Veteran's and Military Issues
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Updated: January 3, 2018
- Homeless rural veterans find a home at Vet House in Ballston Spa - Transitional housing for veterans is a rare in rural areas. And most rural homeless veterans have few options. Kathryn Monet, executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, says that "Because it’s such a challenge to count people in rural areas, and services are so spread out, I don’t know that the numbers that are even out there for rural veterans are accurate.” Monet says structural barriers that make it hard or low-income rural veterans: finding affordable housing in small communities, getting to VA clinics which can be far away, and getting a decent job.
- The Trump Administration Has Stopped Fighting The Jan. 1 Deadline For Accepting Trans Military Recruits - The Justice Department announced Friday night that it will not be asking the Supreme Court to stop the Jan. 1 deadline for allowing transgender military recruits. The department also dropped several appeals over Trump's transgender military service policy, choosing instead to keep the challenges in district courts for now. Those who had challenged the Trump administration effort to halt transgender military service celebrated the news as "a major victory" in the ongoing lawsuits.
- Retired From the Military? States And Cities Are Fighting To Attract You - More than a dozen states have passed laws exempting military pensions from state taxes – as they try to lure retired service members. Several cities, including Norfolk, Virginia and San Antonio, Texas, employ military liaisons whose jobs include outreach to retirees. And some states are rushing to provide other benefits to people who've retired from the armed forces. Compared with other retirees, people who retire from the military are often younger. Service members typically can retire after twenty years of service and collect 50 percent of their salary for the rest of their lives. Those who serve longer than twenty years receive a higher payout.
- Another court rejects Trump bid to stop transgender military recruits - A federal appeals court in Washington on Friday rejected a bid by President Donald Trump's administration to prevent the U.S. military from accepting transgender recruits starting Jan. 1, the second court to issue such a ruling this week. In a six-page order, the three-judge-panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the administration had "not shown a strong likelihood that they will succeed on the merits of their challenge" to a district court’s order blocking the ban.
- Tiny houses may be trendy, but they’re also life-changers for homeless veterans. - On any given night, nearly 40,000 veterans experience homelessness, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Veterans die by suicide at a rate of nearly 20 per day, and 70% of those veterans were never connected to VA care. The plan was simple: build 60 self- sustaining micro houses on the 277 acres of land that used to be campground. Once the project is finished, a variety of services for the veterans will be provided at no cost, including training classes, peer counseling, job assistance, mental health services, and equestrian therapy.
- Why Military Women Are Missing from the #MeToo MomentJudge rules transgender people can enlist in military, denying Trump bid to delay deadline - “The Court is not persuaded that Defendants will be irreparably injured by” meeting the New Year’s Day deadline, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote.The ruling from Kollar-Kotelly of the District of Columbia follows her earlier opinion blocking the president’s ban on military recruitment of transgender men and women that possibly would have forced the dismissal of current service members starting in March.
- N.Y. suicide prevention task force to focus on teens, veterans, LGBT community - The state Suicide Prevention Task Force has been created and will focus on suicide prevention in high-risk groups, including teens, veterans and members of the LGBT community. New York has the fifth-largest total number of suicides in the nation, with 1,652 in 2015, according to the Governor's Office. It's estimated that for every suicide death, there are 25 non-fatal attempts.
- Gillibrand reintroduces military justice reform bill for fifth time - “How much longer do we need to wait for Congress to do the right thing when the facts about sexual assault in the military remain the same?” Sen. Gillibrand said in a statement. “It is unacceptable that Congress has allowed this utter lack of accountability and transparency to continue. The Military Justice Improvement Act would professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes like sexual assault and remove the systemic fear that survivors of military sexual assault describe in deciding whether to report the crimes committed against them.”
- DOD releases sexual assault figures for Fort Drum, other military installations - “We cannot be afraid to talk about sexual harassment and assault,” said Maj. Gen. Walter Piatt, the post’s commanding general. “Our commitment to supporting victims and holding offenders accountable is strong, and any conversation that reiterates that and encourages reporting serves us well.” The DOD on Friday released the numbers for installations, and combat areas of interest, around the world in the last four fiscal years. The numbers had previously been reported without breakdowns for individual installations, the DOD said.
- US Army Now Taking Applicants With Histories of Mental Illness, Drug Abuse, and Self-Mutilation - People with a history of mental illness, drug abuse and self-mutilation can now apply to serve in the U.S. Army, according to a report on Sunday, which emerged as a former Air Force recruit’s mass shooting at a Texas church continues raising questions about the military’s handling of mental health problems.
- What's Killing America's Veterans? Here's What the Data Says - Suicide and drug overdoses are two of the biggest killers of veterans. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Suicide Prevention, an average of 20 veterans committed suicide every day in 2014. In fact, 18% of all American adult suicides that year were committed by veterans, even though veterans made up just 8.5% of the population. Male veterans had a 19% higher risk for suicide compared to the general population while women veterans were 2.5 times as likely to kill themselves compared to the female civilian population, and suicide rates were highest among young veterans aged 18 to 29. Accidental overdoses in particular have hit veterans harder than the broader American populace, as Reuters reports, in part because veterans are more likely to be prescribed painkillers to treat injuries maintained during combat. All told, veterans are twice as likely to die from accidental painkiller overdoses compared to civilians, federal data shows.
- A Federal Judge Just Blocked Key Parts Of Trump's Ban On Transgender Troops - “The Court is convinced that Plaintiffs are likely to succeed in this lawsuit under the Fifth Amendment.” US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in a 76-page decision granting a preliminary injunction that Trump’s justifications for the policy “do not seem to be supported by any facts,” noting “it appears that the rights of a class of individuals were summarily and abruptly revoked for reasons contrary to the only then-available studies.” Kollar-Kotelly notes that transgender people “suffer severe persecution and discrimination,” saying the government must therefore supply an exceedingly persuasive justification for actions that target them — known as intermediate scrutiny. Having failed to meet that bar, she adds, six transgender people suing to overturn the ban are likely to prevail on constitutional grounds.
- Pentagon recommends requiring women to register for the draft - The Pentagon is recommending that women be required to sign up for the military draft, saying it would be beneficial to the military. “It appears that, for the most part, expanding registration for the draft to include women would enhance further the benefits presently associated with the Selective Service System,” the report said. The report said 11 million people would be added to the Selective Service System if women were required to take part in the draft.
- Exclusive: Army Reserve bans green card holders from enlisting, a move that may break federal law - Army recruiters have been told to stop enlisting green card holders into the Army Reserve effective immediately, according to an email sent to military recruiters and obtained by Mic, a move that experts say breaks federal law. The public affairs officer said this change is necessary due to a new Department of Defense policy requiring green card holders to go through stricter vetting standards, requiring that background checks on green card holders be completed before they ship off to basic training.
- New program in New York to help veterans become farmers - The state announced a new grant program that provides financial assistance to former military service members turned farmers. The money can be used to purchase new farm equipment, machinery or supplies or pay for the cost of building or upgrading farm structures.
- Schneiderman Brief Opposes Transgender Ban In Military - The brief was filed with a coalition of 15 attorneys general who oppose the ban, announced earlier this year by the president. The case challenging the move, Doe v. Trump, was filed by GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The coalition of state AGs argued in the brief that barring transgender soldiers and military personnel is preventing a fast-growing segment of the military from serving. The brief states that “there is no evidence that it has disrupted military readiness, operational effectiveness, or morale. To the contrary, anecdotal accounts indicate that the positive impacts of inclusion were beginning to manifest, as capable and well-qualified individuals who were already serving finally were able to do so authentically.”
- Retirees, VA Disability Recipients to Get Biggest Pay Raise Since 2012 - Military retirees and those who receive disability checks and some other types of pay from the Department of Veterans Affairs will see a 2 percent pay raise in their monthly paychecks in 2018. It is the biggest cost of living (COLA) increase since 2012, equaling as much as $310 a month for those at the top of the retirement pay charts.
- How the military handles sexual assault cases behind closed doors - The Pentagon has sought to raise the profile of its campaign against sexual assault and harassment in the ranks since 2013, when a string of scandals raised fundamental questions about whether the military’s justice system was too antiquated to cope with the problem. In testimony before Congress, the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged that they had neglected the issue for years. Since then, the armed forces have promised to address the problem and have devoted new resources - to training and law enforcement. Last year, the number of reported sexual assaults — defined as acts ranging from wrongful sexual contact to rape — reached 6,172, a new high. More than 90 percent of reported incidents, however, are investigated and adjudicated behind closed doors, Pentagon statistics show. Last year, only 389 sexual assault cases proceeded to trial and produced public records of what happened.
- Gov. Inslee: Washington state to challenge Trump's transgender military ban - Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced on Monday that state Attorney General Bob Ferguson intends to challenge President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban. “We welcome all members of the National Guard and service they provide and all the talent they provide regardless of their gender or orientation,” Inslee said in a news conference.
- For the first time, the Marine Corps plans to have a female infantry officer among its ranks - In a historic first, the Marine Corps plans to assign a female officer to the infantry following her anticipated graduation from its grueling training program, service officials said. The woman is a lieutenant. She and her male colleagues in the Infantry Officer Course completed an intensive combat exercise Wednesday at the Marines’ rugged training facility in Twentynine Palms, Calif., the final graded requirement of the 13-week program.
- The military may soon consider revenge porn a criminal act - The Military Times reports that the House and the Senate have added provisions to the annual defense spending bill that would update the uniform code of military justice, which lists criminal offenses under military law, to include criminal charges for anyone who “knowingly and wrongfully broadcasts or distributes an intimate visual image of a private area of another person” without permission, or “harm substantially the depicted person with respect to that person’s health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation, or personal relationships.”
- Veterans Living Paycheck to Paycheck Are Under Threat During Budget Debates - The sad reality is that veterans’ needs are not fully addressed by veteran-specific benefits and services—even with current federal and local Department of Veterans Affairs supports, far too many veterans and their families continue to struggle to meet their basic needs regarding housing, nutrition, health care, and more. New analysis by the Center for American Progress reveals that 3.9 million veterans—more than 1 in 5—are living paycheck to paycheck. Certain groups of veterans—veterans of color, young veterans, veterans with disabilities, and women, as well as veterans in certain states—are especially vulnerable. See this state-by-state breakdown of veterans at risk. In New York, 147,376 - 20% of veterans live paycheck to paycheck.
- Defense Secretary Mattis says current transgender troops can re-enlist, for now - Transgender troops currently serving in the military will be allowed to re-enlist, the Pentagon said in a memo released to top military officials Friday, according to multiple news reports. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the department will continue to debate how to implement President Donald Trump’s call to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military, possibly seeking outside experts for guidance. But for now, those already serving will be allowed to re-enlist.
- Fast Track to Citizenship Is Cut Off for Some Military Recruits - In the last week, recruiters have rescinded contracts for an unknown number of foreign nationals who had signed up for Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, or Mavni, a program introduced in 2009 to attract immigrants with certain language and other skills that are in short supply into the armed forces.
- Gillibrand, Collins unveil plan to block transgender ban - The amendment from New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins would prevent the military from kicking out transgender service members solely based on their gender identity, according to a copy of the language obtained by CNN. The senators will try to get a vote on their proposal during consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act, the massive defense policy bill that's on the Senate floor this week. It's still unclear whether the measure will get a vote, as it's one of scores of proposed amendments to the defense bill.
- Albany lawmakers extend benefits to vets discharged for LGBT identity - County lawmakers on Monday passed a law that will ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender veterans who were discharged under the federal government's Don't Ask Don’t Tell police started under President Bill Clinton to receive county-level veteran’s benefits. These benefits include veteran property-tax exemptions, civil service points and the opportunity to participate in the county’s Return the Favor Program. The county law also outlines a process for individuals to get their discharge paperwork corrected at the federal level.
- Sexual assault remains a problem in U.S. military, new Senate report says - Sexual assault in the U.S. armed forces remains pervasive despite the military’s attempts to eradicate sex crimes from the ranks, according to a new report by a Senate Democrat who has been critical of the Pentagon’s efforts. In the report, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said “despite years of congressional reforms, our men and women in uniform still do not have confidence in the military justice system.” Fewer sexual assault cases are going to trial, she said, and those that do are generating fewer convictions.
- Transgender Military Members At Risk Of Harassment Under Trump, Says Former Army Secretary - "And here the commander-in-chief is essentially saying it’s okay to discriminate against this group of people." Eric Fanning served as Army secretary at the end of Obama’s term, and was part of the effort to transition the military to full equality for transgender individuals. Fanning was also the first openly gay person to serve in the position. He is now on the board at the Center for a New American Security.
- Mattis Says Panel Will Study Trump’s Transgender Military Ban - Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced he is freezing the president’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, saying that he will first establish a panel of experts to provide advice and recommendations on how to carry out Trump’s direction.
- Transgender service members sue over Trump military ban - Transgender service members filed suit in federal courts challenging President Donald Trump's memorandum directing the secretary of defense to bar transgender Americans from military service. The ACLU has filed a separate suit in the United Stated District Court for the District of Maryland by the ACLU on behalf of transgender service members, including Petty Officer First Class Brock Stone and others.
- Transgender troops call ban step backward for civil rights - Active-duty transgender troops say a policy change that puts them at risk of being removed and indefinitely bars transgender people from enlisting in the military is a step backward for civil rights that will promote inequality in the armed forces.
- Trump Signs Memo Implementing Ban On Transgender People Enlisting In The Military - President Trump has signed a memo implementing his new policy on transgender people serving in the armed forces. A senior White House official told reporters that no transgender individuals will be allowed to join the armed services unless and until the secretary of defense and secretary of homeland security recommend otherwise.
- Trump's Transgender Ban In Military Will Focus On New Enlistments - Gay and lesbian troops have been able to serve openly in the U.S. military since 2011; transgender service members were allowed to do the same in 2016.
- Military Transgender Ban to Begin Within 6 Months, Memo Says - A White House memo that is expected to be sent to the Pentagon in coming days gives Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense, six months to enforce the transgender ban that Mr. Trump announced abruptly last month in a series of tweets. The directive was confirmed Wednesday by a person familiar with its contents but who was not authorized to discuss its details and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The authority has not yet been finalized. Once it is approved, it would allow Mr. Mattis to force out transgender service members by setting a legal standard of whether they would be able to deploy to war zones or for other lengthy military missions.
- Army suspends drill sergeants at Fort Benning amid allegation of sexual assault - The cases are under investigation by Army Criminal Investigation Command and the service’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, Army officials said. The investigation began after a female trainee accused a drill sergeant of sexual assault, and it expanded after that allegation “revealed indications of additional allegations of sexual misconduct involving trainees and drill sergeants,” the Army said in a statement. It declined to say how many drill sergeants are now under investigation.
- U.S. Commission on Civil Rights announces opposition to Trump’s transgender military ban - “Thousands of transgender troops currently serve in the U.S. military and thousands more have served and given their lives for the country throughout our history,” the statement reads. “These military men and women honor our country and defend all its citizens with their service. The President’s mere announcement of a ban on transgender military service harms all Americans by sending a message that fosters and encourages prejudice, inconsistent with our core national values,” it continues. “If implemented, the ban would further harm Americans, and weaken our defense, by enshrining unequal treatment of Americans based on rank stereotype.”
- Military Victory for Alternative Providers - The new "Forever" GI Bill includes a $75 million program to let military veterans use federal benefits for technology courses through noncollege providers -- another potential challenge to traditional higher ed.
- New GI bill promises lifetime of education benefits for veterans - Among other bonuses, the bill will restore benefits to veterans whose schools shut down in the middle of the semester, incentivize enrollment into STEM based programs by making candidates eligible for months worth of money in a lump sum, and make the entitlements transferable to dependents and spouses.
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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