White House to field vets' questions this Thursday

WASHINGTON – The White House is planning a series of online follow-ups and forums after Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, including a veterans-focused session Thursday morning featuring Matt Flavin, the administration’s point person on veterans issues and wounded warrior policy.

He’ll take to Twitter around 10 a.m. on Thursday, answering messages posted with the #WHChat hashtag. White House officials said they’ll have a full transcript posted at WhiteHouse.gov later in the day and an interactive recap at their Storify site as well.

Where is the Military Family Readiness Council?

The following is part of an occasional series of guest columns highlighting the concerns of veterans and military support groups. Karen Golden is a Marine spouse and deputy director for military family issues and government relations with the Military Officers Association of America.

After 10 years of war, are we meeting the needs of our military families? If not, what can we do to meet them? These questions need to be answered at the Military Family Readiness Council meetings, but after three years, we’re still waiting.

Camp offers vets chance to share through song

WASHINGTON – LifeQuest Military Transitions, a Colorado charity catering to wounded veterans, today launched its second songwriting camp for combat veterans, pairing 11 would-be lyricists with a trio of country music artists to help tell the story of war and its aftermath.

The effort is also designed to help raise money for future outreach projects. Organizers have already released six songs from the first camp (held last summer) on iTunes, and hope to finish out an album following this weekend’s camp, with future proceeds going to the wounded vets and the charity’s own programs.

Warning: Veterans are dangerous, crazy criminals

WASHINGTON – CNN and the Christian Science Monitor had separate stories today chronicling the growing problem of post-traumatic stress disorder and unchecked violent tendencies among returning veterans. Both pieces hinge on a pair of recent stories involving veterans from Iraq suspected of committing shocking killings, and may have been suffering from war-related mental trauma.

But two incidents don’t necessarily equal a trend, at least in the eyes of veterans who lashed out at the stories over social media. They say the narrative of the unstable, potentially dangerous war veteran provides an easy and inaccurate stereotype that keeps the military community distant from the rest of American society.

Group calls for more medical focus on veterans

WASHINGTON – Officials from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America praised the first lady’s announcement Wednesday of new training for medical students that will focus on veterans’ mental health issues but said they think that should be the first step in a larger overhaul of the medical community’s focus on returning troops and their families.

“This initiative is welcomed step, but it’s just a small step,” group executive director Paul Rieckhoff said. “The Department of Defense and the VA have proven time and time again in the last 10 years that they can’t handle this battle alone. Enlisting private and nonprofit sector help is long overdue.”

The power of a picture, for good and bad

The following is part of an occasional series of guest columns highlighting the work and concerns of veterans groups. Matt Colvin is the Strategic Partnership Fellow at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He spent six years in the Air Force, serving two tours in Afghanistan, flying over 100 combat sorties and liaising with air and ground assets to coordinate raids.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” The origins of this phrase are debated, but its meaning is clear. There are only two photos that come to mind when I hear this phrase quoted: the photo of U.S. Army Maj. Mark Bieger holding a bloodied Iraqi child titled “Little Girl,” and a photo I took of the sunrise on July 4th while flying a combat mission in Afghanistan.

Unemployment up 2 percent among recent vets

The national unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent in December, its lowest mark in nearly three years, but veterans have little reason to celebrate.

Joblessness among those who served actually rose last month, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Post-9/11 veterans bore the brunt of the increase, with 13.1 percent unemployed, up from 11.1 percent in November.

Vassar president challenges colleges to help vets

WASHINGTON – In an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer this week, Vassar College President Catharine Hill says that many private colleges – especially liberal arts schools -- have had difficulty in recent years recruiting student veterans into their classrooms. But she argues that those schools need to work even harder to do their part to attract those veterans, to help them make the transition to the civilian workforce.

Our institutions devote more resources to each of our students than most, and we have some of the highest rates of graduation and success in sending students on to graduate work. Also, a good liberal-arts education can prepare students, including veterans, for the challenges they're likely to face in the coming decades. The skills nurtured by a liberal-arts education - including critical thinking, written and verbal communication, and teamwork - are precisely those that are valued in modern workplaces.