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IAVA Daily News Brief – November 20, 2014

Today’s Top Stories

Bills to Stop Veteran Suicides Gain Traction on the Hill
After a months-long push by advocacy groups fighting to solve the problem, legislation to prevent veteran suicides is gaining traction in Congress. Members of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees held hearings Wednesday on veterans’ mental health and the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. The Senate bill and its House counterpart are named after an Iraq War veteran who committed suicide in 2011. | National Journal >>

Study: Telemedicine helps treat PTSD in vets
Traveling long distances to health clinics presents one of the biggest obstacles to military veterans in rural areas seeking and sticking with therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. | Stars and Stripes >>

Odierno: With commitments up, U.S. must rethink cuts to Army end strength
The Army’s top general wants to redo a decision to cut end strength from 490,000 to 450,000, saying it was made before Russian aggression towards the Ukraine and Europe, the fight with the Islamic State group in the Mideast and deployments to Africa to fight Ebola. | Military Times >>

Afghanistan 

Four Taliban militants attacked a heavily fortified housing complex for foreigners in eastern Kabul on Wednesday before being killed by security forces, Afghan authorities said. | LA Times >>

Germany and Italy plan to keep a total of up to 1,350 soldiers in Afghanistan in 2015 to help train local armed forces, their defense ministries said on Tuesday, a slightly larger contingent than had been previously expected. | Reuters >>

The man who attempts to hold U.S. government agencies accountable for work in Afghanistan described America’s nation-building effort there over the last 13 years as “an abysmal failure.” | Stars and Stripes >>

Iraq

A suicide bomber detonated his car outside the governor’s compound in the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region, killing four people, in the first major attack in the area since fighters halted an Islamic State offensive. | Bloomberg >>

The president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, accused Western countries on Wednesday of not providing enough heavy weapons to help his ‘peshmerga’ forces deliver a “decisive blow” against Islamic State militants. | Reuters >>

Airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, aided by intelligence reports developed by airmen here from spy-plane feeds, have helped stem the momentum of Islamic State fighters in the key city of Kobane, according to top military officials. | USA Today >>

Military Affairs

The Army has defined the procedures it will use in 2015 to reclassify or, if necessary, screen for separation, injured Regular Army soldiers who likely could not perform the duties of their military occupational specialty in an austere or field environment. | Army Times >>

The Navy is looking a way that would allow sailors to leave the military and easily return to active-duty after getting degrees or working in the private sector, a top admiral said Wednesday at the Defense One Summit. | Defense One >>

A top U.S. Air Force official on Wednesday said she is “pretty optimistic” that privately held Space Exploration Technologies will eventually be certified to launch U.S. military satellites into orbit but declined comment on the timing of such an action. | Reuters >>

New Greatest Generation

When he served in Iraq, Shaun Garry’s unit conducted “terrain denial” missions. Today, Garry, 36, is owner of a 2Toots Train Whistle Grill, a pioneering new franchise restaurant geared toward kids and families. Food is delivered by a toy train that weaves through the restaurant, and the burgers, hot dogs and chili are made from grass-fed beef. | USA Today >>

Her name is Liberty, a word that means something different to each person whose life intersects hers. She’s a potential service animal, training to help free a war-battered veteran named Caleb Dunham from the anxiety and distress that have nearly shut him down and locked him indoors. He fought for his country in Iraq and Afghanistan; back home he doesn’t know how to fight for himself. | Times Online >>

From the vast well of therapeutic activities available to a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps such as Sgt. Gabe Martinez, the casual observer might not immediately consider hunting at the top of the list. | The Denver Post >>

Inside Washington

Just days after issuing a scathing report pointing out what he said was a “poor, inept and inaccurate” quality control process for benefit claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs St. Petersburg Regional Office, Javier Soto was told that his services as a Ratings Benefits Services Representative “were no longer needed.” | The Tampa Tribune >>

The Department of Veterans Affairs still has not taken adequate steps to protect private data, despite security flaws during the past few years that have been exploited by hackers, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office released Monday. | Stars and Stripes >>

Democratic leaders on Wednesday will vote to sideline the only Iraq War-era veteran on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and stave off an internal power struggle, a move that has infuriated some veterans advocates. | Army Times >>

The mother of an Army National Guard soldier who killed himself less than seven weeks ago pleaded with Congress on Wednesday to do more to save troops and veterans suffering from combat-related mental health conditions. | Military Times >>

Senators questioned Wednesday if the Department of Veterans Affairs has enough resources to handle the demand for mental health care, stressing that improving care for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder is a priority where lawmakers must actually act. | Washington Times >>

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