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IAVA Daily News Brief – April 8, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

March 2015 was a really bad month for the Veterans Administration
April 2015 started out with good news for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with a story about how the VA was addressing the homelessness of veterans. However, generally speaking, the year began badly for the Secretary of VA, Robert McDonald. | The Examiner >>

Army chaplains need training to help suicidal soldiers
Chaplains who are part of the Army’s first line of defense against suicide say they need more training in how to prevent soldiers from killing themselves, according to a RAND survey published online Tuesday. | USA Today >>

Congressman: VA Could Consider Selling Over-Budget Hospital
The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee said Tuesday the VA could consider selling or scaling back the over-budget Denver veterans hospital in order to get it finished. | Associated Press >>

Afghanistan

An Amnesty International report is calling for authorities to address the number of attacks on women’s rights activists in Afghanistan. The report, entitled “Their Lives on the Line,” examines the persecution of activists and other champions of women’s rights not only by the Taliban and tribal warlords, but also by government officials. | CNN >>

Militants who kidnapped 31 people from a bus in Afghanistan in February have released a video showing one of the hostages being beheaded. In the video, two masked gunmen speak to a man kneeling in front of them. | BBC News >>

The flag is crude, handmade, but the message is clear — allegiance to ISIS in Afghanistan. And the timing — with America withdrawing, the Taliban fractured, young men disillusioned and angry — could not be worse. | CNN >>

Iraq

Emboldened as they mop up the last Islamic State forces in the city of Tikrit, Iraqi military leaders are already vowing to follow up that operation with a much more ambitious one: marching into the vast Sunni heartland in western Iraq to root out some of the most significant militant strongholds. | New York Times >>

Archaeologists from the University of Manchester have been working in Iraq and making “significant discoveries”, while Islamic State militants have been bulldozing historic Assyrian sites. | BBC News >>

Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Steve Russell (R-Okla.), both Iraq War veterans, are calling on President Obama to devise a “serious” political strategy for defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). | The Hill >>

Military Affairs

Now a new study out of MIT, Popular Science reports, may have found a protective, flexible solution for today’s soldiers in an unlikely place: the sea. | NextGov >>

Special operations units affected by a recent decision to expand assignment opportunities for women have been ordered to conduct an ambitious regimen of equal opportunity and Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention training for their soldiers. | Army Times >>

After launching a new commercial advertising campaign last month, the Corps could soon revamp the way it uses Twitter to court potential Marines. Marine Corps Recruiting Command has long boasted a presence on social media. Marines running recruiting stations’ accounts usually push out information about the service and its benefits, as well as some local flavor. | Marine Corps Times >>

New Greatest Generation

The 100 Best Movies Streaming on Netflix Right Now: Fort Bliss (2014) – To uncover the sad ironies outlined by the military drama Fort Bliss, look no further than its title. The film tells the tale of an army medic looking to reconnect with her son following a tour in Afghanistan. | Complex >>

On Memorial Day, when many others will be grilling out, spending time with family and friends, or simply enjoying a day off work, Army veteran and Leadville resident Margaux Mange will be observing the holiday in a vastly different way. | Vail Daily >>

Mike Day doesn’t need a battlefield to be a hero. After surviving 27 gun shots from a single incident in Iraq, the retired Navy SEAL Sr. Chief brought a passion for helping fellow comrades back to the U.S., WTKR-TV reported. | Huffington Post >>

Inside Washington

Congress was shocked to learn that at a VA facility in Phoenix, Ariz. 1,700 veterans had languished on waiting lists – and some had died awaiting care. Here in Pittsburgh, the local congressional delegation decried a backlog of some 700 vets waiting months for an appointment. | KDKA CBS >>

A Vietnam veteran who has waited years for disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs for claims of post-traumatic stress disorder and exposure to toxic chemicals filed a class-action lawsuit on Monday, seeking to force the department to expedite a growing backlog of benefits claims appeals, including his own. | New York Times >>

A high-ranking Veterans Affairs official who was paid nearly $300,000 to relocate from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia last year was issued that hefty payout as part of a little-known program used to incentivize “highly qualified candidates,” TheDC has learned. | The Daily Caller >>

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