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IAVA Daily News Brief – March 16, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

Obama Says Overhaul of VA Health Care Still Under Way
President Barack Obama said the Department of Veterans Affairs is still working to remedy persistent mismanagement and delays at its health-care facilities. | Bloomberg >>

McDonald Names VA Advisory Committee to Tackle Reform
Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald on Friday released the names of members serving on a new panel intended to improve VA services and help in long-range reform planning. | Military.com >>

It’s not over: Veterans waiting months for appointments
Thousands of veterans who are patients at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System have been waiting months just for an appointment, CNN has learned. | CNN >>

Afghanistan

President Barack Obama is considering whether to scrap his drawdown plan to reduce U.S. forces in Afghanistan to 5,500 troops by the end of this year. | CNN >>

China has held rounds of talks with the Taliban and asked the Islamist militants to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, the head of Afghanistan’s power sharing government said on Friday. | Reuters >>

Aziz Royesh is a man whose life has been defined by one over-arching ambition: He says he simply wants to be a teacher. At 46, he has achieved that goal in one of the most difficult and dangerous environments in the world — Afghanistan. He has also founded a school that is now winning international acclaim as a model for education in that war-battered nation. | NPR >>

Iraq

Iraqi government forces and allied militias continued on Friday to battle Islamic State militants who defended their remaining positions in the city of Tikrit with snipers and roadside bombs. | New York Times >>

Ousting ISIS from Tikrit is important for dozens of countries in the United States-led coalition trying to thwart the Islamist extremist group’s quest to grow its caliphate. Iran isn’t a part of this coalition, but it is also working to defeat ISIS — something that’s provoked both relief and alarm in Washington. | CNN >>

The United States and coalition partners carried out seven air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and four in Syria since Saturday, the U.S. military said. | Reuters >>

Military Affairs

The military’s highest court will consider whether a Navy rule that restricted junior enlisted service members from serving on some court-martial panels is unfair and unlawful. | Military Times >>

The USS Fort Worth’s participation in a bilateral exercise with South Korea this past week begins what the Navy envisions will be regular visits by faster, shallow-draft ships to Northeast Asia. | Stars and Stripes >>

The U.S. Army says it will soon be sending armored Stryker vehicles on a 1,100-mile convoy through six European countries to show solidarity to allies in the wake of recent Russian actions in the Ukraine and Crimea that have Eastern Europe on edge. | CNN >>

New Greatest Generation

The way Angel Morales Jr. sees it, watching Golf Channel saved his life. In July 2014 Morales was one of thousands of former veterans struggling to cope with becoming a civilian. His whole life had revolved around the military. His relatives had served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. When he had turned 19, “It was my turn.” | The Golf Channel >>

Just as service members come from all walks of life, so do the 30 Academy-owned horses an Army veteran and wounded warrior said comforted him when he took part in the Warrior Wellness program here. | Air Force Academy Public Affairs >>

Revealing the experiences of veterans like Torres is at the heart of Basetrack Live, a multi-media theater piece on a national tour being presented Saturday at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center. The show, part of Miami Dade College’s Live Arts program, is at the center of a slate of efforts aimed at helping veterans tell their stories, and getting their families and communities to understand them. | Miami Herald >>

Inside Washington

The Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Denver has generated more appeals than any other VA hospital for denials of financial assistance to those caring for injured soldiers in their homes. | The Denver Post >>

A year after explosive accusations that patients had died waiting for appointments at the VA Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, the administration’s path to making health care more accessible for America’s veterans remains on shaky ground. | Fox News >>

“Fear of retaliation is still alive and well,” said Katherine Mitchell, a doctor who reached a settlement with the Veterans Administration last year over claims that she was marginalized after drawing attention to problems in Phoenix’s emergency room. | Politico >>

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