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IAVA Daily News Brief – March 13, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

Obama to visit Phoenix VA, claim progress on fixes
President Obama will proclaim progress Friday on promised reforms in veterans’ health care at the Phoenix hospital where the scandal erupted last year, but critics and whistleblowers say little has changed at the ailing Department of Veterans Affairs. | Washington Times >>

‘Culture of Fear’: VA Eyes Pain-Pill Problems at Wisconsin Hospital
An internal review uncovered “an apparent culture of fear” and unusual medication practices at a VA hospital nicknamed “Candyland” by some because of a surge in pain-killer prescriptions. | NBC News >>

VA Secretary Robert McDonald meets with whistleblower
Veterans Administration Secretary Robert McDonald took an unusual step Thursday when he met face-to-face with a Phoenix VA employee whistleblower. | Florida Times-Union >>

Afghanistan

Once exiled from public life, the Women’s National Cycling Team embodies the strides women are making in Afghanistan. The team of more than 40 women trains on a lonely road outside of Kabul, Reuters reported. | Washington Post >>

Even in a country wracked by violence for decades, the killing of a senior Afghan Sufi religious leader and 10 other men stands out from the statistics: shot in the backs of their heads while bowed in prayer, in a ruthless and apparently well-planned operation. | Associated Press >>

A militant splinter group that broke from the Pakistani Taliban last year and declared allegiance to Islamic State announced on Thursday it was rejoining the Taliban insurgency, a move that could be prompted by fears of isolation amid possible Afghan peace talks. | Reuters >>

Iraq

The ISIS fighters left in a hurry. Or at least those who could. Dozens of others never stood a chance. They were obliterated in a wave of U.S. and coalition airstrikes that hit checkpoints and positions they’d held for months. The strikes began suddenly, then lasted for three days. | NBC News >>

Around 14 million children are suffering hardship and trauma from the war in Syria and Iraq, the United Nations children’s agency said on Thursday, highlighting the needs of children struggling to cope with severe violence, and the danger to the rest of the world of failing to help a generation preyed on by extremist groups. | New York Times >>

Iraqi officials have shown the BBC footage, which they say proves Islamic State militants are using chlorine gas in roadside bomb attacks. | BBC News >>

Military Affairs

The Air Force will revamp its standard aircrew helmet beginning next year after two congressionally mandated reports identified increased risks among pilots who wear helmet-mounted gear during ejections. | Air Force Times >>

The Navy will homeport its newest aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford, in Norfolk – enlarging the region’s carrier fleet by one, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner said today. | The Virginian-Pilot >>

All 11 service members aboard an Army Black Hawk helicopter that crashed in waters off the Florida Panhandle two days ago are believed dead, and the operation has transitioned from rescue to recovery, an Air Force official said Thursday. | CNN >>

New Greatest Generation

A retired Marine is embarking on a cross-country journey with one goal in mind. Roy Brady, Jr. is heading from North Carolina to California hoping to raise awareness and money for wounded combat veterans, and that path is bringing him right through Knox County. | WATE >>

Wednesday was the final day of the fifth annual Marine Corps Trials at Camp Pendleton, a Paralympic-style event that began with three days of coaching and training. Other sports were archery, shooting, track and field, cycling and sitting volleyball. | Times of San Diego >>

A wounded veteran is helping a homeless veteran get off the streets. Elise Cerella met Ray Sager on Monday, March 9 while they were both at the Hampton VA Hospital. | WTKR >>

Inside Washington

The Department of Veterans Affairs is assuring congressional leaders that its troubled Aurora hospital project is not in imminent danger of another construction shutdown. | Denver Post >>

Military pay and benefits is not only a Defense Department issue, but also an economic one. And Tim Kane, a former Air Force officer turned research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, wants to offer an alternative to fix system that he sees has been faltering for years. | Military Times >>

More patients are being treated by the Phoenix VA hospital in the wake of a national scandal that erupted at the facility last year, its interim director told state senators Wednesday. | The Arizona Republic >>

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