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IAVA Daily News Brief – December 18, 2014

Today’s Top Stories

Pelosi slams Coburn for blocking VA suicide bill
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) didn’t mince words when blaming Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) for blocking a bill to help prevent veteran suicides. The House passed the legislation, which is named after a Marine veteran named Clay Hunt who committed suicide, by voice vote last week. | The Hill >>

Major messup: How the VA gave Congress and the media false information
The Department of Veterans Affairs this year issued false statements to Congress and the media about treatment delays and how many patients died or suffered as a result of wait times at its health clinics. | Washington Post >>

Veterans can apply to upgrade discharge for PTSD
A special web page has been launched to assist veterans seeking to upgrade punitive discharges related to behavior problems caused by post-traumatic stress. | Military Times >>

Afghanistan

Ten people have died in a Taliban attack on a bank in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, officials say. They say one suicide bomber blew himself up and three others were killed by security forces after a stand-off. | BBC News >>

A U.S. drone strike in eastern Afghanistan killed four Pakistani Taliban members and seven other insurgents, a district government official said Wednesday. | Reuters >>

Pakistan’s army and intelligence chiefs traveled to Afghanistan on Wednesday to seek help locating the Pakistani Taliban commanders responsible for the massacre of students at a school here in Peshawar the day before, officials said. | New York Times >>

Iraq

The bald eagle, Old Glory and the almighty dollar are king in this portion of Iraq, where ethnic Kurds don’t hide their affection for the U.S. | Fox News >>

Hundreds of American troops are now in Iraq’s volatile Anbar Province helping the Iraqi military take on the Islamic State, according to the Joint Staff. | Stars and Stripes >>

No matter how many bombs Americans drop on ISIS forces, Iraqi troops are losing ground. If al-Anbar is lost, the entire Iraqi front dynamic will shift to favor ISIS again, and months of the U.S.-led air campaign will have been wasted. | The Fiscal Times >>

Military Affairs

One of the U.S. Army’s giant surveillance blimps will rise to 10,000 feet above Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland on Friday for a three-year test. A second aircraft will begin testing in January. The Army’s Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS), which is built by Raytheon, will be tested for its ability to identify incoming enemy aircraft. | Washington Times >>

An Air Force pararescueman received the nation’s second-highest award for valor Wednesday. Master Sgt. Ivan Ruiz, who was deployed with the 22nd Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron last December in Afghanistan, was presented with the Air Force Cross on Dec. 17 at Hurlburt Field, Florida. | Air Force Times >>

Marine leaders at the Pentagon have issued a preemptive “call to action” to stem suicides during the holiday season. The overall number of suicides in the Marine Corps has fallen after years of aggressively combating the problem through the introduction of new programs targeting ranks from junior enlisted to senior officers. | Marine Corps Times >>

New Greatest Generation

Jose Herrera, 27, volunteers with the Thumos Project helping veterans, and he has a paid position at Mercy House helping homeless men settle in for the night. With Thumos, he helped set up a community garden at the Brigade Boys & Girls Club, and he also helped out for a time at the local Disabled American Veterans chapter. All this while studying full-time at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. | Star News Online >>

Dog Tag Bakery, which celebrated its grand opening this month, is not like other bakeries in the upscale D.C. neighborhood. The staff may be just as talented and pleasant as in other coffee houses in area, and the digs just as nice. But for eight people on staff, baking and brewing is just one element of their jobs. Those eight are injured veterans and their spouses, participating in a work-study program through Georgetown University. | National Journal >>

Mike Viti’s 232-day journey to honor fallen service members ended Saturday in Baltimore at the Army-Navy football game. It began in April in Washington state. Viti walked down the West Coast to San Francisco, across the southern states through the summer heat, then headed up the East Coast. | Baltimore Sun >>

Inside Washington

An official at the Houston Veterans Administration hospital is accused of steering a $150,000 no-bid contract to a close friend, and the Harris County District Attorney Office is seeking help to find additional allegedly tainted VA contracts. | ABC 13 >>

The veteran suicide prevention bill found widespread support from both sides of the aisle. But one penny-pinching Senator has blocked the overdue legislation that would provide support programs and online mental health resources. TakePart >>

The Treasury Department’s inspector general is looking into why the department hired a woman already under federal investigation for steering millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to a friend’s company, and why she misled investigators who were looking into the matter. | Washington Times >>

Construction of a new VA hospital in Aurora will resume next week under a short-term deal cut between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Kiewit-Turner, the project’s prime contractor. | Denver Post >>

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