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IAVA Daily News Brief – March 25, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

VA rule change could double number of vets eligible for health care
Responding to pressure from Congress and veterans groups, the Department of Veterans Affairs is relaxing a rule that makes it hard for some veterans in rural areas to prove they live at least 40 miles from a VA health site. | CBS News >>

Laws to prevent abuse of GI Bill benefits weren’t enforced, records show
Helicopter flight training companies were able to collect tens of millions of dollars a year through a loophole in the latest GI Bill in part because officials didn’t enforce laws aimed at preventing abuse of veteran education benefits, according to interviews, court records and state and federal documents. | LA Times >>

Jon Stewart blasts “deadbeat” Congress for disgraceful penny-pinching on veteran healthcare
According to internal documents obtained by CNN, the Veteran’s Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System is failing to provide its patients basic care. Contrary to what the VA’s acting director told Congress earlier this month, the facility is still making its patients wait an absurd amount of time to get a basic doctor’s appointment. Think: 44 days, on average. | Salon >>

Afghanistan

President Obama said Tuesday that he will delay a planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and maintain a force of 9,800 in the war-torn nation through the end of this year. | USA Today >>

A U.S. drone strike killed at least nine Pakistani militants in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province early Tuesday, intelligence officials said, part of an intensifying drone campaign against Pakistani militants in Afghanistan. | Reuters >>

Gunmen took over a highway in eastern Afghanistan late Monday night and began shooting indiscriminately at passing vehicles, killing at least 12 people, police said. | NBC News >>

Iraq

Iraq’s request to the U.S.-led coalition for air strikes in the campaign to retake Tikrit from Islamic State insurgents is “imminent”, a senior diplomat from a Western nation that is part of the coalition told Reuters on Tuesday. | Reuters >>

The U.S. has started providing Iraq with aerial intelligence in the stalled battle to oust Islamic State from Tikrit, drawing the American military into closer coordination with Iranian-backed militias spearheading the offensive. | Wall Street Journal >>

As a small force of Islamic State militants holds out in parts of Tikrit for a fourth week, Iraqi forces have been compelled to shift tactics, officials say: Rather than storming in to clear the city at any cost, the security forces are trying to seal off the area and begin preparing for even more challenging battles to the west and north. | New York Times >>

Military Affairs

The price tag for the F-35 is coming down, but program manager Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan says there are still kinks with software, cracks in aircraft and the plane’s logistics system as the Marine Corps prepare to declare the jet battle ready. | Defense One >>

Operation Dragoon Ride is underway, and its purpose seems clear: Show the world some of the firepower the United States and its NATO partners have in Eastern Europe. | Washington Post >>

The Navy says it plans to obtain its own fleet of 44 V-22 Osprey’s taking possession of eight a year starting in 2020. | Stars and Stripes >>

Here are five simple things to remember so that your new team has an even-keeled perception of your leadership. Being a boss in the military was about hard and fast conformity. But this stops after service, and civilian employees can actually quit when they want (and they do). | Task & Purpose >>

New Greatest Generation

What do a former marine, who’s now an amputee, and a basketball coach have in common? In this case, they’re the same person! | Fox Atlanta >>

Devin Demkowicz is turning 21. But the number 22 is in his mind, and on his back. The Mansfield Township man, who recently enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, started at midnight Tuesday morning, his birthday, on a 22-hour walk around Warren County with a 22-pound bag on his back. | The Express-Times >>

Love conquers all for Noah Galloway. On Monday night, Galloway, 33, was surprised by his girlfriend Jamie Boyd after he dominated the salsa with his professional partner, Sharna Burgess, 29, to Darius Rucker’s “Homegrown Honey” on Dancing with the Stars. | People >>

Inside Washington

One-third of all federal hires in fiscal 2014 were veterans and that’s the highest hiring rate for former servicemembers ever, the Office of Personnel Management says in March 23 statement. | Fierce Government >>

The Arizona Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill extending in-state tuition to spouses and dependents of men and women in the military. The bill would grant in-state tuition at Arizona’s community colleges and three, public universities. It would also extend for three years if the military member is killed. | Arizona Public Media >>

The Philadelphia Veterans Affairs office should implement widespread policy changes, arrange new training, and take action to hold managers and staffers “accountable” for altering records and mishandling claims, government investigators say. | Philadelphia Inquirer >>

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