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IAVA Daily News Brief – September 8, 2015

An F-15C Eagle flies over East Anglia, England during a flyover event at Royal Air Force Lakenheath. The F-15C, assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing, circulated until it flew in unison with the U.K. Avro Vulcan XH558 to mark the first and last time these aircraft will fly together. | Military Times >>

An F-15C Eagle flies over East Anglia, England during a flyover event at Royal Air Force Lakenheath. The F-15C, assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing, circulated until it flew in unison with the U.K. Avro Vulcan XH558 to mark the first and last time these aircraft will fly together. | Military Times >>

 

Today’s Top Stories

307,000 veterans may have died awaiting Veterans Affairs health care, report says
Hundreds of thousands of veterans listed in the Department of Veterans Affairs enrollment system died before their applications for care were processed, according to a report issued Wednesday. | CNN >>

Veterans jobless rates drop to historic lows
The unemployment rate for veterans dropped to a seven-year low in August, and the rate for Iraq and Afghanistan war-era veterans fell to the lowest level since federal officials started tracking that population. | Military Times >>

Veterans Advocates Say VA Shrank Backlog by Redefining the Backlog
Representatives for two of the largest veterans’ service organizations in the country say they’re pleased with the reductions the Veterans Affairs Department has made in its claims backlog but say part of the progress was done simply by redefining the backlog. | Military.com >>

Afghanistan

Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to end a blame game over a spate of attacks and work to restore trust, Pakistan’s foreign policy chief said. Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister, visited the Afghan capital Kabul on Friday for a regional economic conference and also held meetings with the president, foreign minister and national security adviser. | Reuters >>

In one of the first tests of his leadership, the head of Afghanistan’s Taliban militants is moving aggressively against a breakaway faction in the south of the country, according to Afghan and Taliban officials. | New York Times >>

Business has never been better for Mohammad Nassir, a manager in the Afghan capital’s main bus station. And it fills him with grief. “The young generation is leaving the country,” said Nassir, who works for Tolo Bus Services. “I see families saying goodbye to their loved ones for the last time and it breaks my heart.” | NBC News >>

Iraq

Iraq’s top Shiite cleric said on Friday the government must start hunting the “big heads” as part of its anti-corruption drive, calling for “convincing and assuring steps” as proof of the government’s seriousness in implementing its highly-touted reform plan. | Associated Press >>

Tens of thousands of foreign fighters have streamed into Syria and Iraq in recent years to add even more numbers to the prolonged and brutal conflict. Many of these people are thought to have joined up with Islamic State militants or other extremist groups, such as the al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra. But some of them have gone to the Middle East to fight against those groups. | Huffington Post >>

The U.S. military has ordered its nearly 3,500 troops stationed in Iraq to reacquaint themselves with their chemical weapons suits due to evidence that the Islamic State has obtained chemical weapons and used them on multiple occasions. | Fox News >>

Military Affairs

The U.S. Military Academy’s superintendent took responsibility for the pillow fight that left nearly 2 percent of the academy’s freshman class with concussions last month, saying in a Saturday statement that “[a]lthough the vast majority of the class appears to have maintained the spirit of the event, it is apparent that a few did not.” | Army Times >>

The U.S. Air Force airman who was injured when he and two childhood friends tackled a heavily armed gunman on a Paris-bound train returned to his native California Thursday night. | Associated Press >>

The Department of Defense said in a news release Thursday that the Navy’s next Freedom-class littoral combat ship would be named the USS Minneapolis/St. Paul. The department says the fast ships are used in mine, anti-submarine and surface warfare. | Associated Press >>

#VetsRising

Two heroes were separated for years after serving their country, but the pair reunited at an airport in Chicago on Friday. Chris Spears, of Galesburg, Illinois, had his service dog Rossi for four and a half years while serving in the navy. During that time, they formed a special bond. | NBC Chicago >>

At the intersection of his old job and his new one, war hero turned football player Daniel Rodriguez stood before 22 airmen and women at Scott Air Force Base re-telling his story and offering his appreciation. “I just kind of told them thank you for their service,” Rodriguez said. “I told them in all reality if it wasn’t for the Air Force I probably wouldn’t be alive today. | ESPN >>

“Nobody here is a trained psychologist,” says Gregory Neufeld, an army veteran of 22 years who did three tours in Iraq, two in Bosnia, and one in Afghanistan. He started as a volunteer before completing the organization’s 8-week program, continuing to assist today. “No one will push you or say, ‘Tell me what you’ve been through.’ The horse is a therapist. I tell anybody who comes out here, ‘Tell it to the horse, brother.’” | Thurston Talk >>

Inside Washington

Every morning for more than two years, retired Army Sgt. Brenda Reed had the infuriating chore of screwing on what she calls her “man foot.” The prosthesis was given to her by the Department of Veterans Affairs after her left leg was amputated in 2013, but the replacement was so bulky and ill-fitting that it kept falling off in public. | Washington Post >>

By some estimates, as many as 100,000 service members were discharged for being gay between World War II and the 2011 repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Many were given less-than-honorable discharges that became official scarlet letters — barring them from veterans’ benefits, costing them government jobs and other employment, and leaving many grappling with shame for decades. | New York Times >>

Huge cost overruns and long delays at new VA hospitals in Colorado, Florida and Louisiana were caused by multiple design changes, mismanaged contracts or poor budget controls, according to Army Corps of Engineers reports released Thursday. | Associated Press >>

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