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IAVA Daily News Brief – February 16, 2016

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Keiper, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician with Mobile Unit 3 deployed to Mobile Unit 5, does pushups with students at the Kao Chi Chan School during exercise Cobra Gold in Sattahip, Thailand. Lance Cpl. Jeremy Laboy/Marine Corps | Military Times >>

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Keiper, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician with Mobile Unit 3 deployed to Mobile Unit 5, does pushups with students at the Kao Chi Chan School during exercise Cobra Gold in Sattahip, Thailand. Lance Cpl. Jeremy Laboy/Marine Corps | Military Times >>

 

Today’s Top Stories

Congress considers veteran suicide bills
Veterans advocates say there’s momentum in the battle against suicide with several bills pending in Congress, including one influenced by a grieving family in Coronado. The legislation, which applies to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, addresses the higher suicide rate among female veterans and the mental health care needs of vets privy to classified material. | The San Diego Union-Tribune >>

Congress May Fix VA Hospitals By Merging Them With Military
Congress is exploring a dramatic transformation of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals that would merge them with Department of Defense (DOD) facilities and treat active duty soldiers and veterans side by side. Many veterans and lawmakers believe the VA healthcare system is in dire need of complete overhaul, and the idea of privatizing it has been increasingly popular. | The Daily Caller >>

Calls to veterans suicide hotline went to voicemail, report says
At least 23 veterans, troops or family members who called the Veterans Crisis Line in fiscal 2014 were transferred to a voicemail system and their calls never returned, according to a Veterans Affairs Department Inspector General report. | Military Times >>

Afghanistan

Taliban suicide attacks and a fierce battle for the northern city of Kunduz made 2015 the worst year for Afghan civilian casualties since the United Nations began tracking the data, officials said on Sunday, in a sobering reminder of the cost of the conflict at a time when the prospect of peace seems as distant as ever. | New York Times >>

The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan has in recent weeks stepped up airstrikes against former Taliban members who have rebranded themselves as part of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). | The Hill >>

The United States spent more than $7 billion in the past 14 years to fight the runaway poppy production that has made Afghan opium the world’s biggest brand. Tens of billions more went to governance programs to stem corruption and train a credible police force. | New York Times >>

Iraq

The United States and its allies conducted 27 strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq on Saturday, the Combined Joint Task Force overseeing the operations said in a statement. (Reuters)
http://news.yahoo.com/u-allies-conduct-27-strikes-syria-iraq-against-140815058.html

Islamic State militants attacked Kurdish forces in Iraq with mustard gas last year, in the first known use of chemical weapons in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, a diplomat said, after tests by the global chemical arms watchdog. | Reuters >>

The retaking of Ramadi, the provincial capital, has been held out as a vital victory by Iraqi officials and their American allies, and one of the most crucial first steps in the government’s reclaiming of Anbar Province and other Sunni Arab places. | New York Times >>

Military Affairs

Beginning this summer, a visit to a local Army recruiting office will include a new set of gymnastic tests to help determine what military jobs a recruit is physically capable of performing. Prospective soldiers will be asked to run, jump, lift a weight and throw a heavy ball — all to help the Army figure out if the recruit can handle a job with high physical demands or should be directed to a more sedentary assignment. | Associated Press >>

Capts. Daniel Cartica and Cal Ramm were strangers when the World Marathon Challenge kicked off on Union Glacier in Antarctica; the paths and purposes that led there were quite different. One trained for nearly a year, the other for a couple of months. One sought to bring attention to wounded Marines, one wanted to quietly honor the servicemen killed in Chattanooga, Tennessee. | Marine Corps Times >>

Development of a futuristic weapon depicted in video games and science fiction is going well enough that a Navy admiral wants to skip an at-sea prototype in favor of installing an operational unit aboard a destroyer planned to go into service in 2018. | Associated Press >>

#VetsRising

You could say The War Horse — an ambitious new digital magazine currently raising funds on Kickstarter — all started with a rocket-propelled grenade. On Nov. 1, 2010, U.S. Marine Sgt. Thomas Brennan, then 25, was in Helmand province, Afghanistan, when that grenade exploded feet away from him. | Huffington Post >>

A Rio Grande Valley resident created a service dog program involving rescue dogs from local shelters in an effort to help veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The program, known as TADSAW, or Train a Dog Save a Warrior, aims to teach rescue dogs basic skills to protect and keep veterans calm. | KGBT-TV >>

The Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping veterans throughout the United States since 2001 by working with veteran housing facilities and volunteer groups to provide assistance through warm meals, clothing and donations. This weekend the Great Falls chapter of CVMA furthered their mission of support through “Operation Warm Vets”. | KRTV >>

Inside Washington

Lawmakers have taken a step toward removing the cap on the amount the Veterans Affairs Department can guarantee under its VA home loan program, in legislation passed by the House this week. It’s unknown whether the Senate will take similar action. | Military Times >>

Three of the country’s leading veterans’ service organizations said they’re generally pleased with the Veterans Affairs Department’s budget request for next year but are concerned the department is moving too quickly to provide health care outside of VA facilities. | Military.com >>

Senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Department would be even further restricted in their rights to challenge disciplinary actions against them under a plan being discussed between the department and congressional committees overseeing the VA. | Washington Post >>

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