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IAVA Daily News Brief – April 27, 2015

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Two F-35C Lightning II aircraft fly in formation over the Sierra Nevada mountain range with to two F/A-18E/F Super Hornets from Naval Air Station Lemoore. | Military Times >>

 

 Today’s Top Stories
 
VA Secretary McDonald: Aging vets straining the system
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said Friday the nation’s VA health care crisis was created primarily by demands of an aging population of Vietnam warriors, and it could resurface as those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan grow older. | The Arizona Republic >>

VA expands veterans’ access to private care
The Department of Veterans Affairs is making a change to its Veterans Choice Program, which will double the number of veterans eligible to seek private care if a VA hospital can’t accommodate them immediately. | The Hill >>

Senator: Design changes might be behind VA hospital costs
Multiple design changes may be the reason a veterans hospital under construction near Denver soared more than $1 billion over budget, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee told reporters after touring the half-finished complex Friday. | Associated Press >>

Afghanistan

Taliban insurgents shot rockets onto a U.S. base outside Kabul and targeted Afghan government buildings in a provincial capital on Friday, as they officially launched their spring offensive in a year that has already seen fierce fighting. | Reuters >>

At the start of Afghanistan’s “fighting season,” officially declared by the Taliban on Friday, NPR producer Rebecca Hersher meets a group of boys who just want to fly their kites. | NPR >>

Italian police on Friday arrested 10 people and were looking for eight others suspected of belonging to an armed group linked to al Qaeda who had plotted attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan and at least at one point the Vatican. | Reuters >>

Iraq

Fighters from the Islamic State group ambushed an Iraqi Army convoy on Friday with a bulldozer packed with explosives, killing the commander of the First Division and three of his staff officers north of Falluja, said military officials. | Associated Press >>

U.S.-led forces targeted Islamic State militants in Syria with four air strikes from Friday to Saturday morning and conducted 11 strikes against the group in Iraq, the U.S. military said. | Reuters >>

Iraq’s army announced it was making progress in the battle against Islamic State militants in Anbar province Sunday even as it struggled to retake territory lost over the weekend and a string of bombings rocked the capital. | Associated Press >>

Military Affairs

CSTs, as they were officially known (or “The Pink Team,” as they were nicknamed by others), operated under a ban on U.S. military women in combat roles even as they accompanied Ranger strike forces on dangerous night raids of suspected terrorist hideouts. | People >>

The Navy’s submarine base in Groton is holding a ceremony Monday in honor of a military dog that died from illness this month after years of service. | Associated Press >>

Big changes to the Marine Corps’ command structure are coming this summer. With the 2014 exit from Afghanistan allowing the Marines to emphasize presence and partnerships in Europe, Africa and the Americas, the Corps plans to create two new general officer commands, Marine Corps Times has learned. | Marine Corps Times >>

New Greatest Generation

Military veterans passed through our region Friday on a long journey to raise awareness about a serious issue. A group known as the “Shepherd’s Men” is running 911 miles from ground zero in New York to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. They stopped at a weekly veteran’s rally in Lynchburg Friday afternoon. | WDBJ 7 >>

Four military veterans are aiming to summit North America’s tallest mountain on Memorial Day, armed with the names of hundreds of Americans who have died while serving their country. | Associated Press >>

An Oklahoma veteran amputee who made history is speaking out. William E. “Spanky” Gibson Jr. hasn’t done a local television interview since returning from Iraq in 2008. He wants returning veterans to know they’re not alone. | KOCO Oklahoma City >>

Inside Washington

An average of 22 veterans commit suicide in this country every day — and following our report — one congressman is demanding answers on whether we’re doing enough to help them. “This is a national tragedy,” said Rep. Tim Murphy. “This is a national embarrassment.” Tim Murphy wants to know if veterans with PTSD — post-traumatic stress disorder — are getting the care they need and deserve. David Cranmer’s father — former Allegheny County Commissioner Bob Cranmer — says they are not. | KDKA Pittsburgh >>

House lawmakers are threatening to slash Defense Department funding by about $500 million next year if Pentagon officials don’t hand over documents related to a probe into the controversial prisoner swap that freed five Taliban detainees in exchange for captive U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl. | Washington Post >>

U.S. senators clashed with a top Department of Veterans Affairs official Friday over the costly, half-finished VA hospital in Aurora and demanded a more thorough investigation of what has gone wrong. | Denver Post >>

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