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IAVA Daily News Brief – January 22, 2016

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An airman from the 41st Helicopter Maintenance Unit attaches a panel to the tail of an HH-60G Pave Hawk at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. | Military Times >>

 

Today’s Top Stories

VA secretary outlines ambitious goals for 2016
Veterans Affairs officials want to speed the benefits appeals process, simplify their websites and hotlines, and fix lingering problems with outside care programs — all within the next 11 months. Department Secretary Bob McDonald unveiled an ambitious list of goals for his department in 2016 during a Senate hearing Thursday, saying the moves build on continuing reform efforts already underway. | Military Times >>

Head of Veterans Organization Says Obama Is Not to Blame for Sarah Palin’s Son’s Issues, Urges Her Not to ‘Politicize’ PTSD
President Obama isn’t to blame for Sarah Palin’s son’s PTSD, the head of a New York City-based veteran’s organization says. “It’s not President Obama’s fault that Sarah Palin’s son has PTSD,” Paul Rieckhoff, head of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told NBC News on Wednesday. “PTSD is a very serious problem, a complicated mental health injury and I would be extremely reluctant to blame any one person in particular.” | People >>

Sexual trauma raises suicide risk among veterans
Men and women veterans who experienced sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment while serving in the military are at heightened risk of suicide, according to a recent U.S. study. | Reuters >>

Afghanistan

Pakistan said Thursday that a deadly assault on a university this week was orchestrated by militants in Afghanistan, part of a pattern of cross-border terrorism that is undermining peace efforts in the region. | Wall Street Journal >>

The United States on Thursday urged the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan to support a credible peace process with the Afghan Taliban. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made the case to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. | Associated Press >>

President Obama has made it easier for the military to get approval for strikes in Afghanistan targeting militias that have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State, according to several government officials. | New York Times >>

Iraq

Two powerful Shiite militias are top suspects in the abduction of three Americans last weekend in a southern neighborhood of the Iraqi capital, an Iraqi police commander and a Western security official in Baghdad said Thursday. | Associated Press >>

Airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria have killed more than 6,400 Islamic State fighters in the past three months, and the militant group is showing the effect of the losses, according to coalition military statistics. | USA Today >>

In his first novel, “Youngblood,” Mr. Gallagher also provides a visceral sense of what young American soldiers experienced during their Iraq deployments — the camaraderie, the fear, the exhaustion and boredom, and the sheer discomfort of being encased in 60 pounds of body armor, like a turtle, in triple-digit heat while keeping an eye out for snipers and roadside bombs. | New York Times >>

Military Affairs

For the first time ever, the Army–Navy basketball matchup comes to Madison Square Garden in New York City on Jan. 23, and both teams are poised to make a serious run in the Patriot League. While the basketball rivalry doesn’t normally get as much attention as its football counterpart, Army-Navy basketball has just as much passion. | Task & Purpose >>

The Marine Corps’ top aviation commanders have been asked to look at what might be causing fatal aviation accidents, such as the recent crash of two CH-53E helicopters off the coast of Hawaii that killed 12 Marines, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Marine Corps Times. | Marine Corps Times >>

The Air Force said Wednesday installation commanders will be authorized to implement three programs that grant some service members the right to carry weapons, giving their bases additional security. The programs commanders may implement are the Unit Marshal, Security Forces Staff Arming, and Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act, the Air Force said in a release. | Air Force Times >>

#VetsRising

Pfc. Gustavo Moreno was a fighter. When he enlisted in the Army, he wanted to protect America from its enemies. Instead, he ended up fighting a different enemy altogether — cancer. More specifically, he was diagnosed with T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, or ALL, a rare subtype of adult non-Hodgkin cancer. ALL is the most aggressive form of adult leukemia. | Task & Purpose >>

It may seem like a small gesture, but it’s a meaningful one for Maine veterans who also are artists. On Wednesday, the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee voted unanimously to support a bill that would establish Nov. 1 as Veterans in the Arts and Humanities Day. | Bangor Daily News >>

The U.S. Marine who was recently freed from an Iranian prison was headed back home to Michigan on Thursday. Amir Hekmati, who was sprung Saturday as part of a prisoner exchange along with Christian minister Saeed Abedini, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, and another American, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, was expected to arrive in Flint this afternoon, a spokesman for Rep. Dan Kildee confirmed to NBC News. | NBC News >>

Inside Washington

The Obama administration’s nominee to be the Army’s top civilian official said Thursday he is worried about plans to reduce the Army’s size to about 450,000 active-duty troops. Eric Fanning told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that improving the Army’s state of readiness is challenging because of the threat posed by Islamic State militants and other demands. | Associated Press >>

So the moment has arrived: After years of doing battle with the Department of Veterans Affairs on your disability compensation claim, you got the award letter in the mail. Here are seven things to think about after winning a VA claim. | Task & Purpose >>

American troops were serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan five years ago when President Barack Obama signed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, a comprehensive piece of legislation acknowledging the critical role of caregivers for seriously injured post- 9/11 veterans. | Miami Herald >>

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