27 September, 2019 09:45

Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Friday, September 27, 2019, which is Ancestor Appreciation Day, Hug a Vegetarian Day, Love Note Day, National Bakery Day, Native American Day, and World Tourism Day.

Today/This Weekend in American Legion History:

  • Sept. 27, 1920: The poppy is named the official flower of The American Legion during the organization’s second national convention in Cleveland.
  • Sept. 28, 1920: The American Legion Auxiliary, already off and running in more than 1,300 communities worldwide, is given The American Legion’s official sanction as an affiliated organization and authorizes it to call for a national convention of its own, the following year in Kansas City.
  • Sept. 28, 1944: American Legion founder Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day at Utah Beach, having repeatedly led groups of soldiers across the beach and past the seawall, without concern for his own safety, under fire.
  • Sept. 29, 1920: The American Legion Committee on Americanism becomes a national commission.
  • Sept. 29, 1946: A.R. McAlester Memorial Band of Harrowed Post 5 in Joliet, Ill., claims its first Lemuel Bolles Trophy, awarded annually to the first-place band in The American Legion National Convention contest. Post 5 would go on to win the trophy 22 of the next 24 years, and Joliet Post 1284 would claim first place at the convention 11 times between 1971 and 1997, and Joliet Post 1080 would win it in 2003, 2006 and 2007, making Joliet the perennial home of American Legion band championships.
  • Sept. 29 – Oct. 2, 2014: After 11 successful Veterans Crisis Command Centers throughout the country – from Charlotte, N.C., to Honolulu – The American Legion shifts the message of its outreach program to better reflect efforts by local VA staff to assist frustrated veterans. Renamed “Veterans Benefits Centers,” the events continue through much of 2015. Hundreds of veterans and their families receive firsthand assistance and more than $1 million in overdue retroactive disability benefits are paid to veterans whose cases were bogged down in the system.


*Includes comment from TAL.
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Military Times: Do veterans lack social-emotional skills? A major study finds that many civilian employers believe they do.
By: Diana Stancy Correll | 19 hours ago
Just based off their resumes and cover letters, veterans’ military service is working against them when they apply for jobs in certain fields, a new study says.
The study — conducted by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and released Sept. 24 — found employers believe veterans are less suited for jobs that involve social-emotional skills and interacting with people than their non-veteran counterparts.
Veteran service organizations like The American Legion, however, take issue with the study, saying it promotes the stereotype of veterans as brooding malcontents.
The study, which was comprised of a total of 10 smaller surveys evaluating perceptions of veterans in the workforce, also consistently found employers and others rated veterans as a better fit for jobs working with things rather than people. Employers, managers, and laypeople participated in the surveys.
“When choosing between two equally-qualified job candidates, the average person and even prospective employers show a tendency to prefer the applicant without military experience for jobs requiring social-emotional abilities,” Aaron Kay, a Fuqua management professor and senior author of the research, said in a Duke news release.
For example, Duke partnered with a “large North American restaurant chain” where 265 employees evaluated samples of hypothetical resumes of veterans and non-veterans for a dishwasher, a prep cook, and a bartender.
Employees then rated candidates on a 9-point scale detailing how well they thought candidates would succeed: 1 if they thought the applicant was not at all likely to succeed, and 9 if they thought the candidate was extremely likely to succeed.
The study found that veterans were rated much more suitable for low feeling positions such as a dishwasher and a prep cook than they were servers. Veteran applicants received a mean rating of 6.86 for the low feeling positions, in contrast with a 5.34 mean rating for serving positions.
Meanwhile, the disparity was far less significant among non-veteran applicants. The study found non-veteran applicants received a mean rating of 5.76 for low feeling positions and a 5.53 rating for serving positions.
Another survey also found that veterans were viewed as a poorer fit for mental health careers when measured against a non-veteran candidate whose cover letter was otherwise worded similarly. Rather than serving active duty in the Marine Corps overseas, the non-veteran candidate’s cover letter mentioned completing volunteer work overseas with United Planet.
Participants who work in management, hiring and recruitment, and human resources were asked to read one of four cover letters: one for a veteran applying for a mental health position, one for a veteran applying for a technology position, along with two non-veteran counterparts applying for the same positions.
Seven hundred and nine participants then ranked subjects using a 9-point scale: 1 if the applicant was a very poor fit for the position, and 9 if the applicant was a very good fit for the job.
Ultimately, the study found that the veteran applicant was considered not as good a fit for mental health professions as the non-veteran. In this category, the veteran applicants received a mean rating of 5.85, in comparison to a mean rating of 6.3 for the non-veteran.
However, the veteran candidate was viewed similarly to the non-veteran candidate for technology careers, the study found.
Other surveys included in the study compared perceptions of veterans and non-veterans with average people not involved in hiring, and found similar results.
“Those who have careers related to hiring and evaluating employees appear to have the same biases as the public, and appear to not curb these biases when evaluating the applicants that we presented them with,” the study said.
In order to counter some of these perceptions associated with veterans, the study found that editing resumes and “merely signaling one’s ability to feel can reduce people’s biases regarding veterans’ abilities and skills.” A total of 298 participants reviewed veteran and non-veteran candidates for an event planning job, and were given adjusted resumes to indicate the candidates either did or did not have an ability to feel.
When the veteran’s resume did include volunteer work at a humane society where they “calmed animals when stressed,” veterans were ranked similarly to their non-veteran counterparts for their social-emotional skills.
The study confirms what veterans have already known about biases in the workplace, according to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America CEO Jeremy Butler.
“We have long known that employers hold biases against hiring veterans, despite employers’ claims to the contrary,” Butler said in a statement to the Military Times. “Bringing these issues out into the open is the key to ensuring that Americans don’t just thank us for our service, but truly honor that service by recognizing the value veterans bring into the workplace.”
Louis Celli, executive director of government and veterans affairs for the American Legion, took issue with the results of the study and said they “promote the brooding lone wolf idea of what a veteran is.”
“Millions of veterans reintegrate into the community every year and go on to use their technical and leadership skills to work alongside their non-veteran peers, become captains of industry, even get elected to public office," Celli said in an email to the Military Times.
He also noted that the military has a range of occupational specialties — including customer relations and positions that involve interacting with the public. Likewise, he pointed out service members must be articulate when communicating orders, and said military service fosters “emotional intelligence and promotes team diversity leadership skills.”
“Without interpersonal skills, the military would not be able to successfully work with their foreign military cohorts, tribal leaders, or recruit new enlistees,” Celli said. “So, it is sad to know some non-veteran hiring managers commonly associate former military leaders with what they see at the movies, and our research shows that companies who are able to look past these stereotypes are richer and more productive for it."
For Duke, the research on this issue is not completed.
“Our research suggests there could be ways veterans could present their skills that can help them overcome these perceptions,” Kay said. “We are going to keep working on understanding these hiring biases and how to eliminate them, as well as working with veterans to understand their experiences as they transition to the workforce.”

Stars & Stripes: House committee urges change after staff member reports assault at VA hospital in DC
By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES | Published: September 26, 2019
WASHINGTON — The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Thursday urged the Department of Veterans Affairs to adopt more policies to end sexual harassment and assault on VA campuses after an alleged attack last week on one of the committee’s staff members at the DC hospital.
Andrea Goldstein, a Navy veteran and senior policy adviser for Congress’ new Women Veterans Task Force, said she was assaulted by a man inside the front atrium at the VA Medical Center in Washington on Sept. 20. Goldstein told the New York Times that a man slammed her below the waist and told her, “You look like you could use a good time.”
Goldstein and Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, spoke to reporters outside the DC hospital Thursday. Goldstein said she believed her attacker was a fellow veteran.
“I experienced a crime and indignity that women veterans around the nation face while trying to access health care,” Goldstein said.
She said she had in her bag a copy of draft legislation that aims to prevent sexual harassment and assault at VA facilities. The alleged assault occurred in plain sight with multiple witnesses, she said, and she told three employees about it before the police were called.
Law enforcement is investigating. The VA Inspector General’s Office is also looking into the incident, VA Press Secretary Christina Mandreucci said.
“These are serious allegations and VA is treating them as such,” Mandreucci said in an email. “VA will not tolerate this alleged behavior, and we are committed to delivering justice. That’s why, in order to protect the integrity of the investigation, we can’t comment further.”
A national survey published by the VA this year found that one in four female veterans reported harassment from other veterans at VA facilities.
Last year, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine published the results of a study on barriers to VA mental health services. The report contained stories from women who were cat-called at VA facilities, which researchers said was particularly unsettling for women suffering from military sexual trauma.
Mandreucci said Thursday that the VA had launched an education campaign about sexual harassment that included posters, videos and training materials.
About the VA’s efforts, Goldstein said, “Posters are not policies.”
Takano urged the department to immediately institute mandatory, continuous training for VA staff about what to do as a bystander to sexual harassment and assault, as well as how to support veterans and cooperate with law enforcement in those instances. He also asked that the department better track when sexual harassment and assault occur.
“This recent unfortunate incident with one of our own staffers only underscored what we knew was happening to thousands of women veterans across the country,” Takano said. “We need better metrics, a better reporting system. We need an attitude amongst the VA staffers to be able to make that reporting better.”
Goldstein said she would continue to use the Washington VA Medical Center because the facility has provided her with quality health care.
“I will continue to use this facility,” she said. “When I visit, I will probably walk through that front door, and I am asking VA to do more to ensure all veterans can feel safe doing the same.”

Associated Press: Doctor pleads guilty to sexually exploiting VA patients
By: The Associated Press | 12 hours ago
OCEANSIDE, Calif. — A California doctor has pleaded guilty to sexually exploiting five women — several of them veterans — while doing work for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Edgar Manzanera pleaded guilty Wednesday as trial was to begin on more serious charges of sexual assault. Instead of potentially facing more than a dozen years in prison, Manzanera will be sentenced to three years of probation. He also must surrender his medical license and register as a sex offender.
Authorities had charged the Oceanside physician with sexually violating patients on the pretense of giving them unnecessary gynecological exams while he was doing contract work for the VA. Authorities said four of the five women were military veterans.

Military Times: Active duty suicides are on the rise, as the Pentagon works on new messaging and strategy
By: Meghann Myers | 14 hours ago
The rate of active duty service members who take their own lives has been rising an average of 6 percent year-over-year the past five years, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
The number of suicides jumped from 285 to 325 between 2017 and 2018, according to the 2018 Annual Suicide Report, for a rate of about 22 suicides per 100,000 service members to about 25. Officials did not draw any conclusions about why the numbers continue to rise despite efforts to train commands and troops on preventing suicide and seeking behavioral health care.
“Although the suicide rate among most of our military populations is comparable to broader civilian rates, this is hardly comforting, and our numbers are not moving in the right direction,” Elizabeth Van Winkle, the Defense Department’s executive director of force resiliency, told reporters in an off-camera briefing.
Here are the 2018 numbers broken down by service (several of the reserve component branches do not have a rate, because they have fewer than 100,000 members):

  • Army: 139 for a rate of 29.5
  • Marine Corps: 58, for a rate of 31.4
  • Navy: 68, for a rate of 18.5
  • Air Force: 60, for a rate of 18.5
  • Army Reserve: 48, for a rate of 25.3
  • Marine Corps Reserve: 19
  • Navy Reserve: 11
  • Air Force Reserve: 3
  • Army National Guard: 118, for a rate of 35.3
  • Air National Guard: 17

The National Guard is the exception to the stable trend, Van Winkle added, as the component reported 30.6 suicides per 100,000 troops in 2018. The Pentagon compares its rates with civilians by adjusting for factors like age and gender, because the majority of military suicides are carried out by young men.
“With our military being younger, and comprised of more males, our military population has comparable rates, with the exception of the National Guard,” said Karen Orvis, the director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office.
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Van Winkle said, suicide rates are up across the country.
“But we also hold ourselves to a higher standard,” she added.
The Guard’s number is significantly higher than the 22.4 national rate the CDC reported for young men in 2017, the most recent data available.
“That’s something that we’re exploring the National Guard,” Van Winkle said, adding that in studying their suicide reports, they find more similarities than dissimilarities, and so aren’t prepared to draw any conclusions as to why the Guard is having a tougher time.
In all three components, more than 90 percent of suicide deaths were of enlisted troops: E-1s through E-4s made up 43 percent of active duty suicides, 39 percent of reservists and 53 percent of Guardsmen, according to DoD data.
Of those between 60 and 70 percent were carried out with a firearm, and 90 percent of those were with personally-owned weapons.
A multi-organization study published in August homed in on firearm safety in presenting suicides, finding that while about a third of service members keep their person weapons unloaded and locked up in their homes, they were much less likely to practice this standard safety protocol if they’d ever had suicidal thoughts.
Individual installations have safety policies for weapons owned by troops who live on base, Van Winkle said, but more broadly, commanders have the authority to confiscate personally owned weapons if they believe a member of their unit is at risk.
New messaging
The topic came up Wednesday at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, when Defense Secretary Mark Esper visited sailors pier-side. The previous week, reports surfaced that four aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush sailors had taken their own lives recently ― three in one week and two on the same day.
“I wish I could tell you we had the answer to prevent further, future suicides in the armed services,” Esper told reporters, calling the issue a “national epidemic.”
In addition to crunching data, the Pentagon is looking to new initiatives.
“We’ll be piloting an interactive education program to teach foundational skills early in one’s career,” Orvis said on new efforts on suicide prevention, to help build coping skills for junior enlisted troops before they become overwhelmed.
The National Guard also has two new programs standing up, one of which will pilot local ideas from the force and decide whether to scale them across multiple states.
“I believe we have the means and the resources to get ahead of this, better than our civilian counterparts,” Esper said Wednesday. “We just can’t let these great, young Americans takes their lives because of financial pressure or a relationship challenge, or whatever comes up."

Military Times: Here’s what first-ever data shows about military family suicides
By: Karen Jowers | 10 hours ago
The prevalence of suicide among military family members is about the same or less than in the civilian population, according to a report from the Defense Department.
It’s the first time data on military family member suicides has ever been released by the Defense Department. This report includes one year of data: 2017, so there’s no basis of comparison for trends within the community.
Data from 2017 is also the most recent available, because the information is partly dependent on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The overall suicide rate among family members was 6.8 per 100,000 population in 2017, which is less than half the rate in the U.S. general population of 14.5 per 100,000. This measurement is the standard comparison used by the government for suicide rates in populations.
The overall military spouse rate of suicide was 11.5 per 100,000; the rate for dependents was 3.8 per 100,000. Adjusting for age and gender, the rates were comparable to or lower than those in the general population, officials said.
“I’m really glad they’re finally collecting this data. It’s a critical missing piece of information for us, to know how we can better support our military families,” said Kim Ruocco, a military widow who is vice president of suicide prevention and postvention for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS. “We’ve seen more and more active duty members coming to us for support after the death of a dependent or spouse, including suicide.
“I was kind of relieved to see the [suicide rates] appear to be lower than the civilian numbers,” she said, especially after the years of war, stress and separations in military families. Suicide is a national problem, not just a military problem, she said.
But Ruocco and other advocates said the report also raises more questions, and illustrates the difficulty in tracking these numbers.
“This all reinforces how difficult it is to track military spouse suicide,” said Shannon Razsadin, executive director of the Military Family Advisory Network, and a long-term proponent of tracking family member suicides.
“The existence of a report is a step in the right direction. However, the report raises a lot of questions. We need more information on how this is tracked and who is included in these counts,” she said. “We know this is an imperfect science and incredibly difficult to track. It is clear that future studies and greater detail around the 2018 report are necessary.”
The study and the reported rates of prevalence aren’t limited to civilian spouses of service members. The numbers also include spouses who are active duty — dual military. Information was not immediately available from the Defense Department about the rates specific to civilian spouses.
According to the report, including the dual military spouse suicides “allows the Department to better capture the full extent of suicide among family members.”
Of the 123 spouses who died by suicide in 2017, 14 percent, or about 17, were active duty, in dual military marriages.
According to the report:

  • There were 186 reported suicide deaths in 2017, including 123 spouses and 63 dependents. The dependents ranged in age from 12 to 23; and almost half of the dependents who died were 18 years or older. Two-thirds of the spouses who died by suicide were female, and 82 percent were under age 40.
  • Ages 18 to 60 were used in the rate comparison for spouses. When examined by age, officials said, the suicide rates for female military spouses was 9.1 and for male spouses, 29.4 per 100,000 population. For females and males in the general population, the rates were 8.4 and 28.4 per 100,000 population, respectively.
  • For active duty spouses, the rate is higher: 13.2 per 100,000.
  • Firearms were used in more than half of the suicide deaths of military spouses and dependents. For female spouses, that trend departs from suicides of females of similar age in the U.S. general population, where poisoning or drug overdose were as prevalent as firearms.

This data “is an important first step,” said Karin Orvis, director of the DoD Suicide Prevention Office. She said DoD will continue to track the numbers, and is working on initiatives to increase family members’ awareness of the risk factors for suicide, and to educate about the safe storage of firearms and medications, to ensure family member safety.
“I want to see more data,” Ruocco said. “I’m psyched they brought this data out, and that they’re starting to look at this, and what this implies for how we support our families.”
She said TAPS is also developing specific peer-to-peer support programs for active duty members who have lost a family member to suicide.

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