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IAVA Daily News Brief – January 9, 2015

Today’s Top Story

Senators aim to move quickly on veterans suicide prevention bill
The new leaders of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee are hoping to move quickly on a bill to help prevent suicides among military veterans. “I’m sure that’ll be one of the issues that’s early on dealt with in the committee,” new Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) told reporters on Thursday. | The Hill >>

A Different Kind of Service
Members of Congress clash on many things, but legislators of all political stripes usually agree it’s important to care for the nation’s military and its veterans. During what was one of the least productive Congresses in recent history – the 113th – lawmakers debated how best to address sexual assault in the military, improving the Veterans Affairs health care system, and how the U.S. should respond to the rise of the Islamic State group in the Middle East. | U.S. News & World Report >>

Obama avoids Phoenix VA hospital, holds event less than mile away
Ignoring calls by veterans and Republicans to visit a Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix that launched a health care scandal, President Obama gave a speech about homeownership instead Thursday — less than a mile from the VA facility. | Washington Times >>

Afghanistan

Americans must be prepared for more U.S. casualties in Afghanistan even after the declared end to NATO’s combat mission in the country, the alliance’s supreme commander warned Thursday. | Stars and Stripes >>

In the ninth year of America’s longest war, NATO required all International Security Assistance Force troops to answer a questionnaire before, during, and after each mission. | Business Insider >>

Despite years of costly international efforts to curb the traditional Afghan crop, led by the U.S. government, it is thriving more than ever. According to U.S. officials, a record 520,000 acres of land were used to grow poppies in 2013. | Washington Post >>

Iraq

Suicide attacks targeting security checkpoints and Shiite worshippers killed 23 people in Iraq on Thursday, officials said. | Associated Press >>

The United States has been carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq since Aug. 8, and in Syria since Sept. 23, killing hundreds of militants and destroying a broad range of the group’s equipment, facilities and weapons. On Wednesday, the Pentagon released a tally of what has been hit. | Washington Post >>

The ranks of terror groups in Syria and Iraq continue to swell with foreign fighters, according to John Carlin, the assistant attorney general for national security. “There are over 18,000 foreign fighters in the Syria-Iraq region,” Carlin told CBS News. “That includes individuals from over 60 countries around the world.” | CBS News >>

Military Affairs

The Army will build a new air strip at Fort Bliss, Texas, but pilots won’t have to set foot anywhere near it. The $33 million facility will be the first Army runway dedicated solely to the MQ-1 Gray Eagle, the Army’s medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system. | Army Times >>

For men, getting their head shaved on the first day of Navy boot camp has been a rite of passage for decades. Women are also required to get first-day haircuts to ensure their hair is trimmed to regulation length, equal to the uniform collar. But the days of these old traditions could be numbered. | Navy Times >>

Four months after security was revamped at Fort Bliss, the sprawling West Texas Army post is ramping up protection anew following a shooting at a veterans’ clinic in which a former worker killed a psychologist then committed suicide. | Associated Press >>

New Greatest Generation

Agifa Constable jiggles a bottle of anti-anxiety pills so fiercely it sounds menacing. The 34-year-old Iraq War veteran stalks through his garden apartment, pops the cap and throws two pills in his mouth. “I’m rattled,” he says, his body visibly tense, his movements sharp and erratic. | Asbury Park Press >>

Retired Maj. Felicia Wilkerson isn’t done. In January 2010, the former Marine Corps helicopter pilot suffered massive blood loss after an emergency C-section surgery. Many surgeries later, she now has severe nerve, muscle and tissue damage to her abdomen, undissolved abdominal mesh and other problems. | Military Times >>

Zachary Morgan started Elevation Limousines after attending a workshop last year by Edge4Vets, a Fordham University program that helps veterans transfer their military skills to civilian jobs. | Sun Sentinel >>

Inside Washington

The Veterans Administration is offering free gun locks to former military members — but wants some key personal information in exchange. Veterans have received forms recently from the VA with an enticing offer of up to four gun locks. The only catch… they need to return a completed form listing their name, address and the number of guns in the home, according to the Washington Times. | Fox News >>

With a promise to ramp up security, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald visited the El Paso VA clinic Thursday after an agency psychologist was fatally shot by an Iraq war veteran and former employee of the clinic. | Washington Post >>

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said on Wednesday that his city has ended homelessness among veterans. Landrieu said in a release that his is the first major city to end homelessness among veterans, though Phoenix and Salt Lake City said about a year ago that they had ended so-called chronic, or repeated, homelessness. | Washington Post >>

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