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IAVA Daily News Brief – March 26, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

House wants better long-term planning from VA
Before Veterans Affairs Department officials make another promise, House lawmakers want to know how much it’s going to cost. The chamber on Tuesday passed new legislation requiring VA to develop an annual five-year budget plan for congressional review, produce a holistic review of VA goals every four years, and hire a chief strategy officer to oversee that work. | Military Times >>

Better VA Accountability Won’t Send Employees Running, Lawmaker Says
The sponsor of a House bill that would crack down further on misconduct and poor performance among senior executives at Veterans Affairs said on Tuesday that his legislation ultimately will attract, rather than scare away, talented career employees. | Defense One >>

VA seeks new law to change Veterans Choice rules
The Veterans Affairs Department has asked for new legislation that would let it pay for private health care for veterans who live near a VA clinic but can’t get the treatment they need because it’s not offered at that location. | Military Times >>

Afghanistan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, speaking to a joint meeting of Congress in Washington, called Wednesday on Muslims around the world to speak out against extremist groups — declaring “silence is not acceptable.” | Fox News >>

President Barack Obama’s decision to keep 9,800 soldiers in Afghanistan through this year — double what was previously planned — represents an American bet that a new president, Ashraf Ghani, might finally be the reliable partner in Kabul who can solidify gains, such as they are, of the 14-year U.S. mission. | CNN >>

Pakistani jet fighters killed 30 militants allied to the Pakistani Taliban in a missile attack in the mountainous northwestern Khyber region on Wednesday, including the group’s spokesman, intelligence officials said. | Reuters >>

Iraq

As negotiations on a possible nuclear deal approach a March 31 deadline, U.S. officials are increasingly alarmed about Iran’s expanding military presence in Iraq — and the threat it may pose to American soldiers in the country. | Politico >>

Iraqi officials are considering asking a U.S.-led coalition to launch airstrikes to liberate the Iraqi city of Tikrit from Islamic State militants, according to a spokesman for the president, after a more than three-week offensive in the city stalled without foreign assistance. | Wall Street Journal >>

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called on Tuesday during talks with Iraq’s foreign minister in Damascus for a united front with Baghdad in tackling terrorism as the two countries battle Islamic State militants on their territory. | Reuters >>

Military Affairs

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was taken captive by the Taliban after abandoning his post in Afghanistan and later freed in exchange for five Guantanamo detainees, will be charged with desertion, officials told Fox News. | Fox News >>

A group of Rangers and an 8-year-old from New Mexico showed last week that you can lead the way in more ways than one. Eleck Stone joined soldiers with the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia, for two days of training last week — everything from airborne operations training to time on the shooting range to a simulated raid alongside his battle buddies and his younger brother, Bryce. | Army Times >>

The hotly debated Marine Corps tattoo policy will get another look this month, the commandant told a Marine audience in Japan on Tuesday. | Marine Corps Times >>

New Greatest Generation

Alicia Watkins is a retired Air Force staff sergeant who proudly served in Iraq and Afghanistan. She risked her life for the freedom of others, survived the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, and watched her colleagues die. But it wasn’t any of her combat experiences that broke Watkins’ spirit; it was the fact that she retired from the military and found herself homeless. | Huffington Post >>

Every day when David Granfard wakes up, he salutes his dog. “Good morning, ma’am,” he’ll say to Sasha, his 2-year-old Doberman. Nowadays, the greeting is delivered with a smile, but there was a point when the formality was required of the Foothill College student – Sasha served alongside Gen. David Petraeus in Afghanistan and shares the rank of four-star general. | Los Altos Town Crier >>

Veterans’ writing programs have begun to spread across the country. Some, as in New York, are based at universities like Columbia and Fordham. Others are independent, like New York’s Voices from War, Philadelphia-based Warrior Writers and the Veterans Writing Project in Washington DC. | The Guardian >>

Inside Washington

The Department of Veterans Affairs paid a Washington-based senior manager $288,000 in “relocation payments” when it reassigned her last summer to become director of the agency’s embattled Philadelphia regional office. | Philadelphia Inquirer >>

A national organization of elder law attorneys on March 17 filed a 27-page letter with the VA arguing why the department should not make proposed changes to rules for a pension program for low-income veterans aged 65 and older. | Military.com >>

Veterans are calling on Colorado’s newest congressman to change his mind about their half-finished hospital. The United Veterans Committee of Colorado, which represents about 50 veterans service organizations, agreed Monday to urge freshman Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican, to join the state delegation in supporting legislation to complete the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Aurora. | Denver Post >>

 

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