Veteran's and Military Issues
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Updated: February 7, 2015
- Rep. Speier, Sen. Shaheen Reintroduce Bill To End Contraception Copays for Military Women - Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) on Wednesday introduced legislation (HR 742, S 358) that would require the military's health plan, TRICARE, to cover contraceptive services and counseling without copayments.
- Warrior and Scholar - Military veterans have more life experience and maturity than the average traditional-aged college student. But some say they could benefit from extra guidance as they make the transition to a residential college environment often designed for 18-year-olds. Several start-ups are stepping in to help the large numbers of veterans attempt to adjust to campus life. One, a nonprofit dubbed the Warrior-Scholar Project, is an academic boot camp aimed at veterans who plan on attending or transferring to a 4-year college. A group of about 10 foundations and private donors pays for the project.
- Kirsten Gillibrand gears up for another round - She is pushing the Senate to read a recent Defense Department report that found that 62 percent of those who reported an assault faced retaliation - evidence, she says, that the current military justice process isn't working.
- Female Veterans Battling PTSD From Sexual Trauma Fight for Redress - Thousands of female veterans are struggling to get health-care treatment and compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs on the grounds that they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by sexual trauma in the military. The veterans and their advocates call it "the second battle" - with a bureaucracy they say is stuck in the past.
- Military Recruitment Needs Sex Assault Warning - How many women would take the job if they knew they faced a 1-in-3 chance of sexual assault and a high probability of retaliation for reporting it? As a recent Pentagon survey confirms, changes in our system of military justice are long overdue.
- What's in the spending bill? We skim it so you don't have to - SEXUAL ASSAULT IN THE MILITARY: There's $257 million for the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response programs, including $25 million more to expand the Sexual Assault Victims' Counsel program. But Democrats, led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), are expected to make a final push to expand the program this week.
- What's in the spending bill? We skim it so you don't have to - VETERANS: After a year of embarrassing scandals at the sprawling Department of Veterans Affairs, lawmakers are making good on promises to provide more money and oversight. There's a total of $159.1 billion in discretionary and mandatory spending. Of that, $209 million was added to address new costs related to the bipartisan veterans' reform bill passed last summer. The legislation calls for adding medical staff and expanding dozens of facilities. In order to specifically addressing the "wait list" scandal, the VA's inspector general is getting a $5 million budget increase to continue investigating lapses in patient care.
- Military sex assault reports up 8 pct - The officials said there were nearly 6,000 victims of reported assaults in 2014, compared with just over 5,500 last year. The Pentagon changed its method of accounting for the assaults this year, and now each victim counts for one report. Based on those numbers, and the anonymous survey conducted by the Rand Corp., officials said that about 1 in every 4 victims filed a report this year, in sharp contrast to 2012, when only about 1 in every 10 military victims came forward.
- SUBMARINE INVESTIGATION UNDER WAY AFTER FEMALE OFFICERS FILMED - Navy criminal investigators are looking into who secretly filmed female officers of a submarine crew while they were showering and changing clothes aboard the boat's unisex bathrooms, a U.S. Navy official confirms to CNN.
- The Military's Rough Justice on Sexual Assault - "For the past 25 years, going back to when Dick Cheney was defense secretary, we've had the military telling us that there's zero tolerance for sexual assault," Gillibrand said in October in her Washington office. "And all we've seen is zero accountability." Gillibrand pointed out that the last gender-relations survey from 2012 indicated that there had been 26,000 cases of sexual assault, rapes and unwanted sexual contact in a year's time. Only 3,300 of them were actually reported, roughly one in eight.
- Study: Over 1.2 Million Veterans Lack Health Insurance - Study says vets earned too much for VA benefits; many live in states refusing ACA funding to expand Medicaid. Using numbers from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, they determined that more than 1.2 million veterans lacked health insurance in 2012, the latest year for which data is available, in line with previous studies that came to similar conclusions. In fact, just 8.9 million out of the 22 million veterans in the U.S. are enrolled in VA health benefits, which are reserved for those who have been disabled through military service or are very low-income. Other vets tend to obtain insurance on the private market.
- SNAP is Vital Program for Struggling U.S. Veterans - "For many veterans and military families, SNAP works well to lessen the burden of being unable to afford enough food," writes Linda Bopp, executive director of Hunger Solutions New York, in this letter to the editor. Veterans Day is a day to honor and recognize "those who volunteered to serve our country," writes Bopp. But "we need to demonstrate our gratitude" and "cannot allow thousands of New York's active service members and veterans [to] battle food insecurity." SNAP outreach through Hunger Solutions New York's Nutrition Outreach and Education Program Veterans' and Military Families' Initiative has connected more than 7,060 veterans and families to nutrition assistance. Nationwide last year, more than $100 million in SNAP benefits helped veterans and families purchase food in commissaries.
- ROTC Brings the Military Home to CUNY - The Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) is the college elective that prepares students for service in the military. ROTC currently operates at 1,100 colleges throughout the country (it also operates at a junior level at upwards of 1,700 high schools). After more than 40 years, ROTC is back at CUNY as part of a broader shift to focus recruiting efforts on the North. In 2013, The New York Times reported that the ROTC would be shuttering its operations at 13 schools in the South to focus on colleges in Northeast cities, including the Ivy League.
- Complexity of Student Vets - Veterans are not a homogenous group of white males who have a shared experience of combat. Instead, they are growing more diverse, in terms of gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. There also are likely to be differences in their needs based on service status, whether active duty, veteran or reservist. A large population of veterans never served in combat; some have never even left the country.
- Pageant Spotlights Female Vet Homelessness - There were 10,763 female veterans homeless over the course of 2012--a slight decrease from the 11,222 homeless women veterans in 2009--according to a 2012 annual homeless report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- Report: Services for female veterans fall short - The Veterans Affairs Department and other government agencies are not doing enough to help women who served in the military, even as their number is rising dramatically, according to a new report. The report by the Disabled American Veterans identified serious gender gaps in virtually every program serving veterans, including health care, job training, finance, housing, social issues and combatting sexual assault.
- New Prediction Model Could Reduce Military Suicides, Study Finds - Military doctors could reduce suicides among soldiers with psychiatric conditions by using a new screening system that flags those at highest risk of taking their own lives, a new study suggests. The system - a computer program that rates more than 20 actuarial factors, including age at enlistment, history of violence, and prescription drug use - would be the most rigorous suicide prediction model available, if it performs as expected in real-world settings.
- First woman to lead American Legion says military should 'stop sweeping' sexual assaults 'under the rug' - When a homeless female veteran came to the first American Legion's Veterans Benefits center last month in Los Angeles with documents that said she had suffered a sexual trauma in the military, she was able to share her story with a high-ranking woman leader of the veterans group. She spoke to Verna Jones, the American Legion's new executive director, and the first woman to lead the veterans organization in its nearly 100-year history. She's also believed to be the first African-American director.
- AAUW OpEd: AAUW recognizes service of women veterans - Because female veterans do not always identify themselves as veterans, they are not always aware of benefits they qualify for. In America, the term "veteran" has historically only been applied to men, especially because women have not been deployed in combat-specific roles until recently, despite still experiencing extreme warfare in combat-support roles.
- Military Health Care Comparable to Private Sector, Still Needs Improvement, Review Finds - The Defense Department's health care system provides good quality care to its beneficiaries in a timely manner overall and is comparable to private-sector care, but requires improvements in areas that fall below national benchmarks, a months-long review found.
- Three women pass Marine Corps endurance test, paving way for possible first female graduates of infantry school - The integration of women at the Infantry Officer Course is one of the high-profile parts of the Pentagon's ongoing research into which new jobs women should be allowed to serve in while in combat units.
- Privacy advocates sue Pentagon over Internet voting test results - Privacy advocates, worried that the Defense Department is sinking millions of dollars into unproven online voting systems, are suing the Pentagon for the release of long-promised test results on whether Internet-based voting is safe.
- In effort to end veteran homelessness by 2015, this $270 million doesn't hurt - The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday said they would dedicate $62 million toward a rental-assistance program that could bring more than 9,000 chronically homeless veterans off the streets.
- Army general, accused of sexual assault by senior adviser, retired quietly with demotion - A two-star Army general who was fired from his job in Djibouti last year after allegedly groping a female adviser was allowed to retire quietly with a demotion in rank at the same time that a sexual assault case against another Army general received international attention, according to Army officials and military documents.
- Raising Awareness of Military Sexual Trauma - Congresswoman Louise Slaughter says there's been a 50 percent increase in the number of reported sexual assaults in the military since 2012. Congresswoman Slaughter said there's no doubt sexual assault in the military has reached epidemic proportions, and its essential victims get receive the care they need.
- Lawmakers Urge Administration, VA To Provide Disability Payments to More Survivors of Military Sexual Assault - Several senators in a letter to President Obama called for the Department of Veterans Affairs to issue a rule enabling more survivors of military sexual violence to receive disability compensation for mental health issues related to the assaults.
- 'Don't ask, don't tell' is over. But challenges remain for LGBT veterans and service members - Three years ago, the military ended the 18-year ban on gays serving openly in the military, a policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." But today, despite significant gains, a host of challenges remain for LGBT service members and their families. They range from the denial of full veterans benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs if a couple lives in non-marriage equality state to medical regulations that continue to prevent transgender service members from openly serving, said David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Right's Campaign which has released a list of remaining problems for the anniversary.
- About 620,000 Military Families Rely on Food Pantries to Meet Basic Needs - A new report found that the nation's food pantries serve 620,000 families with a member in the military-another troubling indication that service members battling against poverty must often rely on the generosity of our charities. The stunning figure, which represents roughly a quarter of the households of military members on active duty, the Reserves or National Guard, shows that even as the United States purports to wind down its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and soldiers return to civilian life, they are resettling into a hostile economic climate, on a precarious landscape of joblessness and debt.
- SCATHING REPORT SLAMS VETERANS' CARE BUT SAYS NO DEFINITE LINK TO DEATHS - A lengthy report on wait times at VA health care facilities in Phoenix found that 28 veterans had "clinically significant delays" in care, and six of them died, but investigators couldn't conclusively link their deaths to the delays.
- Crisis Line Seeks to Reduce Rates of Suicide Among Veterans - According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 22 veterans commit suicide every day. This national rate is being combated by the Veterans Crisis Line at the Canandaigua Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and provides support for veterans who are struggling with various types of distress.
- Women of War Speak: 'Soldier Girls,' by Helen Thorpe, Explores 3 Experiences - When they signed up for the Indiana National Guard, the three women at the center of Helen Thorpe's compelling new book, "Soldier Girls," never imagined they would end up in a combat zone in Afghanistan or Iraq. The debate over women in combat; the difficulties faced by women in the military (from sexual harassment within their units to service in countries where women lead highly circumscribed lives); the stress that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars placed on the American armed services and on individual soldiers with multiple deployments - such highly complex matters are all made palpably real through the prism of this book's three heroines' lives.
- Obama signs veterans' health care overhaul - Veterans may soon have easier access to government-paid health care under a bill President Barack Obama signed into law Thursday, the government's most sweeping response to date to a public uproar over systemwide problems that have rocked the Veterans Affairs Department.
- Obstacles to Reproductive and Sexual Health Care in the Military - Women's presence and roles in the military have greatly increased over the past few decades, and the issue of sexual assault continues to be widely covered in the news. One area that receives little attention, however, is how the military falls far short of its obligations when it comes to providing servicewomen with adequate reproductive and sexual health care. The fact is, women in the armed forces fight and die to defend rights they themselves do not completely possess, and they lack access to health services that civilian women routinely use.
- SHAHEEN INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO EXPAND ACCESS TO CONTRACEPTION FOR MILITARY WOMEN, DEPENDENTS - Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act of 2014. This legislation would ensure that the TRICARE (health care for military members and dependents) program provided contraceptive coverage without co-pay or cost-sharing. The bill would also expand access to emergency contraception for sexual assault survivors and improve family planning programs.
- Combat Stress Among Veterans Is Found to Persist Since Vietnam - Most veterans who had persistent post-traumatic stress a decade or more after serving in the Vietnam War have shown surprisingly little improvement since then, and a large percentage have died, a new study finds, updating landmark research that began a generation ago. Members of minorities who enlisted before finishing high school were especially likely to develop such war-related trauma, as were those veterans who had killed multiple times in combat, the study found.
- New Benefit for Vets - Congress approves measure that effectively requires states to offer in-state tuition to recent veterans and their families. The bill won approval over the concerns of some public universities.
- Giving Women a Fair Fight in the US Military - It's unfathomable to think that in 2014 half the global population will be prevented from a full range of occupations because of their gender. This kind of prejudice is broadly seen as a throwback to a distant and unenlightened era-which is why the findings of a recent study of the best U.S. colleges was surprising to many. The study found that women were dissuaded from attending graduate school because of institutional and cultural biases.
- Parents of veterans who commit suicide address Congress - They spoke of how the VA failed to give their children the help they needed after returning from combat.
- DoD Announces New Award for Sexual Assault Prevention Innovation - On July 1, the Department of Defense introduced the first Sexual Assault Prevention Innovation Award to recognize advancements in preventing sexual assault in the military. The award encourages units to be creative in prevention approaches and tactics.
- Navy promotes first four-star woman - She will become the first woman to serve as vice chief of naval operations, the No. 2 officer in the service.
- 285,000 Veterans Are Going Without Unemployment Compensation - By the end of June, an estimated 285,000 veterans will be going without long-term unemployment benefits because Congress allowed the program to expire, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)."
- Repoprt: Benefits claims related to sexual assault treated unevenly - Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigators reported a wide disparity in the way Veterans Affairs benefits workers handle claims related to military sexual assault. The extent of variation between regional offices was the main cause of concern, with one office approving 88 percent and another approving only 14 percent of claims. This variation is especially problematic since post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claims related to military sexual trauma are denied at a higher rate than PTSD claims related to other triggers.
- North Country congressman wants vets to have access to services near home rather than traveling hundreds of miles - "In many rural communities, veterans must drive several hours each way to receive routine care in an urban hospital that can be easily and more cost-effectively managed by existing rural hospitals," said Bill Owens. "Between travel and wait times, a veteran can easily spend 12 to 14 hours seeking routine care such as an MRI, colonoscopy or lab work. This is a strikingly inefficient use of our healthcare system."
- Shinseki resigns, but will that improve things at VA hospitals? - Eric Shinseki resigned Friday as the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, leaving behind the daunting task of repairing a broken health care system that has left thousands of veterans at risk as they wait for medical care.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs launched a Women Veterans hotline – 1.855.VA.WOMEN (829.6636) – to help women veterans and their families learn about the department's healthcare services and resources.
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