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IAVA’s Daily News Brief – June 26, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

Millions of dollars for veterans sat unspent for three years — and now it may be too late
For three years, more than $43 million the Department of Veterans Affairs had set aside to inform veterans about their benefits sat in an account, not a penny spent, until an agency financial manager happened to notice. By then, it may have become too late for the cash-strapped agency to spend the money, a new report says. | Washington Post >>

Well-funded vets groups prepare for 2016 battle
Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, expressed deep misgivings about the veteran label being used to advance partisan agendas. “Unfortunately, now, almost everything in our space is politicized,” said Rieckhoff, whose group is pushing to improve veteran access to health care, end the backlog of VA disability claims and reduce veteran unemployment. | Politico >>

House panel supports closing VA’s $2.6 billion funding gap
Despite harsh criticism, a House oversight committee said it supports giving the Department of Veterans Affairs more spending flexibility to head off a $2.6 billion financial shortfall this year. | Stars and Stripes >>

Afghanistan

NATO defense ministers are reassuring Afghanistan’s government that it can count on the alliance’s continued help after its military training and support mission, called Resolute Support, ends. | AP >>

Two of Afghanistan’s most prominent power brokers have forged an unexpected alliance to fight the Taliban and other militant groups that have been gaining ground in embattled northern Afghanistan. | Wall Street Journal >>

Afghanistan’s intelligence service on Wednesday said a Pakistani intelligence officer helped the Taliban carry out an attack on the parliament in Kabul earlier this week. | AP >>

Iraq

In a tent city under a highway overpass in Baghdad, refugees from Iraq’s Sunni province of Anbar were unanimous about whom to blame for their misery. “I hold Americans responsible for destroying Anbar,” said former policeman Wassem Khaled, whose home was taken over by Islamic State, or ISIS, after the Iraqi army fled from Anbar’s provincial capital of Ramadi last month. | Wall Street Journal >>

Iraqi officials say attacks in Baghdad and town south of the Iraqi capital have killed at least eight people. A police officer says a car bomb ripped through a commercial area in Baghdad’s northern neighborhood of Shaab on Thursday, killing six civilians and wounding 16. He says two women were among the dead. | AP >>

Coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today. Officials reported details of the latest strikes, which took place between 8 a.m. yesterday and 8 a.m. today, local time, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports. | Department of Defense >>

Military Affairs

Weeks before one of the U.S. Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships departed for Asia, tests had exposed its vulnerability to a potential enemy attack, according to the Pentagon’s testing office. | Bloomberg >>

Staff Sgt. Greggory Swarz ran into the flames to reach the victims, and burned his hands dragging them out. Staff Sgt. Greggory Swarz wasn’t close enough to see the Greek F-16 crash at Los Llanos Air Base in Spain, Jan. 26, 2015, but as soon as he heard the explosion, he hurried to the scene to see how he could help. | Task & Purpose >>

The Marine Corps is preparing to deploy a company-size unit equipped with tanks, armored vehicles and artillery to Bulgaria, an expansion of its Black Sea footprint meant to reassure allies and add new crisis-response options. | Stars and Stripes >>

#VetsRising

The Chief of Naval Personnel announced June 24 that Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is the Navy’s nominee for the Calendar Year 2014 Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher Distinguished Civilian Humanitarian Award. TAPS, a non-profit organization, was selected for their services of providing comfort, hope, compassionate care, support and assistance, at no cost, to surviving families, friends, and loved ones of fallen American service members. | Navy.mil >>

Brian Goodwin is putting aside the pain after knee surgery to make a 60-mile bike ride with two others from Harrisburg to Pine Grove on Oct. 10 to benefit other wounded veterans. “I do a lot of riding. I love helping people. Riding my bike the one day, I see all these people helping people and I was in the service. I need to help Keystone Wounded Warriors. | Republican Herald >>

Helping veterans transition from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan has become an important issue in recent years. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 11% to 20% of those who served now struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder. Today, Gobin’s nonprofit, Warrior Hike, provides combat veterans with all the equipment and supplies they need to complete long-distance hikes throughout the country. | CNN >>

Inside Washington

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) is drafting legislation that would scrap the Defense Department’s ban on transgender people in the armed forces. “The current ban has hurt our troops and damaged our national defense for too long,” Speier, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, wrote earlier this month in a “Dear Colleague” letter aimed at garnering co-sponsors to her bill. | The Hill >>

In the late 1970s, as the World War II generation reached the peak of its political power, nearly four out of five members of Congress had served; today, it’s fewer than one out of five (which is still far more than the single-digit rate in the general population). Who are the 102 members of Congress who have served in the military, why did they enlist and how does their experience change the way they govern? Politico Magazine asked the ranks on Capitol Hill to tell us. | Politico >>

The U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has agreed to hold a field hearing in Alaska on veterans’ health care in the state. Sen. Dan Sullivan’s office announced Wednesday that the hearing will be held in August. | AP >>

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