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IAVA Daily News Brief – December 16, 2015

Children run to members of the Utah National Guard as they walk past security and return home for the holidays at the Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City, Utah. They are part of the Utah National Guard's 141st Military Intelligence Battalion, returning from Afghanistan where they have been deployed since February. | Military Times >>

Children run to members of the Utah National Guard as they walk past security and return home for the holidays at the Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City, Utah. They are part of the Utah National Guard’s 141st Military Intelligence Battalion, returning from Afghanistan where they have been deployed since February. | Military Times >>

 

Today’s Top Stories

Combat-related lung diseases lack diagnosis guidelines, researchers say
Evidence is mounting that veterans are suffering from pulmonary disorders related to deployment to the Middle East, but little is being done to diagnose and treat these illnesses, say researchers who are proposing new guidance for treating affected troops. | Military Times >>

VA whistleblower: Phoenix hospital still troubled after wait-list scandal
The Phoenix VA remains mired in problems, a whistleblower told Congress on Monday, more than a year after she ignited a national scandal by revealing that some 40 veterans died while stuck on secret waitlists at the health care facility. | Washington Times >>

MRIs of U.S. military personnel who have seen combat reveal a high incidence of brain damage, but the technology is too costly to scan all veterans
New research out of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., shows that more than half of military service members with blast injuries have a form of scarring on their brains. The research, published today by the Radiological Society of North America, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the brains of 834 active military personnel with TBI from combat. | Healthline >>

Afghanistan

The Army has finished its investigation into how and why Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl disappeared from his base in Afghanistan and senior Pentagon leaders have been briefed, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, officials said Friday. | Associated Press >>

Violence in Afghanistan is on the rise, according to a new Pentagon report to Congress that says the Taliban was emboldened by the reduced U.S. military role and are likely to try to build momentum from their 2015 attack strategy. | Associated Press >>

Both projects were part of a “stabilization” program intended by the United States Agency for International Development to supplement military operations against the Taliban and to demonstrate to Afghans the benefits of supporting the government in Kabul. But according to an internal study evaluating the impact of American assistance in Afghanistan, the result was just the opposite. | New York Times >>

Iraq

Saudi Arabia’s plan to form a Muslim antiterrorism coalition has underlined a new muscular foreign policy aimed at confronting the extremist group Islamic State, even at the risk of wading deeper into the region’s messiest conflicts. | Wall Street Journal >>

In a secret project tied to the overall U.S. campaign against the Islamic State, intelligence officials have spent months mapping out known physical locations of media safe houses where the extremist group’s operatives are compiling, editing and curating raw video and print materials into finished digital propaganda products for dissemination across the Internet. | Washington Times >>

As Iraq struggles to combat the Islamic State group, which has captured large swaths of territory and plunged the country into the worst political and security crisis since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011, threats against doctors have increased. Research published in the Lancet medical journal estimates more than 2,000 doctors have been killed in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. | Associated Press >>

Military Affairs

A veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be the first female commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, one of West Point’s top positions. The academy announced Tuesday that Brig. Gen. Diana M. Holland will be the 76th commandant of the Corps of Cadets. Under West Point’s superintendent, she’ll oversee discipline and training for the academy’s approximately 4,200 cadets. | Associated Press >>

Both injured in Afghanistan, a military working dog and his handler from Fort Hood’s 89th Military Police Brigade are expected to both make a full recovery, the brigade commander said Monday. A photo of the injured dog wearing a Purple Heart Medal in a hospital in Germany went viral last week. | Killeen Daily Herald >>

2016 will mark the end of the Marine Corps drawdown, and it will bring greater opportunities for Marines to re-enlist. The end of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined with increasing budget constraints, prompted the Corps over the past several years to dramatically reduce overall troop strength while preserving a combat-ready force. | Marine Corps Times >>

#VetsRising

As a little girl, Mary Dague daydreamed that she’d grow up to wield superpowers. She got them in Iraq. That’s where she put herself between an explosive and her team on an Army bomb disposal squad. She “hugged the bomb,” losing her arms to shield her partners from the blast. Now a double amputee, Dague is still saving lives. | Miami Herald >>

A local group of veterans is making an effort to find housing, medical care and the necessities of daily life for other veterans who may be homeless, disabled or in the grip of poverty. “Many of our veterans are just surviving day to day,” said Donald Payton, president of Hearts & Homes for Veterans, a non-profit organization helping veterans get food, housing, medical care, training and jobs. | The News-Press >>

Marine Sgt. Matthew Callahan, a combat correspondent and former infantryman, has created a photo essay using small Star Wars action figures to portray intense combat scenes and breath life into the grunts of of the Star Wars universe. | Task & Purpose >>

Inside Washington

Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake used a Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs field hearing Monday to promote a “universal Choice Card” that would allow all military veterans to get subsidized health care outside the VA system. | The Arizona Republic >>

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) experienced approximately a 36 percent increase in PHI healthcare data breach incidents during the month of November, according to the agency’s most recent report to Congress. | Health IT Security >>

A $9.5 billion effort to slash wait times for military veterans seeking medical care in many cases has had the opposite effect. To schedule a doctor’s visit, some vets in and around Orange County are waiting two to three times longer than what had been promised by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. | Orange County Register >>

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