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IAVA | March 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, March 11

IAVA NEWS COVERAGE

Connecting Vets: VA still denies most burn pit claims. Could a president’s loss spark change?

By Abbie Bennett

Millions of veterans have been exposed to toxic hazards just since 2001, along with generations of troops who came before. But after nearly two decades of war, the Department of Veterans Affairs still denies the majority of claims for burn pits, one of the most common exposures troops experience. Surveys from veteran service organizations including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Wounded Warrior Project show a majority of respondents report toxic exposures of some kind, and most said they were not receiving care for those exposures at VA.

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Salon: Fox News host Tucker Carlson calls pregnant women in US armed services a “mockery of our military”

By Sarah K Burris

Fox News host Tucker Carlson took a moment to trash women in the military who get pregnant. Carlson began his show Tuesday mistakenly assuming that Piers Morgan was fired after he walked off the set of “Good Morning Britain.” Morgan, in fact, quit his job, and later tweeted that his mentor would have done the same.

Military Times: Addressing gun suicide should be a top priority for the new VA secretary

By Chris Marvin

As Denis McDonough takes over as President Biden’s secretary of Veterans Affairs, he will have his work cut out for him preventing this deadly crisis. Luckily, he can begin by doing one thing that Secretary Robert Wilkie –– President Trump’s appointee –– essentially refused to do during his tenure: discuss the role that guns play in veteran suicides.

The Ripon Advance: Tillis sponsors bill to lower veteran suicide rates through service dog therapy

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) last week sponsored bipartisan legislation that aims to reduce suicides among U.S. military veterans by partnering those who are experiencing symptoms of PTSD and other post-deployment issues with service dogs through a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pilot program.

Stars and Stripes: Austin chooses Indo-Pacific region for first overseas trip as defense secretary

By Wyatt Olson

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin begins his first overseas trip Saturday with visits to key allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific, with meetings planned with counterparts in Japan, South Korea and India, the Pentagon said Wednesday. The choice of Asia for Austin’s inaugural trip underscores the growing importance of the region in both the Pentagon’s strategic planning and America’s economic interdependence with the Pacific.

New York Post: Lawmakers eye cutting restrictions, expanding infertility help for veterans

Even after a number of scientific and policy breakthroughs in recent years, available infertility services for veterans remain confusing and burdensome even for individuals whose combat injuries prevent other options for starting a family, advocates warned on Tuesday.

Wink News: House approves bill giving all veterans access to the COVID-19 vaccine

By Zach Oliveri

More vaccines could be on the way to those who served our country. The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill by Congressman Vern Buchanan to give all veterans access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Many veterans in Southwest Florida were asking questions about when they’ll receive the vaccine. And, hopefully, those efforts will come to fruition soon.

Wednesday, March 10

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Military.com: House Passes Bill Allowing All Veterans, Caregivers to Get Vaccinated at VA

By Steve Beynon

As the U.S. continues its race to vaccinate as many people as possible, the House has passed a bill that would grant the Department of Veterans Affairs the authority to vaccinate all veterans and their caregivers. It is unclear how quickly the department could distribute the vaccine, but the measure would dramatically expand the scope of who the VA can vaccinate to include all caregivers of veterans enrolled in various VA programs, and veterans living abroad who rely on the Foreign Medical Program. There are about 9 million veterans enrolled in VA care, but there are 18 million total U.S. veterans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Military.com: Wounded Troops Should Get More Fertility Benefits Through the VA, Lawmakers Say

By Patricia Kime

Veterans with service-connected injuries that have left them infertile can access a range of options to help start a family under a law passed in 2016. But between 2016 and 2019, just 567 veterans used the benefit, mainly because the rules are so restrictive that few qualify. During a House hearing Tuesday, members of an appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs called for changes to the law that governs this benefit, saying the legislation is outdated and “baffling.”

The Hill: Pentagon extends National Guard presence at Capitol through May 23

By Rebecca Kheel

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has approved keeping nearly 2,300 National Guardsmen at the U.S. Capitol through May 23, the Pentagon said Tuesday evening. The move extends the Guard’s deployment more than two months past when it was supposed to end this week. The number of approved troops is about half of the 5,100 currently stationed at the Capitol.

The New York Times: The Officers Danced at a Black Lives Matter Rally. Then They Stormed the Capitol.

By Sabrina Tavernise

From the best of America to the worst of America. That was Franklin County over the past year. But what happens now? Mr. Fracker, 29, and Mr. Robertson, 48, both veterans, one who served in Afghanistan, the other in Iraq, say they did not participate in any of the violence that happened at the Capitol that day, when scores of people were hurt and five lost their lives. The charges they face — disorderly conduct and disrupting the proceedings of Congress — are nonviolent, and less serious than those facing people accused of assaulting police officers. They went to Washington to express their views, and they say they went to war so Ms. Craighead would be able to express hers too.

*Also published in Yahoo

Connecting Vets: Military Women’s Memorial wants to hear from women veterans

By Julia LeDoux

Women who have served in the U.S. armed forces have stories to tell — and the Military Women’s Memorial wants to help share them. The MWM recently launched a partnership with PenFed Credit Union to encourage military women and their families to preserve their experiences and submit their stories to the Military Women’s Memorial national registry.

Daily Mail: Jill Biden calls caring for military families a ‘national security imperative’ during West Coast trip to relaunch Joining Forces

By Emily Goodin

Jill Biden called caring for military families a ‘national security imperative’ during a stop on her two-day West Coast tour ahead of her relaunch of Joining Forces. ‘We certainly never imagined how a global pandemic might affect circumstances, ranging from access to childcare to having a safe place to live, to keeping food on your table, to building a career. The men and the women of our armed forces can’t be at their best when they are worried that their families are struggling,’ the first lady said during a stop at Naval Air station Whidbey Island in Washington state.

The Washington Post: Opinion: How the Pentagon is campaigning against white extremism in its ranks

By David Ignatius

The Pentagon is experiencing continuing aftershocks from the Jan. 6 insurrection — the frightening recognition that many of the people who assaulted the Capitol that day saw themselves as part of the military family.

Military leaders have long known they had a problem with white extremism in the ranks. Many senior commanders describe incidents early in their careers when they had to discipline troops who had racist tattoos or links to extremist groups. But they didn’t fully realize how dangerous the spread of this extremist ideology could become for the country — until the wake-up call on Jan. 6.

Tuesday, March 9

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

News.com.au: ‘This cannot continue to happen’: Another ADF veteran suicide

By Rohan Smith

The cries for help from Australian veterans and their families continue to fall on deaf ears as another young man’s life is cut short. Clearance diver and Australian Navy veteran Max Gunn tragically took his own life last week — the latest in a growing list of veteran suicides in the past four months that has advocates and grieving families demanding a royal commission.

WLOX: Hattiesburg woman founds nonprofit helping veterans

By Melissa Rademaker

Amber Travis is the founder of Grace’s Home of Heroes, a nonprofit working to serve veterans and their families. One of her inspirations was her grandfather who is a veteran. She also says she was inspired by the strong women in her life.

Stars and Stripes: Senators push VA to vaccinate all veterans, spouses, caregivers

By Nikki Wentling

An effort is underway in Congress to mandate the Department of Veterans Affairs to vaccinate all U.S. veterans against the coronavirus, as well as their spouses and caregivers. Four senators on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee plan to introduce legislation Tuesday that would expand the population that the VA can vaccinate. The department is currently vaccinating employees and veterans enrolled into VA health care, as well as some veteran caregivers.

VAntage Point: Secretary McDonough on International Women’s Day

Today, March 8th, is the 110th anniversary of International Women’s Day. At VA, that means we will provide a safe, inclusive, equitable environment for all employees and all the Veterans we serve. We must make good on Lincoln’s promise and our mission of caring for those “who shall have borne the battle.” That mission must be grounded in inclusion and diversity.

Maui Now: More Assistance Available to Veterans in New Federal American Rescue Plan

The federal American Rescue Plan, which passed the US Senate March 6 and is expected to easily pass the US House of Representatives and be signed into law by the president in the coming days, includes additional assistance for veterans, according to a news release from Sen. Brian Schatz. 

Washington Blade: Bill would create commission on LGBTQ service members, veterans

By Lou Chibbaro Jr.

Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Anthony Brown (D-Md.) on March 4 introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that calls for creating a federal commission to investigate “the historic and ongoing impacts of discriminatory military policies and practices on LGBTQ servicemembers and veterans.” The bill authorizes the commission to conduct a fact-finding investigation into the past and current treatment of LGBTQ servicemembers and veterans, according to a statement released by Brown.

Monday, March 8 

IAVA NEWS COVERAGE

Military.com: Vet Groups Make Final Effort to Kill GI Bill Loophole Through COVID Relief Package

By Steve Beynon

Most major veterans service organizations are urging Congress to support a provision in the COVID-relief package to terminate a GI Bill loophole they say encourages for-profit schools to scam and recruit veterans with predatory tactics. On Friday, 31 veterans advocate groups and military organizations penned a letter to the Senators stressing the need to close the so-called 90/10 loophole. Currently, for-profit schools must collect at least 10% of their revenue from non-federal sources. The letter was signed by most major veteran and military groups such as AMVETS, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and the Military Officers Association of America.

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Business Insider: If Biden wants to actually respect and protect American troops, he must put a stop to stupid, endless wars [Opinion]

By Lawrence Wilkerson

The commander-in-chief certainly talks the talk. What’s less clear is whether anyone in Washington will walk the walk, or give those fetishized troops — and what it really means to “support” them — much thought at all. Because if we truly want to  honor and protect America’s soldiers and veterans, that means we must end absurdly hopeless wars and retool our entire civil-military culture.

NBC News: For veterans with PTSD, pandemic ‘feels a lot like wartime’

By Kit Ramgopal, Kenzi Abou-Sabe, and Cynthia McFadden

The pandemic has put unprecedented strain on the mental health of people from all walks of life. But the crisis has been particularly agonizing for some military veterans already suffering from PTSD. 

Yahoo: Capitol review panel recommends boosting security with more police, mobile fencing

By Kadia Goba

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan. 6.

Military.com: Service Dogs Better Than Emotional Support Dogs at Reducing PTSD Symptoms, Study Finds

By Patricia Kime

Service dogs trained to support veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder can decrease the severity of their symptoms better than companion dogs classified as emotional support animals, according to the results of a long-awaited study by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Hill: Biden nominates female generals whose promotions were reportedly delayed under Trump

By Justine Coleman

President Biden nominated two female generals for promotions on Saturday, months after former President Trump’s Pentagon officials reportedly delayed recommending they be promoted out of a concern the former president would reject them because they are women. The Pentagon issued two announcements declaring that Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost and Army Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson will take on new assignments to four-star commands if approved by the Senate as expected.

Friday, March 5

IAVA NEWS COVERAGE

Marijuana Moment: Veterans Groups Want Marijuana And Psychedelics Access Through VA, They Tell Congress

By Kyle Jaeger

Leaders of military veterans organizations sent a clear message to congressional lawmakers this week: federal marijuana and psychedelics laws are outdated and should be reformed to give service members alternative treatment options for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), meanwhile, said in its written testimony that “medical cannabis has been growing in support among the veteran population for quite some time” and “can bring relief to millions, save taxpayers billions and create thousands of jobs for veterans nationwide.”

The Clermont Sun: John Plahovinsak: Veteran participation needed for the burn pit registry [Opinion]

In 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) established the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry (AHOBPR). According to estimates from the VA, over 3 million veterans are eligible to register in the AHOBPR. Veterans are encouraged to participate in the registry. One of the main reasons that veterans don’t participate in the registry, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, (IAVA), is that it is voluntary and not well- known.

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

VA.gov: VA fights back against predatory claims-assistance practices

During National Consumer Protection Week, Feb. 28-March 6, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) is raising public awareness about a tool to protect Veterans and claimants from companies who may be targeting them or their potential benefits. 

USA TODAY: A new VA wait-time scandal is brewing and we have no way to know how big it is [Opinion]

By Darin Selnick

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the cancellation, delay or rescheduling of almost 20 million medical appointments for veterans. 

Part of that is a result of many Veterans Affairs medical facilities being fully or partially shut down because of the pandemic. But that’s only half the story.

For those who can’t get care at a VA facility, community care under the VA MISSION Act should be an alternative. It isn’t working out that way.

AP: Wounded Warrior Project Testifies Before Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees

Today, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) CEO Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Mike Linnington testified before The House and Senate committees on Veterans Affairs. WWP was invited to share its legislative priorities, focused on improving the long-term health and wellbeing of the wounded veterans it serves and to highlight the most pressing issues warriors face today.

MSN: How an admiral and a war vet-turned-novelist teamed up on a smart technothriller

Admiral James Stavridis had the kind of career for which the term “well-decorated” was coined. Thirty-plus years in the U.S. Navy, including seven as a four-star admiral. Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. Grad-school dean. Bestselling author and TED conference speaker on seamanship and geopolitics. Vetted potential running mate for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

*Also published in Los Angeles Times

CNN: Veterans Affairs chief McDonough outlines agency’s vaccination efforts

By Betsy Klein

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough on Thursday outlined the administration’s efforts to vaccinate the nation’s veterans and other work to care for veterans amid the pandemic. He said that the vaccination scheduling process for veterans is “actually working pretty well” amid concerns nationally about the difficulties in scheduling. There has been direct outreach from the VA to those who are qualified.

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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