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IAVA Daily News Brief – January 23, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

Veterans advocates: Stop the VA ‘hamster wheel’ disability appeals process
The effort to clear a massive backlog of veteran disability claims is hurting efforts to address a similar backlog in appeals of denied claims, say advocates demanding reforms to an onerous “hamster wheel” system that leaves veterans languishing for years. | Stars and Stripes >>

House bill would give VA more authority over executives
Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced legislation Thursday to give the Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald more authority over the department’s senior executives. | The Hill >>

VA Approval Sinks in Wake of Turmoil
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ favorability ratings have slipped considerably following a year of turmoil, resignations and wrongdoing at the agency, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Thursday. | Wall Street Journal >>

Afghanistan

One of the few times President Obama received bipartisan applause in his State of the Union address was when he boasted that “our combat mission in Afghanistan is over.” But when he arrives in New Delhi this weekend, he won’t hear any cheers for the pullout. | National Journal >>

The self-described Islamic State has few cultural or ideological affinities with the Taliban. Scattered reports of its presence appear to have more to do with local militant rifts. | The Christian Science Monitor >>

ISIS is trying to make inroads into Afghanistan but how likely are Afghan’s to replace their white Taliban flags with the black ISIS flag? | Foreign Policy >>

Iraq

The U.S. and Iraq have begun preparations for an assault by summer to retake Mosul, selecting and training military units and cutting supply lines to Islamic State militants who control Iraq’s second-largest city, the top American commander in the Middle East said. | Wall Street Journal >>

Iraq’s prime minister on Wednesday appealed for more aid for the country’s beleaguered ground forces, which have yet to score a decisive victory against the Islamic State group despite five months of U.S.-led coalition air raids. | Associated Press >>

Kurdish forces claimed to have pushed back Islamic State militants from a 300-square-mile area of northern Iraq on Wednesday and said they cut one of the extremist group’s key supply lines to the occupied city of Mosul. | Washington Post >>

Military Affairs

The Army is considering taking measures to slow the drawdown, though the service still plans to eventually reach an end-strength of 450,000 active-duty troops. | Army Times >>

At a time when the Department of Defense budget is under pressure, some military bases are re-examining how they operate to find ways to save. And increasingly, base officials are looking west to a model established at the Presidio of Monterey, an installation on California’s Central Coast where the Army has a unique relationship with the city. Over time, millions of dollars have been saved. | NPR >>

Enlisted women will join the submarine force in 2016 and recruiting for the first integrated crews is now underway. | Navy Times >>

New Greatest Generation

The second annual Wounded Warriors Guide Service Ice Tournament was a huge success. Last year they had 70 contestants with 100 show up to the dinner banquet. This tournament was sold out in December and had a waiting list of more than 15 teams. | Devils Lake Journal >>

Chad Pfeifer calmly rolled in one five-foot putt after another as he talked about the day he almost died. Around him on the PGA West Palmer course’s putting green, multiple-time tour winners such as Bill Haas and Ben Crane were hitting putts one day before the Humana Challenge kicks off. | Golf Digest >>

Dale Graham founded Veterans Corner, an organization that helps veterans work through the red tape of the VA to get their benefits. This former Marine and his army of volunteers meet every Thursday to help other veterans and their families fill out the application for VA benefits. | KFOR 4 >>

Inside Washington

Senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Department could have their pensions docked and their bonuses cut under legislation introduced Jan. 22. | Federal Times >>

Members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee renewed their questions about VA’s benefits system and growing appeals workload Thursday, saying they are disturbed by reports that show an average wait of more than 3.5 years for appeals to be completed. | Military Times >>

A Virginia program aimed at hiring veterans is claiming 10,000 jobs pledged to vets. Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the milestone Wednesday for the Virginia Values Veterans Program. | Associated Press >>

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