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IAVA Daily News Brief – March 23, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

Seeking ways to bridge ‘civilian-military gap’
When veterans acquire a significant public profile, experts say they can help bridge the “military-civilian gap.” Or they can help widen it. | Military Times >>

Few veterans in Black Hills region using new VA program
The VA Black Hills Health Care System reports that only about 2 percent of 3,219 eligible veterans made appointments through the Choice Card program. The system serves more than 19,330 veterans in portions of South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. | Washington Times >>

Group Threatens to Sue VA Over Planned Pension Change
An organization of attorneys plans to sue the Veterans Affairs Department if the agency follows through on plans to means-test eligibility for pensions intended for low-income veterans. | Military.com >>

Afghanistan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tells NPR that most people in his country want a continued U.S. troop presence and that his government is determined to make sure that the self-declared Islamic State does not gain a foothold. | NPR >>

Top U.S. officials have shown a willingness to adjust President Obama’s plan for winding down the war in Afghanistan, allowing military commanders to delay troop departures and expanding combat authorities for forces remaining on the ground. | Washington Post >>

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he remains hopeful that peace talks with the Taliban could start, even as Afghan troops prepare for intense fighting in coming months. | Wall Street Journal >>

Iraq

Gen. David Petraeus, who commanded the U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq, says the “foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability” is not the self-described Islamic State but Shiite militias backed, and sometimes guided, by Iran. | NPR >>

The momentum of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has been blunted and the extremist group is not “on the march” as it was previously, CIA Director John Brennan said on Sunday. | Reuters >>

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Congress still has a “moral and constitutional responsibility” to pass a military force authorization for current operations against Islamic State militants in Iraq. | Military Times >>

Military Affairs

The U.S. Army in Europe is pressing ahead with the deployment of nearly 300 soldiers to Ukraine to train local national guard troops there despite the ongoing conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russian separatists, a defense official said. | Military Times >>

The Air Force doesn’t have enough fighter pilots in its active duty cockpits due to force structure cuts and increased airline hiring, leading to a long-term drop in those available to train new pilots and test new aircraft, service leaders told lawmakers Thursday. | Air Force Times >>

Navy leaders have launched a study to find ways to lower the costs of aircraft carriers, explore alternatives to the big-deck platforms, and increase competition among vendors. | Military.com >>

New Greatest Generation

The first time Brian Castner saw his story set to music, he fell apart. “I couldn’t watch,” he said. “I put my head down … and then went outside and smoked half a pack of cigarettes — and I’d quit smoking years before.” | Glens Falls Post-Star >>

As retired Air Force officers, Bob and Barb Rusnak were on the alert for veteran-friendly franchises when considering business opportunities. The duo found the perfect fit with Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. Here’s what these veterans have learned in the last two years as barbecue franchisees. | Entrepreneur >>

Wes Moore, a Johns Hopkins graduate, Rhodes Scholar, Army combat veteran and best-selling author, stood before a small group of teens at the A La Carte Pavilion Thursday evening, ready to offer remarks and field questions. | Tampa Bay Times >>

Inside Washington

The new congressional Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus symbolically launched Thursday, on the 12th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. | Military Times >>

Arizona military veterans who land in court for minor offenses are also landing second chances. For the last few years, judges and prosecutors across the state have been holding “Veterans Courts” tailored toward defendants with physical and mental battle wounds. | Associated Press >>

Lawmakers in two northeastern states are declaring war on phony veterans who claim combat experience in order to commit fraud. So-called “stolen valor” laws are not new, and the current federal version was revised after a tougher one was struck down in 2012 by the U.S. Supreme Court. | Fox News >>

 

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