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IAVA Daily News Brief – February 25, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

VA secretary calls members of Congress and veterans groups to apologize, personally
He called his supporters. He called his nemeses. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald took to his phone Tuesday, personally apologizing for falsely telling a homeless veteran that he served in the special forces. The issue is particularly sensitive for members of the special forces, the most elite units in the military. | Washington Post >>

In Veterans Courts, prosecutors become social workers for the accused
Since the main job of district attorneys is to indict and prosecute criminals, you might find it odd that many of those prosecutors are whole-hearted supporters of a system that acts to treat — not to punish — the problems of one class of offenders: veterans. | PBS NewsHour >>

Former Marine found guilty in fatal shootings of ‘American Sniper,’ friend
A former Marine was convicted Tuesday in the deaths of “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle and another man at a shooting range two years ago, as jurors rejected defense arguments that he was insane and suffered from psychosis. | Associated Press >>

Afghanistan

Unidentified gunmen in southern Afghanistan stopped two buses traveling to the capital, Kabul, and seized around 30 people belonging to the ethnic Hazara minority, a bus company official said on Tuesday. | NBC News >>

The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan issued an emergency message on Tuesday warning of threats to Americans living in the capital Kabul. “As of late February 2015, militants planned to conduct multiple imminent attacks against an unspecified target or targets in Kabul City, Afghanistan,” read the message posted on the embassy’s website. | Today Online >>

The top watchdog for U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan is seeking details on the prospective size of Afghan security forces, at a time when the Obama administration is reportedly considering slowing the removal of U.S. troops from that war-torn country. | Defense One >>

Iraq

The face stares out from multiple billboards in central Baghdad, a grey-haired general casting a watchful eye across the Iraqi capital. This military commander is not Iraqi, though. He’s Iranian. | Reuters >>

America’s poor planning for the wars in Iraq is a key cautionary lesson for the U.S. to learn when considering military action in Ukraine and the Middle East, an Army general and a former legal adviser for the State Department said during a conference Tuesday. | U.S. News & World Report >>

Some 10,000 U.S. M-16 rifles and other military supplies worth about $17.9 million arrived in Iraq this week as U.S. troops pushed ahead with training and supplying Iraqi security forces battling Islamic State fighters, the Pentagon said on Tuesday. | Reuters >>

Military Affairs

The U.S. Navy remains committed to its plans to buy the carrier-based variant of Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 fighter jet and declare it ready for initial combat use by 2018, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michelle Howard said on Tuesday. | Reuters >>

The number of women expected to attend the elite Army Ranger School for the first time in April has inched up to six, following the completion of a recent preparatory course by a female Apache helicopter pilot, Army officials said Tuesday. | Washington Post >>

On Tuesday evening, after hearing nine days of testimony from more than 30 witnesses, the jury of 10 women and two men began deliberating in Routh’s capital murder trial. | The Star-Telegram >>

New Greatest Generation

Retired Army Sgt. Noah Galloway lives by the motto: “No excuses.” So it should come as no surprise to his friends and fans that the former light infantryman, who lost a leg and an arm in a bomb blast in Iraq, will be among the light-on-their-feet hopefuls in the upcoming season of “Dancing with the Stars.” | Military Times >>

Matthew “Griff” Griffin and Donald Lee both served multiple tours in Afghanistan fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. These are the guys behind Combat Flip Flops. They still see it as their mission to defeat Islamic extremism in Afghanistan and they think they can do so more effectively with jobs than they ever could by dropping bombs. | Gizmodo >>

Freshman member and Marine Corps veteran Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) is joining the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus as its vice-chair. The former member of the Arizona House of Representatives has been a champion for LGBT rights, fighting against anti same-sex marriage constitutional amendments and a state Senate bill that would have allowed business owners to assert their religious beliefs and deny service to gay and lesbian customers. | The hill >>

Inside Washington

The White House on Tuesday defended U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald after he apologized for falsely saying he served in the U.S. special forces, but a top Republican said the incident could hurt trust in the department. | Reuters >>

A Wisconsin VA hospital nicknamed “Candy Land” by some for an alarming surge in pain-killer prescriptions is under investigation — six months after a Marine Corps veteran died of an overdose in the psychiatric ward. | NBC News >>

A $1 billion Veterans Affairs hospital under construction in New Orleans is on track to begin receiving patients in 2016 and will eventually return the city’s status as a Gulf Coast hub of veteran health care, officials said Tuesday (Feb. 24) during a visit from the VA’s second in command, Sloan Gibson. | The Times-Picayune >>

An unlikely person rose to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald’s defense Monday after news broke overnight that the secretary had embellished his military record. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) has been one of the most vocal critics of McDonald’s performance, but the congressman struck an empathetic tone after the secretary apologized for falsely telling a homeless person he served in the Special Forces. | Washington Post >>

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