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IAVA Daily News Brief – March 4, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

Senate follows House with bill to reclaim VA bonuses
Senators on Tuesday filed a bill that would allow the VA secretary to recoup bonuses paid to employees involved in manipulating patient wait-time records. | Stars and Stripes >>

4 in 5 eligible vets not offered outside Choice Card care: report
Only 1 in 5 veterans eligible for the Choice Card were offered the option to get private care outside the Veterans Affairs Department, according to a report released Tuesday by Veterans of Foreign Wars. | Washington Times >>

Air Force Reservists May Get Help for Agent Orange Exposure
The VA appears ready to change its mind in the wake of a January report from the Institute of Medicine concluding that C-123 reservists were likely exposed to dangerous levels of dioxin, the toxic chemical in Agent Orange. | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette >>

Afghanistan

The United States and other aid donors should press Afghanistan to prosecute government and security force officials guilty of serious human rights violations, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday. | Reuters >>

The Afghan Army lost more than 20,000 fighters and others last year largely because of desertions, discharges and deaths in combat, according to figures to be released Tuesday, casting further doubt on Afghanistan’s ability to maintain security without help from United States-led coalition forces. | New York Times >>

The White House is reviewing a request by President Ashraf Ghani to maintain higher levels of U.S. military troops in Afghanistan, said Christine Wormuth, undersecretary of defense for policy. | Washington Examiner >>

Iraq

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday he is “very concerned” about reports that Iran and Shiite militias are taking over the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and potentially fueling sectarian strife in that nation. | Military Times >>

Iraqi troops and Shiite militias battled the Islamic State group on Tuesday on the outskirts of militant-held Tikrit, unable to advance further on Saddam Hussein’s hometown as roadside mines and suicide attacks slowed their progress. | Huffington Post >>

The U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq has killed more than 8,500 Islamic State fighters since its bombing campaign began in August and has gained the upper hand, the top general overseeing the coalition said Tuesday. | Associated Press >>

Military Affairs

The Navy has deployed underwater drones beneath the ice in the Arctic Ocean to assess how quickly the ice is melting and understand how soon the U.S. and Russia will be competing for strategic waterways in the region. | DoD Buzz >>

The US military’s plans to send troops into Romania and Bulgaria as a deterrence to Russian aggression could expand to include Hungary, the Czech Republic and Russia’s southern neighbor, Georgia, according to a US Army official spearheading the effort. | Defense News >>

Prince Harry is preparing to leave the military later this year, it has been revealed. The apache-flying prince, who has completed two tours of Afghanistan, is set to end his active military career to focus on his charity work helping wounded troops. | Mirror >>

New Greatest Generation

In recent years, thousands of veterans like Creech have showed an interest in farming as a way to find peace and purpose. Several nonprofit organizations and universities have launched programs to help them pursue careers in agriculture. | KBIA >>

Stenbom, who was a combat soldier during the Iraq War, said that for him, producing sculpture is key to coping with posttraumatic stress disorder. | The Times-Picayune >>

This is a serious change of clothes. A new art exhibit opening at Art 101 gallery in Williamsburg on March 6 will feature works from veterans using paper made out of their old uniforms. | Brooklyn Daily >>

Inside Washington

A proposed change to the popular post-9/11 G.I. Bill would allow veterans to use their education benefits as startup collateral to start their own businesses. | Military.com >>

Norovirus has sickened nearly three dozen patients and staff members at the Phoenix VA Health Care System, prompting the hospital to halt admission of new patients to two mental-health units contaminated with the highly contagious virus. | The Arizona Republic >>

Members of the nation’s oldest veterans’ service organization will be lobbying to end sequestration this week when they appear before congressional committees and meetings with lawmakers in their offices. | Military.com >>

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