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IAVA | July 2, 2020

IAVA Weekly SITREP

As the leading voice for the post-9/11 veteran community, IAVA continues to create awareness about issues and topics impacting our community. Below are articles and news sources from the past week:

7/2/2020

Military Times: Coronavirus cases among Veterans Affairs patients tripled in June

By Leo Shane III

The number of active coronavirus cases among Department of Veterans Affairs patients tripled in June, with more than 4,100 active cases at 138 medical sites spread across the country.

Military Times: Lawmakers debate women veterans’ access to VA reproductive healthcare

By Hannah Graf

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Health and Women Veterans Task Force focused on reproductive health services offered to veterans, including limitations on services that could disproportionately affect women, LGBT and poor veterans, according to presiding chairwoman Julia Brownley, D-Calif.

ConnectingVets.com: Senate passes bill to require investigation of VA doctors with revoked licenses

By Abbie Bennett

The Ensuring Quality Care for Our Veterans Act aims to prevent veterans from suffering because of improper care from a Department of Veterans Affairs provider with a history of substandard care. The bill requires that every healthcare provider hired by VA with a revoked license undergo a third-party review of that provider’s care. If the review finds that a competent health care provider would have managed the veteran’s care differently, that veteran will be notified. 

Stars and Stripes: Bill stalled in House would expand adaptive housing grants to disabled veterans

By Rose Thayer

The Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act of 2019 provides money for veterans with certain permanent, service-connected disabilities, with the most common being bilateral amputees and paralyzed veterans. The House passed the legislation on July 23, 2019 and the Senate passed a different version by unanimous consent with amendments on March 26. Because of a slight difference, the bill was sent back to the House for a final vote, where it is sitting.

ConnectingVets.com: Senate passes bill to create support networks for transitioning veterans

By Abbie Bennett

The Sgt. Daniel Somers Veterans Network of Support Act would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a pilot program information sharing between VA and designated relatives or friends of veterans about the benefits available to them. Under the program, active-duty service members leaving the service could designate up to 10 loved ones to receive information from VA on what benefits and services are available to that veteran.

*Also reported in AZCentral

Military.com: General, Colonel Rebuked After Marine Corps Finds Serious Flaws in Fatal Crash Investigation

By Gina Harkins

In a rare move, the Marine Corps has acknowledged a host of problems with an investigation into a horrific midair collision off the coast of Japan that killed six, resulting in new reprimands for two senior leaders who oversaw the squadrons involved.

Military Times: Banning J-1 au pairs affects military readiness

By Kelly Finn Störmer

If supporting veterans and military families is truly a priority of this administration, in addition to innovative policies supporting affordable childcare, I urge the administration to reconsider the impact this visa ban is disproportionally having on the military community and working mothers across America.

7/1/2020 News:

The Hill: Wilkie: Union exploiting COVID-19 crisis for contract gains

By Robert Wilkie

The union representing thousands of VA employees has decided to use the pandemic as leverage to negotiate a longstanding contract dispute in the press. This strategy is being deployed even as VA grapples with protecting thousands of veterans, and as VA employees work together to fight this pandemic on the front lines.

Military Times: Russian bounties on American troops further strain Trump’s bond with veterans

By Steve Peoples and Sarah Blake Morgan

Trump’s relationship with the nation’s military community has been frequently strained. But just four months before the November election, reports that he either ignored, or was unaware of, a Russian plot to kill U.S. troops could intensify the tension and create new political risks.

EIN Presswire: Governor Bullock Announces Grants to Support Veterans’ Suicide Prevention Efforts in Montana

Press Release

Governor Steve Bullock today joined healthcare professionals in Billings to announce veterans’ suicide prevention efforts through grants established by the Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families

ABC Phoenix: U.S. Veterans Affairs secretary touring Phoenix facility

By Sonu Wasu

Secretary Wilkie announced that the VA hospital in Tucson has already opened its doors, not just to veterans, but to the entire community. He said one of the missions of his agency was to step in and help in event of a national crisis. They are prepared to do the same in Phoenix if needed.

ConnectingVets.com: VA, Adopt a Solider provide technology to homeless veterans

By Julia Ledoux

America’s Adopt a Soldier and the Department of Veterans Affairs are working together to ensure that Veterans at risk of or experiencing homelessness can stay connected with their health care providers, case managers, and loved ones.

Quad City Times: Ernst: For many of our veterans, sacrifice lasts a lifetime

By Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA)

I am fighting to improve mental healthcare for veterans by giving them access to non-government care when needed, expanding research into mental health and pushing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to hire more mental health professionals.

FOX Business: Walmart hires 265,000 veterans, promotes more than 44,000 to higher-paying roles

By Lucas Manfredi

Walmart has hired 265,000 veterans as part of its Veterans Welcome Home Commitment program, with more than 44,000 promoted to roles with higher pay and greater responsibility.

KEYC News: Cowboy riding to Washington to raise awareness about veterans issues

By Emily Tabar

A South Dakota man on his second horseback journey across the United States rode through Texas. He rides to meet and talk to veterans, bringing awareness to veterans’ needs. “They need to have that support, that’s what’s keeping them alive. And that’s why we’re losing so many is because a lot of them don’t have that support.”

6/30/2020 News:

The Hill: GOP lawmakers raise concerns over veterans’ access to health care amid pandemic

By Julie Grace Brufke

A group of House conservatives is arguing that Department of Veterans Affairs guidance during the coronavirus crisis could limit veterans’ access to health care in certain regions. The letter calls for any regulations that could prevent health care choices for veterans to be retracted as economies begin to reopen.

ConnectingVets.com: Everyone needs to get tested for HIV, VA and CDC say

By Julia Ledoux

Around 31,000 veterans receive treatment for HIV throughout the VA health care system, according to a blog post from the department. The VA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone be tested at least once.

Military Times: White House aware in 2019 of Russian bounties on American troops in Afghanistan, officials say

By James LaPorta

Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported.

ConnectingVets.com: Lawmakers push for answers from SecVA on Mission Act community care for vets

By Abbie Bennett

A senator and several House lawmakers are calling for answers from the Department of Veterans Affairs on its progress expanding community care options for vets, including VA’s March plan for a “strategic pause” of care referrals during the pandemic. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa sent a letter to VA Secretary Wilkie asking him to provide an update on Mission’s implementation at the agency. 

Daily Mail: ‘We are the faces of military sexual trauma and assault’: Women in the Army share their own stories of sexual harassment and assault saying #IAmVanessaGuillen after remains are found during the search for the missing soldier

By Marlene Lenthang

Private First-Class Guillen, 20, has been missing for two months and was last seen at the Fort Hood Army Base in Killeen, Texas on April 22. She disappeared shortly after she told her family she was being sexually harassed by an unnamed sergeant and felt unsafe. On Monday, a group of 30 volunteers searching for Guillen near the base discovered human remains and items believed to be linked to her.

Nextgov: VA Launches Digital COVID-19 Screening App for Patients and Employees

By Aaron Boyd

The app asks six questions to gauge an individual’s exposure to and likelihood of having contracted COVID-19. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie noted the app went from “initial concept to national availability in less than two weeks.” VA officials expect the app will be used more than 10,000 times per day during the crisis.

Military Times: This week in Congress: The annual marathon mark-up of military budget policy

By Leo Shane III

On Wednesday House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hear testimony from department officials about reproductive health care options within the VA system. In the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee department officials will testify on how the recent coronavirus pandemic has impacted Veterans Affairs workers and health care operations.

Arizona Republic: About 200 vets and 40 VA staff members in Phoenix have tested positive for COVID-19, VA secretary says

By Cleo Krejci

The Phoenix VA Medical Center, which Wilkie toured Monday, has seen an increase in COVID-19 patients over the past week. About 200 veterans and 40 staff members have tested positive at the site, which is equipped with overflow tents outside to provide additional care.

Military.com: Pentagon Lifts Travel Ban in All States Except Florida, California, Michigan

By Gina Harkins

Ten more states have met the criteria to lift the travel restrictions the Pentagon set in place in March, defense officials announced on Monday. That allows more service members and their families to resume not only recreational travel, but also permanent change-of-station moves.

USA Today: Fact check: Congress did not designate Confederate veterans as U.S. veterans

By Sarah Lynch

U.S. Public Law 85-425, Section 410 –– amended Section 432 of the Veterans’ Benefit Act of 1957 (Public Law 85-56), which grants pensions to Confederate widows. Section 433, which grants a pension to Confederate veterans’ children when there is no widow, was also amended. This amendment to the Veterans’ Benefit Act does indeed expand the definition of “veteran” to include “a person who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.” However, the act also clearly specifies that this inclusion applies “for the purpose of this section, and section 433,” which Jessica Owley, professor of law at the University of Miami, interpreted as a limited extension.

6/29/2020 News:

NPR: As The Country Reexamines Statues And Symbols, The VA Resists A Gender-Neutral Motto

By Quil Lawrence

The VA is planning to put additional plaques at national cemeteries, bearing the line from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address that is its motto: “…To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” The veterans’ advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has made updating the motto one of its top priorities – a survey of its members showed more support for changing the motto than leaving it unaltered.

*Also mentioned in NPR Boston

ConnectingVets.com: Veterans Affairs reaches 20,000 COVID-19 cases, 1,500 deaths since March as infections spike

By Abbie Bennett

The Department of Veterans Affairs reached several coronavirus pandemic milestones this week, including surpassing 20,000 cases and 1,500 deaths across its hospitals nationwide since the beginning of the pandemic.

Military Times: Trump denies briefing on reported bounties against American troops in Afghanistan

By Lynn Berry and Zeke Miller

President Trump denied that he had been briefed on reported U.S. intelligence that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan, and he appeared to minimize the allegations against Moscow.

MyChesCo: VA Supports 988 Expansion for National Suicide Prevention Crisis Line and Veterans Crisis Line Access

By Staff

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced their support for the Suicide Prevention 988 expansion initiative, a new national three-digit emergency telephone number to access crisis call centers across the country for suicide prevention and mental health services, including the Veterans Crisis Line, by July 2022.

POLITICO: How a veteran’s secret podcast put her in the Trump administration’s crosshairs

By Natasha Bertrand

By day, Allison Gill was a high-level employee at the Department of Veterans Affairs, working on healthcare for the military and veterans. Two and a half years later, Gill, herself a veteran, says she was essentially forced out of her job following an internal V.A. investigation of the podcast —called Mueller She Wrote — during which she was questioned about how she could record a podcast and perform live shows while claiming to have post-traumatic stress disorder.

ConnectingVets.com: A simple stamp is raising money for PTSD research by the VA

By Julia Ledoux 

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced that the VA National Center for PTSD will be able to fund additional research due to the sale of more than 7 million of the stamps. According to a release, stamps sales have raised more than $717,000, which has now been disbursed to the VA.

Fox News: Soldiers and suicide – this is what my own battlefield wounds taught me

By Greg Stube

In an effort to end veteran suicide, President Trump released his plan that is designed to bring  federal agencies together with state and local governments. I applaud President Trump for this and I would like to add some perspective to this national conversation. I once started to add up the veterans I knew who committed suicide. I soon had to stop picturing their faces, as there are so many.

KAWX: US Senator John Boozman’s Weekly Column

By John Boozman

I’ve championed a new concept that would allow the VA to tap into this network of non-profits in the community, establish a framework to coordinate these efforts and offer grants to expand outreach to better measure the effectiveness of these programs. This proposal was included in the Senate VA Committee-passed comprehensive bill that expands veterans’ access to mental health service.

Air Force Magazine: Veterans Nonprofit Looks to Positive Psychology to Promote Personal Resilience

By Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

A leader from one veteran-serving nonprofit hopes the group’s employment of positive psychology to promote mental health among veterans and the families of fallen service members can help inspire its broader use to fight suicide.

The Hill: Innovation in veteran posttraumatic care requires collaboration

By: Shauna Springer, Dr. Jim Lynch, and Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) 

Congress must act. H.R. 5648, the Treatment and Relief through Emerging and Accessible Therapy for (TREAT) PTSD Act, would require the VA to provide SGB therapy as a front-line treatment for veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Congress must consider this bill swiftly and in bipartisan fashion.

Military.com: Investigation Details Afghanistan Insider Attack That Killed Army Sergeant Major

By Matthew Cox

Members of the U.S. Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigades are trained to form tight bonds of trust with foreign counterparts, a culture that set the conditions for Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Bolyard to lose his life in a 2018 green-on-blue attack in Afghanistan.

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