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IAVA Daily News Brief – February 27, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

McDonald Tells Congress VA Will Not Completely Privatize Health Care
Veterans Affairs Department Secretary Bob McDonald told lawmakers on Thursday he has no plans to grow the agency’s payroll or bureaucracy, or to completely privatize VA health care. | Military.com >>

Senator probes her own office’s bungling on VA care
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., says she has begun a comprehensive review of why her office failed to act on reports of excessive prescriptions of opiates to veterans at a VA medical center where a veteran died of an overdose last summer. | USA Today >>

Army Veteran’s Gilt over Surviving Iraq is a Wound that won’t Heal
It had been years since Sloan Sulham had heard from any of his men in Iraq. But the soft voice and Philippine accent on the phone were immediately recognizable: Spc. Reyes. “Arvin,” Reyes reminded his former platoon sergeant. | LA Times >>

Afghanistan

A suicide bomber rammed a car laden with explosives into a vehicle belonging to NATO’s top envoy in Afghanistan, killing one Turkish soldier and wounding at least one person, Turkish officials said. | Reuters >>

A British soldier serving in Afghanistan has been awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest honour for gallantry in the face of the enemy. L/Cpl Joshua Leakey of 1 Para helped a wounded US officer while under intense enemy fire in Helmand, then led a fight-back in which 11 members of the Taliban were killed and four wounded. | BBC News >>

The Taliban is set to gain territory this year in Afghanistan as the Obama administration weighs slowing down its withdrawal of troops, the top U.S. intelligence official indicated Thursday. | The Hill >>

Iraq

They take sledgehammers to statues with an uncommon gusto — destroying in seconds what may have survived centuries. New video released by ISIS shows militants smashing what they say are antiquities at a museum in Mosul, Iraq. | CNN >>

A coalition airstrike in western Iraq overnight reportedly killed 17 Islamic State militants in an area where the extremist group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been several hours before. | Fox News >>

The U.S. Army generals charged with strengthening Iraqi and Syrian forces to dislodge Islamic militants from vast stretches of both countries are poised to ramp up the effort in coming months. | Military.com >>

Military Affairs

The U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division has formally ended its mission to help counter the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The division headquarters has “cased its colors,” wrapping up its deployment in Liberia. In the coming days, the remaining soldiers of the 101st will return to the U.S. for 21 days of mandatory medical monitoring at Fort Bliss, Texas. | Wall Street Journal >>

Gabby Gifford’s ship has come in. A Navy warship named for the former Arizona congresswoman hit the water for the first time Thursday, Giffords announced on Twitter. | New York Daily News >>

A B-52 will fly over the Air Force Memorial on Monday as part of a ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first airman taken prisoner during the Vietnam War. | Air Force Times >>

New Greatest Generation

“The Veteran Vision Project,” created by photographer and college student Devin Mitchell, aims to both empower veterans and enlighten the public about the serious issues they face upon returning home. As CBS News reported, sometimes a military uniform “can mask the complexity of the men and women who wear it,” and Mitchell is setting out to unveil just who they really are. | Huffington Post >>

This week the Central Texas community lost another veteran. On Monday Brett Aycock, a U.S. Army sniper veteran, killed himself. This is especially hard for the community because Aycock was actively involved in raising awareness about veteran suicides. | Fox 7 Austin >>

Inside Washington

The country’s largest veterans’ service organization told Congress on Wednesday that it supports giving veterans access to private sector care when necessary, but will not accept any move to privatize Veterans Affairs Department healthcare. | Military.com >>

Doctors may opt out of a program providing outside health care to veterans caught up in long waits at the VA because the department is not paying high enough reimbursements, a national association of family physicians said this week. | Stars and Stripes >>

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin mostly avoided political theatrics at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, delivering a speech focused primarily on advocating for veterans’ issues. | Washington Post >>

New York City would be required to track the number of veterans applying for and receiving city benefits, under legislation passed Thursday by the City Council. Though the city’s estimated 200,000 veterans are eligible to receive certain housing and employment benefits, lawmakers said they don’t know how many are applying for and receiving them. | Wall Street Journal >>

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