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IAVA Daily News Brief – April 3, 2015

Caution flag up on more easing of VA ‘Choice Card’ usage
An actuarial firm under contract to the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that allowing veterans who live more than 40 miles from needed VA health care to use private sector care instead could balloon VA health care costs by as much as $46 billion a year. | Stars and Stripes >>

Ex-troops with highest suicide risk often don’t qualify for mental care
The largest study to date of recent military and veteran suicides has identified two high-risk groups of former troops who are generally ineligible for the psychiatric care afforded to all others who served: those forced out of the military for misconduct and those who enlisted but were quickly discharged for other problems. | Los KAngeles Times >>

VA pharmacist: Bosses said not to drug-test patients
A pharmacist at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Wisconsin said she was discouraged by higher-ups from performing drug tests on patients prescribed opiates, as is recommended by VA guidelines. | Military Times >>

Afghanistan 

A suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of a demonstration against corruption in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost on Thursday, killing 17 people and injuring at least 50 more, government officials said. | Reuters >>

Forget Russian tanks and Kalashnikov rifles, F-16 jets or rocket-propelled grenades. In the Afghan capital and other cities, some of the country’s expert weavers are now emblazoning their carpets with images of the ultimate American high-tech weapon: drones. | Washington Post >>

Authorities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir today said they will expel about 11,000 illegal Afghan refugees living in the disputed region under a national anti-terror plan chalked out after one of the deadliest terror attacks in the country. | The Economic Times >>

Iraq

More than 25,000 foreign fighters from some 100 countries are linked to al Qaeda and ISIS, United Nations experts reported to the U.N. Security Council. | NBC News >>

One week after the start of intensive American airstrikes against Islamic State hide-outs, most of the key parts of central Tikrit had finally fallen to the government’s forces – although significant pockets still remained contested on Thursday. | New York Times >>

He’s Iraq’s most famous Shiite militiaman, a fierce warrior whose nom de guerre — Abu Azrael — is an archangel of death in Islam. But the 37-year-old has another nickname: the “Iraqi Rambo.” | LA Times >>

Military Affairs

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno confirmed Wednesday that the Army will change its unpopular tattoo policy, with looser rules that allow for more ink to take effect in the near future. | Washington Times >>

The first-ever version of the elite Army Ranger School to include female students is set to begin April 20 with at least 12 women participating, following the recent completion of a required prerequisite course by six more female soldiers. | Washington Post >>

The Navy hospital ship Comfort got under way Wednesday from Norfolk Naval Station on its first deployment in four years and in the wake of a significant last-minute leadership change. | The Virginian-Pilot >>

#VetsRising

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charlie Linville lost his leg in an improvised explosive device attack in Afghanistan, but that won’t stop him from climbing Mount Everest. | KABC 7 >>

Sean Kastle, a Kansas veteran, found a way to bridge the gap that PTSD created between him and his children. He wrote a book called “Why Is Dad So Mad?” Kastle is a FHSU graduate and instructor. Kastle is one of the 10 to 20 percent of recent vets who struggles with PTSD. He talked with NBC Nightly News about the book on Wednesday night’s newscast. | KSN-TV >>

Labs for Liberty, a non-profit based here in Utah, helps veterans by giving them a service dog when they come back from war. The organization also offers veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and other war related symptoms a place to relax without stress. | ABC 4 Utah >>

Inside Washington

For the first time in nearly three decades, Seattle’s Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital campus is poised to expand, with construction of a new mental-health and research building set to start later this month amid a booming veteran population seeking treatment. | Seattle Times >>

A year after the federal government approved a study for the use of marijuana by veterans in treating post-traumatic stress disorder the work may at last get underway. | Military.com >>

Of the 1 million disability claims filed with the VA each year, about 4,500 are eventually heard by the niche appeals court based in Washington, D.C. It is often the final round of a veteran’s long fight for compensation. It’s not unusual for the court to decide claims more than 15 years after they were filed. | The virginian-Pilot >>

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