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IAVA Daily News Brief – November 19, 2014

Today’s Top Stories

DoD, VA suicide prevention efforts on Capitol Hill
A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Monday designed to improve access to mental health services for troops and veterans and strengthen the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments’ suicide prevention efforts. | Military Times >>

Top VA official Sloan Gibson scrutinizes hospital failures
Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson visited VA hospitals in Nashville and Murfreesboro this week, saying his appearance was not a “one and done” tour as he pledged to keep scrutiny on efforts to correct failures in quality care and to shorten wait times for patient appointments. | The Tennessean >>

VA sends out second round of Veteran Choice Cards
The Veterans Affairs Department this week began mailing its second round of Choice Cards to former troops who have struggled to access care at the agency’s medical centers, issuing the temporary benefit to those who have waited more than 30 days for an appointment. | Washington Post >>

Afghanistan

The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says he is investigating the Pentagon’s efforts to spark that country’s economic development, which cost between $700 million and $800 million and “accomplished nothing.” | Marine Corps Times >>

Four people were killed when a suicide car bomb detonated at a perimeter wall of a camp housing foreign contractors in the Afghan capital on Tuesday morning, allowing militants to enter the compound, a senior security source told NBC News. Both militants and two Afghan guards were killed. | NBC News >>

As of Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014, at least 2,208 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 >>

Iraq

Iraq’s agriculture minister on Tuesday accused the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) of pilfering more than 1.1 million tons of grain from the country’s northern region and delivering it to militant-controlled cities in Syria. | Time >>

Kurdish fighters continue to gain ground against the self-described Islamic State in the Syrian border town of Kobane. Meanwhile, Iraqi forces have reportedly regained full control of the country’s largest oil refinery. | The Christian Science Monitor >>

The American campaign against the Islamic State is being largely fought from the sky. And even that aerial effort is being shortchanged, military insiders tell The Daily Beast. | The Daily Beast >>

Military Affairs

The demand for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions has increased across combatant commands from a tolerable level in the last few years to more frequent and in-depth requirements in recent months. | Air Force Times >>

Army officials have selected 31 women as advisers and observers at its elite, all-male Ranger School, the latest indication that some women might be allowed to take the course next year. | Washington Post >>

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said integrating women into combat units is “not easy” but is an important change that will ultimately strengthen the force. | Army Times >>

New Greatest Generation

Mayor Bill Peduto said he realized Monday night the same thing many Pittsburghers probably noticed. | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette >>

Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan need help with the transition to civilian life and their next career—and that’s where Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz comes in. | The Daily Beast >>

The 35th annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Dallas may be months away, but that didn’t temper the excitement at a breakfast for the event Tuesday. The purpose of the gathering at Southern Methodist University was to celebrate the athletes and community leaders and to spread the word to future sponsors and volunteers of the games next summer. | Dallas Morning News >>

Inside Washington

The Department of Veterans Affairs information security weaknesses are again in the crosshairs of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. | Nextgov >>

Outdated equipment, poor training and network security weaknesses continue to expose data at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Speaking Wednesday at a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, officials from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the VA’s inspector general office detailed an agency that has repeatedly failed to secure its sensitive data. | The Hill >>

VA appointments via cell phone app are about to move closer to reality. On Friday, the Department of Veterans Affairs will ask companies to make proposals for a new mobile application for scheduling care at its nationwide network of hospitals and clinics, officials said during testimony Tuesday in the House. | Stars and Stripes >>

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