The biggest challenge at Veterans Affairs: hiring (Washington Post)
Before Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald announced a restructuring of the agency on Monday, the day before Veterans Day, much of the focus on the new agency chief has centered on whom he has — or hasn’t — fired. But McDonald’s biggest and most important challenge appears to actually concern hiring. McDonald has said the agency needs 28,000 more doctors and nurses in order to keep up with the current requests for appointments by veterans. So, until he fixes one of the problems that led staff members to manipulate wait-time records in the first place — that demand for services far outstripped supply — all the terminations and online suggestion boxes in the world will do little to help. Whistle-blowing doctors have, after all, blamed clinical shortages for the mess at the Phoenix hospital, where the fiasco first surfaced. “I had veterans who had survived WWII, who’d survived Pork Chop Hill, who’d survived the Battle of Fallujah, who had gone through so many situations of combat where it’s a life and death situation,” VA physician Katherine Mitchell told 60 Minutes. “And yet I could not guarantee their safety in the middle of metropolitan Phoenix in my E.R., because we didn’t have adequate staffing and training.”
Biden touts ‘significant changes’ at the VA (The Hill)
The troubled Department of Veterans Affairs is “beginning to see significant changes,” Vice President Biden said Tuesday at a Veterans Day event at Arlington National Cemetery. Tuesday was the first Veterans Day holiday since it was revealed that veterans endured months-long waits for care at government hospitals, with staffers routinely manipulating records to cover up the waiting times. The scandal rocked the Obama administration and led to the forced resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. “As a nation, we have a lot of obligations, to the young, to the old, to all the poor,” Biden said Tuesday in his remarks. “But there’s no obligation that is truly sacred other than the commitment to our veterans.”
Vivid tattoos tell veterans’ stories of pain, recovery (USA Today)
Heather Hayes sports a large tattoo of a skull wreathed with roses over one thigh. Above her ankle, a smaller tattoo shows a woman with a gun to her head, whose gushing blood turns into red butterflies. These are shocking images, but they’re ones Hayes, an Air Forces veteran who volunteered for road convoy-duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, says are an integral part of who she is. “I don’t regret any tattoos because they all represent that moment in my life. It’s like a map of my journey,” she said. Hayes is part of an online art exhibit that launched Tuesday, Veterans Day, and that will be showcased in California libraries. It features Iraq and Afghanistan veterans’ tattoos, some as small as the word “ouch” and some covering most of the person’s arms and torsos. The tattoos are vividly colored, reflecting military insignia and mottos, such as a Maya Angelou quote. Others are highly personal. The idea for Patrick McQuaid’s tattoo came from a friend who was attached to a platoon and was a big fan of Chuck Norris, who stars in the movie “Lone Wolf McQuade.”
Moral injury is the signature wound of today’s veterans (NPR)
Many veterans face an injury that goes largely unacknowledged — but journalist David Wood is bringing it to the forefront. “I think that almost everyone who returns from war has suffered some kind of moral injury,” Wood tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “And I do not mean by that that they have done something wrong — only that they have seen or experienced things, which violate their own sense of who they are, their own sense of right and wrong, their own sort of moral compass.” Wood wrote a three-part series in March on moral injury for the Huffington Post. He’s the Post’s senior military correspondent, and won a Pulitzer Prize two years ago for his series on severely wounded veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wood says that moral injury has been described as a “bruise on the soul.” “[It’s] a sense that their fundamental understanding of right and wrong has been violated — and the grief, numbness or guilt that ensues,” he says. Wood has covered the military for over three decades, and has reported from several war zones. He embedded with U. S. troops during four trips to Iraq and five to Afghanistan.
Veterans are voting Republican, and that’s not likely to change (Washington Post)
Military veterans voted for Republicans by a 20 percentage-point margin over Democrats in House races last week, according to the national network exit poll. Veterans made up 17 percent of all voters this year, and their strong preference for Republicans should come as no surprise — Mitt Romney won veterans by 20 points in 2012 according to the American National Election Studies post-election survey (the exit poll did not ask veteran status that year). Demographics explain part of why veterans have consistently backed Republicans. Almost nine in 10 veterans are men and half are over age 60, both groups that tend to vote Republican.
Why do so many female veterans struggle to find work? (CNN)
Katherine Kuczynski was a cryptologic technician in the U.S. Navy. The post required obtaining and maintaining security clearance and performing tasks in support of national intelligence-gathering efforts, with an emphasis on cryptology, she told me. Her work earned her a Joint Service Achievement Medal for “exceptionally meritorious achievement,” explained Kuczynski, of New Baltimore, Michigan. And yet the single mother of three children, now 12, 11 and 9, found herself unemployed numerous times during the past several years. Since leaving the military in 2003, she has held jobs ranging from home improvement to store clerk to security guard. Kuczynski’s experience is, sadly, all too familiar to veterans, especially women who served. The unemployment rate for female veterans who have been discharged since September 11, 2001, was 9.3% in 2013, versus about 8% for male vets, according to a report from the Disabled American Veterans. The difference in unemployment between female and male veterans is even more dramatic when you consider veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: For women, the rate was 11.2% last month, 5 points higher than it was for men, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
5 Fortune 500 companies transforming the job market for veterans (Fortune)
These five companies are helping veterans move from the battlefield to the workplace. U.S. citizens are honoring the sacrifice and dedication of the nation’s servicemen and women Tuesday. But while Veterans Day is a good time to reflect on the dedication of our soldiers, many companies’ dedication to U.S. military workers goes well beyond one day a year. Hundreds of companies have committed to hiring veterans, and many other companies have gone above and beyond to establish platforms and education initiatives to make sure veterans succeed after their military careers end. Here are five Fortune 500 companies with innovative approaches to bringing more military veterans into the private sector: JP Morgan Chase, Disney, Capital One Financial, Starbucks, Booz Allen Hamilton.