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IAVA Daily News Brief – December 8, 2014

Today’s Top Stories

Lawmakers set last-ditch push to prevent veteran suicides
House and Senate lawmakers are poised to use the final days of the lame-duck session to pass a bill aimed at preventing veteran suicides. With only days left before the 113th Congress wraps up, lawmakers are looking to fast track the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. | The Hill >>

Military Sexual Assault Unresolved
The New York Times editorial board writes: The surest measure of the scale of the problem of sexual assault in the military — and the failure of the Pentagon and Congress to deal with it — is that the Defense Department thinks it has really achieved something because the total number of rapes and other sexual assaults decreased to 19,000 in 2014 from about 26,000 in 2012. | New York Times >>

Where’s the discipline for those who retaliated against VA’s whistleblowers?
Despite those increased protections, whistleblowers still are targets of retaliation, reprisal and retribution from their bosses. Increasingly, those who engage in retribution are being disciplined, although the numbers remain low. The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 increased OSC’s ability to prosecute retaliators, yet Lerner said it can be difficult to prove charges against them. She applauded the current VA leadership for trying to move the agency away from a culture of retaliation. | Washington Post >>

Afghanistan

Almost as soon as U.S. commanders begin a new support mission in Afghanistan on Jan. 1, anchored by four training hubs, they will start a year-long sprint to make the most of their time advising Afghan forces before the hubs are shuttered 12 months later. | Washington Post >>

The United States has handed to Pakistan three prisoners including a senior Taliban militant held in Afghanistan, as Washington rushes to empty its Afghan prison before losing the legal right to detain people there at the end of the year. | Reuters >>

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel traveled to Afghanistan this weekend, his fourth and last trip to the country as he makes way for his likely replacement, Defense Secretary nominee Ashton Carter. | CNN >>

Iraq

Kawa’s unit of 31 — including 20 local tribal members — is on the front lines of the fighting, about 2 miles west of the town of Sinjar, where they keep a watchful eye on Iraq’s Highway 47, the only route under the Islamic State’s complete control going directly from Mosul to Syria. The militants seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June. | USA Today >>

Militants attacked a police station in an Iraqi village north of Baghdad, killing at least nine people Sunday, officials said. | Associated Press >>

Former President George W. Bush declined Sunday to join those criticizing his successor’s approach to fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. “The president has laid out what I think is a good goal” to degrade and defeat the Islamic State, he told CNN’s Candy Crowley. | Washington Examiner >>

Military Affairs

If he had known in 2005 what he knows today, Brig. Gen. Gary Brito would have nominated Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe for the Medal of Honor. Brito knew in 2005 that Cashe, his uniform soaked with fuel, had plunged into a burning vehicle in Iraq on Oct. 17, 2005, to rescue soldiers who were on fire. But only months later did Brito, Cashe’s battalion commander, learn the full details of Cashe’s courage that day outside the city of Samarra. | LA Times >>

For those who earned the Medal of Honor in Vietnam, their valor was for what some called a lost cause. So many men fought bravely, as part of a military with a clear advantage, and yet they were fighting a war that the United States failed to win. | Stars and Stripes >>

A military veteran says he called out a ‘phony’ soldier dressed in a military uniform at a Philadelphia mall. | CNN >>

New Greatest Generation

With the same assertive smile and confident thumbs up he’d flashed eight months earlier as millions of Americans looked on, Army Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg on Wednesday afternoon accepted his retirement from the only job he’s known since graduating high school. | Savannah Morning News >>

Before he yelled out to the men to “shoot those bastards out of the sky,” David Weiss paced across the main deck of the ship — pipe in hand — until he reached a back room. On the PA system, Weiss belted a whistling noise from his pipe before he made his final address to the crew: “All hands. All hands. Must run the fantail for fire demonstration, commencing at 1200,” he said. “Public is invited to observe.” | AL.com >>

Facing what’s likely his last Thanksgiving, Captain Justin Fitch regards the cancer that’s reduced his life expectancy to months as “a blessing.” “I’m on a shortened timeline. Every day is a gift,” said the 32-year-old officer stationed at U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center at Natick Labs. | Associated Press >>

Inside Washington

Spurred by a protest in a federal court, the Department of Veteran Affairs picked a new company to manage the process of getting veteran-owned small businesses verified. The result? Another lawsuit from the prior winner that saw its contract terminated. | Washington Business Journal >>

The Department of Veterans Affairs wants a dying Vietnam vet in Washington state to repay $6,300 in pension benefits even though its paperwork backlog was responsible for the overpayments. | Fox News >>

Veterans in school may avoid a reduction in their monthly housing stipend, but not so the active-duty force. Veterans going to school under the Post-9/11 GI Bill will not see their monthly housing stipends reduced next year under the defense budget approved Wednesday by the Senate and House armed services committees. | Military.com >>

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