A few things happening today.
We'll dive right in and start with the LGBT community. Some time ago now, the rules were relaxed and LGBT was welcomed, if not with open arms, at least grudingly, into the military.
They have all served as Americans, and many are now on the other side as veterans. But in seeking out treatments and support they are entitled to - have discovered much of that support to be lacking.
"Every VA medical center has LGBT Veteran Care Coordinators and VA offers extensive educational resources for staff on the unique health care needs of these veterans," she said.
However, VHA's electronic health record system, the Computerized Patient Record System, does not have a standardized field for providers to record SIGI information like with sex and race, and VHA does not know how many records contain sexual orientation data. Federal internal control standards call for management to obtain relevant data on a timely basis.
According to VHA officials, the absence of such a standardized sexual orientation field in CPRS is due to a system created many years ago when society greatly stigmatized lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities, and the military still had a ban on service by openly gay or lesbian personnel. That policy, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," was overturned in 2010.
Until VHA is able to consistently collect this information, providers' ability to deliver appropriate care may be affected, which could also hurt veterans' health outcomes. For example, VHA researchers told the GAO that lesbian, gay, and bisexual veterans risk a higher likelihood of suicidal thoughts compared with their heterosexual peers. The researchers also said that without consistent sexual orientation data, their work was limited to small samples.
As a system originally designed to serve mainly men, VHA has reported that it has struggled in the past to provide sufficient sex-specific services and an environment of care sensitive to women's privacy needs.
Jennifer Dane, a former Air Force intelligence analyst and the interim executive director of the Modern Military Association of America, a LGBTQ veteran rights advocacy organization, said a non-standardized documentation system puts LGBT veterans at risk from discrimination at the hands of providers.
"For example, if you're transgender and are seeking hormone replacements, the VA won't cover your costs if you are not documented as a transgender on the system," Dane said.
And though the policy barring gay and lesbian service members is no longer on the books, VHA acknowledges that these veterans may still face barriers to equitable health care, or experience stigma, prejudice, discrimination, and violence, which may affect the care they receive and their health outcomes.
Something else for a future president that is a human being to work on, but I digress. Let's move on, and consider the military as that great bastion of white male privilege. While decades of work have been going on in fits and starts to de-segregate the services, there are always hangers-on. Out on the West Coast, a member of the USMC has recently been 'separated from the service
', and likely none too soon.
The Marine Corps has kicked out an infantryman investigated earlier this year for allegedly sharing white supremacist material, one of more than two dozen Marines to come under suspicion for ties to extremist groups in recent years.
Thomas Cade Martin, an anti-tank missile gunner with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment at Camp Pendleton, California, received field grade non-judicial punishment and was busted down from lance corporal to private first class on June 10, Marine officials said.
Martin was separated on Sept. 11, 2020, although officials declined to specify the type of discharge he received, citing privacy restrictions.
Martin had served on active duty since Jan. 8, 2018.
"Martinâ€™s premature discharge and rank are indicative of the fact that the character of his service was incongruent with Marine Corps' expectations and standards," said Yvonne Carlock, a Marine spokeswoman. "Due to the associated administrative processes, further details are not releasable."
According to reporter Andrew Dyer of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Martin posted what experts said displayed indicators of "white supremacist messaging" over a two-year period, though the 23-year-old Marine was far more subtle about it than others.
As Dyer reported in March, the material posted by Martin included a flyer with the white supremacist slogan "not stolen, conquered" over a map of the United States, which has been associated with the white nationalist group Patriot Front.
Martin also posted "stylized patriotic graphics and photo illustrations of early 20th Century nationalistic propaganda," according to Dyer, similar to posts from those who took part in "Unite the Right," a violent August 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Martin founded an organization called the United States Nationalist Initiative, which its website claimed was "comprised of patriotic men and women who wish to make a difference within their country and local communities."
The now-defunct website of the Nationalist Initiative listed Martin as chairman and Everett Corley as vice-chairman.
Finally today - a subject near and dear to my heart, as I have written significantly about it over the years. This past season was horrific out west for fires, and there are many still ongoing or barely-contained. It seems to have fallen out of the headlines here in the East. You're aware of firefighting aircraft - Congress is at last calling for some action to upgrade the fleet.
Specifically, the request is to upgrade C130s from the H model to the J model, with newer engines and heavier lift capacity.
What that fails to address is that we still fight fires with a mish-mosh of newer and ancient equipment, owned by a variety of companies engaged in the pursuit. Other countries such as Canada
and even Russia
have fleets of dedicated, purpose-built firefighting aircraft, but we do not. The "J" model in question is newer, but still had a first flight in 1996. Some ancient WWII aircraft still fly as water bombers to this day.
For the second time in less than a year, a group of senators has requested that the U.S. Air Force consider stationing upgraded C-130 Hercules firefighting aircraft in Nevada due to worsening wildfire seasons in the western part of the country.
Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen of Nevada, as well as Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris of California, petitioned Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett last week to reevaluate stationing a fleet of eight C-130J models with the 152nd Airlift Wing at the Nevada Air National Guard Base in Reno to bolster the firefighting mission.
The wing currently flies the H model. J models typically have new engines and better propellers; they also have more lift capability, can fly faster and have a longer range.
"As devastating wildfires become more common occurrences in Nevada, California, and the western United States, we continue to believe in the importance of interoperability across these states to support future firefighting missions," the senators wrote, citing additional fires in Oregon. "Ensuring that the National Guard is ready to assist the response to these emergencies in a swift and effective manner should be a priority for the Air Force as it considers where to send the new aircraft."
Just a few more things to add to the laundry list of issues awaiting attention.