Military News for August 12, 2022

Military news is more than just breaking stories about forward-deployed troops, combat operations, and military operations. There are many issues that affect troops and their families, and the purpose of this column is to provide a weekly roundup of news that affects military communities and families. Here are some of the week’s most important stories.

DoD Revises COVID-19 Guidelines

This week, the Department of Defense updated its COVID-19 readiness guidelines, clarifying when troops must wear masks, how they must self-screen for coronavirus, and when to isolate or go into quarantine.

An August 8, 2022 memo requires base commanders to revise their base Health Protection Condition Levels based on CDC guidelines for the local area. These conditions must be revised within two weeks of any changed CDC guidelines.

The new guidelines also require troops to “self-screen for symptoms” before entering any Department of Defense operation or interacting with the public on official business. At the time of the new memo, indoor mask requirements still apply “on DOD transportation including aircraft and boats regardless of vaccination status or DOD Community Level”.

There is also new guidance on vaccinations; troops are considered “up to date” on COVID-19 vaccinations when they have received all recommended shots and boosters. New quarantine guidelines require a five-day lockdown for anyone who is a close contact of someone who is infected.

VA Introduces QuickSumbit

The Department of Veterans Affairs has unveiled a new online tool that helps veterans make disability claims with the VA. QuickSubmit is the replacement for an older VA portal called Direct Upload. You can use QuickSubmit to send documents to the VA instead of mailing or faxing them (yes, people still use fax machines in America from time to time) to the agency.

The VA bills this as being a “human-centered” process that combines technology that allows the submission of larger files and docs and according to the VA, this online tool “automatically transfers claim documents and information for preliminary processing”. You will need to register for access to QuickSubmit before submitting VA claims documentation even if you used the old system for submissions in the past.

When Will The U.S. Army Move Soldiers Out Of Moldy Fort Bragg Barracks?

Stars And Stripes reports some 1,200 soldiers are due to be moved out of mold-contaminated barracks at Fort Bragg. But the timeline for this move is in question by multiple news outlets.

At least one source reports that in spite of some U.S. Army barracks at Fort Bragg being declared basically uninhabitable (by the Sergeant Major of the Army no less) the timeline for getting these troops out of mold-infested quarters does not seem to have the sense of urgency you might expect. Especially connected to a major health issue affecting troops there.

One source reports that a Fort Bragg spokesperson indicated the Army “hopes” to start relocating troops in the next 30 days. But the question remains; if these were the quarters for the Sergeant Major of the Army, how long do you think a relocation might take in that scenario?

No, moving 1,200 troops is not the same as moving one family, but Fort Bragg mold complaints have been ongoing for YEARS. What does the U.S. Army owe these troops?

Some believe being more responsive to serious medical issues like mold contamination is a good start–ESPECIALLY when the Army can’t meet its recruitment goals for the year. News stories like these won’t help in that department.

U.S. Navy: More Cash For New Recruits

The United States Navy extended its maximum recruiting bonus in February 2022, pushing the maximum to $50K for qualifying new recruits. But now, future sailors and currently serving military members who agree to reenlist could earn the maximum bonus AND have the Navy repay student loans with a cap of $115 thousand total per qualifying person. This as all branches of the military struggle to hit recruitment quotas for the current fiscal year.

Air Force Policy Changes Offer More Privacy For Pregnant Airmen In Air Mobility Command

Air Force Times reports that troops stationed at bases under the jurisdiction of Air Mobility Command (AMC) will benefit from new medical privacy guidelines. This comes thanks to a directive by the AMC commander, who issued the orders to protect medical privacy for those who need prenatal care.

According to the AF Times report, pregnancy is “the only medical condition” that is mentioned by name in readiness reports, medical “profiles” used for fitness test waivers, and other documentation. The mention of a specific medical condition means that diagnosis is “accessible to the unit before some women are able to process the news” or discuss the issue with family members.

Now, pregnant airmen working for AMC are given a “general” 30-day medical profile documenting requirements for duty but not mentioning medical specifics. In short Air Mobility Command treats the pregnancy diagnosis as a “need to know” issue–those who do not expressly need to know are not informed unless the patient chooses to do so.

The larger issue at stake here? This is a command directive, not a service-wide or DoD-wide initiative. Until medical privacy issues are handled in a consistent policy across all branches of service, this issue will remain a sticking point for many.

Air Force Pilot Program Seeks To Streamline Abuse And Assault Claims, Support

Seven Air Force bases are part of a new pilot program called the Integrated Response Co-Location Pilot Program, which seeks to centralize resources and support for those who are victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and bullying.

This push comes after the results of a 2021 study that revealed “thousands” of unreported cases of all the above among Air Force troops. As part of the test, sexual assault advocates and counselors are placed in a single facility on base. Five different services are co-located now under the program:

  • Victim’s Counsel
  • Sexual Assault Response Coordinator
  • Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocate
  • Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate
  • Religious Support Team

The Air Force Personnel Center issued a press statement about the program stating that victim support is the prime mover behind the program. Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones issued the directive for this experiment.

“Co-locating support services for victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other forms of interpersonal violence is meant to help victims easily navigate available resources.” Ortiz Jones said in the press release, adding, “We’re committed to increasing awareness of response services, minimizing the number of times a victim has to tell their story, and collecting the data to improve response and prevention efforts.”

This program is being tested at the following installations:

  • Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas
  • Vandenberg Space Force Base, California
  • Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia
  • Hill Air Force Base, Utah
  • Misawa Air Base, Japan
  • RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom
  • Offutt AFB, Nebraska

It should be noted that these bases include major operations; Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas is a massive military operation that includes parts of the former Brooks Air Force Base, Kelly Air Force Base, Fort Sam Houston, Camp Bullis, and others.

 

Military News For August 5 2022

This column rounds up important developments in the military community for the week. It is focused on issues that affect military families, veterans, retirees, and those who may be considering a career in the Armed Forces.

This column does not concentrate on troop movements, new weapons systems, or other readiness issues. Instead, we focus on news that affects the community in terms of quality of life, career planning, benefits, and other important issues.

PACT Act Burn Pit Legislation Passes

The PACT Act has passed the United States Senate. The 86-11 vote sent the Act to the President’s desk for signature; it provides funding for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits while deployed overseas.

Why It Matters: Last week, we reported on the firestorm of controversy surrounding the federal government’s failure to pass the PACT Act; a prior vote had some 42 lawmakers (41 Republicans and one Democrat) voting NO.

In the aftermath of that vote, It’s likely that GOP opponents of the bill didn’t expect the public and messy backlash from Veteran Service Organizations and advocates such as Jon Stewart.

Stewart’s press conference following last week’s No vote included outrage at what appeared to be gamesmanship on the Senate floor with sick veterans being the victims. Particularly galling; the image of Senator Ted Cruz doing a fist bump with a fellow official following the vote last week.

What’s In The Act: The PACT Act was written to expand healthcare for certain qualifying post-9/11 combat veterans. It also requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to implement and maintain medical screenings for these service members, with the goal of detecting the symptoms of exposure to toxins from burn pits.

This Act provides expanded health coverage for some 3.5 million troops and former troops exposed to toxins associated with cancer and respiratory problems. This coverage is offered to those who served in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Those who were deployed to these war zones would be given “presumptive” approval for VA medical benefits to compensate for 23 medical issues associated with or aggravated by toxic burn pit smoke. VA disability benefits in this area could amount to thousands of dollars of additional benefits every month for qualifying vets.

What Happens Next: President Biden was quoted in the press saying he would sign the PACT Act the moment it reaches his desk.

Read More: How The PACT Act Changes VA Benefits

National Guard Efforts In Kentucky

When Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear declared an emergency in the state following the July floods there, he also called upon the National Guard to help rescue residents trapped by rising flood waters.

What Was The Result? Some 580 people have benefitted from the National Guard’s efforts there. Once rescue efforts are deemed completed, the Guard will change its focus to distributing supplies such as food and water to Kentucky residents.

Operations there include participation from both the Air National Guard and the Army National Guard, and there have been requests for additional help across state lines to nearby states like West Virginia and Tennessee.

Marine Corps Lieutenant General Michael Langley Makes Marine Corps History

This week, the Senate officially confirmed Michael Langley as its’ newest four-star general.

Why It Matters: Langley is the very first Black four-star general. His new assignment as commander of U.S. Africa Command marks a huge milestone for the Marine Corps, who previously approved promotions for a handful of Black generals to the three-star rank, but never four stars until now.

By Comparison: The United States Marine Corps has existed for more than 240 years and in that time, according to the Washington Post more than 70 white men were promoted to the rank of four-star Marine Corps generals.

DoD Autism Care Program Extended

In 2014, a program called Tricare Comprehensive Autism Care Demonstration began as a way to offer care to military dependents diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This program had established an end date in 2023, but the DoD has announced changes to those plans.

What’s Changing? The Defense Department plans to extend the program until 2028. This was done to provide more time to evaluate how it is working, and further study its results. This is the latest round in a series of changes to how TRICARE approaches autism care.

Why The Changes? Some sources report on a 2020 DoD report submitted to Congress which notes that in the past some autism care “is not working” for those using TRICARE. A year later a different DoD report noted major improvements for some who received autism care, but a significant number (more than 40%) had no improvements or actually got worse during the program.

There are numerous questions that still need to be answered about the program and the effectiveness of its approach. The extended sunset date allows researchers to continue addressing those issues.

Who Is Affected? There are some 16 thousand children enrolled in this program at press time.

Former Soldier Convicted Of Six Counts Related To January 6th

Former soldier Thomas Robertson was found guilty on all counts in the second jury trial related to the January 6th mob attack on the United States Capitol.

The Result: The Associated Press reports federal prosecutors are requesting an eight-year prison term for a Virginia police officer and Army veteran convicted of participating in the Capitol insurrection on January 6th in Washington D.C.

What Robertson Did: Former Police Sergeant Thomas Robertson was found guilty of blocking police officers trying to manage the mob at the Capitol on the 6th. Robertson’s actions may also have put him in the “stolen valor” category; some sources report he claimed to be an Army Ranger though his service records did not reflect that duty.

Prosecutors also say Robertson claimed to have been awarded a Purple Heart. Robertson was charged with a number of crimes including the accusation that he entered the Capitol with a large stick meant as a weapon.

By Comparison: As mentioned above, prosecutors are asking for eight years for Robertson. Fellow rioter Guy Reffitt got seven years and three months. Reffitt, a Texas follower of the hate ideology loosely organized as “Three Percenters”, was convicted of attacking the Capitol with what the Associated Press describes as a “holstered handgun”.

 

Military News for July 29 2022

Military news isn’t just about forward-deployed troops, combat operations, and military hardware. There are many issues that affect troops and their families, and the purpose of this column is to provide a weekly roundup of news that affects military communities and families.

Military News For The Week Of July 29, 2022

The PACT Act has failed to advance this week. There was a vote in the Senate on the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, which failed to get the required 60 votes needed to advance to the next stage of the process.

This bill sought to expand healthcare for post-9/11 combat veterans and require the Department of Veterans Affairs to start a medical screening program to detect exposure to toxins. The bill had many components but those are among the most notable.

On the news of the bill being shut down in the Senate, there was much outrage from veteran service organizations and veteran activists including Jon Stewart who issued a blistering rebuke on CNN;

“I’m used to lies. I’m used to hypocrisy. I’m used to their cowardice. I’m not used to the cruelty, the casual cruelty … a bill they had fought for, for more than a decade.” Stewart had particular bile for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who Stewart accused of lying to veterans by promising to “get it done” in reference to the bill.

McConnell later voted against the act.

Veteran service organizations issued statements declaring the vote “absolutely unacceptable”. Those are the words of American Legion legislative director Lawrence Montreuil, who adds, “The PACT Act passed the House and Senate in a bipartisan manner, yet this delay continues because of political games. There is no reason this bill should not be signed by the president by the end of next week.”

Montreuil, who was quoted on the American Legion official site, said the failure to move the act forward needlessly and negatively affects veterans who suffer from toxic exposure.

“This bill’s genesis came from the fact that 70 percent of veterans with illnesses related to burn pits were being denied, and as a result couldn’t access health care. Sick veterans couldn’t meet the burden of proof,” Montreuil said on the American Legion official site. “Every day that this delay goes on, veterans are unable to receive care. This is wrong.”

42 senators voted against the bill in all. 41 of those senators are Republicans, one is a Democrat. Their names and state affiliations are presented below without further comment.

Senators Who Voted AGAINST The PACT Act

  • John A. Barrasso, WY
  • Marsha Blackburn, TN
  • Roy Blunt, MO
  • Mike Braun, IN
  • Richard Burr, NC
  • Bill Cassidy, LA
  • John Cornyn, TX
  • Tom Cotton, AR
  • Kevin Cramer, ND
  • Mike Crapo, ID
  • Ted Cruz, TX
  • Steve Daines, MT
  • Joni Ernst, IA
  • Deb Fischer, NE
  • Bill Hagerty, TN
  • Josh Hawley, MO
  • Cindy Hyde-Smith, MS
  • Jim Inhofe, OK
  • Ron Johnson, WI
  • John Neely Kennedy, LA
  • James Lankford, OK
  • Mike Lee, UT
  • Cynthia Lummis, WY
  • Roger Marshall, KS
  • Mitch McConnell, KY
  • Rand Paul, KY
  • Rob Portman, OH
  • Jim Risch, ID
  • Mitt Romney, UT
  • Mike Rounds, SD
  • Ben Sasse, NE
  • Rick Scott, FL
  • Tim Scott, SC
  • Richard Shelby, AL
  • Dan Sullivan, AK
  • John Thune, SD
  • Thom Tillis, NC
  • Patrick Toomey, PA
  • Tommy Tuberville, AL
  • Roger Wicker, MS
  • Todd Young, IN
  • Chuck Schumer, NY

US Army Recruiting Woes Continue

The United States Army is publicly acknowledging its recruiting crisis. It will miss troop strength goals in FY 2022 by some 10 thousand people. The Army predicts its end strength numbers could drop to just over 460 thousand troops with further decreases in FY 2023–troop strength next year could dip to 445 thousand.

To counteract this, at least in part, the Army has attempted to change its recruiting standards. The latest move is to create a “pre-basic training preparatory course” at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Army Times reports that the course would provide 90 days of training to prospective troops who were not able to meet aptitude or fitness standards before shipping out to boot camp.

Army Standardizes Pay System

Once upon a time, troops serving in the U.S. Army had the option of choosing two paydays a month or consolidating both into a single payday each month. But now, some 11 thousand soldiers will have to get used to being paid half their salary two times a month instead of the one-time per option.

The Army has chosen to standardize its pay system into a two-paydays per month system for all soldiers. At press time most serving in the Army area already paid twice. Just over two percent of the entire Army chose to be paid once per month. The new pay schedule is part of a larger push to improve the Army pay system, which also includes plans to allow soldiers to manage their pay using an app or similar options on a mobile device.

Florida Offers Veterans Teaching Jobs–Without Requiring A Teacher’s License

The State of Florida has an education crisis on multiple levels but one of the most serious of those woes can be listed in terms of numbers alone; some 9000 teacher positions that are currently empty ahead of the new school year. Now, the Florida Department of Education wants veterans to help.

Florida offers vets a five-year waiver of typical teacher certification requirements–if the applicants can meet the requirements of the program. To be accepted you must have at least 48 months of military service, at least 60 college credits, and a baseline 2.5 GPA. If hired, these veteran teachers work under the supervision of a teaching mentor.

The push to hire veterans to fill teaching jobs is part of an $8.6 million statewide project to offer more career options and training for veteran communities.

GAO Says Oversight Needed In DoD Pediatric Lead Exposure Issues

The Government Accountability Office has gone on the record stating that without oversight, the Defense Health Agency is unable to determine whether pediatric lead issues are being properly handled in military treatment facilities. A DoD report to Congress issued in 2021 noted the following statistics about lead exposure in military family housing.

  • More than 30,000 children were screened for lead exposure;
  • More than 12,000 children were tested for elevated blood lead levels;
  • More than 80 children had elevated blood lead levels for the period of time listed in the report.
  • An audit of the report notes these numbers may not be fully accurate–more lead exposure is presumed to be unaccounted for.

One source notes that military leaders informed the Government Accountability Office that in the past, there was a reliance on “peer reviews” to ensure lead screening and testing was taking place. But the lack of oversight is problematic. At press time the Department of Defense is moving to fix the oversight problem in part by moving military treatment facilities to the jurisdiction of the Defense Health Authority and away from the jurisdiction of the military services.

Military News For July 15, 2022

Military news is more than just the latest developments at the “tip of the spear” so to speak. This column discusses news that affects the military community including things that affect the military family, veteran rights, benefits, and more. Our news coverage here does include some news on current operations, but we focus more on military-related issues that affect the community at large.

Military News For July 15, 2022

July 14, 2022, was the day the House passed the National Defense Authorization act with an $840 billion price tag.

This bill amounts to a 7% increase in defense spending compared to last year, and features some potentially controversial measures including an amendment banning arms deals or weapons transfer to any government that has violated international humanitarian law. A different amendment could frustrate an F-16 fighter jet sale to Turkey.

But none of the above is set in stone, the Senate won’t vote on its own version of the National Defense Authorization Act until September according to a report published by Defense News.

RELATED: Proposed 2023 Military Pay Charts

Navy Improves Sexual Assault Reporting Procedures

Stars and Stripes reports the U.S. Navy has enhanced certain sexual assault reporting procedures.

These new guidelines are meant to “align with Defense Department policy” according to a Navy statement. Sexual assault victims in the Navy now have the option to seek a restricted, confidential report even if the victim has already made statements about the incident.

Such restricted or confidential reports allow a victim to notify a health care provider or sexual assault response coordinator about an incident without notifying the victim’s chain of command. The Navy’s administrative order also directs commanding officers to consider a sexual assault victim’s request for a transfer to another unit or base within five days. These policy changes became effective the day they were announced.

U.S. Army Experiments With Remote Work Options

The U.S. Army did an experiment with remote work sometime in 2020, allowing a Pentagon employee to live in Florida and commute to in-person meetings and other work on an as-needed basis. Now, that experiment is being expanded according to Army Times.

Military doctrine includes the notion of “centralized control, decentralized execution” for battlefield operations, in-theater troop organization, and more.

That notion could inform the basic work routine for some Army staffers thanks to what is known as an “innovation cell” for Army Human Resources Command. A select number of Army troops are joining the cell, staying at their current physical duty stations but clocking in, so to speak, into a remote work environment at another base.

It’s expected that such a program could work well for Army coders and other IT professionals as well as “staff workers” but Army officials do acknowledge that not all military career fields are appropriate for remote duty.

Is The U.S. Navy Failing On The Mental Health Issue?

Navy Times reports the United States Navy is “struggling” to fill mental health care provider positions according to information from the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

Sailors are, at press time, still facing long delays in mental health care opportunities; the Navy can’t seem to fill licensed civilian and contractor care provider jobs. The Navy needs 455 jobs filled in this area alone, at press time some 132 of those jobs remained vacant.

Navy Times reports some sailors complaining about six-week wait times for mental healthcare appointments; the report also notes that the overall availability of mental healthcare professionals in the United States is very low–the nation could be short nearly eight thousand psychiatrists alone by 2025.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Era Still Haunts Veterans

The Washington Post covered the ten-year anniversary of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Clinton-era policy that forced LGBTQ military members to hide their identities and effectively serve as second-class citizens in uniform.

The Post article notes that some 100 thousand troops were kicked out of the military under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and many received Other Than Honorable or other punitive discharges as a result.

Those punitive discharges have prevented many LGBTQ veterans from qualifying for VA benefits. In September 2021, a blog published on the VA official site announced new guidelines for allowing VA representatives to approve benefits for those discharged for “homosexual conduct”, HIV status, gender identity, and more.

But following that announcement, what has changed? According to the Post there has been no official word from the Department of Veterans Affairs on how this might be implemented or whether it has even been implemented in a formal manner.

The Washington Post reports there was an attempt to get more information via a public records request to review any new VA policy on this issue; the VA “acknowledged receipt of the request, but they have not fulfilled it” and the VA declined to comment. As of press time, LGBTQ service members denied veteran benefits because of a so-called gay discharge are still subject to the same denial for benefits.

Stolen Valor Con Artist Pleads Guilty

Sarah Jane Cavanaugh, a Rhode Island resident who pretended to be a Marine veteran with cancer, has pleaded guilty to a number of charges including wire fraud, forgery, theft, and “fraudulent use of medals” according to a Marine Corps Times report. Cavanaugh collected a quarter of a million dollars in veteran benefits and donations according to federal prosecutors who add that the con artist agreed to pay back some $80K.

There is no evidence at press time that Cavanaugh ever served in uniform, though she did work at a VA Medical Center. During the trial, prosecutors alleged Cavanaugh illegally accessed VA medical records to help her create forged records that indicated she had received an Honorable Discharge and was suffering from cancer.

Cavanaugh wore a Marine uniform and unearned medals including a Purple Heart when attending public events. She received more than $200 thousand in assistance from the Wounded Warrior program and another $18K in assistance from a Virginia-based group called Code of Support”. She faces up to 20 years in prison, though prosecutors have not asked for the maximum.

 

Military News This Week: July 8 2022

Here’s a roundup of some of the important military news stories from the last week affecting currently serving troops, military families, and veterans. These are not necessarily breaking news items, information on military operations, or developments in hardware or tech. The stories we bring you here affect military families and are not necessarily focused on the “tip of the spear” so to speak.

Military News For Friday, July 8, 2022

The New York Times reports that there’s a bipartisan effort to restore a sea-launched nuclear missile program (a weapons system President Joe Biden tried to cancel) to the U.S. defense budget. Critics of the system say it is redundant and potentially destabilizing.

When the President was campaigning for office, he ran on a platform that included lowering the nation’s nuclear stockpile or at least the DoD’s dependence on it. Some critics of current U.S. nuclear policy point to a lack of a “no first use” doctrine for U.S. nuclear operations as a problem.

Politico.com reports some on the House Appropriations Committee sided with the President on the new cruise missile but notes the committee is “likely to put pressure on appropriators” when talking about compromises in the defense budget for the program.

Navy Improves Sexual Assault Policies

The Department of the Navy has taken a stand; those who report sexual assault will no longer be punished themselves for “minor misconduct” according to Navy Times. How does this help?

A sailor who is sexually assaulted by another service member cannot be punished for infractions like underage drinking where such charges might normally apply. Other scenarios where the new rules apply–the sexual assault was involved during an unprofessional relationship with a superior, and situations where the victim was in violation of curfew or other orders.

Those who come forward to report a sexual assault will not be penalized for these activities under the new rules; the Navy’s priority is to support the victim. That does not mean the Navy won’t refer sexual assault victims to substance abuse counseling if the chain of command thinks it is warranted, but such counseling is not punitive.

PCS Season Could Be Getting Better

Army.mil reports U.S. Transportation Command and the U.S. Army Sustainment Command have taken aggressive moves to make Permanent Change of Station moves more efficient. Since May of last year, efforts to improve areas such as how military members will interact with contractors such as moving companies, and simplifying household goods claims processes.

Simpler claims are further enhanced by recent changes to the deadlines for such claims. If you have had household goods damaged, destroyed, or lost by a contractor you now have 180 days to file a claim as opposed to 75 days under previous guidelines.

Do It Yourself PCS moves, sometimes known as “DITY” moves are now reimbursed up to 100% of the actual cost of the move.

RELATED: PCS and Moving Discounts for Military and MyMilitaryBenefits’ PCS-related article center

DoD Begins Early Childhood Education Curriculum

The Defense Department announced the start of its early childhood education curriculum called, Early Learning Matters. Developed in partnership with Purdue University, the program is the first early childhood education curriculum created for the Department of Defense child development program.

This program is being pilot-tested at select base Child Development Centers and allows CDC workers to “customize the learning experience to each child based on their individual developmental needs.” according to a DoD press release.

If you are interested in this program, reach out to your nearest Child Development Center to learn if that location is using Early Learning Matters

VA Expands Donor Care And Support

The Department of Veterans Affairs now offers expanded help–“live donor support”–for those who wish to donate organs or bone marrow to veterans who need transplant operations. As of July 1, 2022, VA support for these donors will include initial screenings, tests, and any studies needed to qualify a potential donor. The VA also provides support for care and services needed for the donation procedure.

In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs now offers post-donation follow-up services to help the donor recover from the procedure. Some financial benefits are also possible including reimbursement for “necessary travel” and lodging for both the donor and a “needed attendant”.

One major development in this new support is the notion of informed consent; the donor has the right to revoke that consent at any time (and for any reason) before the procedure. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the agency receives well over 3,000 referrals for transplants and performs nearly 500 procedures a year related to “solid organ” and bone marrow transplants.

Anti-Vax Army Reserve Troops Face Punishment

Military Times reports that as of the end of June 2022, 12% of the Army Reserve had not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Anti-vax troops who do not comply with the Army’s vaccination mandates are not allowed to drill or participate in weekend exercises. The Army has gone on record stating it will discharge vaccine refusers, but at press time no information is available on how soon those proceedings might start for Guard/Reserve personnel.

COVID-19 vaccines have been widely available for some time and are used by literally millions of people; COVID-19 vaccine deniers choose to ignore this. But those in uniform won’t be able to escape the Army mandate for the vaccination or the consequences of refusing it.

 

 

Military News This Week: July 1, 2022

There have been many developments in the military community in the last week of June 2022. Here’s a roundup of some of the important stories from the last week affecting currently serving troops, military families, and veterans.

These stories aren’t necessarily the breaking news when it comes to defense tech, troop deployments, or other issues; the stories here are the ones that may most directly affect military communities regardless of mission.

Military News for the Week Ending July 1, 2022

Stars and Stripes reports a Defense Department commitment to ensure military communities still have access to reproductive health care in spite of the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe V. Wade in June of 2022.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin went on the record after the decision, stating “The Department is examining this decision closely and evaluating our policies to ensure we continue to provide seamless access to reproductive health care as permitted by federal law,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement Friday.

Austin is not alone in his stance on military reproductive healthcare.

“By overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has not only taken a wrecking ball to reproductive rights – it has taken a wrecking ball to military readiness,” according to Janessa Goldbeck, a Marine Corps veteran quoted in the Stars and Stripes article.

How the Roe Issue Affects Military Readiness

Those with an incomplete understanding of this issue might wonder how the overturn of Roe V. Wade can negatively affect military readiness. The overturn of Roe sends abortion law back to the states, and some of those states may have laws that impose undue burdens on servicemembers seeking healthcare.

The military’s association with the specific practice of abortion is limited to circumstances affecting the health of the mother, sexual assault, and related issues. The problem is that some states make no provision even for these circumstances and that is in direct opposition to DoD policy.

A service member who requires an abortion in the circumstances listed above may have no medical option in certain states that ban abortion across the board.

The DoD has invested thousands of dollars for each individual servicemember’s training and career; to have that put in jeopardy because some states refuse to recognize medically necessary procedures is something the DoD seems keen to avoid.

“Female Draft” Back On the Table

In the United States, males of a certain age are required to sign up for the draft, also known as the U.S. Selective Service, even though there has been no involuntary service requirement since the Vietnam era.

Now, women are being considered for this requirement as part of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). At least one source reports some lawmakers objecting to the proposal, using outdated arguments about “drafting our daughters” in spite of serious advances in adding women to combat roles across the DoD.

Defense officials say that in spite of the consideration to add women to the Selective Service there are no plans to begin involuntarily placing U.S. citizens in the military once more.

U.S. Army Drops Controversial Recruitment Effort

It only took a single week for the United States Army to end a policy change in its recruiting practices. Something called the “111 Non-Grad (NA) enlistment program” waived a high school diploma requirement for new recruits amid an Army recruiting crisis.

Under this program, the Army permitted new recruits who had high ASVAB scores to enlist even without a high school diploma or GED. But the program has since been canceled according to Army Times.

The Army has only met about 40% of its recruiting goals for the year according to some sources.

VA Overdue Disability Claims Down By 25%

The Department of Veterans Affairs is notorious for its disability claims backlog, but in the last four months that processing logjam was reduced by nearly a fourth. In June of 2021, the VA backlog was at just under 188 thousand. In 2020, that number was recorded at around 70 thousand.

But COVID-19 forced the partial closure of many VA offices and last October the numbers were back up to well above a quarter of a million cases. Some sources report that number is significantly lower as of last week but it may take until 2024 to see the VA backlogged case count drop below 100,000 once more.

The Brandon Act Still Hasn’t Been Implemented

NBC News reports the U.S. military has not put a federal law passed six months ago in response to a wave of suicides in the U.S. Navy.

The Brandon Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden as part of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act all the way back in December. It allows service members to seek mental health services in a more confidential way. The Brandon Act was passed after a whopping five suicides on the USS George Washington last year.

NBC News reports the U.S. Navy is making noises about “establishing implementation policy” for the Act but the need to double down on the Navy’s suicide problem is obviously an urgent one.

Implementing the Brandon Act would help facilitate confidential mental health services for military members; under past policies, some service members were required to report such services to their superiors; prolonged delays in appointments for mental health services under current conditions make for an undue burden on the servicemember who needs these crucial services.

New Air Force Zero-Tolerance Sexual Assault Policy

Air Force Times reports the United States Air Force and Space Force now have a zero-tolerance policy for Airmen and Guardians convicted of sexual assault. Those convicted now receive an automatic military discharge unless the offender qualifies for an exception.

This move to shore up sexual assault policies isn’t limited to the Air Force alone; there is a larger effort to revise the Uniform Code of Military Justice to toughen the consequences for this type of assault in the military.

Under the new Air Force and Space Force rules, when convicted, the offender’s home life, character, and service record can no longer be used to determine whether to kick the offender out of the military.

Also forbidden? Speculation as to whether the sexual assault is likely to happen again. That speculation cannot be used going forward. It seems the military may be catching up to the idea that a single sexual assault incident is in and of itself conduct unbecoming and deserving of the full measure of UCMJ punishment.

 

 

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