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1. GAO: Lowered standards inflated ratings of Afghan forces. Reported improvements in the effectiveness of the Afghan security forces are partly due to coalition forces lowering standards, according to a report by the U.S. government’s main oversight body.
2. Carter calls devastating sequester cuts to military ‘collateral damage of political gridlock’. With just 16 days left to dodge the doomsday scenario of sequestration’s automatic cuts, top military brass painted a bleak portrait Tuesday of how military readiness could reach a crisis point if a compromise in Congress isn’t struck before March 1.
3. Hirono: ‘Devastating’ cuts could cost Hawaii 11,000 jobs. U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono warned Monday of “devastating” sequestration budget cuts that could cost Hawaii 11,000 jobs, result in furlough days for 18,000 defense civilians and cut into defense contracts that average $2.3 billion a year.
4. Daughter’s salute at Fort Drum deployment ceremony goes viral. A photo of a young girl’s salute at a Fort Drum ceremony has reached national airwaves and has gone viral online.
5. Analysts: Even China may not be able to stop North Korea. While North Korea’s latest nuclear test shows it is making steady progress toward a deliverable nuclear weapon, it is not clear whether the international community or China, its greatest trading partner and ally, have enough influence to persuade it to stop, analysts say.
6. Is IEHR Really Dead? Government Health IT “Is the highly-anticipated joint iEHR that the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have been working on ready for a burial? Or not?” VA CIO Roger Baker said, “We remain committed to the common data, application, and GUI standards we committed to at the start of the program.” Baker added that “there has been a shift in strategy in that the VA will ‘use existing EHR technology to jumpstart the iEHR,’…rather than building one from the ground up.” Also, “the VA’s CTO Peter Levin on Feb. 8 tweeted that ‘the iEHR reports are incorrect.'” Baker summed up the project saying, “Our goal…is to make certain that we are creating a single medical record for all patients.”
7. Report: SEAL Who Shot Bin Laden Without Pension, Healthcare. USA Today “In what will likely be the day’s second-biggest talker, Esquire and the Center for Investigative Reporting have published an interview with the SEAL Team 6 member who shot Osama bin Laden.” He is said to be without a “pension (he left service 36 months short of the necessary 20 years), health care (though he battles arthritis, eye damage, tendonitis, and blown disks), protection for his family (from a retaliatory attack), disability benefits (he’s waiting), a healthy marriage (he and his wife have split, under the pressure of a job that took him away as many as 300 days a year), and communication from the Department of Veterans Affairs (computer-generated form letters aside).” Esquire In the conversations, the sniper described his “hundreds of combat missions, his twelve long-term SEAL-team deployments, his thirty-plus kills of enemy combatants, often eyeball to eyeball.” The author states, “the Shooter will discover soon enough that when he leaves after sixteen years in the Navy, his body filled with scar tissue, arthritis, tendonitis, eye damage, and blown disks, here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation: Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family.” Washington Post “There’s a whole lot to learn from this Esquire profile of the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden and his rocky transition back to civilian life. One detail though immediately stood out to me: the SEAL, who remains anonymous and only referred to as “the Shooter,” lost his health coverage upon leaving the military.” Indeed, “about one in 10 veterans lack insurance coverage,” and “while the Veterans Health Administration does provide coverage for most veterans it does not cover everyone: eligibility is determined in part by income, injuries sustained in combat and length of service.” Yet “Stars and Stripes reports ‘Like every combat veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the former SEAL…is automatically eligible for five years of free healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs.'”
8. Suicide Specter Follows Troops Into Civilian Life. USA Today “The historic pace of troop suicides confounding the military through the war years is following servicemembers into civilian life, according to preliminary analyses of new veteran data.” The story cites “Janet Kemp, head of the VA’s suicide prevention program,” saying, “We’re very concerned,” adding, “I think that there’s an indication that (active-duty suicide trends) are not getting better and that I’m very worried about this new, younger group of veterans that are coming out and coming into our system.”
9. VA Adds 1,000 Mental Health Professionals To Staff. AP “The Veterans Affairs Department said Monday it has added more than 1,000 mental health professionals and 200 support staff over the past eight months to meet the needs of returning veterans, but still has more to do to meet the requirements of an executive order issued by President Barack Obama. The VA needs to add about 550 more doctors, nurses and counselors by June 30 to comply with the executive order.” And “VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said the VA would not be slowing down in its effort to increase staffing.” He said, “We still need to hire more mental health professionals to reach our goal, but each new hire means we can treat more veterans and provide greater access to our mental health services.” Military Times “Ten months after announcing plans to hire 1,600 additional mental health professionals and staff to address shortages that have resulted in long wait times for care, the Veterans Affairs Department is two-thirds of the way to meeting its goal, VA officials announced Monday.”
10. Bill Would Give Minn Employers Tax Credit For Hiring Vets. Minneapolis Star Tribune “Minnesota businesses that hire unemployed veterans would get a tax credit under legislation unveiled Monday.” The measure “would give tax credits to employers who hire any veteran, but it particularly benefits companies hiring disabled and unemployed veterans. Under the bill, a company would receive a credit for up to 10 percent of the veteran’s taxed income, capped at $3,000 for a disabled veteran, $1,500 for hiring an unemployed veteran, and $500 for hiring any veteran.”