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IAVA Daily News Brief – May 5, 2015

An MH-60S Knight Hawk from the Chargers of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 14 performs plane guard operations on Friday near the supercarrier John C. Stennis. | Military Times >>

An MH-60S Knight Hawk from the Chargers of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 14 performs plane guard operations on Friday near the supercarrier John C. Stennis. | Military Times >>

 

Today’s Top Stories

IAVA Survey Upends Department Of Veterans Affairs Claims
The IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) survey highlights the impact of the disability compensation wait list. It also highlights growing dissatisfaction with VA health care. The latter claim upends a recent assertion from VA that veterans prefer VA health care versus non-VA health care. | Disabled Veterans >>

House VA chief’s patience wears thin with agency head
The head of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee is running out of patience with VA Secretary Robert McDonald. On Friday, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) sent a strongly worded letter to McDonald after the former Procter & Gamble CEO fired off a missive of his own taking umbrage with the House panel weighing a subpoena for records from the VA’s Philadelphia regional office. | The Hill >>

Congress considers changes to military retirement plans
Congress is considering changing, for the first time in decades, the way service members get retirement pay. Military retirement now carries an all-or-nothing pension plan that requires a minimum of 20 years of service. The new plan would cut those pensions to 40 percent of pay from 50 percent, and create a matched 401(k)-style plan open to all service members. | The Sun-Herald >>

Afghanistan

Taliban militants who have been waging war on the Afghan government for more than a decade on Monday expressed a willingness to soften their position on a range of issues, an apparent shift that could eventually lead to peace talks. | Associated Press >>

A suicide bomb attack on government employees in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Monday killed one and injured 15, according to officials. Witnesses to the blast told Reuters that it occurred when an assailant detonated a car filled with explosives as a bus was transporting civil servants to work at the Attorney General’s Office passed by. | VICE News >>

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Monday that conditions for a political reconciliation with Taliban rebels after nearly 14 years of war are better, but he warned that a political agreement will not come soon or be easy to achieve. | USA Today >>

Iraq

U.S. intelligence agencies ­badly misjudged al-Qaeda’s ­ability to take advantage of political turmoil in the Middle East and regain strength across the region after Osama bin Laden was killed, according to a new book by the CIA’s former deputy director. | Washington Post >>

Iraqi forces besieged inside the country’s largest oil refinery are running low on food and pleading for reinforcements to save them from Islamic State militants who have advanced deep into the compound in the past week. | Reuters >>

A surge in car bombings renewed security concerns in the Iraqi capital on Sunday, after Islamic State claimed seven attacks in the past week. The bombers struck locations across Baghdad, including an open-air market Saturday night in the commercial district of Karrada, where some people had gathered to distribute sweets for a Shiite holy celebration. | Wall Street Journal >>

Military Affairs

The Army and Marine Corps will conduct comprehensive testing this year to determine the viability of adopting common rifle ammunition, a potential cost-cutting initiative that could have serious implications for troops on the battlefield. | Marine Corps Times >>

The US Army’s lone combat aviation brigade in Europe will be reduced as part of a larger cost saving measure, a move that analysts say will cut back on a counterweight to Russian armor. | Defense News >>

South Florida welcomes hundreds of sailors and marines this week as they land at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale for the 25th annual Broward Navy Days’ Fleet Week Port Everglades. | CBS Miami >>

#VetsRising

When published suicide statistics reached 22 veterans a day, Frank Spady said “Enough!” A decorated Vietnam combat Airborne ranger, Spady realized that vets in crisis couldn’t wait for the VA or Congress to fix the system to address their needs. The problem didn’t need more discussion, it needed action and that’s something Spady knows about. | Huffington Post >>

Matt Smiley feels at home when he’s engaged in physical work. The veins on his arms swell as he digs up a green irrigation hose. The former combat vet says farming is good for his body and his mind. “I think first and foremost it’s the connection to nature,” says Smiley. “It’s very healing. I would even say borderline spiritual.” | Capital Public Radio >>

U.S. and British veterans are teaming up with ex-Gurkhas to bring aid to Nepal earthquake victims. Team Rubicon — a group of U.S. veterans who use their military training to help people after disasters — has sent several teams to Nepal in recent days. | Stars and Stripes >>

Inside Washington

Lawmakers are once again taking a stab at the Veterans Affairs Department, in hopes of holding executives more accountable for widespread problems at the agency. Senior executives at the Veterans Affairs would not get performance bonuses, under an amendment to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill of 2016. | Federal News Radio >>

Since 2010, the VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have helped 230,000 veterans either avoid or overcome homelessness. The number of veterans nationwide without permanent housing has declined by an estimated 33 percent, while the number of veterans sleeping on the streets declined by 44 percent, according to the White House. | The Virginian-Pilot >>

The House passed its first appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016, largely voting along party lines on the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill. House Democrats, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald and some veterans groups opposed the bill, saying it inadequately pays for veterans’ medical needs and construction projects that could help expand their access to care. The White House has threatened to veto the measure. | Washington Post >>

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