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IAVA Daily News Brief – February 17, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

Years after his death, Houston vet recognized with law to help prevent suicide
Susan Selke and her husband stood in the East Room next to President Barack Obama on Thursday and watched him sign the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act into law. | The Houston Chronicle >>

‘Indefensible’: Report reveals extent of ‘burn pit’ pollution inhaled by US troops in Afghanistan
A scathing new watchdog report details the extent of the “indefensible” practice. The report says the U.S. military even spent millions on incinerators as a trash-burning alternative, yet several of them did not work or were never turned on, wasting $20 million and leaving troops to breathe pollution from the burn pits instead. | Fox News >>

It was meant to reduce wait times, but veterans say new choice cards are causing more problems
Veterans and some VA doctors say that the new “choice card” program, meant to reduce long patient wait times, is confusing and causing more stress. The choice card issued by the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs was meant to end long wait times for veterans after last summer’s scandal revealed that those who fought for their country were dying while waiting for care. | Washington Post >>

Afghanistan

US Special Forces soldiers and their Afghan allies have undertaken an increasing number of night raids targeting Taliban and al Qaeda militants, despite Washington formally declaring an end to combat operations late last year, according to a published report. | New York Post >>

The Taliban in this northern province allows girls to attend school. It doesn’t execute soldiers or police. Its fighters are not Pashtun, the main ethnic group that bred and fueled the insurgency. Some members are even former mujahideen, or freedom fighters, who once despised the Taliban and fought against its uprising. | Washington Post >>

Afghan officials have been paying tribute to a prominent female politician who died on Sunday following a bomb attack. Angeza Shinwari, a provincial councillor in eastern Nangarhar province, was an outspoken campaigner for women’s rights. | BBC News >>

Iraq

An Iraqi tribal leader said Saturday that ISIS militants are gaining ground in Anbar province, predicting a “collapse within hours” of Iraqi army forces there if tribal forces withdraw. | CNN >>

Iraqi soldiers and militants of the Islamic State group clashed again over the weekend in a western Iraqi town that has changed hands several times in skirmishes near a military base where American troops are training Iraqi soldiers. | New York Times >>

About 100 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were at this frontline position in Eski Mosul late last week, perhaps the most contested piece of real estate in northern Iraq. It sits at a junction that leads from Mosul to Tal Afar and beyond to the Syrian border — a critical supply line for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Supported by coalition air strikes, the Kurds swept down to seize the area late last month. | CNN >>

Military Affairs

New York’s Labor Department lists 126 occupations that require a state license, including acupuncturist, barber, dental assistant, interior designer, massage therapist and security guard. Obtaining these licenses can be costly and time consuming for anyone. But when a military family is ordered to move to the Empire State for a two- or three-year tour of duty, spouses who need these licenses to practice their profession can find themselves losing years of income as they wait for Albany to process the paperwork. | Wall Street Journal >>

At home in Fort Campbell, Army veterinarians mostly treat military working dogs and family pets. But once deployed, they could be called upon to treat just about anything. It could be camels or livestock or even lions and tigers, as some Army veterinarians discovered during the war in Iraq when they were brought in to help rebuild the devastated Baghdad Zoo. | Associated Press >>

The decision to discharge transgender soldiers from the Army would be made by a top, senior civilian official, according to a draft document obtained by USA TODAY, a move that would make it more difficult to remove such troops from the service. | USA Today >>

New Greatest Generation

Kate Hoit writes a blog for Medium: “I joined the U.S. Army Reserve at 17 and deployed to Iraq a few years later. For a year, I snapped photographs and wrote articles for The Anaconda Times, my base’s local newspaper. I learned that my father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six months into my tour.” | Medium >>

Brown is the founder and director of Growing Veterans, a Whatcom County nonprofit program that helps military veterans ease back into civilian life while growing healthy vegetables for the community.  | The Bellingham Herald >>

A Bay area veteran decided to pay it forward by giving a homeless musician a set of guitar strings. The only thing he asked for in exchange? A song. | Bay News 9 >>

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