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IAVA Daily News Brief – April 1, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

VA leader: Re-embracing the customer
The man in charge of the nation’s embattled veterans agency is turning to executives at Starbucks, Disney and Ritz-Carlton for advice about customer service, and he is making a personal plea for doctors to consider working at VA hospitals serving nearly 10 million American veterans. | U-T San Diego >>

Active-duty suicides up in 2014: report
Suicides among active duty members of the military increased in 2014, through reservists and members of the National Guard saw a decrease, according to numbers released Tuesday by the Pentagon. | Washington Times >>

Ernst offers bill to improve veterans’ access to mental healthcare
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) has introduced legislation to strengthen veterans’ mental healthcare by making it easier to get help outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs. | The Hill >>

Afghanistan

A fresh team of Marines is crossing into Afghanistan this week, bound for Bagram Airfield alongside the 43rd Georgian Infantry Battalion. | Marine Corps Times >>

The official body overseeing the Afghan peace process and other influential players in the region have criticized President Ashraf Ghani for pushing for U.S. troops to stay longer, saying it could hurt the chances of ending the Taliban insurgency. | Reuters >>

After their first official meeting earlier this month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and President Barack Obama faced cameras together in the East Room of the White House. One man’s country had once given Osama bin Laden safe haven to plan 9/11; the other’s destroyed that refuge and propped up an entirely new government in Afghanistan, losing over 2,000 soldiers and spending over $1 trillion in the process. | Huffington Post >>

Iraq

Iraq’s leader said his forces recaptured the strategic city of Tikrit from Islamic State, dealing the biggest setback to the militants since they began to seize large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria last year. | Wall Street Journal >>

About 1,250 soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division will deploy to Iraq later this year, officials said Monday. The soldiers from the division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team will deploy in August or September, said Maj. Josh Jacques, a spokesman for the division. | Army Times >>

A suicide bomber targeted a bus carrying Iranian Shiite pilgrims north of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing 10 people, including seven Iranians, according to Iraqi officials. | Associated Press >>

Military Affairs

The US Army’s chief of doctrine development and future plans said the service is conducting high-level discussions to revise the way it conducts wartime acquisitions, in part to make them quicker. | Defense News >>

As part of a joint Department of Defense-State Department effort to bolster Ukraine’s internal defense capabilities, the United States will be sending Army paratroopers to train Ukraine’s National Guard, a U.S. Army Europe spokesman confirmed to The Daily Signal on March 30. | Newsweek >>

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), a former Navy SEAL Team 6 commander, is slamming Defense Secretary Ashton Carter for a proposal to relax some military enlistment standards to boost personnel recruitment and retention. | The Hill >>

New Greatest Generation

Mike Day, a former Navy SEAL who says he was shot 27 times in Iraq, is training for a half-Ironman competition in Florida and has raised nearly $80,000 for a brain treatment center for service men and women. | New York Daily News >>

J.R. Martinez, the Army veteran who suffered a traumatic injury in Iraq and went on to win the Mirror Ball Trophy on “Dancing with the Stars,” spoke of overcoming adversity on Tuesday, March 31 at Loma Linda University Health. | The Press Enterprise >>

Dave Ray’s resume reads like a list of the some of the hardest jobs in the world. He’s been a Marine, a police officer, a coal miner, and he’s currently a father of three. Being no stranger to a challenge, Ray decided he is going to take on some of the toughest terrain around: the Appalachian Trail. | The Register-Herald >>

Inside Washington

An official with the Department of Veterans Affairs who drew the ire of two Nevada members of Congress is departing as director of the Reno regional benefits office, the department confirmed on Tuesday. | The Las Vegas Review-Journal >>

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs needs to do more to make sure Montana veterans get the health care they need in a timely fashion, VA Secretary Robert McDonald told veterans in Helena on Tuesday. | Associated Press >>

Veterans Affairs officials insist recent changes to how individuals can file benefits claims are nothing more than an efficiency move to clean up their files. But groups like the American Legion and AMVETS are accusing the department of abandoning their promise to help veterans get the benefits they deserve, and have filed a lawsuit to reverse the changes. | Military Times >>

 

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