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IAVA | April 22, 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 22

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE  

Federal News Network: VA needs to staff up suicide prevention teams for greater effectiveness, GAO says

By Tom Temin

Like homelessness, suicide among veterans is a persistent and tragic problem which the Department of Veterans Affairs has been working for years to prevent. Now the Government Accountability Office has come out with some recommendations on how VA can better staff-up and use its suicide prevention teams. For more insight, the GAO’s Director of Health Care Issues, Debra Draper, spoke to Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

WRAL.com: House approves pilot program to provide veterans in crisis with mental health resources

By Matthew Burns

A group of wounded veterans received a standing ovation in the state House on Wednesday, shortly before lawmakers voted unanimously for a program that would help get veterans needed mental health resources. House Bill 370, titled the No Veteran Left Behind Act, sets aside $1 million for the Independence Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of veterans and their families, to establish Veterans Justice Intervention programs in 10 counties.

Stars and Stripes: Jon Stewart Leads Rally for Veterans Exposed to Toxic Burn Pits

By Nikki Wentling

Comedian Jon Stewart, serious and impatient, prodded lawmakers Tuesday to help veterans suffering from illnesses believed to be caused by toxic exposures during overseas deployments. Stewart became a fierce advocate for 9/11 responders who developed illnesses from the toxic fumes at the destroyed World Trade Center. He recently turned his attention to veterans suffering from diseases caused by exposure to burn pits and other toxic environments since the Gulf War.

Fox News: Biden admin blocking veterans’ annual Memorial Day motorcycle rally, Rep. Mast says

By Evie Fordham

Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., accused the Biden administration of blocking the annual Rolling to Remember motorcycle rally, a 30-year-plus Memorial Day tradition for veterans that has always been staged in the Pentagon parking lot. “We are blessed beyond words to be citizens of the greatest country on Earth, and only live free thanks to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Mast said in a statement. “But the Biden Administration seems intent on restricting that freedom, and now, even restricting Memorial Day ceremonies. Preventing a tradition like Rolling to Remember flies in the face of the freedoms that so many have died to protect.”

The Miami Times: Women veterans share stories of harassment and assault

By Selena Stanley

“I am a survivor of sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape by my counterparts. I still serve today probably because I know there are women out there that have gone through, and are going through, the same things.” That emotional testimony came from Schcola Chambers, who fought through tears to share her story at a recent event jointly hosted by the South Dade Veterans Alliance and the Miami-Dade County Commission for Women.

Wednesday, April 21

IAVA NEWS COVERAGE  

Military.com: Emptiness, Anger, Relief: Afghanistan Veterans Wrestle with Coming End of ‘Forever War’

By Stephen Losey

In interviews with Military.com last week, Marine veteran Peter Lucier and other veterans wrestled with the complex — and sometimes contradictory — emotions they felt about the end of a ‘forever war’ that has occupied much of their adult lives. Veterans described feeling everything from happiness, to grief, to anger and confusion — in some cases, many at the same time — as they processed the news. Tom Porter, executive vice president of government affairs for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and a Navy Reserve officer who deployed to Afghanistan, said he understands why Biden chose to withdraw troops, and knew it would eventually happen. But he always envisioned that it would happen because the conditions on the ground had improved to a point to allow a withdrawal.

The Washington Post: Post-riot effort to tackle extremism in the military largely overlooks veterans

By Paul Sonne, Alex Horton and Julie Tate

The Defense Department is focusing on how to weed out possible extremists from the active-duty ranks in the wake of the Capitol riot, with a recent, military-wide “stand down” for troops to discuss the issue ahead of policy decisions on the matter by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. But the arrest data from the riot shows that allegedly criminal participation in the insurrection on Jan. 6 was far more prevalent among veterans than active-duty forces, a more difficult problem for the U.S. government to address. “It’s going to take involvement of all levels of society to solve this problem,” including government, nonprofits and individuals, said Jeremy Butler, the chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a nonprofit advocacy group.

KTVZ: Wyden, Merkley reintroduce bill to let VA prescribe medical marijuana to veterans

Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said Tuesday they have joined colleagues to reintroduce legislation to allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans in Oregon and the 35 other states that have established medical marijuana programs. Jeremy Butler, CEO for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: “Our members have spoken loud and clear on this issue. Eighty-eight percent of respondents to our most recent member survey approved of cannabis use for medicinal purposes. With such overwhelming support, we need to be removing barriers to care for veterans, not maintaining them. IAVA applauds Sen. Schatz for reintroducing the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act to do just that.”

Sierra Sun Times: U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen Helps Introduce Legislation to Allow VA Doctors to Prescribe Medical Marijuana

On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) announced her original co-sponsorship of the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act. This legislation would allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans in the 36 states, including Nevada, that have established medical marijuana programs. The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act is endorsed by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), VoteVets, Minority Veterans of America, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Veterans Cannabis Project, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, and many more. 

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE  

Roll Call: Veterans hit by huge pandemic-related records backlog

By Mark Setter

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the NPRC has sat empty, with employees working remotely. And records requests, most of which require someone to physically search for documents within the building, have been piling up. Now, the backlog has grown to more than 499,000 requests, according to a spokesperson for the National Archives, which oversees the NPRC. The National Archives estimates that it will take 18 to 24 months to clear the backlog once the center is staffed at full capacity. The records are key to unlocking many kinds of veterans benefits, including health care, burial benefits, home loans and COVID-19 vaccinations.

Yahoo: Fort Hood unveils gate and plaque honoring Vanessa Guillén

By Cynthia Silva

Fort Hood, Texas, will memorialize slain soldier Vanessa Guillén with a gate named in her honor, days before the anniversary of her being reported missing last year.

Fox 26: Texas State legislators urge Congress to pass “I Am Vanessa Guillen” Act

By Maria Salazar

This week marks one year since the disappearance of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood. On Tuesday, she was remembered at the Texas State Capitol where several bills honoring the Houstonian are advancing. State legislators and her family gathered to address the proposals. There was also a resolution to urge Congress to pass the “I Am Vanessa Guillen” Act. Texas state legislators also presented other bills honoring Vanessa, including a bill to name a part of Highway 3 in Harris County, the Vanessa Guillen Memorial Highway, another to designate September 30, her birthday, as Vanessa Guillen Day in Texas, and a bill to protect Texas State Military members from sexual assault.

The Washington Post: Afghanistan pullout may spur mixed emotions for veterans, families. Here’s how to cope.

By Jelena Kecmanovic

On one hand, some veterans and their families are feeling relief that no more American lives will be damaged or lost, and even happiness that this conflict, which began as a response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and continued far longer than anyone anticipated, is coming to an end. On the other hand, there is disappointment, frustration and anger, all of which could be compounded by stress from the ongoing pandemic. Christopher Mancik, who was deployed as a Navy lieutenant in Afghanistan, said he was glad that the United States is leaving, because he doesn’t want others to “go through the similar experience.” But he said he also is upset that the withdrawal did not come sooner.

Army News Service: Former officer plans 1800-mile walk to curb veteran suicide, honor friends

By Devon L. Suits

Former Capt. Greg C. Washington is preparing to walk nearly 1,800 miles across 11 states to increase awareness on veteran suicide and pay respect to his two best friends killed in combat.

Military.com: ‘Dirty, Embarrassing Secret:’ Veterans with PTSD Struggle to Shed Stigma of Bad Paper Discharges

By Richard Sisk

They are among thousands of veterans cut off from Department of Veterans Affairs benefits by so-called “bad paper” discharges despite a Defense Department directive and an act of Congress ordering discharge review boards to give “liberal” consideration to upgrades for those with diagnoses of post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury.

Forbes: Addressing The Housing Needs Of The Returning Veterans With Symptoms Of PTSD

By Sheri Koones

One team at the Solar Decathlon this year was particularly focused on a very important community – those military veterans returning home from wartime trauma with symptoms of PTSD. Nevada is reported to have 200,o00 veterans living in the State, making their project particularly relevant. The University of Las Vegas’ Mojave Bloom provides “a healing oasis in the middle of the harsh Mojave Desert through a calculated polyphony of sensory experiences.” The house was designed to meet the needs of these returning military veterans with what they may need to heal, whether that is a need for privacy, social connection, control over sound, light, air or other environmental conditions. This will help them to reintegrate themselves back into their past lives and reconnect effectively with family.

Tuesday, April 20

IAVA NEWS COVERAGE  

The Washington Post: Post-riot effort to tackle extremism in the military largely overlooks veterans

By Paul Sonne, Alex Horton and Julie Tate

The Defense Department is focusing on how to weed out possible extremists from the active-duty ranks in the wake of the Capitol riot, with a recent, military-wide “stand down” for troops to discuss the issue ahead of policy decisions on the matter by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. “It’s going to take involvement of all levels of society to solve this problem,” including government, nonprofits and individuals, said Jeremy Butler, the chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a nonprofit advocacy group. 

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE  

The Street: Cannabis Stocks Watchlist: 420 Holiday Brings Focus to Sector

By Tony Owusu

Last week federal lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate proposed bipartisan legislation to federally legalize medical cannabis for combat veterans. The House’s Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would temporarily legalize medical cannabis possession for combat veterans.

Marijuana Moment: House approves cannabis banking bill (Newsletter: April 20, 2021)

By Tom Angell 

The House of Representatives approved a marijuana banking bill. The SAFE Banking Act cleared the chamber three times last Congress but got blocked in the Republican-controlled Senate. Hopes are high now that Democrats run both chambers of Congress, however. Twenty-one governors, 51 state and territory banking associations and a group of state treasurers sent letters calling on Congress to pass the marijuana banking bill.

NPR: Trying to Improve Mental Health Care for Veterans

By Herb Trix

Members of the Iowa Congressional delegation are co-sponsoring a bill to expand access to mental health care for veterans. It’s named in honor of a veteran from Davenport, Brandon Ketchum, who committed suicide in 2016. Iowa Second District Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks says Ketchum, who was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, died after being denied admission for treatment at a V-A hospital. “The rate of suicide among military veterans, especially those who have served in our recent conflicts from Desert Storm to Iraq and Afghanistan and the global war on terror, the rate of suicide among these veterans is higher than the general population.”

WXFR Fox: Kaine reintroduces bill allowing Department of Veterans Affairs to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee, joined Sen. Brian Schatz in reintroducing the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act which would allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans in states that have established medical marijuana programs. Currently, there are 36 states, including Virginia, that have established medical marijuana programs. Under current law, medical marijuana programs allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to help patients manage pain – except for at VA facilities.

Inside NJ: Governor Murphy Signs Legislation to Assist LGBTQ+ Veterans

Today, Governor Phil Murphy signed S2815, which directs the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (DMAVA) to assist former Armed Forces service members who were denied an honorable discharge due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. DMAVA will assist veterans with completing and submitting the appropriate forms to petition the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to change their discharge designation to instead reflect an honorable discharge. DMAVA will also be tasked with creating, publishing, and distributing material to all public agencies regarding the availability of the assistance, as well as creating a uniform and consistent process for providing such assistance.

NPR: Afghanistan Veterans Weigh In On Biden’s Announcement To Bring Troops Home

By Quil Lawrence

President Biden announced that troops will be out of Afghanistan by September. Many Afghanistan veterans were among the strongest voices calling for the U.S. to leave, but veteran opinions are varied.

WTSP.com: Florida friends battle veteran suicide rates with free scuba diving lessons

By Bobby Lewis

Four years ago, the Army veteran of more than 22 years (Scott Earnhardt) found the peace he was looking for underwater. Earnhardt, along with two other military buddies, Joe Kelly and Craig Clound, started Dive 21, a nonprofit that gets people facing PTSD out on diving trips around Florida. So far, about 60 people have been impacted by the outreach. Most of them are veterans.

Monday, April 19 

IAVA NEWS COVERAGE  

The Washington Times: Veterans express fears and mixed emotions as Afghanistan final troop withdrawal nears

By Mike Glenn

American troops have fought and died in Afghanistan for two decades, and now veterans of the conflict are watching and sorting through mixed emotions as the U.S. military mission there comes to a close. On Wednesday, President Biden announced the withdrawal of the remaining U.S. troops by Sept. 11, 2021 — 20 years to the day after the terror attacks on New York and the Pentagon that instigated America’s longest war. There are no perfect solutions to the vexing question that is Afghanistan, said Jeremy Butler, CEO of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. But, “there are solutions to protect and support the millions of veterans left in its wake,” Mr. Butler said.

Cleveland.com: Rep. Dave Joyce introduces bill to let VA prescribe medical marijuana

By Sabrina Eaton

Bainbridge Township Republican Rep. Dave Joyce on Thursday joined fellow Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chairs in introducing a bill to lift a federal ban on doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from discussing, recommending or prescribing medical marijuana in states where it’s legal. Groups that support this legislation include: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), VoteVets, Minority Veterans of America, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Veterans Cannabis Project, and many others.

West Hawaii Today: Schatz reintroduces legislation to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said Friday he reintroduced legislation to allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans in the 36 states that have established medical marijuana programs. “Our members have spoken loud and clear on this issue, ” said Jeremy Butler, CEO for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Eighty-eight percent of respondents to our most recent member survey approved of cannabis use for medicinal purposes. With such overwhelming support, we need to be removing barriers to care for veterans, not maintaining them. IAVA applauds Sen. Schatz for reintroducing the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act to do just that.”

*Also published in Maui Now

The San Diego Union-Tribune: San Diegans reflect on 20 years of service, struggle as America’s longest war nears an end

By Andrew Dyer and Kristina Davis

President Joe Biden’s announcement last week that all remaining U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, left Horr, now 32, buoyed by the possibility of finality — but with an unavoidable sense of déjà vu. “We’ve been here before,” said Horr, the director of government affairs for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a national organization that provides resources for and advocates on behalf of post-9/11 veterans. “Personally, I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Honolulu Civil Beat: Schatz Revives Bill That Would Give Military Veterans Access To Medical Marijuana

By Kevin Knodell

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz reintroduced a bill on Friday that would allow doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans in states that already have established medical marijuana programs. The Senate bill, officially called the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, would create a temporary five-year window for veterans to use medical marijuana. It also would direct the VA to research how medical marijuana impacts veterans trying to manage chronic pain and if it could help reduce opioid abuse. The bill has the backing of several veteran and drug policy organizations, including the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, VoteVets, Minority Veterans of America, U.S. Pain Foundation, Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Veteran’s Initiative 22.

The Ripon Advance: New VA transition administration to be established under Wenstrup-sponsored bill

U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) on April 13 sponsored bipartisan legislation that would establish the Veterans Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The measure has garnered support from Paralyzed Veterans of America, Student Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE  

Military.com: Lawmakers Rush to Introduce Relief Bills as Military Toxic Exposures Come to Light

By Steve Beynon

Lawmakers have responded to issues surrounding toxic exposures in the military and the decades-long health crisis plaguing the veteran community with a mix of incremental efforts and sweeping health care bills. The looming question is what can make it into law this year while momentum lasts. Some efforts, including those to provide presumptive care to those sickened by burn pits in the post-9/11 wars, could add enormous costs to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which already has a ballooning budget far outpacing inflation.

The Washington Post: Eden Veterans Refuge to offer military women a hand up

By Mike Finney

There is very little support in Delaware — as well as most other states — for female veterans and their families once they leave their military careers behind. Pastor Tyshee Jackson and her husband, Bishop Jared Jackson of Eden International church, are hoping to change that. Just a couple of weeks ago, the couple hosted the grand opening of the Eden Veterans Refuge at 53 W. Commerce St. in Smyrna. Next week, they hope to be housing their first guest out of three veterans they’ve interviewed, with others to follow soon after.

The Washington Post: Many veterans don’t trust coronavirus vaccines. For a VA crew in the rural West, that means changing minds, one by one.

By Lisa Rein

The VA’s Spokane hospital embarked in January on a mission to convince the roughly 46,000 veterans under its care that whatever was holding them back was the real danger. The 45-foot bus previously used as a primary-care clinic — 10 feet longer than a Greyhound and the height of a tractor-trailer, with two exam rooms, a triage room with a hospital bed, and a centrifuge to spin blood — has since logged 2,500 miles in a carefully waged campaign against skepticism.

Marijuana Moment: Bipartisan Bills To Legalize Medical Marijuana For Military Veterans Introduced In Congress

By Kyle Jaeger

A bipartisan coalition of congressional lawmakers on Thursday reintroduced legislation that would federally legalize medical marijuana for military veterans. The bill is being sponsored by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Dave Joyce (R-OH), both co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, in the House, along with nine other original cosponsors. On the Senate side, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) is leading the proposal, and he’s joined by five other lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would temporarily allow veterans to legally possess and use cannabis under federal law, as recommended by doctors in accordance with state law. Physicians with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would also be allowed for the first time to issue such recommendations. Further, it would require VA to study the therapeutic potential of marijuana for pain and reducing opioid misuse.

Verywell Health: For Some Veterans, COVID-19 Pandemic Improved Mental Health

By Kayla Hui

The COVID-19 pandemic has strained the mental health and relationships of many, as people experience the toll of lockdowns and social distancing. But a national study conducted among veterans points to a promising new find: some people also experienced positive mental benefits throughout this time. A national study conducted by Yale University found that among 3,000 veterans, 12.8% of veterans reported post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms related to COVID-19 and 8% contemplated suicide. However, the survey also revealed that 43.3% of respondents said they experienced positive psychological benefits during the pandemic.1 These benefits included a greater appreciation of life, closer relationships, and an increased feeling of personal growth and strength. 

The Hill: Army moves to combat sexual crimes one year after death of Vanessa Guillen

By Ellen Mitchell

The Army on Friday announced several new actions meant to combat sexual harassment and violence at Fort Hood, Texas, and across the service.

The move would implement some of the recommendations of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee (FHIRC), which last year produced a damning report highlighting a climate of widespread sexual misconduct at the base following the April 2020 death of Pfc. Vanessa Guillen.

Military.com: Fort Hood’s Vanessa Guillen Tragedy Leads to Army-Wide Overhaul of Sexual Assault, Harassment Prevention

By Matthew Cox

The Army‘s People First Task Force on Friday unveiled sweeping actions underway to transform the service’s sexual harassment and assault prevention program. The moves address the findings of a damning review of Fort Hood, Texas, in the wake of Spc. Vanessa Guillen’s disappearance and murder at the post last year. Army leaders released the results of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee in December, which resulted in 14 leaders at the post being relieved or suspended for fostering a command climate that that was permissive of sexual harassment and assault.

Military.com: Army Prepares to Release Final Investigations into Potential Leadership Failures at Fort Hood

By Matthew Cox

The commander of Army Forces Command said Friday that, in the coming weeks, he will release the results of two investigations he ordered after the disappearance and murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen last year. In December, the Army relieved or suspended 14 leaders at Fort Hood as a result of an independent review that found the base’s command climate was permissive of sexual harassment and assault. The results of Murray’s investigation will decide whether the service will take additional action against some of those leaders.

Friday, April 16

IAVA NEWS COVERAGE  

Insider NJ: Representative Mikie Sherrill Testifies In Front of House Veterans’ Affairs Committee for GI Bill NEED Act

Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) yesterday testified in front of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to advocate for the consideration and passage of her recently introduced GI Bill NEED Act, which seeks to protect veterans from losing their educational benefits as a result of national emergencies outside of their control. H.R. 2167, the GI Bill National Emergency Extended Deadline Act (GI Bill NEED Act) would allow the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs to pause the 10 or 15 years’ time-limit to use GI Bill benefits during times of national emergency and other crises, and restart the clock after it’s safe for veterans to return to school. In yesterday’s hearing, the Student Veterans of America (SVA) and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) also spoke in support of the GI Bill NEED Act.

Marijuana Moment: Bipartisan Bills To Legalize Medical Marijuana For Military Veterans Introduced In Congress

By Kyle Jaeger

A bipartisan coalition of congressional lawmakers on Thursday reintroduced legislation that would federally legalize medical marijuana for military veterans. The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would temporarily allow veterans to legally possess and use cannabis under federal law, as recommended by doctors in accordance with state law. Supporters of the proposal include the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, VoteVets, Minority Veterans of America, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Veterans Cannabis Project, and many others.

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE  

Yahoo: ‘The Burn Pits’ Documentary in the Works Following Proposed Jon Stewart Legislation to Help Military Veterans

By Brian Welk

After “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart on Tuesday helped announce legislation to aid military veterans who were poisoned by dangerous toxic fires called “burn pits,” a new documentary is in the works about the effects of those exposed to the fumes.

United States Department of Justice: For-Profit Trade School Owner Found Guilty of Defrauding VA, Student Veterans

The owner of a for-profit trade school has been convicted of bilking the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of $72 million and of misleading student veterans, announced Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah. 

Reuters: Biden infrastructure plan includes $18 bln for Veterans Affairs, far more needed -lawmaker

By Andrea Shalal

President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan includes $18 billion to upgrade and replace aging Veterans Affairs hospitals, but the agency needs five times that much to bolster facilities and medical staff, a Democratic lawmaker said on Thursday.

Military.com: VA Wants Dramatic Budget Increase, Continuing Trend of Soaring Spending

By Steve Beynon

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough urged Congress on Thursday to back a massive funding increase to boost efforts in homelessness assistance and suicide prevention, and address the agency’s crumbling and outdated medical infrastructure.

People.com: Late Marine ‘Had the Biggest Heart,’ Says Mom After Congress Introduces Veterans Bill Named After Him

By Sean Neumann

The family of veteran Brandon Ketchum, who died by suicide in 2016, says a new bill named after him could help other rural service-members struggling to acclimate back to life in the U.S. The “Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans’ Mental Health Act” was introduced earlier this week by Iowa lawmakers and is being discussed Thursday on Capitol Hill. 

The Washington Post: Withdrawing from Afghanistan is a courageous step. Here’s what must come next. [Opinion]

By Bernie Sanders and Ro Khanna

President Biden’s announcement of a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, is a courageous step that we strongly support. It is also an opportunity to consider the enormous costs of nearly 20 years of war and commit to a better way of promoting Americans’ security and prosperity.

VAntage Point: Veterans with chronic pain are replacing opioid pain medications

In a pilot study of Veterans with chronic pain engaged in Whole Health services across 18 “flagship” VA Medical Centers, more than 100,000 Veterans experienced a meaningful reduction of opioid pain medications. The Whole Health approach to care features conventional clinical care (such as medicines or counseling) and complementary and integrative care (such as acupuncture or yoga) working together as part of an overall treatment plan.

The Washington Examiner: Harnessing community to counter military suicide [Opinion]

By Beth Bailey

The Defense Department’s latest quarterly suicide report revealed that suicides increased among active-duty service members and reservists over the course of 2020, with a 25% increase in reservist suicides during the fourth quarter of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. In November 2020, Marine Corps Maj. Thomas Schueman founded Patrol Base Abbate to combat military suicide and assist veterans during and after transition. Staffed entirely by volunteers, the nonprofit organization is open to every former and current service member and reservist at no cost. It honors its namesake Sgt. Matthew Abbate, a humble powerhouse of a Marine, and the posthumous recipient of the Navy Cross for the bravery and leadership he displayed on the battlefield during his final deployment to Sangin, Afghanistan, where he died during a “Coalition airstrike and enemy attack” on Dec. 2, 2010.

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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