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IAVA Daily News Brief – January 16, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

Highlights: Veterans groups’ 2015 priorities for the VA and Congress
Four top veterans service organizations on Thursday released their annual list of priorities for the Department of Veterans Affairs and Congress. Here are some highlights from the 29th edition of the groups’ “Independent Budget”: | Stars and Stripes >>

Detailed study confirms high suicide rate among recent veterans
Recent veterans have committed suicide at a much higher rate than people who never served in the military, according to a new analysis that provides the most thorough accounting so far of the problem. | LA Times >>

Lawmakers Vow to Keep Close Watch on Veterans Affairs Progress, Spending
Key members of Congress are vowing to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs follows through on reforms designed to alleviate long wait times at VA facilities that brought down the organization’s top leadership last year. | Wall Street Journal >>

Afghanistan

A dry fire range at the Afghan Special Police Training Center in Wardak province is disintegrating because of shoddy construction materials, the builder’s failure to meet contract requirements and insufficient oversight by U.S. officials, according to a report released Thursday by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. | Stars and Stripes >>

The Islamic State terror group is recruiting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Thursday. “We are seeing reports of some recruiting,” said Gen. John Campbell, commander of the Resolute Support mission, during an interview with Army Times. “There have been some night letter drops, there have been reports of people trying to recruit both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, quite frankly.” | Army Times >>

Chuck Hagel will leave the Pentagon with the world possibly more dangerous than when he started as defense secretary two years ago. But he appeared confident that Afghanistan will not go the way of Iraq, which has partly fallen into the hands of Islamic State jihadists, and said there’s no specific credible threat to U.S. military troops and their families at home, despite the recent hack of U.S. Central Command social media accounts and threats posted there. | U-T San Diego >>

Iraq

A search team has discovered 16 corpses in an area of northern Iraq formerly controlled by Islamic State militants, a local official said late on Wednesday. | Reuters >>

Under the watch of American advisors, dozens of Iraqi police practice marching in unison through a large gravel clearing, 20 kilometers from Mosul. Others sit as a trainer lectures them on how to use a mounted machine gun. Some practice searching an SUV for explosives. | TIME >>

U.S.-led forces launched 11 air strikes each in Syria and Iraq since Wednesday, targeting Islamic State fighters, equipment and buildings, the U.S. military said. | Reuters >>

Military Affairs

The U.S. will send about 400 troops to train the moderate Syrian opposition, defense officials confirmed Thursday night. | Army Times >>

Bradley Cooper and Taya Kyle talk with Jake Tapper about the new film “American Sniper” and shed light on veterans’ struggles at war and at home. | CNN >>

For the first time, women will be allowed to attend Ranger School, one of the military’s most physically demanding courses, in a major milestone on the path to open ground combat occupations to female soldiers. | USA Today >>

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Thursday that the service’s newest kind of ship will be called the “fast frigate” — a distinction designed to set it apart from amphibious ships and to underscore its role as a well-armed craft designed to protect other Navy vessels. | Washington Post >>

Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 fighter jet is on track both to meet the Marine Corps’s July target to declare the jet ready for combat use and to meet the Air Force’s target date a year later, top U.S. military officials said Thursday. | Reuters >>

New Greatest Generation

“I look at Beyond the Yellow Ribbon as a force multiplier,” he said. “I can’t be in 37 counties on a regular basis. Veterans can come up here, have fun with other vets and start feeling more comfortable with the VA. Each vet knows five or 10 other vets. Once these guys get connected, they can go back out into the community and bring their buddies back with them the next time.” | The Spokesman-Review >>

Army veteran Tony Ray Silva’s dog, Freedom, couldn’t have a more fitting name. After two 16-month deployments to the Middle East, Silva said he was full of anger and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. | Las Vegas Review-Journal >>

It’s an understatement to say that Army veteran BR McDonald is multi-talented. McDonald always dreamed of becoming a musician or an actor, but after the terror attacks on September 11, he decided to enlist in the military. | Nation Swell >>

Inside Washington

Less than 5 percent of Congress served in Iraq or Afghanistan, but almost one-quarter of the new House Armed Services Committee lineup boasts recent wartime credentials and experience. | Marine Corps Times >>

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will discuss the path forward on a bill to strengthen suicide prevention efforts among military veterans next week, according to the panel’s chairman. | The Hill >>

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) has introduced legislation that would establish a dog training program for veterans with post-traumatic stress. Stivers said the program would help veterans who are dealing with psychological disorders from experiences in combat. | The Hill >>

A top House Republican says the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General is purposely keeping damaging reports about the VA a secret from Congress and the public. | The Blaze >>

The Philadelphia VA regional office abruptly canceled plans Wednesday to pay bonuses for speeding up claims processing, after employees said they feared the bonuses would encourage them to make hasty decisions and deny deserving veterans their rightful benefits. | Washington Times >>

 

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