IAVA | April 1, 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, April 1
By Melissa Rademaker
Sgt. Adam Cochran of the Jones County Sheriff’s Department ran 100 miles in 31 days during the month of March. He admits it was hard. He was running to raise awareness and funds for the nonprofit Stop Soldier Suicide. The 100 miles in March is a national challenge to help bring awareness to veteran and armed forces suicide rates. According to Stop Soldier Suicide, veterans are at a 50% higher risk of suicide than those who have not served.
By Michael Dwyer and Bruce Buckley
Soldier On is a Western Massachusetts organization that provides guidance and coordination for veterans and their families, helping them make informed decisions, and understand their options. Through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, it connects vets to VA benefits and a variety of community-based resources they are entitled to. The goal is to help veteran families get back on their feet. That often involves help identifying housing and access to services so families can experience safety, stability, and economic self-sufficiency.
By Clifford Colby
The Treasury Department said it now has a stimulus check deposit date for those who receive federal benefits. If you are a Veterans Affairs disability or pension beneficiary, you can start looking for your stimulus check payments by this weekend. That’s good news too if you receive federal benefits as part of the SSI and SSDI programs and have spent the last two and a half weeks waiting for news on the third stimulus check.
About six million enrolled Veterans use VA health care, and VA has successfully given at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to more than two million of those Veterans, with more getting vaccinated every day. But there’s still more to do: VA will vaccinate every Veteran and spouse and caregiver. In recognition of our success, Congress passed and the President signed the SAVE LIVES Act. This act gives the VA the job of delivering vaccines to all Veterans in America – whether they’re enrolled in VA health care or not – as well as their spouses and their caregivers.
By Leo Shane III
President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan includes more than $18 billion for upgrades to Veterans Affairs medical centers, work that veterans advocates have said is long overdue. The ambitious package — dubbed the American Jobs Plan — will be detailed by Biden in a speech Wednesday afternoon. White House officials said the goal of the spending is to “create millions of good jobs, rebuild our country’s infrastructure, and position the United States to out-compete China.” Along with major investments in projects to rebuild American highways, ports and airports, the proposal calls for “vastly improving our nation’s federal facilities, especially those that serve veterans.”
Wednesday, March 31
IAVA NEWS COVERAGE
USA Today: Female veterans served America, but the VA system doesn’t serve and protect them [Opinion]
By Kaitlynne Hetrick
Despite this groundbreaking legislative win and women veterans being the fastest-growing group within the veteran community, there are still glaring systemic issues that must be addressed to ensure equitable access to high-quality care for all women veterans. Without proper access to safety measures such as locks on the changing room doors, a choice to see only female physicians, and accessible OB-GYN, women veterans are being pushed out of the VA health care system and choosing to seek care through private insurance or not at all. The sad reality is, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America’s (IAVA) most recent survey, 14% of our female members still feel unsafe receiving care in VA facilities, and the specific measures of the DSA have yet to be fully implemented.
*Also published in Yahoo
VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE
The Washington Post: Too many people who helped the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq face a deadly problem [Opinion]
By Jim Jones
In recognition of those who assisted U.S. forces and were endangered as a result, Congress enacted a special immigrant visa (SIV) program for Iraqis in 2008 and another for Afghans in 2009. Specified numbers of slots for each nationality are set for immigration to the United States each year, separate from regular annual refugee limits. The program for both nationalities has shamefully languished in recent years. The average wait time for processing an application is now three years. That is a deadly problem for those whose lives are in danger every day. People who placed themselves and their families in jeopardy, relying on our protection, are dying in red tape.
VAntage Point: Improving Reproductive Health for Women with PTSD
PTSD affects many areas of a woman’s life, including relationships, work, sleep and even reproductive health. Dr. Nillni’s research aims to understand the ways that trauma and PTSD impact women in their childbearing years, and especially during and right after pregnancy. Her research helps women get better care for PTSD during pregnancy, which benefits their families too.
By Steve Beynon
A group of post-9/11 veterans in Congress is pushing President Joe Biden to back a measure to build the planned Global War on Terrorism Memorial on the National Mall. This week, the For Country Caucus, a bipartisan panel of 25 veterans in Congress, penned a letter asking Biden to support the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act publicly, the final step needed to greenlight construction of the memorial.
By Rebecca Ellis
For years, residents of Sandy Studios, a publicly-funded apartment complex in Northeast Portland for formerly homeless veterans, say their steady stream of complaints about the condition of the building went unheeded — until they became impossible to ignore.
All three of Minnesota’s proposed new State Veterans Homes projects, to be located in Bemidji, Montevideo, and Preston, will receive federal funding this year, Gov. Tim Walz announced on Tuesday, March 31, 2021.
Tuesday, March 30
VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE
By John Riley
Vietnam Veterans were honored Monday morning at the American Legion Post #2 in Helena and welcomed home. A reception many veterans from the era did not initially receive. Ten years ago the Montana State Legislature passed House Bill 255 which established “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.” The day is intended to honor the service of those veterans, their sacrifices and the sacrifices of their families.
Daily Journal: Manteno veteran talks mental health on TV show
By Jeff Bonty
Army veteran Eric Peterson and his story of helping other veterans battling mental health issues will get nationwide attention today.vPeterson, his wife, Ashley, and veteran Michael Totten taped a segment for the “Tamron Hall Show.” It is set to air today on the nationally syndicated show. It can be seen on CW26 WCIU at 10 a.m. and on The U at 8 p.m.
By Ellen Mitchell
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on Monday suggested that the Pentagon find a way to examine the social media habits of incoming and existing service members who show tendencies toward extremist views. “It’s not a new thing, but I will tell you that I have seen over the last, probably two decades, this growing radicalization of a portion within the military. And I think part of it too, comes with social media consumption,” Duckworth, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, said at The Hill’s “Future of Defense Summit.”
In communities across the country, there are organizations developing new and innovative ways to improve the well-being of Veterans and their families. Since 2018, the Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund has funded organizations doing vitally important work and research in areas like Veteran homelessness, mental health, the transition to civilian life, supporting women Veterans, and more. Today, the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence announced that 23 organizations have been awarded funds to either start or expand their activities in support of Veteran and family well-being.
By Steve Liewer
As veterans groups pay tribute today to those who served in the Vietnam War, a Nebraska group is pushing ahead with a permanent memorial to the 396 Nebraskans who died in the war. In 2017, Congress passed a law recognizing March 29 — the day in 1973 when the last combat troops left Vietnam — as a day to honor veterans of the long and controversial war. The day had been noted informally before that. In their quest for a lasting monument, an organization of Vietnam War veterans from across the state has revised and bolstered its plans to build a monument in Papillion.
RealClear Markets: California’s Net Neutrality Law Threatens Veterans’ Telehealth
By Randolph May and Seth Cooper
With the war on the pandemic still not won, California’s veterans are at risk of losing access to a mobile Internet app, called VA Video Connect, that enables veterans to receive telehealth services without incurring data usage charges. This is a consequence of California’s newly effective “net neutrality” law that flatly prohibits Internet service providers from offering consumers so-called “free data” plans, sometimes also called “sponsored data” or “zero-rated” offerings, unless an entire “category” of supposedly similar services receives the same treatment.
Monday, March 29
IAVA NEWS COVERAGE
By Kyle Morris
U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at providing “presumptive U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs benefits to service members who have deployed and have illnesses due to exposure to burn pits and other toxins.” A press release regarding the introduction of the legislation also stated Rubio, Gillibrand, and Ruiz would hold an April 13, 2021, press conference outside of the U.S. Capitol featuring veterans who have suffered from toxic exposure, survivors of veterans who have passed away due to toxic exposure, Jon Stewart, 9/11 activist John Feal, Burn Pits 360, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), American Legion, and other groups.
*Also published in Sierra Sun Times
By Shannon Firth
Government officials and veteran advocates shared new approaches for preventing veteran suicide and expanding access to mental health services during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Wednesday. Thomas Porter, executive vice president for government affairs for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, argued the need to “over-communicate” specific resources. As an example, he highlighted his group’s own “Quick Reaction Force,” which provides mental health resources to any veteran, regardless of discharge status, and their family members for free.
The Courier: They want YOU, young veterans
By Lou Wilin
Post Commander Chris Couchot and the other officers have established a beachhead in the war to reverse a local and nationwide decline of membership in veterans organizations. Veterans groups are having trouble recruiting younger veterans to their ranks, and Amvets is trying different approaches to reverse this trend. Dissatisfaction with the old veterans organizations has given rise to newer competition: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is free to join and it’s “pretty much virtual,” Couchot said.
VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE
By Steve Beynon
A sweeping measure was introduced in the Senate Friday that could open up health care and disability compensation to a huge swath of veterans made sick by burn pits and other toxic exposures during military service. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., reintroduced the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act, which would do away with most of the burden of proof on veterans to show they got sick from breathing in burning garbage for up to a year at a time while deployed.
The Herald-Dispatch: W.Va. House bill aims to prevent suicide among veterans
By Taylor Stuck
The West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill Friday aimed at getting more real-time data on veteran suicide to prevent more from occurring. House Bill 2981 would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop a suicide prevention assistance program. As amended by the Health Committee on Monday, it would also require the medical examiner to inform a local VA medical center upon the determination of the cause and manner of death of a veteran who committed suicide. The VA can then determine if the veteran was being treated.
By John Trump
A bill introduced by House Majority Leader John Bell, R-Wayne, is meant to help improve crisis intervention and services for veterans suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues. House Bill 370, No Veteran Left Behind Act, creates a pilot program for several military and veteran heavy counties in North Carolina to improve and expand training for local law enforcement and first responders, a news release says. It focuses on dealing with veteran-specific crisis intervention, suicide prevention, and available resources at the Department of Veterans Affairs, including Brunswick, Craven, Cumberland, Onslow, Union and Wayne counties.
By Katie Rhee
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on people’s mental health, but West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin shed a light on the veteran population during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on Friday. Senator Manchin, who is a member of the committee, questioned a panel of veteran community experts and leaders about what is being done and can be improved in the future to help veterans who are feeling increasingly disconnected. He pushed for better outreach by Veterans Affairs facilities to older veterans who have become disconnected during the COVID-19.
By Laura Daniels
Troubling new data shows that the number of veterans experiencing homelessness or committing suicide was on the rise in Oklahoma before 2020. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, homelessness rose 16.1% from 2019 to 2020. Data from the Oklahoma Department of Veteran’s Affair’s 2018 report shows that suicides increased 36% between 2017 and 2018.
Task & Purpose: Open letter to the troops: Take the damn vaccine, please
By Jeff Schogol
As many as half the troops at certain military bases and units are opting out of getting vaccinated, CNN’s Oren Liebermann and Ellie Kaufman first revealed. Earlier this month, Geoff Ziezulewicz of Military Times reported on the reasons that some service members have given for not getting inoculated. Some troops are afraid that the vaccines were developed so quickly that they may not be safe. Others are not that concerned about getting COVID-19. One noncommissioned officer cited the military’s past chemical warfare experiments on troops, saying he and his co-workers “do not want to be guinea pigs.”
By Leo Shane III
Veterans Affairs officials still have millions of coronavirus vaccine doses they hope to deliver in coming months, but they’re already looking ahead to the possibility of booster shots for vaccinated veterans this fall. That’s because VA medical experts — along with other health professionals worldwide — are planning for the next potential wave of pandemic problems, as COVID-19 variants emerge and researchers develop a better understanding of how effective current vaccines can be against them.
By Joseph Ditzler
The number of people newly infected with COVID-19 inched higher in Japan and South Korea, even as new cases on U.S. military bases in those countries remained low over the weekend.
By Heather Osbourne
As Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen’s grieving family visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday to push for legislation to prevent military sexual assault, the Texas woman accused of helping dismember the Fort Hood soldier’s body last April asked a federal judge to throw out her confession.
By Julia LeDoux
For veterans who have earned GI Bill benefits, that means ensuring those benefits have been certified by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Applying for VA benefits is step one in the certification process. Benefit certification means that veteran students, depending on the chapter of benefits they are using, get their tuition and fees paid or subsidized. In some cases benefit certification also means they get a housing allowance and book stipend, she said. Bobsein said one of the biggest pitfalls veteran students face is not being fully aware of the obligations they take on when using their GI Bill benefits. She stressed that students using VA benefits should be aware of Grade Point Average, course load and class participation requirements.
Friday, March 26
VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE
By Steve Beynon
A sweeping measure was introduced in the Senate Friday that could open up health care and disability compensation to a huge swath of veterans made sick by burn pits and other toxic exposures during military service.
By Michael McAuliff
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Friday planned to roll out what could be the most ambitious attempt ever tried to treat American war fighters poisoned in deployments overseas. The bipartisan bill, modeled on both Agent Orange legislation and the 9/11 health act, aims to help unknown thousands of veterans who got sick after being exposed to toxic substances from massive open fire pits where the military burned its garbage, as well as other sources.
Bipartisan legislation sponsored on March 23 by U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) would reform how America’s military veterans who were exposed to toxic substances receive health care and benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Florida Senator Marco Rubio joins Yahoo Finance’s Jessica Smith to discuss the Cares Act and how the United States has changed in the 1 year since it passed.
By Jasmine Arenas
To minimize veteran suicide prevention across Colorado, Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, is working to pass this bill that would lay the groundwork for a pilot program for veterans.
VAntage Point: Veterans see help through American Rescue Plan, says SecVA
By Adam Stump
Veterans will see significant help through the American Rescue Plan, VA Secretary Denis McDonough told the House Veterans Affairs Committee March 25 during a virtual hearing. McDonough said the American Rescue plan will provide “significant resources that will help us continue to provide Veterans the best care and services during the pandemic.” Veterans have seen delayed health care, including mental health care, due to COVID-19. Based on previous economic downturns, he noted that Veterans who lose their jobs and health care benefits often turn to VA for assistance.
The American Legion: Legion-backed bill would improve maternal health care for veterans
An American Legion-supported piece of legislation that would lay a foundation to serve a young and more diverse veteran population has been introduced in the House of Representatives. The Protecting Moms Who Served Act was introduced by Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., and has bipartisan support.
By Chad Lennon
If you had served the country and have been arrested you might be thinking to yourself, “how did I get here, and where should I go from here?” Going from serving your country to facing criminal charges is a dramatic change, but there is a way you can get through this situation and come out better afterwards. The veterans treatment courts (VTC) were started in 2008 and have since established a total of 461 courts as of 2016. These are specialized courts that look to assist those who have served and offer them treatment for issues they may have from their time serving. While the VTC is looking to help, the process of negotiation with them may be difficult or confusing for some.
By Marguerite E. O’Haire and Leanne Nieforth
As many as 1 in 5 of the roughly 2.7 million Americans deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD, a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening traumatic event, is a complex condition and can be hard to treat. Our lab is studying whether service dogs can help these military veterans, who may also have depression and anxiety – and run an elevated risk of death by suicide – in addition to having PTSD. We’ve been finding that once veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder get service dogs, they tend to feel less depressed and less anxious and miss work less frequently.
Stars and Stripes: VA will start vaccinating veterans, spouses and caregivers May 1
By Nikki Wentling
The Department of Veterans Affairs will begin vaccinating an expanded population of veterans, spouses and caregivers May 1, the VA secretary said Thursday.
Wall Street Journal: Net Neutrality Nails Veterans [Opinion]
By The Editorial Board
Well, well, look who’s breaking the internet. California’s net-neutrality law took effect Thursday, and the first casualties are low-income veterans. “It appears that this statute may have the unintended effect of limiting Veteran and caregiver access to VA’s telehealth application, restricting healthcare services particularly for low-income and rural Veterans and caregivers nationwide,” the Veterans Affairs Office of General Counsel wrote this week to FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr.
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.