VA IG Warns Long Wait Times Could Continue with Mission Act Reforms

Department of Veterans Affairs patients seeking private sector health care saw a nearly two-month delay for medical appointments in 2018 and the problem could worsen under the new Mission Act, the VA Office of Inspector General reported Thursday.

The inspector general’s report based its conclusions on the region of VA hospitals that includes 1.6 million veterans across Florida, south Georgia, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. VA officials in that region referred more than 206,500 requests in 2018 for community care at clinics outside the VA network, with veterans facing a 56-day wait on average before receiving care, according to the report.

The findings highlight the wait times problem could balloon under the VA reforms of the Mission Act, which was approved into law in 2018. The Mission Act, one of the most consequential veteran care efforts in years, aims to expand the scope of private sector care that veterans can receive outside the VA network. The measure was a response to the VA wait-time scandal in 2014, hoping to expedite veteran’s access to treatment. An investigation by the VA inspector general into the scandal found 35 veterans died while waiting for care from VA facilities in Phoenix and found a pattern of officials in the department falsifying records.


DoD faces challenges filling open military doctor, dentist positions

The Department of Defense is facing challenges filling open military doctor and dentist positions, according a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The report said the DoD is having trouble recruiting and keeping enough doctors to care for the troops.

Part of the problem is that the private sector generally pays more than the DoD and there is a nationwide shortage of doctors and dentists.

For more than two decades, Thomas Zampieri served as a physician assistant in the Army National Guard stationed in the U.S.

He is now the president of the Blind Veterans Association.

“We cared for large numbers of causalities that came back from Vietnam,” Zampieri said.

Zampieri said like today, there was a shortage of military doctors and dentists back then and he saw the impact first hand.



The NFL and USAA, an official NFL Salute to Service partner, announced CEO Steve Cannon as one of three finalists for the ninth annual Salute to Service Award presented by USAA.

Cannon’s passion and drive to provide America’s military community meaningful recognition, unique engagement opportunities and enduring support they may not otherwise have is constant and central to his leadership ethic. Cannon’s commitment to the military and related causes began with his own personal commitment. Cannon, who graduated with honors from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1986, was Airborne Ranger qualified and served as First Lieutenant in West Germany during the fall of the Iron Curtain. During his time in the Army he also served five years as an artillery officer. Through Cannon’s countless hours of service to multiple military non-profits over the years, his constant “military first” mindset and utilization of the NFL’s platform has provided active duty service members, veterans and military families with first class experiences and support.

In addition to empowering and giving back to the military community, Cannon has played a large role in bringing awareness to the general population on the importance of honoring and recognizing our Nation’s Heroes. Through Cannon’s military and professional career, he has consistently found ways to implement programs in service to our military, active duty specifically. Upon his entrance into the Atlanta Falcons organization, he realized the impact of the NFL platform and challenged the Club to be “best in class” and to “become the benchmark franchise in all of professional sports” in terms of our military outreach and appreciation. The Atlanta Falcons became the first ever NFL team to conduct their own USO Tour. Another challenge that Cannon put on the team was to make every single Atlanta Falcons home game a “Salute to Service” game; and to not just celebrate our current service members and veterans once in November. Additionally, the Falcons host and honor through video tribute, a family from the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) at every single home game. The Falcons have raised more than $250,000 to help homeless veterans across the state of Georgia.


Astronaut Anne McClain (USMA 2002) talks moonwalks and Mars mission with McMorris Rodgers

After their children’s space walk together 220 miles above the Earth’s surface, the mothers of astronauts Anne McClain and Nick Hague made a toast together in Coeur d’Alene.

“The stress we put our families through is probably unforgivable,” McClain told Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers on Thursday, as Spokane’s native astronaut briefed the congresswoman on her trip to space that ended last summer.

The two astronauts, clad in NASA jumpsuits, presented McMorris Rodgers with mission patches commemorating their journeys to the International Space Station. McClain and Hague, a Texas native whose parents have retired to Sandpoint, impressed upon the congresswoman the need for support for the Artemis mission, which is shooting to put the next humans on the moon by 2024.


U.S. Army Hacked By 52 Hackers In Five Weeks

During five weeks between October 9 and November 15, 2019, the U.S. Army was hacked by a total of 52 hackers. This isn’t as bad as it sounds. A spokesperson at the U.S. Department of Defense Defense Digital Service said the hacking strengthens its security posture. That’s because the 52 hackers were of the ethical variety and participating in the second “Hack the Army” event to have taken place since 2016.

A method in the cyber-madness
You might be forgiven for thinking that inviting hackers to attack your online assets would be a bad thing for any organization, let alone the U.S. Army. Threat actors hardly need an open invitation to cause havoc, after all. Only recently, the U.S. Government warned organizations to upgrade a particular VPN or face continued cyber-attacks, and both a New York airport and the City of New Orleans have fallen victim to ransomware attackers. Yet there is a method in this apparent cyber-madness. Hack the Army 2.0 was a joint venture between the U.S. Department of Defense, the Defense Digital Service and the HackerOne bug bounty platform.

The HackerOne hacker-powered bug bounty platform
HackerOne, you might recall, is a hacker-powered penetration testing and vulnerability discovery platform that has made millionaires of some of its best hackers. One even managed to hack the HackerOne platform itself, such is the tenacity and talent of those who are signed up. The point of the platform, and the reasoning behind Hack the Army, is to uncover flaws and bugs that could leave an organization, in this case the U.S. Army, vulnerable to attack from less principled hackers including nation-state adversaries such as Iran.


Recruiting Challenges for Chaplains Mirror Other Military Jobs

With more than 2,800 chaplains across the U.S. military, representing dozens of faith groups, maintaining adequate manning is a challenge. Those challenges are not unique, however, in that they match those faced by recruiters for other officers and enlisted personnel as well.

During the annual Armed Forces Chaplains Board endorsers conference today at the Pentagon, Lernes Hebert, the deputy assistant defense secretary for military personnel policy, spoke with chaplains and chaplain endorsers. He addressed the complexity of recruiting chaplains from a population of Americans that are today more unfamiliar with the military than they have ever been in the past.

“Somehow you have to communicate to an American population who is getting further and further removed from its military,” Lernes told endorsers, who are the civilian representatives of faith groups responsible for helping chaplains into the military.


DOD Updates Vetting Procedures for Foreign Students

The Defense Department will announce updates to the vetting process for foreign military students “in the coming days,” the assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs said.

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper will visit Pensacola Naval Air Station and U.S. Southern Command headquarters in Florida on Jan. 22-23, Jonathan Rath Hoffman told members of the Pentagon press corps during a news conference today.

During his visit, the secretary will provide an update to air station leaders on the new vetting and security procedures following the shooting there last month by a military student from Saudi Arabia, Hoffman said.

Vetting had previously been handled by the home country of the students, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. “We’ve taken an enhanced look on how we can use our resources to do enhanced vetting,” he said. “We owe that to our people and owe that to the families, but we also want to ensure that this program continues.”

Hoffman said that DOD considers the international military training program “incredibly valuable,” noting that more than a million students from about 150 countries have trained in the U.S. over the program’s 20-year life “and until the Pensacola shooting, we’ve never had a serious security incident.”


U.S. sending home 21 Saudi cadets, NAS Pensacola shooting an ‘act of terrorism’

Attorney General William Barr said Monday that the Saudi Arabian shooter at Naval Air Station Pensacola was “motivated by Jihadist ideology.”

Barr says 21 Saudi military students are being removed from the US training program and returning home.

Barr and FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich announced the findings of the criminal investigation in a press conference at the Department of Justice.

Accused shooter 21-year-old Mohammed Alshamrani, a 2nd LT in the Royal Saudi Air Force, allegedly killed three U.S. sailors and injured several others. Authorities say the attack ended with a sheriff’s deputy killing the shooter.


Pensacola naval base shooting an ‘act of terrorism,’ Attorney General Barr says

The fatal attack on a naval base in Pensacola, Florida, last month by a Saudi national who was in the U.S. for military training was an act of terrorism motivated by jihadist beliefs, officials said.

Evidence showed that the gunman held anti-American and anti-Israeli views, which he posted on social media, including just hours before the Dec. 6 attack, Attorney General William Barr said Monday.

“This was an act of terrorism,” Barr said. “The evidence shows the shooter was influenced by jihadist ideology.”

The gunman was identified as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a member of the Saudi Air Force, after the attack left three service members dead. Investigators did not offer a motive. Alshamrani died after exchanging gunfire with sheriff’s deputies who responded to the shooting.

Eight Americans were injured in the attack, which lasted about 15 minutes.

Authorities said there was no evidence that Alshamrani acted with the assistance of other individuals or groups, though the government is still working to unlock two Apple iPhones belonging to him.


Army IDs Two Paratroopers Killed by Roadside Bomb in Afghanistan

The two soldiers killed when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan were paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, the defense department announced Sunday.

The IED attack took place Saturday in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, bordering Pakistan to the south. Killed in the blast were Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Virginia; and Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon, 21, of Joliet, Illinois, according to a release.

Both soldiers were attached to 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


2 US troops killed by roadside bomb in Afghanistan

Two U.S. service members were killed and two others injured when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said in a statement Saturday.

In keeping with defense department rules, the U.S. military did not identify the service members.

The Taliban immediately took responsibility for the attack. Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said it occurred in the southern Kandahar province.

More than 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan. Last year was one of the deadliest for the United States, even as Washington engaged in peace talks with the Taliban.


USMA cadet shows resiliency, determination by running IOCT twice in one day

Class of 2021 Cadet Sophia Suri ran the IOCT twice in one day in November in order to get the highest grade possible on the women’s scale at the U.S. Military Academy.
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Class of 2021 Cadet Sophia Suri ran the IOCT twice in one day in November in order to get the highest grade possible on the women’s scale at the U.S. Military Academy.
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Partway up the rope that marks the end of the ground-phase of the Indoor Obstacle Course Test, Class of 2021 Cadet Sophia Suri began to feel lightheaded.

She had slipped on an early apparatus during her run of the course and for the next few stages she felt “spooked,” but kept going. Then, halfway up the rope the dizzy spell hit, so she climbed down and once her feet hit the ground she fainted.

Completing the course in a passing time is a graduation requirement at the U.S. Military Academy and that is difficult to do when you are out cold on the floor before the finish line, so, like it or not, Suri was going to have to return and run the course again.

“I went into it again a month later thinking, I can’t really do any worse than that because I didn’t finish it,” Suri said. “I was like, ‘I’ve got this like. I just need to finish it.'”