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IAVA Daily News Brief – February 26, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

Whistleblowers: Veterans cheated out of benefits
The Veterans Benefits Administration provides $95 billion of entitlements each year to veterans, including disability money, pensions to vets and their surviving spouses and death benefits — even American flags at veterans’ funerals. But a CBS News investigation has found widespread mismanagement of claims, resulting in veterans being denied the benefits they earned, and many even dying before they get an answer from the VA, reports CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews. | CBS News >>

Senators urge VA chief to fix ‘choice card’ woes
A bipartisan coalition of 41 senators is pressing Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald to remedy the implementation of a program that allows veterans to seek private medical care. The effort, often called the “choice card,” allows veterans to seek medical care at non-VA providers, if they live more than 40 miles from an agency facility or if they cannot get a doctor’s appointment within 30 days. | The Hill >>

‘American Sniper’ trial likely to increase stigma of PTSD
The killer of American Sniper Chris Kylewas handed swift justice Tuesday when a jury found him guilty of capital murder. But damage to the reputation of veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder used in the defense of convicted shooter Eddie Ray Routh may be longer lasting. | USA Today >>

Afghanistan

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, whose administration once backed the Taliban in Afghanistan, said Kabul must share power with the extremist group and block Indian influence if it wishes to see peace. | Wall Street Journal >>

The torture and mistreatment of people arrested for conflict-related activities remain widespread in Afghan prisons, the United Nations said in a report released on Wednesday, pointing to a continued challenge for the nation’s new government. | New York Times >>

The 25 men who gathered last week in a poor enclave of this ancient city bore the scars of a lifetime of war. One lost four fingers fighting Taliban militants. Another lost his right leg fighting the Soviets. Now, seated in a bare room on a cold morning, they declared readiness to make even greater sacrifices against a new enemy: the Islamic State. | Washington Post >>

Iraq

A coming Iraqi offensive to drive the Islamic State out of Iraq’s second-largest city renews a debate on whether U.S. forces should play a larger role in the operation despite the risk of drawing them back into a war. | USA Today >>

Kurdish forces are reaching their limits in northern Iraq as they work to push back ISIS terrorists, according to regional experts. Dr. Anwar Anaid and Dr. Henri Barkey told Fox News National Security Analyst KT McFarland the situation in northern Iraq is reaching a crucial point. | Fox News >>

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) on Tuesday drew a direct comparison between the U.S. military footprint in Iraq to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Moulton argued that the fight against ISIS could be a “slippery slope,” just like the maneuvering that led the United States into the long conflict in Vietnam. | The Hill >>

Military Affairs

U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh on Wednesday said he was optimistic lawmakers would agree to some form of relief from congressional budget caps for fiscal 2016, given widespread recognition the resulting spending cuts would undermine military readiness. | Reuters >>

The U.S. military needs stable funding as it increases deployments in Europe to help train NATO allies to deter Russian aggression, the head of U.S. European Command told lawmakers Wednesday. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove said the military’s, and particularly the Air Force’s, ability to quickly respond to situations in Europe is based on the ability to base or forward deploy aircraft and personnel on the continent. | Air Force Times >>

The U.S. Army has no interest in taking over the Air Force’s fleet of A-10 attack planes, even if it would save the venerable Cold War-era aircraft from the bone yard. The service’s top civilian, Army Secretary John McHugh, rejected the idea of accepting hand-me-down A-10 Warthogs from the Air Force. | Military.com >>

New Greatest Generation

Every farmer has a story about how they got into agriculture. Some are born into it, while others, like city kid Rodney Wells, jumped into it as a second career. Wells, the owner of Rancho de Rodney, a certified organic farm in southwest Fresno, grew up in Compton where his only connection to farming was a vegetable garden his father tended. But Wells wouldn’t make the city his home for long. At age 17 he joined the Navy as a way to escape a dismal future. | Fresno Bee >>

Neil Duncan, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has climbed or attempted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Denali in Alaska and Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America. | Omaha World-Herald >>

Jason Redler patiently watched and encouraged Russ Marek as he slowly wrapped thread around a fish hook and feathers to craft a fishing fly. Redler is a volunteer instructor with Project Healing Waters, an organization that works to help in the physical and psychological rehabilitation of military veterans with disabilities from wars. | Florida Today >>

Inside Washington

Service families are well cared for in today’s military but face increasing stress amid discussions on altering benefits like health care and family programs, the services’ top enlisted members told Congress on Wednesday. | Military Times >>

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) doesn’t need a commission or another report. He chairs a congressional committee. He is using that powerful perch to remake the civil service at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) one step at a time. It is an effort that has implications, some better than others, for the federal workforce generally. | Washington Post >>

The leaders of several prominent veterans’ and uniformed services’ organizations are split over a proposal to effectively abolish Tricare, the military’s health insurance plan. The proposal, one of 15 recommendations put forward by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, has become a flashpoint on Capitol Hill. | The Hill >>

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