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.
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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.