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IAVA Daily News Brief – March 16, 2016

The submarine Hampton surfaces through the ice in the Arctic Circle on March 14 during Ice Exercise 2016. ICEX is a five-week exercise designed to research, test and evaluate operational capabilities in the region.  MC2 Tyler Thompson/Navy | Military Times >>

The submarine Hampton surfaces through the ice in the Arctic Circle on March 14 during Ice Exercise 2016. ICEX is a five-week exercise designed to research, test and evaluate operational capabilities in the region. MC2 Tyler Thompson/Navy | Military Times >>

 

Today’s Top Stories

Veterans health legislation on fast track
Veterans’ Affairs Committee senators are wrestling with legislation to reform the Veterans Choice program with the hope of unveiling an agreement in the coming days to fix the troubled health benefit. Senate Democrats led by Jon Tester of Montana introduced a bill, S 2633, on March 3 to consolidate a number of VA community care health programs under a single Veterans Choice umbrella and change the contracting process that uses third-party administrators to manage the program’s scheduling and billing processes. | Military Times >>

VA moves to fire three hospital executives in Phoenix scandal
Two years after it was revealed that workers at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix kept secret wait lists to cover up long wait times for veterans and unnecessary deaths, the Department of Veterans affairs announced Tuesday that it had proposed firing three more executives from the troubled facility. | Washington Times >>

Summit highlights difficulties of veterans’ caregivers
There has been a lot of focus on treatment for veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with serious physical and psychological wounds. Behind the injuries is often a spouse who assumes the role of caregiver. It can be a full-time job, often on top of child care, and sometimes spouses are forced to quit their jobs and greatly alter their lives. | Stars and Stripes >>

Afghanistan

More than half of the Pentagon’s reconstruction projects in Afghanistan are deficient, with substandard construction materials and other safety problems threatening the structural integrity of the buildings, a government watchdog reported Wednesday. | Washington Times >>

A Pentagon spokesman on Tuesday refused to elaborate on reports that outgoing Army Gen. John Campbell, the former top military commander in Afghanistan, undermined the usual chain of command in petitioning the White House directly to expand its war strategy. | U.S. News & World Report >>

The NATO-led mission in Afghanistan has sent a one-star general to lead foreign troops in embattled Helmand province, officials said on Wednesday, a rare move that signals foreign forces’ deepening involvement in the war with the Taliban. | Reuters >>

Iraq

ISIS has lost nearly a quarter of its territory over the past 15 months, according to a new data from a leading research company — the latest sign that the militants’ once rapid advance has slowed. | NBC News >>

Kurdish Peshmerga forces, an Iran-backed Shi’ite militia and Iraq’s army will launch an offensive soon to push Islamic State fighters away from the northern oil region of Kirkuk, a state newspaper reported on Wednesday. | Reuters >>

U.S. military intelligence has identified the corridor between Mosul and Tal Afar as the “thickest, strongest, stronghold” of ISIS in Iraq. “That zone is where the enemy is thickest,” Col. Steve Warren, chief spokesman for the coalition, told reporters Wednesday. | CNN >>

Military Affairs

The Army is launching a training course to fix a deficit in one of the most fundamental skills of soldiering: shooting straight. The Marksmanship Master Trainer Course was first stood up by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, the service’s elite competitive shooters. This spring, it will launch Army-wide and fall under the 316th Cavalry Brigade. | Army Times >>

“The way we’ve always done it” — a familiar refrain those seeking to improve things must contend with. Changing the tradition-bound Navy isn’t easy, but some of the service’s top innovators say they’re making headway. This spring, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus recognized sailors and Navy civilians for ideas in robotics, additive manufacturing, data analysis and more. | Navy Times >>

After years of cuts and severe undermanning in crucial areas, the Air Force is starting to get serious about boosting its end strength — one way or another. Top Air Force leaders are signaling their desire to grow the ranks of active-duty airmen by roughly 10,000 or more over a two-year time span. Air Force leaders want to add airmen — from current levels of 311,600 to either 321,000 or as much as 323,340 by the end of fiscal 2017. | Air Force Times >>

#VetsRising

Today, a college degree is widely considered a prerequisite for career success — but military veterans, often from low-income backgrounds, tend to lack the financial resources to pursue higher education. The nonprofit Posse Foundation aims to alter this dynamic, sending veterans to elite schools that otherwise would have been off-limits. | PBS News Hour >>

It doesn’t take the tattoo on her hip of the sergeant’s stripes and the Marine motto “Semper Fidelis” to tell that Patricia Fields has a been-there-done-that attitude. She’s focused and calm as she’s about to strap on a helmet and click into a life vest to kayak for the first time in her life. In a few moments, she’ll slip into a boat with the express purpose of tipping it over. | Minneapolis Star Tribune >>

“Everything we have in this country we owe to our military veterans,” Hudson said. “They shouldn’t return home and go hungry, but there just aren’t any food pantries around, and our country does not provide the resources our veterans need.” So in May 2015, Hudson, who lives in Commercial Point, founded the M.A.S.H. (Military and Service Heroes) Pantry in Columbus. The nonprofit pantry is associated with the Veterans First Foundation. | Grove City Record >>

Inside Washington

The percent of disability claims approved by the Veterans Affairs Department for Persian Gulf War-related illnesses has declined steadily in the past five years, resulting in record lows, according to a new report from the advocacy group Veterans for Common Sense. | Military Times >>

The Office of Special Council has reportedly launched an investigation into allegations officials at the Export-Import Bank sought to illegally remove veteran applicants from consideration for IT positions within its office. | Federal Times >>

Flanked by veterans and their obedient dogs, two Republican lawmakers made the case that for those who have served their country, “a man’s best friend can also be a man’s best counselor.” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) on Wednesday introduced the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act — a new veteran legislation that creates a five-year pilot program which pairs veterans with the most severe levels of post-traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain injury with a service dog. | The Blaze >>

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