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IAVA Daily News Brief – March 5, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

VA illegally shifted funds to pay for new project — in Frank Underwood fashion
In a case of life imitating art, officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs illegally steered agency funding from its intended purpose to pay for an unrelated program. | Washington Post >>

VA Chief Warns of Rising Cost of Caring for Younger Veterans
Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald told lawmakers on Wednesday that the department is on track to meet two lofty goals set by his predecessor: End the disability claims backlog and veteran homelessness. | Military.com >>

Choice Card confusion frustrates veterans, Congress
Lawmakers and veterans groups have been dismayed with the implementation of the new Choice Card system so far, complaining that program officials seem more focused on keeping individuals out of the program than getting it running. VA officials note that Congress — not the department — set the eligibility rules and needs to make fixes if gaps are emerging. | Military Times >>

Afghanistan

The top U.S. general in Afghanistan on Wednesday left the door open to altering the plan to remove U.S. troops from the country, saying he doesn’t yet know what U.S. and Afghan officials can accomplish in the coming fighting season while focused on a new training mission. | Washington Post >>

Afghan soldiers were locked in a deadly battle to free dozens of hostages being held in the restive south of the country, officials told NBC News on Wednesday. | NBC News >>

A week on the frontlines with the Afghan National Police. Early one cold January morning on the high plains of eastern Afghanistan, Maj. Mohammad Qasim and a few of his officers gathered in the rundown barracks that serve as a district headquarters for the Afghan National Police in Baraki Barak. | New York Times >>

Iraq

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Wednesday about the fight against Islamic State militants including the Iraqi-led operations in Tikrit, the White House said. | Reuters >>

A U.S. military officer’s media briefing about plans for an Iraqi-led ground offensive in Mosul, including its expected timing, amounted to a mistaken disclosure of “military secrets,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday. | Associated Press >>

The general in charge of U.S. forces in the Middle East defended the Obama administration’s war strategy Tuesday, telling House lawmakers that the Islamic State will be defeated without ground U.S. combat troops. | Stars and Stripes >>

Military Affairs

The U.S. military’s leading general says Washington should now consider providing Ukrainian forces with lethal aid to help combat the nation’s pro-Kremlin insurgency. | TIME >>

The U.S. Navy doesn’t just do stuff “for fun,” says the command master chief of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, but what 30% of the ship’s crew will be up to over the next year or so can at least be termed pretty cool. And it will certainly be unprecedented. | CNN >>

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James on Wednesday announced bold moves to boost the careers of women and minorities in the service. | Air Force Times >>

New Greatest Generation

Phil Klay served with the U.S. Marines in Iraq’s Anbar province during the troop surge in 2007 and 2008. The book of short stories about the Iraq War that he went on to write, Redeployment, won the 2014 National Book Award for fiction. Writing in the New York Times, Dexter Filkins called Redeployment “the best thing written so far on what the war did to people’s souls.” | TIME >>

During her first Iraq deployment in 2003, then-23-year-old Pearsall documented everything from Blackhawk helicopter sorties to foot patrols with Army infantry units on the ground. This would be the cornerstone of an epic that would impact thousands of veterans from across the US and around the globe. | We Are The Mighty >>

Wednesday afternoon about 200 injured veterans made a rest stop at Battleship Memorial Park as they embarked on a 470 mile cycling trip which started in Atlanta and is set to end in New Orleans. | Al.com >>

Inside Washington

House lawmakers introduced a bill this week that would block the Defense Department from slashing per diem allowances for long-term temporary duty. | Stars and Stripes >>

Service-disabled veterans who become federal employees would start their careers with paid sick leave available, under legislation passed by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee March 4. | Federal Times >>

Mrs. Obama has been a longtime advocate for veterans, service members and military families through her Joining Forces initiative. But the first lady said mental health conditions affect about 1 in 5 adults, and no one should have to worry about perceptions because they are seeking help. | Boston Herald >>

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