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IAVA Daily News Brief – June 19, 2015

Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Kelsey Carlton, from Clearwater, Fla., assigned to Military Working Dog unit at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, conducts obstacle course training with military working dog Donci. | Military Times >>

Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Kelsey Carlton, from Clearwater, Fla., assigned to Military Working Dog unit at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, conducts obstacle course training with military working dog Donci. | Military Times >>

 

Today’s Top Stories

$70M to be invested in veterans’ mental health
A new program funded by Wounded Warrior Project aspires to improve mental health services and care for veterans in the private sector. The charity is using $70 million to fund an effort that will create outpatient programs at four of the nation’s top academic medical facilities, aimed at helping sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. | Military Times >>

VA to grant benefits for Agent Orange exposure
After years of battling the Veterans Affairs Department for health care and compensation for illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure from aircraft flown after the Vietnam War, a group of up to 2,100 Air Force personnel and reservists finally will receive service-connected benefits. | Military Times >>

Senate defense policy bill strips VA authority over construction projects
The Senate’s $612 billion defense policy bill strips the Veterans Affairs Department of its authority to run large construction projects, transferring it to the Army Corps of Engineers. The amendment to the chamber’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which lawmakers passed 71-25 on Thursday, is a rebuke of the agency over its effort to build a 184-bed replacement hospital in the suburb of Aurora, Colo. That project has been plagued by delays and cost overruns. | The Hill >>

Afghanistan

Nils Kauffman, who served as an education officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Afghanistan, said he noticed irregularities at a vocational training institute the agency was funding during his visits to its campus in downtown Kabul in 2012 and 2013. He recalls being surprised not to see any students in the institute’s laboratories, where volt meters and scientific equipment remained in their original packaging. | NBC News >>

Taliban fighters overran part of a crucial district in the southern province of Helmand early Thursday, residents of the area said, demonstrating the insurgents’ growing power in an area that American and British troops had long fought to keep out of Taliban control. | New York Times >>

Iran’s ambassador to Afghanistan said his country was not providing weapons and cash to the Taliban to bolster the militant group as a counterweight to Islamic State. | Wall Street Journal >>

Iraq

Iraq’s defense ministry and the U.S. military dismissed a claim by Islamic State on Thursday that it had shot down an Iraqi fighter plane. “The publication of these false stories is part of an unjust psychological war waged by some media outlets supporting terrorism aimed at playing down the heroics of the Iraqi army,” the ministry said on its website. | Reuters >>

One of President Obama’s top intelligence officers has privately concluded that the situation in Iraq is a “quagmire,” but struck the term from testimony being prepared for him to deliver on Capitol Hill, Fox News has learned. | Fox News >>

The U.S. House of Representatives rejected legislation on Wednesday that would have forced President Barack Obama to pull all U.S. troops from Iraq and Syria as soon as one month from now, but nearly one-third of the chamber voted for the measure. | Reuters >>

Military Affairs

U.S. Army officials have issued an updated timeline for replacing the M9 9mm pistol with the Modular Handgun System. The competition between gun makers will officially begin next year, and a contract will be awarded to have the weapon ready by 2018, Military.com reported Thursday. | Washington Times >>

An international survey has found widespread public misconceptions about military spending in the U.S. and four of its allies, with most respondents believing their governments spend far more on defense than they actually do. | Stars and Stripes >>

Joint Base Lewis McChord held its first annual Pride Event on base Wednesday. It’s an event to celebrate sexual diversity and sanctioned by the military and would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. | KOMO News >>

#VetsRising

After two tours of duty in the Middle East, Jason Oakley was hampered in his return to civilian life by severe anxiety, alcohol abuse and social isolation. Having coped with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the Hinsdale resident now aims to help others with the formation of the Tri-County Veteran Support & Outreach Network at Directions in Independent Living. | Olean Times Herald >>

Running remained a frustratingly elusive dream for the wounded U.S. Army specialist, even after he endured numerous surgeries and hours of physical therapy at a military hospital so that he could be fitted with prosthetic legs. But the 24-year-old from Santa Rosa was determined, and earlier this year, after he healed from yet another surgery, the former high school track athlete finally was able to experience the thrill of running again. | Santa Rosa Press Democrat >>

A military veteran and student at the Art Institute of Philadelphia is using his skills as a photographer to protest the overmedication of our nation’s heroes. | NBC Philadelphia >>

Inside Washington

Hillary Clinton is back in the Silver State. The former Secretary of State and prohibitive favorite for the Democratic Presidential nomination is addressing the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Las Vegas Thursday morning. Then she will meet with veterans at a VFW post in Reno. | Fox 11 Reno >>

Two House Democrats want their colleagues to sign a letter to President Obama urging him to resist calls to escalate U.S. military involvement in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). | The Hill >>

An employee at the Houston regional office of the Department of Veterans Affairs manipulated dozens of benefits claims to meet production goals, according to a newly released report from the VA’s Office of the Inspector General Affairs. | Houston Chronicle >>

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