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IAVA Daily News Brief – November 14, 2014

Today’s Top Stories

VA allowing executives extra time to challenge firings
VA officials told lawmakers Thursday that it has been giving federal executives linked to its nationwide health care scandal more time to appeal firings because a new law aimed at faster terminations may violate their rights. | Stars and Stripes >>

Why do so many female veterans struggle to find work?
The unemployment rate for female veterans who have been discharged since September 11, 2001, was 9.3% in 2013, versus about 8% for male vets, according to a report from the Disabled American Veterans. | CNN >>

Frustrated lawmakers blast VA for too few dismissals
Members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee returned from their election break with a warning for VA leadership: Don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. | Military Times >>

Afghanistan 

A convoy of vehicles belonging to the American-led coalition forces was attacked twice by suicide bombers in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, a military spokesman and local authorities said. The convoy suffered no casualties, but at least one Afghan civilian was killed, as were the bombers, they said. | NY Times >>

The new commanding general in Kabul, Army Gen. John Campbell, is reviewing plans for officially ending the 13-year Afghanistan War to make sure that the troop numbers, timeline and overall strategy still makes sense, military officials say. | Military Times >>

President Ashraf Ghani’s honeymoon with the Afghan public is not over yet, but he has now officially broken his first campaign promise — to form a new government within 45 days after his inauguration. | NY Times >>

Iraq

The flag of an Iraqi Christian minority party is hoisted high over the village of Bakufa in northern Iraq, less than a month after Islamic State militants were pushed out and the extremists’ black banner was taken down. | Associated Press >>

Capitol Hill is growing skeptical of the U.S. military strategy in Iraq that hinges on the Shiite-led Baghdad government’s ability to overcome years of sectarian divisions and strife and forge an inclusive government that shares power with Kurdish and Sunni minorities. | Army Times >>

U.S. military leaders defended the Obama administration’s strategy against the Islamic State on Thursday, arguing before skeptical lawmakers that President Obama’s plan to put Iraqi forces at the forefront of the fight had achieved some limited battlefield success while laying the groundwork for a larger, long-term campaign against the group. | Washington Post >>

Military Affairs

For the first time since the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, the Army is shrinking. Faced with declining budgets, the Army, the largest of the services, cut its force this year to 508,000 soldiers from 530,000, with plans to trim an additional 20,000 troops next year. If funding cuts mandated by Congress continue, the Army could have fewer than 450,000 soldiers by 2019 — the smallest force since World War II. | NY Times >>

The USS Fort Worth is slated to depart Monday for Asia, where it will operate largely out of Singapore for 16 months, the longest deployment of a U.S. Navy ship in more than 42 years. | Stars and Stripes >>

Navy SEAL leaders warned last week that current and former members of Naval Special Warfare Command should remember that a critical part of the SEAL ethos is, “I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions.” The warning came as the U.S. military grappled with how to deal with the disclosure of secrets about the May 2, 2011, raid in Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. | Washington Post >>

New Greatest Generation 

On Feb. 28, 1991, Air Force pilot Steve Connolly rushed to put a tourniquet around the shattered remains of a prisoner’s leg in the middle of a firefight in an Iraqi desert. It was a life-changing encounter for Connolly – one that, more than 20 years later, would become a guiding force behind a seemingly impossible mission: to lead a group of military amputees on a harrowing expedition up one of the world’s tallest mountains to raise awareness of those who have lost limbs in service to the United States. | The Fresno Bee >>

Service animals have helped people in need for years, but with the surge of veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with pos-traumatic stress disorder, a new light shines upon service dogs. | Black Hills Pioneer >>

At the Concert for Valor on the National Mall on Tuesday night, the 100,000-strong crowd erupted in cheers as Army Master Sgt. Cedric King’s words echoed through the air. “I want to send a message to those guys that meant to hurt me,” the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient said in a video. “Instead of hurting me, you made me better. Instead of taking my legs away, you gave me so much more to live for.” | Huffington Post >>

Inside Washington

Veterans Affairs officials in Maryland, Virginia and the District have squandered millions of dollars in taxpayer money by mismanaging construction contracts, according to internal department records that showed some of the contracts were delayed so long that money was paid out and the contracts expired before any work was even done. | Washington Times >>

The Department of Veterans Affairs has apparently stopped sending posthumous bills to a Pennsylvania widow for the medical care of her late husband. | The News Journal >>

The embattled director of the Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs Healthcare system was formally fired Thursday, the second high-ranking VA administrator to be dismissed under new employment authorities granted by Congress. | Military Times >>

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