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IAVA Daily News Brief – April 17, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

As Veterans Groups Knock de Blasio, Commissioner Welcomes the ‘Energy’
On the steps of City Hall, veterans groups gathered on a sunny afternoon to air their grievances with Mayor Bill de Blasio. “So far, Mr. Mayor, you haven’t met with us once since you’ve been in office, not once. You haven’t even met with your own Veterans Advisory Board. You’ve met with the horse carriage drivers. This week you’ve met with voters in Nebraska and Iowa. But you haven’t met with us once,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “But it’s not about meetings. It’s about action. And sadly, there’s been none.” | New York Observer >>

House plan would give VA another budget hike
House appropriators appear poised to give Veterans Affairs Department officials almost everything they want in next year’s budget, but lingering concerns about administrative mismanagement could trim a few billion dollars from the bottom line. | Military Times >>

Obama tells wounded vets, soldiers they are not alone
Obama addressed the service members and their families at the White House Thursday during the annual Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride. More than 50 soldiers and veterans climbed on bikes under sunny skies and circled the White House South Lawn, some in cycles adapted for their injuries. | Associated Press >>

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, U.S. forces are a tenth of what they were at the height of the war. In addition, their lead combat role has given way to a training mission. How are Afghan security forces faring? | NPR >>

Seven months after rival leaders finally agreed to share power, Afghanistan has no permanent defense minister and cannot decide who should run the army, threatening to weaken the war against Taliban militants on the offensive after foreign troops left. | Reuters >>

Pakistan’s army is finally making significant gains in its campaign against Islamist militants, and some of the success can be traced back to unlikely sources: paintballs and bird calls. | Washington Post >>

Iraq

More than 2,000 families have fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi with little more than the clothes on their backs, officials said Thursday, as the Islamic State group closed in on the capital of western Anbar province, clashing with Iraqi troops and turning it into a ghost town. | Associated Press >>

Airstrikes from a U.S.-led coalition have helped contain ISIS’ attacks on the key Iraqi city of Ramadi, but security forces there still need reinforcements, a provincial leader said Thursday. | CNN >>

Iraq’s prime minister said on Thursday that he welcomed Iranian assistance in Iraq’s battle against Islamic State but suggested unease with the prominence of a top Iranian general, who has been widely seen in photos from Iraq’s battlefields. | Reuters >>

Military Affairs

More than half of some 770,000 soldiers are pessimistic about their future in the military and nearly as many are unhappy in their jobs, despite a six-year, $287 million campaign to make troops more optimistic and resilient, findings obtained by USA TODAY show. | USA Today >>

At the biggest maritime technology expo in the U.S., defense contractors quite literally bring out their big guns. BAE Systems is hyping its electromagnetic railgun, a massive naval artillery piece that would use electricity (rather than a controlled explosion) to hurl projectiles at targets more than 100 nautical miles away. | Fortune >>

The U.S. Army on Thursday approved additional benefits for soldiers who were wounded in the 2009 Fort Hood mass shooting. The service also announced it would award the Purple Heart to a soldier who was killed and another who was wounded in an attack by a radicalized Muslim in 2009 at a recruiting center in Little Rock, Ark. | The Hill >>

#VetsRising

After nearly three years apart, a Marine was reunited with his bomb-searching dog he served with in Afghanistan. Corporal Seth Hill first met Bbazy five years ago when they were paired up to train for bomb detection. | ABC 6 Columbus >>

Under the canopy of the oak trees, in the lull of a Saturday afternoon, three veterans rehearse what will become performance art, an intensely personal show that offers a public peek into their lives, from childhood to combat to the post-military chapters. | Miami Herald >>

At 5-foot-9 and 208 pounds, King seems invincible. After everything the formerly homeless veteran has endured in 20 years, he just might be. He may be on track to compete in the International Blind Sports Association’s World Games in South Korea next month, but he’ll still tell you he’s a “dead man.”  | The Courier-Post >>

Inside Washington

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. Congressman Tim Murphy responded to the report on the LiveLine with PJ Maloney. | KQV AM 1410 >>

The U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a hearing in Colorado next week to scrutinize the bungled VA hospital project and visit the construction site. | Associated Press >>

The Department of Veterans Affairs allowed contractors to access the agency’s network using personally owned laptops while traveling abroad in China and India, according to a federal inspector. | NextGov >>

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