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IAVA Daily News Brief – December 10, 2014

Today’s Top Stories

House passes suicide prevention bill, Senate awaits
The House on Tuesday passed sweeping veterans suicide prevention legislation as one of its final legislative acts of the year, but the measure still faces an uncertain fate in the Senate. | Military Times >>

Military grapples with stigma of men reporting sexual assault
Though survey results released by the Pentagon last week suggest the number of sexual assaults in the military has decreased, a new, matter-of-fact way of asking questions has revealed far higher rates of penetrative sexual assault — such as rape and sodomy — than in previous years. | Stars and Stripes >>

A Losing Battle: Veterans Accuse the Army of Denying Justice
Veterans and their lawyers say the system is broken. Our quick-look investigation found that when Army Veterans appeal a discharge to get benefits for service-related injuries, the default answer is often no, and the numbers show it. | ABC News >>

Afghanistan

The 10th Mountain Division — the Army’s first to be deployed to Afghanistan and the last to return — was welcomed home Monday at a ceremony at its base in far northern New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Army Secretary John McHugh, a former congressman from the North Country, addressed the troops at Fort Drum and thanked them for their service. | Associated Press >>

After years of false starts, are we on the brink of a breakthrough in improving relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, with the Taliban and al-Qaeda on both sides of the border suffering an array of defeats and deaths? | BBC News >>

“I don’t know if I’m pessimistic or optimistic,” Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the departing US commander in Afghanistan, told The New York Times. “The fact that we are in less places, the fact that there are less of us as a coalition, is obviously concerning.” | Business Insider >>

Iraq

From somewhere, a sniper opened fire on the seven battle-scarred Humvees of Iraqi Defence Minister Khaled al-Obeidi’s convoy as they rode on a crater-pocked highway. The convoy’s gunners replied with volleys of fire. The drivers did not stop. | Reuters >>

The Iraqi government appealed to U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday for additional air power and heavy weapons as Iraq struggles to expel the well-armed Islamic State militants who are dug in across a vast area of the country. | Washington Post >>

Iraq’s central government in Baghdad must give up much of its authority to local power centers — and potentially permit the creation of an autonomous Sunni Muslim region — if the nation is to survive the fight against Islamic State militants, a senior Iraqi Kurdish official said Tuesday. | Associated Press >>

Military Affairs

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered military commanders to be on high alert to respond to any security threats over the release of a report detailing the CIA’s controversial interrogation practices. | The Hill >>

The Army isn’t saying yet whether women will be allowed to attend its elite, all-male Army Ranger School next year, but all signs point toward the service moving toward it. The latest signal: 31 women selected recently to become “observer/advisers” in case the service allows female Ranger students will report to the school in January, said Col. David Fivecoat, commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade that oversees the school. | Washington Post >>

NASA’s new Orion spacecraft returned to dry land in Southern California after a test flight that ended with a plunge into the Pacific Ocean. A Navy ship, the USS Anchorage, delivered the capsule to Naval Base San Diego and unloaded the 11-foot-tall cone around 10 p.m. PST Monday. | Associated Press >>

New Greatest Generation

With the number of U.S. farms declining and the average age of American farmers now at 58 years, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been seeking ways to attract a new generation to the land. Recognizing an opportunity to tackle this problem and simultaneously serve the country’s veterans, Al Muñoz created the Returning Veterans to Agriculture Project, a website to help those who have served in the military find the resources and information they need to return to farms in rural communities or to start careers in agriculture. | Washington Post >>

Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder who have service dogs experience less severe symptoms of PTSD and depression, improved relationships and less substance abuse, according to preliminary data from a Kaiser Permanente study. | Statesman Journal >>

Dr. Anthony Hassan writes a blog for the Huffington Post: As veterans return from war, how ready are we for them? Are we doing enough to help with that transition? What more can and should we be doing to streamline assistance to veterans and their families? | Huffington Post >>

Inside Washington

The World War II era is about to officially draw to a close in the United States Congress. This comes after seven full decades during which there was always a veteran of that war in the legislative body. The last two World War II veterans will leave office at the end of the current session of Congress. They are 88-year-old Michigan Democrat John Dingell and his longtime friend, 91-year-old Republican Ralph Hall of Texas. | NPR >>

Brushing aside government scandals from the IRS to the Veterans Administration, President Obama told senior bureaucrats Tuesday that critics often rail against federal employees for the sake of “political opportunism.” | Washington Times >>

The Veterans Administration has taken a beating this year. The agency has endured a rash of complaints over poor or outright denial of medical care. Now, new criticisms are surfacing about the payment of veteran pensions. Specifically, two local veterans are at risk of losing their benefits over what their families say is a bureaucratic blunder. | WFAA 8 ABC >>

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