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IAVA Daily News Brief – January 8, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

Clay Hunt veteran suicide bill returns in new Congress
A bill to overhaul veteran suicide prevention programs is getting another chance in Congress after being scuttled last month by a retiring Senate budget hawk. The Clay Hunt SAV Act, named after a Marine veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who committed suicide, was reintroduced Wednesday by a group of House lawmakers and was expected to be filed in the Senate soon. | Stars and Stripes >>

Shooting at VA clinic underscores frustrations between some VA workers and veterans
Within moments of an attack at a Veterans Affairs clinic Tuesday that left the gunman and a VA doctor dead, the conversation took a turn to the disagreements and misunderstandings between U.S. military veterans and the VA employees responsible for serving them. | Washington Post >>

Kirsten Gillibrand gears up for another round
A dozen colleagues promised Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in March that if the Pentagon didn’t shape up, they would reconsider her proposal to take sexual assault cases out of the chain of command. Ten months later, she’s coming to collect. | Politico >>

Afghanistan

Though many Americans may not have realized it, December 28th marked what the U.S. government called the official end of the war in Afghanistan. That war has been the longest in U.S. history – but despite the new announcement that the formal conflict is over, America’s war there is far from finished. In fact, the Obama administration still considers the Afghan theater an area of active hostilities, according to an email from a senior administration official – and therefore exempts it from the stricter drone and targeted killing guidelines the president announced at a major speech at the National Defense University in 2013. | Rolling Stone >>

Authorities say insurgent attacks across Afghanistan have killed seven people, including a provincial judge. Police spokesman Hazrat Hussain Mashreqiwal in Nangarhar province said a bomb blast Wednesday killed Judge Mohammad-ul Hassan and wounded two of his daughters in the city of Jalalabad. The judge served in neighboring Laghman province. | Associated Press >>

By most U.S. media accounts, Afghanistan is at best a largely forgotten cause; at worst, lost. Even apart from the recent attacks on Kabul and Taliban gains, costs have been higher and accomplishments less solid than they should have been. | Wall Street Journal >>

Iraq

In a Public Mind poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University released Wednesday, more than half of Republicans — 51 percent — and half of those who watch Fox News — 52 percent — say that they believe it to be “definitely true” or “probably true” that American forces found an active weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq. | Politico >>

For the hundreds of U.S. troops based at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, mortar fire from Islamic extremists has become a regular occurrence. And so has the sound of airstrikes hitting enemy fighters near the remote desert base. As the U.S. mission to train, advise and assist the Iraqi security forces expands, troops are facing new threats from the militants known as the Islamic State group. But for now, military officials say, the attacks have been ineffective and are not affecting the new training effort that has gotten underway in recent weeks. | Military Times >>

A Saudi-linked newspaper is reporting that at least two of the four gunmen involved in an attack along the kingdom’s border with Iraq earlier this week were Saudi nationals. | Associated Press >>

Military Affairs

A former soldier who had also been an employee at a U.S. Army medical facility in El Paso fatally shot a psychologist at a veteran’s clinic in the west Texas city and then took his own life, an FBI agent said on Wednesday. | Reuters >>

Despite all of the talk in the Pentagon and among the defense intelligentsia in Washington about the “new normal”— the present era of battling Islamic extremists while putting out security and humanitarian brushfires across the globe — there has really never been a “normal” year when it comes to national security. | Defense News >>

The Defense Commissary Agency said Wednesday it is working to fix problems that have led to critical shortages in perishable products at military base supermarkets in the Pacific and Europe. | Stars and Stripes >>

New Greatest Generation

Nate Boyer turns 34 the day before kickoff. His profile will not be posted atop any NFL team’s wish list, but given the name of the game, he’s far from out of place. Boyer has multiple war-zone deployments to his credit, including to Afghanistan the last two summers while a member of the Texas Army National Guard. The Special Forces staff sergeant made it back in time both years for the fall semester at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a bachelor’s in kinesiology and is pursuing an advanced degree in advertising. | Army Times >>

D’Amico’s business, Broken Gear, “was founded on the principle of disabled athletes empowering themselves to get back into sports, whether they’re disabled veterans or disabled civilians,” he said. | Associated Press >>

Zero 800 is military talk for 8 a.m., the time when most suit- and tie-wearing workers arrive at the office. It’s also the name of a new effort to help military veterans settle into civilian life in San Diego County. | U-T San Diego >>

Inside Washington

Lawmakers could take up legislation to help prevent suicides among veterans as early as February, according to House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) “I would expect that we will probably have it done some time in February,” Miller told reporters following a conference meeting of GOP members. | The Hill >>

Nearly 200 sick and wounded soldiers in a gym at Fort Carson last month listened silently as Lt. Col. Daniel Gade offered a surprising warning: The disability checks designed to help troops like them after they leave the service might actually be harmful. | New York Times >>

One of the costliest drugs on the market threatens the Veterans Affairs Department’s health budget — to the point that VA, which added the medication to its formulary in April, provides it to only the sickest patients who need it. | Military Times >>

On the new Congress’ first day, the House unanimously approved Republican legislation Tuesday making it easier for smaller companies to avoid providing health care coverage to their workers by hiring veterans. | Associated Press >>

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