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IAVA Daily News Brief – March 20, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

Lawmakers launch post-9/11 veterans caucus
Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.) launched a new caucus on Thursday for congressional members who have served in the military post-9/11. The caucus will be dedicated to issues related to the 2.8 million veterans who have served and deployed since 9/11, and provide a forum for the newest generation of veterans. | The Hill >>

VA watchdog stands by decision not to release report
The interim inspector general at the Veterans Affairs Department said Thursday he does not regret his staff’s initial decision not to release a report on “unusually high” opiate prescription rates at a VA facility in Tomah, Wis., where a veteran died from an overdose last August. | USA Today >>

Is Enough Being Done to Prepare Veterans for Civilian Jobs?
The Labor Department on Wednesday estimated 21.2 million veterans were living in the U.S. at the end of 2014, making up about 9 percent of the civilian noninstitutional population – those who are not on active military duty or in mental health facilities or jails – at least 18 years of age. | U.S. News & World Report >>

Afghanistan

The Obama administration is nearing a decision to keep more troops in Afghanistan next year than it had intended, effectively upending its drawdown plans in response to roiling violence in the country and another false start in the effort to open peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. | New York Times >>

A mob in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul has lynched a woman after she allegedly burned a copy of the Koran near a mosque, police say. | BBC News >>

NATO and the U.S. Air Force should stay in Afghanistan to continue building up the Afghan air force, the top U.S. airman told Congress as reports emerged the U.S. is considering keeping two key bases open beyond the end of this year. | Air Force Times >>

Iraq

Iraqi security forces’ fight to liberate the city of Tikrit from Islamic State has slowed as the battle nears the end of its third week, dimming hopes that the extremist Sunni insurgency is on the retreat. | Wall Street Journal >>

United Nations human rights investigators on Thursday leveled accusations of genocide and war crimes at the Islamic State, citing evidence that the extremist group’s fighters had sought to wipe out the Yazidi minority in Iraq. | New York Times >>

ABC News took a look back on the past dozen years and the events and players who shaped one of the more divisive and consequential conflicts in recent history. | ABC News >>

Military Affairs

The Army has begun a fact-finding investigation into allegations of recent mistreatment of wounded, ill and injured soldiers at the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Hood, Texas. | Military.com >>

Air Force Special Operations Command is working to makeits ultimate gunship a high-tech flying machine armed with lasers and microwave weapons and equipped with small drones. | Air Force Times >>

This month, the Marine Corps began a historic experiment at its base in Twentynine Palms, Calif., to test women’s performance in combat arms. This Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force uses high-tech tools to measure the physical performance of both men and women after a federal mandate to integrate women into all military occupational specialties — or request an exception — by January 2016. | New York Times >>

New Greatest Generation

LaDeitrich Jones is that one 33-year-old in the class with mostly 19-year-olds, and he’s sitting in the back of the room. He might fidget when that pipe in the corner of the room backfires, or when the bells from St. Aloysius Church start clanging at lunchtime. | The Gonzaga Bulletin >>

Jurors in a federal trial will resume deliberations this morning over whether a Schlumberger Ltd. subsidiary failed to provide a “reasonable accommodation” to a now-former employee who wanted his service dog at work to help him cope with his post-traumatic stress disorder. | San Antonio Express News >>

In the past Cunningham qualified for a government-funded form of transportation, but his benefit was recently taken away. Now, his fellow veterans are stepping up to help. | WDBJ 7 >>

Inside Washington

Legislation to strengthen laws protecting government whistle-blowers is duplicative and unnecessary, a top Veterans Affairs official told Congress Thursday. | USA Today >>

A Veterans Affairs official told members of Congress overseeing construction of the hospital in Aurora, now estimated to cost $1.73 billion, that the department ignored the warnings of its contractors and listened instead to its designers. | Denver Post >>

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald seemed pleased with Cincinnati’s progress in getting veterans off the street and into housing. But, he added Thursday that he’s anxious for the process to speed up for the sake of the whole community and that will take jobs for veterans. | Cincinnati Enquirer >>

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