US VA leaders to address issue of extremism in the veterans community

US Capitol Hill attacks

US Congress members want Veterans Affairs officials to start talking to veterans about misinformation and extremism online.

Included in the House Appropriations Committee’s proposal for more than $270 billion in department funding next fiscal year is language focused on “the unique vulnerabilities that veterans face online,” to include targeting of veterans by extremist organizations and groups focused on sowing division in the military community.

Efforts to spread extremist views and conspiracy theories among the veteran community have had severely damaging effects, such as spreading conspiracies that may have motivated participation in the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6,” a report on the budget proposal states.

It also calls for the department to “establish a comprehensive, evidence-based program to educate US veterans about malign influences, transition assistance to include specialized counseling services, as well as research into operations and methods to discern against disinformation.”

The specifics of what that will entail remain unclear. The budget bill is likely months away from becoming law. On the other hand, the committee may cancel the proposal during negotiations with Senate appropriators on the funding measures.

The issue of extremism in the military has been a point of focus for the Defense Department in recent months.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a 60-day stand-down so unit commanders could discuss the topic with their troops. Pentagon included $30.8 million in budget request to improve screening tools and practices to weed out individuals with extremist views. (continue reading)

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