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IAVA Daily News Brief – May 18, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 2.45.28 PMMarines jump from an Air Force C-130 Hercules at Yokota Air Base, Japan, on May 11 during Jump Week. Yasuo Osakabe/Air Force. | Military Times >>

Today’s Top Stories

Study Finds Few Obstacles to Lifting Military’s Transgender Ban
A study commissioned by Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter found that a small portion of service members are transgender and that allowing them to serve openly in the military would cost little and have no significant impact on unit readiness. | New York Times >> 

The Guy Who Rescued Obamacare’s Website Has A New Project: The VA Smith’s team won a contract this month to develop Vets.gov, a new website that consolidates the department’s services in one online location. The goal is to let veterans access all of their VA benefits online in one place and with a single login. | Huffington Post >>

How Congress And The VA Left Many Veterans Without A ‘Choice’
 NPR – together with member stations from across the country – has been reporting on troubles with the Veterans Choice program, a $10 billion plan created by Congress two years ago to squash long wait times veterans were encountering when going to see a doctor. But as we reported in March, this fix needs a fix. | NPR >>

Afghanistan

Across Afghanistan, lists of troops and police officers are filled with fake names, or the names of men killed in the fighting, but not officially declared dead. Captain Wali and his men are in Babaji to fill the void of these “ghost soldiers”. | The Guardian >>

Thousands of demonstrators from Afghanistan’s Hazara minority marched in protest through Kabul on Monday, accusing President Ashraf Ghani’s government of cutting them out of a multi-million dollar power transmission line project. | Reuters >>

Faridoon Hanafi says he probably killed American soldiers as a Taliban commander in eastern Afghanistan from 2009 through 2014. And he’s certainly killed some Afghan troops. | Washington Post >>

Iraq

A wave of bombings struck outdoor markets and a restaurant in Shiite-dominated neighborhoods of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 69 people, officials said. | ABC News >>

Despite pledges from the Obama administration to “accelerate” the war against the Islamic State and a top envoy claiming “this perverse caliphate is shrinking,” the Pentagon admitted Monday it had retaken only 5 percent of ISIS-held territory in Iraq in the past five months. | Fox News >>

The Iraqi army does not need additional U.S. forces right now, top defense officials say. The U.S. currently has about 3,500 troops in Iraq, far below the latest White House authorization cap of 4,087, defense officials say. | Military Times >>

Military Affairs

The Marines are aiming to make their MV-22 Ospreys more lethal and faster, the service’s top aviator said Monday. | Navy Times >>

The U.S. Navy will soon take charge of the first in its newest, most advanced line of warships: the angular, tech-savvy — and expensive — USS Zumwalt. | ABC News >>

Republican Reps. Ryan Zinke (Mont.), a retired Navy SEAL commander, and Ron DeSantis (Fla.), a former Navy lawyer, are introducing legislation on Monday that would allow military lawyers to specialize in litigation. | The Hill >>

#VETSRISING

A Congressional Gold Medal has been presented to a Detroit-area veteran who was among the first African-Americans to serve in the Marine Corps. | Marine Corps Times >>

When Santa Rosa native Stefan Leroy completed his third Boston Marathon in April, he was more elated than his previous finishes. That’s because this time he was not in a handcycle. Leroy, a 24-year-old double amputee Army veteran, was on carbon-fiber blade runners. | The Press Democrat >>

After seven deployments to Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq during his 20 years of military service, and a half dozen subsequent years as an independent contractor in combat zones, war had taken its toll on him. | Florida Today >>

Inside Washington 

Republican members of the House Rules Committee during a late Monday meeting stripped provisions from the annual defense authorization bill that would have required women to register for the Selective Service System. | Military Times >>

House and Senate Republicans are at odds over how to allocate war spending, all but guaranteeing a showdown later this year over how to fund defense programs and keep military campaigns going in Afghanistan and Iraq and against the Islamic State. | The Washington Post >>

House appropriators advanced their $575.7 billion defense spending plan for fiscal 2017 just hours after the White House threatened to veto a similar budget bill and accused lawmakers of “gambling with warfighting funds.” | Military Times >>

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