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IAVA Daily News Brief – April 29, 2015

Airmen assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing return from a deployment at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. Approximately 200 airmen deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility for six months. | Military Times >>

Airmen assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing return from a deployment at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. Approximately 200 airmen deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility for six months. | Military Times >>

 

Today’s Top Stories 

Senator wants answers from VA Secretary on the poor treatment of VA whistleblowers
The poor and punishing treatment of whistleblowers inside the Department of Veterans Affairs has been described as part of a “corrosive culture” that Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald has vowed to change. But whistleblowers say that change, one year later, has still not happened. | Washington Post >>

VA’s Peter to Paul plan riles Congress
The VA’s proposal on April 21 is detailed in a letter from Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson to members of Congress. It would shuffle money inside a $5 billion fund created last year as part of a bill passed by Congress, “The Choice Act,” that was meant to help solve system-wide problems that lead to the national scandal of patient wait-times last year. | Washington Post >>

Conference: ‘Licensing barriers’ keep skilled veterans out of civilian job markets
Navy corpsmen who saved lives under fire but struggle to find work as paramedics; soldiers who navigated bomb-ridden roads in Baghdad but can’t drive trucks in the U.S. Troops coming back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are facing the same problem that skilled veterans have grappled with for decades: What they learn in the military often isn’t recognized in the civilian world. | Stars and Stripes >>

Afghanistan

The U.S. wrapped up combat operations in Afghanistan last year. About 10,000 U.S. military personnel remain in the country, but they have pulled back to their large bases and are advising the Afghans at the headquarters level. None are present as the Afghan army wages this fight on its eastern frontier. | NPR >>

Coordination between American officials in Afghanistan is so rare that in one instance, according to a U.S. watchdog, a senior official from the embassy in Kabul didn’t know about a $39.6 million business project until Afghan officials thanked the ambassador for supporting it. | Foreign Policy >>

After 14 years in Afghanistan, the Defense Department has successfully transferred 813 U.S. bases to the Afghan National Security Forces, but it has yet to spend roughly $1.4 billion intended for local transportation, power, and education projects, a watchdog group found. | National Journal >>

Iraq

Iraqi forces are on a westward push to retake Anbar, a sprawling Sunni-dominated desert province captured by the Islamic State group in their offensive last year. But as the battles for Tikrit and Ramadi have shown, it will be a hard slog for a much-diminished Iraqi army — especially given Baghdad’s reticence to arm Sunni tribesmen and local fears of the Shiite militias backing government forces. | Associated Press >>

Iraqi forces and US coalition fighter jets have been battling to stop the advance of Islamic State in Iraq. The militants were forced out of Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit last month. But they have advanced in the key central city of Ramadi – forcing more than 100,000 people to flee. | BBC News >>

U.S.-led forces targeted Islamic State militants in Syria with four air strikes from Monday to Tuesday morning and conducted another 16 strikes against the group in Iraq, the U.S. military said on Tuesday. | Reuters >>

Military Affairs

“They didn’t join this team to win championships, or become famous, or get their own signature shoes,” the Army’s new commercial starts out. “They joined because there is important work to be done, and only some able to do it,” the 60-second spot, launched April 27, states. | Army.mil >>

Watchstanders could soon be armed with tasers and other nonlethal weapons as Fleet Forces Command looks to beef up shore and shipboard security teams in the wake of a shooting tragedy. | Navy Times >>

Whether you need to take Spelling for Marines or Infantry Patrolling, the window for enrolling on the Marine Corps Institute online portal is rapidly closing. The Marine Corps is closing down its MCI distance learning program in an effort to save money and reduce redundancies, according to officials. | Marine Corps Times >>

#VetsRising

One climber just beginning his trek up Mount Everest at the time of the avalanche is a Marine veteran who lost his right leg in the war in Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. Charlie Linville and Heroes Project Founder Tim Medvetz were photographed at base camp the day before an avalanche swept down the south side of the mountain, killing 17 climbers and Sherpas. | NBC News San Diego >>

His homecoming might have been easier if he could have had access to a new website for Philadelphia-area veterans that went live Monday. It has 200,000 pages of searchable local resources – legal clinics, housing, job openings specifically for veterans – and tens of thousands more about medical conditions, insurance, and veterans organizations. | Philadelphia Inquirer >>

Dan Spangler and Joe Trainor Jr., veterans of the Iraq War and Afghanistan War, respectively, swear by the healing power of dogs. “I don’t know where I would be without the companionship that my dog Spanky gave me when I came home from Iraq,” Spangler, a sergeant in the Marine Corps, said in a press release. “Spanky saved me.” | The Beaufort Gazette >>

Inside Washington

Presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, has filed legislation to make it easier for Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald to fire workers and lengthen new workers’ probationary period from a year to 18 months. | Military.com >>

VA hospitals in Pittsburgh and Erie are emphasizing women’s health services as the number of female veterans grows, changing the character of hospitals once dominated by mostly older male patients. | Pittsburgh Tribune >>

Top officials of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs say they are directly monitoring a staffing shortage that has left a Topeka facility unable to provide emergency care for more than a year. Speaking at a health journalism conference last week in Santa Clara, Calif., VA Secretary Robert McDonald outlined the host of challenges he faces in reforming the embattled medical system. | KCUR 89.3 FM >>

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