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IAVA Daily News Brief – April 15, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

Isolated. Harassed. Their personal lives investigated. That’s life as a VA whistleblower, employees tell Congress.
Some whistleblowers at the Department of Veterans Affairs say they were demoted, then moved into windowless storage rooms, or basements. Others found their medical backgrounds scrutinized, and even their mental health and personal lives investigated. Even after their cases were cleared, those who retaliate against them were rarely if ever punished, they say. | Washington Post >>

McDonald looks to new committee for fresh ideas on fixing VA care
From Congress to veterans service organizations, the VA is getting no shortage of advice on how to improve on its dreary record. On Tuesday, a new government advisory committee of businessmen, academics, health care experts and retired military leaders met for the first time to craft suggestions on how to revamp the scandal-plagued agency. | Stars and Stripes >>

Michelle Obama, Jill Biden New Orleans bound to discuss combating veterans’ homelessness
First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden are scheduled to travel to New Orleans Monday April 20) to recognizes the city’s efforts to combat veterans’ homelessness, the White House announced Tuesday. | New Orleans Times-Picayune >>

Afghanistan

Hundreds of foreign militants are fleeing a months-long Pakistani military offensive and seeking sanctuary in Afghanistan, bolstering the ranks of Taliban factions and triggering one of the bloodiest starts to the spring fighting season in years, according to Afghan officials and analysts. | Washington Post >>

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 >>

Afghanistan’s top military leaders are poised to launch a major counterinsurgency operation in the country’s north, days after Taliban and other affiliated insurgent groups mounted a series of attacks on security forces in the region. | Stars and Stripes >>

Iraq

U.S. President Barack Obama warned Iran on Tuesday that its fighters must respect Iraq’s sovereignty and answer to the government in Baghdad in the battle against Islamic State militants. | Reuters >>

Lt. Col. John Schwemmer is here for his sixth Iraq deployment. Maj. James Modlin is on his fourth. Sgt. Maj. Thomas Foos? “It’s so many, I would rather not say. Sir.” These soldiers are among 300 from the 5-73 Squadron of the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army, about half of them trainers, the rest support and force protection. | New York Times >>

Hundreds of additional Iraqi troops are being sent to reinforce colleagues who are trying to fend off ISIS’ attempt to overrun Iraq’s largest oil refinery, a key paramilitary force said Tuesday. | CNN >>

Military Affairs

Army West Point Athletics, in collaboration with Nike, today introduces a new brand and identity system that sets the visual direction for one of the most storied brands in all of intercollegiate athletics. | Nike News >>

Before the Army announced it would take female students at Ranger School this spring, it sent an invitation to about 60 female soldiers. The offer: Come to this massive Army base in western Georgia and be part of the service’s research into which combat assignments should be opened to women. | Washington Post >>

Development work for the new Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, scheduled to be ordered in 2019, is on track, a key US Navy admiral said Monday. | Defense News >>

#VetsRising

Bradley Cooper may not have gotten the chance to make a speech during the Oscars, but when he won Best Male Performance for his lead in Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” at the MTV Movie Awards Sunday night, he made sure to dedicate the win to Chris Kyle. | The Daily Caller >>

After a life of training and combat, courageous canine soldiers need a great home. However, this can be difficult due to the perceived image of military dogs. Smashing that perceived notion of military dogs is Layka, a heroic dog who was shot four times while serving in Afghanistan. She attacked the shooter and saved the lives of her handler, Staff Sgt. Julian McDonald, and the rest of the squad. | Bark Post >>

Charles Miller is a 58-year-old legally blind Army veteran who refuses to let his lack of eyesight stop him from anything. “If anyone said, ‘you can’t do that’…I would tell them to give me a chance to try it and I’ll do it,” Miller said. | Fox News >>

Inside Washington

April marks the two-year anniversary of the Women Veteran Call Center inside the Veteran’s Affairs Office in Canandaigua. It’s the only call center of its kind in the country, devoted solely to helping women veterans. | Time Warner Cable News >>

The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday released a $76.6 billion bill to fund military and veteran housing, benefits, training and maintenance — $1.2 billion below President Obama’s budget request. | The Hill >>

Three months before the Department of Veterans Affairs began building a new hospital in Colorado, an agency contract specialist warned that its projects in Aurora and New Orleans could face immense cost overruns. | Denver Post >>

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