Tag Archives: Veterans

“Warrior Games” Help Veterans Adapt

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Warrior Games

“ARMY TIMES”

“Former Tech Sgt. Joshua Miller and Capt. Mitchell Kieffer, both medically retired, suffered significant injuries during their time in service. 

Those injuries led to a string of surgeries for both veterans and, ultimately, a choice: between reaching out to overcome those injuries or to isolate themselves.”



“Two Air Force veterans who were severely injured during their service, and who suffered from the “invisible wounds” of post-traumatic stress, said they had to overcome fear of the stigma sometimes associated with getting help ― and their own pride ― to recover from their wounds. 

The airmen talked about their roads to recovery during the Air Space Cyber Conference at National Harbor, Md., Monday.

Smith joined the Air Force in 2003 as an aircrew flight equipment specialist and served on active duty for 13 years.

During Combat Survival School, he was injured after being thrown into a culvert, which led to surgeries on both hips, his right shoulder and elbow.

When a friend suggested he join the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, Smith hesitated because he felt his non-combat injuries didn’t warrant joining the program. He didn’t “fit the bill” of those wounded in combat, he said.


“I felt [the program] was really sacred and that I didn’t belong,” Smith told the audience.
“But everybody has a story. It doesn’t matter if it’s combat or non-combat related,” he said. “So many airmen are kind of afraid to go to their first camp because of what they’re struggling or dealing with,” Smith said.


Being around others who can relate to what you’re going through makes it easier to share your stories and your feelings, he said.


Kieffer, who was injured while on a voluntary deployment with the Army Corps of Engineers in 2011, echoed those sentiments.


“Whenever we go to these [Wounded Warrior] camps and events, we know we’re not going to be judged,” said Kieffer.


He was part of a convoy that was attacked by an improvised explosive device, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. He sustained seven broken vertebrae and had memory issues. Because of this, Kieffer is rated 100 percent disabled.


For both men, dealing with their physical injuries was difficult, but dealing with the unseen wounds of post-traumatic stress was also quite tough. Perhaps the biggest reason troops don’t want to admit their unseen wounds is pride, they said. Their initial reaction is not to seek help but to tough it out.


“That’s been the biggest issue I’ve seen and dealt with,” Kieffer said. Pride has held a lot of recovery back,” he said. “Stop letting pride affect you.


Becoming involved with Warrior Games was a transformative experience for both airman, they said. Kieffer was the 2015 and 2016 ultimate champion, which is based on five athletic categories. of competition.


“Any time you have the opportunity to tell your story, tell it,” said Chief Master Sgt. Nicole Johnson, chief of the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program. “Your story will help others tell theirs.”


http://www.armytimes.com/news/air-force-times/2017/09/18/letting-go-of-pride-air-force-vets-adapt-to-invisible-wounds/

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Female Veteran Business Leaders Share Tips for Success

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Female Veteran Business Leaders

Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Jenifer Calhoun/Air Force

“MILITARY TIMES” By Leo Shane III

“Highlights of last month’s Women Veterans Leadership Summit organized by The Mission Continues was a panel from prominent business leaders on how to navigate the transition from military life to civilian careers.

Below are excerpts from that event, designed to focus on ways women leaving the service can use their experience to succeed in workplaces very different than their military posts:

** Know your mission

Amy Gravitt, executive vice president at HBO Programming, is a Navy veteran who served on board the USS Constellation in Persian Gulf:

“It was quite a change going from the Navy to the entertainment industry. I took an unpaid internship with a production company. So I went from being a lieutenant and having a ton of responsibility and having people who worked for me to being the low man on the totem pole, by far.

“What got me my start in the industry and got me to where I am now is that I was the best intern. I went into this industry that was a mess and had no systems in place, and I started organizing it like my division on the ship …

“The company I worked for was George Clooney and Steven Soderberg’s company, and there were a lot of eager film students there who wanted to talk to them about films and ideas. And I knew they did not want to hear my ideas. They weren’t interested in me pitching them movies.

“So, I did the job that made their lives easier, and I was recognized for that.”

** Appreciate your service

Paula Boggs, founder of Boggs Media, served as an Army attorney and later when on to roles in the U.S. Attorney’s office and various technology firms.

“By the time I got to Dell, there were very few people who had military experience. I was like a unicorn. But because of that, there was heightened awareness of who the military was and what they were doing. And this was pre-9/11.

“A lot of tech companies are heavily male. So I was a unicorn in the sense of being a veteran, and a unicorn in the sense of being a woman. All the greater in figuring out how to capitalize on those two things in a setting like that…

“As a team building exercise, we were doing war games, playing Army … There was a moment when Michael Dell, founder of the company, just stopped and said, ‘Guys, Paula really did this!’ And you’d see this awe, this transformative moment. ‘She did something we can only play at.’

“Never underestimate how special being a veteran is, particularly in this post 9/11 environment … There’s this moment now in the country where veterans are not understood, but there is an elevated awareness of who you are and the specialness of the service you have given.”

** Embrace the civilian workplace

Nana Adae, executive director at JP Morgan Private Bank, spent seven years in the Navy specializing in communications and signals, including assignments in Japan, Greece and Spain.

“One of the things that I stress is that people just need to know you, because if it’s all about whether or not people like you, that’s a very superficial way of thinking about how you’re going to be judged.

“And unfortunately as women, I think a lot of times we put our head down. We just want to work. We don’t want to have any of the noise about who we really are or what’s going on with us because that might complicate things.

“But truthfully, in the work environment, the more successful people are the people who are known.”

** Don’t exaggerate your skills or limitations

Gravitt: “You’ll make a million mistakes along the way … so don’t be too eager to move up quickly. Make sure you’re ready to ride without the training wheels before you take them off.”

“When you make a mistake, apologize once and move on. Nobody else is going to obsess about your mistake, so you shouldn’t. Just figure out what you can learn from it.

“It doesn’t mean you have terrible instincts. It doesn’t mean that you’re bad at your job. It just means that you made a mistake. People do it all the time.”

** Keep looking for mentors

Boggs: “One of the most powerful mentors for me was my last assignment. I worked in the White House on the Iran-Contra investigation. My boss was a civilian, middle-aged white guy. I was a 20-something black female.

“On the surface, not like me at all. But saw something in me that reminded him of himself, and became my champion for the first 15 years of my career.”

“Years later, someone wrote an article where I called him the most significant mentor of my career. He called me and said, ‘Paula, I never considered myself your mentor. You were just my friend.’ But he was that to me.”

“Mentors can be everywhere … keep an active peripheral vision, because you just never know.”

http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/mission-continues-business-advice-women-veterans

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at lshane@militarytimes.com.

U.S. Xpress Offers Truck Driver Apprenticeship Program for Vets

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U.S. XPress Apprenticeship Program

Image: ” U.S. Xpress”

“U.S. Xpress launched its Military Recruitment Initiative back in July 2016 as part of the company’s commitment to providing veterans with an opportunity to start a new career in the growing logistics industry.

Don Davis and his wife, Rebekah nearly doubled their combined income when the two military veterans became commercial truck drivers and started making long-haul trips between Chicago and the East Coast for the Chattanooga-based U.S. Xpress Enterprises.

“We’re used to being away from home in the military,” said Dan Davis, a 33-year-old veteran of the Army and Navy who twice served in Iraq. “Truck driving is definitely a great career if you don’t mind spending time by yourself, which a lot of us did in the military.”

Davis used his GI bill to get his commercial drivers license through a truck driving school and continues to receive GI benefits to supplement his income through a veterans apprenticeship program that U.S. Xpress joined last month.

As part of the Post 9/11 GI Bill Apprenticeship Program, veterans may receive tax-free educational benefits while training with U.S. Xpress to become truck drivers or diesel technicians. Participants can receive up to $25,700 from the Veterans Administration over a two-year period, depending on their years of military service, on top of their salary from U.S. Xpress.

Professional truck drivers can usually expect to earn between $50,000 and $70,000 based upon which driving opportunity the veteran qualifies for at U.S. Xpress. Combined with the GI Bill benefits, military veterans in the apprenticeship program can earn up to $82,000 in their first year with the company.

If a veteran chooses to enter the program as a diesel technician, they can expect to earn between $35,000 and $50,000 depending upon experience and performance.

The GI bill benefits, which typically take 90 days or so to process, are granted tax-free to the recipients.

Wayne Roy, a 31-year-old Marine who served from 2004 to 2008 as a motor mechanic in the military, joined U.S. Xpress last August after going through truck driving school and is able to supplement his drivers’ pay with what is left on his GI Bill.

“I love to travel, and this helps me make this transition into what I hope to make my career,” Roy said.

U.S. Xpress hopes more veterans use their GI Bill benefits to go into truck driving. According to the American Trucking Association, the industry needs at least 25,000 more truck drivers, and the shortage of drivers is likely to increase as qualified drivers age and retire and the demand for truck shipments increases along with the economy.

“We value the strong work ethic and leadership experience veterans can bring to our company,” said Eric Fuller, chief operating officer for U.S. Xpress. “Beyond that, veterans have a sense of productivity, accountability and a ‘can-do’ attitude that will serve them well in trucking, which is why we look to hire veterans in every aspect of our company.”

U.S. Xpress launched its Military Recruitment Initiative back in July 2016 as part of the company’s commitment to providing veterans with an opportunity to start a new career in the growing logistics industry.

“Our veterans have always played an essential role in keeping our country strong, and now, we want veterans to put their skills to work as a U.S. Xpress truck driver and serve our country in a new way — one that will help keep the transportation industry moving forward and our economy strong,” said Fuller.

“I truly believe our new apprenticeship program will help make this possible by giving veterans added financial stability as they transition out of the military and into a new career.”

https://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/u-s-xpress-offers-apprenticeship-program-for-vets-to-fill-truck-driver-jobs-1.457208#.WL296W_yvcs

 

Wells Fargo Military Rights Violations

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wells-fargo-and-the-service

“THE HILL”

“Violations took place for more than seven years through 2015

The bank, which generated $86 billion in revenue last year, will pay $20 million to the Treasury Department, $60,000 to a federal fund, and $10,000 to each affected service member.

The DOJ launched an investigation last year after receiving a complaint from the United States Army saying that Wells Fargo repossessed a used car owned by a National Guardsman in North Carolina. According to the complaint, the bank sold the car at public auction.

A lawyer for the National Guardsman requested information from Wells Fargo but never received a response, the DOJ said, sparking the review that uncovered a pattern of violations.

Catherine Pulley, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, said the bank has been notifying and compensating service members over the matter and will complete its work in 60 days.

“Wells Fargo is committed to ensuring all service member customers have the important SCRA protections and benefits available to them,” Pulley told The Hill Extra in an emailed statement Thursday. “In those instances where some service members did not receive the appropriate benefits and protections, we did not live up to our commitment and we apologize.”

The bank, which generated $86 billion in revenue last year, will pay $20 million to the Treasury Department, $60,000 to a federal fund, and $10,000 to each affected service member.

The $20 million penalty under the OCC settlement is unusually large for abuses of this particular law, the Service Members Civil Rights Act (SCRA), but the agency cited several factors such as the duration and frequency of violations, as well as the financial harm to service members.

News of the sanctions broke while Wells Fargo chief executive officer John Stumpf was on Capitol Hill for the second time in two weeks to face lawmakers angry over the opening of unauthorized accounts at the bank, a scandal that has rocked the industry this month.

Although unrelated to that scandal, the settlement involving service member loan violations adds to the growing list of woes that Wells Fargo has been dealing with in the aftermath, including multiple lawsuits and a probe into wage practices by the Department of Labor.”

http://thehill.com/policy/finance/298625-wells-fargo-to-pay-24m-over-military-loan-violations

 

 

A Veteran Suicide Every 72 Minutes

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veteran-suicide-ourview

Photo: Shawn Thew, epa

“USA Today”

“It’s a pace of killing unknown to most Americans and a source of national shame.

In one narrow category — 18- to 24-year-old male veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and were VA patients — the suicide rate was 10 times the national average for all people.

Of 20 veteran suicides daily, just six were enrolled in VA health care.  A 46-page suicide analysis released by the Department of Veterans Affairs last month reveals just how swift this current of self-destruction is flowing, particularly for young veterans fresh from war.

A veteran is choosing death every 72 minutes, and the VA could be doing more to keep that person alive. When veterans manage to ask for help, too many of their calls are not getting through to VA’s suicide hotline (800-273-8255). The agency isn’t offering enough veterans the kind of cutting-edge treatment therapies that researchers are finally uncovering.

The statistics tell the tragic story. Veterans in 2014 were killing themselves at three times the rate of civilians and at a quickening pace, up by a third from 2001 to 2014. Most self-destructive are young male veterans in their 20s, who are dying at four times the rate of their civilian peers. Female veterans were 2.4 times more likely to choose suicide than civilian counterparts.

The dying is relentless. Iraq War veteran Tom Young, 30, lay down on Illinois train tracks last year after failing to reach someone at the VA hotline. Former police officer and Navy veteran Peter Kaisen, 76, shot himself in the parking lot of a veterans hospital on Long Island last month.

Young died at a time when some calls into the VA hotline were actually going tovoicemail, a problem since repaired. But too many calls today still roll over to less-prepared backup centers outside the VA.

The agency’s mammoth bureaucracy, second only to the Pentagon, has been slow to embrace new ideas, chief among them managing the urge to commit suicide and not just treating underlying illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder or severe depression.

When this kind of skills training is tailored to the individual veteran, it can be extremely effective in reducing suicide, according to Craig Bryan, head of the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah, and other scientists. The VA needs to move faster on this science, and on fresher ideas such as behavioral health clinics devoted to managing coping skills, much like dialysis centers manage kidney disease.

To be sure, the issue is complex, and VA has made progress: expanding mental health care staffing; developing computer algorithms to single out hardcore suicidal cases for special care; and pushing private doctors to query veterans about the emotional impact of their military service.

Of 20 veteran suicides daily, just six were enrolled in VA health care. The others either chose against going to the VA or were ineligible for its care.

Easy access to guns is another part of the problem. Two-thirds of male veterans who commit suicide use a firearm, compared with 52% of male civilians.

The answers to veteran suicides are “not meeting the demand,” says Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “We often compare it to the early days of the AIDS crisis, when the gay community especially felt like their friends were dying left and right, and people weren’t paying attention.”

Attention must be paid, by the presidential candidates and everyone else.”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/09/15/every-72-minutes-veteran-commits-suicide-our-view/90254596/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DFN%20EBB%209.16.16&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief

 

 

 

 

Pentagon & VA Struggle With Military Electronic Health Care

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Vets Electronic Health Care Maze

“FEDERAL NEWS RADIO”

“The Defense Department will delay the roll out of its forthcoming $4.6 billion electronic health record   [EHR] because of newly-discovered technical problems.

“Glitches in integrating the commercial software with the legacy systems the military services use to store and process patient data.”

The EHR, known as MHS Genesis, was originally slated to reach its initial operating capability at a handful of hospitals and clinics by early December, but that date will likely move back by a few months due to unexpected glitches in integrating the commercial software with the legacy systems the military services use to store and process patient data.

The department’s original schedule called for clinicians to move away from DoD’s legacy AHLTA and CHCS systems and begin using GENESIS on Dec. 6. The initial sites were to be Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington and the Oak Harbor Naval Hospital on Washington’s Whidbey Island.

Program officials will spend the next 30 days determining how serious the integration issues are before drawing up a new schedule, but they still intend to use those medical treatment facilities as the first sites for the new EHR, and for Washington hospitals and clinics at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Naval Hospital Bremerton to follow shortly thereafter.

Defense officials began system validation sessions with clinicians at Bremerton last month in order to begin gathering user feedback ahead of the launch. Cummings said they’d uncovered no major issues beyond the technical problems DoD and Leidos already identified.

And she said based on DoD’s market research, the glitches aren’t too unlike the integration problems major commercial health care systems have faced as they’ve tried to introduce new electronic health record systems.

“On average, even a commercial provider takes 15 to 18 months from contract award to implementation. I don’t think we’re seeing anything out of the norm,” she said. “I will say that what’s different about us is we’re adopting an enterprise solution. We can’t optimize GENESIS just for one military treatment facility, we’re doing this integration and these interfaces once, as opposed to a commercial hospital where they might have interfaces that are local.”

The Defense Department said the delay would not result in any increase to the project’s five-year $4.6 billion cost ceiling. And Cerner, the subcontractor on whose software Genesis is based said it saw no indication that the setback in initial operating capability would affect the overall schedule for a final rollout to DoD’s worldwide medical facilities.

“We’re pleased that we remain in good position for an on-time, enterprise-wide deployment and are able to facilitate this additional configuration and testing for the initial operating capability pilot sites so that the system is performing at an optimal level when scaled across all MHS facilities,” Marlene Bentley, a company spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.”

Technical problems delay rollout of DoD’s electronic health record

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Congress’s Female Combat Vets Speaking Up On Military Issues

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Women Combat Vets

“THE WASHINGTON POST”

“There are now four female combat veterans in Congress.

And they have something to say about the changing face of the Armed Forces, which is officially open to women joining combat units across the board.

They are a diverse group: Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is a former Black Hawk helicopter pilot, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) served in the military police in Kuwait. Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) flew A-10s for the Air Force, and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) served in the Iowa National Guard.

But they are speaking together in Congress just as the Pentagon is implementing sweeping changes to the face of the military. And as they raise their voices, their colleagues are listening to them on issues such as sexual harassment in the military, expanding family leave and planning options for soldiers, and – most recently – whether women should be eligible for the draft.

“There’s still a lot of misperception that exists and a lot of misinformation, though by and large most people are sincerely interested in learning more and hearing more from us” about women in combat roles, Gabbard said in an interview. “We’re coming at this as a continuation of the service to our country.”

The foursome is hardly a sisterhood-in-arms – they are divided ideologically, and their interactions outside of the Armed Services committee rooms are relatively infrequent, although Gabbard and McSally belong to the same morning workout group.

But in a short period of time, the women have become go-to authorities in a legislative arena traditionally dominated by men – and especially male veterans. And their experience in the male-dominated military has taught them important lessons about how to survive in Washington.

“I mean, it [Congress] is a male-dominated institution … so it felt very, um, ‘familiar’ is probably the right word,” McSally said in an interview, laughing. “But I learned a lot along the way in the military on how to figure out how to be credible, respected and effective in that environment, when you are potentially the only woman at the table.”

Of the 102 veterans serving in Congress, these four are the only women.

Each is fiercely proud of her military service and looks back fondly on the bulk of her interactions with fellow soldiers, commanders and underlings in the military. But each also has distinct memories of how being a woman in uniform meant being treated differently.

“There were different missions I had volunteered for, along with other females in our unit, and we were told we weren’t allowed to participate in those missions simply because we were female,” Gabbard recalled of her time as a military police platoon leader in Kuwait.

“When I was overseas, I had two senior officers from another battalion who were not good to deal with,” Ernst said, alluding to overt harassment during her deployment with the Iowa National Guard. “Sexual harassment certainly exists.”

For McSally and Duckworth, the differences were palpable before they even left basic training.

McSally wanted to be an Air Force doctor, but “the reason I decided to be a fighter pilot,” she explained, “is because they said that I couldn’t.”

“It motivated me to just say, you know, this is wrong, and I’m going to be a part of proving that it’s wrong,” she said.

For the female Republican veterans especially, issues pertaining to women in combat can put them at odds with their party leadership. But change from within the system, they say, is part of the job.

“I joke that I believe part of my calling in life is to create cognitive dissonance in people. First it was ‘women warriors,’ and now it’s ‘feminist Republican,’ ” McSally said. “But just to clash people’s stereotypes and make them have to choose.”

“We have very few people that actually have backgrounds in national security,” she continued. “So when I speak on a variety of issues, hopefully they take that into consideration.”

Duckworth has a similar story: She entered the Army speaking four languages and thinking she would become a linguist. But when her superiors told her, as the only woman in her graduating class of ROTC cadets, that she didn’t have to consider combat roles like her male colleagues, she changed her mind.

“It’s why I became a helicopter pilot,” Duckworth said. “And what I love about the military is if you can do the job, then you’re part of that group – at the end of the day, it’s the ultimate meritocracy.”

But as lawmakers, getting people to hear their arguments about women in the military can be hard. Often, the female veterans find themselves repeating the same points to colleague after colleague, person after person, trying to change minds one by one.

The latest issue requiring a sustained persuasion campaign is the debate about whether women should be subject to the draft – something all four female combat veterans favor, even though none of them believe a draft is still necessary.

“It’s about equality,” said Duckworth, a former Army pilot whose Black Hawk helicopter and was shot down over Iraq in 2004.

“If we’re going to have a draft, then everyone should register,” she said.

Male veterans in Congress started the debate as a way of challenging President Obama’s recent decision to open all U.S. military combat roles to women.

But the effort to shock lawmakers into repudiating the new policy backfired when a majority of House and Senate Armed Services committee members supported the change to have women ages 18 to 25 register for the Selective Service.

GOP leaders have tried to stamp out the issue, stripping the draft language from the House’s defense policy bill and releasing a convention party platform opposing women in combat. The question will ultimately be resolved later this year when Congress finalizes a defense policy bill.

But in the meantime, the four women have been pushing back against the most common emotional arguments surrounding the draft — that is, no one would want their own wife, sister or daughter risking her life on the front lines.

“It’s a ‘gotcha’ — because ‘women shouldn’t be in combat. … I’m going to make your daughter sign up,’ ” Duckworth said, shrugging. “Great. I’ll go register her right now, she’s 18 months old.”

Said Ernst: “I believe we all need skin in the game, and my daughter will turn 18 here in a little over a year. And certainly — do I think she should sign up? Yes, I do. So it is personal to me.”

The issue of women in the draft is just one of many traditionally driven by male veterans on topics such as wars, weapons systems and persistent reports of sexual assault in the military.

Congress’s female veterans rarely agree unanimously on any major military issue other than the role of women in combat, now playing out in the debate over the draft.

All favor instituting standards and policies that would help recruit and retain more female troops.

But they differ over how to address the scourge of sexual harassment in the services, and the extent to which the government should shoulder the cost of more parental-leave and fertility-assistance options for enlisted soldiers.

On the question of fertility assistance, Duckworth, Gabbard and McSally support a new Pentagon pilot program to help service members continue to have children even if injured in combat. But Ernst says it’s not always feasible to pay for such measures — desirable as they may be — while the Defense Department is in a budget squeeze.

They are also divided on how to respond to sexual assault in the military, an issue of heated debate in the Senate, where Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) – neither of whom served in the military – have been driving the standoff over whether cases should be prosecuted outside the chain of command.

Democrats Duckworth and Gabbard support Gillibrand’s approach to take such cases out of the chain of command and hand them over to a military prosecutor. Gabbard has led that legislative effort in the House.

But Republicans McSally and Ernst who has dealt with a situation in which a soldier under her command was accused of rape – both said they are seeing enough progress to allow commanders to consider the issue.

Still, both took deep breaths before answering this question, adding that they reserved the right to change their minds if the military does not continue to significantly improve in this area.

The four have, however, found common cause in less politically divisive initiatives, such as McSally’s bid to secure burial rights for female World War II pilots at Arlington National Cemetery, a bill that became law this spring.

As for the draft and women serving in combat roles, all four are united in advising their colleagues against typecasting.

Some of the four would also like to use their influence to shed light on lower-profile issues affecting women in the military.

Elements of basic procurement may have to change, Duckworth said, recalling how the cut of her flight suit made the prospect of going to the bathroom while on mission a near-impossibility. As women move into new combat roles, the Pentagon and defense contractors will have to make changes to accommodate women’s bodies.

Establishing achievable but fair performance standards for women is more complicated than it seems, Ernst warned.

Even haircut policies can cause a problem, McSally said. Letting women evade the traditional buzz cut “can add to resentment” or allegations of special treatment for women, she said.

Some things, the female veterans argue, will just be worked out in time as the military matures to accept and promote more women, such as Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson, who in May became the military’s first female combatant commander.

“As we get more women from my generation who served in combat roles and who actually saw real combat move up … you’re going to see some of the problems get more attention and be resolved,” McSally said.

But generational changes come slowly. And so all four are committing themselves to a long road ahead.

“I’ve lived through this nonsense for 26 years,” McSally said, referring to stereotypes about women in the military. “It’s a part of my journey in service. If you’ve got to change people’s minds one at a time, then you need to do it.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/08/02/congresss-four-female-combat-veterans-are-speaking-up-on-military-issues/?utm_campaign=Defense%20EBB%2008-03-16&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Sailthru

New Veteran’s Prescription Drug Law

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Vets and Addiction

Image: aforeverecovery.com

“MILITARY TIMES”

“A new law designed to curb opiate and heroin abuse.

It includes tougher prescription guidance for Veterans Affairs medical facilities nationwide.

Sought by the family of Marine veteran Jason Simcakoski, who died of an accidental overdose at the Tomah, Wisconsin, VA Medical Center in 2014, the changes are designed to strengthen VA pain management guidance and training, improve prescription oversight and promote alternative therapies.

Under the bill, VA must ensure that its prescribers are schooled in the latest practices and that all medical facilities stock overdose countermeasures such as naloxone and establish pain management teams to oversee opioid prescriptions for veterans with non-cancer-related pain.

“The bill recognizes that too often, these drugs have been used inappropriately and ineffectively, and because they are so powerful and so addictive, this inappropriate use is very dangerous,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., a sponsor of the veterans provisions.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which passed the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 92-2 and is expected to be signed by President Obama, authorizes $181 million in new funding for a range of measures designed to fight the national opiate abuse epidemic.

The bill requires the VA to ensure health care providers can access and provide information to state prescription databases. It also gives patient advocates more independence by providing an avenue for reporting patient concerns outside the hospital’s chain of command.

It promotes alternatives to incarceration for those with substance abuse issues, to include grants to expand veterans treatment courts, and it broadens the number of health care providers who can oversee patients prescribed medications for opioid addiction by allowing some nurse practitioners and physician assistants to facilitate treatment.

Simcakoski died Aug. 30, 2014, in the Tomah hospital’s short-stay mental health unit from “mixed drug toxicity,” having taken 13 prescribed medications, including several that cause respiratory depression, in a 24-hour period.

Staff psychiatrists had added new medications to Simcakoski’s lengthy list of prescriptions in the days preceding his death and according to Baldwin, both Simcakoski and his family members had questioned staff whether the treatment was appropriate.

Veterans also told a Center for Investigative Reporting journalist that distribution of narcotics was so rampant at Tomah, they nicknamed the place “Candy Land” and the center’s chief of staff Dr. David Houlihan the “Candy Man.”

According to Baldwin, the patient advocacy measures in the new legislation were most important to the Simcakoski family.

“In Jason’s case, he and his family questioned the treatment. But nevertheless, the patient advocate answered to the prescribing physician and the hospital chief of staff. That’s not independence,” she said.

According to a 2014 VA inspector general report, the Veterans Health Administration issued 1.68 million prescriptions for opioids to 440,000 outpatients, or 7.7 percent of all VA patients, in 2012.

The IG found that 13.1 percent of those prescribed opioids had an active substance use issue and 7.4 percent of patients taking opioids also had a prescription for benzodiazepine — a combination that can cause respiratory depression and death.

In 2012, the Center for Investigative Reporting published an analysis showing that VA prescriptions for opiates such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone and morphine have increased 270 percent over the past 12 years.

The investigation also found that on average, VA has issued more than one opiate prescription per narcotic-prescribed patient for the past two years.

Baldwin said the Simcakoski family worked hard to make sure the VA provisions were included in the final bill, and she praised their efforts.

“This bill may have a real impact on the chances of [a veteran] becoming addicted,” Baldwin said. “My goal is to prevent Jason’s tragedy from happening to other veterans and their families.”

http://www.militarytimes.com/story/veterans/2016/07/14/anti-addiction-bill-includes-va-measures/87083870/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DFN%20EBB%207.15.16&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief

Heal the V.A. (But First, Do No Harm)

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VA Hospital, Minneapolis, MN

VA Hospital Minneapolis

VA Hospital – Minneapolis, Minnesota

“NEW YORK TIMES”

“For all its problems, the V.A. is not failing in the area that matters most.

It delivers excellent, integrated health care to a population with many challenging medical needs. The overall quality of its clinical care is high, as good as and often better than what the private sector can offer.

And for veterans with complex, combat-related wounds — spinal-cord injuries,traumatic brain injuries, severe burns, amputations, post-traumatic stress disorder, or the combination of grave injuries called polytrauma — there is no substitute for the breadth and specialized competence of the V.A.

Two years after a scandal engulfed the nation’s veterans hospitals, with reports of long waiting lists, cooked appointment books and patients dying while they waited for care, a commission created by Congress has delivered a plan to transform the Veterans Affairs Department over the next 20 years.

Its 300 pages, released on Wednesday, are a chronicle of failings at the Veterans Health Administration, the part of the V.A. that handles medical care. The debate over the report’s many judgments and prescriptions is just beginning. But the commission’s ambitious work brings two immediate thoughts to mind.

First is a fresh awareness of the danger of quick fixes. After the furor of 2014, which forced the V.A. secretary, Eric Shinseki, to resign, Congress swiftly passed a law and gave the V.A. 90 days to carry it out. It offered a seemingly straightforward solution to long-delayed appointments — allowing patients who have to wait more than 30 days or live more than 40 miles from a V.A. hospital or clinic to see private doctors.

But that hastily created program, whose management was outsourced to private contractors, with confused and conflicting rules, only made things worse. “In execution,” the commission wrote, “the program has aggravated wait times and frustrated veterans, private-sector health care providers participating in networks, and V.H.A. alike.”

That leads to the second thought: the danger of jumping to the wrong conclusions. The V.A. is troubled, no question. But the commission properly stops short of recommending a solution dear to ideologues on the right, which is to dismantle one of the largest bureaucracies in American government — one with a critically important mission — and hand the wreckage to the private sector.

For all its problems, the V.A. is not failing in the area that matters most: delivering excellent, integrated health care to a population with many challenging medical needs. The overall quality of its clinical care is high, as good as and often better than what the private sector can offer. And for veterans with complex, combat-related wounds — spinal-cord injuries,traumatic brain injuries, severe burns, amputations, post-traumatic stress disorder, or the combination of grave injuries called polytrauma — there is no substitute for the breadth and specialized competence of the V.A.

Those who delight in accounts of big-government ineptitude and inefficiency will find lots to savor in the commission report. The commission acknowledges that V.A. care can be inconsistent, with the lack of access to doctors being the agency’s worst management failure. It recommends overhauling the agency’s leadership structures, reforming eligibility requirements, investing in buildings and updating information technology, among other things.

But its primary recommendation is to greatly expand access by creating “integrated, community-based” health care networks that all veterans can use, bolstering the Veterans Health Administration with doctors and hospitals from the Defense Department, other federally funded providers, and local ones.

It’s unclear how that new public-private agglomeration is supposed to work, but getting those devilish details right is crucial. Veterans’ advocacy groups are right to be concerned that shedding patients and services to the private sector may ultimately weaken the V.H.A.

Given the egregious gap between the need for medical care and the supply of doctors and providers, there is clearly a role for qualified private health care providers to pitch in. But privatizing the V.A. — throwing wounded veterans upon the vagaries and mercies of corporations, co-pays and premiums — is no solution.”

Heal the VA

See Related Topic:

Why does the United States veterans administration have it’s own health care facilities and provide its own healthcare?

Veterans are Winning Elections at the State Level

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“MILITARY TIMES”

“A veteran will likely be on your election ballot this fall, but maybe not in the race you expected.

New research from the American Enterprise Institute found that roughly one in seven lawmakers serving in state legislatures is a veteran, totaling more than 1,000 former military members nationwide.

The study is the first comprehensive look at veterans’ political involvement on a state level and indicates that despite years of declining veteran representation in Congress, the pipeline of potential candidates for national office may be refilling.

“I think it’s fair to think that we’ll see an increase in the number of veteran candidates at the federal level in coming years,” said Rebecca Burgess, manager of AEI’s Program on American Citizenship and the report’s author. “For some, state offices are like getting their feet wet.”

With 23 percent, New Hampshire has the strongest veteran representation in a state legislature, followed closely by Nevada, Alabama, North Dakota and Tennessee. Utah, where only 5 percent of the state’s elected leaders have military experience, ranks last. California, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Illinois round out the report’s “Bottom Five,” each with single-digit veteran representation in their state legislatures.”

http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/election/2016/04/17/aei-report-state-legislature-veterans/83024564/

Most veterans I have met no longer believe in government service at the federal level. – pity.

https://rosecoveredglasses.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/few-military-veterans-in-key-national-security-roles/