly what it is. The civilian-military divide refers to the communication and culture gap between those who haven’t served in the military and those who have. We want to hear your stories of trying to bridge that gap from both sides.
By James H. Binns
America’s memory of the 1991 Gulf War has faded, but we must remember the 697,000 U.S. veterans who drove the Iraqi army from Kuwait 30 years ago this month — especially the one in four who lost their health to toxic exposures serving their country. American battle casualties in the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq currently total 5,458 dead and 53,250 wounded. More than 213,000 veterans have reported respiratory diseases, cancers and other protracted health problems to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ registry for burn pits, the massive fire pits on U.S. bases where waste was incinerated with jet fuel.
American Veterans Group, Wall Street’s first and only public benefit corporation, is supporting the ambitions of entrepreneurial-minded women veterans and women military spouses by partnering with the Bob Woodruff Foundation to provide a $10,000 grant to the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) in Chicago.
The Delaware Gazette: Conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure
By Harold B. Wolford
In 1991, Congress enacted the Agent Orange Act, giving the Department of Veterans Affairs the authority to declare certain conditions “presumptive” to exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin, making these veterans who served in Vietnam eligible to receive treatment and compensation for these conditions. Since 2017, the VA has added to the presumptive list. The Navy Blue Water Act that went into effect in 2019 has caused the VA to add more to the list. Several highly placed individuals in government are voicing concerns about whether some of the diseases on the list should, in fact, actually have been included.
Washington Examiner: VA physicians collected liver tissue from ‘seriously ill’ patients without consent
By Kaelan Deese
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System collected liver tissue from “seriously ill” veterans without their prior informed consent, according to a federal investigation. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel alerted President Biden and Congress on Tuesday of a report based on allegations from whistleblowers that the VA’s collection of liver sample biopsies violated protocol and “put patients at increased risk of bleeding and pain.”
Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Veterans help their own with food pantry
By Stephan Simpson
A small warehouse hidden away on MacArthur Drive in North Little Rock has been turned into a food pantry for veterans in need of more than just a box of food items. The Veterans Village Helping Hand Program Food Pantry, at 8325 MacArthur Drive, opened Wednesday morning with little fanfare, but for veterans it is a much needed resource. The pantry serves all veterans and their families who reside within Central Arkansas, including active duty, National Guard and reserve service members. The organization also delivers to home-bound veterans and will do emergency food calls as well.
The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) today announced its endorsement of Bosma Enterprises’ Good Works® Ice Melter. BVA is the nation’s only congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organization (VSO) created for visually impaired veterans. The organization was established to help veterans and their families meet and overcome the challenges of blindness.
Wednesday, February 10
IAVA NEWS COVERAGE
By Patricia Kime
Former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough became the 11th secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs during a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony Tuesday at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C. “The new secretary arrives at a time when the VA is challenged to meet the critical needs of veterans during a deadly and continuing pandemic. We encourage him to act as a true partner in helping veterans obtain the quality and timely services they need, and to work transparently and with accountability with the [veteran and military service organization] community toward that goal,” Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Executive Vice President Tom Porter said.
Stars and Stripes: McDonough is sworn in as VA secretary; calls it the ‘honor of my lifetime’
By Nikki Wentling
Denis McDonough was sworn in as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs on Tuesday in a ceremony conducted by Vice President Kamala Harris. McDonough, former President Barack Obama’s onetime chief of staff, became the 11th VA secretary. In his first statement as secretary, McDonough, 51, said it was the “honor of my lifetime to join the VA workforce in serving veterans.” AMVETS suggested McDonough focus on providing mental health care, serving veteran in rural areas and making VA campuses more welcoming to female veterans. In addition to those issues, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America asked that McDonough defend veterans’ education benefits and help veterans suffering from toxic exposures, including burn pits.
VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE
By Kristina Wong
Five veterans have died in the last five months. Their deaths were not from exposure to the coronavirus that’s transfixed national attention over the past year. They were from suspected exposure to toxins during their military service.
By Blake Stilwell
For any veteran who’s had enough with what politicians are (or aren’t) doing and decided you can do it better, Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, or IVMF, is the place to get started — even if you’re not sure what office is right for you.
By Stavros Atlamazoglou
As the US’s involvement in Vietnam steadily grew with more conventional troops, so did its secret war. To counter the Viet Cong’s guerrilla campaign, supported by the North Vietnamese army (NVA), raging inside South Vietnam, the Pentagon established a highly secretive special operations organization in 1964. The Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) was tasked with taking the fight to the enemy regardless of where they were. Cross-border operations in Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam—where US troops weren’t supposed to be—became SOG’s specialty.
Tuesday, February 9
VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE
The New York Times: In the Battle for the Capitol, Veterans Fought on Opposite Sides
By Jennifer Steinhauer
As Samuel Hahn of the Metropolitan Police Department struggled to hold back rioters storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, a group of veterans among the protesters repeatedly yelled the same refrain at him: “Remember your oath. You’re breaking your oath.” Officer Hahn, a Marine before joining the city’s police, listened in astonishment. That veterans at the Capitol that bloody day chose sides based on their personal definitions of patriotism, duty and the enemy was just one more example of a polarized nation.
By Clare Foran and Ted Barrett
The Senate on Monday confirmed Denis McDonough as President Joe Biden’s secretary of Veterans Affairs, a vote that took place just before the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump gets into full swing. As a result, the McDonough confirmation could be the last confirmation vote for a Biden Cabinet official until after the impeachment trial ends unless there is an agreement by senators, although several Republicans have said they would not consent to voting on more nominees until after the trial.
Marietta Daily Journal: Local company raises $1.2 million for veterans organization
By Katy Ruth Camp
In 2016, Cobb County-based construction firm Brasfield & Gorrie made a five-year commitment to raise money via its employees and subcontractors for another local veterans organization, Shepherd’s Men. During the five-year campaign, employees and subcontractors visited the Shepherd Center to see the work that Shepherd’s Men supports first-hand through the SHARE Military Initiative. The campaign resulted in a $1.2 million donation to Shepherd’s Men, with more than $374,000 of that raised in 2020 alone. SHARE Military Initiative is a comprehensive rehabilitative program that focuses on assessment and treatment for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who suffer from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress.
By Priscilla Alvarez
The Biden administration will review the deportations of veterans and their family members, according to a White House official. The move is in line with a Department of Homeland Security memo released shortly after President Joe Biden took office outlining new agency enforcement priorities and kicking off agency reviews. According to the memo, national security, border security and public safety threats would be prioritized for enforcement — a move reminiscent of the Obama-era’s “felons, not families” deportation policy.
The VA is trying to figure out how to fairly distribute the very limited amount of coronavirus vaccines it has been given for veterans. That is only about 1.5 million doses so far for the roughly 9 million veterans they serve. The VA is making a special effort to reach veterans in rural areas, but the nationwide vaccine shortage means lots of vets are frustrated and feeling left behind.
Yahoo! Finance: New Report Highlights Needs of Massachusetts Veterans
Brighton Marine, a non-profit assisting Veterans with services and housing in Massachusetts, has released a commissioned report by The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) looking at the needs of Massachusetts veterans. CNAS conducted research on demographic trends of the veterans in Massachusetts and interviewed veterans throughout the state. The interviews focused on health, housing, financial security, and social support.
Monday, February 8
VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE
By Abbie Bennett
Thousands of veterans rely on nursing home care provided or paid for by the Department of Veterans Affairs, but a recent watchdog report found that most of those facilities failed to take infection control precautions in the years before the pandemic.
By Ben Muir
Sgt. Ryan G. Mason, a decorated Army veteran who grew up in Carthage and was deployed to Iraq months after 9-11, who was known as a loyal patriot, inspiring brother and romantic husband, died last week after battling cancer that apparently originated overseas.
By Sophia Ankel
Activists and survivors of sexual assault in the military welcome President Joe Biden’s new appointment of Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and hope his stance on the issue will finally bring some long-awaited change.
By Sig Christenson
The National Guard’s deployment of thousands of troops to protect the inauguration of a new president was prompted by the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by right-wing radicals. But its removal of 12 of its own soldiers from that duty underscored a rising concern: how far has radicalization permeated the armed forces?
By Jamie McIntyre
The Pentagon says Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s Friday memo ordering a one-day stand-down for military leaders and civilian supervisors to discuss the problem of extremism in the ranks with their personnel is not aimed at any one group. The stand-down, to be conducted sometime in the next 60 days, is meant to reinforce department policies by reminding troops of the importance of their oath of office along with a description of impermissible behaviors and procedures for reporting suspected, or actual, extremist behaviors.
New York Post: US soldier charged after wife found dead in barracks
By Jackie Salo
A US Army soldier has been arrested for allegedly killing his estranged wife in Hawaii — weeks after her body was found in the barracks.
*Also published in Fox News
Military.com: Fort Hood Restricts Base Access After Shooting Incident
By Matthew Cox
Army officials at Fort Hood, Texas tightened the base’s gate security to restrict access after an on-base shooting early Saturday morning. No one was injured in the shooting, but Fort Hood has suspended its Trusted Traveler Program that allowed military personnel with valid military identification to “escort or vouch for adult passengers … in their vehicle,” according to a Fort Hood news release.
By Laura Geller and Jonathan Franklin
For the first time, WUSA9 is hearing from the Pentagon that there were in fact active duty and veteran members of the military who participated in the riots at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Just this week, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said “some of the extremists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6 were active duty service members and others were military veterans.”
By Blake Stilwell
For many veterans, even those with GI Bill benefits, the price of going to a traditional four-year university can come with extreme sticker shock.
The Washington Post: Pentagon focuses on challenges at home in early weeks of Biden administration
By Dan Lamothe
The Pentagon is shifting more attention to issues at home like extremism and the coronavirus pandemic, as it also considers how to adjust its vast network of operations abroad. The changes in the early weeks of the Biden administration include requirements for U.S. troops to wear masks at nearly all times on military installations, including outside, and the deployment of at least 1,110 active-duty troops to focus on speeding up the nationwide effort to provide coronavirus vaccinations.
By David Choi
A commentator on a right-wing media network claimed that “there is no evidence of extremism” in the US military and that steps to address that concern was an example of a “cancel culture” against conservatives.
Friday, February 5
IAVA NEWS COVERAGE
By Abbie Bennett
Major national veteran service organizations are joining forces to help distribute coronavirus vaccines across the country. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Team Rubicon, Student Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, The Mission Continues and Team Red, White & Blue formed the “Veterans Coalition for Vaccination,” the groups announced Thursday, with the goal of “ensuring each American who wants the vaccine has equitable access to it.” “Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is honored to team up with Team Rubicon and our other coalition partners in this important vaccination distribution effort,” IAVA CEO, Jeremy Butler said in a statement Thursday. “In continuing our pandemic response and the fight against COVID-19, IAVA looks forward to providing volunteer opportunities for our members, raising awareness and ultimately ensuring all Americans have access to vaccines.”
Six leading veterans organizations— Team Rubicon, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Student Veterans of America (SVA), Team Red, White & Blue, The Mission Continues, and Wounded Warrior Project —today announced the creation of the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination (VCV), a coalition aiding local and state officials in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine nationwide. The participating veteran organizations are working toward the common goal of ensuring each American who wants the vaccine has equitable access to it.
VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE
A new documentary is highlighting the effects of war and PTSD on our nation’s veterans and what new resources are available to help them. “Wounded Heroes” Director Michael Gier says the stories of surviving suicidal veterans and their struggle for treatment are what inspired him.
By Dennis Laich and Erik Edstrom
What is the best way for Americans to honor and respect veterans’ sacrifices? Responses to this question tend to be as diverse as America, itself. There’s no single “right answer,” but there are plenty of wrong ones. One thing has become abundantly clear: America’s “thank you for your service” culture doesn’t help veterans — or society.
From the stress of deployments to frequent moves, military couples face a number of unique challenges. But in working through those distinctive experiences come universal lessons in love. This February, Cohen Veterans Network (CVN), a national not-for-profit network of mental health clinics for post-9/11 veterans and military families, is looking to military couples for relationship advice that any couple can employ to strengthen their marriage or partnership.
By Elizabeth Howe
Lecia Brooks, chief of staff of the Southern Poverty Law Center, can identify ties between the military and acts of extremism that date back decades. In the early 1980s, SPLC was aware that military personnel were recruiting and being recruited by extremist groups. Those groups were also sending members to the military to obtain specialized training. SPLC tried to communicate these patterns to the Department of Defense as early as 1986.
By Jeremy C. Fox
The Massachusetts congressional delegation on Thursday sent a letter to the US Department of Veterans Affairs expressing concern about reports of veterans being sent to medical appointments at facilities far from their homes and across New England state lines.
In their letter to Secretary-Designate of Veteran Affairs Denis McDonough, the state’s two US senators and nine representatives wrote that a “veteran from outside Boston reported being sent to Western Massachusetts for his appointment, a 206-mile and 4-hour round trip.”
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.