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IAVA | February 18, 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, February 12

IAVA NEWS COVERAGE

CNN: America’s military needs to confront the enemy within [OPINION]

By Amy McGrath and Paul Rieckoff

The military is still the most respected institution in America, but this respect is not a given. The politicizing of the military under the Trump administration and the growth of right-wing extremism among veterans are serious threats to that national admiration.

*Also published in Newsbreak and CNN Business

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

The New York Times: My Veteran Problem

By Elliot Ackerman

The directors Anthony and Joe Russo will this month release their film “Cherry,” their first collaboration since their 2019 box office hit “Avengers: Endgame.” On learning of this I reacted defensively, with something between annoyance, frustration and mild panic. And it had a lot to do with my being a veteran. “Cherry” is an adaptation of an autobiographical novel of the same name by Nico Walker, an Iraq war veteran turned heroin addict turned bank robber who spent seven years in prison. The timing, I thought, was terrible. The splashy release of a movie about a veteran-addict-robber, following so closely on the heels of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol that involved so many veterans, was going to further damage the already fraught relations between civilians and the military in America, particularly when amplified by the media.

GoErie.com: Guest Opinion: Climate change and clean energy – a veteran’s perspective

By Jay Breneman

I know I am not alone in feeling exasperated by the prevalence of shortsighted policy that blithely ignores the deterioration of our environment, particularly the unequal impact on marginalized communities here in the Erie area where I live. This is manifested in how Pennsylvania approaches emissions of CO2, a potent and long-lived greenhouse gas. The U.S. Department of Defense has officially called climate change a “threat multiplier.” It is our soldiers who are on the front lines on our behalf — fulfilling a solemn oath they hold sacred. I know the weight of that burden from both sides of the coin: when I served our nation in uniform in the U.S. Army, and now as a veteran living and working in Erie. As Americans, we must support our service members via common-sense, forward-thinking policy.

Military Times: Coronavirus relief plan includes billions in new funds for veterans programs

By Leo Shane III

Democrats latest coronavirus relief plan totaling nearly $2 trillion will include about $17 billion in extra money for veterans programs in an effort to mitigate health and employment challenges related to the pandemic, under a plan unveiled by House leaders on Thursday. But Republican lawmakers objected to the proposal, saying that White House and Veterans Affairs leaders have not shown why the billions in extra funds are needed and whether they will actually help veterans.

Military.com: Experiencing Sexual Assault Doubles Odds That Troops Will Leave Military, Report Finds

By Matthew Cox

U.S. military personnel who have experienced sexual assault are twice as likely to leave the military within 28 months of an attack, according to a new Rand Corp. report.

VAntage Point: Veterans use beekeeping to improve well being

Valerie Carter, a recreational therapist at the Manchester VA Medical Center, started a beekeeping program two years ago. She knew a Veteran’s wife who was a beekeeper and said that her initial motivation was to find a therapeutic outlet for Veterans.

Stars and Stripes: House VA committee advances $15 billion portion of Biden’s American Rescue Plans

By Nikki Wentling

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs advanced a proposal Thursday that would allot more than $15 billion to the Department of Veterans Affairs under President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan.

Tuesday, February 16 

IAVA NEWS COVERAGE

Argus Observer: Ron Verini: When your head is in two places…

By Rob Verini

Our government also, at times, takes advantage of our military and the veterans that return home. That is the reason that many organizations like the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, VFW, Legion and Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida exist today. These organizations and others are there, not only as a place to congregate and enjoy each other’s company but they are there to advocate for our veterans and their families when our federal government or any of its departments fall down on the job of caring for our troops.

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

The Washington Post: Air Force veteran works to help others who served

By Hannah Himes 

After serving in the Air Force for more than two decades, a Frederick County veteran is now harnessing his energy and focus into helping fellow veterans — Black veterans, especially — transition back into civilian life. Xavier Bruce and his wife, Alisa, founded the nonprofit Uplift In-Powerment in 2019 to support veterans, active duty service members and their families as they transition away from military service.

CNN: British veterans, discharged for being gay under historic law, allowed to get their medals back

By Rob Picheta 

Gay and bisexual British veterans who were stripped of their medals because of their sexuality will now be able to reclaim them, the UK government has said, as it admitted the pre-2000 policy was an “historical wrong.” Only heterosexual people were allowed to serve in the British Armed Forces until the turn of the century, and troops whose sexuality was discovered often saw their honors removed before they were discharged. They can now apply to have them reinstated.

BBC News: Sacked LGBT veterans can reclaim removed medals

Ex-military personnel dismissed from the armed forces because of their sexuality can now reclaim lost medals. Under a new scheme to remedy historical injustices, former service personnel can apply to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to restore honours. It follows Falklands veteran Joe Ousalice’s successful battle to return awards he lost after being forced out of the Royal Navy for being bisexual. The MoD said its past actions were “deeply regrettable.” A ban on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people serving in the armed forces was lifted in 2000.

Boothbay Register: American Legion

By David Patch 

The National American Legion priorities in 2021 are: (1) protecting the US flag from physical desecration, (2) establishing a Global War on Terrorism Memorial in DC, (3) addressing toxic exposure such as agent orange and burn pits, (4) women’s health issues, (5) telehealth, especially in rural areas, (6) addressing “forever foreign wars” by balancing diplomacy with military force, (7) citizenship for military with honorable service, (8) pay the Coast Guard when the Government shuts down, and (9) fund the VA and provide grants to service organization to support peer to peer mentoring.

Politico: NATO defense chiefs to discuss staying in Afghanistan a bit longer

By David M. Herszenhorn

NATO defense ministers on Thursday will consider setting aside a May 1 deadline for international troops to leave Afghanistan, the alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. The withdrawal date was set last year in a peace deal between the Taliban and the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump. Critics warned that such a speedy pullout could further fuel violence in the conflict-ravaged country.

Stars and Stripes: NATO chief wants to change who pays for key missions

By John Vandiver

Militaries shouldn’t have to foot the whole bill when they deploy troops for NATO missions, the alliance’s top official said Monday ahead of high-level talks that will include a debate about overhauling how operations are paid for. “It will be fair if the country that deploys troops doesn’t cover all the costs,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said during a virtual news conference from his Brussels headquarters, ahead of talks Wednesday where U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other allied defense leaders will discuss issues ranging from defense spending to security matters.

NBC4i.com: Veteran shares story of dealing with PTSD, suicide attempt while serving

By Hattie Hawks

Veterans put their lives on the line for our country, but the hidden toll for our service members and veterans is often post-traumatic stress disorder. And many of them suffer in silence.“This is going to be the first time I’m talking about this in a very public forum,” said Army Captain Danny Eakins. Eakins enlisted in the U.S. Army after 9/11. While training to become an officer, he was injured both physically and mentally. 

WTSP: How COVID-19 is affecting veterans’ mental health

By Thuy Lan Nguyen

According to briefings from the U.S. Defense Department, military suicides have increased by 20 percent over the past year. Leaders from the Army and Air Force have said the pandemic is likely a contributing factor. It’s added stress for active-duty military and veterans. Garrett Cathcart, now executive director of a veteran’s advocacy group called Mission Roll Call, shared what he’s heard from veterans he knows. 

NBC 7 San Diego: New Documentary Highlights Treatments for Veterans Living With PTS

By Bridget Naso

A new documentary called “Wounded Heroes” is shedding light on some innovative ways to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. “The main purpose of this film for me was to give veterans and our military — really anybody battling post-traumatic stress — hope,” producer/director Michael Gier told NBC 7. Gier said he was troubled by the number of veterans who commit suicide, which Veterans Affairs officials estimate is as high as 20 people a day, and veterans who rely on medication.

VAntage Point: Listening to Veterans’ experiences improves VBA appeals processes

Veterans filing disability claims have said they want choices and faster decisions. Due to improvements in the system and processes, Veterans are now getting more options. VA’s Benefits Administration’s (VBA) goal is to deliver VA benefits and services to Veterans and their families in a responsive, timely and compassionate manner, in recognition of their service to the Nation. 

Newsbreak: VA Touts Success Of Vaccine Clinic

VA officials are touting the success of this weekend’s vaccine clinic. The walk-in vaccine clinic started Saturday at 7 a.m.—which was an hour earlier than expected. By the time 11:30 rolled around, the VA had distributed all 700 doses of the Moderna vaccine. The Butler VA says they continue to schedule vaccine appointments for eligible and enrolled Veterans 65 and older. The VA receives shipments of the vaccine on a weekly basis.

Wednesday, February 18

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Military.com: Dependents of Some Disabled Veterans Can Now Fly Space-A

By Jim Absher

A recent regulations change allows dependent family members of permanently and totally diabled veterans to fly on space-available, or Space-A, flights. On Oct. 23, 2020, a change to DoDI 4515.13 updated the eligibility requirements for Space-A travel, adding dependents of permanently and totally disabled veterans.

DailyLobo.com: Black veterans affairs nominee endures racist questioning in confirmation hearing

By Madeline Pukite

On Feb. 12, Senate Minority Leader Gregory A. Baca, R-Belen, posed racially targeted questions towards Sonya L. Smith, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s nominee for the head of Department of Veterans Services, during her confirmation hearing in the Senate Rules Committee. Baca, a member of the Senate Rules Committee, asked if Smith, in her seven years in New Mexico, had immersed herself enough in the culture of a state that is “2.6% African American and 48% Hispanic” to be able to adequately represent the interests of its veterans.

Connecting Vets: Veterans, spouses report more challenges than retirees, survey finds

By Julia LeDoux

A new survey highlights the difficulties post-9/11 veterans and their families are facing when compared to retirees and their families. The Military Family Advisory Network and Wounded Warrior Project teamed up on the survey report, which was released Tuesday. Shelley Kimball, senior director of research and program evaluation for MFAN said a common theme surfaced: Veterans and their spouses reported more negative experiences than retiree respondents regardless of the topic, but specifically among social determinants of health like economic stability, loneliness, community, food security, and healthcare.

Fox Business: Home Depot co-founders create mental health network for veterans

By Ken Martin

The founders of Home Depot are each making a huge investment to help veterans and first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank have each committed $20 million to create 20 mental health centers across the country.

The New York Times: British L.G.B.T. Veterans Stripped of Medals Can Get Them Back

By Megan Specia

For decades, L.G.B.T. members of Britain’s military were systematically dismissed from the ranks and stripped of their medals. Now, after years of campaigning by those targeted by the policy, the government has outlined a pathway for them to get their medals back.

Military.com: Military Prepares to Deploy Thousands of Active-Duty Troops to Help FEMA Deliver Vaccines

By Patricia Kime

The Pentagon is preparing to deploy thousands of active-duty U.S. military personnel to support COVID-19 vaccination sites across the country, according to Air Force Gen. Glen Vanherck, head of U.S. Northern Command. As many as 3,700 troops are on stand-by deployment orders to support Federal Emergency Management Agency mass inoculation centers, Vanherck said during a phone call with reporters Tuesday.

USA TODAY: Fact check: No evidence that Kamala Harris told veterans to ‘get a job’

By Devon Link

Social media users are sharing a controversial criticism of veterans that has been falsely attributed to Vice President Kamala Harris. The quote argues that the Biden administration will defund the Department of Veterans Affairs in favor of supporting refugee families and asylum seekers. “So here’s a message to the soldier boys. Get a job,” the post ends. A Facebook user posted the quote and false attribution on Feb. 11, and it’s made its way across platforms to Twitter in recent days.

Thursday, February 18

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

The American Legion: Wyoming Legion post addressing veteran suicides at local level

After serving in the U.S. Army from 1990 to 1999, Wyoming Legionnaire Russell Stafford admits he underwent some issues after transitioning into the civilian world. Reaching veterans before they get to a moment of crisis is the reason why Stafford and some of his fellow Post 26 members have started Battling 22. Battling 22 brings together local veterans in a roundtable setting that allows anyone involved to share how they’re feeling or any issues they’re facing – all with those who may have shared common experience either during their military or post-military life.

Politico: US defense chief charms allies during NATO debut

By David M Herszenhorn

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin attended his first meeting of allied defense ministers on Wednesday. Austin, a retired four-star U.S. Army general, weighed in during each of the two virtual gatherings of the North Atlantic Council and, according to diplomats and officials, played all the right mood music by expressing a willingness to consult and full-throated commitment to NATO’s principle of collective defense.

The Washington Post: A third of service members have refused coronavirus vaccines, defense officials say

By Alex Horton

About 33 percent of service members have declined voluntary coronavirus vaccinations, defense officials said Wednesday, acknowledging that more inoculations would better prepare the military for worldwide missions. Nearly 150,000 service members are fully vaccinated, a panel of defense officials told lawmakers in a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Pentagon’s coronavirus response. About two-thirds of troops who were offered the vaccine accepted it. There are about 1.3 million active-duty troops.

Military Times: Seeking the Military Suicide Solution Podcast, Episode 45: Danica Thomas – Suicide Loss Survivor and Advocate

This podcast from Military Times examines the alarming rate of military and veterans suicide, offering new insights based on research and effective clinical and peer support practices in suicide prevention.The podcast aims to move beyond awareness to identify actionable strategies that can impact the rising suicide rate among service members, veterans, and their families.

Stars and Stripes: More than 10,000 VA patients, 128 employees have now died of coronavirus

By Nikki Wentling

The coronavirus has killed 10,000 Department of Veterans Affairs patients – a grim milestone just 11 months after the first veteran’s death was reported.  The department reached a high point in mid-January, with more than 1,100 VA patients dying during a two-week period. In contrast, about 650 patients died during the first two weeks of February.

Fox 17: Veterans Affairs vaccinates 1 million veterans against COVID-19 with first doses

By Bianca Cseke

The Department of Veterans Affairs vaccinated its one-millionth veteran with their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, and the VA clinic in Battle Creek has contributed thousands of vaccinations to that effort. Battle Creek VAMC has administered more than 4,506 first doses of the Moderna vaccine to local veterans and 758 second doses, according to a news release.

Military.com: Gary Sinise Foundation Aims to Help Veterans with ‘Invisible Wounds’

By James Barber

Gary Sinise created a strong bond with veterans after he starred as Lt. Dan Taylor in “Forrest Gump.” He’s entertained troops all over the world with the Lt. Dan Band and done incredible work with the Gary Sinise Foundation. The foundation has just announced that it’s expanding its mission with the launch of a cognitive health and mental wellness network devoted to providing transformative care to veterans and first responders who are experiencing post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries and substance abuse.

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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