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IAVA Daily News Brief – April 14, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

Investigator: VA Whistleblower Cases Remain ‘Overwhelming’
A top federal investigator says the number of whistleblower cases reported at the Department of Veterans Affairs remains “overwhelming,” a year after a scandal broke over chronic delays for veterans seeking medical care and falsified records covering up the delays. | Associated Press >>

Best for Vets: Employers 2015 rankings are out
A few years ago, many companies viewed veteran hiring essentially as charity — a nice thing to do, a way to chip away at sky-high vet unemployment rates and get some good public relations in the process. Things have changed. | Military Times >>

Treating Sleep Problems In The Military Could Reduce PTSD
Sleep problems are common in members of the military, and may increase the risk of developing mental health conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a new report. | Huffington Post >>

Afghanistan

Taliban fighters swarmed over Afghan army posts in the country’s northeast, killing at least 18 soldiers and beheading some in a major attack to mark the start of the country’s summer fighting season, authorities said Monday. | Associated Press >>

The U.S. is still in an armed conflict in Afghanistan, despite the U.S. ending its combat mission in Afghanistan in December, said the Pentagon’s top lawyer on Friday. “There is no doubt that we remain in a state of armed conflict against the Taliban, al-Qa’ida and associated forces as a matter of international law,” Pentagon general counsel Stephen Preston said during a rare address at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law. | The Hill >>

Afghanistan’s first female pilot to serve in the air force since the fall of the Taliban has been honoured with the U.S Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award. Niloofar Rahmani, 23, has defied death threats from the terror group and even members of her own extended family to become the first female fixed-wing Air Force aviator in Afghanistan’s history and the first female pilot in the Afghan military since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. | The Daily Mail >>

Iraq

Baghdad’s Shiite-run government has begun its second major counteroffensive against the Islamic State, this time choosing western Anbar province, where the U.S. Marine Corps years ago showed that the path to victory requires an alliance with Sunni tribal chiefs. | Washington Times >>

Islamic State militants breached the security perimeter around Iraq’s largest refinery in Baiji early on Monday but were beaten back by security forces and coalition air strikes, local officials said. | Reuters >>

The Pentagon says that while Islamic State militants have lost control of up to 6,500 square miles in Iraq, they have gained a bit of ground in Syria since last August. | Associated Press >>

Military Affairs

The Army launched the effort to gather research and assess options following a Pentagon directive that requires women be integrated into more jobs in combat units by 2016. Any woman who graduates from Ranger School this spring will wear the service’s prestigious Ranger Tab on her uniform, but will not be assigned to the Ranger Regiment, which remains closed to women. | Washington Post >>

About 250 Marines are preparing to form the U.S. military’s first rapid-response task force to be based in Central America, where they’ll train with local forces battling drug cartels and stand ready to help in the event of hurricanes and other natural disasters. | Marine Corps Times >>

The Pentagon says a Russian fighter jet intercepted a U.S. reconnaissance plane over the Baltic Sea last week in an aggressive, unsafe maneuver that recalls Cold War tensions. | USA Today >>

#VetsRising

If Michael Roberts sounds a bit angry at times about the treatment of veterans, it’s because he can relate to the post-service challenges many have faced. He is out to increase awareness about the needs of veterans, especially those dealing with post traumatic stress and readjustment issues, and is doing that via an 8,000-mile walk across America. | The Journal Times >>

If Wanaque Reserve’s Bob Horowitz has his way, more than one injured combat veteran will be given a new “leash” on life in the near future, thanks to the generosity of area residents. | The Record >>

A team of veterans is going above the call of duty to keep young students safe. The Safe Passage Program, founded in 2011 by nonprofit Leave No Veteran Behind (LNVB), deploys vets to monitor unsafe Chicago neighborhoods as students walk to school. | Huffington Post >>

Inside Washington

The Veterans Affairs Department rejected about $355 million in cost savingssuggested by the contractor on the over-budget Denver VA hospital because it considered them unacceptable, according to documents released Monday. | Associated Press >>

The Department of Veterans Affairs said Thursday that a Little Rock solar panel project is “operational and working well” despite reports of troubles and an inquiry by an Arkansas lawmaker. | Stars and Stripes >>

The House VA oversight subcommittee is holding a hearing Monday afternoon about continued whistleblower retaliation within the Department of Veterans Affairs. | KUSA 9 >>

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