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IAVA Daily News Brief – November 12, 2014

Today’s Top Stories

IAVA founder: ‘Veterans are not broken’
IAVA’s CEO and founder, Paul Rieckhoff, on raising awareness on Veterans Day. | Fox News >>

Improve the VA by Keeping It Simple
Alex Nicholson, IAVA’s Legislative Director, writes: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has become the nation’s second largest bureaucracy, and with that massive growth has come an even more massive over-complication of systems and processes within the organization. As the VA undergoes a transformative cultural change to help it make up for and prevent recurrences of the scandals that have rocked the veterans community this year, the department desperately needs to pursue another type of transformation too – simplification. | Defense One >>

Ceremonies, concerts mark Veterans Day in U.S. capital
The U.S. capital marked Veterans Day on Tuesday with ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery where Vice President Joe Biden said the 23 million U.S. veterans were the backbone of the nation. | Reuters >>

Afghanistan

As the U.S. military winds down its role in Afghanistan, the U.S. commander there, Gen. John Campbell, says Afghan forces have improved enough to handle the Taliban forces that are still waging war. | NPR >>

As of Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, at least 2,207 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count. | Associated Press >>

Andrew Craft is a photographer based in North Carolina, where he is a staff photographer at the Fayetteville Observer. In April and May of this year he visited Afghanistan to photograph the drawdown of American troops military presence. | CBS News >>

Iraq

U.S. troops have returned to Iraq’s embattled Anbar province for the first time since fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) swept in last summer and took control of large swaths of the area west of Baghdad, the Pentagon said Monday. | Military.com >>

Iraqi soldiers battling the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) recaptured most of the town of Beiji, home to the country’s largest oil refinery, state television and a provincial governor said Tuesday. | CBS News >>

President Barack Obama says the U.S.-led coalition assembled to counter the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq has entered a “new phase,” raising the question of what that phase actually looks like. | Bloomberg >>

Military Affairs

When Jason Hansman was deployed in Mosul, Iraq, the U.S. Army reservist didn’t worry about making rent, buying food or paying the bills. The military covered his living expenses, and he hardly touched his small monthly paycheck of about $2,000. So his return from duty in 2005 came as a painful reality check. Unable to balance his budget, he quickly racked up credit card debt and fell behind on bill payments. | International Business Times >>

Worried about collateral damage to whales, dolphins and other marine life, environmentalists are fighting the U.S. Navy in court in a bid to protect the creatures of the sea from war games in the Pacific Ocean — while the Navy insists their claims are overblown and the exercises are necessary and safe. | Fox News >>

Air Force Academy cadets are crunching numbers to outline mathematically how and where airdrop cargo lands. The work by capstone seniors and faculty in the behavioral sciences and management departments aims to save the Air Force and the Army money on GPS-guided parachutes. The capstone project in its second year of research. | Air Force Times >>

Christmas could come early for some Marines in the form of an early release from active duty. | Marine Corps Times >>

New Greatest Generation

For service members deployed overseas, it’s often the little things that make the most difference. While serving in Iraq in 2003 as an infantry officer in the Army, Stephen Machuga realized many of the care packages being sent to deployed troops were well-meaning, but never had what troops wanted or needed. | Task & Purpose >>

HBO’s Concert for Valor drew hundreds of thousands of fans to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., with millions more tuning in on television screens and radios across the country to hear performances by Rihanna, Eminem, Bruce Springsteen, Carrie Underwood, Dave Grohl, Metallica and many more. | TIME >>

A local veteran told a crowd of about 300 people Sunday that the coming weeks will be a crucial time for servicemen and servicewomen in this country. | The Leader >>

New York’s Veteran’s Day parade honored all veterans, even the canine ones. For the first time in the parade’s history, six military dogs marched alongside the soldiers they served with. | ABC News >>

During two decades of service in the U.S. Army, James Reece manned tanks during the Persian Gulf War and conducted military logistics in the 2003 Iraq campaign. Now retired from the military, Reece is undertaking a different kind of mission: Operating a child care center for more than 100 kids in The Woodlands. | Houston Chronicle >>

Inside Washington

VA Secretary Robert McDonald joins Andrea Mitchell to discuss the changes within the Department of Veterans Affairs to address the problems veterans face when returning from war. IAVA founder Paul Rieckhoff also joins. | MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports

[Rep. Tammy] Duckworth’s experiences help explain why military veterans, who bring a unique set of values to politics — selflessness, a sense of mission — often experience a culture shock when they arrive in the Capitol. | Politico >>

The 114th Congress will be made up of 70 current members and 11 incoming members of the U.S. House of Representatives who have served or are serving in the U.S. military. Three of the incoming members are Democrats; the other seven are Republicans. A number of veterans who are currently serving in the House decided to retire this year, and a small number lost re-election. | PBS >>

The House will vote on legislation in the new Congress to incentivize businesses to hire more veterans by excluding them from the healthcare law’s employer mandate. Under the bill, H.R. 3474, titled the “Hire More Heroes Act,” employers could exclude veterans who receive health coverage through the Department of Defense or the Department of Veterans Affairs from their lists of workers in order to avoid Obamacare’s employer mandate. | The Hill >>

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