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IAVA Daily News Brief – November 18, 2014

Today’s Top Stories

Veterans claim contractor in charge of burn pits is responsible for lung illnesses
Brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder are two well-known signature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there is another injury, lung disease, that afflicts tens of thousands of veterans. Many blame a single defense contractor and have filed a class action lawsuit, a case that has now made its way to the Supreme Court. | PBS >>

Ex-workers: Minn. VA clinic backdated records
Ex-employees of a Veterans Affairs clinic in Hibbing say they were ordered to backdate records of medical appointments to make it appear the clinic was seeing veterans promptly when waits were as long as six to eight weeks, according to a report published Sunday. | Associated Press >>

VA fails cybersecurity audit for 16th consecutive year
The Department of Veterans Affairs failed its annual cybersecurity audit this year, marking the 16th consecutive time that the agency did not pass muster with the review, according to its top technology officer. | Washington Post >>

Afghanistan

A 31-year-old Green Beret from Bay City who served two tours of duty in Iraq has been killed fighting in Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon. | Army Times >>

A huge explosion was heard in Afghanistan’s capital early on Tuesday. The cause and extent of casualties, if any, were not immediately known. | Reuters >>

The United States is planning to base about 1,000 security personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul after the formal end of the military mission in Afghanistan and may retain the ability to use attack planes to support local forces until then, according to the top American commander in the country. | Washington Post >>

Iraq

The horrific video released this weekend by Islamic State (ISIS) captured more attention than the surprise visit to Iraq on Saturday by the United States’ top military commander, but both events masked another trend: ISIS is suffering setbacks, with Iraqi forces reclaiming some territory lost this summer. | Wall Street Journal >>

On his first trip to Iraq since American troops returned this summer, the top U.S. general was dogged by a nagging question from troops. At meetings over the weekend, soldiers and Marines asked General Martin Dempsey variations on the same basic question: Even if the U.S.-backed campaign succeeds in rolling back Islamic State, what is to prevent this from happening again, years from now? | Reuters >>

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday that the U.S. military is accelerating its efforts to train and advise Iraqi forces fighting Islamic State militants. | Associated Press >>

Military Affairs

Besides the word ‘sequester,’ perhaps the second most uttered word at the Reagan National Defense Forum over the weekend was ‘O’Neill,’ as in Rob O’Neill, the Navy SEAL who recently claimed to have fired the shot that killed Osama Bin Laden. | IJ Review >>

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday there are encouraging signs of progress against the Ebola virus in West Africa, and he said the U.S. military can take some credit for containing it. | Military Times >>

During most of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military and its contractors disposed of garbage and everything else it did not want to ship back to the U.S. in open-air burn pits. | PBS >>

Gunnery Sgt. Hector Vicente has 20 years of Marine Corps experiences under his belt, but what he heard one morning from his junior Marines made him wonder how well he knew the Corps. | Marine Corps Times >>

New Greatest Generation

PFC Peter Kassig “was an Army ranger and his entire life was about helping others,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel offered condolences to the family of the Army Ranger-turned-aid worker who was beheaded by Islamic extremists and said the tragedy should renew the nation’s focus on defeating the Islamic State. | Military Times >>

An air force veteran who had to leave active duty after being blown up twice in roadside bomb attacks now captures the portraits of other veterans as a form of ‘therapy’. | Daily Mail >>

Tech incubator The Bunker is expanding into Greater Washington with the launch of a location in Alexandria, according to Technical.ly. The Bunker targets existing veteran-owned tech startups and aspiring entrepreneurs. It launched a year ago in Chicago with 19 veteran-led businesses hunkering down for six-month stints that included access to capital and mentorship. | Washington Business Journal >>

When he saw the plume of dust and the shards of shattered glass explode in front of him, David Wilhelm knew what to do. He’d been trained to respond to such situations — in Afghanistan — not while driving on a quiet state highway only miles from where he grew up and now lives in Kerhonkson. | Times Herald-Record >>

Inside Washington

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is calling on lawmakers to approve a new round of military base closures and limit troop benefits to give the Pentagon flexibility to address its budget woes. | The Hill >>

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ record-keeping processes were in such disarray in recent years that the agency didn’t track its number of unfilled medical positions until June of this year, according to VA officials. | The Arizona Republic >>

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow to discuss the agency’s data security issues that allowed VA employees to change electronic records to cover-up the long patient wait times that were linked to veteran deaths earlier this year. | The Hill >>

Responding to a question live-tweeted to her during a digital town hall Friday, Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta didn’t miss a beat in defending the federal government’s push to hire veterans. | FedScoop >>

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