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IAVA Daily News Brief – July 16, 2015

Army Spc. Anthony Andrews, background, watches as Andy, his military working dog, chases a role player during training on Tactical Base Gamberi, Afghanistan. | Military Times >>

Army Spc. Anthony Andrews, background, watches as Andy, his military working dog, chases a role player during training on Tactical Base Gamberi, Afghanistan. | Military Times >>

 

Today’s Top Stories

Report: Vets’ disability claims ended up in shred bins
A pair of California lawmakers want to know why paperwork required to finalize veterans’ disability claims ended up in a Los Angeles shredding bin. The latest embarrassment for the Department of Veterans Affairs comes amid reports that up to 240,000 veterans on waiting lists for VA health care likely have died, and worries from Senators that physician credentialing problems in Arizona may halt cancer treatments for veterans there. | Military Times >>

New estimate for VA hospital includes $180 million for parking lots
Parking at the new VA hospital in Aurora won’t come cheap — especially for U.S. taxpayers. According to new cost estimates obtained by The Denver Post, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs plans to spend more than $180 million on three parking complexes at the unfinished medical facility, which is expected to open no earlier than 2017. | The Denver Post >>

House panel OKs new rules for firing VA workers
A key House panel on Wednesday advanced plans to make it easier to fire Veterans Affairs Department employees and harder to punish whistleblowers, despite accusations from Democrats that the legislation tramples on the Constitution. The bill — which still has a long path through Congress and the White House before becoming law — would give the VA secretary the authority to punish any department employee “if [their] performance or misconduct warrants such removal or demotion.” | Military Times >>

Afghanistan

At least 500 U.S. military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan were directly linked to Iran and its support for anti-American militants — a newly disclosed statistic that offers grim context for the Obama administration’s diplomatic deal with the Iranian regime aimed at curtailing the rogue nation’s nuclear ambitions. | Military Times >>

After being formed by a supra-constitutional political deal, the National Unity Government (NUG) is now navigating a sea of power players who, for all intents and purposes, are attempting a comeback. And Former President Hamid Karzai seems to be in the lead. | Foreign Policy >>

Taliban leader Mullah Omar has hailed as “legitimate” peace talks aimed at ending Afghanistan’s 13-year war, in his first comments on the nascent dialogue. “If we look into our religious regulations, we can find that meetings and even peaceful interactions with the enemies is not prohibited,” the reclusive figure said on Wednesday in his annual message on the eve of Eid, the festival marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. | The Guardian >>

Iraq

Nearly 500 artifacts recovered by U.S. Special Forces during a raid in Syria targeting the Islamic State group were put on display Wednesday at the Baghdad National Museum. Many of the relics, including ancient coins and royal seals used by kings in the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, disappeared at different times dating back to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. | Associated Press >>

Iraqi airmen officially have their own U.S.-supplied F-16 warplanes. “After years of preparation & training in the U.S., Iraqi pilots today landed the 1st squadron of Iraqi F16s in #Iraq,” said Brett McGurk, President Obama’s deputy envoy for the international coalition against the Islamic State, on his social media account. | Washington Times >>

While many Westerners associate Islamic State propaganda with violence and beheadings, the terror group also likes to showcase its deceptively “softer” side to those within its territory in the Middle East, as a Vocativ analysis showed this week. And given that their target audience is disaffected Sunnis living in war-torn Iraq and Syria, the plan is working. | Business Insider >>

Military Times

Starting Wednesday, U.S. Army Special Operations Command will take point on a large-scale training exercise in Texas — or if you believe some fringe outlets, they’ll take point on the Pentagon’s preparation for civil war. | Army Times >>

One the United States’ strongest and most advanced allies in Asia is stepping up its role in regional security, and for sailors it could mean a lot more exercises and exchange programs, experts say. Troubled by the rise of a more assertive China, Japan has signaled a sea change in a long-standing armed forces policy of strictly self-defense dating back to the end of World War II. | Navy Times >>

The Air Force is taking steps to address a chronic shortage of drone pilots, sweetening the allure of flying the unmanned planes as part of a plan to alleviate the strains as it tries to meet demands for drones and the video intelligence they provide. | Wall Street Journal >>

#VetsRising

A former Marine now living in South Jersey says yoga saved his life. Now, he’s offering free yoga classes to fellow veterans and their families. Eyewitness News anchor Ukee Washington got a chance to meet him in Cherry Hill. When Marine Captain C.J. Keller of Moorestown came back from serving in Iraq in 2008, he struggled with PTSD. “I was a gym rat. I would go and I would run, and I would go to the bar,” C.J. said. “Those were my coping strategies. That’s what I knew.” | CBS Philly >>

When Ryan “Iggy” Harrison was deployed to Iraq, a soldier on the base would write a newsletter and send it home to families and friends, a taste of what life was like for their loved ones. But for Harrison, the newsletter only gave one side of the deployment. He took it upon himself to interview the soldiers who were out on a daily basis, giving the family and friends a look at the daily heat and grind. From this experience, Harrison knew he wanted to do right with his latest endeavor: the Military Veteran Video Project. | The Daily Cougar >>

The good news is that NYC government has finally implemented the veteran designation we were promised last year by Mayor de Blasio, and that we’ve gotten exactly what we asked for in the Change is Essential report we released last month, plus a several additional benefits. | NYC Veterans Alliance >>

Inside Washington

The new director of a streamlined program to identify the missing remains of war veterans says he’s optimistic that goals will be reached this year. Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in 2014 that 60 veterans’ remains identified in a year fell far short of the projected capacity of 200, and that the program would be reformed, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. | Associated Press >>

The Veterans Affairs Department’s system for verifying whether a veteran is alive or dead contributes to costly or embarrassing errors, including compensation being paid to veterans who have passed away and records indicating they had visited doctors after they died, according to an internal VA report. | Military Times >>

While veterans and their families continue to flock to the Post-9/11 GI Bill — with use rising 4.7 percent in fiscal 2014 — the number of service members using the tuition assistance benefit, generally intended for those on active duty, appears to have plunged 16 percent. Comparing Defense Department information with prior-year data, all services tallied fewer TA students, with the Army accounting for most of the drop at more than 21 percent. | Military Times >>

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