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IAVA Daily News Brief – March 31, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

White House backs changes to military pay, benefits
The White House and Pentagon on Monday backed proposals that would overhaul pay and benefits for troops and military retirees — including a 401(k)-style retirement plan for all troops. | USA Today >>

Members of Congress grill VA officials over Tomah mishaps
Members of Congress consoled whistleblowers and family members of veterans who died at a medical center in Tomah that has come under fire for poor care, and they criticized government officials who tried to defend previous investigations of the facility. | Associated Press >>

VA watchdog launches probe into official’s relocation bonus, blasts employee drug-testing program
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General has started a formal investigation into the nearly $300,000 relocation bonus paid to a senior VA official when she was transferred from Washington to lead the Philadelphia regional office last year. | Washington Times >>

Afghanistan

Clashes between Afghan forces and the Taliban have cut off the main supply of power to Afghanistan’s Helmand and Kandahar provinces, according to residents and the chief of the national power company. | Reuters >>

A suicide bomber attacked an Afghan parliamentarian on Sunday in the capital, Kabul, killing three people and wounding the lawmaker, an official said. | Stars and Stripes >>

With U.S. combat operations officially ended in Afghanistan, some U.S. lawyers for five Afghan detainees at Guantánamo wrote the Obama administration Monday asking that the men be let men go. | Miami Herald >>

Iraq

Iran’s Revolution Guard says a U.S. drone strike has killed two of its advisers in Iraq, though the U.S. said Monday it has only struck militants in its campaign against the Islamic State group. | USA Today >>

Iran’s state TV says two land mines left over from the 1908s Iraq-Iran war have killed five Iranian border guards and a female shepherd near the Iraqi border. The TV says the guards were on a regular patrol Monday near the Iranian border town of Qasr-e Shirin, about 540 kilometers (340 miles) west of the capital, Tehran, when one of the mines went off. | Associated Press >>

The U.S.-led coalition launched seven air strikes in Iraq against Islamic State militants since early Sunday, the Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement. | Reuters >>

Military Affairs

Dropping the Army’s end strength to 450,000 would require the involuntary separation of about 14,000 Soldiers, the Army’s vice chief of staff told lawmakers. | Military.com >>

Even as sequestration budget cuts loom over US Army aviation, helicopter modernization plans are driving numerous requirements, officials said at an industry conference here. | Defense News >>

Master Sgt. Orlando Reyes was taken aback when he was ridiculed on social media for not having a Combat Action Ribbon after being named the 2014 Military Times’ Marine of the Year. While Reyes, a logistician, had three deployments to Iraq under his belt, his duties had never put him in a position to participate in a combat engagement. | Marine Corps Times >>

New Greatest Generation

Travis Mills is at it again. The retired staff sergeant and quadruple amputee announced last week that his organization — the Travis Mills Foundation — purchased the Maine Chance Lodge in Rome, Maine, and plans to convert it into a retreat for veterans with disabilities and their families, WCSH 6 News reported. | Huffington Post >>

A young man in a khaki-colored T-shirt, head shaved, quietly approaches the wooden bunk bed next to his. He tickles another young man, similar in appearance, and they begin to wrestle as laughter fills the room. Blake Trahan and Brian Tabada shared more than a hairstyle and an inclination to silliness. They shared death. | Beaumont Enterprise >>

Despite being born with Cerebral Palsy, a disorder that affects movement and weakness in the muscles, one Tucson, Arizona man is now reaching above and beyond his limitations. For 20 years John Quinn hid the daily physical pain that came with his disability. The reason being, he was in the Navy and his disease didn’t fit enlisted requirements. | WITN >>

Inside Washington

Tammy Duckworth, a Democratic representative from Illinois, said Monday she will challenge Republican Senator Mark Kirk in 2016. If she won, she would become the second female combat veteran ever elected to the Senate. | Bloomberg >>

Rep. Charlie Rangel has no doubt that bringing back the military draft will make America safer. He just hasn’t had any success convincing other lawmakers that he’s right. | Military Times >>

The Department of Veterans Affairs and Congress continue to make changes in the Veteran’s Choice Card program, yet major problems such as low payment rates to physicians, complicated scheduling and technicalities within the law continue to cause problems for veterans. | The St. Augustine Record >>

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